GOP Candidates Promise Bipartisan Cooperation, Hedge On Solutions For Entitlement Spending

Last night’s Republican presidential debate in Washington D.C. was centered around national security and foreign policy. But the subject of the super committee’s failure to deal with entitlements came up. CNN moderator Wolf Blitzer asked the candidates how they would work to fix the growth of the federal budget. Courtesy: CNN.

Here is a transcript of their relevant remarks:

MITT ROMNEY: They’re cutting a trillion dollars out of the defense budget, which just happens to equal the trillion dollars we’re putting into “Obama-care.”

And so what you have is a president that has a priority of spending us into bankruptcy, but he’s not just spending us into bankruptcy, he’s spending the money foolishly.

We need to protect America and protect our troops and our military and stop the idea of “Obama-care.” That’s the best way to save money, not the military.

(APPLAUSE)

WOLF BLITZER, DEBATE MODERATOR AND CNN LEAD POLITICAL ANCHOR: Hold on one second because Ron Paul wants to respond to that point.

REP. RON PAUL: Well, they’re not cutting anything out of anything. All this talk is just talk.

(APPLAUSE)

PAUL: Believe me. They’re cutting — they’re nibbling away at baseline budgeting, and its automatic increases.

———————————————————————————————

BLITZER: Let me bring in Governor Perry into this conversation.

As you know, the so-called supercommittee failed. And as a result, unless Congress takes action next year — in an election year, that would be difficult — there’s not going to be any change in that automatic trigger as it’s called. That sequestration, $1.2 trillion cut, including $600 billion in defense, will go into effect.

Here’s the question. If you were president of the United States , would you compromise with Democrats in Congress in order to avoid that Washington gridlock that, if you believe the polls, the American people hate?

GOV. RICK PERRY: I don’t think anybody is particularly surprised that a supercommittee failed. It was a super-failure. And I think we expected that. We had a president of the United States who is not a leader. He pitched this over to them and said, here, you all figure this out.

I’ve signed six balanced budgets as the head of the state of Texas. I worked with those legislators on a daily basis, or my staff.

This president has been an absolute failure when it came to this budget process. And the idea — it was almost reprehensible to me. I’ve worn the uniform of this country. I’ve been the commander in chief of the 20-plus-thousand National Guard troops that we have in Texas , Dr. Paul.

But it was reprehensible, for me, for this president to stand in front of Americans and to say that that half a trillion dollars, $500 million-plus is not going to be on the table and we’re just going to have to work our way through it, putting young men and women’s life in jeopardy.

And I will tell you, as a commander in chief, as an American citizen, that is totally and absolutely irresponsible. Even his own secretary of defense said it was irresponsible. As a matter of fact, if Leon Panetta is an honorable man, he should resign in protest.

BLITZER: Here’s the question, though. Would you compromise — all of you have said you wouldn’t accept any tax increases at all, even if there were 10 — 10 times as many spending cuts. So would you just let the gridlock continue, Governor Perry, or would you compromise under those circumstances?

PERRY: Listen, I’ve had to work with Democrats for the 10 years that I’ve been the governor of the state of Texas.

So the idea that you can’t sit down and work with people on both sides of the aisle, but just to, you know, throw us into — into that briar patch at this particular point in time and say, what would you do — we would never have gotten into that situation if I were the president of the United States. I’d have been there working day in and day out so that we had a budget that not only — I’ve laid out a clear plan to — flat tax of 20 percent; cut the spending; and put a 20 percent corporate tax rate in. And, as a matter of fact, they ought to make the legislature, the Congress, part-time, and that would make as big an impact in this city as anything I can think of.

BLITZER: Let me bring Senator Santorum into this, because I covered Ronald Reagan’s presidency. And, as you know — and I’ll read a quote. He wrote in his autobiography this: “If you got 75 of 80 percent of what you were asking for, I say you take it and fight for the rest later.”

If you got 75 percent or 80 percent of what you wanted, would you make a deal with Democrats, increase some taxes in order to move on and fight the next battle the next day?

RICK SANTORUM: It all depends on what the 75 percent and 85 percent is. If the — if the things that you have to give up make what you’re trying to accomplish harder to do — in other words, reduce the deficit, what the Republicans — why the Republicans are drawing a line in the sand, rightfully so, it’s because what they’re — what the Democrats are attempting to do is increase taxes, which will slow down to the — this economy, which will increase the deficit, reduce tax revenues, ultimately, and — and increase government payments.

So you don’t work against yourself. You — you won’t — you — you take ideas from the other side that you may not find particularly valuable, like spending cuts that you may not want. There are spending cuts that I would like to, you know, I mean there’s things that it mentioned before, that I would stand — stand firm on.

But in a compromise, yes, you do give up some things that you think maybe are critical spending. But you don’t undermine the ability of this con — economy to grow because of politics. This president has poisoned the well. He’s campaigned all over this country, trying to divide group from group in order to — to — to win, you know, to — to position himself to win this election and rally his troops. And what he’s done is poisoned the well here in Congress.

I’ve worked together, I’ve got a long track record of bipartisan accomplishments where I kept to the principles. I use welfare reform as an example. Welfare reform, I stuck to my principles. We cut the welfare budget. We had — we had time limits. We block granted to the states and we put a work requirement.

Did I compromise on things?

Yes. I compromised on some — on some child care. I compromised on — on some transportation.

So I got 75 percent. But it 100 percent changed the welfare system because we…

BLITZER: Thank you.

SANTORUM: – stuck to our principles.

BLITZER: Let — but let’s stay on this subject, because I know many of you want to weigh in.

(APPLAUSE)

BLITZER: We have another question.

ALEX BRILL: My name is Alex Brill and I’m a research fellow in the economics department at the American Enterprise Institute.

Even if the super committee hadn’t failed, the savings that they would have proposed would have been a drop in the bucket relative to the $11 trillion deficit our country may face in the subsequent decade. In the decades after that, without entitlement reform, we’ll borrow even more.

To strengthen our economy, to strengthen our country, what entitlement reform proposals would you make to address our long-term structural deficit?

BLITZER: Good question.

Speaker Gingrich?

NEWT GINGRICH: It’s a great question and it raises the — the core issue of really large scale change.

Yesterday in Manchester , I outlined a Social Security reform plan based on Chile and based on Galveston , Texas . In Chile , people who have now have the right to a personal Social Security savings account, for 30 years, the government of Chile has promised that if you don’t have as much savings as you would get from Social Security, the government would make up the difference.

In 30 years time, they’ve paid zero dollars, even after ’07 and ’08 and ’09, people slid from three times as much to one-and-a-half times as much, but they didn’t go below the Social Security amount. The result is in Chile , for example, 72 percent — they have 72 percent of the GDP in savings. It has — it has increased the economy, increased the growth of jobs, increased the amount of wealth and it dramatically solves Social Security without a payment cut and without having to hurt anybody.

So I think you can have a series of entitlement reforms that, frankly, make most of this problem go away without going through the kind of austerity and pain that this city likes.

BLITZER: Let’s talk about that, Congresswoman Bachmann.

Social Security, Medicare, health care — what would you cut first?

What would you tackle if you were president of the United States?

REP. MICHELE BACHMANN, R-MINN., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Let me answer that in the context of the super committee, because I was involved in the middle of that fight as a member of Congress this summer. And my voice said this. I said it’s time for us to draw a line in the sand. We have sufficient revenues coming in to pay the interest on the debt.

But the real issue was, were we going to give Congress another $2.4 billion in borrowing authority?

In other words, another blank check to the president. Because, again, consider the context. A little of four years ago, we were just over $8 trillion in debt. We are now $15 trillion in debt in just over four years. Now we’re talking about — if the gentleman is correct — adding another $11 trillion in debt over 10 years, or potentially $8.5 trillion, according to the super committee.

All that they were asked to do is cut back on $1.2 trillion of that increase in debt. We aren’t even talking about the central issue, which is balancing the budget. We need to balance the budget and then chip away at the debt. This isn’t Monopoly money.

Because what we need to recognize is that when we are sending interest money over to China , with whom we are highly in hock, we’re not just sending our money. We’re sending our power.

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