The Biden administration has released a proposal to raise standards in nursing homes. Why one expert calls it the most significant development for the industry in decades -- and why it might still not be enough.
Guest Host: Indira Lakshmanan
House Republicans meet at the Capitol this morning to figure out next steps after Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) withdrew from the speaker race yesterday. President Barack Obama travels to Roseburg, Oregon to meet with families of the victims of last week’s mass shootings, as news of another deadly campus shooting breaks in Arizona. In the Senate, Democrats begin a new push for gun control measures. On the campaign trail, Hillary Clinton announces her opposition to the new Pacific trade deal. And California becomes the fifth state to pass right-to-die legislation. Guest host Indira Lakshmanan and a panel of journalists discuss the week’s top national stories.
- John Harwood Chief Washington correspondent, CNBC; reporter, The New York Times
- Laura Meckler National political correspondent, The Wall Street Journal
- Reid Wilson Congress editor and chief political correspondent, Morning Consult
Video: What Will It Take To Unite The GOP?
Will Executive Action On Gun Control Make A Difference?
Can Any Speaker Survive Today's Political Environment?
MS. INDIRA LAKSHMANANThanks for joining us. I'm Indira Lakshmanan of sitting in for Diane Rehm. She'll be back on Monday. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy abruptly drops out of the House Speaker race leaving Republicans scrambling to fill their impending leadership role. Hillary Clinton announces her opposition to the new Pacific Trade Agreement reached this week. And President Obama meets with the families of victims of the mass shooting at Umpqua Community College in Oregon.
MS. INDIRA LAKSHMANANJoining me for this week's top national stories on the Friday News Roundup, John Harwood of CNBC and the New York Times, Laura Meckler of The Wall Street Journal and Reid Wilson of Morning Consult. And don't forget, you can watch this program on our live video stream at drshow.org. We will be taking your questions and your comments throughout the hour. We want to hear your thoughts about all of this week's news. Call us on 800-433-8850. Send us your email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Join us on Facebook or on Twitter. Welcome, everyone.
MR. JOHN HARWOODGood morning.
MS. LAURA MECKLERGood morning.
MR. REID WILSONGood morning.
LAKSHMANANThis has been quite a week and I have to say yesterday threw off everything about what we thought we would be talking about this morning. So I can literally say that House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy kind of dropped a political bombshell on everybody yesterday when he bowed out of the race, didn't he, John?
HARWOODI can say that without equivocation because five minutes before he bowed out of the race I was on television and someone said is Kevin McCarthy going to make it as Speaker and I said, of course, he's going to make it as Speaker.
LAKSHMANANFamous last words.
HARWOODExactly. Look, this is a House Republican caucus in meltdown. They have disagreements not really over ideology, but over tactics, intensity and at the end of the day, maturity because you've got a group of House Republicans who are disconnected from the reality of what their power lets them do and they're not prepared to make compromises to govern and until they recognize that, anybody succeeding John Boehner, whether it's Paul Ryan or anyone else, is going to face this fundamental problem.
LAKSHMANANBut Kevin McCarthy was one of the only lawmakers in the chamber who we thought was going to be able to garner the 218 requisite votes to become Speaker, right, Laura? So why did he make this decision?
MECKLERWell, I think that he just saw the writing on the wall. So it's not just about being elected Speaker, of course. I mean, even if he could've gotten his way through, he then has to be Speaker. And given all the dynamics that John was just talking about inside this conference, you essentially have a situation where everything that comes up, extending the debt ceiling, funding the government, things that just have to get done, not to mention the things that everybody or many, many people agree that they would like to get done, like a highway bill, when you look at the prospect of doing that and you have such a large enough group of Republicans that they can essentially block you from moving anything to the floor unless you get Democrats aboard, then that puts you in the same situation that John Boehner has been in that drove him out of office.
MECKLERSo I think that he sort of looked at it and said, you know, how am I going to -- even if I make it to the chair, this is just going to be a mess. And 'cause he was viewed by a lot of the people -- viewed skeptically by many of those same conservatives that people -- and we shouldn't even necessarily call them conservatives 'cause there's conservatives throughout the entire House. But people who are just uncompromising and don't want to make those kinds -- don't want to essentially acknowledge the fact that there is a Democrat in the White House and also that there are enough Democrats to block action in the Senate.
MECKLERSo they just can't get their way no matter how many Republicans are in the House.
LAKSHMANANSo McCarthy realized it was a thankless job, something that all of us realized a long time ago. This is not a job really that anybody would want, in a way, bringing together this coalition. It's like herding cats.
MECKLERAnd I think the other problem he had, he did have a major gaffe last week, which is that he said, when he was talking about the Benghazi special committee to investigate Benghazi, he said, hey, look, we accomplished, through this committee, bringing Hillary Clinton's poll numbers down, which was essentially saying out loud what Hillary Clinton's campaign and a lot of Democrats believe, which is that this is a political committee and not really about investigating this horrible thing that happened in Benghazi. So that was...
LAKSHMANANThat hurts his credibility.
MECKLERThat hurt his credibility. People were, obviously, not happy with that.
LAKSHMANANNow, Reid, what happens next? Do we have any idea who could fill in the gap, particularly if it's the hard right segment of the Republican party that is blocking Kevin McCarthy or has blocked Kevin McCarthy? What's next?
WILSONSo there are only a couple of people who could actually cobble together the 247 members of the House Republican conference. John mentioned one of them already, Paul Ryan, the chairman of the House ways and means committee, Mitt Romney's vice presidential nominee from 2012. John Boehner spent most of yesterday and probably most of today already trying to convince Paul Ryan to reverse his long-held opposition to actually running for Speaker.
WILSONRyan has young kids. He doesn't want to spend the time that it would take to travel all around the country to raise the money that is necessary to keep electing the 247 Republicans in the House right now. He's said that many times. He's made his opposition very clear. However, it appears that his opposition is softening. He has cancelled all of his fundraisers for the next two days. By the way, something struck me this morning. It says something about the life of the average congressman.
WILSONIf you have to cancel all of your fundraisers over two days, as in more than just a few, but...
HARWOODAnd that's how you know something's serious, when a fundraiser gets cancelled.
WILSONThere are really sort of five options that the House Republicans could pursue at the moment. The first is compromise candidate who could be Speaker for a short amount of time while we deal with all the things that Laura mentioned, the debt ceiling, funding the government, et cetera. Members like John Kline, the retiring education committee chairman, Tom Cole, the long-time rules committee expert, have been mentioned as possible compromise candidates. You could have a straight-up election. There are still people who are running. Congressman Jason Chaffetz from Utah, Daniel Webster from Florida are still in the race.
WILSONLynn Westmoreland, the congressman from Georgia, has started making calls about possibly running. The third possibility is a coalition, Charlie Dent, a moderate from Pennsylvania, brought up the idea of coming to the floor and getting 20 or 30 Democrats to support somebody who's centrist just to sort of provide stability for the institution. The fourth possibility is an outsider. You don't have to be a member of Congress to be the Speaker of the House.
WILSONIt's in the U.S. Constitution. Hey, you know, Donald Trump, I'm sure, would be -- no, that would be a terrible idea. But the Republicans could, hypothetically, tap somebody from outside the House. Newt Gingrich said yesterday that he would be willing to serve another term as Speaker. I'm sure tongue was only half implanted in cheek at that point. The fifth possibility is, I think, the most likely over the short term, which is John Boehner stays Speaker of the House, at least for a little while.
HARWOODJust crazy enough that it might work.
HARWOODStay in the job that he already has.
WILSONBoehner's office quickly cancelled the leadership vote yesterday after McCarthy dropped out. They have not set a new date for when the Speaker will be elected. Boehner wants to be out of the House by October 30.
LAKSHMANANHe's got a big Halloween party to go to.
WILSONWell, I would -- he keeps saying that he wants to just mow his lawn and have a glass of wine. And, hey, that sounds pretty good to me, especially when it comes to herding cats. But at the end of the day, maybe Boehner sticks around for another couple of months just to sort of clear the decks and set the table for the next Speaker to take over with a fresh slate.
LAKSHMANANAll right. Well, John, as we've discussed, this is an incredibly difficult job for whoever is going to do it and John Boehner will continue to do it, presumably, till the end of the month at least. But Jason Chaffetz is really the most high-profile candidate aside from McCarthy who we've heard of. What does McCarthy's dropping out mean for his candidacy?
HARWOODI don't think Jason Chaffetz is on track to become Speaker. I think he is not a unifying figure within the caucus. I think he was somebody there who was challenging Kevin McCarthy, trying to amass conservative support. The House Freedom Caucus endorsed Dan Webster, who is another candidate who has a negligible chance of actually becoming the Speaker. So basically, they were setting themselves in motion and presenting obstacles to McCarthy without anyone actually believing they could become the Speaker.
HARWOODAnd so the question now is who could step up and do that. And as Reid said, Paul Ryan, it would be a lay down hand. He could become the Speaker if he said he wants to become it. But, again, there are two issues. One is becoming the Speaker. The other is doing the job of Speaker. And Paul Ryan did something that conservatives didn't like a couple years ago, He made a deal with Patty Murray to lift spending caps and spend more money than some of the people on the hard right wanted to spend.
HARWOODThat's the kind of thing you have to do as long as you have to compromise with Democrats and that reality hasn't changed and those Republicans are going to have to face it.
WILSONWhen you become Speaker, there's sort of a clock that gets set that counts down to the end of your political career. It is not a long clock. Dennis Hastert, the Speaker who left after Republicans lost the majority in '06, was the, you know, longest tenured Speaker in modern history and he was Speaker for a grand total of eight years. Paul Ryan's 45 years old. He's got a long time to go if he wants to stick around Congress. He wields a lot of influence as the chair of the House ways and means committee.
WILSONHe wielded a lot of influence as the chair of the budget committee when he made that deal with Patty Murray. In essence, becoming Speaker is sort of a step down in terms of his influence on the policy that the House actually passes.
HARWOODAnd these days, that shot clock -- that clock is kind of like the 24 second NBA shot clock. It does not last very long at all.
LAKSHMANANSo still very much an open race. Laura, what is this going to mean for the debt ceiling negotiations in November?
MECKLERWell, I think that those are all up in the air right now. I mean, presumably, you know, they'll find a way to do it. If we don't lift the debt ceiling, the borrowing authority of the United States government, then we will have the government defaulting on its debts. You may remember a few years ago we got pretty close to that kind of scenario. So that's going to be job number one. Now, it may turn out that with all this turmoil that Boehner is the guy who pushes that through, which is probably the easiest and maybe the best past for them.
MECKLERHe's already said, you know, I'm willing to leave. You know, you can't fire me. I quit. So essentially if he has to -- and there are the votes. Let's just be clear. There are the votes to extend the debt ceiling with Democrats involved. The question is what they're always trying to do is have enough votes to pass something with only Republican votes. So they're essentially trying to govern with unanimity, virtual unanimity. They can only lose a couple dozen people on the Republican side and still have enough votes to pass it without Democrats.
LAKSHMANANJohn, very quickly, as we wrap up, tell me what is it going to take to unite the party in a time when it's so needed.
HARWOODA acceptance of reality by people who, right now, are so zealous and intense in their ideology that they don’t understand the need to govern and compromise.
LAKSHMANANWe're going to take a short break. I look forward to hearing your questions and your comments. Stay with us.
LAKSHMANANWelcome back. I'm Indira Lakshmanan sitting in for Diane Rehm. In today's domestic news roundup, joining me in the studio are: John Harwood, chief Washington correspondent for CNBC and a reporter at The New York Times, Laura Meckler, a staff writer at The Wall Street Journal, and Reid Wilson, Congress editor and chief political correspondent at Morning Consult. We were talking about the House speaker race and we got an email from Evan in Houston, Texas, who said: Can any speaker be successful in this environment, with the rise of super PACs over party money and the demise of congressional earmarks to hold parties together and keep members in line?
WILSONThat's a great point. The -- for the longest time, running the House of Representatives has involved a carrot-and-stick approach. You can punish members on one hand for not falling into line or you can give them incentives like earmarks and candidate money and things like that to incentivize them to vote with the rest of the party or with whatever side needs to win. Since Republicans ended the practice of earmarks, there is no carrot.
WILSONAnd earlier this year, we saw that the Republicans who tried to punish those on the far right who were challenging the leadership essentially folded and allowed those on the far right to keep their committee assignments and to keep their committee spots, their subcommittee gavels and things like that. So they got rid of the stick too. There is no ability, at the moment, for John Boehner or for Paul Ryan or Kevin McCarthy or whoever's going to be the next speaker to wrangle this herd of cats.
MECKLERI think the more fundamental, even maybe even more fundamental than that problem has been that because the way congressional districts have been drawn, we essentially have many, many safe Republican seats. And so the dynamic in those seats is not that they're scared they're going to lose to a Democrat. They're scared they're going to lose to a more conservative Republican come...
MECKLER...and challenging them from the right in the primary. So that's where all their incentives are going, is not for compromise with the Democrats but towards a hardening position.
HARWOODOn Reid's point on the earmarks, that's a very good point and it's related to the underlying problem policy wise that we face, and that is this: Why were earmarks banned? Because people came to believe that earmarks were one of the reasons why federal spending was out of control. That isn't really true. We have been, for a long time, trying to deal with the fact that people don't want to tax enough to pay for the programs that we want. The fiction has perpetuated itself for some time that there's enough welfare, foreign aid, waste fraud abuse in Washington, that if you just cut that stuff out and if you're just tough-minded about it, you're going to solve our fiscal problems. That is not true.
HARWOODThe -- we've -- with defense spending at the level it is, with Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security at the level it is, that's where the money is. And now you're finding people having to bump up against the reality that you're either going to raise taxes or you're going to cut those large, popular programs. And members don't want to face that reality.
WILSONLaura brought up the central irony, I think, in this whole thing, is that as we have gotten more and more political -- as the process of running for Congress has become more political and the districts have been drawn to protect incumbents, the parties themselves are losing all power to control those incumbents. Think about the two people who grew -- the 247 members of the Republican Conference, the largest majority since the Great Depression, they're John Boehner and Kevin McCarthy. And they just lost their jobs on the backs of those new people...
WILSON...who built that 247-person majority.
LAKSHMANANMm-hmm. All right. Don't forget that you can see all of our guests on our live video stream at drshow.org. So another major piece of news this week, a massive Pacific trade agreement known as TPP, many years in the making, was finally reached this week. Is it what we expected, Laura? And what is it intended to accomplish?
MECKLERWell, I think it is more or less what we expected. It is a huge free trade zone over the Pacific. So that includes both countries that are sort of on our side of the Pacific -- South American countries, U.S., Mexico, Canada -- as well as Asian countries -- Japan, Thailand, many countries. Not China I should say. And one of the things...
LAKSHMANANBut still 40 percent of the world's economy.
MECKLER...but still, 40 percent of the world's economy. And what it does is it, you know, reduces tariffs -- in some cases eliminates tariffs -- on a wide range of goods. It makes it easier to trade back and forth among these countries. And it sort of establishes the U.S. -- from the U.S. point of view as being a major economic player in Asia as a kind of a counterweight to China, which is of course powerful and growing more so. So it's a very important economic advance as well as a geopolitical advance.
MECKLERAnd I think it, you know, in the weeds are many, many details that were worked out, some of which I think are still coming out over exactly how intellectual property rights are handled, how biological drugs are handled, how long they're -- exactly how the agricultural markets are opened up. But the upshot of this is that it is a very big change to how international commerce unfolds.
LAKSHMANANWell, John, the administration has really pitched this as a huge win for small American businesses, saying that it's going to cut tariffs and really raise U.S. exports. In the end, what are the major arguments for and against this agreement? Because it's certainly got a lot of detractors out there too.
HARWOODWell, the arguments for the agreement are those that economists make about trade, that is, the less economic barriers to commerce are, the lower prices are for consumers and the more people who are good at making certain things can be -- make a profit. Now, it is true that the projections for how much this is actually going to affect the economy aren't all that great. You know, trade in the world is big, but the impact of free-trade agreements themselves is on the margin. So people look at, if TPP is implemented, maybe U.S. GDP goes up a couple of percent by 2025. It's not overwhelming but it is an advantage and all economists agree on that. Not all politicians agree on it however.
LAKSHMANANHmm. Well I saw Ian Bremmer, the head of the Eurasia Group, actually arguing -- even though he's very much in favor of the deal -- that at most it would raise U.S. GDP by half a percentage point. So even some of the fans in economic circles are saying that the boost for the U.S. economy wouldn't necessarily be that great. I mean, we've certainly heard plenty of the arguments against it from labor groups talking about job losses, manufacturing going overseas, a sort of repeat over the whole NAFTA battle. So, Reid, what has the reaction in Congress been to this?
WILSONWell, the reaction in Congress has been sort of louder on the opponent side for the moment than it has been on the supporter side. And there's a funny sort of coalition here between those on the far right and those on the -- I -- on the progressive left, if you will. I think it's probably more mainstream position within the Democratic Party to be skeptical of trade deals than it is within the Republican Party. But you've got members, primarily from manufacturing and textile states like North Carolina, South Carolina, who are going to be skeptical of these free-trade deals because, of course, NAFTA cost those states hundreds of thousands of jobs, when NAFTA passed back in the '90s.
WILSONSo there is loud opposition on the right and the left. I would imagine that Donald Trump, again, is going to be opposed to this. He seems to think that we're getting a bunch of lousy trade deals everywhere these days. But you're -- what you're going to see over the next few months is a real concerted campaign by the White House to convince voters and then members of Congress that this deal is in the best interest of everybody.
WILSONAnd you mentioned the small businesses that are sort of the focal point of the White House right now, they're going to put out a list of these supportive groups and those supportive groups are going to range from, you know, the Chamber of Commerce and Boeing -- the largest business organizations in the country -- to the Wine Institute, which is going to say that now California wine can get to Australia, New Zealand and all the other, the members of this trade deal. So they're going to focus a lot on, hey, this really helps the small-business person. And the opponents will really focus on the jobs that are going to be lost because of this.
LAKSHMANANThat's right. There was actually the head of an American beer maker who was on the phone with the U.S. trade representative, Mike Froman, you know, promoting this deal at an administration conference call this week. So, Laura, I mean, what -- the argument the administration has long made is that, even though some jobs are lost in terms of manufacturing that goes overseas, that more high-quality jobs are created. So it sort of seems that there's job growth that's in a different kind of job than the jobs that a lot of the Democrats are worried about losing. So how is that going to play out? Do you think there's going to be a long fight in Congress over this, once the text becomes public?
MECKLERYeah, definitely there is going to be. Let's keep in mind, though, we've already seen this -- round one of this fight. There was a fight to grant what's called fast-track authority, which would essentially set up for this deal to be considered on a expedited track. It's guaranteed, and that passed. So now this deal is guaranteed an up or down vote in Congress without amendments. Well, in order to get that through was itself a battle. And in the end of the day, there were only 28 House Democrats who voted for it, only 13 Senate Democrats who voted for it -- a distinct minority of the Democratic Party. So this is really a coalition between the White House and the Republican Party. So...
LAKSHMANANA rare one.
MECKLERYeah, a very rare one. And basically, you have many Republicans who are comfortable with this on substance, many who are not all that excited about giving President Obama a legacy-defining win. So you have that kind of political dynamic playing into this as well. And you have, you know, very strong opposition from labor unions who, you know, it's cold comfort to say, you know, some small business in California is going to be able to, you know, export its wine. But, oh, sorry, the plant in your city is shutting down and your whole town is going to be devastated. I mean, which is how they view it.
LAKSHMANANAnd particularly you, as a native Ohioan, I'm sure you hear that argument a lot from the industrial belt states. That's something and, you know, that brings us back to 2016, John. I wonder how this is playing out. I've heard Hillary Clinton on the campaign trail. Now, of course, she was for TPP before she was against it. When she was secretary of state, she called it the gold standard of trade deals. And now her thinking has changed. What happened?
HARWOODIt's all campaign politics. The -- she faces a challenge from Bernie Sanders on the left, from Martin O'Malley to the extent that he is playing a role in the race. He's also running from the left on issues like TPP and attitudes toward Wall Street. And Hillary Clinton simply decided to protect her left flank. Let's remember there is a history of Democrats -- even national Democrats, who ultimately embrace free trade -- of acting like they don't while they're running for the Democratic nomination. Bill Clinton endorsed NAFTA, but only after he won the Democratic nomination in 1992.
HARWOODIn 2008, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama both said, well maybe I'm going to renegotiate NAFTA. No, it did not happen. Although they say that in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, they've gotten some of the things that they would have done by renegotiating NAFTA. This is posturing on her part. And the question is, is it going to help her more than it hurts her? It may help her by reassuring some labor unions that she is on their side, at least for a moment. The downside for her is it doesn't look especially sincere.
LAKSHMANANHmm. And we also heard her protecting her left flank in another way this week, talking about a plan to regulate Wall Street. Is this also aimed at fending off Bernie Sanders, Laura?
MECKLERYeah, it is. Bernie Sanders is not -- does not just want to regulate, average, everyday regulate Wall Street, he wants to break up the big banks. He wants to reinstate rules under Glass-Steagall, which would have a profound influence on investment -- separating investment and commercial banking. He is going -- have -- waging a campaign against the billionaire class, saying that he doesn't want Wall Street's money. They've wrecked the economy, they need to now pay up for the rest of us. He -- and he's having a lot of success with it. So Hillary Clinton does not favor the sort of major changes to Wall Street regulation that he does.
MECKLERBut she came out this week with her own plan, where she emphasized that she would protect the Dodd-Frank law that was passed in 2010 and she would also advance it on the margin. So she would do -- so she's not going to break up banks but, if banks become super big and have too many assets, they would pay a fee on that. So essentially there would be efforts to try to control it in a more modest way.
LAKSHMANANAnd also giving regulators more power to break up financial firms, right?
MECKLERYes. But that was not real detailed on how she would do that. But the idea there was to say that regulators actually do have the power right now that if firms become too, as they say, too big to fail, that they can intervene. And she said she wants them to actually do that.
LAKSHMANANSo, Reid, Politico is reporting that Barney Frank is actually advising Clinton on the Wall Street plan. Why?
WILSONBecause Barney Frank is one of the people with credibility inside the Democratic Party on issues like this. And it's probably also because Hillary Clinton cannot convince the most prominent member of the Democratic Party with credibility on issues like this -- a senator called Elizabeth Warren -- to jump on her side too. There is -- I mean, the Clintons have long been tied to Wall Street. I mean, they're, you know, the Bob Rubin was the treasury secretary under Bill Clinton, and a number of his protégés have sort of influenced the Clintons for a very long time. They need to be more Robert Reich than Robert Rubin in this day and age.
WILSONAnd by the way, I would point out that Robert Reich has been doing a lot of advising on the Clinton campaign as well. They're really trying to convey that this is a new Hillary Clinton who is more concerned with the financial regulations than the old Hillary Clinton was -- or than the old Clinton administration was, I should say. You know, being a senator from New York, you're very tied to Wall Street. Now she's trying to put a little distance between herself and Wall Street.
LAKSHMANANCertainly dependent on Wall Street for those contributions. But I remember, in 2008, when, near the end of her campaign, she also became much more populous. I'm Indira Lakshmanan and you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." If you'd like to join us, call 1-800-433-8850. Or send us an email to email@example.com. You can also reach us on Facebook or Twitter. Now another really interesting development in 2016, this week, is more on whether Joe Biden is going to run for president. And the story continues to focus on the death of his son Beau. John, tell us about this ad that was created by this group that wants to draft Biden and what became of it.
HARWOODThe ad was highly emotional. It, with special sonic effects, played audio of Joe Biden talking about the death of his kids and how that -- how he reacted to that after he was -- and the death of his wife then -- after he was elected to the Senate in 1970. It was criticized by David Axelrod, who was a political -- top political adviser to President Obama, who said it was exploitive. They -- the super PAC then decided that it would stop running the ad.
LAKSHMANANAnd Joe Biden, himself, he didn't sign off on this ad or agree to it in the background did he?
HARWOODHe -- no, I don't believe he did. But you've got a group of people who are trying to talk him into running. I don't believe he is going to run in the end and I think he's signaled his ambivalence pretty clearly. But that hasn't stopped both media and people who work for the vice president now from keeping this story alive for quite a long time.
MECKLERAnd I think that this whole controversy over this ad really speaks to something larger, which is that what has brought so attention to the vice president and so much support to him, partly deals with how he's been very publicly struggling with the recent death of his son Beau. That's in addition to the death of his daughter and wife, you know, many years ago. So -- and how he has dealt with that and he spoke very emotionally about it on the Stephen Colbert -- on Late Night with Stephen Colbert. And now you essentially see that emotion being channeled into a political realm, into a TV ad. And people said, whoa, wait, hmm, I'm not so sure I like this. I don't know if I think this is right.
MECKLERSo if he gets in, then that kind of tension is going to be right there at the surface. And I think that the ad, actually, ultimately got pulled not because of David Axelrod's tweet but because somebody who was said to be close to the vice president told the Los Angeles Times that they didn't like it and that the vice president didn't like it. And then the message was sent to the draft-Biden people and they pulled it.
LAKSHMANANWho pulled the ad. So no chance we're going to see him in the Democratic debate next week.
MECKLERNo. No. They've made that clear that he's not going to be in the Democratic debate even if he does run. Even the people who want him to run say it wouldn't be smart for him to jump in and then immediately have to go onto the debate stage.
LAKSHMANANYeah. Although he still does have a chance one month later, if he chooses to do so at that point. We're going to take a short break now. When we're back, your calls and your questions. Stay with us.
LAKSHMANANWelcome back. I'm Indira Lakshmanan, sitting in for Diane Rehm. With me in the studio, John Harwood, Chief Washington Correspondent for CNBC and a reporter at the New York Times. Laura Meckler, staff writer at the Wall Street Journal and Reid Wilson, Congress editor and Chief Political Correspondent at Morning Consult. So, today, we have President Obama heading to Roseburg, Oregon, the sight of that terrible shooting last week, to talk to the families of the victims.
LAKSHMANANHe's also considering executive action on gun control, since he's been unable to get anywhere in Congress on gun control. But, at the same time, we're hearing that Senate Democrats have announced plans for new gun control legislation. What is in it and is it going to go anywhere? Laura.
MECKLERWell, the second part of your question is the quicker one. Is it going to go anywhere? No. It's, they've tried, and I highly doubt they will get anywhere this time. Although, they are saying that they're going to hold up any other action in the Senate until they at least get a vote. So, maybe they'll get a vote that puts people on record. Even if it passes the Senate, as we discussed earlier in the show, it's not going to go anywhere in the House. Having said that, I think it's important that they're out there and they're saying, we're not just giving up.
MECKLERSo, what is in it? They're increasing, right now, the background check system that we have in this country before you can buy a gun, has a lot of holes in it. If you are not a licensed gun dealer, you can still sell guns at a gun show. You can still sell guns online. So, one of the elements of this legislation would be to require background checks in those cases. There's another thing that's come to be called the Charleston loophole, which is that even if you do a background check, if the FBI has not given you an answer within three days, you can go ahead and complete the purchase.
MECKLERWell, that's what happened with that shooting at the church in Charleston, South Carolina. The FBI had not responded yet, had not cleared the sale, they had not nixed it either, and the guy got a gun. And obviously, to devastating effect. So, the idea there would be to say, you know, the FBI has to actually give you an affirmative yes. You cannot just, you can't just wait out the clock. So, those are, I think, some of the most important things. It would also ban straw purchases of guns and a few other elements. Add stalking and dating relationships to the types of domestic abusers who would not be able to buy guns.
MECKLERSo, it would do a variety of things, but at this point, I think we're really still in the political realm. You know, this issue continues to come up every time we have one of these tragedies, which seems more and more often, to me at least. And I think what you have seen change, politically, not so much that we're ready to pass this, but, you know, Democrats for a long time, had a -- were very shy on this issue. Even if they supported it, they thought it was really politically poisonous to be in favor of this for many years. And I think that that has really changed.
MECKLERAnd you do see Democrats much more willing to be in favor of this. On the Presidential race, you have all of the leading candidates have come out for fairly strong gun control measures. You have the Senate pushing it. So, you know, we'll see what happens next.
LAKSHMANANOn the Democratic side.
MECKLEROn the Democratic side.
LAKSHMANANOf course, on the Republican side, we had Ben Carson, the GOP candidate, provoking a total backlash this week, talking about guns, saying some incredibly controversial things about the Nazis and about last week's shooting. John.
HARWOODWell, he talked about the imperative for people in the situation such as was faced at the community college, to rush the shooter, rather than sit there and wait to get shot. Which is, there are some arguments for that approach, but if it comes off as, if you're questioning people who were victims of a mass murderer and say they didn't try hard enough to stop being murdered, that is a vulnerable situation to be in politically. Now, he later said he wasn't criticizing them. He was just talking about the idea of those situations. And in fact, he, himself, was in a holdup.
HARWOODHe was a victim of a holdup in a fast food restaurant one time. And he told the story on the radio the other day. He said somebody came and pointed a gun at him, and his response in that case was not to assault the gunman, but to say, I think you want to -- your issue is with the person behind the counter. He redirected the gunman.
HARWOODSo, he certainly didn't act in the way in which he was suggesting that the victims should act.
LAKSHMANANWow. But he also said, and really got a lot of fire for, on CNN, saying that Hitler's mass murder of Jews would have been diminished if German citizens had been armed.
MECKLERBecause there was gun control in place at the time.
LAKSHMANANBecause there was gun control, which was shocking, but...
HARWOODThis, I mean, this brings up the new politics of gun control. The Republicans who have essentially towed the same line that they have been towing. And the Democrats used to tow for 30 years on gun politics was all about, well, now is not the time to talk politics and we have to grieve with the families. And the politics have totally changed. President Obama came out after the shooting and said, you know, you're right. I am going to politicize this. It's a political issue. We need to talk about it. And the polling itself demonstrates that Americans feel dramatically different now than they have in the past.
HARWOODWe just ran a poll, 55 percent of Americans say that they are in favor of stricter gun control laws broadly. When you talk about some of the specifics, banning assault weapons, banning high capacity magazines, background checks, even for private sales. Closing all the loopholes that Laura mentioned. These poll at 75, 80, 85 percent support, not just among Democrats and Independents, but among Republican voters, too.
LAKSHMANANWow. So, you have a very well-funded gun lobby in the NRA, but you're saying that in fact, the American people have really evolved on where they are on this issue.
WILSONYes. And you've also had a change in the basis of the two parties. So, the people who feel strongest in resisting gun measures, who support the NRA, tend to be older, rural white people. Those people -- Democrats used to rely on a significant number of those votes. They no longer do. Those are now all Republican votes. So, all of that energy and emotion is being expressed within the Republican side, within their coalition, not on the Democratic side, and that's why President Obama is freer to move and Hillary Clinton said she was going to go even further than President Obama.
LAKSHMANANIn terms of using executive action and circumventing Congress. Laura, I was struck, an unexpected proponent of gun control, People Magazine. Does this indicate a real changing of the, you know, national mood, when People Magazine is coming out with this special section it did? Tell us about it.
MECKLERI think that it does in a way. I mean, it's one of those cultural touchstone moments where you see a magazine that is, and they do cover politics at People Magazine, but they are not viewed as activists. We're not talking about Mother Jones magazine here or The Nation. We're talking about a very mainstream publication.
WILSONIt means gun contol's a celebrity now.
MECKLERThree and a half million readers.
LAKSHMANANSo, tell us what they did.
MECKLERWhat they did was they essentially published an editorial saying that we're in favor of gun control, and if you are too, contact your member of Congress. And then right there, at least online, was the names, phone numbers, email addresses, and I think maybe the Twitter handles...
LAKSHMANANEven Twitter handles.
MECKLER...of every single member of Congress listed by, organized by state. So, essentially, what they were saying is trying to activate...
LAKSHMANANAnd urging people to contact them.
MECKLERYes. Urging them to contact them. So, I do think that that is an interesting moment that, in some ways, says more than a press conference in the Senate gallery.
LAKSHMANANYeah, it's really striking. If they're able to reach sort of mass America in that way, I think People Magazine probably has a lot more readers, as you say, than any other activist magazine or publication out there. We've got an email here from Eric who's taking us back to the political issue. He's asking, if Paul Ryan did become speaker, would he be successful? How would he possibly be different from Kevin McCarthy or John Boehner in the eyes of the Freedom Caucus? Meaning the Tea Party supporters.
WILSONI think he would be, he is different in that he has credibility that the Leaders don't. People that, the Republican base loves Paul Ryan. I mean, they really feel stronger about him than they do about anybody else, I think, in the entire party. When Mitt Romney picked him as his Vice Presidential nominee, you know, the attendance at Romney's rallies skyrocketed. He conveys this sort of authenticity, if you will, that is often missing in politics these days. Especially when the Republican base absolutely hates their leaders in Congress.
WILSONYou take a look at national polls testing John Boehner and Mitch McConnell's favorability and unfavorability, they have higher unfavorability ratings among Republicans than they do favorable ratings. So, that tells you that the average Republican voter really hates their leaders at the moment. Whether or not Ryan can maintain that credibility as he's Speaker, I don't, John keeps bringing up the point of sort of the political reality. Well, the reality is, we're going to hit the debt ceiling, Jack Liu, the Treasury Secretary, says, by November 5th.
WILSONThe reality is, funding for the government runs out on December 11th. The reality is there are 46 Democrats, two independents, 44 Democrats, 46 total, in the Senate, who aren't just going to go along with whatever the conservative Republicans want. And by the way, there's a guy in the White House who's got a veto pen. So, you know, whether or not Paul Ryan can convince all of these members of the House Republican conference and the activist class who's calling their offices, of these realities.
WILSONAnd that time is running out, I really question whether or not he can. And, you know, John brought up the 24 second shot clock. Any speaker is not going to have much of a honeymoon with the activist base.
MECKLERThe irony, I think, may be that they're decreasing their chances of getting their own person in the White House by acting in the way they are. Because they're sending a message that says that more extreme forces are at play. Particularly, we didn't talk about this, but their investigation of Planned Parenthood, I think, is another example of where they're kind of making harder for themselves to make it easier for themselves in the long run.
LAKSHMANANAll right, let's take a call from Susan in Cary, North Carolina. Susan, you're on the air.
SUSANHi, thank you for taking my call.
SUSANMy question is this. Why doesn't the media do more coverage of who's funding the NRA, because I don't believe this is about the second amendment. I believe that this -- they're using people who feel strongly about the second amendment, but it's really about money. And who's making a lot of money on the gun sales and the munitions. But I never hear anything in the media about who is funding the NRA?
WILSONWell, in a lot of cases, we don't know. We don't know, because they don't have to disclose their donors. They don't have to disclose who gives them the money, but one can reasonably infer that these, that gun manufacturers are in fact making a lot of money off of sales and therefore, have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo. We have seen, even when some modest reforms were attempted in Connecticut, after the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary, a gun company, I can't remember which one, it might have been Remington, which was based in Connecticut, threatened to move.
WILSONClose the plant and move it to a different state that had not passed those gun regulations in response to the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary. Which may be, perhaps, the single most emotional gun attack in recent memory.
LAKSHMANANAll right, we've got an email from Phil in Detroit. He asks, what is the likelihood that the purpose of the TPP, the Trans Pacific Partnership, is more of a geopolitical move than an economic one? So, it's not just a simple trade deal, but it's a way to better position the United States in Asia, which is China's sphere? Laura.
MECKLERI mean, I think, I don't know whether it's more or less important than the economic factor, but I think it's a major part of it. I remember travelling with President Obama to Asia in 2011, when they were first launching the T -- I believe it was 2011, first really getting serious about the TPP. And it was part of a trip that had to do with the US asserting itself as a balance against China as a power in the Pacific. They were saying that we are a Pacific power and there were other moves that happened on that same trip that dealt with other geopolitical issues at stake at the time.
MECKLERBut the TPP was absolutely cast in those terms, as the US asserting itself as a balancing point to China.
HARWOODThe catchphrase for that for, throughout the Obama Administration, has been the pivot to Asia. That is an increased emphasis on the Pacific region, both economically and geopolitically, strategically. And I think they followed through on that with the TPP.
LAKSHMANANCertainly China has set up its own export/import bank and a couple of different development banks that are rivaling the US. Its own rival trade deal, so this was seen as a real victory, I think, for the State Department, in trying to have a positive influence in Asia and more of an American foothold. Let's take a call from Mike in San Francisco. Mike, you're on the air.
MIKEYeah, I wanted to actually make a comment more than a question. When Hillary announced she was running for President, I was incredibly excited. I think it would be fantastic to have a woman President. And I think she'd be incredibly competent. But as you guys were mentioning earlier, her support of the TPP now, this feels so disingenuous and not -- and very political. And for someone like me, a lifelong Democrat, it makes it almost harder to vote for her, because I don't know if she's being honest or not.
MIKEAnd then you turn to Bernie Sanders and he is the real deal. You know exactly where he stands. At this point, I'm really not sure who I'll support. But yeah, I just think sometimes these moves really hurt her more than help.
LAKSHMANANOkay. So, we've got Hillary flip flopping on the issue. John Kerry was accused of doing the same thing back in 2004. Laura.
MECKLERWell, I just, and I think to -- for her, the bigger problem is what the caller was talking about. Less about the so-called flip flops, although this was one, I think. More about the sense of genuineness and do we really know what she thinks and is she being sincere and honest? And I think that that's a problem for her. She was kind of damned if she did and damned if she didn't on this thing. If she was against -- if she was in favor of the TPP, she would essentially be going against almost the entire party, except the President, albeit, he is an important member.
MECKLERBut the vast majority of Democrats in Congress and Labor and many activists. So, and she would have given Sanders something to hammer her for. But you're right, and the caller's absolutely right. This is one of the things that bothers voters about her. And that they are very attracted to Bernie Sanders, who is the real deal, and has made the point over and over again that he's been where he is on these issues for many, many years.
LAKSHMANANI'm Indira Lakshmanan, and you're listening to The Diane Rehm Show. Another thing that happened this week, that really struck me, was a Catholic Governor of California, a former seminarian, a Jesuit, Jerry Brown, signing this right to die legislation. Which is making California now, I think it's the fifth state that allows right to die. It allows certain California residents to access a prescription for lethal drugs to end their lives, if they have less than six months left to live. What is the significance of this, John? Is your sense that public opinion is shifting on the right to die issue, overall?
HARWOODI think it remains a very divisive issue. The fact that Jerry Brown has done this in California will have some influence. Obviously, California on its own, is a major part of the United States. But I think this is an issue that is rising of importance, especially as the nation ages, as the number of people going on social security and Medicare increases dramatically and one of the challenges that we face is end of life care for people. And so, this issue's only going to get larger rather than smaller.
LAKSHMANANReid, we saw the death of 29-year-old Brittany Maynard, who moved to Oregon to access this death with dignity law. Do we think that the passage in California means that we're going to see other states following suit more quickly?
WILSONThe Brittany Maynard case was certainly what spurred the California legislature to act. Oregon was the first state to pass a right to die measure a number of years ago, and her case captured the attention, not only of, you know, the Oregonian and the L.A. Times, but also of national news networks. And of People Magazine and things like that. And it really seeped into the consciousness. I do think public opinion on the issue has changed in the same way that opinion on, say, gay marriage has changed so dramatically in the last couple of years.
WILSONYou know, we're just -- the culture is different now than it was in the past. I think other states that are led by Democrats will lead the charge on this. I think the Republican sort of right to life feeling, position, remains as hard as ever. And something of a litmus test, especially in states that are governed by conservatives.
LAKSHMANANLaura, we have just a very short time left, but wrap us up with the CEO of Volkswagen US testifying on Capitol Hill about the emissions scandal. Did he give any explanation for what motivated Volkswagen to cheat and do we know when the recalls are going to begin?
MECKLERI don't think he really did exactly fully explain what happened. I think there was something about, you know, rogue German software engineers that, you know, blamed it on that. You know, essentially, but there is still questions about whether, when the top executives really knew about what was going on.
HARWOODIsn't that the plot to the next Bond movie?
LAKSHMANANRogue German software engineers. All right, with that, Laura Meckler, Staff Writer at the Wall Street Journal, Reid Wilson, Congress Editor at Morning Consult, John Harwood of CNBC and the New York Times. And I'm Indira Lakshmanan, sitting in for Diane Rehm. Thank you so much for joining us.
MECKLERGreat to be here.
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