Kent Conrad: ‘This is our chance to do something for the country’

Updated
Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., during an appearance on Andrea Mitchell Reports.
Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., during an appearance on Andrea Mitchell Reports.

Sen. Kent Conrad told NBC’s Andrea Mitchell that it would be a “serious mistake”  if Congress doesn’t work together to avert the fiscal cliff .

“The markets wouldn’t accept it and we all know the most distinguished economists in the country have said if we do that, we’re going to go back into recession,” Conrad, a North Dakota Democrat, said during an appearance on Andrea Mitchell Reports on Tuesday. “We’re going to see unemployment rise to over 9 percent and we’re going to see an economic slowdown.”

Conrad remains optimistic about the chance that both sides will make this situation right. He said Congress must compromise on a package so the “Republicans accept the president’s revenue and the president accepts the Republicans’ spending cuts.”

If a compromise was to occur, Conrad sees a “tremendous economic spurt” as a possibility. Conrad agrees that the package has to provide a sounder fiscal footing through changes in spending, but says more revenue is also needed.

“Both sides are all right when they say you need a package that puts the two together,” Conrad said. The North Dakota senator also suggested he opposes raising the Medicare eligibility age, an idea the White House is said to have floated lately.

“If you don’t raise the retirement age on Medicare, you can still save $500 billion  over the next ten years, which is not quite what the Republicans are asking for, it’s somewhere in between,” Conrad told Mitchell. “Five hundred billion dollars is four percent of what we’re going to spend over the next ten years on health care.”

Conrad’s colleague, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., seemed to rule out this option during his appearance on Meet the Press Sunday.

Conrad remained adamant that the government could easily save the four percent.  “We can do this,” he said. And he predicted we’ll will see a deal by next Tuesday.

Kent Conrad: 'This is our chance to do something for the country'

Updated