"Sessions And Cornyn Refuse To Detail GOP Agenda, Offer Zero ‘Painful Choices’ To Cut Spending"
The heads of the Republican congressional campaign committees — Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) and Pete Sessions (R-TX) — appeared on NBC’s Meet the Press today to discuss their party’s strategy for the November elections. Sessions began by saying that everyone knows exactly “what Republicans stand for,” but he quickly proved that even he doesn’t really know. Host David Gregory, visibly frustrated, repeatedly pressed the two campaign chiefs for substance, saying, “these are not specifics, voters get tired of that.” But all he got in return was vapid talking points, like how Republican candidates are “standing with the American people back home.”
Gregory correctly dismissed what he was hearing from Sessions as “gauzy,” and turned to Cornyn, saying, “I’m not hearing an answer here, what are the painful choices” that Republicans are prepared to make to cut the deficit? Instead of offering any ideas of own, and in direct contrast to the sense of urgency with which conservatives paint the deficit, Cornyn responded that he would wait for President Obama’s debt commission’s report, which will conveniently come after the election. Gregory replied, “wait a minute, conservatives need a Democratic president’s debt commission to figure out what it is they need to cut?”:
GREGORY: I think what a lot of people want to know is, if Republicans do get back in power, what are they going to do?
SESSIONS: It’s quite simple that Americans do know the agenda that is before us. They understand what the President and the speaker stand for, and they understand what Republicans stand for. Republicans…very strong, standing with the American people back home. [...]
GREGORY: Congressman, congressman, that’s a pretty gauzy agenda so far. I mean, what specifics — what painful painful choices are Republicans prepared to make? … How do you [balance the budget]? Tell me how you do it. Name a painful choice that Republicans are prepared to say we have to make.
SESSIONS: Well first of all, we have to make sure as we look at all we spend in Washington, D.C., with not only the entitlement spending, but also the bigger government we cannot afford anymore. We have to empower the free enterprise system.
GREGORY: Congressman, these are not specifics, voters get tired of that.
SESSIONS: Oh they are. They are. … Let’s go right to it.
GREGORY: Do it!
GREGORY: Senator, I’m sorry, I’m not hearing an answer here on specifics. What painful choices to really deal with the deficit — is Social Security on the table? — what will Republicans do that will give them, like ’94, there was the Contract with America, what are voters going to say, hey, this is what Republicans will say yes to.
CORNYN: Well, the president has a debt commission that reports December the first, and I think we’d all like to see what they come back with.
GREGORY: But wait a minute, conservatives need a Democratic president’s debt commission to figure out what it is they need to cut?
Rich Lowry, the editor of the conservative National Review, called Cronyn and Sessions’ performance “disappointing” on Twitter, writing, “a consensus GOP agenda” is “badly needed…so these guys have something to say.”
In a candid moment on Bill Bennett’s radio show this week, Rep. Peter King (R-NY) seemed to admit why Republicans refuse to give specifics. Republicans shouldn’t “lay out a complete agenda,” King said, because people might not like it.
GREGORY: And, Congressman Sessions, I want to go back to you. This has been a debate so far this morning about, you know, the relative merits of Republican rule during the Bush years and what this president has or has not accomplished so far. I think what a lot of people want to know is if Republicans do get back into power, what are they going to do?
REP. SESSIONS: It’s quite simple that the American people do understand the agendas that are before us. They understand what the president and the speaker stand for, and they understand what Republicans stand for. Republicans, and especially our candidates who are all over this country, very strong standing with the American people back home, we need to live within our own means. And certainly the projections that are ahead including health care and the projections for unemployment for a long time and debt for as far as we can see is staggering. We need to live within our own means. Secondly, we need to make sure that we read the bills. These bills are so bad, which is why we don’t have a budget that is being looked at now. The 2011 budget is staggering in terms of taxes, and the, the discipline that is lacking from this House Democratic leadership to even debate and bring the bill for the budget and appropriations to the floor is a lack of leadership. And lastly…
MR. GREGORY: But, Congressman, that’s a, that’s a pretty gauzy agenda so far. I mean, what specific–what painful choices are Republicans prepared to make? Are they going to campaign on repealing health care, for instance, repealing financial regulation? Would you like to see those two things done?
REP. SESSIONS: Well, first of all, let’s go right to it. We’re going to balance the budget. We should live within our own means, and we should read the bills and work with the American people.
MR. GREGORY: How do you do it? Tell me how you do it. Name a painful choice that Republicans are prepared to say we ought to make.
REP. SESSIONS: Well, first of all, we need to make sure that as we look at all that we are spending in Washington, D.C., with, not only the, the entitlement spending but also the bigger government, we cannot afford anymore. We have to empower the free enterprise system. See, this is where…
MR. GREGORY: Congressman, these are not specifics.
REP. SESSIONS: Oh, they…
MR. GREGORY: And voters get, get tired of that.
REP. SESSIONS: That, that…
MR. GREGORY: You want to deal with entitlement spending…
REP. SESSIONS: They are…
MR. GREGORY: …will you raise the retirement age on Social Security, will you cut benefits in Social Security?
REP. SESSIONS: Let, let–let’s go…
MR. GREGORY: Will you repeal health care?
REP. SESSIONS: Let’s go right to it.
MR. GREGORY: Do it.
REP. SESSIONS: And Chris talked right about it. He wants to diminish employers’ abilities to be able to be competitive across this world. We need to make sure that we allow employers, which was in that 52-page report that was presented to the president of the United States by CEOs in this country, we need to go back to the exact same agenda that is empowering the free enterprise system rather than diminish it.
MR. GREGORY: Senator, I’m sorry, I’m not hearing an answer here on specific–what painful choices to really deal with the deficit. Is Social Security on the table? What will Republicans do that, that, that would give them–like ’94, there was a Contract With America. What are voters going to say, “Hey, this is what Republicans will say yes to”?
SEN. CORNYN: Well, the president has a debt commission that reports December the 1st, and I think we’d all like to see what they come back with. We’ve got three of our most outstanding members on that commission–Mike Crapo, Tom Coburn and Judd Gregg–and I–my hope is they’ll come back with a bipartisan solution to the debt and particularly entitlement reform, as you, as you mentioned. But I…
MR. GREGORY: But wait a minute, conservatives need a, a Democratic president’s debt commission to figure out what it is they want to cut?
SEN. CORNYN: I said we need to do this on a bipartisan basis. We’ve, we’ve had a, we’ve had a…
MR. GREGORY: But what is the Republican Party stand for with regard…
SEN. CORNYN: …we’ve had a partisan juggernaut.
MR. GREGORY: Right.
SEN. CORNYN: Well, I mean, in, in part, what I alluded to earlier is what people are tired of is the runaway spending and the debt, and I think that is a positive agenda–smaller government, living with their means.