Supercommittee’s Clyburn Says Big Debt Deal Elusive (Transcript)

Democratic Representative James Clyburn of South Carolina, a member of the congressional supercommittee seeking a deficit-cutting agreement, said in an interview on Bloomberg Television’s “Political Capital with Al Hunt, airing this weekend, that a large deal approaching $4 trillion isn’t likely while he still sees a chance of a smaller package as long as Republicans agree to revenue increases.

(This is not a legal transcript. Bloomberg LP cannot guarantee its accuracy.)

AL HUNT: We begin the show with assistant Democratic leader and member of the supercommittee, Congressman Jim Clyburn of South Carolina. Congressman, thank you for being with us.

JAMES CLYBURN: Thank you so much for having me back.

HUNT: You’ve said there’s a 50-50 chance of a deal, but all other reports is that this supercommittee is on the verge of collapse, that nothing is going to happen. Failure is the most likely option, right?

CLYBURN: Well, that’s what I’ve been reading. But I’m a dyed-in-the-wool South Carolinian. Our state’s motto is, “As I breathe, I hope.” And so long as I’m breathing I’m going to hold out hope.

HUNT: But you also - you’re a terrific political analyst. What are the odds of this thing making it now?

CLYBURN: I’d say about 50-50.

HUNT: Do you really think they are?

CLYBURN: I really do. I really do. Because -

HUNT: And when will they do it? Next week sometime then?

CLYBURN: Well, it won’t be done before Monday afternoon I don’t think. It must be done by then. We’ll have to have about 48 hours. Have to get in CBO scoring so that we can get something marked up on the 23rd.

HUNT: Republicans are insisting that the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy have to be extended, of course they expire in 2012, as part of any deal. Can Democrats go along with something like that?

CLYBURN: I don’t think so. I don’t think so. If that’s going to be the insistence then we probably won’t get a deal.

HUNT: And you Democrats are pretty united on that? There’s not any - any ones who are going to break off on that?

CLYBURN: Well, I can only speak for this one.

HUNT: Right. But you know your fellow committee members.

CLYBURN: I feel we are.

HUNT: OK. Is there any consequence for failure? Let’s say you fail. What’s the -

CLYBURN: Well, most people - if you really look the timeline on this, whatever we do will not be effective until January 2013.

HUNT: Right.

CLYBURN: And there are right now about 13 months between now and January 2013. So one could argue if we were to be unsuccessful that there will be time to do something, but I don’t think that you can rest just on the numbers with this. I think that people need to feel that their government can work, that their leaders can really find common ground. And I think that’s what’s at stake here. Whether or not we’ll spend the next 13 months with people losing faith in the political process. This is a great country, and we got to be great by finding common ground, by compromising, getting things done, each side giving up a little something. If you ever get to the point where nobody is willing to give up anything, that in and of itself is a recipe for failure.

HUNT: OK, but you’ve spelled out a possible scenario. You don’t want to fail. I know that. You want to succeed. But if you do - if you don’t make it next Monday, you have 13 months before anything happens. If the markets react badly, if consumers - there’s no reason you can’t come back in February, March, or April or whatever and try it again, right?

CLYBURN: That’s true, but you can’t recoup all the damage that could be done while the markets -

HUNT: The political damage as well as the economic.

CLYBURN: Absolutely.

HUNT: Tell me this. If you don’t succeed, most people I talk to in Congress say there’s not a ghost of a chance a sequestration will take place for those big defense cuts, right?

CLYBURN: Well, that’s what I hear them saying. But the president would have a lot to say about that. So whatever we may not be able to do on the House side and they may be able to prevent from happening on the Senate side, the president still has to sign anything that we do under regular order. And hold out hope that the president will let it be known that he will not allow that to happen.

HUNT: You hold out hope. How convinced are you? The president did cave on the Bush tax cuts in 2010. There are a number of people who think there’s no way in the world he won’t cave again on the Bush tax cuts. Will he cave on that and sequestration?

CLYBURN: I have no idea of whether he will or not. I hold out hope that the president will hold fast.

HUNT: And has the White House told you whether they will or whether they won’t?

CLYBURN: No, they have not.

HUNT: You seem a little shaky now, because you’re very close to Barack Obama. As a matter of fact, we reported this week you’re one of only two members of Congress who have ever played golf with the president here, you and John Boehner. So you know him well. So let me get you again to put on that great political analyst cap.

CLYBURN: Well if you’re going to use that, then that’s quite a span politically to go from Jim Clyburn to John Boehner.

HUNT: It is.

CLYBURN: Well, that means there’s a lot of room in between. There’s a lot of room in between.

HUNT: So you’re just not sure what he’ll do on that when we come to that.

CLYBURN: No.

HUNT: Let me ask you this. In the course of all this, the president’s stimulus plan has sort of been forgotten. A little chunk of it passed the House. What’s going to happen to the rest of that?

CLYBURN: Well, I’m hopeful that we will do a plan in this committee that will address job creation. I’ve made it very clear that jobs have got to be in here. And that’s one of the sticking points. I would love to see us use the overseas contingency account, the savings from that, to do a good jobs bill, to fix the so-called sustainability growth rate, the doctor’s fix, as we call it, extend unemployment insurance, and to do some infrastructure spending.

HUNT: You got to get a deal to do that. If you don’t get a deal, the stimulus is probably - most of it’s dead.

CLYBURN: That’s exactly right. And that’s why I really want to see a deal done. I think we could do it if we develop some will. The way is clear. The will is what we need to develop.

HUNT: And I don’t mean to just harp on the pessimism here, but what are the political consequences in the 2012 election for each party and for the president if a deal is not done?

CLYBURN: Well, there are about 11 months between now and the next election. And that’s a lifetime in politics.

HUNT: It is.

CLYBURN: And so I will say to anybody who feels that to do or not to do a deal will be determinative when it comes to election day of next November, I would say you must not know the history of the country very well. And so I would not bank on this committee’s work being determinative as to the outcome of next year’s elections.

HUNT: And Jim Clyburn, to go back again to the deal, when you say there’s a 50-50 chance, is that of a small deal that avoids sequestration, a $1.2 trillion deal? Is that the sort of mega deal that some have talked about, including you in the past? What - what will be the contours of any - of that 50 percent chance of a deal?

CLYBURN: Well, quite frankly I’ve kind of given up on big and bold, but I’m never going to give up on balance. So whatever size deal will be, $1.2 trillion or $4 trillion, it has to be balanced.

HUNT: And you seem to think it’s more likely to be closer to $1.2 trillion and balanced by revenues and spending?

CLYBURN: I would think so.

HUNT: Okay. In retrospect, did the president make a mistake in not embracing Bowles-Simpson last December?

CLYBURN: Oh, I wouldn’t say that. You remember, they put in place a process. They went through the process. And they were supposed to get to 14 votes for it to be considered a real deal. They didn’t get the 14. And quite frankly, I think at least three people, Republicans on that committee, did not vote to do it. So therefore I think that signaled to the president exactly where the other party was. And so I don’t think he made a mistake. I think he was insightful.

HUNT: Jim Clyburn, you’re going to have a long and a busy weekend. Thank you for joining us.

CLYBURN: Thank you.

***END OF TRANSCRIPT***

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