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tv   Face the Nation  CBS  December 19, 2010 8:30am-9:00am PST

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>> schieffer: today on "face the nation," the lame duck walks. congress passes a major tax cut and repeals don't ask don't tell for the military. but what about the start treaty, and where do we go from here in afghanistan? we've been in afghanistan nine years now. is there any end in sight? and then, there's the nuclear start treaty. every living former secretary of state favors it. so what's the hold-up? we'll talk to the chairman of the senate armed service committee carl levin and key republican senator lindsey graham. then, we'll bring in republican senator jeff sessions and democratic senator amy klobuchar for a round table on what to expect from the new congress. i'll have a final word on the holidays and why they seem to get here faster and faster. but first, congress and how it finally did something on "face
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the nation." captioning sponsored by cbs "face the nation" with cbs news chief washington correspondent bob schieffer. and now from washington, bob schieffer. >> schieffer: good morning again. we start with senator levin and senator graham. they're both in the studio with us this morning. gentlemen, welcome. just because i like to say this, let's start with start. every living former secretary of state, democrat and republican, says this should be ratified. this morning on another channel, senator biden or vice president biden said he believes that they have the support to ratify this. that means 67 votes. i'm going to start with you, senator graham. do you think the vice president is right? do you think this is going to pass? >> i don't think in the lame
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duck he's right. secretary of state rice said that there's a caveat here. the bush administration tried to delink start from missile defense. we've got a real confusing situation. the russians have viewed the preamble to the start treaty as a binding commitment by us not to develop four stages of strategic missile defense. the administration told our nato allies in lisbon that we're going to consider the fourth stage, but not deploy it. i'm not going to vote for start until i hear from the russians that they understand we can develop four stages of missile defense, and if we do, they won't withdraw from the treaty. that amount that senator mccain offered to take the controversial language out of the preamble was defeated. but 40 senators support the idea of the preamble has to be changed. senator levin says if you take that language out, it distorts the treaty. so, in substance, we're a long way from there. we've had one vote on the start treaty in this lame duck. you say the lame duck walks. i think it's just been a hodgepodge of special interest
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politics. we still haven't funded the government. we've had six versions of the dream act. we tried an omnibus bill that blew up. so, there's been no serious debate on start. with 50 amendments left, i don't think you can have a serious debate between now and january 4. given the process and the substance, there's a real hurdle there. >> schieffer: so i take it you're not going to vote for it. if you're not going to vote for it, it takes 67 votes. you think that's going.... >> here's what i'm saying. if you want to have a chance of passing start you better start over and do it in the next congress because this lame duck has been poisoned. the idea that you can have a meaningful debate on the start treaty when you've had one amendment after weeks of special interest politics, you have unresolved the difference between the russians' view of missile defense and ours make it a hurdle you can't overcome in the lame duck. maybe next year, we can straighten things out and have a chance to do it. >> schieffer: senator levin, i think there's some news here
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because i think a lot of people thought that senator graham might be one of the republicans who decided, in the end, to vote for this. do you think he's right? do you think the votes are not there now? especially after hearing what he just said. >> we hope the votes are there including votes of many republicans, the ranking republican on the foreign relations committee. senator lugar is a strong supporter. he has many people, particularly on foreign relations who are republicans, who are strong supporters. the most important thing here is that our top military leadership strongly supports the start treaty and say there is no restrictions, no limitations whatsoever on missile defense. so to try to create this kind of a conflict where none exists, not only does none exist in reality but none exists in the minds and assessments of our commanders who run our missile defense system, our commanders who run our nuclear system. our top military leader, admiral mullen, the chairman of the joint chief of staff, says there is no limitation on missile defense.
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so that it seems to me is a straw man argument. the russians have on previous treaties said that things concern them. they've laid linkages which we don't accept in previous treaties. they have not stepped out of previous treaties. we have, they haven't. >> schieffer: what about this argument that we need to do it now? i mean, senator graham said let's do this next year. i mean, this thing has been lingering there for a long time. maybe the senate should have voted on it or not. but it's been there for a while. it's been a while since the president signed it. what does it hurt to let it go over to next year? >> previous treaties like start treaties have not had longer debates than the two weeks which we've devoted to this treaty. this is not an unusually small length of time. it's been in front of the foreign relations committee for months. we've had i don't know how many hundreds of questions, which have been fully answered. so this has been on the senate calendar. people can study this. if there's serious amendments that are being offered, fine. we've gotten many, many days between now and the end of the
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year. it's an important treaty. it should not be side-tracked. >> schieffer: is it going to damage national security...? >> it will damage national security, not just because i say so. i may be chairman of the armed services committee, but my view is not nearly as important as every single former secretary of state, every single national security advisor, republican and democratic. our current military leadership say it is essential to national security that we pass the start treaty. >> schieffer: senator graham, do you want to respond? >> i think what damages our national security is to sign a treaty where the parties have a different view of what you mean. the russian foreign minister said if we build up our strategic missile defense systems in quality or in numbers that they will consider that a breach of the treaty. i'm going to write a letter to the russians and ask them specifically, "does the preamble language that senator mccain tried to renew, do you consider that a limitation on the united states' ability to develop four stages of strategic missile
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defense." because we're threatened by iran, we're threatened by north korea? what good is it th sign a treaty and try to defend yourself and the party on the other side withdraws. if you want to create chaos sign a treaty where everybody thinks the world is safer, and down the road they withdraw because we intend to do something they don't want us to do. i need to know the answer to that. our military leaders are not who i'm asking to give me the russian view. i want the russians to tell me their view of our ability to develop strategic missile defense. and we can wait until next year. the last two weeks have been an absolutely excruciating exercise. "don't ask don't tell," a controversial topic. some say the civil rights issue of our generation. others say battlefield effectiveness-- was passed in the lame duck session without one amendment being offered. the dream act we've had two votes on the dream act. controversial immigration. there was no efforts to find a common ground there. passed without the ability to amend to try to make republicans look bad with hispanics. we tried to fund the government
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by clean c.r., we took a $1.2 trillion omnibus bill with 6,000 earmarks and it fell yesterday. we still haven't funded the government. we have haven't had a serious debate on start. we've been fighting a multiple front war to try to do every special interest group's bidding in the lame duck session. that's not a way to ratify a treaty that has importance. >> schieffer: let's talk about afghanistan. the report came out, the president put out the report. they cited progress but, you know, they said it's really fragile. some people say this is just a sugar-coating of a policy that isn't working, senator levin. how did you view this assessment that the administration put out? >> i think it was a very sober assessment, a very objective assessment. it showed progress because we are making progress, particularly militarily on the ground. not only against the taliban, with our afghan... with the afghan troops now weighing in more and more, but also against al qaeda, which has clearly gone underground. the real problem here is from pakistan, where we're trying to do a lot more.
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that assessment was made because pakistan provides havens. that's for the people.... >> schieffer: but what are we going to do about pakistan? here this week reports that the pakistan intelligence service outed our top c.i.a. guy in pakistan. are they with us or against us? >> the answer is yes. >> schieffer: they're with us. >> you said "with us or against us." the answer is yes. they're generally with us in a lot of ways. some of these terrorist groups are the ones that are going to hurt them, not just hurt us. but they are also buying what they consider to be peace with some of these terrorist groups who are not attacking them, but crossing the border and attacking the afghans and us. so we're going to continue to put pressure on the pakistanis. they cannot have it both ways. they've had it both ways too long. >> schieffer: polls show people are getting very impatient about this. they don't think it's worth the effort, senator. >> well, those who look at polls when it comes to war, do so at your own peril. i want to compliment the administration.
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i think the new policy in afghanistan is very improved on the security front. i want to compliment the president for focusing on 2014 as a transition date. we can start removing troops next summer because of better security. but carl is right-- the two achilles heel of afghanistan are poor governance. on the corruption front, we're stalled. the safe havens in pakistan still exist, but the pakistani are doing better than they have in the past, so i do believe that we're on the right track to provide security. after security, comes better governance. and a better trained afghan army and police force is within sight. it's going to take patience. i will stand with the president, and the pakistanis will stop double dealing when they know we're not going to let afghanistan go back into the abyss. i would like an enduring relationship with afghanistan. we're looking at two air bases being there in perpetuity, with a footprint of air power and special forces, to let the afghans and the pakistanis know the taliban will never come back. that's what has got pakistan worried. we're begin to go turn the tide. >> schieffer: i want to thank both of you for being with us
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this morning. we're going to broaden the round table with a couple more senators when we come back in one minute. back in one minute. i have a drug problem. 10% of the world's medicine is counterfeit. affecting over a billion people a year. on a smarter planet, we're building intelligence into things. so we can follow this medicine from the factory to the distribution center... to the pharmacy... and know it's the real thing. keeping counterfeits off the shelves. in places like the u.s... tanzania... and india. smarter medicine is safer medicine. that's what i'm working on. i'm an ibmer. let's build a smarter planet. [ man ] i thought our family business would always be boots. until one day, my daughter showed me a designer handbag. and like that, we had a new side to our business. [ male announcer ] when businesses see an opportunity, the hartford is there. protecting their employees and property and helping them prepare for the future.
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nice boots. nice bag. [ male announcer ] see how the hartford helps businesses at >> schieffer: we're back now. senator graham is sticking around. senator levin had to leave for a previous engagement. but we are joined by senator amy klobuchar from minnesota and jeff sessions from alabama. i want to move the discussion now to next year. senator klobuchar, if you had to make a prediction, it seems to me that the partisan divide is going to be wider. a lot of moderates got beat. so, i think republicans are going to be more conservative in the next congress and democrats more liberal. do you think there's any way the two sides are going to be able to get together? >> i think it's a fair assessment, in terms of there are a number of conservative added, particularly in the republicans that have been added, particularly in the house. but let me say this.
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i have some disagreement with my friend lindsey here about the last month or so. we were able to get some significant things done. a significant tax bill-- both lindsey and i supported that. that was done on a bipartisan basis. we were able to get "don't ask don't tell" repealed with the support of eight republicans yesterday. that was a major step. we are working on the start treaty. there's a lot of work still to be done on that. but i predict we will eventually get that start treaty passed. as you go through what we've done, these things have been done on a bipartisan basis. so, i think there is hope for the future. when you look at this last election, what the american people really want is a laser focus on the economy and jobs. they want to see some reduction in spending, in bringing this deficit down. and they want to see us working together. so, any party or any person who decides to spend the next two years just tearing things apart and trying not to move america forward i think they do it at their own peril. >> schieffer: senator sessions, you're going to be the ranking republican on the budget
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committee. what do you think the next congress is going to be about? do you join senator klobuchar in thinking there are things you can actually work together on? >> there is. for example, senator klobuchar worked and supported the session/mccaskill bill that would put in statutory language the budget numbers that caps limits on spending and we would require a two-thirds vote. that was a good step procedurally. but fundamentally, this election meant something very historical. huge house change. people were elected on a promise to change the direction that we're on. people see where we're headed. we're heading to greece and ireland and to california. that's the future our children and grandchildren see (no audio). >> schieffer: something just happened here. i think it's done. >> that is where i see the difficulty. i think the house is going to submit a very lean, tight, tough budget.
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the senate is going to have a real difficult time accommodating the challenges that we face. >> schieffer: you know, the thing is both sides agree that we're facing this fiscal abyss here. yet, you did have this bipartisan tax bill pass that is going to just add to the deficit. so, how does that... how do you justify that or how does that work? >> one thing that did happen that i didn't mention was this bipartisan debt commission. you have people as diverse as senator dick durbin and senator coburn agreeing that we have to move forward to do something about our debt. we're not going to all agree at this table right now, but i will say i think that's got to be in the mix looking at, say, even if he said it people making over a million dollars, if you bring their taxes to the clinton levels, when we were amazingly prosperous, you save in ten
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years nearly $400 billion on the deficit. you add that in with some of the things that senator sessions just spoke about with some spending limits and caps, you keep social security solvent. i don't agree with everything in that report. but there are some very good ideas about tax reform and other things. if we could move forward together, and there is some leverage for this, and that would be the debt-ceiling vote that we'll be taking in a few months that is going to force people to have to come together. >> schieffer: senator graham, you did not give the glowing report on the lame duck congress so what do you think is going to happen? >> i think getting the tax cuts extended was a tough deal that was good for america, but look how hard that was. the house is in revolt. people are pissed off in the house that the estate tax... that's going to carry over a bit, but big government and big spending is on the run. that's the reality. the tea party will turn on the republicans, as well as the democrats, but it will be a test of the tea party. if they come up here in large
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numbers and bring a new energy. i applaud what they did but they have to help us solve problems. if we just sit here and talk about what can be done in theory and not actually do it... the debt commission is a document we ought to look at closely. there's a tax reform proposal there that is a flatter tax with very few deductions. if we don't adjust the age... retirement age on social security and medicare, we're just all talk. people in our income level, we're going to have to give up some of our benefits that have been promised because we just don't have enough money to do it all. i'm ready, willing and able to make the hard decisions about age and means testing on part-d. why the hell should the federal government be buying my prescription drugs? we're so far in debt, we're never going to get out of it unless we look at each other around this table and say, "it is time to sacrifice." i am hopeful that the debt commission is a bipartisan document that will give us a way to put together a package that ask for sacrifice. >> schieffer: do you think that democrats will be ready to make those hard decisions on means
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testing for social security, age. social security is the easiest of all our problems to solve. but do you think that the congress has the political will to do what it takes to do that? >> i think we have to have that will. i pointed out there are a number of democrats, including senator conrad. 14 of us signed a letter saying let's move forward with this work that needs to be done on the debt. at the same time, not everyone agrees with everything in that report. i would say with social security, looking at one of the proposals is to take right now the income cap where you get taxed at $106,000. you could put a area where you don't get taxed up to say $250,000 and then put that tax back in. as senator graham mentioned, there were there was some discussion in the report about reducing benefits for some of the upper-income people. you have the fact that they also looked at people that have really hard labor jobs that maybe you should treat them better and treat them differently. i think it's really worth looking at some of the ideas in that report. you know, democrats have made a
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lot of tough decisions, if you look at the last two years. when president came in, he inherited this debt that had grown and grown and grown over the bush years. when bill clinton left office-- the last time that we had a surplus, it was democratic president. you have to look at the fact that democrats have made some tough decisions in the past. they got us into a balanced budget. we can make the tough decisions this time. >> lindsey was there when the last budget was balanced. he was there with newt gingrich. there was blood politically on the floor. people slept in their offices, the government was shut down. bill clinton, to his credit, balanced the budget. people to see that was the congress that made that happen in many ways. entitlements are throwing off basically surpluses. every bit of our debt fundamentally is overspending in the discretionary accounts. yes, the entitlements are going into deficit in the future big time. huge challenges.
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but we cannot go to our social security recipients, our medicare recipients and demand big cuts in what they are going to receive so congress can continue to spend its discretionary money. we've got to set an example. we have to start in the senate. we have to reduce our budget. the president is going to have to help us. we can't just... he runs the executive branch. he should be able to tell us what can be reduced without substantially damaging our economy. greece is having troubles, but they're going to be better for this. new jersey is having protests and objections, but they're going to be better for the difficult choices they're making. we're not going to sink into the abyss if we reduce spending in america. >> schieffer: let me just ask you, charles krauthammer called president obama this week the new "comeback kid." he said republicans are underestimating him.
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do you think that's right? let's just talk some politics here. is president obama stronger now or weaker now that he passed this tax bill? >> i'm hopeful that he will propose what i think my colleagues mentioned. we need a growth economy. we need simpler, lower rates as far as possible. so we focused on growth. there's some hint that he might offer a pretty bold program in the state of the union. i hope he does. but he's got to help us. we're on the wrong path. we don't need to go 30 miles an hour instead of 60. we need to get on the right path. he's going to have to make... >> schieffer: do you see him moving more toward the center? >> i don't care if you call it left, right, center. i think what you've seen is a major focus on private sector jobs. i think that focus has been there, but the truth is when you ask people when the last year when democrats would talk about jobs, whether it was fair or not they thought it meant government jobs. we need to talk about private sector jobs. the fact he's meeting with the business community is a start. i think it's very positive.
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the focus on exports is going to be very important as we move forward. 95% of our potential customers outside of our borders. as i've said on your show before, a competitive agenda for this country. i think that's what will bring people together, whether they're right, left or center, as we compete in this increasingly global economy that we put america first, that we believe in america. that means education reform. and that means competitive reform. >> schieffer: i'll give senator graham the last word here. >> the president signing the tax bill and changing his tone-- instead of whining about it and embracing it. if he would embrace a flatter tax, but end this one thought. the president's more popular than the congress of our country now. we're at 13% in the eyes of the american people. we have to ask ourselves, how does that happen? and who are the 13% and what do they like? if we don't recognize that about ourselves and get this body in better standing with the american people, nothing is possible. i'm an optimist. i think we can change things but
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it's going to take sacrifice and political commitment i haven't seen in a long time. >> schieffer: all right. i want to thank all of you on that note. best of the holiday season. >> thank you very much. >> schieffer: back with some final thoughts in just a second. nd. ready sensei. hey tough guy, that cold needs alka seltzer plus! it has the cold-fighting power of an effervescent packed in a liquid-gel for all over relief! hiyah! dude! i'm off to the post office... ok. uh, a little help... oh! you know shipping is a lot easier with priority mail flat rate boxes. if it fits, it ships anywhere in the country for a low flat rate.
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i like saying that better than saying "growing older." as the world around us gets smaller and events move faster, we slow down. like old cars, the parts wear out. we need more maintenance just to keep moving at all. i was reminded of that yesterday when my wife interrupted the writing of this little piece three times to put in the eye drops i need for recent cataract surgery. it's always something. - not at the same speed but moving. i'll take that. which brings me to my early "beat the rush" holiday wish for you. i hope all the good things that seem big to you now get even bigger. and remember the good news. the old car still has some miles on it. but only if you take it in for regular check-ups. back in a minute. until one of the guys brought in some fresh bread that he'd made from our pale ale. and from that first bite, i knew my business would never be the same.
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>> schieffer: that's it for today. we'll see you next week right here on "face the nation." captioning sponsored by cbs captioned by media access group at wgbh i'm off to the post office... ok. uh, a little help... oh! you know shipping is a lot easier with priority mail flat rate boxes.
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if it fits, it ships anywhere in the country for a low flat rate. plus, you can print and pay for postage online. and i can pick them up for free with package pickup. perfect! cause i'm gonna need a lot of those. wow! i knew i should have brought my sleigh. priority mail flat rate shipping starts at $4.90 only from the postal service.