tv Washington Week With Gwen Ifill PBS August 2, 2013 8:00pm-8:31pm PDT
>> fight to the finish, on the budget, on immigration, on political positioning. except nothing got finished. we examine why tonight on "washington week." >> we passed 27 bills, the lowest in the history of this country. 27 billings. gwen: and that was before the majority leader told senators to sit down and shut up. acrimony, gridlock and politics as usual. >> it's almost like there's a gone campaigning sign. outside the oval office. >> i have now run my last campaign. i do not intend to wait until the next campaign or the next president before tackling the issues that matter. >> the agenda of the republicans saying to the president our agenda is nothing and our timetable is never.
>> we'll take this one step at a time and i'm sure the august recess will have our members in a better mood when they come back. gwen: is this is new normal for democrats and republicans to fight amongst themselves until the next election? we dig deeper on that tonight with dan balz of the "washington post," jackie calmes of "the new york times" and john dickerson of "slate" magazine and cbs news. >> award-winning reporting and analysis. covering history as it happens. live from our nation's capital, this is "washington week with gwen ifill". corporate funding for "washington week" is provided by -- >> we went out and asked people a simple question -- how old is the oldest person you've known? we gave people a sticker and had them show us. a lot of us have known someone who's lived well into their
90's and that's a great thing. one thing that hasn't changed -- the official retirement age. the question is how do you make sure you have the money you need to enjoy all of these years? >> additional funding for "washington week" is provided by the annenberg foundation, the corporation for public broadcasting and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. once again, live from washington, moderator gwen ifill. gwen: good evening. members of congress fled washington today but, of course, it is august. and if there's anything predictable about the nation's capital it's that federal lawmakers are going to get out of town for a five-week recess about this time every year. we can all agree that it's good to take a break now and then
but here's what was left undone -- the farm bill, immigration reform and a long-awaited grand iscal bargain track help prevent yet another federal shutdown with record disapproval numbers for congress and the white house is this the new normal for politics and governing, john? >> it's a familiar story with new, uglier details. so the 112th congress was the least productive and everybody thought that was the record. this congress is on pace to beat that record. they've passed 15 bills so far, which is a record in terms of lack of progress. there are lots of things that didn't get done, as you mentioned and if you look at the kinds of things that are getting done, it's not encounseloring. for example this week, in the house of representatives they took their 48th vote to dismantle the president's affordable care act and that is an entirely vote.
members trying to get rid of it are raising money off it. when the members go home they want to talk about their constant effort to stop what washington is doing, stepping into your life and then the minimal level to do their jobs, and they tried to pass a transportation bill and transportation, housing and urban development bill, which unfortunatelyed that name thud, which is the sound it made when it failed. when they're able to pass just a symbolic vote, that gives you an example of the way things are jammed new congress. gwen: is it in everyone's interests that the standoff just endures? >> no, it's definitely in the interests of all of us to break through this gwen: as citizens but i was thinking at -- as politicians. >> actually, if you
through your career -- if john boehner, for instance, wants to leave as speaker and harry reid as majority leader and have a legacy like this, i guess it would be in their interests. but you're right, there are a lot of political factors that keep members doing this. the president said something about the arguments in favor of the things he's seeking. some additional investment spending in addition to some deficit reduction that's perhaps back loaded. those arguments may be a consensus of economists and popular in the polls with most american people but not in the districts of the overwhelming majority of republicans who serve in the house so that's what you have. but the job numbers came out today and it's like groundhog day, the first friday of every month where we see there's a gain in jobs but not as much as people either expected or what we need to fully recover.
and a situation that hasn't happened in my years in washington, where washington is residing over a budget policy that is a drag on the economy so they're partly to blame. gwen: the president said to you in the "new york times" interview this week that you conducted, jackie, that there are some republicans with whom he can get along. the brilliant ones agree with him. [laughter] and i'm paraphrasing but there are those who are stubborn who don't agree with him. is there even a potential outline for a grand bargain if the president says that's only my way. >> there's always been an outline for a grand bargain but nobody can quite get there and nobody is quite willing to take all of the steps necessary to do that. there are a handful of republicans from the senate that the president continues wi
to dinner -- dinner and that's a smaller group and he likes them and they seem to like him but based on the last few meetings, there's no evidence that they're really making any progress and i think as we head into september you'd have to say the prospects are pretty dim. >> one thing is different. we used to have our crisis for the budget before they left for vacation? remember that? the last couple of years we'd have a crisis movement. -- moment everybody has delayed that until the fall. there are going to be two face-offs, one over funding the government and the other over lifting the debt limit and it's all been squooshed into the fall where these decisions have to be made. the secretary of defense chuck agel came out and said these sequestration cuts tonight.
-- continue. basically chuck hagel said lives will be at risk because of the lack of funding. we're going to have to either shrink the force considerably or keep the force and have them have old technology. >> sequestration, some republicans think it's a bad thing, especially because of its effect on things like the military and national institutes of health. but i don't see anything happening there either. the president seemed to be a little bit annoyed at the suggests of your question that perhaps he played a role in this by having agreed to it. >> we are sitting here tonight and the second anniversary of the deal, the budget control act that ended the most damaging showdown over the debt limit that we see. july twiven when they finally got through and fled again for an august recess. so that deal had some immediate
spending cuts or set the levels of spending for the coming nine years at lefts that immediately took effect for defense and domestic but it also had this sequester and at the time both parties agreed that this was something that should never happen because it would be so damaging. in the meantime, before january 31st of 2013 they would come to this agreement, the grand bargain of deficit reduction that would have both revenues and savings and they could both agree to and get rid of sequestration. but now sequestration has taken effect and the republicans imbrace it. gwen: i talked to john mccain this week, senator from arizona, who was famously defeated by the president and is now starting to make unhappy noises about the way the lib
attorney wing of the party is stopping things from happening. this is what he said about immigration reform. >> if we don't enact immigration reform -- let's say we enact comprehensive immigration reform. i don't think it gains a single hispanic voter but it puts us on a playing field where we can compete for the hispanic voter. we don't do that, i see further pole rayization of the his deny polization of the hispanic voter and the demographics are clear the republicans cannot win a national election. gwen: dan, just a fact? >> just a fact but it's a significant fact and it's one the republicans seemed to wake up to after the 2012 election when the republicans got just 27% of the hispanic vote and there was a move on the part of some republicans to try to do
something about comprehensive immigration that includes a path to citizenship. that seems to have stalled, particularly because there's a lot of resistance in the house. no one knows whether it will be able to get through the house. but he's right. it does not necessarily gain them votes but it opens the door for a conversation between republicans and hispanics. >> the basis basis of this gridlock, there are philosophical views. immigration as an example. when john mccain talks about politics. a lot of people came in illegally. there are lots of people doing all the right things, standing in line. why should we give a pathway to people doing it illegally when there are people trying to do it legally? others think a bill based on promises about what the
government is going to do don't trust the government, which is a reasonable position to have. the problem is when the conversation take place on the political plane, it's not speaking to the people who are thinking in terms of a philosophical view -- gwen: so the senator ted cruz's and mike lees of the world who are pushing back, the white house says to them what? they're becoming like a house? >> i think they do. in mike's case he didn't come from the house but you have a dynamic in the senate where a lot of the republican senators now are people who came from the house and one office there in first the gingrich revolution and the subsequent more conservative waves of the house and they are bringing the waves of the house to the senate. not that the senate couldn't use a little shaking up, but it's very hard now for the --
it's always been hard for the white house to work with the republican-controlled house but it's getting equally hard to work with the senate. >> i think one other thing that seems newer now is that not only is their -- there polization between republicans and democrats but there are fissures in the republicans that we are seeing. if : there's 2014, 2016 and you think that there are actual politicians as opposed to political reporters are beginning to lay the groundwork? watch what happened between new jersey governor chris christie congressman ted cruz. here is what ensued. >> the people who want to criticize me and call names, they're the same people who are
unwilling to cut the spending and they're gimme, gimme, give me all my sandy money now. those are the people who are bankrupting the government. >> i find it interesting that senator paul is accusing us of having a gill yes, gill yes attitude towards federal spending when new jersey is a donor state and we get 61 cents back of every dollar we send to washington and interestingly, kentucky gets 1.51 on every dollar they send to washington. so if senator paul wants to look at where to cut spend something maybe he should look at kentucky. gwen: it recall went downhill from there. but how was was the spat about these two men and how much was it about the status of the republican party? >> it's a combination of both. both of these men have their eye on running for president in 2016 and they have different
bases and frankly, different needs politically. so you could see a value in one going after the other but it does reflect differences in the participants over a variety of things. in their case it had to do with national security, the difference between a libertarian view of what the united states should be doing versus the more establishment view. gwen: and your book, "collision 2012," which is your deep dive into what drove the 2012 election talks about some of these things, including the basic disagreements that the party has which made it impossible to be a streamline data driven obama campaign. >> right. if you think back to the republican primaries and that long series of debates they had and some of the things that mitt romney did and said in order to win the nomination, he was left in a position that he made it much harder for himself
to win the general election. the party came out of 2010. it had moved to the right because of the influence of the tea party and everyone run for president had to figure out how to accommodate to that new party. and mitt romney struggled to do that gwen: when you look at the midterms you see there were a lot of senators who were being driven or could be pushed in that way. mike anthony, who's got a tea party-inspired challenger in liz chaney. lindsay graham who has two challengers in south carolina. mitch mcconnell, who has challengers in kentucky. that has to drive outcomes. >> it does. we go back and look at the legislative process. when you're always looking over your shoulder at a possible -- the old clay shy, as an incumbent you either run unopposed or scared. but any minute you might get a
tea party challenger and so mitch mcconnell, very powerful in the old rules of washington is now facing a challenger and that challenger may not beat mitch mcconnell -- probably won't. but it puts a structure in place where mitch is always looking over his shoulder and lindsay graham is always looking over his shoulder. which means they're not going to take a risk and make a deal with the president. they may even push to keep heir policies in the forefront. the more you have these primary charges in reality or just possible. mike is a good, upstanding conservative and now he's being challenged by lynn chen yeah on these grounds. gwen: liz chaney. >> sorry, not the wife of dick cheney but biz, the -- liz, the daughter. he's not aggressive enough, not
in there fighting the fight. gwen: if you're at the white house which you are covering and dennis mcdonough, the president's chief of staff is having more success in talking to people from the other party. do they have a strategy with -- strategy with how to deal with that politically driven recalcitrance? >> i think the short answer is no and they would say what is the strategy? dennis mcdonough as the new chief of staff is getting really high marks. hardly a day goes by which when someone swsh someone from the hill doesn't say to me what a great job he's done and in reaching out to the members. they want to talk to him but is he going to be able to bring anything in from them? we're running out of time to just have conversation.
gwen: and we see what the president is doing is going throughout the country and he's going to be traveling again next week and we all keep track of these public disapproval numbers, which are abysmal for everybody involved. do they? are they tracking this? >> they're aware of them but don't think they're that meaningful because the republicans in the house held the house in the last election despite some of the lowest approval ratings of any party in congress in years. and they always say of course, the president is higher. and frankly, while the president's numbers are significantly higher than members of congress are not that strong at this point. he's below 50%. in the early stage of the second term that's not a strong position for him to be in. gwen: so what is leadership in the new normal? at a time when it's not in
anyone's particular interest to sort out. even things like oappropriation bills and farm bills. >> the president is trying to go to the country and i think that's what you have to do and he has that -- he has that resource that the members of congress don't have. the national megaphone. gwen: sure. >> but in a polarized country it's of limited use. it was interesting to me. this week, there was a reakfast with silvia math hues burwell, his new budget director and she faced questions by reporters at "the wall street journal" by how do you -- all this time we've tried to get republicans to free with the president on a grand bargain on the budget. even if you get a deal with the senate republicans who are showing some willingness to compromise. how do you take that product and bring it through the house? she recognized the hurdle but
she said you create your own reality. gwen: who does? >> that's reality -- it was interesting coming from a newcomer and you'd like to think that it could happen and it needs fresh eyes but i think we'll come back to her at the end of the year when we've gone through the government shutdown and debt limit. gwen: ask her what the reality is again. on the democratic side politically there's another reality and that's the looming popular and political shadow of hillary clinl. everyone is seeing, watching who she has breakfast and lunch with. i don't know if that affects anything at all or just laying the groundwork. >> i think it's part, in a sense of the background music we hear. everybody in this town is always looking to the next election. gwen: not at this table, not us. >> no, not at this table and
she looms so large on that ront within the democratic party. her popularity is so great compared to anybody else who might run and a lot of people won't run because she may run. it's frozen everything. gwen: any rk? >> the risk is you get sick of the person you hear about constantly every day. people know who she is and there is something about politics, people like a new figure. but she is quite dynamic. gwen: i am proud of you-all, we managed to get there out program and it's been weiner-free. thank you, everybody. we have to leave you a few minutes early tonight to give you a chance to support your local station, which supports us. we want to acknowledge the passing of an outstanding person. mother of our broadcasting colleague, cokie roberts and a longtime washington week
regular steve roberts. lindsay boss passed away this week at the grand old age of 9 . we send our condolences to the family. "washington week" continues online where you can catch my conversation with dan about his new book, "collision 2012" in a special webcast streaming live at :30 eastern and available all week long at our website. keep up with daily developments with me on the pbs news hour and then you can join us around the table again next week on "washington week." good night. >> corporate funding for "washington week" is provided by -- prudential. additional funding is provided by the annenberg foundation. the corporation for public