When Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) blamed not only President Obama but also members of his own party for the payroll tax standoff, CNN's Ali Velshi interjected that perhaps the senator was being too hard on the President. McCain had insisted earlier that previous presidents would have done more to get a deal through a divided Congress.
"Is it really fair to put as much heat as you're putting on the President on this one?" Velshi complained to McCain. "I mean, a lot of eyes are pointing to House Republican leadership right now as being intransigent."
"I think that that is legitimate to an extent, but I also think that in times like these and the past four presidents that I have served under, they have exerted a lot more leadership than going shopping," responded Senator McCain.
Velshi's logic was that "most people in both parties" wanted the extension of the payroll tax cuts to pass, and yet Congress could not find a way due to "intransigent" Republicans.
A transcript of the segment, which aired on December 22 at 7:40 a.m. EST, is as follows:
ALI VELSHI: This is very frustrating to a lot of Americans, to a lot of observers, to everybody who's out there to say there is a singular job, there – Congress can be expensive if it wants, but it's got some basic minimums that it has to achieve. And in the last year, we have seen failure on those fronts several times, with the budget, with the debt ceiling, with the bipartisan committee, the "Super Committee." What's wrong?
Sen. JOHN MCCAIN (R-Ariz.): There's a dysfunctionality and a degree of partisanship, which on both sides which, unfortunately, transcends the national interest. And part of it I think is presidential leadership.
You mentioned opening the show, that the President called various people yesterday. The four previous presidents I served under, including President Clinton, would be calling them over to the White House and sitting down with them and looking them in the eye and saying, look, we need to fix this.
Second of all, there is a good point that the Republicans in the House are making. Why is it only two months? Is it going to be Groundhog Day all over again in two more months, and two more months?
Why not take the Senate bill as passed – which passed as Dick Durbin pointed out with 89 votes – pass the exact same thing in the House only make it a year instead of just two months. We could do that and then maybe we could get onto other things that are pressing issues that face the country.
Look, the Republicans are losing this fight. We need to get back on track. There is no doubt about that, but I think it requires some presidential leadership, as well as a little bit of bipartisanship.
VELSHI: Senator --
MCCAIN: – 160 people are being caught in the cross fire.
VELSHI: It's frustrating because there are so many big, big, big issues that have to be dealt with. That you think the ones that have general bipartisan support where we generally think, and there are some people who don't think there should be a payroll tax extension at all.
But generally speaking most people in both parties do and we can't get that done. Is it really fair to put as much heat as you're putting on the President on this one? I mean, a lot of eyes are pointing to House Republican leadership right now as being intransigent.
MCCAIN: I think that that is legitimate to an extent, but I also think that in times like these and the past four presidents that I have served under, they have exerted a lot more leadership than going shopping. And by the way, I also feel that in the upcoming election, which is less than a year from now, no incumbent is safe nor should they be.