NBC's Savannah Guthrie wonders why the Democrats aren't willing to accept the GOP slowly releasing one hostage at a time instead of funding the government.
October 6, 2013

We can now add NBC's Savannah Guthrie to the list of talking heads who are doing their best to play the false equivalency game over the government shutdown and this latest round of GOP hostage taking over the debt ceiling. Guthrie continually badgered Treasury Secretary Jack Lew on Meet the Press this Sunday about why the White House and Democrats aren't willing to agree to more of these piecemeal measures currently being passed one by one in the House, even though later in the show, she acknowledged that they are exactly that during her interview with Sen. Rand Paul.

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: You mentioned that Republicans have passed a series of bills in the House to fund parts of the government, such as FEMA, such as the V.A. Why not take them up on that offer?

JACK LEW: It just doesn't work. I mean, they need to open up the whole government. You can't cherry pick an item here, an item there. There are too many important things the federal government does. And they need to open it up and they could, because a majority is ready to do it. I started out my career here in Washington working on the Hill. I worked for Speaker O'Neill. He said the one thing that the American people won't tolerate is obstructionism. A majority needs to be given a chance to work its will. [...]

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: Well, you've painted these dire consequences. So to put these two concepts together for me, on the one hand, you say it's terrible for the economy to even threaten default. And on the other hand, the president is saying, "I won't negotiate. I won't have any conversation about this. I won't negotiate to stop that from happen." How do you square those two things?

JACK LEW: Well, to be clear, the president has been and remains prepared to negotiate on fiscal policy. He has spent much of the last three years trying to find the sensible middle ground. He's made offer after offer, negotiation after negotiation.

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: But the administration has said, "We don't want to have any negotiation until the government has reopened and until the debt ceiling is raised."

JACK LEW: Let's remember where we are. We're where we are because in 2011, 50 to 100 of the most extreme members of the House changed the rules of the game. They said, "We would rather default than have an honorable compromise."

It's Congress's job to fund the government and it's Congress's job to make sure we can pay our bills. There's nothing here that we're asking for from Congress for them to do that. We are happy to negotiate on reasonable policies with entitlement reform and tax reform that closes loopholes. That's something that we would like to do.

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: But realistically, why would they give up their leverage? You're essentially saying, "Agree to everything we want you to agree to, and then we can talk about that." That's the leverage they have.

JACK LEW: Savannah, do you think about what the consequences of crossing this line are, you know? What would it mean in this country if we're not able to pay millions of people in social security on time? What would it mean if we are not able to pay hospitals through Medicare and Medicaid on time? There would be liquidity crises in homes, in businesses, in important institutions. It's just not responsible. It's reckless and irresponsible to say, "We'll bring all that down if we don't get our way."

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: Well, bottom line, it's something--

JACK LEW: Congress needs to do its job and then we need to negotiate. The president wants to negotiate.

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: Well, let's do the bottom line here then. Is the president ready to watch this country go into default rather than negotiate with Republicans?

JACK LEW: Look, the president believes that the responsibilities of Congress know the consequences and that this doesn't need to happen. They can vote today. They have a majority to do the right thing.

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: But will he not come to the table at all even at the risk of default?

JACK LEW: I know the leaders of Congress, Republican and Democrats. I don't believe any of them want a default. They're going to need to look at how do they let a majority in Congress work their will.

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