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Coburn to Democrats: “You can’t continue to lie to the American people” about fiscal cliff

Sen. Tom Coburn is demanding that Democrats stop “playing the game” and cease lying to the American people about the proposed tax increase being the only solution to the fiscal cliff problem.

“As long as we continue to lie to the American people — that you can solve this problem without adjusting and working on [entitlement] programs — it is dishonest and beneath anybody in Washington,” he said on Sunday.

The Republican Senator from Oklahoma was part of a fiscal cliff roundtable on ABC‘s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos, along with Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas).

During the roundtable, Coburn said he would be open to a tax increase if entitlement programs were also part of the deal. He said significant reform for those programs is necessary and cutting back on cost is the main way to do that. He called the President’s suggested tax increase a solution to only 7 percent of the problem, but said Congress needs to focus on the other 93 percent.

“What we have done is spend ourselves into a hole, and we’re not going to raise taxes and borrow money and get out of it,” he said.

Hensarling agreed with Coburn that the tax increases are not the solution to the fiscal cliff crisis. “Ultimately it’s a spending problem,” he said. “That is where the problem is. The American people know it. And this talk of taxes is almost irrelevant to the size of the trillions and trillions of debt.”

Stabenow responded with the same talking points Democrats have been harping for a while. She told the two Republicans that two of the three parts of a balances budget — cutting spending and reforming entitlements — have already been addressed. Increasing taxes on the wealthiest Americans is the only other component that has not been passed.

“So for us to continue on this, we have to have the Senate bill that continues tax cuts for middle-class families, that says to the wealthiest among us, you’re going to chip in, you’re going to be part of the solution,” she said. “The House just needs to pass it.”

There would be no more cuts to spending or entitlements without a tax increase, she said.

But in order for America to get back on track, there need to be more cuts and reforms, according to Hensarling.

“You can’t take us off the road to bankruptcy unless you deal with the structural reforms to our entitlement spending, protecting current seniors, but helping ensure that my 10-year-old son and — my 10-year-old daughter and 9-year-old son that these programs are around for them,” he said, expressing a worry that young people will pay the price in the current entitlement system.

With the fiscal cliff only a few weeks away, there seems to be a long way to go in the negotiations.