OTR Interviews

Is the U.S. Headed for a Double Downgrade?

What is dividing the bipartisan committee on reducing debt and could America face a double downgrade?


This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," October 28, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: This is a Fox News special - the economy in 2012 and a critical deadline is quickly approaching. The Super Committee is racing against the clock to reach an agreement on deficit reduction. The last time Congress took it down to a deadline, the U.S. got slammed with a credit downgrade. So are we heading for a double downgrade? "Roll Call's" associate politics editor Christina Bellantoni joins us. Good evening. First of all, what are the odds that this Super Committee by November 23rd is going to reach an agreement.

CHRISTINA BELLANTONI, "ROLL CALL": Even though I am an optimist, I would say that the odds are pretty slim. I think they have built a little bit of buffer extra time. Everybody is talking of this November 23 deadline when they need to reach $1.5 trillion. But really these mandatory cuts in spending, if they don't reach an agreement don't actually trigger until January 15th, that is a lot of time for Congress to put the pedal to the metal and make something happen. That deadline is rapidly approaching. We don't have a lot of meetings before then. And parties on the committee are still wide apart in the way they are trying to reach the savings.

VAN SUSTEREN: I think there is a little voodoo, but to what extent is the composition of committee. The leaders that put the committee together, but the men and women on this committee, are they going to reach together?

BELLANTONI: I think a lot of people have their eyes on Senator Portman. He is obviously worked for the Bush administration. He has made compromises before. Congressman Upton, a Republican from Michigan, people look at them as maybe these moderate dealmakers. But you are talking about Republicans and Democrats having fairly fundamental differences. You've got Democrats proposing tax increases and Republicans oppose increases in Medicare premiums and fees.

What is very interesting in the Republican proposal includes cuts to agriculture subsidies, which is one of a few things that Senate Republicans have been able to accept in some of the deal making. That is where I think there is actually possible compromise. But the composition, these are people that fundamentally you shouldn't raise taxes or you should raise taxes. The parties don't come to an agreement when you have such a wide disparity there.

VAN SUSTEREN: And I suppose even if this was composition very interested in working together and reach an agreement, it has deep divide on many issues that even if they came out with a proposal it still has to pass both houses on the hill. So you might there find a lot of polarization. So it could be cooked once it got to the hill, too.

BELLANTONI: Although I do think you have to have seven members of this committee sign off on this deal. That is why I think they probably can't meet this November 23rd deadline because they are going to need to formulate that agreement. Whatever they agree to will be able to pass congress.

So it's sort of the big agreement will happen behind closed doors, among the small groups. And then whatever happens Congress will probably pass it. They're not going to come up with a deal that is not palatable in both chambers. Now, whatever that deal is, I don't certainly see it very son. Maybe I am too much of a pessimist in this situation, but I do think they are going to need some extra time.

VAN SUSTEREN: Let's say they still stick to November 23rd. I assume CBO needs it in advance so whatever deal we have an idea what it means. It's not just numbers thrown at us. I take it, am I right the CBO has the score it, and how much time would they need?

BELLANTONI: I think that is true and I think they have done it as quickly as 48 hours. I believe during the health care debate there were a few CBO scores that came out fairly quickly.

A lot of people put it as gold standard of numbers, but you are relying on a lot of assumptions what will happen with the economy. I think people will look to that number but none of these numbers are really hard line numbers. It's a little bit of fuzzy math on both sides.

VAN SUSTEREN: Christina, thank you.

BELLANTONI: Thank you. I look forward to seeing you there.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, Christina, thank you.