By: Kevin Robillard
|A Republican Senator dismissed the final stages of negotiations to avert the fiscal cliff — and perhaps a recession — as “inconsequential” on Monday.
“Whatever happens today is really inconsequential,” Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe. “It really doesn’t matter. It’s going to happen. We will have a solution.”
In a follow-up interview with POLITICO, Corker made clear he meant the deal would be “inconsequential” to efforts to reduce the federal deficit, not to the overall health of the economy.
“The solution that we’ll ultimately vote on isn’t going to have an impact on long-term deficits,” Corker said.
Corker said since any deal is unlikely to substantially reduce the federal deficit or cut spending on entitlements, his focus has already moved on to the coming fight over the debt limit.
“I do hope that during this debt ceiling debate, we’ll actually get into the kind of entitlement reforms that our nation needs to solve its problems,” he said on “Morning Joe.” “But really, this is a lot of fuss about nothing today, unless you make, you know, somewhere between $350,000 a year and $550,000, today’s discussion is totally irrelevant, because that’s all that’s being discussed.”
Vice President Joe Biden, now leading negotiations for Democrats, has offered to extend the Bush-era tax rates for income below $360,000. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has said $550,000 should be the cutoff for families. McConnell and Biden made progress toward a deal on Sunday night.
For months, economists have warned that a failure to avert the spending cuts and tax hikes included in the fiscal cliff would likely send the economy back into recession. And details on how Congress plans to jump over elements of the cliff — including $1.2 trillion in cuts to defense and domestic spending, a spike in the estate tax and an extension of unemployment benefits — aren’t clear. In the interview with POLITICO, Corker was confident Congress would find solutions to most of these issues.
“I know we’re going to solve it,” he said.
But Corker is ready to move on.
“I’ve really moved on to the next debate,” he said on MSNBC. “I mean, we realize that in the next 24 hours or so this is going to be resolved, and unfortunately, we’ve not moved one step closer to solving our national issues. And so I’ve moved on to the debt ceiling.”
Corker was pleased with one element of the coming deal — coming to an agreement on tax increases for high earners will but the focus on further spending cuts.
“Getting the revenue issue out of the way will put focus on the spending issue, so it will be helpful in that way,” the Tennessean said.
“Let me give you a prediction,” Coburn said on “Morning Joe.” “We’re going to have another downgrade, regardless of what comes out of this deal because we deserve it, because our debt-to-GDP ratio, if you really measure it the way everybody else in the world measures theirs, is about 120 percent.
“There’s not a problem we can’t solve if we all work together, and we can do it, but everybody’s going to have to have some pain,” he added. “But let’s think about the long term. Let’s quit thinking about the Republican or Democrat Party. Let’s start thinking about the country.”
Coburn’s fellow Oklahoman, Rep. Tom Cole, said focus would shift to spending in the new year after Congress agrees to raise taxes on high earners in the coming days.
“There’s three big triggering mechanisms in front of us … that I think forces us [to deal with spending],” Cole said. “The first is the sequester itself, which most people don’t want to do, at least at some level. The second is the continuing resolution which runs out at the end of march, extending authority and everything. And finally, there’s the debt ceiling. So those three things push you back towards spending and entitlement reform.”
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