Washington Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers declared in an exclusive Newsmax TV interview that the nearly $3 trillion in cuts that President Barack Obama claims to have already made in his plan to cut the federal deficit over 10 years are “really smoke-and-mirror numbers.”
“Now, this was news to everyone,” McMorris Rodgers, the House Republican Conference Chairwoman, tells Newsmax. “The president has been running up a record deficit — and now he’s suggesting that there’s been all of these cuts.
“Look at the record: A $1 trillion-plus deficit every year’s he been in office, and trillion-dollar deficits as far as the eye can see, nearly a doubling of our debt.
“He hasn’t cut the cost of healthcare or healthcare costs,” McMorris Rodgers added. “His program’s going to cost us more — and for him to be suggesting that he’s reducing and saving taxpayer dollars is just false.”
Obama also has not taken a leadership role in the negotiations to reach an agreement to avoid the fiscal cliff scheduled for the end of the year.
“Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of communication right now between the president and the speaker, between the staff — and what we need is for the president to get serious,” McMorris Rodgers said. “We need to have these good-faith negotiations. We’ve known for over a year that this day was coming, and it’s not acceptable to go over the fiscal cliff. It would be devastating to our economy.
“We don’t want to go over the fiscal cliff. It would hurt all Americans. And yet, recently, we heard Secretary Geithner say it would be OK to go over the fiscal cliff. This is the Treasury Secretary of the United States saying it would be OK. It would not be OK.”
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Geithner told CNBC on Wednesday that the Obama White House was “absolutely” willing to go over the fiscal cliff if Republicans refused to raise taxes on those making more than $250,000 a year.
“I see it as the administration not being serious,” McMorris Rodgers tells Newsmax. “They’re still in campaign mode. We see the president continuing to campaign — and the day after the election, Speaker Boehner went to the podium and he said that, as Republicans, we’re willing to put revenue on the table.
“What the Republicans are calling for is tax reform. The president’s been focused on the top 2 percent and their tax rate. It’s interesting to know we could tax them at 100 percent, and it would fund the federal government for 91 days. The focus on the top 2 percent is really a straw man. It doesn’t solve the problem.
“We need a simple, fairer tax code for all Americans — for the middle class — and that’s the way we can also help get our economy growing again.”
Neither side has specified which entitlement programs should be cut or tax programs eliminated — and McMorris Rodgers also declined to identify where certain reductions should be made.
“The Republicans have put a framework together and that’s where you start,” she said. “You start by agreeing to what the framework would be. And we presented to the president a framework that included both new tax revenue as well as the spending reductions, the entitlement reforms that are needed in order to make sure that these programs are in place and are safe for many years to come.
“The reality is that we need to be doing the big things. This is our moment to address these big issues, these pressing problems that face America — and we need a real fix, not just a quick fix, and it needs to be comprehensive.
“We need to look at the tax reform. We need to look at the spending, the entitlement reform, debt,” McMorris Rodgers added. “Avoiding the fiscal cliff doesn’t solve the problem. We need to solve these problems now. That’s what America wants. They want the leadership by Republicans and Democrats on these issues so that we don’t find ourselves in this situation another three months or a year from now.”
The negotiations should be private — and, maybe, on Capitol Hill instead of at the White House, McMorris Rodgers said.
“These are going to be difficult negotiations. The current approach, unfortunately, in public, which is one proposal versus another, that isn’t the way to negotiate. We need to sit down, face-to-face at the table, sitting across from each other.
“It’s very frustrating that the president seems to continue to be in campaign mode,” McMorris Rodgers reiterated. “He’s having these negotiations on the campaign trail — and what we need is for him to get serious and come to the table so that we can really start hammering it out.”
And, as for Obama coming to Capitol Hill, “It would be a step in the right direction, if we could at least open the lines of communication and start those negotiations,” McMorris Rodgers said. “And the sooner, the better. There’s no reason to continue this uncertainty for middle-class Americans, for our job creators, for our economy. They need certainty.”
She cited the 1983 negotiations between President Ronald Reagan and Democratic House Speaker Tip O’Neill that led to the bipartisan Social Security compromise as an example that both parties can work together.
“That’s the type of approach we need today,” McMorris Rodgers said. “But it starts with the president recognizing that he needs to lead — coming to the table and having those types of negotiations.”
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