tv Washington Journal James Thurber and Molly Reynolds CSPAN December 21, 2017 7:25pm-8:01pm EST
conversation on the legislative and clinical significance of the 115th congress so far. from "washington journal" -- host: we're joined by a professor of government at american university and found -- and former director of the university center for congressional and americans studies. we also have a member of brookings institution. thank you. we are going to rate this current session of congress. we're coming to the end of the first year of the 115th congress. would you rate them? has it been a success? guest: it is good to rate a congress compared to other congresses. let's take the first year of the obama administration. -- andls passed within within a few weeks, stimulus
package passed. dodd frank and the affordable care act passed eventually. this one has had problems. the tax bill did a lot of things that are important, but one tax bill failed in repealing the affordable care act. 12 --hey improved approved 12 district judges. that is good. but they have not done very well. they have some oversight hearings, but we have not seen anything from the oversight hearings on russia and the election. so i would give them, if they were in my class, i would give them a d. host: a d? because of what they did not accomplish? guest: right, they have not had -- has the budget or appropriation bills. they have done nothing with ship, the children's health insurance program, these court kids that lived below the poverty line that cannot get insurance.
there is bipartisan support for it, but they have not passed it. they have not dealt with the debt or the deficit, which at one point the republicans are very concerned about, but i do not think they have done very well at all. host: molly reynolds? guest: i would have to agree with jim. left the idea of what they undone that is really important it we can point to the tax bill, which is a huge point. putting justice gorsuch on the supreme court was a major achievement that has the potential to shape that institution for years to come. so, theythat in doing change the precedent for confirming supreme court nominees. that has major consequences we can celebrate the accomplishments and say there are things they got done, but we cannot ignore the fact that we are looking to head into
january with appropriations work unfinished and no permanent action on ship. undonere a lot of business, unfinished work. host: are you giving them this d -- i do not know if you agree with the d. but are you giving them this assessment because of things government is supposed to do, not what they promised that they would do when they ran? guest: i think of the compulsory's, things that are the basic functions of government, what they're supposed to do every year. this congress is leaving a lot of those things unfinished. they have another ex -- they have a lot of expirations of programs, like chip, flood insurance, the faa. these kinds of basic functions
of keeping the government doing what it is supposed to be doing. of timent quite a lot on the health care bill, unsuccessfully. and turning their attention to things that do not have these kind of major deadlines that were supposed to force them to take actions. guest: the most important thing is they have not passed a budget a time and we're still on continuing resolution, still facing the possibility of shutting down government. a company andning you have a contract with the government, this is very disruptive. but i should say that congress am i not only republicans, it is democrats, and this is a highly polarized congress with a very narrow margin with the democrats not willing to cross over and vote on things with the republicans. they might on infrastructure, which is coming down.
investmentople want in infrastructure. some thought they should have led with that, had a bipartisan success. now i think the water is muddied, bloodied. it is going to be very hard to get a partisan, even for infrastructure, even for bridges and roads in the future. that is a problem. by the way, the president has had a lot of success in deregulation, reregulation, not enforcing existing regulation, and congress has successfully appointed people that have redirected epa, interior, and other places. but there are hundreds of appointment that have not been reviewed on the hill, and there are 60 ambassadorships that are open. this is a serious problem in my opinion. host: when it comes to the spending issue, we are learning this one and then garten -- that congress has decided to pass another continuing resolution that will keep his government open until january 19 if they can get the votes, which we will
know later on today here. if you want to read what is part of this continuing resolution, go to our website, c-span.org, and it is posted on our congressional chronicle. this is not the first congress to pass continuing resolution after continuing resolution. you are giving this one this far a d, but what grades would you get the previous congresses that did similar moves? thet: we have only passed budget on time four times since the implementation of the budget and, control in 1926. we cannot even pass it on time when we had a surplus under clinton. so that is a problem. on appropriations, usually they appropriate the armed services bills and homeland security. they have not even done that this time. this is a serious problem, in my opinion. t is in columbus,
georgia, republican. good morning to you. caller: good morning. how y'all doing. i think when you great congress, you have to divided into the democrats and republicans. i give the democrats an f because of their resistance, and i give the republicans a d because they have not done anything. but what kills me is when you cut the you need to entitlements, quit spending so much, so when the government takes money out of your check and they put it in a locked box or whatever they call it, and then they go spend on something they're not supposed to spend it on, what are you supposed to do? they call it entitlements, but they are entitled to them. they are supposed to come back money in the form of the the way it's supposed to be used, but they do not do it. i do not think they have done good overall at all.
i think people who depend on the government are really losing out, because of you do not depend on yourself to do things, the constitution does not tell you that you are entitled to in -- education are medicaid or medicare or insurance. all the constitution tells you is your entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. host: molly, what about giving democrats an f? guest: what is important to think about is that republicans made several key choices that meant they really do not have to work with democrats. when they decided they were going to make the two big legislative priorities for the year, the health care bill and chose to put they both through the budget reconciliation process, which protects it from a filibuster in the senate, which basically said to democrats, you know, we do not need your vote. we are to do this on a partyline
basis. that incentivized democrats from working across the aisle. to play that game, you can take the ball and figure it out for yourself. it sort of result of them of some responsibility of trying to work with them. in 2015, when ryan took over as speaker, he reached across the aisle on 28 significant bills, and they all had democratic support. so it is possible. he reached out. he had a honeymoon from the far right to a certain extent right after john boehner left her but these were tough things, like trademarks authority and the fix on medicare, on and on. the senate had a similar phenomena in a committee that produced an education bill that only had one vote against it in
committee, and it went through the senate very quickly. it is possible to have bipartisanship. but right now, in an election year, 2018, it is going to be very hard. i think democrats are not going to play that game, maybe even on infrastructure. that is bad for america in my opinion. in "the washington post" this morning, this piece set about how differently it would have played out if a deal would have been struck with joe manchin. portmanan senator rob of ohio met secretly with senator joe manchin of west virginia in the basement of the capital. consideraid he would joining the tax effort if only a few changes were made. instead of cutting the corporate tax rate to 20%, reduce it to 25% and use the proceeds for bigger middle-class tax cuts. other democrats, he suggested,
might follow. portman took the request to republican leaders, who rejected it. may be able to get reelected in a state where trump, i think, had 36%, a majority of 36% against clinton. he may vehicle able to get reelected because that kind of thing. .hat was only one person in 2015, we had dozens of people , almost unanimous on some bills . i would like to see that come back. it is very hard. voters are highly partisan, and we are sorted in america. it became more and more like that after the tribe election. guest: for me, one of the most interesting things is the degree to which republicans did not do more of what you are reading you know, there
are a number of democratic senators who are up for reelection next year in states that were won by trump, in some cases by large margins. in whichgree republicans decided they were just going to try to do very party line, partisan legislating as opposed to trying to do some of these things that would bring some democrats on board, i think thing andnteresting has consequences for the kinds of policies. it is part of the permanent campaign, and they are going to use, both parties are going to use this tax bill as a wedge issue. it will be hard going for the republicans when some of this comes out. ,he democrats are just using they're going to use this for the next election. they already are. schumer is made statements about that, and so has policy --
pelosi. the house has a net 24 needed for the democrats. 23 of the districts, hillary had a majority. some are saying that it is extremely competitive right now. i hate to predict anymore, especially after the 2016 election. host: you are hearing that the voters they are looking at are those suburban voters. suburbansolutely, the voters that are sort of moderate republicans, the voters. they are really tired of what is coming out of the white house, what happened in alabama. even in alabama, the suburban voters switched. they either wrote in, which made a big difference, or they voted democratic. host: a call from new hampshire, independent. caller: good morning. you know, it is funny because you hear these bad remarks about
president trump and everything. i am totally a supporter. what bothers me is hearing about how much damage he has done when the reality of the situation is that we have had a tax problem -- i am sorry, we have had a monetary problems with the government for years and years and years, especially since obama here it is seems that everything is apparently now the new president's fault. nobody looks at what is actually going on. something should be said about that. consider how many people are against him. he has a huge population. it is not that we're anti-american. i am upset about somebody saying that over there. it is not anti-american. we are antigovernment. ours about you guys taking money. after 60 years of being in the government, your kids are rich and you are rich. we do not get our money back. i would love my husband to be
retired and still get the same paycheck. we do not get that, only you do. host: take that point. james thurber's founder and former director of the american university center of congressional studies it was never a member of congress/ just to clarify that. molly reynolds, what about her sentiment though? president trump is new to washington, and the way washington operates, this year is the way it has operated for many years. guest: i think that is a fair point. it is something he talked about a lot on the campaign, the idea that he would come in and drain the swamp. one of the most important things to think about in the context of is how trumpgress has worked with congress and what he has been able to do with the swamp. one of the challenges republicans in congress face right now is it is pretty internally divided, particularly
in the house republican conference. we would think or expect that a president of the same party would do a good job or try to kind of help the house and senate republican parties bridge those internal differences. for me that is one thing we have year asn as much this we might have expected under a different republican president. i think there seems to maybe have been some learning between the health care debate and the tax debate. i think we saw fewer instances in the tax debate where trump inserted himself into the work congress was doing in a counterproductive way. he came out and called the congressional republican health care bill mean at one point. we saw less of that on the tax bill. i think that will be important to watch going forward, how trump learns the way of washington. guest: presidents need to have a clear strategy and message about
what they want and repeat it, repeat it, repeat it. they need to define what a problem is that they are trying to solve on the hill. never was there a definition of the problem before they passed the tax bill at all. there was with the affordable care act. he has been somewhat random in his relationship with the leadership on the hill, and the tweets have been quite disruptive. i have moles on the hill, people who tell me what is going on, i have like 140 former students who are staff members and some are in the leadership. i won't quote them directly, but he's caused a lot of problems with the majority leadership he gets the momentum going and tweets on something or does something that gets in the way of what they're doing on capitol hill. finally, finally, they have a tax bill passed. finally he's on cue from them
, rather than the other way around, in my opinion. host: what do you make of him at the cabinet meeting before the celebration at the white house yesterday, saying we essentially repealed obamacare? guest: i think the question of repeal is a little overstated. i think that the fact that the individual mandate now is part of this tax bill and it is gone certainly hurts it, but most of it is there. remember, the affordable care act deals with cost, quality, access , and finance. and if you limit the number of people who have insurance it , certainly will hurt significantly in terms of whether it works or not. but there are lots of other things in the bill that helped improve healthcare and people's lives that are not touched by that, in my opinion. what we saw over the summer in terms of how important republicans thought repealing the affordable care act was and that fact, as a
rhetorical goal, was a driving the summer, part of why they cannot get anything done was because they could not write a bill that 218 house republicans and 50 senate republicans would vote for that accomplished that go. -- that goal. it is not surprising that now that they have managed to small piece of that, but they are touting it as an accomplishment and telling voters it is something they got done. host: #cspanchat -- host: antenna, florida, democrat. welcome to the conversation. caller: the poor grades the senate and congress is unis being unfetterred advocates is their answer to and spend 75% of their time drumming up large campaign contributions from will the donors who, for the the expenserofit at and loss of the vast majority of u.s. citizens, leaving only 25%
of their time doing a very poor job at legislation. this all stems from three supreme court rulings that created the autocracy, and one was part of big money and freedom of speech. 2010, citizens united. and then opening the door to dark money. thank you very much. you put this guy on c-span here, and that was perfect. he has it nailed. it is the tuesday-thursday club. the members are here tuesday through thursday and then go back, and have town meetings. they also bring in money. the real primary, the invisible primary, is how much money you have to scare off people that challenge you. it is back hustling. it is not just big donors. it is small donors also. but it is dysfunctional in terms of returning congress.
the leadership, every tip of years, says we have to stop this and we will have worlds where you have to be here. but they don't have to be here. there's no law for that. they are driven to get reelected and they think going , home is the way to do it. there are 34 members that don't even live here. they sleep in cots and eat in the cafeteria -- it is not that great -- and they brag about the fact that they are not of washington. why did they get elected? they were here to shrink government or solve problems or have oversight, not going home all the time. it is a serious problem that congress has had for many years under democrats and republicans alike. host: next call for molly in cleveland, ohio, republican. caller: hello. i agree with one of the previous calllers that wanted to give democrats a pass. they have long been noted for spend, tax and spend,
tax and spend. that is the only way they seem. many republicans have seemed to side that way, and there is not a lot of conservative republicans left. throughout the years, when i started my own business, i struggled and struggled in's gargled, and it is a lot asferent than having a -- far as people continuing to see how they're going to raise money, james thurber is old enough to know -- i still remember david brinkley commenting on maybe some of these washington leaders, they should go out and wash cars. so let me hear what they say about that. host: molly first. guest: one thing i think we have seen unfolding congress over the course of this year is some revelation of how much of what we saw under the obama administration from
congressional republicans on spending and the deficit was a principled stand on the opposition to government spending, and how much of it was seeing those arguments as a convenient and useful way to oppose democrats, particularly to oppose a democratic president and the white house? so we have seen, in some cases, some of this rhetoric on fiscal responsibility from republicans get walked back significantly. we have seen in some cases like the disaster relief bill the congress is currently considering some republicans , continue to push for adjust sets in spending. that is an important dynamic i will continue to be watching. in terms of principled conservatives, they're probably 50 people in the house of representatives that our freedom caucus and tea party.
they feel they are principled conservatives. they went with the tax bill even though it is generating a trillion plus debt because of other things in the tax bill they wanted. so when you consider things on the hill, compromise has to occur. compromise was behind our constitution and has to occur here. unfortunately, there has not been a lot of compromise between the two parties. there has been compromised within the democratic party. but i would say that there are many people who are hard-core conservatives and concerned about the debt and deficit and the to deal with entitlement programs, social security, medicare, medicaid, and that will probably be on the agenda, according to ryan, and the future. we will see what happens. host: the director of the president's economic council saying yesterday that infrastructure, and he referred
to those as welfare programs, is where they want to go next and that is a priority for the president. carol it rochester, new york, independent. caller: good morning. mr. thurber mentioned the number of unfilled ambassadorships. i was wondering how many are unfilled because there have been no nominees versus congress sitting on the nominations, especially with south korea. thank you. guest: i do not have a numbers of the top of my head, but i think that my sense of the problem is a lot of it is that the administration just is not putting forward nominees. i do not know specifically about being ambassadors, but if we look more broadly, that is the concern, that they are not putting forward names to fill positions. in some cases, it is because they are having trouble finding people who are interested in filling them in this particular administration, and in some cases it is because, including at the state department and more
broadly because they have a , vision of what they want the department to look like, which involves a smaller department and fewer people working there. host: as we talk this morning about rating this session of congress, we are learning as the morning goes on what the plan is for these lawmakers to get out of town. one thing they have on their agenda is avoiding a government shutdown, and with a deadline of midnight friday, they have to pass a continuing resolution. it looks like that will go until january 19 for all government agencies but they have other , things that they have to deal with. reauthorization of a surveillance provision, as well as ship the children's health , insurance program. not sure if it will be in this legislation. as well as disaster relief to the tune of $81 billion. a reporter on capitol hill tweeted this -- meadows says he
got a commitment from leadership that there will be a standalone vote on a long-term 702 realization and that they would be allowed to offer requested -- amendments. a lot unfolding as we talk on this thursday morning. guest: i would add daca or the dream act and there is some , bipartisan concern about that. flake, for example, got as part of the deal for voting for the bill, that he would be part of the negotiations on daca. so that is there. there is reauthorization of the higher education act. hase is also the senate some serious amendments to don frank that will help community banks and other banks. that is going to be a hot issue this next year. i don't see bipartisanship coming on that, but we will see. host: and the so-called dreamers -- "washington times," dreamers
feel betrayed by democrats. hundreds of dreamers some risking arrest took to the hallways in congress to march and conduct lie downs to complain they have been forgotten in these government spending negotiations. dan in chicago, democrat. you are next. caller: can you hear me? host: yes. good morning. caller: i have some quick questions focused exclusively on the recent tax bill that passed both houses. first, what is the consensus on debt to gdp among the experts and the relationship of the potential shutdown? there was a close vote in both houses in relationship to passing this bill, so there were plenty of democrats and republicans that were divided. what would be the long-term state of the economy based on debt, based on an empirical
studies of developed economies? can we service the interest and principal on this debt? and my final address is, does this create systemic risk? host: we have government experts, not economists. but molly reynolds, what are your thoughts? guest: i think the consensus from most economists on the debt this bill is it will increase the debt significantly. republicans and getting out their plans for passing this bill, they embrace that goal. they set themselves up a box that said they could increase the debt by $1.5 trillion over 10 years. they are kind of motivating the -- they're motivating goal is they think that by lowering corporate taxes and doing other things, it will grow the economy , and that would address that. i have not seen a credible estimate that suggest it will do
that. i think one thing we will have to sort of deal with down the line is, what are the consequences of structuring a tax bill, particularly one that does increase the deficit and the debt that also has expiring provisions? cuts are setl tax to expire. the corporate tax relief is permanent. we are set up for a giant cliffs and 10 years, that sort of thing. to gdp, you had a chart up on that, and i teach a class where we get into the budget and the debt, and i did not memorize it but i know this -- that the united states' debt to gdp is so large, we would not be allowed to join the eu because they have certain standards on that. course, that is not a problem now. but we would not be a lot to join the eu. that is what you should measure,
and i am sorry, sir, i do not have the exact percentage, but it is going up as a result of this. host: the committee for a responsible federal bucket said that when they looked at this, this conference agreement would cost $1.46 trillion, leading debt to rise between 98% and 95% by compared to 91%. 2027, but they said it could go as high as 100% with some of the provisions in the tax credit bill. tom in alabama, independent. welcome to the conversation. caller: good morning. i am a simple man. i just cannot understand -- i am a trumpet voter, a simple guy. i worked hard 28 years out of my 52-year life. and the men got elected, but before he got elected, not republicans or democrats wanted this man in office. he is a billionaire and did not even need this job. but he is looking out for the
american people that are working there ass off every they -- every day. i do not see congress people there and just 30 years, 40 years. that is not what it is about to go work for four years and go home. host: what are your thoughts on that? guest: well, believe it or not, the tenure of members on the hill is a much shorter period than you think. it is something mexican a half -- something like six and a half years in the house and much longer in the senate. have been there for a very long time, they get the news, and i am not for term limits personally. i think we need to improve the way we elect people and have more competition in the general election. that means dealing with redistricting for the house. we have term limits. they are called popular elections. but they are somewhat fixed because of redistricting. there are only 30 to 40 seats that are usually competitive. i would like to see more seats competitive and dealing with the
problem of having people come up here and have an entire 50 years of their life on the hill. we do have term limits on chairs, which is very good. they are young people, sometimes on the committees, and they know a lot of it -- know a lot about the issues. they are not the most senior, and they get elected in secret ballots are do i think that is good. liveashington journal," every with news and policy issuet impact you. coming up friday morning, author trump"osing donald discusses his op-ed about president trump and evangelical voters. and bill press on the past year in politics and what to expect in the year 2018. be sure to watch "washington journal" join the discussion.
coming up tonight, congressional republicans hold an enrollment ceremony for the tax reform bill. then, an interview with segment majority leader on the tax bill. after that, senate regrets all their year end news conference. then later, vice president pence made a surprise is it to troops visit stand -- a surprise to troops in afghanistan. speaker includes house speaker mcconnell,mitch house ways andd means committee chair kevin brady. house ways and means committee chair