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Transcript: Sen. Charles Schumer on 'FOX News Sunday'

The following is a partial transcript of the Jan. 20, 2008, edition of "FOX News Sunday With Chris Wallace":

"FOX NEWS SUNDAY" HOST CHRIS WALLACE: President Bush said Friday the slumping economy needs a shot in the arm to the tune of $145 billion. But will congressional Democrats go along?

For answers, we turn to Senator Charles Schumer, chairman of the Congressional Joint Economic Committee, who's in our New York studio.

And, Senator, welcome back.

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER, D-N.Y.: Good morning.

WALLACE: As we say, President Bush announced his stimulus package on Friday, $145 billion in tax breaks for individuals and for businesses. We'll get to the details in a second.

But just give us a quick overall picture. What do you like and where are Democrats going to insist on changes?

SCHUMER: Well, we like a number of things, and I'm optimistic we can get a package done, signed and ready to go by March 1st.

First, that the president called for a package -- many of us had been asking for this for a while.

Second, that he took the permanent tax cuts off the table. They wouldn't start till 2011. And they would have created a brouhaha that would have made it very difficult to pass.

And third, when Senator Reid asked him not to put out the specifics of a plan -- when each side puts out its specifics, there's a lot of jockeying, and it makes it harder to get things done -- the president didn't.

I think both sides have of Pennsylvania Avenue, both parties, realize our economy is headed south in a significant way and we need relief.

And if you ask Ben Bernanke or economic experts, Chris, they say speed is number one, getting the money into the economy. So partisan fights and dithering could only make whatever recession we're going to have worse.

WALLACE: So let's get to the specifics. Let's break down the elements of a possible plan. First of all, tax breaks for individuals -- will Democrats insist on an income cap that individuals making over a certain amount of money won't get the tax rebate?

SCHUMER: Well, first of all, it's very good that the president and we Democrats agree that the centerpiece of such a plan should be tax relief particularly aimed at middle income people.

And you know, we don't have to get into the details of whether there should be a cap or not, but it does have to be balanced.

To say someone making $30,000 or $35,000 gets nothing and somebody making $200,000 gets the whole rebate doesn't make much sense. It's not fair. The person making $35,000 probably needs the help more.

But aside from that, every economist up and down the line will tell you that the person making $35,000 will spend the money more quickly because he or she needs to, whereas the person making $200,000 may delay doing anything with that money for a while.

So just from the point of efficacy, getting money to the middle class is the most important thing we can do to stimulate this economy.

And I'm not going to draw any lines in the sand, but I think an unbalanced package that says to those making $30,000, $35,000, $40,000, even $50,000, "You get very little or nothing," and somebody making $200,000, $300,000, $400,000, "You get the whole rebate," doesn't make much sense from either a fairness or economic point of view.

WALLACE: Well, you talk about fairness. This is obviously going to be one of the issues here. The 50 million estimated Americans that I talked about with Mitt Romney who don't pay any taxes - and it seems under the president's plan would not get any tax rebate -- and Secretary Paulson, Treasury Secretary Paulson, said on Friday, you know, it's simply fair that you only give tax rebates to people who pay taxes.

SCHUMER: Well, you know, there's a point to that Chris, but what about payroll taxes? In other words, somebody making $35,000 or even $50,000 or $60,000 pays a lot of federal taxes, but most of those go into the FICA tax.

And if we did the rebate based on the payroll tax, it would hit a lot more people at a lower end of the spectrum. And so to just say income taxes are the only taxes we're considering that people pay is unfair.

Ask the average working family. They pay more in FICA than they pay in income taxes.

WALLACE: Senator, will the Democrats accept the president's idea of tax breaks for businesses to spur investments and thereby create jobs?

SCHUMER: Well, as I said, Chris, there's a real spirit of compromise in Washington right now, a spirit of let's get together, put away the bipartisan differences, because the economy is in poor shape.

And there are many Democrats, frankly, who would rather not have business tax cuts. But again, no one's drawing a line in the sand.

And for instance, if you could look at a balanced package, the centerpiece would be a tax cut for the middle class and working families, and the bookends might be some business tax cuts as well as some spending stimuli for, say, people who are unemployed because they lost their jobs recently for no good and increasing unemployment. And you could have a balance there that would work.

I would say this on business taxes, Chris. The key, again, is speed. Business tax cuts that get money right into the economy quickly are far better to get our economy jump-started to either avoid a recession or at least avoid a severe recession than long-term business tax cuts.

WALLACE: Now, you brought something else into the equation that the president doesn't have, and that's the idea of spending increases.

Are you talking simply about things like extending unemployment benefits, extra food stamps? Some Democrats are talking about a big public works program -- infrastructure -- and the same experts you cite say that doesn't get money into the economy fast enough.

SCHUMER: Well, again, I mean, the main thing we're looking at are things that just mainline money into the economy.

Let me give you one example. The extension of unemployment benefits, it's estimated by non-partisan economists, get $1.73 into the economy for every $1 we spend. Even the middle class tax cut gets about $1.17 into the economy. That's good, but not as good as the unemployment benefits.

So I think that's going to be a criteria we will use. Public works is very good in terms of creating jobs. It's very good and very needed in the country. But if it can't be done quickly, then I think it's going to be a problem.

And let me just say this again. I don't think anyone is drawing lines in the sand. Again, when Senator Reid asked the president not to put out the specifics of a plan, the president acceded, and that showed a good deal of good will.

And I think similarly, we Democrats are not going to draw a line in the sand and say, "If it doesn't have this, we're out," or, "If it does have this, we're out." There's going to be a negotiation starting Tuesday.

I think both sides want to come to an agreement quickly, and I think the goal is to have a package signed, sealed and delivered by March 1st so the money can start flowing into the economy.

Ben Bernanke, someone I've talked to a lot, and Hank Paulson -- both say speed is of the essence here. If we don't have money flowing into the economy till June or July, it may be too late.

WALLACE: One specific the president did make, though, or did give, was the size of the package he's talking about, $145 billion.

Now, you're talking about adding payments to the 50 million taxpayers who at this point would not get them, the ones -- rather, the people who don't pay taxes. You're also talking about a spending program.

So are you talking about a considerably bigger stimulus package than the president?

SCHUMER: No. I think this is all open to negotiation. I think that, you know, the president's package is about the right size. It's about 1 percent of GDP, which is what the economists tell us is about the right measure.

But where the specifics are will be negotiated, and hopefully it will be negotiated in a bipartisan way without each party sort of throwing down the gauntlet and saying, "It's this or nothing."

WALLACE: You know, let's talk about the bigger picture here, Senator, because the fact is that the White House and Democrats in Congress have been talking about a stimulus package all week, and all week the stock market has gone down and down, even after the president announced his plan on Friday.

Investors don't seem to be persuaded that this plan is going to be quick enough or do enough to turn around the economy.

SCHUMER: Well, let me just say a couple of things here. First, the economy is in difficult shape right now.

You had the housing crisis at the center of this, and that made housing prices go down, and now consumer spending is down, and there's a credit crunch. People can't get loans for things they need, businesses and individuals. So it's pretty severe.

And I think most people think you need a multifaceted approach. You need a spending stimulus package. You need Chairman Bernanke to do something more on interest rates.

I would also say that many of us feel that doing something that -- doing something to aim at the bull's eye of the crisis, which has been housing, would make a great deal of sense.

And in a stimulus package, we could probably put some things together that both sides agree upon -- money for counselors to help people avoid foreclosure and raising some of the loan limits temporarily that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac now have. Secretary Paulson agrees that the administration thinks these are good ideas.

And I think one of the things the markets want us to see -- to do is deal with the fundamental issue of housing. And the good news is there are a few things, not everything, we can agree upon quickly.

WALLACE: Senator Schumer, we're going to have to leave it there. Quick action in Washington -- that would be a shocker.

SCHUMER: Well, let's hope it's a metaphor for change. And one more thing, Chris, go Giants!

WALLACE: Now we're going to have to give equal time to somebody else. Thank you so much, Senator, for coming in today.

SCHUMER: Thanks. Bye-bye.