Congressional Black Caucus ruling out major changes to entitlements

Missouri Congressman Emmanuel Cleaver explains


This is a rush transcript from "Your World," December 4, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST OF "YOUR WORLD": Now, into this mix, as I try to save the country, we have got Emanuel Cleaver, of course, a Democratic congressman. He heads the Congressional Black Caucus.

And, Congressman, good to see you again.

REP. EMANUEL CLEAVER, D-MO.: Good to be here with you.

CAVUTO: Here is what worries me. Now, you and the organization have said, look, not the time for entitlements. Leave Social Security alone. Don't even talk about raising the Medicare eligibility age.

And I just think you closed off a huge swathe of spending right there. That is not progress. That is not superhero-like, sir.

CLEAVER: Well, first and foremost, I think that that your previous -- the previous voice I heard was on target.

One of the worst things...


CAVUTO: It wasn't my voice?

CLEAVER: Well, your voice is always logical and...


CAVUTO: Right. It has been Wayne Rogers, yes.


But one of the worst things going on in Washington right now is all of the talk about the issue, and not the issue. And the reason I say that, you pick up a newspaper and it says, who is going to blink first, who is going to be pulled across the line first?

And members read those things. And they are thinking, boy, I don't want to be categorized as blinking and so forth.

CAVUTO: That's right. But you just contributed to its, chairman.

CLEAVER: Well, let me...

CAVUTO: You just said, well, you better not touch any of these entitlements, don't even dare talk about Social Security, don't talk about Medicare, don't talk -- all -- I know you may have your reasons but I'm just telling you the Republicans have gone back, all right, so we have to give our pound of flesh and raise taxes, and we are fine with it. We don't love it. But we're OK with. We're going to do it.

Never mind the fact that you Democrats have doubled the amount in revenues as you talked about before the election after election. So be it. But there is nothing coming from you guys. That's their rap against you.

CLEAVER: Well, here is -- yes, here is one of the things that we have been pushing, some of us have been pushing. And that I,s according to the CBO, the nonpartisan Budget Office, that if the Bush era tax cuts are eliminated, that they would generate $950 billion over a 10-year period. Now, that is just shy of the $1.2 trillion that we laid out in the sequester bill.

So, we are moving in the right direction and we are dealing with the whole issue of Medicare.

CAVUTO: No, you are not. But you are not.

CLEAVER: Well, what we are saying is, since 73 percent of the voters, the public said that they didn't want Medicare and Medicaid touched, that we can still generate the dollars that we need to...


CAVUTO: I don't know if they said that, Congressman. I think what they -- they did give you maybe a license to go after fat cats' taxes.

They didn't give you a license to sit on your hands.

CLEAVER: I agree. You are absolutely right.

And I'm not one of the individuals that will say that we just want to conquer Republicans. There is no benefit in that. I live in this country and I have four children who will grow up in this country, and hopefully live and die here their entire likes. We have got to make this country sound. And one of the most dangerous...

CAVUTO: How can we do that if we are not even trying to curtail the growth in entitlements? In fact, we equate it to throwing granny off the cliff, when we are just slowing the growth in behemoths?

CLEAVER: Well, I wasn't part of that. I think we have got to stop that kind of crazy talk. In fact, we...

CAVUTO: Your organization now stands behind not touching these now. It's like they're just modern-day don't touch my junk thing.

CLEAVER: No, but look at this. Social Security is not a problem. It has not contributed one single penny to the deficit.

CAVUTO: What about Medicare? What about...


CAVUTO: Show me any entitlement you would touch right now, or at least -- we are not talking about taking food away from the elderly.

CLEAVER: Yes, that's right.

CAVUTO: We're not talking about medical care away from the elderly.

Is there anything you would touch beyond taxing rich people?

CLEAVER: No, no, no, I think we have to take a very serious look at Medicare.


CAVUTO: Then I'm confused, sir. Then I'm confused, because your organization seemed to put out, don't touch that, not now, not part of this deal.

CLEAVER: No, no, what we are saying is, look, we can generate $950 billion of the $1.2 trillion we need over 10 years without eliminating or reducing benefits with Medicare.

But I am also saying that, if we are looking for additional cuts, if we need to do more, then I think everybody must be open.


CAVUTO: Yes, but you are not open to the very thing you said.

CLEAVER: I am open.

CAVUTO: You are a great guy, and you gave I think one of the best speeches at the Democratic Convention, but I'm telling you the speech ain't flying here, because what it seems to be implying is it is on the Republicans, they better cough up more in taxes because we will just keep feeding the beast. This is not about taming the beast. It's feeding the beast.

CLEAVER: That's not where I am. That's not where I am.

But -- and I need to say this. What most of the viewers watching this show now believe is that all of us are involved in some kind of negotiation? And that is not true.


CAVUTO: There is nothing going on, is there, Congressman? There is no progress, nothing, zilch, zippo.


CLEAVER: That's right, absolutely nothing.

And we need to have -- the country -- Tim Geithner and his staff are dealing with John Boehner and his staff. That is it. The rest of us are not involved.


CAVUTO: I am not encouraged by what you are saying. I am not encouraged by what you are saying.


CLEAVER: Well, I'm telling you the truth.


CAVUTO: Wayne wanted to come in, but since you complimented him and we're running out of time, I'm not going to allow Wayne in.


CAVUTO: But, Congressman, thank you very much. Wayne making his last appearance on this show as well.

Thank you very much.

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