Transcript: Schumer says Republicans need to see the “handwriting on the wall” & pass the Senate’s middle-class tax cut bill

Edited by Jenny Jiang

Transcript of remarks by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) at a press briefing on the fiscal cliff on Nov. 29, 2012:

Based on the update Leader Reid has provided us on where things stand, I think all of us today are confident we can reach a bipartisan agreement by Christmastime. I personally am optimistic.

Look, we don’t expect the Republicans to be enthusiastic and start cheerleading about a deal that includes higher rates on the wealthiest Americans. They’re not going to openly concede on this point this far out from the deadline but they see the handwriting on the wall.

Yesterday, we all met with business leaders who are part of the Fix the Debt coalition. We urged the CEOs to help us convince Republicans for the need not just for higher revenues but for higher revenues in the form of higher rates for the wealthy. The CEOs said they would support higher rates as long as it was a part of a comprehensive deal, and we agree.

I think Congressman Tom Cole’s comments this week represented a watershed. I think he said what a lot of Republicans are privately assuming is going to happen on taxes.

And it’s a tell-tale week when two members – two bonafide card-carrying members of the hard right – Sen. [Pat] Toomey and Wall Street Journal editorial page said it wouldn’t be a violation of the Republican tax pledge to extend a subset of the Bush tax cuts. They’re trying to figure out their rationales now that they realize in their heads they’re going to have to agree with our position.

It was also encouraging to hear similar talk from high-profile Republicans like President Bush’s former press secretary and a top aide to Leader Cantor. Yesterday, they declared that even if the Republicans settled for the President’s offer on taxes, that would be a victory for conservatives. We would add it also for moderates and liberals. It’d be a victory for everybody.

This sounded like an attempt to provide a soft landing for Republicans on taxes. And we welcome – we’re very happy with any rationale that helps Republicans accept de-coupling of the Bush tax cuts.

And so, Speaker Boehner this morning said there’s no progress but all you have to do is just listen to what’s happening now out there and you’ll know there is progress.

Just as in 2010, we had to realize that election said make cuts and we did. We didn’t like it but we did close to $1 trillion in cuts.

The election said raise the top rates on the highest income people, and our democracy still works well enough that they’re going to have no choice but to go along with that.

So, it’s clear where things stand now. At the President’s meeting with the bipartisan leadership on Nov. 16th, all sides agreed on a two-part framework that included a down payment – a significant down payment that’s needed to reassure the markets. We refused to kick everything into 2013 as some Republicans, including Mitt Romney, proposed.

For the tax portion of this down payment, the de-coupling of the Bush tax cuts is the right way to bring in upfront revenues.

If Republicans wish to have a spending cut component of the down payment, fine – the ball is in their court. What is it? We’ve been specific about our down payment. What’s theirs?

If they have one on the revenue side, we’d like to see the specifics. If they have one on the spending cut side, we’d like to see the specifics. We’ve been very specific.

So far they haven’t offered a single idea short of vouchering Medicare that we all know is off the table – even Mitt Romney denied that one as the campaign moved on.

If Republicans insist on spending cuts being part of the down payment as discussed at the Nov. 16th meeting, the onus is on them to come forward with some ideas.

The President’s budget contains over $300 billion in health savings. If Republicans don’t like those ideas, they should make a counter-offer. It’s silly to think the President is going to negotiate with himself on entitlements. We know that won’t happen. We are waiting for some specifics somewhere from our Republican colleagues to show that they’re serious on negotiations.


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