The newly-named chair of the House Financial Services committee defended Republican resistance to tax cuts on the middle class in part by misrepresenting this year’s presidential election results to CNN host Soledad O’Brien.
“The President won 51-49. He’s got an electoral college victory,” said Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX), both neglecting the fact that President Barack Obama’s actual popular vote victory margin was three points and ignoring Obama’s 126-vote electoral college defeat of Republican Mitt Romney. “It’s good enough to get him to be re-elected but it’s not good enough to give him a mandate.”
The Obama’s administration proposed solution for avoiding the so-called “fiscal cliff” centers on the expiration of tax cuts for the wealthy implemented during George W. Bush’s presidency, coupled with $600 billion in spending cuts and a tax increase for families making more than $250,000 a year. Republicans countered with a plan based around closing unspecified tax loopholes and deductions, and have also threatened to demand that service programs like Social Security, Medicare and the Affordable Care Act be put on the table in budget negotiations.
At various points in the interview, O’Brien suggested that lawmakers from both the GOP and the Democratic party could work together on the issue.
At various points in the interview, O’Brien suggested that lawmakers from both the GOP and the Democratic party could actually work together to resolve the issue.
“Let’s do some kind of a deal now, and that’ll keep us from going over the fiscal cliff,” O’Brien said. “And then you can let the tax cuts for the wealthy expire, January 1st, it happens … it’s gonna happen anyway, right?”
Hensarling laughed off that idea.
“This is the very kind of shell game that they run in Washington,” said the incoming chair, who has served in Washington since 2003. “‘If you’ll just give me my tax increases today, I’ll surely give you your spending restraint tomorrow.'”
“But you have no leverage in the debate,” O’Brien responded, which Hensarling seemed to ignore, instead calling the Obama administration’s idea “immoral” for punting the national debt along to future generations.
The Starting Point host attempted to reintroduce a middle-class tax cut later.
“Why don’t Republicans and Democrats vote to keep the taxes lower for middle class and people at lower income and let the other ones expire?” she asked. “And you could do that now. And we wouldn’t go over the fiscal cliff.”
Hensarling responded by defending House Speaker John Boehner’s (R-OH) plan.
“What the Speaker has done is exactly what the President claimed he he wanted,” Hensarling said. “The Speaker has put on the table a balanced approach.”
Hensarling also accused the president of wanting to put 700,000 Americans out of work and of reneging on previous agreements.
“Republicans are willing to negotiate in good faith,” Hensarling said, noting that Boehner had offered a plan reportedly based on a proposal by deficit commission co-chairperson Erskine Bowles before O’Brien stepped in, reminding him, “Who, as you know, has backed away from that plan.”
O’Brien also noted that Bowles issued a statement Monday saying, “circumstances have changed” since he issued that proposal last year, an economic shift Boehner’s plan did not account for.
“What I know is, he was right in front of me as co-chairman of the super-committee, and he had put it on the table,” Hensarling responded as O’Brien chuckled. “So if he wants to take it off the table, so be it.”
Watch O’Brien’s exchange with Hensarling, aired Wednesday on CNN and posted on Hensarling’s YouTube channel, below.
[h/t Think Progress]
Correction: This piece originally misspelled Hensarling’s name. We regret the error.