tv Newsmakers CSPAN May 30, 2010 10:00am-10:30am EDT
i got the dental and health benefits. for. we were deployed in iraq and the last two months we lived at baghdad international airport and eight lobster. host: we will get some final thoughts. guest: the caller raises interesting issues. what when you consider the total compensation package now for some and the military, particularly someone in the e1 ranks, it compares favorably to what you would get otherwise coming into the job market with a high-school diploma. most people do not realize the value of the health care benefit. people in the military get completely free health care for themselves and their dependents and very low deductibles.
when you are retired, you have to pay $460 per year to continue the coverage which is much -- which is much less than the average person pays in the civilian work force. most people pay about $3,500 per year for health insurance and their employer pays the rest. the benefits compare favorably for serving in the military. host: you are still serving as a captain? guest: i am not anymore. i was in the rotc and graduated to the reserves. host: now a senior fellow at the center for strategic budget assessment, thank you for being with us. that will do it for this morning's "washington journal ." memorial day, we will talk to an officer from iraq. we'll talk about the world war two veterans coming to washington. we will have the president and founder of that organization and
an english professor who teaches at the naval academy and he wrote that this time to change the u.s. service academy. all that is tomorrow morning at 7:00 a.m. newsmakers is coming up momentarily and i hope -- hope you have a great sunday at memorial day weekend. see you tomorrow. [captioning performed by national captioning institute] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2010] . .
c-span. tonight, president obama at a campaign fund raising event for senator barbara boxer at 7:15 eastern. >> joining us on ""ewsmakers" is tennessee senator lamar alexander. and questioning, thank you for being with us. senator let me begin with some of the comments you made of the past week critical of the obama administration when it came to the big issues, immigration, health care, the jobs package. saying that this administration is trying to do too much too soon. what did you mean? >> well, for -- president eisenhower said a long time ago in 1952, i shall go to korea. a and the country said, ok. he said i shall focus my
attention on it until i'm done and he ended the war in careera and the country had confidence in him. presidential leadership should only be reserved for a handful of presidential issues. number one is jobs, two is debt, three is the war on terror. and if he can focus on those three and not do much more except if he had to, such as with the gull oil spill, i think the country would be better off and appreciate that leadership more. >> let me ask you about one followup issue, financial regulation. now that it's about to go to conference, is that not an issue that requires presidential leadership? >> the so-called financial regulation bill, like the health care bill makes it harder to create jobs, harder to get credit and makes credit more expensive. it's another washington takeover. it has a czar here in washington. but it's an ant-jobs bill just
like the health care bill tax jobs creators and investors. so if you were focusing on jobs, you wouldn't pass this so-called financial regulation bill. >> so you say step by step. but some supporters may say it's a republican attempt to slow things down. >> we would like to slow down that bill. but as we try to say to the president this week, we are here to help legislate. we have ideas. we represent people who put us here that have something to say, for example, about banks too big to fail or whether or not community banks or credit unions ought to be taken over. but we were basically frozen out of the process in the financial regulation bill. because the democrats basically said they have all year. we won the election, we'll write the bill. we don't need the republicans. so until we get a few more republican senators to put a little more check and balance in what we regard as an overreaching washington administration, we may win some arguments but not many votes.
>> you mentioned president eisenhower. congressional democrats, students of history know made a conscious decision at that point with a popular republican president coming into office to work with him. what we've seen under president obama is republicans working hard against him at a time when you could argue americans need their government more than ever. you're a guy who got into politics to help people out. do you look back and regret not being greater partners in some of the issues of the past couple of years, the economic stimulus perhaps? >> i greatly regret it. but i will give the president most of the blame. i just left a press conference with on electric cars, i'm a sponsor with a democrat building nuclear plants. i'm working with any duncan on
no child left behind. but on the big issues, on health care, on so called financial regulation on the stimulus bill the white house has been absolutely tone deaf to bipartisanship. the president has not had a single meeting, i believe, with the republican leader since he's been president. one on one. president johnson, as long as we're going back in history, who had bigger democratic majorities, telephoned the republican leader every afternoon at 5:00 and had the civil rights bill written in his office. so we know how to be bipartisan. i'm not sure the white house does. >> but didn't he meet with the conference before becoming president? >> we always welcome seeing the president. but i think the president has virtually no understanding of what individual members of the republican conference are trying to do to contribute. for example, senator corker said to the president on
tuesday, my colleague from tennessee, he worked for a year corker did to try to make a contribution toward financial regulation. and basically the white house pulled the rug out and said we don't need the republicans. we've got the votes. so we have seen no real effort on big issues to be bipartisan other than sort of a shooting gallery approach. let's see if we can pick off this one or this one. >> house republicans are working on another contract with america type of document. they're going to release later this year. are senate republicans working with house republicans on that document? will you have a document on your own to lay out your agenda in the fall? >> we're very interested in what they're doing. and senators and house members are different. senators are used to operating in an organization that operates by unanimous consent. but we've consensus on a number of issues. for example, on clean energy last year, all 40 of us agreed on a clean energy policy of 100
new nuclear plants elect if iing half our cars and trucks. doubling energy and offshore exploration. on health care we've said we've got steps that we would recommend we take to reduce health care costs rather than expand a health care delivery system that is, everyone knows we already can't afford. so we will be offering our proposal step by step and maybe thal emerge into a republican agenda. but usually our candidates have their own agenda. and i think the single big issue, be around jobs, debt, and terror. but putting a check and ballents on what we regard as a run away washington government with too many taxes, too much spending, too much debt, too many washington take yorse. >> one of the dinks is earmarks. and house republicans have a temporary ban on earmarks. and some on the right have
called on the senate and senate republicans to do the same. why haven't you followed the lead on that? >> we did two years ago and have made a lot of reforms on earmarks. but we have differences of opinion there. for example, three years ago, the army corps of engineers told me that two of the big dams on the river in tennessee were about to fail. i put a $121 million budget to repair them. if they would have failed, there would have been four more feet of wear water in nashville. that's an earmark. so when people come see me about dam failing or supporting troops in fort cam belle, my job is not to give them president obama's telephone number. >> but do you think that no additional reform should be made to the earmark? >> there should be. i'm a co-sponsor that would put on a single website all the the earmarks. but what we need to remember is earmarks don't save a penny.
every specific appropriation that i might put in to repair the wolf creek dam reduces another appropriations somewhere in the budget. the real debt problem, and it's our biggest problem, has to do with entitlement spending. and that's mostly medicaid, medicare, and social security. >> let's talk about the oil spill and how you think the administration is responding. you served as a cabinet secretary. you know the role that they have played. republicans have been big advocates for more offshore drilling. but you've said that's not near enough. nuclear energy is needed. we need a comprehensive approach. >> i have two thoughts. one is this is a good time to look at electric cars and trucks. we introduced legislation. we could electrify half our cars and trucks in america without building one new power plant because we can plug them in at night when we have all this unused electricity.
and if we did that we could reduce our oil by a third. i would have thought about oil is there's a lot of talk about presidential responsibility in terms of the oil spill. the president himself has talked about it. and i ask my staff to look at the law and see what the law said. and what the law says is that we have faced this before after exxon valdez in 1990 congress passed something called the oil pollution control act. and this is what it says. it says the president shall ensure that the oil spill is cleaned up and that he has personnel and equipment to do it. so that's the president's responsibility. so i think now it's my responsibility as a member of congress to ask the question, what was the president's plan? and where are the personnel and the equipment necessary to implement that plan? >> now in this book, you are charging that the obama administration's energy policy is, in your words, a wind mill
policy. >> that's exactly. but to the administration's credit, when i started writing that book, that was right. i started about two years ago and it was a national mind mill policy. the whole thing was to make 20% of our electricity from these wind turbines which is fairly preposterous. it's an amount of unreliable electricity. but particularly with the work of dr. chew, the administration has broadened its policy and they now have taken some very good steps to try to encourage, for example, nuclear power which produces 70% of our carbon free energy. and i commend the president for that. and even though this is a difficult time to support jaufer shore oil and gas explore ration, it's important to remember that in the gulf we have 30 or 40,000 wells and that it produces about 30% of all of the oil we produce and about 25% of the natural gas. and if we didn't have it, gas
would be up to $10, 12 a gallon. >> you voted for society moyor. will you vote for her in the coming weeks, months, kagen? >> she is a skished distinguished acma digs. i voted against her for one reason. it was because of her aggressive opposition to allowing military recruiters on harvard when she was dean of the law school. and her opposition to the solomon law which says in effect if you're going to take students with federal scholarships and loans, then you've got to let the military recruit on your campus. i voted for justice sota myor, not because i agree with her. i don't think they're supposed to be on my political side or the president's side. but because i thought she was well qualified. and i would like to get back to
the point where except in extraordinary case wess don't filibuster supreme court justice is. republicans never have. democrats started it and i hope we don't get into. and where we generally vote to confirm them unless they're not qualified for the position. >> have you seen anything to lead you to believe that she will not be ooch proved? >> hearings haven't started. and having gone through a confirmation process myself when i was education secretary, a lot can come out in hearings. >> senator, you mentioned that you had serious concerns about this financial regulation bill and questions about whether it would really solve the problems that we saw in the 2008 crisis. senator scott brown, the 41st republican senator, voted for that bill. you're a member of the republican leadership and the chairman of the conference. can we talk about his role now in the party, and whether as a political question going forward are candidates like scott brown the future for
republicans, or is it more like rand paul in kentucky further to the right? and what does that mean for senator mcconnell, your conference leader? was that any kind of referendum on him there? >> hopefully it will be a nice problem for him to have. and he will have to be a little bit more like john north, who used to be the ring master for barnham and bailie circumstance. because you'll have a lot more diversety in the caucus. a massachusetts republican and a mississippi republican and a florida republican aren't going to think the same on all things. general patton used to say if everybody is thinking the same, someone's not thinking. but on one issue, i think republicans are unified, and that is too much debt, too much spending, too many taxes, and the need for a check and a balance on what we see is an overreaching government in washington. and i think scott brown was elected partly for that reason,
and i think mario rubio will be elected for that reason and so will a whole variety of republicans around the country. >> how do you convince folks it's time for these tough decisions? no congress, democrat or republican, has been able to sort of make clear and maybe educate the american public, as you pointed out, two thirds is mandatory spending. we're in a position now where folks say just cut spending, that's not realistic. digscregsry spending can't be cut to put us on the right trajectory. what do you see going forward? >> that's a very good question. i think that everything comes in our country we move in big waves. back in the early 70s it was environmentalism, we weren't doing anything. in the 60s. and all of a sudden people were recycling and we had earth day and everybody became environmentally conscious. passed the clean water act. i think the same thing is about
to happen with debt. we see what's happeninn in greece, we see what's happening in europe. people are afraid. older people especially. that we're spending so much in washington that there won't be money left for medicare and social security. and grand pashts are saying my grandkidses aren't going to be able to afford this. so i see a huge movement in the country that's saying to us you'd better deal with this debt. and we're going to have to do it and i believe we'll have to do it as soon as possible. and that means the first of the year. >> talk about raising the retirement age? >> it's going to mean a whole range of issues. it won't just mean dealing with eerks. there may be more reforms on earmarks. but that doesn't save any money. it will mean less money for discretionary spending, less growth for entitlement. and hopefully we can bring the budget into balance and keep it there for a while until we get our fiscal house in order. >> along those lines, would you
rule out raising taxes as part of that? is that a nonstarter for you? >> as an individual senator i'm not going to rule anything in or out. i think this is such a serious problem that we have to put it all on the table and say, all right, let's do what i did as governor and what every governor has to do. let's look at what we have to do and let's get what we spend and what we bring in close and let's keep it there for a while until we get our house in order. >> so if this commission comes back and says cut spending and raise taxes? >> i'm not going to predict. i'm going to give them a chance to do their work and wait and see what they say and i'm not going to reject any of it before they do it. >> you mentioned senator corker, your tennessee colleague. and he did work with the white house and working with senator dodd. and corker himself has acknowledged that he irritated some in the republican conference, specifically senator richard she will by. did you ever take his side to say give him some advice on how
to move forward or maybe to pull back a bit? >> no. the answer is no to that. senators are individuals. bob corker and i are very good friends. we've known each other a very long time. our staffs are almost interchangeable. but we vote our own minds and we act our own ways and we're accountable each of us to the people of tennessee. so i don't try to tell him what to do and he doesn't tell me. >> you mentioned checks and balances a couple times about the elections. do you think that senate republicans can regain control of the chamber this fall? >> i'm not going to predict it. i feel the same sort of mood out in the country that i felt in a year that most of your viewers won't remember. it was 1974. and i was a very young republican and i got the republican nomination and it was the watergate year. and in tennessee, people with sor mad at republicans that they came out of the mountains to find out who the republicans were so they could vote against them.
i think people are going to come down out of the mountains this year to vote against the rascals in washington, and most are democrats by large majority. and so republicans are going to do very well. >> looking forward into 2012 even, democrats have a lot of seats to defend in that cycle. the future looks fairly bright, it's been dim the last couple cycles, but is the republican party making a major comeback? because you look at the polls, the poll numbers are still pretty well. >> that's right. but people will make a choice on election day. they will look at washington and they will say, do you think washington needs a check and a balance on spending, taxes, and debt? and i think more people will say the only way we can get that is to elect more republican senators. and they're going to come from all directions. i mean, we have more good candidates this year than we have had in a long, long time. so we're going to be a national
party with all the tensions that that brings when you get a majority or you get close to a majority. >> some of your republican colleagues in the house are calling for a special prosecutor to look into conversations between congressman sestak and the white house on an alleged joob offer. should there be an investigation? >> i agree with the republican members of the judiciary committee in the senate. that there needs to be an answer to the question. what was the job offer and what was the job offer? or was there not a job offer? or i think it's going to distort this pennsylvania race from now all the way to election day. >> did anything illegal happen based on what you know so far? >> i don't know. that's why the question needs to be answered and that's why the republican senators wrote the justice department a similar letter. >> there's so many important issues that don't get attention in washington. you had a bill from senator collins in maine on led paint.
>> it sounds like a little issue but it's not in tennessee. there's a law that says if you built your house or child care center before 1978, it probably had led paint in it. you need to know what you're doing if if you disturb that led paint so it doesn't disturb pregnant women and children. e.p.a. comes along and says, ok, to implement the law you're going to have to get certified or we're going to fine you every day for every violation. in tennessee we have a flood that's the biggest natural disaster and we have in nashville alone 11,000 homes that need to be rebuilt and there's only three e.p.a. trainers there to certify these repairmen. so we have asked for a delay of implementation of that rule until we can et enough training classes so we don't make fixing your house up, flooded or unflooded, more expensive or slower. >> you mentioned that the president hadn't had a lot of
meetings. certainly not one on one with leadership. what was your experience with the president? i, what do you think the relationship is between president obama and leader mcconnell? >> well, let me talk about my relationship. i have a good personal relationship with the president. i served with him. i like him. i exercised with him when we were senators together. but as far as my ability to be involved in his objectives, they're very limited. now, i'll give credit to his education secretary and to his energy secretary for reaching out and giving me a chance to work there. but in terms of the white house i'm very puzzled by this. either the white house duvent want to work on a bipartisan way on the big issues or it doesn't know how. and i'm still puzzled. for example, the president came to see us this week. we're delighted to see him, always would like to see him. but he didn't say why he was
coming. he didn't talk to us about, well, i'm going to talk about immigration. i i think i might send some troops down to the brder. he and senator mccain said he could have jointly said that. mccain said it's an important first step. so there wasn't any real effort to involve the other party in the way i always did as governor. and i guess they won't pay any attention to us until we have more senators and they have to. >> but why is that? is that the president, is that his staff? where do you point the blame? >> steve, i don't know. i just find it very strange. i've got kind of a long history on this. i worked in the senate in the 60's. i was on the congressional liaison staff in the 70s. and i can't imagine the white house not having a better relationship with the leadership of the other party. president reagan did with tip o'neal. george bush did with teddy kennedy on education. as i mentioned, dirkson and linden johnson.
president johnson understood what the civil rights bill that he needed dirkson's visible support not just the pass the bill but to gain public support for a controversial piece of legislation. so you see with the health care bill, we pass it and ram it through as a partisan bill and there's a movement to repeal it from day one. civil rights is very controversial too. but johnson was smart enough to get republican involvement in it. >> you mentioned the education secretary. i want to ask you about something that came up at the health care debate on the federal student loan program. you were very critical when congress voted to take over basically kick the private banks out of the federal student loan program calling it a government takeover. i think some of your republican colleagues call it that too. i want to help people understand how can there be a federal program, federal loan program? because wasn't it already a federal program at that point? >> no.
it's just federally backed loans to students. here's the problem. you have 19 million student loans being administered by 2,000 lenders, nonprofit or for profit. so what we now have starting july 1 is one lender, the u.s. department of education and you call up through a call center. 19 million student loan applications. and that's how you get your loan. it creates a lot more convenience in choice for people to go to their local bank or local nonprofit to apply for their loan. second, the government said, well, we're going to save 61 million dollars and take it away from these greedy banks. but they took the money and spent it on health care and more government. so what they're really doing is overcharging the 19 million students 17 or 1800 per person on average loan over 10 years to help pay for the health care bill and more government.
so it's just a difference of governmental philosophy. the administration seems to believe if you can fiped it in the yellow pages, the government ought to be doing it. >> there's no question about the use of the money, that it will be reappropriated. but in terms of going to those local banks, none of those were lending their own money, since the economic crisis, the government has been the only source of capital. >> since the economic crisis, that's right. but hopefully we won't be there forever. and what we were doing before is using private capital for the loans. now, you've raised another reason i didn't like this program from the beginning when i was education secretary. the gofert is going to have to borrow another half trillion dollars in order to fund the student loan program. so at a time when the debt is our biggest problem, recruiting a new washington agency, takeover of student loans, giving students less choices and borrowing a half trillion