tv Inside Story Al Jazeera December 10, 2013 11:30am-12:01pm EST
>> hello, i'm ray sores. the debate on the unemployment benefits for the jobless, year end deadlines demand action. we're going to focus on the work of the 113th congress. there is a glimmer of good news, and that's where we start. >> negotiations are making progress, moving in the right direction. they haven't closed the deal. >> congress has until the end of this week to approve another budget plan. they're not expected to reduce the federal debt or tackle the
sequester spending cuts. in other words, no grand bargain. >> we do keep the spending caps in place. we won't raise taxes, and i think we can tackle that over the next couple of days. the most recent gallop polls showed 9% of americans approve of the job that congress is doing. that's the lowest level in modern history. congress has passed 115 bills since january. >> every on single one of these bills have been blocked by washington and the democrats. they continue to stand in the way of the people's priorities. >> reporter: the list of legislation still to be accomplished clue includes the farm bill. it expires january 1st. the house and senate are still
billions apart on snap, the food stamp program . one of the sticking points has been what to do about dueling probations dealing with sexual assaults in the military. unless congress acts unemployment benefits will expire on 1.3 million americans. >> it's not just the right thing to do for our families. it's the smart thing to do for our economy. >> reporter: president obama used his radio address this weekend to push for an extension. house speaker john boehner said he's open to legislation to continue the benefits. >> we'll get the latest on the deliberations from either end of pennsylvania avenue. al jazeera america congressional correspondent libby casey is on capitol hill and mike viqueira is with me here in the studio. good to see you both.
libby, let me start with you. word began to dribble out over the weekend that the out lines of the deal has begun to appear. >> reporter: really the only once, the rest of the economy has been left in the dust. they're coming up with a plan that would replace the sequester cuts, the mandatory cuts that no one likes the contours of. they would replace them, but how do you pay for the replacement. they're talking about user fees, airline travel, and potential cuts to federal workers benefits. and controversial things that they'll have to hammer out the details of. they have until friday decembe december 13th, and expect them to take it directly to all of congress so they can try to get the entire body in this process sooner rather than later. >> what you're describing sounds like it falls far short of the kinds of things that the budget hawks were looking for in terms of reductions.
have they called the signe a kind of cease-fire? >> it's not going to be called a grand bargain, not even a moderate bargain. but the way things are the way they are, even a minor agreement would be something, and it would mean that they can get over that hurdle of the january deadline by which they have to come up with something to avoid shutting down the government. a modest proposal would be some sort of agreement. they started out looking small. they didn't even try to go big. they looked at the track record and they knew they couldn't get that in the time frame that we're talking about right now. >> mike viqueira, has the president made it known during the negotiations, what's on his wish list? >> i think they made up their mind a long time ago. this goes back to the previous grand bargain talks. the first reiteration that collapsed in finger-pointing and acrimony.
they're going to let congress figure it out. a couple of times they sent joe biden to do that, and i'm skeptical that they're going to be able to come to a deal on friday. i don't know what is in their past performance that would lead anyone to be optimistic . we just saw herrag heritage action talk about how they were against this deal, that it didn't do enough to cut spending. it's the same dynamic that we've seen time and time again where john boehner cannot keep his troops in line. he cannot depend on democrats. and he can only go to democrats so many times. i'm not optimistic at all. >> when you talk about not putting political capital on the line. people who don't cover the white house may not understand they're not even talking through back channels. they're just waiting to see what emerges. >> they are you talking through back channels, and they're going for the minimum.
libby said it wasn't a grand bargain. it's not even a baby grand bargain. they're keeping the music playing. that's the goal of keeping congress and government hope. it's an up right piano in a dance hall let alone a baby grand bargain on spending. >> libby, you're talking about partial appeal the on the sequester. i'm not sure how you do that since it was a haircut off the top, the same percentage in all the departments spread the pain. how do you do a partial roll back of it? >> they may be able to give departments more control over how they allocate their budget, but there has been such an outcry any time these deals leak out. the fact that heritage action is coming out and complain even though it has not hit the press yet, it has not been released. it goes to show you how tight the situation is, and these people have possible careful
what they leak out and when. if words comes out what is coming out the pipe, interest groups, big money groups will blow out their arms and complain about it. even though we have a december 13th deadline. it's a fairly arbitrary deadline. the sky won't fall. but if they can't come up with something on this friday, the 13th deadline, do they feel like they can come to an agreement or is that not in the cards right now. >> don't they have something to prove? deadlines have not meant much lately and often deadlines that from imposed. put in place because there were such terrible consequences waiting after them, well, they'll never let that happen, and what do you know, they did. >> reporter: there are a lot of politics involved in this, because paul ryan is a rising star last year. so john boehner and other republicans don't want to start
raining on his proposal before they even come out because they do need to give some room to be a leader. unless you're against paul ryan. there is some power politics in play at this moment as well. >> mike, you mentioned the white house not wanting to spend any political capitol on this. don't they have a reduced pile of capital at 1600-- >> not much left. by a lot of polls, he's in the same place as far as his approval rating was as president bush was in his second term. the only one with lower approval rating is congress. if you're the white house, and you've been burned with this process being associated with it in public so many times. congress is a curious animal. it has it's only buy ways and folk ways, and these deals get worked on behind the scenes. it's a mess.
everyone is disgusted by it. if you're the president, and--here's another thing. you talk about a grand bargain. the president has suffered a great deal over the botched healthcare.com. part of his budget proposal reduce the cost of living increases social security, chain cpi. you don't hear him talking about that now. you don't see him pressing for that in the emerging budget deal. all the politics of the situation with pointing small if they can get anything done at all in. >> well, libby, is anything pointing small, is that even doing what you said you're going to do by when you said you were going to do it is a kind of victory. >> it is a bar. if they could get come up with something it would be an accomplishment. sequestration, more cuts kicking in in january, they talk about the budget, and they talk about
the cuts that america has experienced that have already kicked in, and there is more coming down the pike. there is more conversation about can any change be instituted, and if it's so small could it have an impact. we wouldn't have the crisis in january that we had in october of the whole government shutting down, so there was a large part of the government shutting do you know, but it was so much and so significant and we're seeing the economic impact of that, tens of thousands of dollars according to poor's. so there is a need to getting is accomplished for now. >> thank you, libby casey and mike viqueira. when we come back we'll talk about unfinished business and the rippling impact. we'll talk about the farm bill and the price of milk. this is inside story.
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else. >> people say that we're revolutionary. our revolution is just going back to doing the best in journalism. >> this is the place to go watch high quality journalism, period. >> welcome back to inside story. i'm ray suarez. we're talking about congress and the to do list this week before it adjourns for the year. we're continuing our conversation with ginger gibson, , and dan glickman, and josh withrow. and mr. secretary, as a legislator, you crafted and voted on bills. as a secretary you had people looking over cure shoulder at one of the largest branch departments and then you had business before the congress. had a have you seen in the way
that the work is getting done over your career in washington? considerably. a lot of stop lights these days. you used to be on a freeway of legislative action. they didn't stop and lurch as much as they do now. a part of this is because of the fiscal problems. we just don't have the resources that we used to have to spend money on projects. but notwithstanding that the projects is way too slow. the public is appropriately concerned and outraged and "b" it, and the public's business is not getting done. that's in nobody's best interest, especially the american people. >> when you look at agriculture appropriation. there was a balance of terror, large committees, districts from the farm belt, they all had interests at stake and the appropriation would get passed because they all had interest at stake. right now we're at an 11th hour moment.
why is this happening? >> i think it's reflective of the area, a lot of games being played. there is no reason why they shouldn't be able to get a farm bill done. the two sticking issues are the amount of dollars and cuts to the food stamp program or snap program, and my guess that could be worked out and i saw a senator from the agriculture communicate committee who told me that that would be worked out. and farm bill benefits, insurance, granted acres base acres, it's implica complicated stuff. but they can get done. they could get done today. i know the leaders of the two congressional committees are working as hard as they can. i don't think the white house
has been engaged in these two issues for the reasons you talked about before. but my prediction is that it will happen. if not by the end of this week, it will happen next month. >> josh, why don't we stipulate from the get-go that there is a legitimate debate to be had about whether the federal government should be involved in the lives of family farmers, whether they should be supporting prices for base commodities, these are reasonable debates, but are they reasonable debates at the 11th hour? >> i think one of the reasons that we have these debates at the 11th hour, this debate was not being had at all. they were cutting bits around the edges but they were not talking about thing ier issues like whether or not there should be specific titles in the farm bill subsidizing certain industries over others, and whether or not we should be subsidizing the farmers in a way that it goes to large
corporations and not smaller farmers who would benefit more from the subsidies, and instead we're talking about little things like creating means testing for just a tiny little bit and creating a new entitlement program in the form of the loss insurance cro for crap program . >> did it break down? >> as you said, rule, lawmakers representing farmers, wanting the farm piece and it was met with more urban generally democratic members who wanted the food stamps, and then bringing the two pieces together builds the coalition. what we saw was a move by republicans to separate those two. to take the food stamps out of the farm bill. that meant the bill lost a lot of democratic support. when it do the to this process of going to conference the two committee chairs have been stuck
on this number, and it is what has held up a lot of discussions. the republicans, the conservative in the house, pushing to have those food stamps out of the bill. democrats saying you don't get of it if it's not there, there and there are conservative who is don't like the farm subsidy either. >> we're at a peculiar moment in america. there is a dwindling number of farmers and expanding number of people who qualified for food assistance, yet the deals could still couldn't get done. >> it still has the same hurdles that have been here for the last year. you talk about the milk prices earlier. that's something that they were looking at during the fiscal cliff, and so there has been a lot of problems, a lot of breakdown and it really is sort of a philosophical difference. >> you also have great changes in the marketplace that's happened.
the last five to ten years the farm economy has changed and gotten much, much stronger. we have a growing population in the world. we have much greater demand for farm products and prices are much higher. not that every farmer is doing great. at the same time we have more and more people who need public assistance programs. we have nearly 50 million americans on them. most of those people are families with small children who really don't want to be on the program. but in days past you would have both th in bad shape or both in good shape. today the farm bill is in much better shape and that changes the dynamics in terms of how they're supported. >> we'll continue our conversation regarding congress. when we come back we'll hear more about the state of a fun grand bargain and curving down the trend of expenditures in this country.
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>> welcome back to inside story. i'm ray suarez. josh, in good times and bad, in stranges of this debate has been widespread agreement that spending more money than you collect every year is a bad thing. and some day it's got to end. yet, it seems to be in transmission push, tremendous power behind having a big congressional budget year after year. is this something that is more widespread agreement on, that you can some day see the trending of costs going down? >> i agree with you. i think there is a lot of agreement that can be had within the budget. but one of the problems that
we're having nowadays is the major drivers of our deficits nowadays are increasingly not on the discretionary side of the budget, but the non-discretionary side of the budget. there is no longer a place where they can make little fixes and kick the can down the road. there has been agreement on medicare, ned sai medicaid, and social security. it's a particular hot potato that neither side wants to touch. and saying that that's how we're going to solve our budget problems, and that's not going to work. >> after the high tide earlier in president obama's years in the white house, hasn't the deficit, which was huge when he came to office, been getting smaller. >> largely on the back--the sequester cuts which were a small but measurable reduction
in over all spending, but also because of the fairly large tax hikes that have occurred under obamacare and under the fiscal cliff deal that they struck on new year's day of 2013. it raised taxes on higher income earners. it's been by extracting more from the american people and not by the government controlling it's out of control spending. >> raised payroll taxes to where it was for decades before they were cut in an emergency. >> but to american families, that now decreased the amount of money that they bring home. >> when you look at healthcare costs, social security and pension, that's where all the growth is. healthcare is the biggest driving factor. with that we're cutting roads, highways, education, medical research, the things that we ought to be investing in because we're holding sacrosank
for folks my age. which i appreciate very. but to end the deficit we need growth. economic growth. that's why we had surpluses at the end of the clinton administration, because we had growth. part of the reason the deficit is likely to come down the future to some degree is because the economy looks better over the longer term than we thought it was going to be. but you still have to make these tough political decisions. if the president had early on taken the bull sense proposal which is deficit reduction group that he had appointed and headed from the state of the union message okay they've given us this proposal. congress, go to work on it and get me a budget by july, six months from now. early in his career as president it might have changed the paradigm. >> one thing that was in the congressional in-box, you're going to tell us, may not be there any more. have they come to an agreement on the military appropriations.
>> they have the national defense authorization has come an agreement. they announced they're going to fast track it to get it done before the house leaves at the end of the week. that means none controversial things that were agreed upon with this agreement the sexual assault agreement, drones, the bear minimums to keep defense agencies running and going. >> because had they insisted on solving some of these things they wouldn't have been able to get a vote before christmas. >> it would have been a long, done out process especially in the senate where they can draw it out even longer. they get it done before christmas. >> and there had been alternative language to that language which sought to reform military sexual abuse guidelines, but not take it out
of the chain of command. >> that's a set back for gillibrand. she's not going to get a vote on the language. they'll have to keep prepping for it in the new year to try to get some of that addressed by the new senate. >> and? >> it's possible. we're looking at an election year and we have to look at next year as an empty calendar. things will come up for votes be they even look at minimum wage, women's issues, they're going to be messaging bills. when the senate and democrat start to vote on that and it starts to sound good for them. that's what is going to happen. >> sorry, mr. secretary. we're out of town. that brings us to the end of this edition i of inside story. in washington, i'm ray suarez.
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