A worried George Stephanopoulos on Thursday again pushed for Republicans to accept some sort of Democratic compromise on extending unemployment benefits and the Bush tax cuts. The Good Morning America host even hit a Republican Congressman for his "double standard" on the issue.
Stephanopoulos interviewed incoming House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Chris Van Hollen. Yet, despite the fact that it was Republicans who won an overwhelming victory in November, Stephanopoulos hectored Camp on extending jobless benefits.
He lectured, "Congressman Camp, this is a lifeline for the people on unemployment right now and it's important to our economic recovery." After Van Hollen asserted that Republicans don't want to pay for tax cuts, Stephanopoulos focused on Camp and echoed, "That does seem to be a double-standard, Congressman."
The former Democratic operative turned journalist fretted about the possible consequences of not striking a deal on unemployment and taxes: "Congressman, I have to say, let me stop you one second. I'm listening to both of you right now. And this is similar talking points, what we've heard from each side for several weeks and months, right now. The clock is ticking."
Over the last two weeks, Stephanopoulos has repeatedly pressured Republicans to compromise. On November 30, he cajoled John McCain, "Are you prepared to move the President's way for any items on his agenda?
Although the journalist did ask one tough question of Van Hollen on Thursday, he has rarely pushed the Democrats, who in 2010 lost at least 63 seats in the House, on how they are going to compromise.
Also on Thursday, GMA featured a covert liberal operative and passed her off as just a jobless American.
A transcript of the December 2 segment, which aired at 7:06am EST, follows:
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: We're now going to talk to two of the men, two of the six men trying to decide all of this, meeting behind closed doors on Capitol Hill. Congressman, Dave Camp, Republican of Michigan, Democrat Chris Van Hollen of Maryland. Gentleman, thanks to you both. We heard Jon Karl say, so far, no tangible progress in your negotiations. Congressman Camp, let me start with you. Are you making any progress? What specifically have you agreed on? Disguised
ABC GRAPHIC: Gridlocked Nation: Battle Rages Over Tax Cuts
REP. DAVE CAMP (R-MI): Well, we've really just begun our discussions. And we're really trying to set the parameters of debate and the issues that we're going to face. But I think it's so important that we prevent a tax hike, so we can get the economy moving again and get job creation going again. We've been stuck at high unemployment for more than 15 months. And so, that's why this is such a critical time. We're talking. And we're going to continue to do that.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And Congressman Van Hollen, I know one of the tough things for Democrats is extending the unemployment benefits. Many Republicans say they want to do that. They want to see it paid for, including Senator Scott Brown of Massachusetts. He came up with a proposal yesterday, saying just take the money that is sitting around inside government coffers right now and isn't being spent. Here's what he said.
SENATOR SCOTT BROWN: Bank account. Credit card. How about you folks up there? Bank account, credit card. Okay? I know what I want to do. I'll use the bank account. Let's take- Let's use money that's already in the system and put it to good use immediately.
STEPHANOPOULOS: What's wrong with that?
CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D-MD): George, is that you?
STEPHANOPOULOS: Yeah. Go ahead. Respond.
VAN HOLLEN: Well, we need to- right away today, pass the unemployment compensation. We had a vote in the House a short time ago. Unfortunately, our Republican colleagues did not support it. As your economist said, when you're in economic downturn, we have traditionally made sure that people who are thrown out of work through no fault of their own can get unemployment compensation. It makes no sense in the world to taking money out of the economy at the same time when you're trying to make sure there is a push in the economy, through making sure these people continue to have the ability to pay their rent, go to the store and put food on the table. So, that's why we have the so-called counter-cyclical impact of unemployment compensation to begin with.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Congressman Camp, this is a lifeline for the people on unemployment right now and it's important to our economic recovery.
CAMP: Well, George, as Scott Brown said, we want to do this in a responsible way. Republicans are for extending unemployment benefits. And if we're serious about it, let's us have an opportunity to vote on a bill that is paid for. In the House, what's done is they bring a bill, but it's restricted. We can't vote for an unemployment bill that's paid for. Let us do that. If they do that, I'm sure it will get bipartisan support. It will pass, no problem.
STEPHANOPOULOS: No way to pay for it, Congressman Van Hollen?
VAN HOLLEN: But, George, we were talking about the tax issue a little earlier. You have to pay for about $13 billion in emergency unemployment compensation for people out of work through no fault of their own. But they want a permanent extension of tax cuts for the folks at the very top, which adds $700 billion. And they don't want to pay one dime for that. So, this is the kind of conversation we've been having up and hopefully we can sort our way though it.
STEPHANOPOULOS: That does seem to be a double-standard, Congressman.
CAMP: Well, it's about preventing a tax hike. And that's the issue. It's about preventing a tax hike. These are benefits we want to see paid for. We have got an opportunity to do that. If we could get a chance to vote on a tax bill that actually prevented the tax hike, I'm sure it would pass. But again, they're going to bring a bill to the floor that's restricted. We don't have an opportunity to offer something that actually will have a working majority and move it on.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Congressman, I have to say, let me stop you one second. I'm listening to both of you right now. And this is similar talking points, what we've heard from each side for several weeks and months, right now. The clock is ticking. We're right up against these deadlines. And you two are actually in the room negotiating a deal. It sounds like you're farther apart than ever. Bottom line, are you going to reach a deal or not?
VAN HOLLEN: Well, George, we're working very hard to do it. But the first thing we need to do is work through the process. The President and the House, the Democrats have a very clear position on this. We want to make sure that we expand tax cuts for the middle class. And I should also point out that every that single American gets a tax break from that. In fact, under that plan, if you're over $250,000, you still benefit from all the tax relief up to $250,000. So, every American gets tax relief. It's just they don't get this bonus per $100,000 average for millionaires, tax cut. So, that is our position. Now, whether we can get that through the Senate is another question. And we've begun these conversations in the event that we're not able to move immediately on those middle class tax cuts, which is the fiscally responsible thing to do.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Congressman Camp, you get the last word.
CAMP: George, yeah. iIt's not about the deal. It's about getting the right policy. And frankly, if we don't get this done, the first thing I'm going to do as chairman of the Ways and Means committee is bring a bill that extends, makes sure we don't have a tax hike for any American.
VAN HOLLEN: Yeah and that will add $700 billion to the deficit at the same time we're trying to get our fiscal house in order. We have a debt commission about to report on the crisis we're facing.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I gotta say, we're out of time. I had hope for a deal before the conversation than afterwards. But, thank you both for joining us this morning.
— Scott Whitlock is a news analyst for the Media Research Center. Click here to follow him on Twitter.