Meet the Press | December 02, 2012
>> on medicare , which is so interesting, because what happened the last time there were cuts that were actually enacted as part of medicare , we had a presidential campaign, and here was mitt romney 's ad, targeting the president. this is what he did.
>> you paid into medicare for years. every paycheck. now when you need it, obama has cut $716 billion from medicare .
>> now, those were not benefit cuts. those were provider payments. so if you're the president, why specify what cuts you're going to make in medicare if that's the treatment that republicans will give you?
>> well, until we get to entitlements, we're really not having a serious discussion. david , all of us know what the options are. they are not going to get more narrow as -- i mean, they are going to get more narrow as time goes on and more draconian. what you're talking about is where we solve this fiscal cliff by creating another fiscal cliff down the road is totally immature. it lacks political courage. we know what needs to be done, and let's get it done over the next three weeks. the options are not going to change.
>> would you call on your party not to mount that sort of opposition to the president if he specifies how he's going to restructure medicare ?
>> i think that both -- look, i have laid out in great detail very painful cuts to medicare . i just did it in a 242-page bill that i have shared with the white house , shared with boehner, shared with mcconnell, in order to move us beyond this silly debate that's taking place. the fact is, claire knows this and i know this. there are serious reforms that have to take place in medicare for our country to become solvent.
>> well, we have to be careful. and you're right about this, david . what is really irresponsible, that $716 billion, that was low-hanging fruit. that was fluff in the medicare system, savings that we had to recover. and by the way, it's the same savings that was in the ryan plan. the notion that that was used as a political two-by-four in this past election was wrong. we need a mutual detante --
>> and i actually agree that the ad was not the kind of ad that i would run. i do think the $716 billion should have been used to make medicare more solvent. but what we did was create another entitlement. that was the problem. but the $716 in changes should have taken place. we should have just used it for medicare instead of --
>> let me challenge you on democrats not being specific on how to restructure medicare . is it responsible for the met to present a vision being specific on tax hikes but on medicare saying, we'll get to a specific number but we won't specify? is it because there's so much pressure on the left to not reform medicare ?
>> i think it's certainly a fight. and i think we have to be careful. we have to make sure -- i think we can get to means testing fairly easily. some higher co-pays for people who can afford it. as i said before, donald trump may need medication but he doesn't need the government to pay for it. we've got to get to a point where we are really having people who can afford to pay for their health care , having them take that responsibility.
>> that's the position the president should adopt in your view?
>> i think so. i think aggressive means testing for people who can afford it makes sense as we look at long-term savings in the medicare program. but here's the thing. bob and i both know, he and i are talking and i think we can get a deal through the senate. the question is, i feel almost sorry for john boehner . there is incredible pressure on him from a base of his party that is unreasonable about this, and he's got to decide, is his speakership more important, or is the country more important? and in some ways, he has got to deal with this base of the republican party who grover norquist represents, and, you know, everybody's elevated grover -- i met him for the first time this morning. nice to meet him. but who is he? why is he this guy that has captured so much attention in this? let's talk about our country and --
>> but, senator, let's also talk about spending. again, you talk about 1993 . president clinton cutting upwards of $250 billion from defense. name some specific programs that ought to be cut that would cause pain in terms of the role of our government that democrats are prepared to support.
>> well, i think you can see more cuts frankly and a lot of us voted for more cuts in the farm program. $23 billion in savings in the farm bill that's languishing in the house right now. $23 billion a year in deficit savings. actually cutting money out of that program. there are other programs like that we can do away with some of the job training programs. there is duplication there.
>> and defense?
>> and defense. i spent a lot of times in the wings of the pentagon. if you don't think there's more money to be cut in contracting at the pentagon, you don't understand what has happened at the pentagon.
>> should these sequester cuts on defense be upheld, senator?
>> david , as much as i love claire , those are not the painful cuts that have to happen. we really have to look at much deeper reforms to the entitlements. and i would say that speaker boehner's biggest problem is not his base. it's having a willing partner on the other side that's really willing to look at these kinds of reforms. and i think that's going to happen. i think there's a possibility anyway. but i don't think it's his base. i think the speaker is frustrated right now because as you've mentioned, the white house keeps spiking the ball on tax increases for the wealthy. but has not yet been forthcoming on real entitlement reform. and without the two, there really is no deal.
>> i want to come back to taxes. grover norquist , who will be back in just a minute on our roundtable. he has said pointedly, you wouldn't have been elected senator had you not signed that pledge not to raise any taxes. are you prepared to break the pledge now?
>> i was just elected to the senator 3 1/2 weeks ago with claire . everybody in the state of tennessee that cared about pledges knew that the only pledge i was going to honor is the oath to office. so that's just categorically not true.
>> you will vote to raise taxes if that's what it takes to get a deal?
>> i am not obligated to any pledge other than my oath. i want to solve this problem. and where republicans are today, we can look at a $5 trillion tax increase with nothing on entitlement reforms by just being passive and not --
>> but you did sign it in the first place. you understood the importance of getting elected.
>> well, i understood the importance of getting elected the second time. and everyone was fully aware before any votes were cast exactly where i am.