Mitchell Reports | December 10, 2012
>> democrat on the house budget committee is expressing some optimism that a deal can be had to avert tax hikes and massive spending cuts. chris van holland joining us from the capitol. thank you very much, congressman.
>> good to be with you.
>> do we know nothing from the secret talks?
>> well, we don't know a lot, andrea, but you presented it very well in that lead-in there. there are a couple of things that have changed. number one, you now have the face-to-face meetings between the president, the speaker of the house . that's obviously good news. always better than not talking. sending, you have this growing awareness on the part of congressional republicans that their earlier position was unsustainable. the idea that they would allow the economy to go down the tubes, allow tacks to go up on virtually every american all in order to protect the bonus tax breaks for high income earners. more and more republicans are recognizing that that's not sustainable. so that's moving us in the right direction, and hopefully we can get it done by the end of the month.
>> now, the end of the month, the calendar does matter here because there are house and senate rules that require certain numbers of days for reading. you can suspend rules with all sets of consents, but you may not have the kind of consent unanimously to do that in various houses. how quickly do you need to move ahead with a deal to get it done before the end of the calendar year?
>> well, are you exactly right. i mean, even if you were to reach an agreement in principle, you have to, you know, get the specifics agreed to. then you have to put it on paper. you have to allow members of congress a chance to review it. look, i would say for the end of the year then you are talking about having to have something done by christmas, but the sooner the better. we all know that. that's why people are pushing hard, and i hope we can get it done by the end of december. if not, my belief is you would get it done very soon thereafter, but everybody is very focused, andrea, on trying to get it done by the end of december. the one thing i would say with respect to the cuts, because that was mentioned in the lead-up is if you actually look at the president's proposal, he has been very specific about the cuts he is recommending. in fact, far more specific in terms of both how he would achieve those cuts as well as how he would achieve the revenue than speaker boehner, who simply put a bunch of numbers on a piece of paper and has mentioned a couple of specifics, but not nearly enough by way of specifics in either cutting or revenue to show how he would get to an agreement.
>> congressman, one of the things that was somewhat -- was floated by dick durbin on "meet the press" yesterday was the possibility of changing the retirement age. i mean, that was one of the things discussed. another is changing the way the cost of living on social security is computed. what is the likelihood of either of those two things happening?
>> well, i think the president has been very clear that there are a lot better ways to achieve savings many medicare than simply passing along the risk and burden of higher costs on to medicare beneficiaries, which is where the president has laid out a number of ways to save medicare by building money in medicare , by building on the approach we took in the affordable care act . he also has very specific provisions asking for higher rebates for pharmaceutical companies , to people who are both on medicare and medicaid . the republican definition of reform seems to be simply passing on these rising health care costs on to the backs of seniors, whose median income , by the way, is under $22,000. that's about the median income of a senior on medicare . that is the difference in approaches. republicans want to pass on rising health care costs. the president wants to contain costs for the system overall.
>> you could delay the -- you could make it 67 instead of 65 and means test that, and that would obviate the problem for people who really need it and people who are caught in that gap. let me ask you about the payroll tax and some of the other tax changes. is there a way that the irs doesn't -- that you can change the computing on the withholding if it isn't done by the ebtd of the year? is there any way that the executive branch can delay the way the withholding is changed if you are in progress or close to reaching an agreement?
>> yes. my understanding is that the secretary of treasury , secretary geithner, has the authority to delay the resetting of the withholding tables, at least for some period of time, so if we were in the middle of negotiations and it looked like they were going to conclude, then the secretary could do exactly as you say, and that would mean that taxpayers wouldn't immediately see more money withheld from their checks, which is exactly what they would see if we went over the fiscal cliff altogether, you know, for the full year.
>> so better than 50-50 chance that you are going to get a deal, congressman?
>> yeah. no, i think so. it is a better than 50-50 chance, and there is a very good chance that we would be able to avoid a lot of the fiscal cliff. as you know, republicans have talked about the very least extending the middle class tax cuts , taking up that piece of legislation. it would be better if we could deal with all of the issues as part of an agreement, but even republicans, lots of them, are saying, you know, worst case scenario , they would pass the middle class tax cut extension, which is a significant component of the fiscal cliff. it's not all of it, because you also have the see quester. you also have the payroll tax cut extension issue. of course, you have the president's jobs initiatives which he has proposed as part of an effort not just to maintain the current level of economic activity, but to increase it and put more people back to work. best case scenario is we get an agreement that resolves all those issues as well as the debt ceiling, but at the very least i think we would avoid big pieces of the fiscal cliff. thanks for joining us today. what will com e from the closed door