Piers Morgan Lectures Reince Priebus and 'Intransigent' GOP on Taxes

On Tuesday, Piers Morgan lashed out at "intransigent" Republicans and lectured RNC chair Reince Priebus that now is the time to compromise and increase taxes "to the benefit of the American national interest."

"But you Republicans led by Grover Norquist are absolutely intransigent about allowing any raise in taxation, and yet the American public want you to do it," Morgan lectured Priebus. Later on in his show, he smacked "implacable" GOP opposition to tax increases. 

"So clearly the Republicans are being predominantly blamed for the breakdown in bipartisanship in Washington. The fiscal cliff is a classic opportunity, many would argue, to show the Americans you've listened, you've changed, you're ready to do deals that are to the benefit of the American national interest," Morgan pushed Priebus to get with the times.

Meanwhile, Morgan stood up for President Obama. He read Priebus the White House offer, as stated by spokesman Jay Carney, and noted "I mean, fairly unequivocal, isn't it?" Priebus shot back "We haven't seen the plan. I haven't seen the plan. I don't think the Speaker has seen the plan."

Morgan held Obama accountable from the left, asking if he would "hold his nerve and increase taxes" or "be bullied off by the Republicans."

"I just don't get a coherent argument why you can't do a bit of both," Morgan later said of spending cuts and tax hikes. He cited Warren Buffett's call for higher taxes and observed, "he's worth $40 billion and is considered to be the most successful investor in the history of mankind."

"So basically, you're just getting extra revenue with no pain, no negative, no downside whatsoever. Says Warren Buffett," chirped Morgan.

A transcript of the segment, which aired on November 27 on Piers Morgan Tonight at 9:03 p.m. EST, is as follows:

[9:03]

PIERS MORGAN: One of the big challenges that will be facing the GOP now, of course, is the fiscal cliff. The new CNN/ORC poll, when asked is the GOP doing enough to cooperate with Obama, 70 percent said no, of Americans, whereas when they asked if Obama is doing enough to cooperate with the GOP, 45 percent yes, 49 percent no. So clearly the Republicans are being predominantly blamed for the breakdown in bipartisanship in Washington. The fiscal cliff is a classic opportunity, many would argue, to show the Americans you've listened, you've changed, you're ready to do deals that are to the benefit of the American national interest.

REINCE PRIEBUS: Well, I mean, Piers, look, the President is the leader of this country and he's got to lead and he's got to take control. And he's got to show the American people that he can put people together and a team together, meaning Republicans and Democrats, and come up with solutions. But so far, Piers, we don't even know what the President's plans are.

I mean, he's done a good job of apparently making Americans feel that that's the case, but what he hasn't done a good job is really leading with evidence and with substance on the table as far as what he would do. I mean, here's the problem, Piers. I mean if – if we really want to have an honest discussion about where we're at in this country and these fiscal problems facing America, I mean, the reality is if you look at any chart, and you study any basic description of what's happening to this country, what you'll see is that, as compared to revenue, our bigger problem in this country, by far, by an astronomical amount, is what's happening in regard to the spending that's going on in Washington. I mean it's almost –

(Crosstalk)

MORGAN: Yes, yes, but hang on. Hang on. Let me jump in. Let me jump in.

(Crosstalk)

MORGAN: I've heard all this. I've heard all this. Grover Norquist spelt out –  

PRIEBUS: But it's true. You can hear it a thousand more times –

MORGAN: But it may be true – it may be true to the Republican Party, but the reality is in the CNN/ORC poll just taken –

PRIEBUS: I understand but we have to – I understand what's –

MORGAN: No, hang on. Let me – hang on. Would you prefer a budget plan with only spending cuts, 29 percent. Would you prefer a mix of spending cuts and tax increases, 67 percent. A thumping, thumping majority.

PRIEBUS: Right.

MORGAN: Of Americans would prefer to see --

PRIEBUS: But here's the deal. Okay.

MORGAN: -- cuts in spending and tax increases. But you Republicans led by Grover Norquist are absolutely intransigent about allowing any raise in taxation, and yet the American public want you to do it.

PRIEBUS: Listen, first of all, there's a lot of things you said that aren't true.

MORGAN: Well, name one.

PRIEBUS: Nobody is opposed to – well, first of all, no one is opposed to increasing revenues by closing some loopholes, but they have to be met with --

MORGAN: That wasn't what I said. Hang on. That --

PRIEBUS: They have to be met with commensurate tax cuts --

MORGAN: That was not what I said. That wasn't what I said.

PRIEBUS: They have to be met with commensurate tax cuts, I think –

MORGAN: Well, hang on. You said what I said wasn't true.

PRIEBUS: In order – in order to spur economic growth.

MORGAN: No, Reince, Reince, I have to stop you.

PRIEBUS: No. Wa –

MORGAN: No. You can't put words in my mouth. You said what I said wasn't true.

PRIEBUS: Well, you can't – listen.

MORGAN: And then you give a completely different answer to what I actually said.

PRIEBUS: Okay. Listen, here's the issue. The issue is if you took every dime of profit from every Fortune 500 company in America, took it all, sent it all to Washington, you'd run the federal government for six months.

Here's my point, Piers. The point is, it is absolutely intellectually dishonest to have a conversation about tax increases unless and until you talk about massive cuts in spending to the federal government, getting our spending to GDP ratio below 20 percent, it's about at 25 percent today, and my point is, is that the first problem is spending. And I don't think you can even get to a dishonest conversation about how tax increases is somehow going to resolve this problem, it's like going to the hospital with a broken leg, taking a bunch of pain pills –

MORGAN: Yeah, but – Okay.

PRIEBUS: And then after a few hours, you still have a broken leg. You have to fix the broken leg, Piers.

MORGAN: Right. But the point I'm making to you is that in the CNN poll, it wasn't just about raising taxes. It's about a combination of spending cuts and tax increases. Now let me play you a quote from Jay Carney talking about exactly what the President is offering.

(Video Clip)

JAY CARNEY, White House press secretary: Here's a fact. The President has on the table a proposal that reduces the deficit by $4 trillion, that does it – does so in a balanced way, that includes substantial cuts to discretionary non-defense spending, over $1 trillion. It includes revenue and includes $340 billion in savings from our health care entitlement programs.

(End Video Clip)

MORGAN: I mean, fairly unequivocal, isn't it? It's a mixture of –

PRIEBUS: Right, well where is it? Where is it?

MORGAN: -- pretty substantial spending cuts and tax increases.

PRIEBUS: We haven't seen the plan. I haven't seen the plan. I don't think the Speaker has seen the plan –

MORGAN: Are you accusing the President of lying?

PRIEBUS: We haven't seen the plan.

MORGAN: Is the President lying?

PRIEBUS: Well, where is the plan?

MORGAN: Is he lying?

PRIEBUS: I don't think the plan's out there. Well, I think Jay Carney might be but I don't see the plan. I mean, maybe they have a plan.

MORGAN: So Jay Carney is lying and he's the White House spokesman.

PRIEBUS: No. No, listen.

MORGAN: They're lying, are they?

PRIEBUS: Piers, maybe they've got a plan but they didn't share –

MORGAN: You just did. You just called him a liar.

PRIEBUS: He hasn't shared it with – they haven't shared the plan with the American people. Paul Ryan and the Republicans in Congress have passed more – twice now and last year – excuse me, two years ago as well, a 10-year plan for our budget that deals with our 10-year debt window, that deals with our deficits, that deals with entitlement reform. I mean we have done that time and time again. It's the Democrats, it's the Democrats, and this President that haven't passed a budget in over three and a half years. I mean we're – for us to be lectured as far as budgetary discipline, Piers, by the Democrats, is absurdity.

We're the only ones that passed a budget in this country for the past three and a half years. It's the Democrats that violated the law and didn't do their job for the American people and it's the President that hasn't led this country and come up with a plan for the American people. Now Jay Carney might say hey, listen, we've got a plan and this is the plan. Well then share the plan with the American people. And then we can get somewhere in this country and we can actually tackle the spending and debt that's going to bankrupt us all.

MORGAN: Yeah, but, Reince, if the plan is exactly as he has stated here, and it includes some tax increases as the vast majority, nearly two thirds, more than two thirds of the American public want, actually want, if that is on the table, why wouldn't the Republicans sign up to it?

PRIEBUS: Listen, I don't know the details of what he's offering, Piers. And I'm not trying to hide behind any of it. I just can't actually have an intelligent conversation about a plan hypothetically that we haven't seen, that might include tax increases and might not and might include some deduction loophole eliminations that we haven't seen.

I mean how can you have an intelligent conversation like this? I mean you actually have to see a plan, you have to have a negotiation, you have to discuss these things in potentially an open forum, for the American people to make a decision. But right now from this President we don't have anything but talking points and apparently, Jay Carney's comments today at a press conference.

MORGAN: Right. I mean if your plan had been so popular, though, you would have won the election and you lost badly.

PRIEBUS: Well, I mean that's one – that's one – I mean that could be one -- that could be one issue but there's a lot of issues that were being discussed at the – during the time of the election and there's a lot of reasons for losing and there's a lot of reasons for winning. But tax increases I'm sure on the ballot weren't a reason that we lost the election.

Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro was a News Analyst for the Media Research Center's News Analysis Division from 2010 through early 2014