February 1, 2010

Mitch McConnell is asked why seven of the Republicans who co-sponsored the Conrad-Gregg fiscal commission turned around and voted against it. McConnell says he now wants a spending reduction commission because heaven forbid we can't have them considering any tax hikes for the rich. Leave it to Republicans to take a bad idea and make it worse.

KING: Well, let's talk about your side of the equation. Robert Gibbs just complained about it and the president mentioned it in his Saturday radio address. He says there was a proposal. It was sponsored by one Democrat and one Republican. It would create a commission that would spend a few months studying how can we cut federal spending, maybe even propose tax increases; find some way to reduce the federal budget deficit. Now, it then failed last week on a vote in the Senate. And here's the president's complaint.


OBAMA: This past week, 53 Democrats and Republicans voted for this commission in the Senate, but it failed when seven Republicans who had cosponsored this idea in the first place suddenly decided to vote against it.


KING: Now, we want to show on our screen the seven Republicans who were cosponsors but then withdrew their cosponsorship and voted against it: the Republican Sam Brownback of Kansas, Mike Crapo of Idaho, John Ensign of Nevada, Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas, James Inhofe of Oklahoma, John McCain of Arizona, Robert Bennett of Utah.

If this was such a good idea that they would cosponsor it -- this is what comes up, Senator McConnell, in my travels all the time. People say, why do they always just play politics in Washington? Is this just politics, as the president says, or if it was the same proposal six months ago when they cosponsored it, what was wrong with it last week when a Democratic president wanted it?

MCCONNELL: Well, what was wrong with it last year? I mean, I discussed this very issue with the president right after he came to office, and with his chief of staff, never could get a commitment out of him.

In the meantime, we've seen a year, now, in which we've been on a spending binge. They passed a budget that doubled the national debt in five years and tripled it in 10.

There's a lot of skepticism now about whether -- and the president endorses this commission a couple of days before the vote. Where was he a year ago when we were talking to him about it?

KING: But why should that...


KING: Why should that matter? Why should that matter?


KING: Because I want to go back to your point. I'm sorry for interrupting. I want to go back to your point.

Why should that matter? Yes, the president endorsed it because of political pressure, without a doubt. Democratic senators went to the White House and said, we will not vote to increase the debt ceiling unless you help us out here.

But if it was a good idea, why should -- let's say the president's playing politics. But if it's a good idea, why not vote for it? Because you were here several months ago and you said it was a great idea.


MCCONNELL: The Gregg-Conrad proposal would basically set up a base -- a closing-type approach, where you appoint of commission that would come up with a solution, come to the Congress with an up or down vote, which would guarantee a result. That's something we can have a bipartisan approach on. I'm in favor of that kind of a move to give us the ability to tackle one of our long-term deficit problems.


KING: And yet, you voted...


KING: And yet you voted no.

MCCONNELL: Well, let me tell you an even -- the Conrad-Gregg commission was not the only commission proposed the other day. We also had a spending reduction commission, the same kind of mechanism, but targeted at getting spending down. The American people are appalled by the amount of money we have been spending this year. And I think a more targeted way to do the same kind of commission approach was with the Brownback proposal that we all voted -- many of us voted on last week. I just think that's a better way to go. I still like the commission idea...

KING: A better way for Republicans in an election year because it would take some tax increases off the table?

MCCONNELL: Democrats -- Democrats, as well. Look, nobody thinks raising taxes in the middle of a recession is a good idea. Have you ever heard anybody say that? I don't think so. We're in the middle of a recession. We've got 10 percent unemployment. This commission would have made it possible to raise taxes, if you target the spending problem.

Look, I don't think anybody in the country thinks we have a problem because we tax too little. I think the problem is we spend too much. So I like the commission idea, just as I said a few months ago. I think a better way to do it is to target spending, a spending reduction commission.

Can you help us out?

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