The word is that President Barack Obama plans to move ahead on his own with immigration reform as early as next week. But Republicans promise a fight. Some are even warning of a government shutdown if the president goes through with unilateral action. Just days into the lame-duck session, the House pushes forward on a bill to approve the keystone XL pipeline. The Senate could be close behind. The Supreme Court takes up the question of gerrymandering, weighing the role of race in Alabama redistricting. And the United States Department of Veterans Affairs announces plans to restructure and improve service for veterans. A panel of journalists joins guest host Tom Gjelten for analysis of the week’s top national news stories.

Guests

  • Perry Bacon Senior political reporter, NBC News. Former national political reporter at Time and The Washington Post.
  • Olivier Knox Chief Washington correspondent, Yahoo! News.
  • Karen Tumulty National political reporter, The Washington Post.

Video: Will Loretta Lynch Be Confirmed As Attorney General?

The nomination of Loretta Lynch as the next U.S. Attorney General was in some eyes a surprise from a president who tends to turn to his inner circle for cabinet nominations.

But the current U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York could be more easily confirmed than some others who were considered for Eric Holder’s spot, as Republicans could turn the process into less of a look into Lynch’s record and more of a referendum on President Barack Obama’s relationship with the Department of Justice.

Watch our panel discuss the issue above

Video: How Will Republicans Respond To An Executive Order On Immigration?

President Barack Obama has said he will use “every tool in his box” to get things done in the last two years of his term—including, some have speculated, an Executive Order on immigration.

But that strategy may not offer lasting reform, said Olivier Knox, the chief Washington correspondent for Yahoo! News, on The Diane Rehm Show’s Nov. 14 news roundup.

If Congress decides to act, new legislation would replace the Executive Order, so pressure is on for Republicans to come up with an alternative, Knox said.

Every Republican “will tell you that the immigration issue is going to be important in 2016 and beyond, and if the party wants to remain a viable national party in that respect they’re going to have to find their own path here,” Knox said. “This is going to put a lot of pressure on them to come up with an alternative.”

 

Domestic News Roundup (Full Video)

Watch our full Domestic News Hour from Nov. 14, 2014.

Transcript

  • 10:06:54

    MR. TOM GJELTENThanks for joining us. I'm Tom Gjelten of NPR sitting in for Diane Rehm. Diane is in Indianapolis on a visit to WFYI. She'll be back Monday. Congress pushes forward on the Keystone XL Pipeline with President Obama signaling a possible veto. The Supreme Court takes up racially based gerrymandering and the VA announces and overhaul. The goal is to improve service to veterans.

  • 10:07:20

    MR. TOM GJELTENHere to discuss this week's top national stories on the Friday News Roundup, Perry Bacon of NBC News, Karen Tumulty of The Washington Post and Olivier Knox of Yahoo News. How are you all?

  • 10:07:33

    MS. KAREN TUMULTYJust fine.

  • 10:07:34

    MR. PERRY BACONGreat.

  • 10:07:35

    GJELTENThanks for coming in. This is going to be a great hour, I promise. You can join our conversation, 1-800-433-8850 is our phone number, drshow@wamu.org is our email and you know how to find us on Facebook or Twitter. One other thing, you can watch us. This is the one hour of the week when we live stream video of our show. You can find it on our website, drshow.org.

  • 10:08:02

    GJELTENSo we're officially in a lame duck Congress, but there's nothing lame about the showdown that seems to be brewing, right, Karen?

  • 10:08:12

    TUMULTYNot at all. You know, what's been interesting is the president, the day after the election, comes out in his news conference, says, you know, I am going to use every tool available to me for every minute that remains in my presidency and it's striking, the degree to which he seems to have really meant this. You know, on Monday...

  • 10:08:34

    GJELTENLet's start with immigration.

  • 10:08:35

    TUMULTYWell, on immigration, which is probably the most sort of inflammatory of the issues that's out there, it is widely expected now that the president is going to basically make maximum use of what he believes his executive powers are to issue an executive action maybe as early as next week, possibly next month. And, you know, there's as many as 5 million -- I've even heard 6 million people who are currently in the country illegally could be sort of freed from the worry of deportation.

  • 10:09:10

    TUMULTYBut beyond that, we've seen him on Monday, he came out of the gate with a very strong statement leaning, essentially, on the FCC to protect net neutrality, something that caused some complaints on Capitol Hill because it would mean exercising greater regulatory powers over the telecom companies. And then, on Tuesday, he announces this global warming deal with China. So this really does seem to be a president who has decided that, you know, maybe it's in his interest not to accommodate this new Congress, but to actually pick some fights with it.

  • 10:09:45

    GJELTENWell, Perry, let's just spend one minute on immigration. What Karen already sort of went through what he's likely to do. What will be the reaction on Capitol Hill. I mean, we've certainly seen some tough words from Republican leaders there.

  • 10:10:00

    BACONAnd you're gonna see tough action, too, is my suspicion. So there was talk about, a few months ago, that maybe this action only affect maybe one million people or be a small election. But now, we're talking about 5 million. It's about half of the people who are here illegally. As many about 11 or 12 million here illegally. And we're talking about 5 to 6 million, so that's a huge number. The Republicans are surprised by that.

  • 10:10:20

    BACONAnd they're going to likely be angered by that. What can they really do? You're already hearing talk about Capitol Hill and Boehner did not rule out some kind of like fight over the government funding bill and maybe even a government shutdown over this. So I think you're gonna see a really strong conflict here.

  • 10:10:35

    GJELTENOlivier, what's the, you know, down the road, what is the impact of this? I mean, do the Republicans have any kind of dilemma here that if they really make a big fuss about this it'll hurt them? I mean, what are the considerations that people on both sides of the aisle are thinking right now?

  • 10:10:53

    MR. OLIVIER KNOXWell, Republicans actually have several dilemmas. One currently in the immediate response to his executive orders. As Perry pointed out, John Boehner's not ruling out a shutdown, but the bulk of the Republican leadership, anyway, and the moderates that remain are arguing against that. Boehner is looking at things like another lawsuit, expanding the lawsuit he's already filed against the president.

  • 10:11:15

    MR. OLIVIER KNOXSo that's one of the early dilemmas, how do they accommodate conservatives who are eager for a shutdown fight. Down the road, though, you know, every national Republican will tell you that the immigration issue is going to be important in 2016 and beyond. And if the party wants to remain a viable national party, in that respect, they're gonna have to find their own path here.

  • 10:11:34

    MR. OLIVIER KNOXThis is gonna put a lot of pressure on them to come up with an alternative.

  • 10:11:38

    GJELTENWell, one thing an executive order does is it kicks the can down the road because in 2016, with a new president, you're starting all over again, right? I mean, a new president is gonna have to either do this all over again or leave it to Congress.

  • 10:11:52

    KNOXWell, I think it actually -- I think the executive doesn't lapse unless they...

  • 10:11:56

    GJELTENBut those people aren't gonna be deported, no.

  • 10:11:57

    KNOXRight. And so the question -- that's the big question for the next president, whoever he or she is, right? Do you roll this back or not? For that matter, does Congress pass legislation that supplants it? I mean, President Obama has said repeatedly now, look, you're making me do this by not acting on your own. If you pass some kind of legislation on this, then, you know, that'll take the place of these executive orders.

  • 10:12:16

    GJELTENKaren, you also mentioned climate and we're gonna get to that in the next hour, but to what extent can this big deal that U.S. and China have signed to cap climate emissions be undone or be blocked by Republican opposition on Capitol Hill?

  • 10:12:35

    TUMULTYYou know, parts of it can, but the fact is that the deal itself is not subject to -- it's not a treaty so it doesn't have to be ratified by the Senate.

  • 10:12:45

    GJELTENSo it's not like Kyoto.

  • 10:12:47

    TUMULTYRight, right. Now, you know, Mitch McConnell is arguing that, you know, it's not tough enough on the Chinese and it's not requiring enough of them, but the fact is that until now, you know, one of the arguments that conservatives had used against any sort of action on the part of the United States was, well, what's the point?

  • 10:13:07

    TUMULTYIf China's not going along, you know, what would we be accomplishing? So it's gonna be quite, I think, a big issue going forward.

  • 10:13:17

    GJELTENPerry, one other issue that could conceivably produce a fight between the White House and Congress is President Obama's nomination of Loretta Lynch for attorney general. First, give us a little background on Loretta Lynch. Not exactly a household name, but she does have a strong reputation.

  • 10:13:37

    BACONThis was a pick that felt like it was out of nowhere. I mean, as Olivier was saying earlier, Obama's sort of known for picking people in his circle, people he's known for a long time. And Ms. Lynch was not that at all. One thing about her, though, is she actually went to Harvard with Eric Holder's wife and they were in the same sorority together.

  • 10:13:53

    BACONAnd also, she's the head of a -- Holder has an advisory committee for the (word?) office and Lynch is the head of that. So Lynch is not close to Obama, but she's close to Holder. She also has the advantage of -- she's U.S. attorney in the area around Brooklyn so she has the advantage also of not -- she hasn't had a long history of public statements that are very liberal so it's probably easy to confirm her.

  • 10:14:12

    BACONSo the advantage of that is she may have Holder's views, which the White House wants, but does not have Holder's record, which Republicans would oppose. So the guess is she can be confirmed pretty easily. The challenge will be do the Republicans want to use her confirmation as a way to -- they're gonna ask her, do you support this immigration action? Is this legal?

  • 10:14:31

    BACONAnd the fight will be less about Lynch and more about Obama and using the confirmation process as a way to fight him.

  • 10:14:36

    GJELTENWell, not only fight -- I mean, there's a lot of lingering resentment of Eric Holder. I mean, Eric Holder's attorney general office was a real focus of controversy and confrontation between the White House and Congress over the last few months, you know, fast and furious and so on.

  • 10:14:53

    BACONExactly. Like, the -- Holder has leaned very heavily on trying to strike down voter ID laws, essentially, everywhere. And that's an issue, again, where I assume Lynch shares his point of view and therefore Republicans want to press those kinds of issues as well. Obama has used DOJ as a way to push gay rights, voting rights, a lot of things that help minorities and that's a place where there's going to be conflict.

  • 10:15:15

    BACONAnd I'm sure the Republicans want to ask Lynch, do you agree with the steps Holder has taken and will you take them.

  • 10:15:20

    GJELTENKaren, do you agree that she will be confirmed, in all likelihood?

  • 10:15:23

    TUMULTYI think that certainly she -- it's gonna be a lot smoother than some of the other candidates that people were talking about and so I think that it has both the element of surprise and the fact that she's been confirmed before.

  • 10:15:38

    GJELTENOlivier, there's so many issues to go through, as far as potential fighting points between the White House and Congress. Another obvious one is Obamacare, the Affordable Care Act. We have seen, again, a lot of statements from Republican leaders about what their intentions are with respect to rolling back or repealing that act? What are likely to see in the, first of all, in the lame duck Congress?

  • 10:16:05

    KNOXWell, the lame duck Congress, I wouldn't expect too much. They might try to tie some steps to tinker with Obamacare to the broader funding bill that they need to pass by December 11. The next Congress is the more interesting part because then, that's when Republican leadership have to cope with very conservative members of their caucus who want a full repeal fight and members of their caucus who want something short of that.

  • 10:16:28

    KNOXYou know, one of the big challenges is, a total repeal would undo -- would likely undo Medicaid expansion, which has been fairly popular and fairly successful in a lot of states. And the result would be, you know, taking away healthcare from millions of Americans. That poses a challenge. So we haven't yet seen the details of their strategy. That's something they're hashing out now in terms of do they want to repeal the medical -- the tax on medical devices for instance.

  • 10:16:52

    KNOXThere are some popular items in there, medical device tax repeal being one of them where Republicans could very credibly forge a bipartisan coalition in Congress, send it to the president and essentially force his hand.

  • 10:17:05

    TUMULTYYou know, the big threat, though, to the Affordable Care Act at the moment is coming not from Capitol Hill, but from the Supreme Court because there was a case that -- by saying that you could not give subsidies in states where there's a federal exchange operation, that could, in fact, make the whole law fall apart.

  • 10:17:22

    GJELTENRight. Meanwhile, another enrollment period is beginning tomorrow. Are we going to see a smoother process this time than we've seen in the past?

  • 10:17:32

    TUMULTYThe president has promised that, although it's interesting that this week we also saw HHS sort of lowering its estimates on the number of people who would actually be signing up this time around. But, you know, again, the president has said, a number of times, that this time there will be no glitches.

  • 10:17:51

    GJELTENPerry, what's your sense of this? Is this going to be a -- is this going to start going -- we didn't see as much of this in the last elections as some people were predicting we would see it being an issue.

  • 10:18:02

    BACONYou know, people I talk to on the ground in the states, particularly, say that the political rhetoric around this has subsided a little bit. The website worked. You had an estimated 10 million people get insurance over the last year. It's not the Republican support this at all, but it's like they're less -- like the governors in the various states in the South are less oppositional. They're doing less to sort of block the law from being implemented.

  • 10:18:23

    BACONSo I think the stage -- we're at a stage now where until the Supreme Court ruling happens there's not going to be a lot of huge news and I think the enrollment will be better than the last time.

  • 10:18:31

    GJELTENPerry Bacon is political reporter for NBC News. Previously, he was national political reporter at TIME and The Washington Post. My other guests here in the studio are Karen Tumulty, national political reporter for The Washington Post and Olivier Knox, chief Washington correspondent for Yahoo News. We're gonna take a short break. Stay tuned.

  • 10:20:00

    GJELTENAnd welcome back. I'm Tom Gjelten from NPR. I'm sitting in today for Diane Rehm. This is the first hour of our Friday News Roundup. This is the hour where we talk about domestic news. My guests are Perry Bacon from NBC News, Karen Tumulty from the Washington Post and Olivier Knox, chief Washington correspondent for Yahoo News.

  • 10:20:19

    GJELTENAnd before we get too far off the immigration subject, Jeremy from Alabama raises an interesting question. He's wondering about the potential effects of the kind of executive action that President Obama's talking about on people who are already in the immigration system. He is waiting to have his green card application being processed. And, Olivier, he's wondering if President Obama does, you know, executive action here, if that's going to sort of clog up the works and delay his naturalization status? Do you have any idea?

  • 10:20:54

    KNOXWell, one thing that we learned with the flood of underage immigrants earlier this year, one thing we learned is that it takes about 537 days from your first court appearance to see a judge a second time to get your process moving. So I would argue, first of all, that the process is clogged up currently.

  • 10:21:12

    KNOXThe kinds of -- we haven't seen exactly what President Obama plans to do but if the reports are accurate it probably will not have a big impact on people who are already in the system because -- at least not for green cards because he's really talking about refocusing deportation policy to say, if you've been here -- if you're the parents of someone who was born here, if you haven't committed any crimes, if you're working here, if you've been here longer than ten years, you don't have to worry so much about deportation.

  • 10:21:37

    KNOXIt's going to be interesting to see. Part of the plan as reported, would let them apply for work documents. And that certainly could create a glut of applications in a system that, as I said, is already clogged up. But I really -- I would not expect to see people who are already in the system to be in too much trouble in part because the president doesn't want to look for that fight. You know, if you've been -- if you're playing by the rules he doesn't want to punish you.

  • 10:22:02

    GJELTENI'm sure our listeners have a lot of questions or comments about the immigration subject. Remember our phone number is 800-433-8850. But let's move on now. Karen, a big issue that this -- even the lame duck congress, not even waiting for the new congress, is determined to take up and that is the Keystone Pipeline. We could have a vote what, today...

  • 10:22:28

    BACON...in the House.

  • 10:22:28

    GJELTEN...you know, in the house? Is that right, Karen?

  • 10:22:29

    TUMULTYYeah, and of course the big vote would be next week in the Senate. Something that Harry Reid had not previously allowed to happen in part because there was a chance it could pass.

  • 10:22:41

    GJELTENSo why is he going to do it now?

  • 10:22:42

    TUMULTYTo save Mary Landrieu's seat basically. One criticism...

  • 10:22:47

    GJELTENWho's running for reelection from Louisiana.

  • 10:22:49

    TUMULTY...from -- she was in a runoff for reelection in Louisiana. One criticism of Harry Reid was that the way he ran the Senate, he never allowed amendments which meant that a lot of Democrats who really wanted to demonstrate their independence from the Obama Administration had no opportunity in which to do that. They would go home and say, I'm an independent voice in Washington. And their constituents say, well, you know, you're voting with the administration 98 percent of the time.

  • 10:23:15

    TUMULTYThis is a chance to let her do that. But the White House has already signaled that it would plan to veto that bill in part because it's -- the Keystone XL Pipeline is still the subject of a court case. It's still under review by the State Department. And so we may see President Obama exercising his veto power for only the third time in his presidency. And this would be -- you know, the first two times were bills that came to him with kind of technical flaws. So this could also be the beginning if possibly a lot of vetoes from this president.

  • 10:23:49

    GJELTENRight. Well, he's not going to have to veto it unless it passes. But do you think -- you said before that Harry Reid feared that it might pass. Is it -- would you guess that it will pass?

  • 10:23:58

    TUMULTYI think there's a good chance that it would pass, yes, because, you know, the Democrats still have the votes to filibuster this. But, again, this is basically a -- this is a move on behalf of one Senator.

  • 10:24:12

    GJELTENPerry, what are the politics of this? I mean, what do the polls say? What are the arguments against it? What are the arguments for?

  • 10:24:20

    BACONThe president and a lot of Democrats make two arguments. One, this is -- it has (word?) of an environmental problem where you could have some kind of oil spill or something like that. That's the first problem. And the second one is, there's a big debate over how many jobs this creates. And the president says this essentially creates a few thousand jobs that are very temporary. The Republicans say it creates a much bigger universe of 20,000, 30,000 jobs.

  • 10:24:41

    BACONSo the big dispute is over those two issues, like, whether it's job creation or not and whether it's environmentally damaging or not. Most of the polling I've seen suggests that most people are for creating the pipeline. I don't think the president necessarily cares about that in this sense, that you can tell climate change has become a bigger part of his agenda these last few years. And I don't -- and I think the cost benefit analysis for him is that there's an environmental risk and there's not much of a job creation project in his mind. There's not many jobs created compared to the environmental risk.

  • 10:25:10

    BACONHe's been leaning for -- this review they've talked about has been going on for four years. If they wanted this to happen they would've -- if they wanted this to end, it could end. And my suspicion is the president doesn't want it to end because he's not -- does want to approve this pipeline.

  • 10:25:24

    GJELTENWell, Olivier, precisely. I mean, how much of a dodge is it to say we have to wait for the state department to finish this review when it's been going on for so long?

  • 10:25:34

    KNOXI think the court case argument is probably a better one. That's an actual process that's unfolding at the State Department. We don't really know where they are in this process and I don't -- it's very hard to find people in Washington who really honestly believe that the State Department is just jugging right along without any input from the White House or from political appointees at State.

  • 10:25:51

    KNOXOne thing though -- and I agree that this could be the start of a veto-happy part of the Obama Administration, but one note of caution is that in recent weeks, White House officials have been playing down the importance of approving Keystone or turning it down. And they've been saying, look, this has become kind of a cause celebre for environmentalists but it really doesn't have that much impact. It doesn't have that much impact on jobs. It's a really small issue that's been blown out of proportion.

  • 10:26:17

    KNOXAnd really importantly they've been saying, look, we have all these upcoming executive actions and rule-making on the environment that are much more important. You know, they're looking at emissions restrictions on future power plants. The big one is on existing power plants. And so the fact that the White House is playing this down a lot now makes me wonder whether they might not just be able to solve this.

  • 10:26:38

    TUMULTYAnd another possibility is that it could be a bargaining chip for getting the Republicans to move on some of these other issues that a lot of people argue are of greater -- higher priority and longer-lasting impact.

  • 10:26:52

    GJELTENSo Karen, what do you think about the public perception of a showdown between the White House and congress on this and other issues? If -- you mentioned that President Obama has not used a veto very often. If he starts using the veto, if you get really tough reaction from the Republicans on the other side, you know, is there going to be even more anger at Washington?

  • 10:27:16

    TUMULTYYou know, I think that's a real risk that they have -- that they're running here. But there are a couple of calculations that in my conversations with White House officials and people who advise them have come up. You know, one is that we're not setting the table for 2016 where the Senate map is going to be much more favorable for the Democrats, where there's a presidential race on the ballot. And there is a belief that the Democrats benefit by sharpening the distinctions between the two parties.

  • 10:27:45

    TUMULTYThe other issue is, when the president had his news conference the day after the election he said, I hear you. And he said, I also hear all those people who didn't vote. Well, a lot of those people were young people, were Latinos, were people who were disappointed in the Obama Administration for not acting as much as they had hoped.

  • 10:28:08

    GJELTENWell, it almost sounds as if neither the Republicans nor the Democrats nor the White House has gotten the message to the extent that people are sick and tired of all this infighting. We're just seeing even more intense polarization in Washington this week than we did a couple of weeks ago.

  • 10:28:30

    BACONThe president said something interesting both Wednesday at the press conference and Sunday when he talked to Bob Schieffer. He said his vision of the presidency is essentially we spend too much time focusing on do bills pass in congress. And that's not the only way to get things done. And I think he signaled that he's going to use summits. He's going to use executive orders. I think his view of this is that the conflict in Congress over certain issues does not mean he should not work on them at all.

  • 10:28:53

    BACONAnd I think there's something to be said for that is that there's a few more tools in the presidency. And, you know, ultimately whether they have a trade deal, you know -- or maybe not a great measure of progress compared to what happens on climate change, what happens on immigration, what happens on health care. It's not clear that necessarily we should define what happens in Washington based on whether Obama signed a bill that was bipartisan. The Iraq war was bipartisan. That wasn't necessarily a great achievement. I think just they're trying to lay the groundwork for the presidency can be defined and success can be defined in a different way.

  • 10:29:22

    GJELTENDo you agree with the, Olivier?

  • 10:29:23

    KNOXYeah, I mean, I think that Karen's point about the president's message to people who didn't vote is really important. You know, one of the problems for the people for the Democratic Senate candidates this year is that one, they came in at a time when Obama himself was on the ballot in his 2008, you know, history-making presidential run. And he put together a very important coalition. And that coalition was always his and not the Democratic Party's.

  • 10:29:48

    KNOXAnd if you look at the steps that they're taking now in the lame duck, you're starting to see an agenda that appeals heavily to young people and it appeals heavily to Latinos. And it appeals to a lot of American centrists and moderates.

  • 10:30:00

    KNOXAnd I think it's -- the other point that -- I'm basically agreeing with Karen -- the other point that's really important is you're starting to see a division between Democrats in congress and the White House that's premised on this issue. Democrats in congress are starting to say, what does Hillary want us to do? What does she need us to do here? What does she want us to do here? How does this play for both our map in 2016 and the presidential map? And if it happens to benefit the guy at 1600 Penn, well, maybe that's okay.

  • 10:30:29

    GJELTENKaren, you had a really good piece on this and one of the things that you pointed out is how different President Obama has reacted to these defeats from the way President Clinton reacted to defeats in 1994.

  • 10:30:43

    TUMULTYYeah, it was interesting. In April of 1995, the president had a news -- President Clinton had a news conference where it looked as though Newt Gingrich had become such a dominant figure in Washington that Bill Clinton actually had to declare the president is still relevant here. Well, within 12 hours of that news conference, a bomb went off in Oklahoma City and it became very clear that the president was still relevant here.

  • 10:31:06

    TUMULTYAnd President Obama himself was in a much more accommodating mood after the shellacking he got in the 2010 election. But what's different here is that President Obama never has to be on the ballot again and he's also looking at his legacy. He -- in addition to wanting to get things done, his advisor Dan Pfeiffer pointed out, he also wants to change the discourse in the country. He wants to leave as part of his legacy that no one else can ever run for president again being anti-immigration or anti-gay marriage or a denier that climate change is caused by humans. And he thinks that's a very big part of his place in history.

  • 10:31:51

    GJELTENPerry, before we move on to other subjects, what's happening -- what's your view of what's happening on the Republican side? We have the incoming who will be the new majority leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, basically shooting down all this talk of a possible government shutdown maneuver as a way to sort of put pressure on the White House. Will John Boehner in the House and Mitch McConnell in the Senate really be able to keep Republicans under control going forward?

  • 10:32:22

    BACONThat's the big question. That's the big question of Washington right now. It's like once -- if you have an immigration action that affects five million people and legalizes them, where does that go from here? You can tell Mitch McConnell said, we're never going to have a government shutdown again very explicitly. Kevin McCarthy, the number two in the House, said the same thing, we need to show that we can govern. We need to show we can pass bills. So that's the focus for them.

  • 10:32:42

    BACONBut I think Obama's executive actions have been so aggressive and his hint at them has been so aggressive that the Tea Party wing is going to look for ways to confront him. So that's the big question, is where does that head and how does Boehner balance that off?

  • 10:32:55

    GJELTENPerry Bacon is political reporter for NBC News. I'm Tom Gjelten. You're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Well, Olivier, 2016, you just mentioned the last time that Democrats are wondering what Hillary wants them to do but there's going to be a big competition on the Republican side as well, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul. Can Mitch McConnell keep them under control?

  • 10:33:19

    KNOXWell, it depends what you mean by keep them under control. He obviously can't get them to shut up. That's just not going to happen. These guys are media darlings. They're darlings with the conservative movement. they have their own power base. Mitch McConnell and John Boehner couldn't keep Ted Cruz from meeting with House conservatives and shaping the way they responded to legislative proposal over the last couple of years. So under control is an interesting question really.

  • 10:33:42

    KNOXI don't -- I think you're still going to see them speak out a lot. I think Rand Paul right now is in the process of modulating some of his positions before the 2016 run. He's already grappled with questions like should U.S. aid to Israel be scrapped? He's in a 180 on that, you know, says, no. So Mitch McConnell's not going to keep him under control. The question is, how much for an impact they're going to have on Senate day-to-day procedure. And I'm not totally clear on that yet. I'd be surprised if Ted Cruz decided to quit the battlefield entirely though.

  • 10:34:15

    GJELTENKaren, finally some minor changes on the Democrat side as well, a new role for Elizabeth Warren. What's behind that, Senator from Massachusetts?

  • 10:34:25

    TUMULTYThat, I think, is to give progressives a sense that they have a greater voice in the Senate leadership. It was interesting too, the optics of what we saw when the leadership team came out, that it's now a majority women. So it'll be interesting to see because Elizabeth Warren has given voice to a very substantial part of the Democratic coalition.

  • 10:34:54

    GJELTENPerry, we have a number of emails here on immigration. This is clearly going to be a hot issue. Jim from McLean is wondering whether there's any evidence that the Hispanic population that's eligible to vote wants amnesty and a path to citizenship for those Hispanics who are here illegally. You know, the conventional wisdom on the politics of this is that the Hispanic vote -- that the Democrats didn't get as many Hispanic votes as they might otherwise have because president Obama had not moved more aggressively on immigration.

  • 10:35:32

    GJELTENYet the Republicans share of the Hispanic vote actually went up in this election in spite of their opposition to immigration reform. So, you know, it's an interesting question here from Jim whether we should just assume that the Hispanic vote wants this immigration to pass.

  • 10:35:49

    BACONI don't think we have a ton of evidence to say because Obama delayed his executive action, therefore Latinos didn't turn out. The Latino turnout is low in a lot of elections. Take a look at Texas for instance. It's been low for a long time. I don't want to suggest one event shapes those things. And the question I guess it gets at, the polling does not necessarily tell us that if we do the executive action, therefore Hispanics will vote for Democrats more. In fact, they've been voting for Democrats more for a long time. And that probably goes to more Republican positions on immigration than anything else.

  • 10:36:20

    BACONIf we have a situation where the Republican nominee says, I'm opposed to this action and Hillary Clinton is saying, I'm for this action, I would think that would help her politically.

  • 10:36:29

    GJELTENWell, we have a lot of subject to discuss. We have a very important Supreme Court decisions -- a couple of Supreme Court decisions that we have to talk about. We have a shakeup at the Veterans Affairs and we have gas prices coming down. We're going to take a short break here. When we come back you can give us a call. We'll bring the callers on the line. Our number is 800-433-8850. My guests for this domestic discussion of news, Perry Bacon, political reporter for NBC News, former national political reporter at Time and the Washington Post.

  • 10:37:03

    GJELTENKaren Tumulty, the national political reporter at the Washington Post, Olivier Knox, chief Washington correspondent for Yahoo News. I'm Tom Gjelten. We're going to take a break. Please stay tuned.

  • 10:39:58

    GJELTENAnd welcome back. I'm Tom Gjelten. I'm sitting in today for Diane Rehm. This is the Friday news roundup. This is the hour where we discuss domestic news by a panel consists of Perry Bacon from NBC News, Karen Tumulty from the Washington Post, and Olivier Knox from Yahoo News. And, remember, you can watch this hour. We do have live streaming video on our website, drshow.org. You'll see that Olivier actually wore a tie for the occasion even though it's your day off, right?

  • 10:40:23

    KNOXIt is, it is.

  • 10:40:24

    GJELTENAmazing. Yeah. So, let's go first to Antonio who's on the line from Little Rock, Arkansas. Antonio, thanks for calling "The Diane Rehm Show."

  • 10:40:35

    ANTONIOHey. How you doing?

  • 10:40:35

    GJELTENGood.

  • 10:40:37

    ANTONIOWow. I didn't think I would be the first caller, but hey, I'll take it.

  • 10:40:41

    GJELTENYeah. You are. Congratulations.

  • 10:40:42

    ANTONIOYes, sir. My topic or discussion or I think I would like to talk about is immigration. My fiancée is born and raised in Mexico. We've been together 10 years. She has been a hard worker. Yes, she's undocumented. My thing is what is wrong with Congress? I mean, people has -- have been over here more than 10, 20 years working, paying some sort of taxes when they go to the grocery store, when they fill up on the gas tank.

  • 10:41:06

    ANTONIOI mean, when they're working, they're still paying some form of taxes, if they're not getting paid so-called under the table. So my thing is, what is Congress afraid of? The demographic? The demographics are going to change. Every 500 years, every country the demographic of the people changes. If you go through history, to Alexander the Great all the way to the land that he conquered, the demographics changed from one race to another.

  • 10:41:31

    GJELTENWell, let me ask you this. Antonio, let me ask you this. Do you think that U.S. doors should be just open to anybody who wants to come?

  • 10:41:39

    ANTONIOWell, early in the -- early in the 1800, 1900, there was a flood of immigrants from European, nobody made a big discussion about immigrants coming from the European part of the world. They flooded America. So I think if the -- if the doors were open to European right now, there's like 20 million immigrants come from the European countries, I don't think we will be having this discussion on immigration.

  • 10:42:04

    GJELTENOkay, all right.

  • 10:42:06

    ANTONIOThe -- it goes to a demographic -- a race issue. The Congress doesn't want to work with Obama because 95 percent of Congress don't look like President Obama. So, I think the doors should not be wide open, but it shouldn't be shut tight either to allow people that want to come over here to work, to live, to help their families, to learn, to educated themselves that already been here 20, 10 years, 10, 20 some years and no -- to just kick them out or deport them, it's just flat-out wrong.

  • 10:42:37

    GJELTENAll right, we hear you, Antonio. Olivier, how much opposition is there really to immigration reform in the country? I mean, are the Republicans sort of wary of moving on this issue because, as Antonio implies, maybe there's -- there are people out there that are really resistant to the kind of immigration reform that the president is advocating.

  • 10:43:01

    KNOXWell, there are two really important issues that come up again and again as you discuss this issue. One is the sequencing of the process. Do you need to secure the border first and then create a pathway to citizenship for people who've been here for a long time? Do you take the -- the Senate actually did pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill and it's been dead in the House.

  • 10:43:19

    KNOXBut so -- they foresee a pathway to citizenship. So you got the sequencing issue. The question about people who are -- we had this question earlier about someone who's already in line, who's already going through the paperwork, who's going through that process. Do you require people who are here illegally to go home first and to get -- to become last in line? How's that going to work?

  • 10:43:39

    KNOXSo I think there's opposition on a number of different grounds. The thing you hear most from Republicans is the prioritization of securing the border first and then tackling all these other issues. And then just how that pathway to citizenship or permanent residence status should go.

  • 10:43:57

    GJELTENKaren, let's talk for a minute about what's happened in the Supreme Court this week. Last week, we found out that the Supreme Court is going to be taking up, yet again, the Obamacare issue, as you mentioned at the top of the show. This week, we learned that the Court heard arguments in a challenge to Alabama's redistricting law. And that, of course, has to do with the gerrymandering phenomenon. How important is this case and what do you expect to get from the court?

  • 10:44:27

    TUMULTYWell, it's a really interesting case because, as my colleague Bob Barnes wrote earlier this week, the way the Court has approached the question of whether race can be used in drawing this district lines has been very complicated and sometimes contradictory. What's interesting about this Alabama case is that it is being brought not by conservatives, which is what we've usually seen, but by Democrats and African Americans who are saying that race should be less of an issue in redistricting.

  • 10:45:01

    TUMULTYThat the way the lines that are drawn now, they are concentrating African American voters too much in some districts. So, again, I think that this is an opportunity for the Court to kind of, once again, address this issue and give us a much clearer idea of what they really think.

  • 10:45:19

    GJELTENPerry, another issue is the -- in -- the Supreme Court on Wednesday lifted a stay on issuing same-sex marriage licenses in Kansas after a federal judge struck down that ban in Kansas. Are we going to finally get a definitive ruling from the Supreme Court that applies to the whole country on the legality of gay marriages?

  • 10:45:45

    BACONI don't think we are. It looks like they're very comfortable and happy to let federal courts strike down gay marriage bans and then say, okay, that was good. And I think Ginsburg was actually quoted, some were saying, there's no circuit split right now, so we don't have to get into this at all. I mean, I think they're very -- we are sort of watching a kind of slow motion Roe v Wade happening, where they are essentially legalizing gay marriage nationally without -- they seem like they don't want to make the big ruling themselves. But they're very happy to watch other judges to it for it -- do it for them and then not comment on this. So, it's very interesting to watch this process.1

  • 10:46:16

    GJELTENGood. Let's go now to David who's on the line from Hedgeville, WV. Hello, David, thanks for calling "The Diane Rehm Show."

  • 10:46:22

    DAVIDGood morning to the panel and all. I had a comment on the XL Pipeline. A lot of the opposition is from people that are worried about an environment disaster, which, you know, BP and Exxon Valdez is a big problem. And I think any legislation that would approve these types of projects here or when they get up starting to drill in the arctic as global warning allows the ice to disappear and there are people looking for oil up there, too, is that there'll be requirement that the company that does it purchase an escrow in Treasury bills equal to the cost -- estimated cost of a cleanup.

  • 10:47:10

    DAVIDSo that if there is a disaster and sometimes these country -- company just declare bankruptcy whatnot, but this would be in escrow, they will be Treasury bills that the government, you know, issues. And if they -- we're to have a spill, they would not get their money back until it was cleaned up and that they would require to keep this. But they get the interest off of it. So...

  • 10:47:34

    GJELTENInteresting. Interesting -- interesting suggestion, Olivier. Of course, we saw from the BP spill that there was a lot of dispute over culpability for the -- for that disaster and for over who should pay for it. What do you think about this idea of an escrow fund to cover any damages from a spill?

  • 10:47:57

    KNOXWell, I mean, David has an interesting idea. I don't think it would really pass most to the companies that are looking to develop this pipeline. We forget, though, that, you know, the bulk of the pipeline is being built. You know, we just -- what we're talking about is a relatively small stretch coming in from Canada. The environment repercussions are potentially large not just because tar sands, which is where they're getting the oil, is a rather dirty process, but also because of the risk of a spill.

  • 10:48:21

    KNOXYou hear a lot of Native American populations complaining what happens if suddenly there's a spill in this giant pipeline, who's going to pay for the cleanup. But I don't think that we're going to see any major groundbreaking moves here in terms of corporate -- corporate responsibility. And I don't think an escrow account would be all that feasible. How much would you estimate a spill would cost?

  • 10:48:43

    DAVIDOkay. That the -- the representative from Tennessee said that the last major spill like that cost $1.2 billion. So there's just something that's an actual number that they could go to to make their estimate.

  • 10:48:56

    GJELTENWow, $1.2 billion is a lot of money to put in an escrow fund, isn't it? Karen, we've had a couple of callers who want to talk about Jonathan Gruber. Jonathan Gruber, for listeners who haven't been following the news, is a MIT academic who had a hand in putting together the Obamacare bill. Tell us how he got back in the news this week.

  • 10:49:22

    TUMULTYWell, first of all, it's important to understand who Jonathan Gruber is. He's an MIT economics professor who has developed a very, very sophisticated micro-simulation model that can really spit out numbers fast on health care proposals. His numbers were used by Mitt Romney in Massachusetts, Arnold Schwarzenegger in California. And he was in a conference and was talking about...

  • 10:49:47

    GJELTENA while ago.

  • 10:49:47

    TUMULTYQuite a while go, but it was recently unearthed videotape where he -- and he -- during the writing of the Affordable Care Act, he was on contract to HHS to do that, to basically be able to give them numbers really fast. And he was complaining that -- that the way the process works that there was a sort of lack of transparency that was politically necessary. And he actually referred, at one point, in his comments to the stupidity of the American voter.

  • 10:50:20

    TUMULTYWell, this has really flared up on the right and it is now being seen as an example of how the entire process was just done on subterfuge. It's really interesting for those of us who covered the writing of the health care law, because when I was covering back in 2009, it was the liberals who complained most about Jonathan Gruber. So this -- he has become a cause and there are more of these videotapes coming out. And I would not be at all surprised if there are congressional hearings on this.

  • 10:50:51

    GJELTENMy guess is that there are some people out there that think that, you know, he used the word stupid sort of with reference to wrong -- the wrong audience. I mean...

  • 10:50:59

    TUMULTYYeah, and I...

  • 10:51:00

    GJELTENThat was pretty stupid to say that, wasn't it?

  • 10:51:02

    TUMULTYAnd it was also, you know, I think -- and, again, having had a lot of conversations with Jonathan Gruber over the years as I was covering health care policy, the sense I got was that he was talking about -- there is this kind of perfect model of the health care system that academics would like to see that is just politically impossible to implement.

  • 10:51:18

    GJELTENUh-huh, uh-huh.

  • 10:51:20

    TUMULTYAnd so you very often with academics hear them complaining about how, you know, politics is always getting in the way of good ideas or at least what they think are good ideas.

  • 10:51:27

    GJELTENLet's go now to Gabriella who's on the line from Annapolis. Hello, Gabriella, you're on "The Diane Rehm Show."

  • 10:51:32

    GABRIELLAYes, good morning.

  • 10:51:34

    GJELTENGood morning.

  • 10:51:35

    GABRIELLAI want to talk about immigration. I am Hispanic. And I am a (unintelligible) engineering. And it was very interesting to hear the comments from your guest on what is -- what the Hispanic population really want. I am a Republican, and I think that we really need to put upside down the reform. For example, one of the things that I believe that should be removed from the immigration is the family association.

  • 10:52:08

    GABRIELLAImmigration should be based on the needs that the country have in terms of jobs, what are the professionals that we need. Do we need landscapers? Do we need engineers? Or do we need doctors? That is how it should be immigration based on the needs of the country, not just because I came here and I want to bring the rest of my family. They should be allowed to -- I shouldn't be allowed to do that. That will happen more reasonable and in more sensible way to do immigration.

  • 10:52:46

    GJELTENYeah. Well, thank you very much, Gabriella. You know, I'm actually working on a book right now about the 1965 Immigration Act, which is the one that put family unification at the top of the priority. And there was a big debate then and it has continued for 50 years about whether the unification of families should be an immigration priority or should, as Gabriella says, the national economic needs of the country be what dictates immigration policy. Olivier?

  • 10:53:16

    KNOXWell, so one of the things that we expect to see in the president's executive orders is an increase in the number of visas for high tech workers. H1B is one of the more better known ones. It's something that a lot of Republicans' business allies want. It's something that a lot of people in Silicon Valley want. So there is going to be an element of, quote/unquote, "what the country needs here," what the economy needs here.

  • 10:53:41

    KNOXBut family reunification, I find it difficult to believe that Democrats in particular would be all that gung-ho about a policy that separates families. That if your kids are here legally, then you deport the parents. And, in fact, that's one of the things that the president is going to address directly.

  • 10:53:57

    GJELTENWell, I'm Tom Gjelten. You're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." I do think that the big issue in family unification is not so much parents and sons and daughters. It's adult brothers and sisters who actually are able to come here now by virtue of their sibling relationships. And that accounts for a lot of the immigration that's taking place. Let's go now to Eric who's on the line from Greensboro, NC. Hello, Eric.

  • 10:54:24

    ERICHello. I just wanted to say that I think the American voters are stupid as stated previously. If you look at the polls -- exit polls and also some of the constitutional amendments that were on the ballot, these voters that just overwhelmingly elected for Republicans tilt liberal when it comes to all these issues. And the reason for this disconnect in perception is that the media is not doing their job in educating the public as to who is who.

  • 10:54:57

    ERICAnd a good example of this is the Republicans tell these whopper lies and the media does not challenge them on it. The Keystone Pipeline is a perfect example. Most people think that because it's been framed by the Republicans that this oil is going to lower gas prices in America and the oil is going to be used by Americans and it's going to create 10,000 jobs, none of that is true. The oil is going to be shipped overseas. So can the media please start doing your job. I'm a truck driver. I made my deliveries this morning. I did my job. Now you do your job.

  • 10:55:29

    GJELTENOkay. Thanks, Eric. Karen?

  • 10:55:30

    TUMULTYYou know, I've got to say I really get pretty frustrated with people who keep insisting the media is not doing its job. Every media organization that I can think of, every major one now has a massive fact checking operation. I think the media is doing its job pretty darn well. But I think that the American public does not consume what the media -- I mean, when a magazine cover, you know, that features a Kardashian is, as they say, breaking the internet this week, you cannot blame the news media for voters not being aware of the issues.

  • 10:56:06

    GJELTENPerry, we're almost out of time, but I want you to very quickly summarize what's happening at the Veterans Affairs Department because an important reorganization is on the way there.

  • 10:56:16

    BACONSince this whole -- since the whole scandal about waiting times, they've reorganized completely. The big announcement this week was they're going to have a chief officer in charge of customer service, someone who makes sure that when you have an appointment, it happens, it's scheduled. And there's a big overhaul, lots of staffing (unintelligible) so the VA is thinking about how do we make sure that the hospitals work more efficiently and really are oriented like the way targeted on some level around customers being served. And so that's the big shift they made this week. They announced it on Tuesday.

  • 10:56:42

    GJELTENAnd they're going to be trying to hire a lot more medical professionals to take care of this demand.

  • 10:56:47

    BACONExactly. Because of the fact that you have these huge waiting lines that Congress was very upset about and the president was, for that matter, earlier this year.

  • 10:56:53

    GJELTENPerry Bacon is political reporter for NBC News. My other two panelists are Karen Tumulty from the Washington Post and Olivier Knox, chief Washington correspondent for Yahoo News. I'm Tom Gjelten. Thanks to you all for coming in. Thanks for listening. This is "The Diane Rehm Show."

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