msnbc | December 08, 2012
>>> 24 days to go for lawmakers to agree on a solution to the fiscal cliff. if the compromise is not reached the blame may be spread equally. cnbc's survey finds that 21% of the americans would blame blame president obama and the democrats. 23% would blame the republicans. 52% would blame both parties equally. joining me now democratic congressman elijah cummings of the government oversight and reform committee. so glad to have you here. welcome.
>> good to be with you.
>> if republicans steadfastly refuse to raise taxes on the top earners are we definitively heading over the fiscal cliff?
>> i don't think we'll have a deal. the president has made that very clear that the top earners ought to be paying more and we should be dealing with tax rates going up as opposed to just revising the tax code and looking at deductions. and so i think the president has been very firm. and he is getting a lot of backup from people who stood in long lines on election day to elect him. he's well aware of that. but i think that's where his heart is, too. this is not something new. this is something that he campaigned on. and he won on. if you look at the polling numbers, this is what the american people voted for. they said that the upper earners should be paying more.
>> i'm curious, though, from the president's perspective, how important is a deal now whether it's just a deal or the deal that he wants in terms of his second term, his overall political power if you will? how does that play out?
>> knowing the president as i do, i think it is very important to him that he gets a deal. but i also know that he believes that no deal is better than a bad deal. he also knows that if we go into 2013 and having to deal with this, we have even a better situation because of course the senate has more democrats there. and then we're dealing from a whole different perspective. but i believe very strongly, and i think all of us want a deal. keep in mind, there are some things we could do right now. we all agree that those earning less than $250,000, their tax cuts should be extended. everybody agrees on that. and now basically what's happening clearly is that the republicans are holding us hostage. but three days ago i would have said that the the chances of something being worked out were at best 20%. i feel a little bit more comfortable believing that something is going to be worked out and give it about a 70% chance.
>> what is it that makes you think that?
>> well, the fact that boehner and the president have pretty much gotten to a point where they'll be sitting down trying to work this out as opposed to a lot of cooks in the kitchen, i think that's helpful. and even the pushback with regard to speaker boehner sitting down with the president from other republicans has not been as great as i thought it would be. so i think we have a chance. the question is, whether if a deal is worked out whether speaker boehner is going to be able to sell that to his party. keep in mind that when we've had deals in the past when he took it back to the tea party folks, they said absolutely not. and we know he's getting a lot of pressure from the right. so we need to see.
>> i'm curious. are you among that group of democrats that believes speaker boehner 's heart is in the right place, wants to get it done? and do you agree with your democratic colleague who was on with me earlier today, aren't john yarmouth of kentucky who said he thinks that the reason we've gotten a break for a day this week in the house and one next week coming is because john boehner wants to get things done without having the gop obstructionists if you will around to muddy the waters. do you think that's true?
>> i don't know. but i think that speaker boehner is a decent man. i think he's very caring. but at the same time, i know because i've seen it up front and personal, i know that the tea party being so conservatively to the right basically have been wielding a lot of power with regard to what goes on on the republican side of the aisle. and i'm just hoping -- i thought it was a good sign that speaker boehner had come to a point where he could go and now work directly with the president. and it sounds like there are people in the party that is in the house on the republican side who are saying, you know, maybe we do need to raise the rates. and i think that's a good thing. and that's by the way i think that's the only way we're going to get a deal.
>> what about the 37% number? that figure for across the board?
>> i'm sorry.
>> the 37% raising the tax rate to 37% as opposed to 39.6?
>> i think it should be up to 39.6. i think it should be the same rate that it was during the clinton era. we've got to keep in mind that folks at the upper end over $250,000 range have done fairly well. and i think that again when i talk to the people in my district, what they're saying to me is cummings, we don't mind. i'm talk about people making a million dollars or more. they've said to me, look. we don't mind paying more taxes. we're more concerned about the fiscal cliff. and so i think that again there are a lot of people that want to contribute. they know that there should be shared sacrifice. they realize that we cannot do this on the backs of our elderly, poor people and those in the middle class and those trying to get to the middle class on the backs of students. and i think they're saying, you know what? we can pay more because we want to do something that is good for our country. and hopefully that message will get through to the republicans and indeed the tea party folks.
>> but if the ultimate goal here, sir, is to cut the national debt and sometimes people lose sight of that in the discussion here, the gop says the dems are just offering more spending and little in way of cutting. are democrats willing to give at all on entitlements?
>> keep in mind, yes. and the president has made it clear. but we've got to look very carefully at the entitlements and realize that something like medicare , medicare right now you've got a situation where there's not a whole whole lot to cut. i mean, you can cut with regard to renegotiating these rates, putting rates for pharmaceutical products with these various pharmacies. i mean we could save a lot of money there. i think the other thing mark zandy said just yesterday, as you know he was the adviser to mccain, he said in a hearing yesterday that the affordable care act is having some impact on possibly reducing the inflation rate of medical costs in medicare . and he believes that one of the things we have to do is we have to strengthen the affordable care act so that we are concentrating on keeping people well. it's cheaper to keep them well. far more costly when they get sick. and if we can keep them well, that will bring down the cost of medicare at the same time. so yeah, there are many things that we can do. we can make that medicare system much more efficient and effective. and i believe the president is committed to doing that. i know i am.
>> all right. well, maryland democrat representative elijah cummings . good to speak with you, sir.