Rep. Matheson: We Have to 'Go Big' on Spending Cuts

Democratic congressman on Super Committee, debt crisis


This is a rush transcript from "Your World," November 15, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST OF “YOUR WORLD”: Red and blue united in Washington to stop a humongous black hole of debt from growing and growing and growing.

With the Super Committee deadline looming, a group of nearly 150 lawmakers now wants the Super Committee to just go big, really big, try $4 trillion in spending cuts big over the next decade.

My guest helping to lead that charge, Blue Dog Democrat Jim Matheson.

Congressman, always good having you.

REP. JIM MATHESON, D-UTAH: Thank you, Neil.

CAVUTO: Hope springs eternal, but you know and you are closer to the fire than I am, but it looks like a deal is at best dicey. What do you think?

MATHESON: Well, you know, they are keeping their cards pretty close to the vest, so it’s hard to know.

But I think they may very well come up with something. I don’t think it will be the big deal that I think it should be, but they will come up with something that creates a new set of triggers and new set of actions to happen in the future. And at least that’s my guess. But you know what? Like you said, hope springs eternal and I hope they do something even bigger.

CAVUTO: You’ve been among those leading the charge to go bigger than the planned $1.3 trillion to $1.4 trillion cuts in 10 years. As you astutely pointed out in a prior appearance here, that still means we’re gonna have $9 trillion more in debt after 10 years, so, while that is progress, it’s not exactly promising progress.

But how do you get to the $4 trillion, Congressman?

MATHESON: Well, first of all, you’re right that it is progress. The capital markets are telling us you need a minimum of $4 trillion over the next 10 years. If they want to go bigger, good for them, but they ought to at least go to $4 trillion.

That is what the Simpson-Bowles commission did when they came up with their deficit reduction proposal. I think we ought to go that big. How do you get there? Look, all of them are politically difficult issues. You’ve got to reform Medicare. You’ve got to reform Medicaid. You’ve got to reform Social Security to put them on sustainable paths, because right now they all blow up in deficits over time.

And that is what will be tough politically and that is why you need a bipartisan group to come together to go big. And that’s what’s exciting about this 150 lawmakers coming together and saying go big. These are both Republicans and Democrats saying let’s go big, let’s do this together and let’s do what’s right for the country.

CAVUTO: Congressman, I don’t mean to blow you smoke, but one of the things I’ve always liked about is that you have been willing to put specifics behind your plan, been willing to look at anything and everything, including reining in entitlements growth over the next few years. A lot of your Democratic colleagues have not.

You’ve also urged Republicans to be open for more revenue enhancements, close loopholes that they have not been able to do because they see that strictly as raising taxes. And we’ve had Coburn here earlier said that it’s clearly not.


CAVUTO: Having said that, it looks like not everyone is buying that gospel.

So, let’s say we do get to the point where Thanksgiving, we don’t have a deal, and automatic cuts supposedly kick in by the end of the year, and we have already had the president saying that he wouldn’t back those automatic sequestration cuts. I don’t know if he can just veto them or if it’s understood those cuts are automatic.

Is it your understanding they are automatic and he cannot veto them? Because that confused a lot of folks.

MATHESON: My understanding it’s automatic. It was part of the legislation that was passed by Congress August 2 and the president signed into law with the debt limit increase. These cuts part of that law. So there’s nothing left to veto. If nothing else happens, that sequestration or those automatic cuts, I think it just happens.

CAVUTO: There’s a lot of frustration, though, with the process. You heard about the CEO today who told Paul Ryan, this is bull you- know-what, the fact that we might have to let dust settle after the election. This is 18 months before we would let it settle at $4 billion a day in debt piled on, sir. That’s a lot of debt. What did you think of that CEO’s pretty blunt frustration?

MATHESON: Look, I share the frustration because, as I said earlier, the capital markets if you listen to them they say it ought to be at least $4 trillion anyway. Talking about $1.2 trillion, talking about waiting for it to be implemented, or even the automatic cuts until a year later, we face a real issue here as a country.

And whether you’re Republican or Democrat or anything in between, you gotta recognize that we have got to find a more sustainable path. I think the business community and the capital markets are telling you they know how to add. And they know how to look out in the future at a balance sheet and an income statement. And they recognize that where we are in the federal government, it’s just not going to work over the long run. I get that frustration and I share it.

CAVUTO: All right, Congressman, good to see you. I hope this is all sorted out. Be well.

MATHESON: All right, thanks, Neil.

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