Monday Morning Catch-up: News You May Have Missed
Policy + Politics

Monday Morning Catch-up: News You May Have Missed

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Top Story/The Debt-Ceiling Debate
Despite the over-my-cold-dead-body statements of Republicans, taxes may indeed be on the negotiating table when it comes to a debt-ceiling compromise.

After chastising President Obama for scolding the Senate and telling it to get to work while he heads off to campaign fund-raisers, GOP Senator John Cornyn of Texas opened the door to a tax deal on Fox News Sunday.

“Some on Capitol Hill have said, absolutely, no way they will vote for anything that involves a tax hike. The top Republican in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, has said that. House Speaker John Boehner has said that.

You have phrased it a little bit differently,” Shannon Bream (filling in for Chris Wallace) said to Cornyn. “When we talk about tax expenditures, things like loopholes and breaks, you say it would be a fruitful area for discussion. So, would you consider that a tax hike or raising taxes?”

“I think it's clear that the Republicans are opposed to any tax hikes, particularly during a fragile economic recovery,” said Cornyn, an influential party elder who is a member of the Finance Committee and head of the Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, which is instrumental in reelection efforts. “The last thing that employers need is further disincentives to not hire people. And that's what higher taxes would mean.

Now, do we believe that tax reform is necessary? I would say absolutely. There's not enough time to get it this done between now and August 2 [the controversial date when Treasury says a deal must be in place to avoid a U.S. debt default]. But [we] ought…to try to make our tax code more rational. We could bring down rates, eliminate a lot of tax expenditures or loopholes and actually make our nation more competitive internationally.”

“So, just to be clear,” said Bream, “talking about closing some of those tax loopholes, making changes to the tax code, you don't consider that raising taxes?”

“I don't mean to be cute about the language,” said Cornyn. “But what I think we ought to do is bring the rates down to make it revenue-neutral. So, as you eliminate these tax expenditures, if you bring the top rates down, that's revenue neutral. That's not raising taxes.”

“Do you think you will get other rank-and-file Republicans on board with that way of viewing the issue of revenue?” asked Bream.

“Well, I think so. …The President's own fiscal commission recognizes that our tax code is riddled with a lot of special-interest loopholes and provisions that really don't make any sense anymore,” said Cornyn. “…Yes, this is a fruitful area for us to work on in a bipartisan way.”

Has the U.S. housing market hit bottom?

“I think the answer to that is yes, frankly,” Housing & Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan told Candy Crowley on CNN’s State of the Union. “Housing is more affordable than it has been in a generation. If you look at most of the important indicators of where the housing market is going, they are improving. The number of people in default is declining. The number of people being foreclosed on is declining. Home sales have been up six out of the last nine months. The one area that has been of biggest concern is home prices. And as foreclosures come down, as the so-called shadow inventory starts to decline, that will help prices start to turn up. …I think it's very unlikely that we see a significant further decline [in [prices]. I think the real question is when will we start to see sustainable increases? Some think it will be as early as the end of the summer or this fall, others think it will be next year. And I wish I had a crystal ball on that. My sense, though, is in the long run it's a good time to buy, whether it's five months away or a year away, to see sustainable increases.”

Partisan Divide
One of the truly annoying things about most politicians is that they can never just give you a straight answer.

On Face the Nation, Bob Schieffer said to Republican Governor John Kasich of Ohio: “You were a part of that [golf] foursome two weeks ago along with the President, Speaker Boehner, and Vice-President Biden. People thought that get-together…might begin a sign of cooling off here in Washington. But it seems to me that things are worse than ever. What do you think has happened? Did somebody get mad at somebody out on the golf course?”

“You know, I was one of the architects of the balanced budget in ’97,” Kasich said. “And we’ve lost a lot of that ability to talk to one another as people.” Then he waxed on about what a great job he has done in Ohio.

However, Democratic Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa of Los Angeles didn’t mince words. “I think Washington has its head into the sand. We’re…jeopardizing the full faith and credit of the United States of America because Democrats won’t address entitlements, Medicare, and Social Security. And Republicans don’t want to talk about revenues or defense spending. And the fact is we’ve got to do all of that. You know, I think Simpson-Bowles [Deficit Commission] lays a template for what we need to do. You don’t have to agree with everything in it. The fact of the matter is a mayor or a governor understands that you’ve got to find that middle course. You can’t avoid your responsibility of balancing the budget. And in this case, they ought to submit their resignations frankly, if they put us in a situation where we’re in default.”

Later Schieffer played a clip from a recent CBS Town Hall that featured ultra-conservative Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma. Schieffer asked Coburn why nothing is getting done in Washington anymore.

Coburn’s answer: “We’re more interested in political careers than we are fixing the very real and urgent problems in front of our country. This is the lowest level of votes the Senate has had in my seven years and the lowest level of votes in twenty-five years. And the reason we’re not voting is people don’t want to take a vote because they might have to defend it. So rather than come up here and do the job and have the courage and the honor to go out and defend your votes, what we do is we just don’t vote.”

Election 2012
On Saturday, iconoclastic and little know conservative congressman Thaddeus McCotter of Michigan declared his candidacy for the GOP presidential nomination. There are now more than a dozen declared candidates, with former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin and current Texas Governor Rick Perry still uncommitted.