Democrats, GOP harden budget positions ahead of talks

This is a rush transcript from "Your World," November 28, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


ERSKINE BOWLES, FORMER CO-CHAIRMAN, NATIONAL COMMISSION ON FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY AND REFORM: I am really worried that we have a real probability we could go over this cliff and I think that would be catastrophic.


NEIL CAVUTO, HOST OF "YOUR WORLD": That is Erskine Bowles, of course the co-chair of the debt commission. He is worried.

We more likely to jump head first into this tax abyss you heard about this year than anyone will win the Powerball lottery tonight. Those are the odds that you have a better shot at that jackpot than these dudes making a deal. Is that true?

And is Dick Gephardt, the former House majority leader, worried? He joins me right now.

What do you think, Congressman? If you were to sort of bet on the odds of a seeing deal by the end of the year, what would they be?

DICK GEPHARDT (D), FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN: Well, I have never thought that they could do the big deal by the end of the year.

There just isn't time to put all those pieces together. But I think there are two alternatives now. And one is that they basically kick all the cans down the alley, the sequestration spending can and the tax increase can, and basically decide it three, four, six months from now.

The other alternative is to do the tax piece in some fashion that the president is talking about. But I think the Republicans would probably require something on Medicare to match that on the spending side and query can they get those two pieces done by the end of year. I am not sure they can.

CAVUTO: That's interesting. So, one possible option would be just let everything extend for three to six months, including the sequestration, and put them off for that period, allow all of the Bush rates, including those, I guess, you are saying for those of the upper income, to extend for three to six months, and then hash it out in the new Congress and a new year.

How likely do you think that really is though because the president and certainly a lot of his backers are saying don't bunch an inch on this?

GEPHARDT: No, I know, and there has been a lot of rhetoric even in the last two days.

And part of the problem I see is that they seem to be negotiating in the media. And that is never a real great place, unfortunately, to negotiate, because people harden their positions and it makes it even harder to get the job done.

But they can still do it. I just think, again, the Republicans, to get their vote for anything on taxes, I think will require something equally large on an entitlement program like Medicare. And I -- there is not a lot of time left. And it gets pretty hard when you get down to these brass tacks.

CAVUTO: No, no, you are right about that. Time is a wasting. You have heard about this. I think it is frustration building within Republican ranks that they are giving away the store here with just promises of spending cuts from Democrats. That's what they argue. Maybe we don't know what is going on behind the closed doors, something very different, who knows.

But this criticism of Congressman Cole you might have caught at the beginning of the broadcast who has said I think it behooves us to get this tax thing out of the way, at least renew the rates for the 98 percent who benefit from them now. They're going to go up on the top 2 percent, but we can revisit that. Republicans counter, John Boehner today, as you know, Congressman, look, that is not in keeping with our view, that we got to get concessions for that.

Republicans are at this great divide, and Democrats seem to be sensing that, and that they will get the better part of the deal. What do you say?

GEPHARDT: Well, it takes votes.

You know, what one person thinks is not terribly consequential. You have got to get 218 votes in the House and 51 votes or 60 votes in the Senate to do any of this stuff. It gets really hard if you don't have a pretty tight consensus.

And that is why, I think, that if they just can't get the two pieces put together as kind of a down payment on the big deal next year, then they have got to figure out how to kick both cans down the alley. On that one, it then becomes -- it puts the president in a tough position, because if he vetoes the kicking the can down the alley of the Bush tax cuts, then you could wind up in a situation that he talked about today, which is the middle class has a tax increase at least for a three or four or five or six months. I'm not sure that is a great deal.

CAVUTO: So I take it you are not in the Patty Murray camp -- I'm sorry, sir -- but you are not in the Patty Murray camp, the senator from Washington, that says, maybe risk a fiscal cliff situation, where you just blow past the deadline, everything -- the cuts go in effect, the rates become immediate, and then you can parse together a deal that makes more sense to in this case the Democrats' liking?

GEPHARDT: I understand that viewpoint. And there will be people on both sides that will say let's let the bad stuff go into effect and that will put pressure on everyone to make the big deal faster.

That is another alternative. The risk there is that the economy goes back into another recession, the stock market falls, and you get real problems. And so that is a -- to me, that is a pretty big risk to take.

CAVUTO: Dick Gephardt, always a pleasure, sir. Thank you very much.

GEPHARDT: Thank you.

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