Representative Xavier Becerra, a California Democrat on the congressional supercommittee on reducing the deficit, said in a interview on Bloomberg Television’s “Political Capital with Al Hunt,” airing this weekend, that a $4 trillion deal is possible as long as about one-third of the plan includes higher revenue.
(This is not a legal transcript. Bloomberg LP cannot guarantee its accuracy.)
AL HUNT: We begin the show with Congressman Xavier Becerra, a member of the supercommittee, the committee that everyone is watching. Thank you for being with us.
The conventional wisdom now is that you’re stalled, nothing is going to happen. You have a deadline of less than three weeks. What are the odds of success for the supercommittee? And give us an idea of how big it would be if it is successful.
XAVIER BECERRA: Al, probably the best way to say this is to say, throw out convention and don’t think you know all the wisdom. And conventional wisdom in this case may not hold.
HUNT: So you think you can do it?
BECERRA: We should do it.
HUNT: Odds better than 50/50?
BECERRA: The odds are better than 50/50 that we can get it done. The odds that we will actually do it may be all over the board, but the reality is, we can get this done. And quite honestly, we can get it done in ways that are not just $1.2 trillion worth of savings. We could make it big.
HUNT: Three, four?
BECERRA: Big and bold. We just have to make sure it’s balanced.
HUNT: Give me a number - give me a number you think you could achieve conceivably, if you get Republicans -
BECERRA: There’s no reason why we couldn’t go to four total.
HUNT: Well, OK. You voted against Bowles-Simpson-
HUNT: - last year because you said it wasn’t balanced enough.
HUNT: But that’s going to be the contours of any final deal. And in order to get a deal, will you be able to support something close to Simpson-Bowles now?
HUNT: You will?
HUNT: Why - why the change?
BECERRA: Because if it’s got more balance to it, that helps get me get there. Secondly, what I told Erskine Bowles and Al Simpson was that they put on the table proposals that had all the elements you need to have a deal. I just felt that they didn’t have a good mix of the elements. They were anemic, I thought, in some areas where they could have been more bold.
But what you have in Bowles-Simpson is a template that you can use. There’s no reason why that can’t be the ultimate template that we use for a solution.
HUNT: Congressman, we’ll get back to some particulars in a minute, but jobs report came out, pretty mediocre, 80,000 jobs. We’re talking about deficit reduction. What are you going to do about jobs in the short term? Can you make a short-term jobs package part of this longer-term deficit reduction?
BECERRA: Well, remember, Bowles-Simpson, Rivlin-Domenici, the other commission that reported recently, have all said, you’ve got to make the economy work before you can really expect to get the deficits down and get us back to balance. And so perhaps the most important thing we can do in this super- committee is get America back to work.
HUNT: Do you get any indication Republicans are going to be able - be willing to go along with some of that, Republicans on the supercommittee?
BECERRA: I think all of us, both in public hearings and in private conversations, have said jobs have got to be it. If you - if you create jobs, you’re creating more revenue.
HUNT: So some kind of compromise package on the jobs part of the bill may be part of the long term?
BECERRA: I would hope so. If we can’t come out -
HUNT: What do you - I know you hope so. What do you think?
BECERRA: It should be part of this. How can you come up with a package that simply says we’re going to reduce the deficit, but do nothing to get Americans back on work - at work?
HUNT: There are going to be tradeoffs in the long term. That’s what this is all about, compromises. On Medicare, Paul Ryan-type privatization is off the table. But would you go along with increasing the eligibility age and the index, the consumer index, if Republicans accept sufficient increases in revenues? And how sufficient would that have to be? How big?
BECERRA: And, Al, it’s all a matter of coming up with a balanced deal. And so as I’ve always said, everything should be on the table, because if you come out with a balanced deal that you can tell the American public puts them back to work and gives the markets a sense of confidence, everything should stay on the table.
It would be wrong for me to say, I’m going to protect this particular interest I have or this particular constituency. If I can get the country moving again, I should be ready to vote for it.
HUNT: But I know, you know, you and almost every other Democrat, the Paul Ryan-type stuff is off the table. What I’m trying to get at is, if they come forth on taxes, would you go along with age increase and consumer price -
BECERRA: You’re about to get the same answer I just gave you.
HUNT: I am?
BECERRA: You are.
HUNT: But Barack Obama went along with that last summer. So - so doesn’t that sort of set the - the tone, the pattern?
BECERRA: This isn’t about just extracting a savings here and extracting another savings there. It’s trying to get a policy that works well. How do you get health-care costs down? That should be our driving force when it comes to health care reform. How do we ensure that Americans can get back to work?
HUNT: How about Social Security? Will that be part of any package?
BECERRA: Social Security is probably the easier thing to handle.
HUNT: Will it be in any package, if you - if you do have a deal, do you think?
BECERRA: It could be, if we do a deal that strikes the long-term - takes a long-term approach to find balance. It could be. Whether it will, again, it just depends on whether or not you come up with a deal.
HUNT: But it could be?
BECERRA: It easily could be.
HUNT: And how about the Pentagon? Obama has proposed cutting $450 billion over the next 10 years. Some people - some Republicans complain that’s too much. You think that’s a ballpark figure that’s likely to be in any $4 billion -$4 trillion deal? Or you think you have to go larger?
BECERRA: Well, remember, it’s not so much what the president proposed. It’s what the statutes require us to do. The statutes require us to find $450 billion in savings today, now. With or without the supercommittee’s work, we will have to find another $500 billion or so in savings from the defense and all the other domestic -
HUNT: So how big will the defense cuts be in the end, do you think, if you get a deal?
BECERRA: Well, if we - if we’re able to come up with a good deal, we can try to make the cuts that we make in - whether it’s defense or in education or in health care - targeted and smart. If we don’t come up with a deal, then you’ve got this blunt guillotine coming down at you called sequestration which will require these automatic cuts.
HUNT: Congressman, one thing I guess implicit in all this is how much the other side’s going to give on taxes. If you want to get a $4 trillion deal, which you mentioned earlier, how much has to be revenues?
BECERRA: You know, it’s - I’d love to tell you, and I could tell you, if I had a deal that everyone had to vote on, I could tell you what my specific numbers would be.
HUNT: Well, I know what you want, but how much does it have to be for it to fly? I mean, it’s not going to be $100 billion or $200 billion, like they proposed. It’s not going to be $2 trillion. So how much does it have to be?
BECERRA: Well, that’s the $60 million - better said, that’s the $4 trillion question. How do you get to the point where it’s considered balanced? What might be in your opinion balanced may not be in my opinion -
HUNT: Is 3-to-1 balanced?
BECERRA: I would say that that 3-to-1 is not balanced.
HUNT: Is 2-to-1 balanced?
BECERRA: Show me the two and the - and -
HUNT: So we’re getting close there?
BECERRA: Yeah. And, again, something that Americans can look at and feel it and say, you know what, I think I gave - put a little bit of skin in the game, but so did so-and-so.
HUNT: Right. Let me ask you a final question. With a lousy economy out there, the Hispanic community, many are disappointed with the president. The last time, he got 67 percent of the Latino vote. What do you think he’ll get next year?
BECERRA: I can tell you right now that if - if it’s a comparison of the president versus any of the Republicans running for president, the president may end up getting more of the Latino vote. The - the real question, though, is will the Latino voter be enthusiastic to want to get out and vote?
HUNT: Congressman Becerra, thank you so much for being with us today.
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