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The White House plan is predicated on the fact that we have a $4 trillion problem ó pretty well the definition from Simpson-Bowles. So weíve taken care of about $2.5 trillion. We really do have a $107 trillion problem.
Q. When do you think the debt limit will be addressed? Do you think it will be tied to a continuing resolution for government funding in fiscal 2014 or to something else?
A. We keep hearing that debt ceiling being pushed off. If past is prologue, it will be solved at the very last minute, which would be real tragic.
I thought it was a mistake to suspend the debt limit. We should have increased it, but we should have gotten something in return. What we should have gotten in return was a bill attached to that must-pass piece of legislation which would have said there will be no more defaults.
Q. Do you mean a measure that would prioritize debt payments?
A. Yes, basically, so if we donít increase the debt limit weíre not going to be defaulting on our obligations. Weíll prioritize the payments of those things to make sure we donít go into default.
Also part of that component would be, letís use those trust funds to fully pay off Social Security recipients, fund Medicare to the point that it is funded through those trust funds, to ramp down peopleís concern about it, so that we can maintain the pressure on the political class here to come to grips with this. Because we arenít coming to grips with it.
From my standpoint, what I would envision would be smaller increments of debt ceiling just to keep pressure on the political class here in Washington.
Q. Are you concerned about an adverse reaction from the financial markets as a result of a standoff over the debt limit?
A. Sure. And thatís why I want to pass a law that will alleviate that concern. I donít think there would be if there were a no-default bill where all the global creditors would realize we are a secured creditor, we are going to get paid.
Q. How are the talks going with White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough and other administration officials? Are you making any progress in reaching agreement on long-term debt projections?
A. It would be a violation of our agreement to really talk about whatís happening in talks.
I truly appreciate President [Barack] Obama reaching out to us and having dinner with us. Itís really whatís established this. Iíve always said that if Americans could have been a fly on the wall collectively during those dinners, I think they would have been heartened by the conversation. It was complete, it was genuine, it was frank and thatís what the talks have been as well.
They are continuing. I think thatís a good sign.
Q. Do you feel good about the talks?
A. Yes. I hear all the time youíve got to compromise. Iím willing to work with anybody thatís willing to first acknowledge the problem and work with me in good faith to fix it.