Georgia’s Senator Johnny Isakson on CNN, calling it like he sees it:
Transcript provided by CNN:
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JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: I want to bring back in Senator Johnny Isakson, Republican from Georgia, and we are also joined by Senator Sherrod Brown, Democrat from Ohio.
This is such a moving target. You met with the White House, the president at the White House yesterday.
You, this morning.
What did President Obama have to say about where this ultimately is going to end up?
SEN. JOHNNY ISAKSON (R), GEORGIA: Well, first of all, we have gone from not talking to each other at all a week ago to where everybody’s talking. The meeting this morning was substantive and helpful. The president laid out some what-if possibilities. We laid out some what-if possibilities.
But at least the beginning of the process of getting to a deal has begun. We’re a long way from being there, but at least we’ve begun the process.
TAPPER: Is it still important to you, Senator Brown, that the first part of any deal is lift the debt ceiling and open the government?
SEN. SHERROD BROWN (D), OHIO: I spent much of this week, and I know Johnny does the same kind of thing in Georgia, calling bankers, calling people running big research institutes in Ohio, research facilities, calling hospital administrators, business people, just to see what’s happening and this shutdown is already making a difference. He represents the Centers for Disease Control. I represent Battelle and Wright-Pat Air Force Base, and a NASA facility.
And more than anything, when the government shuts down for two weeks or three weeks or four weeks, these very highly skilled engineers and research scientists and mathematicians and physicians, you furlough them, 97 percent of NASA employees are furloughed.
TAPPER: It’s crazy.
BROWN: Over time, if this happens now and it happens again with the next debt ceiling or the next continuing resolution, we start losing some of the best talent we have. And we know what CDC and NIH and Case Western and NASA, we know what it produces in terms of wealth and prosperity and human knowledge. And we just can’t afford as a nation to operate this way.
TAPPER: Senator Isakson, why can’t the government just be open now? It’s a short term deal anyway. So, it would be in tandem with a short term debt ceiling raise, and obviously, with Republicans in the House having carried out the threat and the government shut down, President Obama and the Senate Democrats know that they’re serious.
Why not just open the government, lift the debt ceiling, it’s short term anyway, and then the negotiations can really begin?
ISAKSON: I think that’s the point we’re at. I think those who thought shutdown was a good idea have now learned it’s not a very good idea. In fact, it’s a dumb idea. We need to open the government for all the reasons Sherrod was just discussing.
A very short-term debt ceiling increase is not a real good idea because you’re just pushing off the debate we’re having now to right before Thanksgiving.
I think what we should do is get the government back to work, set a fundamental framework where we could have negotiations on long term entitlement reform that will bring about savings in terms of debt increases, and an increase in the debt ceiling over a period of time, long enough to stabilize the markets.
And I think that possibility is there. There will have to be some trade-offs but we’re at the table. Those are the things we’re talking about.
TAPPER: And, Senator Brown, one of the things I heard House Republicans say is possible in terms of trying to get a deal going for a bigger budget deal that includes safety net or entitlement programs, that includes tax reform, is removing the smaller sequester spending restraints and letting spending go up which would please Democrats who want the higher levels, but then requiring some of these cuts down the road.
Is that something you might be willing to consider?
BROWN: It’s something we should consider. I mean, we should consider everything now. I think, though, we never want to send a message that if you want — if you want to repeal a law, whether it’s Obamacare or something else, you don’t get more at the bargaining table by threatening to shut the government down or threatening to default, because we know the damage — just this week. Johnny and I sit on the Finance Committee together. Secretary Lew was in the committee yesterday, I guess.
We know already that leading up to this debt ceiling, this October 17th, whether it’s exactly a real date or not, it’s close enough, we know that the treasury bonds have gone up, interest rates have gone up 30 to 50 basis points, a third to a half of a percent. That’s just — that’s too damaging potentially for the economy.
I was talking to a major bank in my state yesterday, and they said if we would have a deal now, that third or half percent might go back down to where it was, but it may not do that that quickly. That could mean higher interest rates on student loans. It could mean businesses that are borrowing in the capital markets would pay a little more. None of that is good news. So, we can’t — we can’t set a precedent that this is the way to do business in the future.
TAPPER: Senator Isakson, you said that you think people who were in favor of a shutdown have learned that it’s a dumb idea.
ISAKSON: A lot of them.
TAPPER: A lot of them. I was going to say, certainly not all of them. I heard Senator Ted Cruz, your colleague, at the Value Voter Summit this morning, he — I don’t think he sounded like he was — thought this was a dumb idea. A lot of Republicans in the House still think that this is the plan.
What do you make of these piecemeal spending bills that have been offered to the Senate, Republicans in the House say, hey, we’ve been trying to open up the NIH in your state, we have been trying, you know, to feed dependent children who need formula through WIC, but the Senate Democrats won’t take it up. Does that wash with you?
ISAKSON: Well, I think them offering those ideas was a good thing for them to do but it was also a confession they all of a sudden understand shutting down the government was not a very good idea when you talk about NIH, CDC, not paying our military, the burial proceeds for our fallen soldiers. Those were — those were terrible consequences of the shutdown. I think the House members started realizing those consequences become real. You lose your leverage, if you had any to begin with.
TAPPER: What are you hearing from your governor, John Kasich, who I remember as being a fairly conservative Republican in the House? Although that was a different era of conservativism in the House, I suppose.
BROWN: Yes. Some good news in Ohio is that it looks like in spite of the legislature, that we’re going to see Medicaid expansion. There’s discussion about an announcement today. It’s not final but it looks good in that direction. It’s $3 million in the state. It means hundreds of thousands of people are going to get health insurance that wouldn’t have otherwise.
TAPPER: So, he’s joined the RINO caucus, as it were?
BROWN: Perhaps. I mean, it’s not my party. I don’t have —
BROWN: Johnny has — Johnny has to answer for them.
TAPPER: — calling him a RINO.
Do you think, last question for you, Senator, is a big deal going to be done or is this going to end with a small deal and hopes for a big deal?
ISAKSON: Somewhere in between. I think we’re going to get a deal done. I think we’re going to get the government back open. I think we’re going to get the debt ceiling lifted for a period of time, which I hope is certainly longer than six weeks and goes into next year, so we can sit down and do some tough negotiating on debt, deficit and structural reform of Medicare and Medicaid.
There may be a couple other technical things we do but it’s time to sit down at the table and lead like the biggest and best nation on the face of this Earth should be leading.
TAPPER: I wonder if people watching and seeing a Democratic senator and a Republican senator, a liberal and a conservative, sitting down being civil with each other —
BROWN: Don’t forget, this continuing resolution we passed in the Senate had $70 billion in cuts already. So, this was —
TAPPER: Right. Right. Because the Senate Democrats had already gone along with the House Republican cuts. Boehner couldn’t deliver.
TAPPER: Senator Sherrod Brown, Democrat of Ohio, Senator Johnny Isakson, Republican of Georgia, thank you so much. We appreciate your coming in.