CBS's Hill to Bachmann: House GOP 'Risks Looking Like The Grinch'

CBS's Erica Hill invoked an infamous Christmas season villain on Wednesday's Early Show, stating that "[House] Republicans...risk looking like the Grinch here four days before Christmas" for their refusal to sign onto the Senate's proposed two-month extension of the payroll tax holiday. Hill made that claim during an interview of Rep. Michele Bachmann, and pressed her about the payroll tax issue.

The anchor brought on Rep. Bachmann to discuss her presidential campaign's swing through Iowa during the lead-up to that state's caucuses at the beginning of January. However, Hill devoted the first half of the segment to the dispute over extending the tax holiday, and led with a question that included her "Grinch" label:

HILL: There is a lot of talk, of course, about what's happening in Washington. We'll get to Iowa in just a minute. But as a congresswoman, I want to get your take on this. The op-ed page of The Wall Street Journal this morning saying, basically, Republicans should cut their losses, figure out a way to extend this payroll holiday, or, essentially, risk looking like the Grinch here four days before Christmas. Can that happen?

When the Republican presidential candidate answered, in part, that the Senate's proposal was a "poison pill...Harry Reid, essentially, threw a bomb over into the House," and that "this is one more temporary gimmick," the CBS journalist followed up by asking, "Congresswoman, this is incredibly important to 160 million Americans. As you point out, people on the trail are asking you, why things can't get done in Congress? Why then, Congresswoman, did you choose not to vote yesterday?"

Erica Hil, CBS News Anchor; & Rep. Michele Bachmann, (R), Minnesota | NewsBusters.orgIn reply, Bachmann repeated her "bomb" talking point about Senator Reid. Seemingly not satisfied by her guest's answer, Hill pressed ahead with the issue and raised how most of the Senate Republicans had voted for the two-month extension: "In the Senate, they were able to work out a bipartisan deal. Just a handful of Senate Republicans not going along with that. So if there could some sort of bipartisan compromise in at least one chamber, why not go back and try to work to make something happen?"

The Minnesota Republican answered that the Senate proposal was a "very bad option," and went on the attack against President Obama for "failing to cut the spending." Hill then repeated her point about the apparent importance of the tax holiday to Americans: "So you're saying you wouldn't have let this happen, but, at least, a two-month extension for 160 million Americans- they may have preferred that to nothing January 1, Congresswoman."

Exactly a month earlier, on November 21, the CBS anchor tried to get Americans for Tax Reform president Grover Norquist to press congressional Republicans to consider raising taxes: "There's still not a lot getting done in Washington, even with some of the compromise. So why not push those people to maybe do a little bit more?" During her previous interview with Rep. Bachmann on November 16, Hill wondered why the candidate was attacking Newt Gingrich for appearing in a climate change commercial with Nancy Pelosi: "Why is that a bad thing, to try to work across the aisle?"

Back in September, the journalist lobbied the Minnesota representative to allow children of illegal immigrants to receive in-state college tuition: "Why not, though, give them a tuition break now, rather then, perhaps, down the line, having to hand over unemployment, or even welfare?"

The full transcript of Erica Hill's interview of Rep. Michele Bachmann on Wednesday's Early Show:

ERICA HILL: On Tuesday, an influential Christian group, The Family Leader, decided not to endorse any candidate in the Iowa caucuses. Its president, however, did announce he is backing Rick Santorum.

Joining us this morning from Davenport, Iowa is someone who is counting on support from social conservatives- GOP candidate Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, who's also currently on a bus tour to visit every county in that state. Congresswoman, nice to have you with us this morning. There is a-

REP. MICHELE BACHMANN, (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Good morning, Erin [sic]- a pleasure to be with you.

HILL: There is a lot of talk, of course, about what's happening in Washington. We'll get to Iowa in just a minute. But as a congresswoman, I want to get your take on this. The op-ed page of The Wall Street Journal this morning saying, basically, Republicans should cut their losses, figure out a way to extend this payroll holiday, or, essentially, risk looking like the Grinch here four days before Christmas. Can that happen?

[CBS News Graphic: "The Payroll Tax Cut: Bachmann On Tuesday's Rejected Bill"]

BACHMANN: Well, the Republicans in the House are presented with a poison pill because Harry Reid, essentially, threw a bomb over into the House, and then, the Democrats left town. Unfortunately, President Obama has been AWOL in the entire process. And so, the real losers in all of this, Erin [sic], are the American people, and I'm talking to people on the ground every day here in Iowa, and they are just disgusted. They're shaking their heads and they're saying, what's wrong with Congress? Why can't they give us permanent solutions? This is one more temporary gimmick, and what they're looking for are permanent solutions, so they can hire people and get people back to work.

HILL: Congresswoman, this is incredibly important to 160 million Americans. As you point out, people on the trail are asking you, why things can't get done in Congress? Why then, Congresswoman, did you choose not to vote yesterday?

BACHMANN: Well, because there was no deal. We all knew there would be no deal, because President Obama, Harry Reid, decided not to work with the House Republicans. Like I said, they threw a bomb over into the House, something- a bill that was completely unacceptable, that wouldn't help people get back to work, that wouldn't help the American economy to recover. And so, there was no other choice. If there was a deal, of course, I would be there. There is no deal.

HILL: In the Senate, they were able to work out a bipartisan deal. Just a handful of Senate Republicans not going along with that. So if there could some sort of bipartisan compromise in at least one chamber, why not go back and try to work to make something happen?


BACHMANN: Well, because this was a very bad option. A two-month extension? No one's going to hire, based on two months. We need a one-year extension, if that's what the deal will be.

The main problem in Washington right now is that President Obama is failing to cut the spending. People are sick of this overspending. He is overspending by a factor of 10 over what his predecessor, George Bush, overspent. So President Obama is being entirely irresponsible, and he's failing to lead. That's what I intend to do as president of the United States: I'm only going to submit balanced budgets and sign balanced budgets. I'm not willing to spend one dime more than what we take in.

HILL: So you're saying you wouldn't have let this happen, but, at least, a two-month extension for 160 million Americans- they may have preferred that to nothing January 1, Congresswoman.

BACHMANN: Well, this isn't going to help anything. This is a temporary gimmick, and we're going to have another big crisis within two months. Stop it! We need to stop, Erica, these crises and really grapple with the problem. That's what I said last summer; that's what we should do.

HILL: You are, of course, in Iowa ahead of the Iowa caucuses. I know this is, sort of, hometown territory for you in many ways. You put a lot of focus here. There's been some talk that Bob Vander Plaats [CEO of The Family Leader] actually called you over the weekend, and asked you to step aside, and to throw your support behind Rick Santorum. Did that call actually happen?

BACHMANN: Yes, there was a call that was made, but it didn't make sense, because my numbers have always been above Senator Santorum's. So it makes no sense for me to drop out. What we're seeing on the ground is a tremendous shift. In our last debate last Thursday, people saw how I took it to Ron Paul on foreign policy. There's an article that came out this morning on Huffington Post that said of all of the candidates in the race, I'm the only one that will be able to debate Barack Obama on the stage and defeat him. And I think it's very important that we have a candidate that can go toe-to-toe with Barack Obama. I have already in Washington. He knows me. I've taken him on ObamaCare and Dodd-Frank, because I know what to do to put the economy back on the right foot. I'm a former federal tax lawyer- I'm a job creator myself- I know what to do to turn the economy around.

[CBS News Graphic: "Race For 2012: Bachmann Losing Social Conservative Endorsements"]

HILL: Your support, though, is low. In the latest CBS News poll out yesterday, 3% of voters think you have the best chance of beating President Obama next November. Four percent would vote for you. There's some concern, too, among social conservatives, including Chuck Hurley from The Family Leader, who said, at this point, we think the conservatives should get together, talk amongst themselves, and figure out who could be the best for every job, because not everybody can be president. Are you concerned at all about splintering that conservative vote?

[CBS News Graphic: "CBS News Poll, Among Republican Primary Voters: 2012 Republican Nomination For President: Gingrich, 20%; Romney, 20%; Paul, 10%; Perry, 6%; Bachmann, 4%; Margin Of Error: +/- 6 Pts."]

BACHMANN: Well, I have the most support here in Iowa among the evangelical community. It's a very strong base and level of support. I have the former head of The Family Leader, who's endorsed me- (coughs) excuse me- as well other leaders here in Iowa. I have over a hundred pastors that have come out and said they support me. And last week, we had a caravan traveling across Iowa of faith leaders- evangelicals- saying that I am the best candidate who represents the evangelical community. I have a huge level of support. We're not looking at the national polls. We're looking here in Iowa, and here in Iowa, the tide has turned, an electric light switch gone off, and there- we have tremendous momentum here in Iowa.

HILL: Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, thanks for your time this morning.

BACHMANN: Thank you.

Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan is a news analyst at Media Research Center