tv Wall Street Journal CEO Council Discussion with Rep. Steny Hoyer CSPAN December 6, 2018 7:32pm-8:02pm EST
>> next, maryland representative steny hoyer, the incoming house majority leader, talks about the house democratic agenda for the new congress at "the wall street journal"'s annual ceo council conference in washington d.c. >> so the democrats have control of the house going into the new congress. what is their agenda likely to do for business interests in the united states, and how will some of the trends that we saw in the 2020 -- the 2018 election, notably the emergence of kind of the swing voter determinative of the election outcome of suburban, educated women, how's that likely to inform us about what's going to happen in 2020 when the presidency is up for grabs? joining jerry seib is steny hoyer who's the house minority whip at the moment and u.s. representative from maryland. please welcome them.
[applause] >> thank you. special thanks to you for fighting through washington traffic to get here in the nick of time, thank you. [laughter] >> well, i was just a bit late because i took some people into the rotunda to honor the president. i'm sorry for being late. >> well, we had a lunch discussion with jeb bush which was, i think, quite moving. we appreciate that. but here we are. you have a piece of power back in congress -- [laughter] and to paraphrase robert red ford in "the candidate," the movie, what to we do now? so what do you do now? what's the agenda in a nutshell? >> first of all, we try and act responsibly. we are addressing issues we think are important, and i think that's what the election was in many respects and obviously about a personality that invades all the politics of america, president president trump.
but it was very much about substantive issues. health care, obviously. interestingly enough, the tax bill. it was very much about the tax bill and who was benefited by the tax bill. we are, obviously, going to -- as you've heard, do a reform measure at the beginning to try to give people a confidence that the government is working for them. that bill will include attention to voting rights, redistricting fairness, campaign finance reform and transparency about who contributes what and so that there's not the dark money and ethics reform to make sure that people are working for the special interests, making sure that the public understands -- that'll be our first effort.
then we're going to obviously deal, as we said we were during the campaign, with jobs and trying to grow the economy. obviously, we want to fix the affordable care act. i tell people the affordable care act was passed in a very clumsy way because we couldn't go to conference because the republicans thought they could defeat the affording care act by not going to conference. we passed it through reconciliation. but we knew that it was not perfect because there were certain things we could not do in the reconciliation process. we arrogantly, of course, thought we were going to be in charge in 2011. we obviously were wrong. in 2010 we lost the election pretty handily. so we were unable to do that, and we've talked about repealing it for seven years. and then when the republicans took over and could have repealed it, i think the american public sort of looked at what they had gotten and what assurances they had, pre-existing conditions being a perfect example, and decided, no, we want the affordable care act. so we're going to deal with
that. we need to deal with infrastructure. the good news everybody agrees we need to deal with infrastructure. the trick will be how do you pay for it. the president just reiterated the other day he is for a trillion dollar infrastructure program. that's a lot of money. and i've talked to peter defazio who is going to be the chairman of the transportation infrastructure committee, have to deal with that. obviously, we are concerned about the open -- [inaudible] crisis, gun violence, comprehensive immigration reform and daca. so those are just some of the issues. there are, obviously, a lot of issues that we're going to deal with. one of which i think the business community will be very concerned about, and that's education and training and making sure that people have the skills necessary to do the jobs that are available. as you know, we have six million plus jobs available in america but not a skills match. so we have to do that.
>> so there's a lot to unpack there. >> yeah. >> which we're going to do in a second. before we do that there's one other -- well, two items you didn't mention. one is there is who is going to be the new speaker of the house? will it be nancy pelosi? >> it'll be nancy pelosi. >> how does that happen? >> it'll happen by getting 218 votes. >> okay. >> or 216, fending on what the absolute -- depending on what the absolute majority voting is. >> and what happens to opposing members in your caucus who made their views to the other -- their views contrary to that outcome clear last week? >> well, i think they have indicated in the vote in the caucus that they would prefer somebody else to be speaker. now the alternative, however, is between organizing as republican leadership or organizing as democratic leadership. and organizing as a republican leadership undercuts what all of them said was their objective sub
substantively in terms of policy if you organize as a republican congress because they're opposed to many of the things that we said we were for and that we believe the american people voted for pretty handily. we got 12 million more votes nationally. so that, as i've said so many times, this election was not about personalities. and i make the exception, obviously, trump was an overriding context of the election, but this election was really about policy. and i think that ultimately that will be what people vote on. >> so big policy question, you didn't mention nafta. there is a lot of uncertainty about whether the new nafta -- and i'll call it that rather than use the acronym which i can never remember -- but will a democratic controlled house approve the new nafta when it gets the chance to do that next year? >> look, think it's too early to say -- i think it's too early to say on that.
and it will depend on, result i, whether it's better than what exists. the president says if we don't do it almost immediately, that he will then withdraw from nafta. in my view, and i don't know that i speak for the entire caucus, but in my view, that would be a big mistake. very disruptive of the international economy, particularly the north american/mexican trade arrangement. so i'm going to hope the president would not do that. but it's too early to tell whether we're going to be able to pass that or whether we make a determination that we should pass it. >> well, but my colleague, paul gigot, was pointing out earlier today that one has simply not hear statements of support from democrats for the new nafta, although in the party historically there has been some support spurt old agreement. -- support for the old agreement. ing does that mean it's not there? >> i think it's reserve of
wanting to see what this portends, what the ramifications are whether it's on labor ramifications, whether it's on enforcement procedures or whether it's on some other aspect of whether or not we believe it will work. and that's, i think, still a question and, therefore, i think you see people reserving judgment. >> you mentioned two giant issues -- >> i do know i voted for that that. >> correct. and not alone by any means. >> so did the leader. nancy voted for that. so i think there's a reserve. we want to see is this better or worse, or is it supportable? >> well, if you rise above just the new nafta and think about trade generally, it's a signature issue for the president, there are some republicans uncomfortable with his trade position -- >> senator toomey has made it very clear that he has reservations about what's been done. >> right. but presumably on the other side there are probably some
democrats in the upper midwest, the industrial states who probably aren't all that unhappy about the tough stance he's taken against china, for example. would you agree? >> let me tell you my view is that we need to deal with china, but we ought to deal with china discreetly. dealing with everybody else in the process of dealing with china, i think, is a policy that has not been positive. china stealing our intellectual property, china is not trading fairly, china is trying to overwhelm us particularly in the pacific theater, and i think we need to deal with -- and i think there's consensus that we need to deal with china. but we need to deal with china as china, not as a part of dealing with canada, dealing with mexico, dealing with europe. they're not the same. and dealing with them as the same has not been, has not had a positive result. >> are tariffs a good way to deal with china? >> tariffs perhaps is one way of
dealing with china. i think china, one of the strengths i suppose the president has with china is he's unpredictable, and they would prefer predictability, obviously. and a willingness to be tough with china. and i think that's, that's a strength at this point in time. but it's not a strength if we deal with our allies and friends exactly the same way. >> let's go back to at the beginning you mentioned two big issues. as i mentioned, taxes, health care. >> right. >> you, obviously, didn't support the trump republican tax cut. you think it worked against the republicans in the election. the government is pretty now. the tax cut appears to be safe. there's not much you can do about the tax cut. >> i think that's probably accurate, but i think it was one of the most fiscally irresponsible acts that i've seen.
huge stimulus at a time when the economy had been growing for 90-plus months. unemployment was low. the stock market was rising. and people were feeling good about the economy, and we pass, essentially, a $2 trillion deficit-creating document that i don't think was either necessary or fiscally responsible. >> and you don't think the kind of economic growth that we're seeing right now is going to turn that deficit impact around over the next few years? >> it didn't in, didn't in '81. we increased the debt by 189% under ronald reagan. it didn't in '01 and '03, or we prefaced the biggest recession anybody in this room who's less than 90 years of age has experienced. and so to that extent, i'm one of the doubters that the deep
tax cuts that are unpaid for -- and greenspan, in effect, said five years after he rationalized the '01 and '03 tax cuts said, well, they don't pay for themselves, and they've given us a problem. now, that was not the sole reason for the recession, obviously. but nor was it something that kept us out of a deep economic trough. also the answer to your question, i do not accept the principle that the republicans have that you don't need to pay for tax cuts. i'm a big -- if you buy it, pay for it. now, if you buy something like an aircraft care cannier that has a 40-year life, that's a different thing because my children and grandchildren can use that aircraft carrier. but if you're borrowing for operating expenses, i think that's bad economics. >> but you know the pattern in this town, if you're the party out of power, you care about the deficit. if you're the party in power,
you don't care so much about the deficit. that's how we've gotten where we are. >> i don't think that's accurate. president clinton made it clear when we were having good times that we ought not to cut the taxes. his mantra was save social security first, which i think was a very good phrase. [laughter] >> right. >> but we also had four years of surplus, and we would not have, in my opinion, if clinton hadn't been president because if there'd been a republican president, they would have said, well, it's now time to cut taxes. my view is it's -- from a republican standpoint, a good time to cut taxes is anytime. in good times and in bad times. so i, frankly, think we squandered some opportunities that we had in the late '90s when we balanced the budget, had surpluses bringing down the debt and had some excess money to amy to priorities. -- to apply to priorities. >> health care, i think
everybody agrees on both sides of the aisle, is an issue that worked for democrats in this election. >> yes. >> people were making concerns about health care. obamacare is more popular than it was a year ago, two years ago. you want to improve, fix, upgrade obamacare. republicans don't. or at least i don't think they do. where does that leave the issue? in other words, if voters want something to keep obamacare but fix it and there's not a consensus in this town on how to do that, where does it go? >> well, i think it hopefully would go somewhere because you, for instance, in the united states senate, you know, a number of united states senators who had voted to repeal the affordable care act -- >> almost all -- >> -- who in the course of the campaign, and there weren't, you know, more of our guys were campaigning than were the other side. but so many of them said, both house members -- oh, but i'm for protecting pre-existing conditions, so that there was, you know, democracy works if the
people are for something both parties try to accommodate those needs because that's good politics. >> it's the way it works. >> so i think that we have a possibility at least in some lawyers of making -- some areas of making some progress. but i think what our responsibility will be and my thought is we ought to propose that which we believe will make the affordable care act work effectively on behalf of the american people and pass that through the house of representatives. and then the senate will have to decide what to do with it. and if they can pass it, then the president will have to decide what he wants to do. let's remember what the president said during the course of his campaign. the president said i want to have a health care program that insures everybody at lower cost and higher quality. and what i say to the press is as soon as he sends that bill down to the house, i'm voting for it. [laughter] i mean, so the premise that the president has put forward, and
this president is unique that you can't rely on these premises unfortunately, but the premises covering everybody, we want to do that, lower costs, we want to do that at higher quality with, we want to do that. we thought that a lot of the aca was direct towards those objectives. not everybody. it's not universal health care. but it is certainly consistent with the objective that he stated but which he has not supported in his presidency. >> well, another thing he talks about a hot more and others in his party don't nearly so much is prescription drug costs -- >> right. >> he almost sounds like a democrat -- >> sounds rational and reasonable. [laughter] >> by definition. [laughter] does that open a door? >> yes. >> what is that door? >> well, that door is working towards lower costs for prescription drugs and figuring out how to we do that. and if the president and those who agree that we need to do that can agree, then that's a pretty good start of getting it
done, because i think if the president is for something, i think there'll be a significant number of republicans in the united states senate who will think that's something they can support. >> what's the mechanism, what's the lever, what's the thing big pharma ought to be worried about in this regard? >> well, i think they, you know, i think big pharma needs to be involved. we need to discuss with them their thoughts. however, i think there is no doubt that one of our themes in the campaign was, as the president's has been, we want to get to lower costs for prescription drugs because too many americans are being driven to either bankruptcy or bad health consequences as a result of their inability to afford. and if the president is for this and we're for it, we can sit down and say, okay, how do you get there. and that's what we have to do. >> so immigration is another issue that's, obviously, was huge in the campaign and
controversial. and there was actually the congress and the president had actually gotten within striking distance a year and a half ago on it, to a bipartisan deal on immigration. it blew apart, obviously, fairly quickly. but under these conditions, is there any reason to think there can be a rational conversation about immigration reform between the two parties and between congress and the white house? >> well, when you talk about the agreement, one of the things -- i went down to the white house, and dick durbin was at the white house. there were 24 of us sitting around the cabinet table as you probably -- it was on tv which was relatively unique. [laughter] these negotiations. and i thought we essentially had an agreement on the daca program. those people who had come here as children and were protected by the daca executive order that president obama and then president trump had withdrawn. but when he withdrew it, he said
congress ought to do this. his essential premise was that the president didn't have the authority to do this and, therefore, congress ought to do it. i thought the result of the meeting was that you guys pass something, and i will sign it. then, of course, very shortly thereafter -- and the majority leader in the meeting added on additional facets of the agreement which were not consistent with what we agreed to and what we thought was going to be the case. but i hope that we will move forward on daca. we're certainly going to move daca legislation. we also need to teal with the temporary -- to deal with the temporary visas for those who are either displaced as a result of violence, civil wars, natural disasters, temporary protective status. we need to deal with both of those. and i'm hopeful that we can deal with them with this president who said go ahead and fix it, i'll sign it. >> so we have a poll question
i -- >> now, let me just -- >> okay. >> we need to have comprehensive immigration reform. daca is not comprehensive immigration reform. we need it because we need an immigration system that works. that is certainly something that you talked about the business community. the business community, u.s. chamber and others, have been very much for comprehensive immigration reform. we're for comprehensive immigration reform. i would hope that we could move towards negotiations that would prove successful. the senate passed a bill some five years ago in 2013, passed it in a bipartisan fashion, sent it to the house, and the house has never taken it up. notwithstanding our request to vote on it. we can need to do that in conjunction with the business community which knows that's essential from an economic perspective as well as from a humanitarian standpoint. >> we posted -- i wanted to give the people in the audience a chance to set their priorities
and ask what would they like to see democrats and republicans preach common ground -- reach common ground on. as people cast their votes, let's talk about how you think the president, the relationship between the president and speaker pelosi and you and the democratic-controlled house is going to be. it's a little hard to imagine given some exchanges, let's say, some verbal exchanges over the last couple of years what that's going to be like. do you have any sense of what it's going to be like to work with him and him with you or if there will be a working relationship of any kind? >> i hope there'll be a working relationship. let's start with that premise. there needs to be a working relationship between the president of the united states and the congress of the united states. i understand senator mcconnell, i'm told, said here yesterday, i suppose, that, look, the democrats now are not irrelevant. >> he did say that, that's true. [laughter] >> that's good news for us. we're not irrelevant, and we are relevant. we control one house, and we're going to be very unified, i
think, as a party. but the american public want to see things happen for them and for their country. that's the president's responsibility, it's our responsibility, democrats and republicans' responsibility. i think my reputation as somebody who has worked constructively with previous republican administrations. i think if george w. bush were here, he'd say, you know, we didn't always agree, but when we could agree, i was majority leader at that point in time, we worked constructively together. i'm hopeful we can do that with trump because i think the country will be better off if we do that. and i think that's good politics if the country's better off. they're going to feel better about all of us. but this president is somewhat unique in the sense that he is very flexible -- >> yeah. >> and, this therefore, just ths week -- excuse me, last week i think it was he was, the wall
was not the be-all, end-all, that border security was the be-all, end-all. and 24 hours later, if we don't get the wall, we don't have a deal. >> yeah. we shut down the government, in fact. >> yeah. and shutting down the government -- no republican leader wants to shut down the government. we don't want to shut down the government. shutting down the government is a very negative, stupid -- >> yeah. >> -- tactic and, therefore, i would hope that we can work together. and i will try to work together. i think nancy is prepared to do that. i think schumer's prepared to do that. i hope president trump is prepared to do it. >> i think you can take back to capitol hill the message that they want you to get together on infrastructure spending. >> well, i'll tell you what, infrastructure spending, it's interesting, how about infrastructure paying for? [laughter]
i'm a pay-for person. and i've been criticized sometimes -- >> yes. >> -- because i vote for, i would be in favor of increasing the gasoline tax. that's not the only thing you can use because now that's a diminishing resource because cars are more efficient, etc., and people have electric cars, etc., etc. we need to pay for things. and that's the tough thing. we're all for infrastructure. very nice, you're going to build this, build that, build that. fine. how are you going to pay for it? >> yeah. >> you know, if you're running for president and you want free this, free that and free the other, it's not free. none of it's free. it means my children and grandchildren are going to pay for it as opposed to our generation. i think that's an intellectually bankrupt policy and an immorallal policy as well. you say infrastructure spending, everybody's for infrastructure spending. but everybody needs to be for how to we pay for it. >> i -- >> let me -- >> sure, go ahead. >> we have a wonderful federal highway system.
the president proposed that we have an infrastructure program where the local states and local governments would pay 80%, and we'd pay 20%. i want you to imagine the federal highway system if the states had been required to pay 80% and we paid 20% as opposed to the federal government paying 90% and the states paying 10. we wouldn't have an interstate highway system. so i'm for infrastructure spending, but i want to pay for it. >> i want to see if this is any questions from the audience. one last question i wanted to ask you which is sort of more at a 10,000-foot level about your party. this was an open question after this election about where the energy is in the democratic party. there was a lot of energy on the left, the progressive left, obviously. new candidates, new voters, very fervent ground operation on the left. but there were also a lot of moderate democrats who think they did quite well for themselves, and if you look at pennsylvania, wisconsin and michigan -- >> sure. >> well, that too. the question now is how does the
tension or at least the relationship between those two forces, which are not the same, how does that get resolved in your party, and does it come apart over the next two years because of that? >> i don't think we have the divisions that the republican party has had, which is why boehner was the speaker. i don't know that's why ryan's getting out. >> mitch mcconnell said last night you have your own tea party now. >> we don't have our own tea party now, and you'll see that. you'll see that. there's nobody in our caucus now, and i don't think there's going to be any significant number tomorrow -- january being tomorrow -- where you're going to have the people say either my way or no way. that's what -- and it wasn't called the tea party, the freedom caucus. >> yeah. >> the reason boehner couldn't get things done is because he couldn't get to 218. the reason he couldn't get to 218, he had 30 or 40 of his party that would not compromise not with us, wouldn't compromise with boehner.
we don't have anybody like that, in my view. right now. we'll see if we have anybody like that. but when you look at the big issues, we really have consensus whether you're talking about affordable care act, whether you're talking about infrastructure, and we want the get that done. we'll argue about paying for it. trade may be a more divisive issue. not divisive, but disagreement within our party. but i think you're going to see a constructive, united democratic party. there'll be significant debate, there'll be differences, but i don't think you're going to see a tea party. >> we're actually going to have to skip questions. your staff has just told us you have a meeting back with leader pelosi at -- that's at 4:30 -- >> that's now a command performance, right? >> 30 seconds from now. so we're just going to have to
thank you. steny hoyer, thank you for joining us. >> thank you all very, very much. >> that was great. [applause] >> appreciate it. see ya. >> c-span, where history unfolds daily. in 1979, c-span was created as a public service by america's cable it's companies, and today we continue to bring you unfiltered coverage of congress, the white house, the supreme court and public policy events in washington, d.c. and around the country. c-span is brought to you by your cable or satellite provider. ..