Representative Chris Van Hollen said in an interview for Bloomberg Television’s “Political Capital with Al Hunt,” airing this weekend, that he would consider a one-year extension of Bush-era tax cuts for wealthier Americans if Republicans were willing to make the reductions permanent for “middle class” taxpayers.
(This is not a legal transcript. Bloomberg LP cannot guarantee its accuracy.)
AL HUNT: Chairman Van Hollen is in our studio. Thank you for joining us, Mr. Chairman.
REP. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN: It’s great to be with you.
HUNT: We’re going to talk about politics some today; no surprise to you. But let me start off with taxes. The Democrats want to only extend tax cuts for the middle class; Republicans want to extend it for the rich, too. If you were to divide them, so that you extended it for the wealthy for a year, say, and made the middle class tax cuts permanent, is that the kind of compromise that you might be able to consider?
VAN HOLLEN: Al, there’s going to be a lot of debate going forward. But the president has laid out very clearly what he thinks is the right way forward, which is let’s give a permanent extension to middle class taxpayers, everybody who’s under - 98 percent of the American people.
But because of the deficit-busting aspects of extending it for the top 2 percent, that’s just irresponsible. And as we come out of this recovery, economists tell us the one thing that could really slow things down is if we don’t get our fiscal house in order, and so adding $700 billion to the deficit is a very bad idea.
HUNT: How about one year for the rich and permanent for the middle class? Is that something that you’d at least consider?
VAN HOLLEN: Well -
HUNT: Because you separate them then.
VAN HOLLEN: Look, there is going to be a lot of debate out there going forward, and the president has made very clear where he is on this issue. We can each give our personal views of what kind of compromises we would or would not accept. But the fact of the matter is the Republicans have said that they want a permanent extension for the top 2 percent, and that would add $700 billion to the deficit.
Now, if they were to come back and say, “Hey, let’s just do one year for the top 2 percent and permanent for the middle class,” that would be something that obviously people would have to think about. But I’m --.
HUNT: Just take a look at that, at least.
VAN HOLLEN: Look, I’m only speaking individually.
HUNT: Right, I know.
VAN HOLLEN: The president has been very clear on where he is, and I think that he is right in terms of laying out this very clear contrast between -
HUNT: The Republicans said they love this debate right now because there’s the Democrats talking about raising taxes on small business.
VAN HOLLEN: Well, let’s be clear. We know for a fact that the Bush tax cuts did not generate a lot of economic growth. In fact, we know the end of this movie, right? After eight years, we actually saw a net loss in private sector job growth. There were 630,000 private sector jobs lost after eight years of the Bush economic policy. So, this notion that you need to do this to get us out of the economic downturn and for economist boost is just - is proven wrong.
The president has put on the table some better alternatives. If you want more efficient tax cuts and tax relief, target them, really, to the real small businesses, and that’s what the president laid out. He said let’s say that you can depreciate all your investments immediately, 100 percent, for a short period of time and really turbo-charge that investment now.
So, all of these things have costs, right? If you’re going to extend the top rate for even a year, that’s $38 billion on the deficit. Why not use those funds instead and really target it toward small business?
HUNT: You are the head of the Democratic Campaign Committee. You are also an optimist by nature. But the two most respected independent political analysts this week - Stu Rothenberg and Charlie Cook - both said Republicans will win more than 39 seats and take control of the House on Nov. 2. Do you disagree with them? And tell me what you think will happen instead.
VAN HOLLEN: I do disagree with them, and I think a lot of the gloom and doom you hear in the national media is not playing out in each of these local districts. Because what’s happening as we get closer to election day, people are focusing on the choices between them.
And in every election when you go into that ballot box, you’ve got two candidates, sometimes three candidates, and voters are taking the responsibility seriously in trying to figure out what these candidates stand for. It’s not enough to say, “Well, I’m not totally satisfied with the current economic climate, so I’m just going to throw out the Democrats” if it turns out that the Republican candidate has a set of policies that’s going to drive you right back into the economic debt.
HUNT: So what could hold your losses to on Nov. 2?
VAN HOLLEN: We’re not making any predictions, other than the fact that -
HUNT: Could you hold it under 20, under 25?
VAN HOLLEN: Other than the fact that we will hold onto a majority in the House, we’re not making any predictions. We’re going to work very hard to do as best we can going forward, and I believe that when people do focus on that choice - you know Republicans want this just to be about the Democrats. “Don’t listen to what we have to propose; just look at the Democrats.” Well, we’re asking them to finally listen to what Republicans would do if given the chance.
HUNT: Any -
VAN HOLLEN: John Boehner was pretty clear that he wants to number one, to cancel about 60,000 contracts under the recovery plan, which would send a lot of people packing from their jobs.
VAN HOLLEN: And in the long term, they want to blow this big hole in the deficit.
HUNT: Do you think the president was smart to attack - go after Boehner personally this week, and politically?
VAN HOLLEN: I think he was smart to present a very clear picture of what Republicans would do if given the chance. Because people need to know what their policies are.
VAN HOLLEN: They need to know that one of Mr. Boehner’s top priorities is to repeal the Wall Street reform bill. Now, I’m sure there are a lot of folks and bankers on Wall Street that would love to go back to the go-go times where they were able to leverage to the hilt, but we know what happened when the bubble burst. It just didn’t hit Wall Street; it hit everybody throughout the economy.
He’s saying, “Hey, let’s repeal the law that we passed to learn from those lessons and make sure that people aren’t held accountable.” So, I think it’s critical that people focus and take seriously what the Republicans say they would do.
HUNT: You are expected to have a financial advantage in many races - at least your committee over the Republican committee. But how worried are you about, and how would you characterize the effort, of Karl Rove and some of the people willing to raise and spend money in this campaign.
VAN HOLLEN: You’re right. There are a lot of these third-party groups that are going in, and our message for voters there is very clear. It’s voters beware, TV viewers beware. Ask yourselves the question, “Why are these out-of-state interests spending millions and millions of dollars to try and get your vote?” It’s not because they have your economic interests at hand; it’s because these special interests stand to gain mightily from going back to the economic -
HUNT: Is that what the Rove committee is?
VAN HOLLEN: The Rove committee and the Americans for Prosperity, which are the Koch Industries -
VAN HOLLEN: Koch. These are like the third wealthiest people in the country. They did very well under the Bush administration, economic policies, and they actually got an award for “outsourcing” to China. People need to know that they’re going in and spending a lot of money in these races because they don’t like the fact that we just eliminated a lot of loopholes that encourage businesses to ship jobs overseas.
We took some of those loopholes away. They don’t like it, and they’re going in and opposing Democratic candidates and supporting Republican candidates.
HUNT: Mr. Chairman, let me ask you a couple of quick questions about the White House. Barack Obama, the great communicator of 2008, what’s happened? Has he lost his touch as a communicator? Has he over-reached? Why?
VAN HOLLEN: I don’t think he’s lost it. I think what you’ve got is very high expectations coming in that the economy would be turned around in a V-shape recovery. And that obviously hasn’t happened. What we have succeeded in doing is stabilizing a very tough situation. Eighteen months ago, an economy falling through the floor, 700,000 Americans a month losing their jobs when the president came to office. Now, we’ve seen eight consecutive months of positive private sector job growth, but it’s not - it hasn’t been this sort of miracle cure.
HUNT: Do you want him to campaign in most of your contested districts?
VAN HOLLEN: I’m sorry?
HUNT: Do you want him to campaign in most of your contested -
VAN HOLLEN: We welcome the president in these contested districts. As he has said, he’s going to take his lead from congressional candidates. And besides, there’s only a certain number of places the president can go.
HUNT: Mr. Chairman, you’ve been good to be with us today. You’re going to have a busy seven-and-a-half weeks. Thank you, and thank you. When we come back, the president’s challenge - reviving the economy fast enough to save his party.
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