Senate GOP leaders press ahead on a health care reform bill: What's in it, what's not, and will voters like it any better? Then, lessons learned from the Republican victory in a Georgia special election on Tuesday.
Guest Host: Katty Kay
The GOP announces a “Pledge to America.” President Obama touts new health care benefits now taking effect. And the White House prepares to lose key players after the midterms. A panel of journalists joins guest host Katty Kay for analysis of the week’s top national news stories.
- Dante Chinni Correspondent for the Patchwork Nation Project for PBS NewsHour and the Christian Science Monitor.
- Karen Tumulty National political reporter, The Washington Post.
- Greg Ip U.S. economics editor, The Economist, and author of "The Little Book of Economics: How the Economy Works in the Real World."
News Roundup Video
The panelists assess the GOP’s “Pledge to America,” a plan for bolstering the fragile U.S. economy that Republican leadership unveiled earlier in the week. New York Times columnist Paul Krugman has called the Pledge “nonsense,” claiming the numbers don’t add up:
The panelists discuss the ongoing influence of the Tea Party movement ahead of the November elections and note that the activists emphasize different issues in various geographical areas. The PBS NewsHour, under Dante Chinni’s direction, has just published a map of the nation tracking where Tea Party meet-ups have taken place over the past few months:
MS. KATTY KAYThanks for joining us. I'm Katty Kay of the BBC, sitting in for Diane Rehm. Diane's at a public radio conference. The GOP unveils a legislative blueprint called A Pledge to America. President Obama marks the sixth month anniversary of healthcare reform by highlighting new consumer protections. And Senate Democratic leaders decide to delay a vote on middle class tax cuts until after congressional elections in November. Joining us in the studio for the domestic hour of the Friday News Roundup are Dante Chinni of PBS and The Christian Science Monitor, Karen Tumulty of The Washington Post and Greg Ip of The Economist. He is also the author of a new book, "The Little Book of Economics: How the Economy Works in the Real World." Thank you all very much for joining me.
MR. DANTE CHINNIThanks.
MS. KAREN TUMULTYGreat to be here.
MR. GREG IPGood to be here.
KAYWe'll be opening the phones in just a while. 1-800-433-8850 is the phone number if you want to join us. You can also send us an e-mail to email@example.com or a tweet. And, of course, find us on Facebook as well. Let's start with this Pledge to America. Karen, how is the Pledge to America different from the Contract to America, partly perhaps with the style in which it was delivered?
TUMULTYYeah, it is. You know, it is meant to play a lot of the same role that the Contract with America did. It is both designed to give people an idea of what the Republicans stand for and what they would intend to do if they were to return to power. And it also, I think, is meant to be some sort of a blueprint for themselves, you know, to just sort of know what their priorities are if, in fact, the House is returned to Republican control. But it's very different. For one thing, it's much more closely focused on economic issues, on cutting spending. The Contract with America was under a thousand words, and it was backed up by 10 major specific pieces of legislation. This, I think, is in many ways much vaguer. It sets goals, but it doesn't really spell out as clearly how you would get there.
KAYDante Chinni, watching the old footage yesterday, I was kind of going over the old news footage of Newt Gingrich delivering the Contract with America on the steps of the Capitol. They were wearing their suits, and they were on the steps of the Capitol right in the heart of Washington. Of course, the Republican leadership yesterday went over to Virginia to a lumber yard. They rolled up their sleeves, a very different image that they were trying to portray, and in fact, even going through the pledge itself, full of these pictures of cowboys with lassoes, a sort of different style that the Republicans are trying to project this time around, which reflects this election.
CHINNIYeah, I mean, this is very much in some ways a Tea Party-driven document, in that they are out – they are outside of Washington. They are not politicians right there out of the hardware store. And they're going to bring change to Washington rather than try to, I guess, change Washington from within, which is where you would look -- would have looked at the Gingrich speech. The other thing that's interesting, I think, is when you looked at the Contract with America, some of the language around it back then -- not even just in the document -- but I remember Gingrich saying something at -- to the effect of, I want to wake up -- this is, I think, after they had assumed control. I want to wake up one morning and find out there hasn't, you know -- a different kind of America -- like, there hasn't been a child murdered over the weekend, you know, in the entire country and just a much more big picture kind of -- I want to change the society of the United States.
CHINNIThis is a much more -- this document is much more -- what's -- we're going to cut government. I mean, it's not really clear. They don't make clear how they're going to cut government really, but this is just fiscal. And it's a very different message. And to me, it means, you know, they're trying to harness the power of the Tea Party movement, obviously. And I think what they're saying to the Christian conservative part of the GOP is -- you know, in a way -- is we know you're going to vote for us, and there isn't a lot in here for them. And I'm -- I've got some people I want to reach out to in the next couple of days and kind of ask what they think about that.
KAYOkay. Greg Ip, I want to refer a little bit to what Dante was saying there about the specifics of the document. There's an article by Paul Krugman this morning in The New York Times. And he comes from a liberal perspective on this, but he's quite critical of the Pledge to America in terms of the specifics, of how actually the Republicans would pay for extending the tax cuts, for example. He says that, as far as I can recall, nor has any other leading Democrat, as far I can recall, has ever claimed that up is down, that you can sharply reduce revenue, protect all the programs voters like and still balance the budget. Does he have a point?
IPYeah, the economic pieces of this document don't really fit together, which is understandable because it's a political document. It's not an economic document. I mean, in it they want to basically make all the tax cuts permanent and -- including those for the other wealthy -- and they want to add a few more tax cuts for small business owners, for example. Against that, the notion on spending is extremely vague. They want to cut $100 billion from discretionary spending. Well, first of all, that's only one-tenth of what the federal deficit is this year, and then they're immediately going to lose most of those savings with these tax cuts.
IPThe bottom line here is that there's no question there's a severe fiscal crunch facing this country, and anybody sensible agrees that what you want to do is have some stimulus now to get us out of this sort of recessionary trough but then over a four to 10-year period, start dealing with some of the structural problems. And those really start with the entitlements like Social Security and Medicare. And importantly, this document basically leaves those alone. So from that point of view, this thing doesn't really get at what most people believe are the fundamental economic challenges to save the country.
KAYSo if the document doesn't square the circle in economic terms, how do Republicans think that it will sway voters come the midterm elections?
IPI think they know, as well as the Democrats, that talking about things like cutting Social Security and Medicare ain't going to win many votes. And that's basically why that's not in there. Like, this isn't just a Republican thing. Democrats haven't exactly put out their balanced budget plan either. And the Deficit Commission that the president appointed early this year is nicely slated to report after the elections. There's talk there of some kind of a proposal on Social Security. But I don't think the Republicans expect that they will actually be able to implement this plan. I mean, I can imagine a scenario under which they, you know, have the votes after November to actually put much, if any, of this plan into place. And that's why they didn't really have to sweat those details.
TUMULTYYou know, I think the larger message is one that was laid out by my colleague Dan Balz in this morning's Washington Post. The larger message here -- it's not about programmatic details. It is -- we will stop the Obama agenda. And that, I think, is one message that does come through pretty clear in this document.
KAYBut some Republicans have criticized the leadership for making this pledge at all because they say, listen, we were doing fine anyway. Why have we given the Democrats some ammunition? Dante.
CHINNIWell, you know, this -- that was actually -- that was said in 1994 as well. I mean, this was -- this was an attempt -- this is an attempt to nationalize the election on the Republican side, which is what you want to do when you're out of power, and you're trying to, you know, basically take on the administration. Will it work? I don't know. Ultimately, you know, we think a lot about the stuff in Washington. I honestly think documents like this are written for us to talk about. And then after the election, they can go back and say -- if they capture the House -- say, look, look, this document, this was one of the things we did, and it organized our voters. I don't know ultimately if it's really going to happen.
KAYThey're not talking about this in Oklahoma. You're right there.
CHINNII really don't think so. No. I think most people don't -- have no idea what it is, and they probably won't know either.
KAYOkay. Karen, one of the things that the pledge to America contains is a proposal to repeal President Obama's healthcare law. We've just had the sixth month anniversary -- if you can call it that -- of the passing of the healthcare legislation. And the president took himself to a backyard gathering. I always find these events sort of slightly awkward, and he doesn't look the most natural in these settings. But this is him trying to say, listen, Americans have benefited from the passage of the healthcare bill. Is it washing?
TUMULTYYou know, back in March when the Democrats were getting ready to pass this and send it to President Obama's desk, they were saying our problem with this issue is that we have to have a product that we can sell to the American public. And once this passes, people are going to understand its great benefits and rally behind it. Well, in fact, all the pollings suggest that since it has passed, opposition to it has only grown and grown dramatically.
KAYAnd Democrats are running from it as a campaign issue.
TUMULTYThat's it -- to the degree you hear any Democrats talking about it at all on the campaign trail, at least from my experience, is the ones who voted against it talking about that. So I think what the White House is trying to do, what the president's trying to do, is to remind people that there are some benefits in this bill, and some of them, in fact, kicked in this week. For instance, there is no longer a lifetime cap on benefits. If you get very, very sick, you won't run through your health benefits. There are new guarantees that if you have a child up to the age of 26, they can stay on your plan. Insurance companies are no longer allowed to deny coverage to sick children. But these are all provisions that, while they affect very vulnerable people do not affect a lot of people. And the real benefits from this bill -- if in fact they do turn out to be as advertised -- are something that Americans are not going to begin to see for another three years.
KAYSo, Greg Ip, in terms of the midterm elections, is it very clear -- the healthcare reform bill is a negative for Democrats? Is there anything in it that's positive, the kind of new processes that Karen was laying out that are now in effect?
IPWell, it's like Karen said. A lot of those things people aren't going to notice and for quite a few years. The most important provisions don't come into place till 2014. Now, add another thing, which is that many of the benefits are actually things you will never notice because in some instances are designed to prevent things that would cause you to lose your coverage or your premiums to go up later on. And people don't tend to thank politicians for disasters that never happened. And the other problem they've had, I think, is the kind of the law of -- you know, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. So when these provisions, which for example allowed parents to keep children on their own plan until May 26 that barred insurance companies from kicking off children for pre-existing conditions -- when those came into effect, insurance companies did the natural thing...
IP...they started jacking up premiums. They started dropping child-only plans, and unfortunately that's given the opponents of the plan excellent talking points. And now you -- if there's any benefit, it's that perhaps the administration can villainize the insurance plan.
KAYRun against the insurance company.
IPAgain, you know, that's one thing that usually pulls (word?)
CHINNIYou know, I mean, the one thing -- it's late for that though, right? And this -- in terms of this election cycle, 2012 is still, you know, off in the future, but it's a little late for that. And in terms of -- I think that the meaning for the 2010 election, you know, if -- most people voting on the economy, they're not voting on healthcare, really, when we get right down to it. And the people who are voting on healthcare are not voting in favor of what happened in Washington. They're voting against it. So is it a net negative? Yeah, it's hard to see it in this election, anyways, when I think about that.
KAYOkay. Dante Chinni is correspondent for Patchwork Nation Project of "PBS NewsHour." He's also with The Christian Science Monitor. Karen Tumulty is a national political reporter for The Washington Post. Greg Ip is the U.S. economics editor of The Economist. He's also the author of "The Little Book of Economics: How the Economy Works in the Real World." The phone number here is 1-800-433-8850. The e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org. We've got a lot more to cover. There's a lot of action in Congress. There's the latest from the Tea Party candidates from Christine O'Donnell. We'll be getting to that after this short break. Do stay listening.
KAYWelcome back. I'm Katty Kay of the BBC, sitting in for Diane Rehm. You've joined the Friday News Roundup. I'm in the studio with Dante Chinni from the Christian Science Monitor. Karen Tumulty is here with me. She's with The Washington Post. And Greg Ip from The Economist is also with me. We've been talking about the Pledge to America from the Republican Party. That's their blueprint for the congressional elections, healthcare as well. Of course, we marked the sixth month anniversary of that. Let's talk about what's been going on in Congress because it has been a sort of busy, but not particularly productive, week in Congress. Why couldn't Democrats, Karen, muster the votes to pass immigration and campaign finance reform and repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell?
TUMULTYBecause they were trying to get them through the Senate and that these are controversial pieces of legislation, and it takes 60 votes to stop a filibuster. I think the fact that Harry Reid decided to even bring these things up was more aimed at -- I mean, there's no way he thought that this was going to pass. It was more aimed at trying to give Democrats a reason to vote, to motivate them, because one of the biggest problems that the party has going against it as they go into this November election is the fact that one side is very energized and the other is not.
KAYSo all of those numbers are suggesting that the Tea Party might be detrimental, actually is outweighed by the energy factor on the Republican side, Dante?
CHINNIYeah, I mean, -- well, I don't know about that. Well, it depends on where you go. Obviously, the Tea Party is having a negative effect on the party in Delaware. I think, you know -- what we did today on our site is we actually looked at Tea Party meet-ups from July to September, and we organized them by congressional district to see where they are. You know -- and the fact of the matter is the Tea Party is strongest -- when you look at it, this is a measure of enthusiasm at least. They're strongest in the places that -- where the districts really aren't in play. They're either solid Democratic or solid Republican. In the top 20 districts where there have been the most meet-ups, only two of those seats are toss-ups. The other 18, they're evenly split between Democrats and Republicans. The other 18 seats are either solid or likely Democratic or Republican.
CHINNIYou know, I'm not sure -- I think the Tea Party ultimately is a big enthusiasm vote and helps Republicans in terms of gubernatorial races and maybe, in some cases, Senate races if they didn't nominate a candidate that's unpalatable. But I'm not sure -- what I really want to see going forward for the next couple of weeks is, what effect do they have on congressional districts? We act in Washington like these congressional districts. It's one big race. It's not. It's 435 little races, and the vast majority of them aren't going to flip from party -- from one party to another. And the interesting thing is, when you look at the enthusiasm, maybe the Tea Party doesn't play the role that we think it does in this congressional race.
KAYSo, Greg, getting back to the Don't Ask, Don't Tell repeal attempt in the Senate this week, is that the kind of thing that has an impact on Democrats in terms of energizing them? Karen was suggesting that the, you know, Democrats knew they weren't going to get through the Senate. They didn't get a single Republican vote on this. Does it work? Does this energize -- help energize the Democratic base?
IPI think there is some raw political calculus going on here. One of the things that Harry Reid did was he added an amendment to speed up the path to citizenship for immigrants.
IPThis was clearly aimed at motivating the Hispanic vote, especially in the Southwest where Harry Reid is in a very tight race for his own reelection. Now, we've seen this movie before. They already -- he already tried doing this with the cap-and-trade bill early this year, and he promptly lost to Lindsey Graham, who is the major Republican sponsor of that -- not, I don't think, because Graham is intrinsically opposed to it, but this immigration is a big controversial issue. And the notion that you're going to make any significant progress this year on that, it's just not on. And so going back to what Karen was saying, I think that they knew this wasn't going to pass. So as I read the Don't Ask, Don't Tell -- the failure of the Pentagon authorization bill...
IP...to pass, it was mostly a result of this calculus. Now, Harry Reid switched his vote at the very last minute and voted against it. Now it's an odd little maneuver that preserves the prerogative for him to reintroduce the bill stripped of some of these controversial amendments because, one way or another, the Pentagon has to get funded.
KAYAnd Vice President Biden even called Susan Collins, saying, please, will you vote in favor of the defense authorization bill? She didn't in the end. Karen, had they really thought she might do?
TUMULTYYou know, there are very few people on the other side of the aisle that the Democrats can work with at all, and she is one of them. So it was probably worth a shot. But interestingly enough, Maine is one of the states where the Republican primary process has been -- where the Tea Party has a great deal of influence among the relatively, you know, small group of people who vote in a Republican primary. So Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, who's up more -- sooner than Susan Collins -- really have to be watching their right flank right now.
KAYOkay, let's go to...
CHINNIOr looking to leave.
KAYMy God. Which, one wonders.
TUMULTYRight. That worked real well for Arlen Specter.
KAYLet's go to an e-mail from Carrie in Cincinnati, who writes to us, "Assuming the Republicans or Tea Party candidates take control of the House and/or Senate, what do your guests speculate as to the effect on the markets and the economy? Nosedive to a double-dip and back to the '30s as a result of pulling back support of policies too soon?" Greg.
IPWell, I wouldn't forecast a nosedive back to the '30s, but there's no question the economy is still in a very fragile state. We're going at around a 2 percent rate, which is not even fast enough to bring the unemployment rate down, which is still stuck at around 9 1/2 percent. Now, I'm on the optimistic side of things. I think that rate of growth will pick up, and we're seeing some positive signs. Job numbers a little bit, you know, better than they had been, stock market seems to be getting some of its animal spirits back, but that said, you don't want to then, you know, walk in there and sort of, like, raise everybody's taxes and pull back all the federal support there has been for individuals and states and local governments. And unfortunately, that's exactly the kind of train wreck, which seems all too uncomfortably possible, given the kind of paralysis we're seeing in Congress.
TUMULTYAnd this, by the way, is not just because of the numbers of Tea Party candidates who are going to be elected, but I think the psychological effect that so many of these Republican primaries have had on the other Republicans. I really think, particularly with spending bills, a lot of Republicans are going to look at the prospect that any vote for spending could, you know, trigger a 30-second ad, could bring in an opponent in the primary. And, I think, they're going to decide that the only safe vote is no.
CHINNIAnd I also think -- let's -- you know, if the Republicans take the House and/or the Senate, you know, I do think, like, calling this the Republican/Tea Party taking control of the House or the Senate -- we don't really know. I mean, there are a lot of fishers within the Tea Party. The Tea Party -- when you really look at these places up close and these individual communities, it's about different things. I mean, yes. It's all about cutting government spending in places, you know, but they have different secondary agendas. In some places, it's about immigration. In some places, it really is -- it has taken on aspects -- the Glenn Beck kind of religious element in other places -- but I want to hold on to my gun. I'm not really sure how cohesive the movement is. It's going to be interesting to watch.
KAYWell, one way in which it is cohesive, is that there is a unified desire to cut taxes, to shrink government and to keep taxes low. One thing that the Democrats decided this week was to hold off on a vote on extending the Bush tax cuts. Why did they do that, Greg?
IPI don't think they thought they would get the votes. I mean, I saw Mitch McConnell saying, well, you know, you didn't even introduce the bill. I think the reason they didn't introduce the bill is they knew what was going to happen. And it's a very crowded schedule, just a few weeks left before they -- or not even that -- before they go to the elections. And so what has happened is that they figured everybody knows that a lot of the important stuff is going to have to get done in the lame duck session when Congress reconvenes between the elections and when the new Congress gets seated in January.
IPWhat I worry about is they're trying to, like, shoehorn a lot of stuff into that session. I mean, going back to the Don't Ask, Don't Tell, one of the less talked about consequences is, as a result, we haven't passed the Pentagon's appropriations bill. In fact, we haven't passed any appropriations bill. So at some point, Congress are going to have to come up with a way to fund the government six days from now, which is the beginning of the new fiscal year.
KAYWas the tax cut -- the decision on the tax cuts bill, Karen, also to try and protect vulnerable Democrats? They got a lot of push-back from Democrats, who had said, listen, we cannot go into this election saying that we're going to raise taxes at any level.
TUMULTYYeah, I think the calculus on this issue has shifted quite a bit in the last few weeks.
KAYWhen you look at the polling, it's actually extraordinary.
TUMULTYAnd -- well -- and...
KAYA majority of Americans feel that the tax cuts should not be extended for the wealthiest Americans.
TUMULTYBut at the same time, there are a number of vulnerable Democrats who are all of a sudden saying, you know, this is maybe not the time to be raising taxes on anyone. And so where, I think, the Democrats thought they had a -- an issue that could really appeal to swing voters' appeal to independence, I think the calculus on that has been -- has changed in part because they were going to have difficulty getting some of their own members to vote for it.
KAYKaren Tumulty of The Washington Post. And just a quick note, we are having problems with our telephones. If you are trying to reach us, do send us an e-mail to email@example.com, or use Facebook as well and send your questions in through that. But as soon as the phones are working again, we will let you know. There is an e-mail here from Ron. "John Boehner hit the nail on the head yesterday when he declared, we are not going to change anything. What makes anyone think that they will do something, anything now when they did absolutely nothing to stop the train wreck that the economy became when they were the majority in Congress?" Which, of course, Dante, has been the president and the Democrats' message. They are just going to take us back to the bad, old policies of the past. Politically, that doesn't seem to be working very well for the Democrats.
CHINNIYeah, I mean, there was actually a poll I was reading this morning from AP saying that, you know, when you compare, people really don't like Democrats. But when you look at the numbers -- Democrats in Congress -- but they actually don't like Republicans more, but, you know, we don't like their policies either. But the bottom line is things are bad. And when things are bad, change is the operative word and, and...
KAYAnd looking backward, as the president has done over the last few weeks, on the campaign trail, is that having any effect? I know Democrats insist that it is. I've heard people in the White House insist that this is having an impact. Are you seeing it having an impact?
CHINNII think you try it. I just -- I think that -- I do think that they're -- Republicans are excited and motivated to try to vote Democrats out. And I think it's -- it is tough. It's tough. Look, it's not that the problems we're in right now are Obama or President Obama's fault, but they're there. And he's in office right now, and he's going to take the heat for it.
KAYOkay. Let's go to Valerie who writes to us on Facebook. Valerie writes, "I'll be outraged if they take away protections that the healthcare reform bill gives me and my family. I want some regulations on credit card companies to keep them on the up and up. If members of Congress want to prove that they are willing to be fiscally responsible, why not take a pay cut and promise not to get another raise until they balance the budget?" Greg, I can really see that happening.
IPYou know, they can cut their salaries to zero, and I can -- that would solve approximately 10 seconds of the deficit.
KAYI think there's something in Paul Krugman's plan that if they want to -- if the -- if, as in the Pledge to America, they actually want to cut all the taxes, they say, and protect all the entitlements that they say they want to protect, then they would have to get away with Congress altogether anyway, so everyone gets a pay cut.
IPExactly. That's right, yeah. But then we wouldn't be talking about them either...
IP...so that will be no fun.
TUMULTYOh, by the way, and one of the little things tucked into the Constitution is a...
TUMULTY...a provision that they cannot cut their own pay or raise it in the same session that they're in.
KAYOkay. Let's talk a little bit about some of the specific Tea Party candidates. I know we spoke a lot about Christine O'Donnell last week after her victory in Delaware. There's a new poll released on Thursday, a Time/CNN poll, showing that the Democratic nominee, Chris Coons, is a heavy favorite against Christine O'Donnell now. He holds a 16 point lead. If, on the other hand, Mike Castle, who'd been running against O'Connell, had actually won that primary, he would hold a double-digit margin against Coons. Karen, what do you make of those numbers?
TUMULTYWell, I think this takes us back to, what was the conventional wisdom of this race in the beginning? When Mike Castle got into the race, it was assumed that he was a shoo-in, and that was one of the reasons. At least people in Delaware had speculated that the vice president's son, Beau Biden, did not get into the race. So, you know, I think from the very outset, this has -- it has been pretty clear that, you know, Mike Castle would have been the strongest general election candidate for either party.
KAYOkay. So, Dante, is he considering doing a Lisa Murkowski and writing in his name?
CHINNIHe reportedly is. I'm not sure -- I'm, you know, I'm not -- it's late. It's, you know, you're trying to step in. It is going to be a write-in...
KAYI knew Lisa Murkowski needed it, what, a week or so ago, so...
CHINNIYeah, and I just don't know how much success she'll have either. I mean...
CHINNI…write-in campaigns are difficult. And, and, you know...
KAYBelow his name is easier to spell with my, my help.
CHINNIAnd she's, and she's going to take, you know, and look, you know, like O'Donnell here. She is going to take a large -- you know, a section of Republican votes, a big section of Republicans that would have voted for Castle that are gone now.
TUMULTYI believe the last person to win a write-in campaign for the Senate was Strom Thurmond.
CHINNIYeah, that's right.
KAYQuite right. I'm Katty Kay of BBC World News America, and you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." If you'd like to join us, until our phones are working, please do so by e-mail, firstname.lastname@example.org. Greg, if I wanted to asked you about the Castle-Christine O'Donnell situation, because if he is considering a write-in, it looks like he won't get any support from Republicans. We're looking at a double standard here because Lisa Murkowski this week managed to hold on to her chairmanship in Congress. (unintelligible)
IPI don't know -- I don't know the internal dynamics going on there very well. I mean, the Republican Party is obviously somewhat torn over this issue, you know. The Castle -- the Delaware seat was their last best chance to take back the Senate, so I think they'd want to be unified behind somebody.
KAYKaren, why did the GOP caucus allow Murkowski to keep her ranking membership?
TUMULTYThey did not actually explain that. I think what they...
KAYIt was the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, I'm talking about.
TUMULTYRight. And I think that, you know, they would like -- if she somehow succeeds in this, they would like her to be caucusing with them when she comes back. But they took away her post in the Senate Republican leadership, but they did allow her to keep this ranking spot in the committee.
KAYAnd does she look like she's getting any more traction up in Alaska with this write-in campaign because of that? Does that have an impact on her standing up there or not?
IPThat's actually a very good question. I don't think -- I have not, I've not seen poll numbers on it. I don't -- I don't think -- you know, honestly, I just don't think she's going to have -- it's a tough slog for her up there. It's a tough -- it's tough as a write-in candidate. I mean, it can't hurt. I don't think ultimately it's really going to help her all that much.
KAYOkay. Let's go to -- a lot of questions here coming on in the Pledge to America and the GOP's position. And we have Patty who writes to us on Facebook as well, "The GOP didn't bolster the economy the last time they had power in Washington. What makes people think they're going to start now? It's pure bacon switch to ensure Boehner gets the speaker job, and the GOP gets the majority." Let's talk about Boehner in the speaker job, Karen, because in an interview with CNN, he came his closest yet to suggesting that that's exactly what he had his eye on.
TUMULTYWell, interestingly enough, I was in Texas this week, and some of -- you know, some of the Republican candidates are saying that they are -- and particularly the ones who are not incumbents -- they're saying they're not necessarily committed to voting for John Boehner. So I think part of this was in fact establishing some of his credibility. But look, I mean, he -- if he manages somehow to lead the Republicans back to a majority in the House, I think that job's going to be his, and if he fails -- if they fall short -- especially with these expectations...
TUMULTY...so high, that's where I think you see the bloodletting begin within the Republican conference.
KAYAnd, Karen, what would falling short mean? Is it just a question of taking the House, or are people now fixed on a much higher number than just taking the House -- just that 39 seats?
TUMULTYOh, I think a majority is a majority...
TUMULTY...especially in the House. Unlike the Senate, whoever has a majority plus one has a lot of power, can control the agenda. You don't really need these sort of super majority rules of the Senate, so they could do a lot. One thing, though, I think is worth mentioning is that the last time the Republicans took over Congress, in fact, Bill Clinton and the Republicans did a lot together.
TUMULTYThey did a crime bill. They did welfare reform. Ultimately, they decided -- both sides decided -- that it was really in their interest to get things done.
KAYWell, Greg, do you think we could be looking at a situation like that again? Because some of the conventional wisdom in Washington at the moment is that if the Republicans take over the House, we're looking at deadlock -- gridlock for the next couple of years. Nothing gets done because neither side wants to compromise. And, actually, if you look at the polls, you get much more mileage politically from not compromising than you do at the -- from compromising at the moment.
IPYou know, I've heard arguments go both ways on that. I mean, yeah, the lesson of '94 could be that the president triangulates, you know, that he finds common ground between the Democrats and the Republicans. And this is precisely present with...
KAYDoes it depend more on Obama's decisions than it does on the Republicans' decisions, do you think?
IPI'll defer to my colleagues on this, but I would say there are some very important differences, first of all, that both of the parties are more polarized than they were before. The Democrats are further to the left. Republicans are further to the right. You don't have, like, the Bob Doles, you know, who were kind of the statesmen of that year, who were willing to cross party lines and get stuff done.
KAYOkay. We're going to talk about that more just after this short break. Greg Ip is the U.S. economics editor of The Economist. Karen Tumulty is here with me. She's the national political reporter for The Washington Post. Dante Chinni is with us as well. He's with the "PBS NewsHour" and The Christian Science Monitor. I'm Katty Kay of the BBC. You're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." We're going to take a quick break. We've got more on this domestic hour of the Friday News Roundup just after this quick break.
KAYWelcome back. I'm Katty Kay of the BBC, sitting in for Diane Rehm. You've joined our domestic hour of the Friday News Roundup. The e-mail address here is email@example.com. And you can also find us on Facebook and send us question there or send us a tweet. We are having problems with our phone, so please bear with us on that. There's a problem with the 1-800-number. But do get in touch with us by e-mail or Facebook or tweet instead. I wanted to go to an e-mail that's come in from Bryan in Michigan. "The public opposition to the healthcare bill can show only one thing. The American people have not taken the time to learn what is in it. Is there a poll that has questions that would demonstrate the depth of knowledge of what is in the bill?" Interesting question there, Dante.
CHINNIYeah, we were just talking a little bit about this during the break, actually. And it's true. I don't -- this question, it's a little bit like, you know, do I like or dislike the healthcare bill? It's a little bit like right track, wrong track for the United States even. It's just like, I don't like it, but what is your -- why? What's -- what are the things you don't like about it? I have not seen a poll like that. I would like to see one. There was originally an early poll when they polled before the bill was passed.
KAYYou're right. There was a poll.
CHINNISpecific items. When they ask specific items, the people favored them. When they said...
CHINNI...you will favor the healthcare, they said, no.
KAYAnd that was the Democrats' argument, that, actually, when you ask about specific items, people favored it.
TUMULTYYou know that one of things that I hear, you know, as I talk to candidates and as I go around and travel their districts, is a number of people, though, are saying, you know, yes. The healthcare system needs to be reformed, but that is not our primary crisis right now. And you know, even a number of members are saying, in retrospect, they really wish that Barack Obama had not taken this on and essentially consumed an entire year getting it passed rather than dealing with things that would convince people that, in fact, he had his eye on the ball with the economy.
KAYWell, there are even members of the president's own team in the White House who have suggested that healthcare reform came at the cost of a huge amount of political capital. Greg Ip, we should talk a little about the movements at the White House -- comings and goings, particularly goings. Larry Summers has announced that he will be returning to Harvard. What does that mean for the president?
IPWell, first of all, this may have come as a surprise for most of us, but it wasn't inside the White House. He had a -- he had talked about this with the president and his advisors some months ago. The situation was he had actually ended up staying longer than he probably had planned to. And if he stays much longer, he doesn't get to hold on to his wonderful tenured position at Harvard, which is a really nice, you know, gig to have.
KAYNice peak if you can get it.
IPYeah, if you can get it, yeah. But I think it means a couple of things. First of all, Summers was part of this incredibly, you know, star-studded group of economic people that were brought in at the beginning. They included Peter Orszag, the budget director, Tim Geithner, the treasury secretary, Christina Romer, the chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers. They're all leaving now, with the exception of Tim Geithner. And it has, sort of, a mixed impact.
IPFirst of all, I think that their presence was one reason why the president was able to get a lot of incredibly activist stuff done, whether it's on the stress test for the banks, the stimulus proposal, and also, ironically, for all the flack that Obama and his team is getting from the business community and the Republican for being anti-business and pro-regulation. These people were a moderating influence within the White House and within the good Democratic (word?) is trying to make things a little less hostile to business than they otherwise would. An interesting question is whether the people that replaced them are either less inclined to be more, sort of, let's say fair or just don't have the statute within the White House to push that -- to maintain that position. 'Cause Larry Summers is not a -- he wins a lot of debates. And I'm sure that his presence shifted the needle quite a few times.
KAYOkay. We have phone number for you, 202-537-7870. I'll say that again. 202-537-7870. You can call us on that to put your questions and comments to the panel here. I'm afraid it's not a free phone number, so you will have to pay for the call. But there it is again, one more time, 202-537-7870. Karen Tumulty, do you have any more on the departure of Larry Summers and what it means for economic policy?
TUMULTYWell, I think that what -- this was a very high-octane economic team at the White House. And there was a lot of tension within that team. And that, I think, at least talking to people in the White House, had been growing. So, you know, I think at this point, everyone was ready to see a new set of horses put in there. Interestingly enough, Tim Geithner remains. And in some ways, he has been the most controversial member of that team. And...
KAYAnd does this mean that he is less likely to go, that they need some continuity going in off the midterms in their economics team?
TUMULTYHe is -- nobody that I have talked to thinks that he is likely to go. And, in fact, there are some provisions, I believe, in the financial regulatory bill that he has to implement that would suggest that he is going to stay as well. So I do think that this is, you know, it's something that happens in the administration.
TUMULTYThese guys have been running...
TUMULTY...flat out for two years, and people are just exhausted.
KAYIn fact, it's the norm, isn't it? That at this stage, we have a change over of personnel under what -- these guys are running on three or hours sleep at night. They...
KAY...got major problems facing them. It's not surprising that some of them are going to feel that they need to go down, Dante.
CHINNIFirst out of midterms, yeah.
KAYWhat's the word on who might succeed Larry Summers? Because one of the criticisms that this White House has faced has been from business community members who say that they have found that this White House is not receptive to them, that they have criticized the Obama administration of being hostile to business. Is this now an opportunity for the White House to put in somebody who has better ties to the business community? And is that the right decision for economic policy?
CHINNIWell, I think that -- I don't expect there to be a radical departure to the right or left. Now, I don't know. I mean, Greg, you're better at this than I am. But I don't -- I just -- I would imagine that they're going to keep on the path there. The names that have been floated so far, names like Laura Tyson and -- oh, God.
IPAnd (word?) from Xerox.
CHINNIRight. Yeah, I mean, they're not -- they're, you know -- and they are -- there -- if the question is, does he feel like he needs to appeal to the right or the left? Obama is kind of sandwiched in the middle here. But it's -- the names -- and Christina Romer's replacement, that is not a radical departure. If that's a sign of where they're going, they're going to go for continuity. I think there is a question of stature of who they get. Is it going to be another -- there -- I don't know if there's another Larry Summers.
KAYGreg, how legitimate is this criticism from business members that this is a White House that is unusually unfriendly -- if we can put it like that -- to members of the business community?
IPOn the substance, there's not a lot of -- there's not a lot to it. On the style, I think there is a lot to it. I mean, if you actually pushed business people on what it is they're upset about -- outside of some specific industries like the big banks who are affected by the Dodd-Frank Bill and the insurance companies who are affected by the health reform -- you can point to a lot of things. And indeed -- let's look at the oil thing, for example. The president actually wanted to open up parts of the Outer Continental Shelf to drilling and had, as a concession, you know, to the oil industry. And then the BP oil spill forced him to get tough. The problem Obama has, it's all style. You know, business people, they're really into touchy-feely sort of stuff, you know? And Bush did a lot of anti-business stuff too. His justice department basically drove Arthur Anderson into bankruptcy, right? But he caught the breaks because people thought he was one of them. And Obama, he doesn't -- you know, he's this, you know, this egg-head, cerebral person, you know...
KAYWho's never been in business.
IPYes, that's right. Who has...
IP...doesn't have any of those people around him. So when I hear that they want to put a business person in Larry Summers' position, I understand the motivation, but I worry that -- or I think that it could come across as tokenism. For one thing, that's a job that's, like, buried inside the west wing of White House. It's not normally considered a high-profile job.
KAYOkay. Let's go to the phones now to Reed in Havana, Fla. Reed, you've joined "The Diane Rehm Show."
REEDGood morning, Katty.
REEDI was wondering, in regard to the healthcare issue and the Pledge to America. Assuming that the House is taken over by the Republicans, what's -- and they pass some sweeping change or repeal of the healthcare reform -- what is to prevent President Obama from vetoing that? I don't think anybody assumes that anybody is going to get a two-thirds majority coming up. That's question number one. Number two, I heard Representative McCarthy talking about tort reform as the end all, cure all for the healthcare problem. I wonder why the Democrats just don't give it to them so they can turn around two years later and say see, that didn't work.
KAYOkay. I'm going to put those questions to Karen Tumulty. Reed, thanks very much.
TUMULTYYeah, those are all really interesting points. And you're right, Reed. Nobody believes that even if the Republicans do take control of the House, they're going to have anything like a veto-proof majority. So what they say they can do -- and I'm not sure how well this would work -- but they say they can defund this bill. They say that if they don't provide the money for it, it'll be like a car sitting out in your backyard with no gas in it.
TUMULTYOn tort reform, that's an interesting issue, too, because there was a point early on in the negotiations for this bill where President Obama, in a closed-door meeting with the Republicans, turned to them and said, you know what, I know that you guys have some concerns. I'm ready to negotiate on tort reform -- and essentially, he said, if you put something on the table, and the Republicans never did. In some instances, you know, you almost think that they'd rather have the issue than the victory.
KAYOkay, let's go to Jason in Gainesville, Fla. Jason, you have a question for my panel.
JASONYeah, I was wondering, so the Senate Republicans have dropped the F-bomb, you know, repeatedly -- the filibuster. And I'm wondering to what extent the Democrats have actually, like, called them on it, because, you know, it seems like all they have to do is say the word, and the Democrats go running, versus actually, like, making that whole scene play out.
TUMULTYOh, Jason. That is...
IPI think that's...
TUMULTY...one of my favorite issues. I -- you know, the fact is, is if you've ever been in the Senate chamber during what they call a filibuster these days, it's essentially -- the clerk of the Senate sits there and reads the roll call to an empty chamber. I have long thought that one of the ways that either side could -- I mean, whoever has the majority, they ought to just let them do it, force them to stay on the floor. One reason they don't, is that requires the majority to put 51 of their own members on the floor. But it can be done, and it has been done as recently as the late 1980s. In fact, Robert Byrd, when he was majority leader, actually sent out the Senate sergeant-at-arms and had him round up members and force them to come to the floor.
CHINNIYeah, I think in the '90s, too, Alfonse D'Amato did, was filibustering something and had a -- did a very theatrical, being taken off the floor, barely awake.
TUMULTYBut I do believe if they made them do it, I think there would be a lot fewer of them.
KAYOkay, Greg, here's an e-mail from you. It comes from Gina in Massachusetts. "I read a comment yesterday that the Euro was now up to $1.33. And that implied that Europe is anticipating a GOP win, and our recovery will stagnate." Is that true?
IPEurope isn't in charge of the value of their currency any more than we are in charge of the value of theirs now. Yeah...
KAYEurope is not in charge of that -- an awful lot at the moment.
IPNo. But, I mean, currencies do matter in politics. And I point out the fact that the big currency story this week in politics is that the House is about to pass an anti-China currency bill. And there's a lot of political theatrics here as well. One, it's a bipartisan bill because one thing Democrats and Republicans can agree on is that we're losing a lot of jobs to unfair trading practices from China. Interestingly, it doesn't look like we're likely to have anything from the Senate on this front anytime soon. So in some sense, it's a free vote. And I might actually get some movement from China on some of these issues.
KAYI'm Katty Kay. You're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." And if you'd like to join us, please call 202-537-7870, 202-537-7870. Let's go to Allan in Indianapolis, Ind. Allan, you've joined the program.
ALLANYes. My question goes back to a further statement you said earlier about how much time Obama has been spending on the health bill versus working on jobs. And my question is, how would this have been different had the bank debacle never happened? And then the health, though, would not be in this spot.
KAYOkay. Allan, that's a major rewrite of history. Dante.
CHINNIYeah, I mean, if the bank collapses don't happen, then Obama, his…
KAYWe would be in a very different situation.
CHINNI...his entire first term looks different. But, you know, I thought it was interesting. At the event in Falls Church, Obama spent -- at the beginning of that speech, was trying to link the decline in the economy to why he did focus on healthcare. I mean, there's a little bit of jujitsu in there trying to work his way around it because they do sense that. And I just -- you know, it's hard. The focus is on the economy. People are just going to be focused on the economy. And, you know, it's a shame, because it's a major -- it is a major accomplishment, like it or hate in terms of the legislative accomplishments. Amazing they got it through, but it's just not what people are really even focused on in this election, for or against.
KAYMaria in Arlington, Va. Maria, you have question for the panel.
MARIAYes, good morning.
MARIAI would like to comment about Pledge to America.
MARIAAnd I think it's just a rehash of Contract with America. And again, just very vague generalities that when you even look at that vagueness, it doesn't really add up to anything coherent, anything that will help move the country forward. If you look at Paul Ryan's budget plan, who's currently on the Budget Committee, he has a road map to America. Details in his plan are to further cut taxes more than what we're addressing right now with the Bush tax cuts so that the upper top 1 percent would pay a lower tax rate than the middle class. He would end corporate taxes...
KAYSo, Maria, sorry, one second. Do you -- are you suggesting, then, that you think that the Pledge to America was actually being disingenuous and that the Republican measures would be a lot more draconian?
MARIAOf course, they don't want to turn on -- you know, both Republican Party of the rich, by the rich, for the rich.
KAYOkay. Let me put that to Dante Chinni.
CHINNII mean, to be fair, I mean, Paul Ryan's proposal is very dramatic and is -- but most people have not signed on to it. It does not have a lot of -- even among Republicans on Capitol Hill because, I think, they see it's politically unpalatable. I don't know what they think about it philosophically, but I don't think -- I don't know if it has the momentum to go anywhere.
IPYeah, I would say that. Actually, I think Ryan's document is quite different. It is actually a serious document.
IPNumbers do add up. And that may be exactly why it's not being put out there as a campaign document.
KAYKaren, here's an e-mail for you. It comes from Rob. "A guest," -- and I think it was you -- "mentioned defunding projects that was specifically with reference to the healthcare bill. How is this any different than the starve-the-beast methodology of Reaganomics?"
TUMULTYNot at all as a matter of fact. And I think that, you know, I think that Republicans are pretty explicit that that is precisely what they would do if that in fact is the only tool that would be at their disposal, if for instance they had control of only one House of Congress.
IPWell, there's an interesting question out there and I'm not sure the answer is (unintelligible) but in order to defund some of these agencies, they would have to pass a bill which the president could veto. Isn't that right?
TUMULTYWell, the thing is what they argue is that they would also -- it would be in the appropriations bills that they would not provide the money to do it. So the agencies -- again, it's the car without the gas -- it would be -- their analogy is that it would be sitting out in the yard with no fuel to run on.
KAYAnd, Dante, this really gets us back to the -- what we were talking a little bit about before our break about where the direction goes if the Republicans win the House. Are we looking at two years of nothing getting done?
KAYOr do you see a situation -- and Greg was mentioning this -- of where the president tries to triangulate, and we could get a lot of action as we did in '94?
CHINNIWell, I don't know. I mean, I don't know how serious to take the document -- the contract, this…
KAYThe Pledge to America.
CHINNI...the Pledge to America, sorry. But I think there's a lot of -- I think Greg was right. First of all, there are real differences in terms of the GOP's move for the right and the Democrats move for the left. But I also think there were things that Bill Clinton actually wanted to get done. Welfare reform, they might have had different ideas about what they wanted done, but they both wanted to address it. I don't see a lot of elements in this document that Obama would say, oh, yeah, I'm -- we need to attack that.
KAYDante Chinni is a correspondent for the Patchwork Network -- Nation Project with "PBS NewsHour" and The Christian Science Monitor. Karen Tumulty is a national political reporter for The Washington Post. Grep Ip has been with us. He's from The Economist. Thank you all so much for joining me.
TUMULTYThanks a lot.
KAYI'm Katty Kay of the BBC, sitting in for Diane Rehm. Thank you so much for listening.
ANNOUNCER"The Diane Rehm Show" is produced by Sandra Pinkard, Nancy Robertson, Susan Nabors, Denise Couture and Monique Nazareth. The engineer is Tobey Schreiner. Dorie Anisman answers the phones. Visit drshow.org for audio archives, transcripts, podcasts and CD sales. Call 202-885-1200 for more information. Our email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. And we're on Facebook and Twitter. This program comes to you from American University in Washington. This is NPR.
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