Video: Reid: We’ll do ‘whatever it takes’ to fix economy

  1. Transcript of: Reid: We’ll do ‘whatever it takes’ to fix economy

    Let, let me move on to the economy. You meet with the president-elect tomorrow. Biggest question is how big will this stimulus package be for the economy, and when should we expect the president-elect and -- the president, rather, to sign it?

    SEN. REID: Well, it'll -- it -- we will work this just as quickly as we can. It'll take as much time as it needs to get done. What do we need in this economic recovery program ? First of all, we have to recognize that this past election called for change.

    MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.

    SEN. REID: We have a country like we've never seen before, promise nationally and internationally. We also have to realize that it must be done on a bipartisan basis. Whatever we do must be done on a bipartisan basis. And we must recognize the economy is in deep trouble and we have to do something about jobs, infrastructure -- that's roads, highways, bridges, dams, water systems, sewer systems, classrooms, laboratories, libraries. And I think we should also understand there's a manufacturing component we need, retooling. We have to do something with batteries, battery systems, maybe do something with lithium batteries. And of course, we

    also have to do something with housing. It is in the toilet, they say, and it is. Nevada leads the nation in foreclosures. We also have to do something to make our country more secure, and the way to do that is to have energy independence . That has to be part of the economic recovery program , energy independence , which includes a smart grid. We also have to have, as President- elect Obama has said time and time again , a middle class , a working men and women tax cut . And we need to do that. We have to give state -- relief to states. Forty-four states are deeply in the red, the other six are barely not in the red, and we have to give them relief. In Nevada , for example, David , at our University Medical Center in Las Vegas , they stopped cancer treatment . People who are in Las Vegas -- two weeks ago, women who had breast cancer treatment were said, "We have no place for you to go." They had to leave the state to do that. We have -- we need to take care of that. It's a very, very important. So those are the things we need to do.


    SEN. REID: And finally, David , let me say this. Whatever program we have, let's not talk about the last eight years. Let's talk about the next eight years.

    MR. GREGORY: All right, let's talk about some of the specifics, but I want to start with the issue of timing. Do you see a stimulus being signed into law before February?

    SEN. REID: We're going to do our very, very best. Now, he doesn't become president until January 20th , and it's going -- I want to make sure that we do this on a bipartisan basis. Leader Boehner in the House and Republican Leader McConnell in the Senate said they want to be involved in whatever this recovery package is. They should be. The urgency of this, everyone knows about. But I'm not going to have some false deadline, whether it's February 1 or whatever it is. I want to make sure that all senators have some input in what goes on here and do it as quickly as we can.

    MR. GREGORY: Mid-February , or you just -- can -- you don't want to say....

    SEN. REID: David , I, I'm not going to give you -- I, I, I'm not going to give you a timeline.

    MR. GREGORY: Right.

    SEN. REID: We're going to do it as quickly as we can.

    MR. GREGORY: Are you worried about the total...

    SEN. REID: We're going, we're going, we're going to do it -- be working nights.

    MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.

    SEN. REID: We're going to be working weekends. We're going to get this done.

    MR. GREGORY: Is this a trillion-dollar stimulus, do you expect?

    SEN. REID: It's whatever it takes to bring this country back on a fiscal footing that is decent.

    You know, we don't want to do a little bit and say, "Well, we should have done more. Let's come back and do it again." We want to do it right the first time. If we do it right the first time -- as, as reported in The New York Times yesterday, a group of economists, blue ribbon they're called, they said, "If they do a very strong stimulus package, the economy will start recovering in July." And that's what Paul Krugman says, who's a Democrat; that's what Mark Zandi , who was one of, one of John McCain 's advisers, said. We need to spend some money. And we have to make sure it's spent wisely, that we watch that money, how it's spent, there is oversight, there is transparency. And I hope -- and we -- I expect that we can do that.

    MR. GREGORY: You mentioned housing. Your home state, number one in foreclosures. What specifically should the stimulus plan do to reduce the severity of this housing correction? For instance, should there be a guarantee of principal for people buying a home?

    SEN. REID: The, the reason we look at housing is not only for the people who are being foreclosed upon, but for the economy generally. Because, you see, housing is more than carpenters putting up walls; it's people laying tile, it's people manufacturing appliances and carpeting. So we have to do a number of things. A number of suggestion has been let's have a moratorium on foreclosures for 90 days. That's would be a step in the right direction. And the one thing that I'm very concerned about is what's happened to the $350 billion that has been -- was given. Most of it's been given to the banks, who aren't making the loans. And so I think that's a place we need to look very quickly.

    MR. GREGORY: Would you guarantee the down payment? Would you guarantee a homeowner's principal?

    SEN. REID: This is something -- as I've indicated earlier, David , Boehner and McConnell are saying, "Let us be involved." I'm not going to here dictate what's going to happen. But I want the Finance Committee and the Ways and Means Committee to come up with ways that we can alleviate the housing crisis. We have now a Democratic president, we have a Democratic control of the House and the Senate . But that doesn't mean we can push our way through.

    MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.

    SEN. REID: To do what is right for this country is going to take us working together, Democrats and Republicans , because, because the problem...

    MR. GREGORY: So you don't want to weigh in on that particular issue?

    SEN. REID: No, no, David , the problems out there aren't Democratic problems or Republican problems, they're American problems. We have to address them.

    MR. GREGORY: What about taxes? Will you work to repeal the Bush tax cuts right away? Do you think that's a prudent step?

    SEN. REID: We're going to have a middle-class tax cut . We're going to cut taxes for working men and women. And I am not going to get involved with any talk about tax increases. I haven't heard Barack Obama say that, I haven't said it.

    MR. GREGORY: But a repeal of the Bush tax cuts would be a tax increase.

    SEN. REID: But no one's talking about that? All we're talking about is a middle-class tax cut . Not raise -- yeah.

    MR. GREGORY: Would you like to see a payroll tax cut ? Do you think that's the most effective way to reach the middle class ?

    SEN. REID: There are a number of ways we can do it. You can do it with the income tax , you can do it through Social Security funds that are put forth every day. There are many ways of doing this, and that's why we're working with President- elect Obama and his economic team to find out what we can come up with.

    MR. GREGORY: Let me ask you about the investor class in this country, everybody from wealthy investors to a retired teacher. In 2008 , $7 trillion of wealth was lost in the stock market . Do you think that the SEC , the Security Exchange Commission , has done its job? Do you think it should remain the kind of agency it is? Should it be abolished or reformed?

    SEN. REID: The answer, obviously, is the Securities and Exchange Commission did a lousy job. The evidence is clear that you cannot have no regulation. It doesn't work. You know, the marketplace will take care of everything. Well, it hasn't. And we have to have regulation. Now, the key to all this is how do we regulate? We can't be overzealous and overregulate, but there must be regulation. There has to be some. And we simply haven't had it. And the Securities and Exchange Commission should be ashamed of itself for what they've let happen with the guy in New York , Maddow , and the meltdown all over this country.

    MR. GREGORY: So it should be reformed.

updated 1/6/2009 12:39:22 PM ET 2009-01-06T17:39:22

It would be hard to argue with the premise that Congress has become a largely dysfunctional institution, plagued by partisan rancor.

When our nation came together after Sept. 11, 2001, truly a unique period of national unity, President Bush delivered a Sept. 20, 2001, address to a joint session of Congress, with Democrats and Republicans joining together on the steps of the Capitol to sing "God Bless America." But it didn't take long before the venomous partisanship returned, and it has continued since.

Similarly, Washington has become something of a pejorative term in the minds of too many Americans, a place where nothing seems to get done. For those of us who have lived in the city for a long time, 36 years in my case, we know that this is not exactly a fact, but we are also painfully aware that there is some truth in those accusations. President-elect Obama ran against the ways of Washington in his campaign last year. As of this past weekend, he has officially become a part of Washington.

The argument that Democrats are abolishing the secret ballot in union organizing elections will be potent. Is this the issue on which Democrats want to break their pick?

With the 2008 elections behind us, Democrats have complete ownership of the two political branches of our national government. If things continue to fester, they get the blame.

While things hardly begin anew with a blank slate, Democrats must now set the tone for this new Congress. The route they take will in part help determine how successful they will be in addressing our nation's enormous problems.

If Democrats begin this new Congress with the arbitrary and capricious attitude of "our way or the highway," Republicans will not only have no incentive to cooperate, but it virtually guarantees an obstinate minority and that the cycle of partisanship and dysfunctionality will continue.

What that means is a policy of not jamming Republicans or shoving things down their throats. Such would be a short-term strategy with long-term costs.

The seating of Rep. Frank McCloskey by House Democrats after the contested election in Indiana's 8th District in 1984 was one of the major contributing factors to creating the current vicious cycle and led to the rise of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga. Republicans who had been institutionalists became militants. With what it ultimately cost Democrats, it wasn't worth a single seat.

Video: Republicans vs. infrastructure fix? The House is not so much a challenge for Democrats, but they do have to remain mindful that the difference between where they are today and where they were four years ago is a little over five dozen Democrats sitting in seats that had previously been electing Republicans to Congress.

For the most part, there is very little liberal about these districts, other than the willingness to take a liberal attitude about throwing out an incumbent the constituents don't agree with.

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The odds look high today that Democrats will end up with the contested Senate seat in Minnesota. The question is whether Democrats want to force it through now, creating new ill will, or let the process work its way out, with Al Franken seated a week or two late, after Republican Sen. Norm Coleman has exhausted his legal challenges. The temptation for Democrats will be to seat him now, but I believe the more prudent thing would be to not taint the well.

Another land mine Obama would be well advised to avoid is card-check legislation, which passed the House in March 2007 but stalled in the Senate.

No other issue on the political horizon today epitomizes the split between labor and business better than this one. Nothing else would decimate the coalitions that Obama and Senate Democrats will need to put together to move other legislation that is more essential in turning the economy around.

For congressional Democrats in the 2010 midterm elections and for Obama in 2012, re-election and staying in power will be determined more by their ability to get the country out of the economic ditch.

Fracturing coalitions of centrists with polarizing measures will only make their jobs more difficult. In Southern and border states, in states and districts with a history of voting Republican and having a sympathetic view toward business, card check is not going to go over well.

The argument that Democrats are abolishing the secret ballot in union organizing elections will be a potent one. Is this really the issue on which Democrats want to break their pick?

If Obama is going to truly change the ways of Washington, he will have to walk the walk, not just talk the talk. Congressional Republicans are exceedingly skeptical of him and his motives and assume the worst from Democratic congressional leaders.

But the public is giving Obama the benefit of the doubt and Republicans have to be careful to avoid being pegged as obstructionists. The Republican Party's stock today is about as low as it can get, but Democrats can hand them a way back by appearing just as partisan and ineffective as the public viewed Republicans when they were in power.

So, the question is whether Democrats can hold onto the high ground. The opposition party does not terminate a new president's honeymoon, but the actions of the new president and his party abbreviate their own honeymoons.

Copyright 2012 by National Journal Group Inc.


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