Martin Bashir | February 25, 2013
>> this is the final countdown . we are just four days from the sequester deadline. after a week's recess, congress chose a 2:00 p.m . start this afternoon and now speaker john boehner is moments away from a capitol hill press conference. we fully expect him to plame the president for the looming cuts that will affect everything from flights to food inspection. meanwhile, the administration is applying the pressure releasing state by state figures of what the automatic budget cuts will mean in practice, including 52,000 military workers furloughed in texas. 9,600 low income students losing their financial aid in california. and ohio teachers and schools losing $25 million in funding. one might imagine that state governors are none too happy about it and addressing the national governors association today, the president called out speaker boehner saying all it takes to avoid the ax is just a little compromise.
>> i stand by those commitments to make the reforms for smart spending cuts. but we also need republicans to adopt the same approach to tax reform that speaker boehner championed just two months ago.
>> so will speaker boehner agree to sensible balanced measures on the debt or will he dig in his heels. three guesses and the first two don't count. with us from washington is msnbc political analyst karen finney. and chicago tribune columnist clarence page and louis russert live from capitol hill preparing for the great john baper to speak at another of his magnificent press conferences. karen , you have agreed us to preview your column for the hills in which you blast the republicans for trying to cast blame on the white house . you write at some point the gop -- i'm afraid i won't be able to quote any longer because we have the gathering of the magnificent gop and in a moment or two speaker boehner will speak. but, karen , on your point before i go to that, you say the blame shifting is a pointless exercise.
>> it is a pointless exercise because we've had a number of reports both from the congressional research service and the congressional budget office that have pointed out that different parts of what republicans are fighting for in terms of their ideas about territorial tax policy with regard to multinational corporations or this idea that tax breaks at the top trickle down, that those just aren't true. that there's no evidence to suggest that that works. so here they are digging their heels in, going to the mattresses fighting for economic policy that we know does not help the middle class , will not help our economy.
>> right. okay. well, we're watching katherine mcmorris rogers, who is the first speaker at the microphone. we promise we will bring the scintillating speaker john boehner as soon as he arrives at the microphone. clarence , republicans new favorite journalist appears to be the great bob woodward who wrote in an op-ed obama personally approved the plan to propose the sequester. that's been cited by everyone from john mccain to bobby jindal . it all mere theatrics until we see the cuts take effect? here is the great speaker.
>> -- than he is in urging his senate democrats to actually pass a plan. listen, we know there are smarter ways to cut spending and to continue to grow our economy. that's why republicans have acted twice, as kathy said, to replace the sequester with what we would argue are smarter cuts. listen, the president says we have to have another tax increation in order to avoid the sequester. well, mr. president, you got your tax increase. it's time to cut spending here in washington . instead of using our military men and women as campaign props, if the president was serious he'd sit down with harry reid and begin to address our problems. the house has acted twice. we shouldn't have to act a third time before the senate begins to do their work.
>> good afternoon. we heard the president say last week that he was going to be forced because of the sequestration to let criminals loose on the street if he didn't get another tax hike. today we're hearing discussions from the secretary of homeland security that somehow we're going to have to sacrifice homeland security efforts in keeping our country safe if we don't get another tax hike. this is a false choice . and the president has been engaging in this rhetoric of a false choice for weeks now. as the speaker just indicated, we in the house have acted. there is a smaller and better way to go about trying to achieve the reductions in spending so we can get a control over the spending. and in the house we even included measures that the president has proposed in his own budget. but yet the president won't support even his own measures unless there's a tax increase. so the president really ought to stop campaigning and come back to the table and work with us. we care about what happens to this economy and the people who sent us here. we have proffered alternatives and solutions. we don't adhere or agree with this false choice the president is putting forward, and as kathy said, the president is off campaigning in my state in newport news, virginia. yes, we're very, very concerned about the impact on the commonwealth as we are on all states, and there's a way to affect the right changes and reforms so we can avoid that, and we must set aside this false choice the president is proffering.
>> i'd like to bring in luke russert . luke , i didn't hear speaker boehner or eric cantor mention once the fact that two months ago speaker boehner offered $800 billion in the form of revenues via tax loopholes. what happened to that?
>> reporter: they would tell you that was part of a larger possible grand bargain deal on the table then. this is now. that's off the table, and really what you heard right there --
>> how is it off the table, luke ? how is it off the table?
>> because they concede that after the fiscal cliff deal of january 1st , the year started anew and all the negotiations begin anew and it was the new 113th congress. that's the mindset you're seeing. you're seeing a lot of same attacks against the president we have heard before. you remember during 2012 and the latter part of 2011 , what did the gop say? obama is in campaign mode. he's in campaign mode. he's checked out. he's not trying to work with us. they're trying to drum this up again. and it remains to be seen how it works. it didn't work very effectively after the president got re-elected with an overwhelming majority. but you also saw this idea that the senate has to act first. we've done our job. in theory the house gop has not passed anything in this current congress. they did in the last one. there's actually nothing for the senate to take if they wanted to move forward with the house gop plan. so this sort of blame game , who comes out on top.
>> we're going to go back to listening to the great speaker who is now unbelievably taking questions.
>> -- a spending problem here in washington , there will be tens of millions of jobs in the future that won't happen because of the debt load that's being laid on the backs of our kids and grand kids. listen, i came here to save the american dream for my kids and yours. this debt problem and the president's addiction to spending is threatening their future. thanks.
>> that concludes a fairly swift press conference led by speaker john boehner . clarence is till with us. clarence , i want to can you this, tea party congressman tim huelskamp says this will be the first significant tea party victory in that we got what we set out to do in changing washington . is it not the case, clarence , that what you just saw is the a speaker who is now back under the control of the tea party ? because having two months ago offered $800 billion in revenues through tax loopholes, he now throws that away and is doing exactly what mr. huelskamp and tea partiers would like, which is basically a republican rampage against government?
>> it is a ram page against government in the sense that we appear to be heading down toward the deadline and going over another fiscal cliff although we can't call it that now. we're sauking about sequester but it's the same manufactured crisis as president obama called it in the state of the union address . the fact is that the right wing of the republican party doesn't care if government closes down or if these discretionary funded programs are shut down or cut back at this point because they don't think about what the spending buys. voters do think about that and that's why i think today speaker boehner and the other republicans are really talking to their base once again while the majority of voters showed in the last election that they want to see sensible cuts if they're going to have them, but they don't want to see -- every program has somebody out there who appreciates it, who depends on it, whether you're talking about ship building or talking about food inspection or talking about head start . so there are no pleasant choices. i'm not sure what eric cantor means by false choice . there are no pleasant choices.
>> karen , the fact is the italian electorate has just rejected austerity. the british credit rating has just been downgraded and the country is in a triple dip recession, and yet here we have speaker boehner happy to just cruise towards this sequester disaster on march the 1st as if there's literally no alternative.
>> the republicans like to accuse the president of wanting to make us like europe. it's the republicans who want to simulate that european austerity right here in america and it's failing to the point that you've just made. here is the other problem though, what you just read is very important. the tea partiers see this as their mission, to just blow things up. they're not here -- john boehner may be here to save the american dream for his children but that's not what the tea party is here. they're here to dismantle our government and the way it works. they're doing quite well with that. what john boehner has to decide is whose side is he on? is he on the side of the country or will he be let himself be led around and dictated to by these tea partiers. at a point americans don't say w -- care who said what to whom, who started it. that's part of the problem. i think the republicans are so busy fighting each other, they can't even see what a bigger problem they've got.
>> luke , if you're still with us, i'd loov to ask you this. is speaker boehner , did he have some kind of experience, epiphany over the christmas period, where previously he was prepared to resolve this matter with the president and now the tea party has got back at him and he's back under their control and their sway. is that what happened?
>> reporter: i think what karen said is really dead on in terms of the importance of these cuts for those tea party republicans . they believe this is the tangible thing they can point to that they did when they came to washington .
>> so john boehner being in a very difficult position to stop them --
>> therefore he's ak wee scquiesced to the tea party . the more moderate republicans , they have been very upset that president obama has gone around the country and in their words campaigned on this. they feel he's not been involved enough, and that's where you're sort of seeing this divide. those folks sort of going along with the tea party right now because they don't feel the president has been engaged enough. until that group of republicans , those 55 or so decently moderate in the current gop conference, until they feel the president is making an effort to work with them, they will side with the tea parties and these things will continue moving forward but there be a deal by march 27th because there's too many things --
>> i'm glad you're so confident. final word to you, clarence . clarence , are we going to hit this on the 1st of march ? do you think in your calm and considered way as you always do that we are actually going to hit this sequester and all of these devastating cuts that were laid out by the administration in all of the states are going to come to pass?
>> i'm more interested in the calm way that congress and the white house have been approaching this. congress went off on vacation last week. doesn't exactly sound like engagement and crisis mode. the way things are shaping up, we're heading toward the deadline, and the public appears to be siding once again with the incumbent president like they did back in the '90s when it was clinton versus gingrich in this sort of thing. and i think the question is just how much pressure can be brought to bear on the republicans to help move this thing forward.
>> clarence page , karen finney, and the great luke russert , thank you so much all of you.