Morning Joe | February 13, 2013
>>> welcome back to " morning joe ." let's go right now to capitol hill and republican senator from oklahoma, senator tom coburn along with nbc news chief white house correspondent and host of "the daily rundown," chuck todd . john heilemann is still with us. look at all this facial hair coming out of washington , d.c. this is like the 1800s . it's looking good. actually, tom coburn --
>> it's feeling like the 1800s .
>> but you guys aren't -- they're not caning each other, joe . if we start caning each other, then you'll -- then it's the 1800s .
>> we're going to show, by the way, chuck todd , after this segment, what -- the way you are supposed to drink liquids when you're on tv.
>> we just saw it. we just saw it.
>> it's this way. it's this way.
>> republicans drinking water .
>> if you're going to take a drink, own the drink. and tom coburn owns the drink.
>> he's got it.
>> he's not looking off camera.
>> beautiful. beautiful form.
>> be the drink. own the drink.
>> but joe , to defend -- think about this for a moment of what marco rubio had to do that he probably never had to do before, and that is speak without an audience.
>> and you'd probably forget, and it's something that they didn't realize, when you don't have an oaudience to give you an applause break even for five seconds, you don't have that moment. and suddenly i think he realized, it was a fairly long speech. he realized 11 minutes in, oh, "s," where do i get my drink of water?
>> i don't know what oh, "s" means. a guy that has delivered speeches to large audiences and never gotten applause lines, i feel marco's pain. so let's go from style to substance. tom coburn , i think it's safe to say the things that concern me the most, concern you the most regarding long-term debt. getting this country on the right track. did you hear anything last night that gave you reason to hope?
>> oh, you know, i think eventually with time, the president's going to have to come around on entitlements. he hinted at that. he has started to try to reach out to some people for the first time in terms of really having some discussions on those. so i think that's a positive move. this was a shorter speech than what he's given in the past. it was welcome. there's a lot of stuff that is counterintuitive to an expanding economy that he put in there. you know, it's my opinion -- it may not be right -- but part of our biggest problem is we have the government involved in way too much stuff now. that's why we're running trillion-dollar deficits. that's why we're having difficulty seeing a good rebound from a negative gdp in the fourth quarter to maybe 1% or 1.5% the first half of this year. that's highly unusual given our history and where we've been and the amount of money that's been invested in the size and growth of the government. i thought he put forth some good ideas. i agree we need to vote on guns. let's have the debate. let's have it out there. let's talk about what the constitution says and what the bill of rights is and what tenth amendment rights are and second amendment. i think we ought to have votes. i'm all for that. i'm confident that once we have the votes, that we will have fixed the real problem and not treated symptoms.
>> we've been talking this morning about whether the president was speaking to congress or speak past congress . you said something in your first answer that's interesting. you said the president's starting to reach out more to people on the hill. can you expand on that?
>> oh, not other than to -- i'm not going to go into specifics, but, you know, the fact is is we're going to have a sequestration. there's going to be some pain because the politicians on the hill aren't going to make cogent, smart decisions about alternatives to this until they start really feeling some pain. it's a stupid way to govern, but that's the way we're doing it right now. and i'd say the blame lies on everybody's shoulders including the president's. about we're going to have it. and then we're going to come around, and we're going to start saying, okay, we're going to start picking and choosing what's important and what's not. and we're going to start eliminating things that are, first, not of great value, and number two, things that we actually can't afford. we're getting ready to head into the first of what's going to be several years of making very difficult decisions. and congress really isn't ready for it. they still don't have the courage to sit and tell their constituents. you know, regardless of your parochial concerns, we've spent money we didn't have on things we didn't need. we can't do it anymore, and guess what, we can't keep doing what we're doing. and they haven't gotten there yet, but the financiers of the world are going to put them there. and hopefully we'll start on our own rather than have some of the financiers of the world telling us what we'll do.
>> so chuck todd , given that assessment of congress , what else could the president have done last night? i thought he made a really great case for closing loopholes and reaching out to the middle class . while not getting too much in the face of republicans for, perhaps, getting in the way of getting something done.
>> well, i thought what was fascinating to me about the speech, let's take the ending aside. i mean, the speech is always going to be remembered for that emotional ending. it's just something different. you're not used to that at state of the unions. but let's take sort of the speech as it began. it began with him talking to congress . you were debating, what were the different audiences. it began with him speaking to congress , right? he began with the sequester, with the budget battles, but i thought he was sort of stern with congress . maybe he wasn't mean about it, but i thought he was at sometimes to borrow a world that my old pal savannah used, hectoring at times. you've got to fix this. we can't keep governing crisis to crisis. but then when he talked about the various ideas he had, that's when it felt like an old bill clinton state of the union that was frankly very well poll tested because he talked about issues that washington doesn't talk about but that people at home care about. minimum wage. the idea of pre-k, the idea of college affordability. he was talking about sort of everyday pocketbook issues that always poll test well, and yet we don't talk about here in washington . so that's when he talked above us.
>> senator coburn , yesterday prior to the committee approval of chuck hagel for secretary of defense, there were several back-and-forths between various members of the panel, senator mccaskill, but the pivot point senator ted cruz from texas who basically had a pretty personal attack impugning former senator hagel 's patriotism, bottom line . i'm wondering, this lack of civility in the senate , what are your thoughts on this?
>> oh, you know, i think the senate 's pretty civil. you all don't get to see what goes on behind the lines and where people kiss and make up and where younger senators, you know, maybe step out a little further than what they might just in terms of figuring out how you operate in the long term here. i don't think it's unhealthy at all. what is unhealthy is not doing our jobs. mike. and that's what's not been happening in the senate because the leader hasn't been bringing the appropriate bills to the floor that the country needs. i.e., a budget. i.e., spending bills. in other words, we haven't been doing our job. and it isn't because we're not getting along and not civil. we're not doing our job because we lack significant leadership on the part of the majority leader.
>> john heilemann.
>> hey, chuck, i'm curious, i just want to pick up on something senator coburn just said, whill a relatively civil place. there's a dinner that takes place before the senate of the union. it took place last night where all the members of the senate and their spouses get together and have dinner. it's like the only bipartisan thing that happens up there anymore. do you think that the civit's still a civil environment?
>> no, i don't think cruz is the symbol of a deeper problem. i think senator cruz, you know, you hear whispers about this that he's rubbing some people the wrong way. and by the way, these whispers are coming from other republicans as well as democrats. it's by bipartisan, but that is more of the hey, you're the new guy, you know, why don't you learn the ropes here and play by a more civil set of rules? but i don't think -- i think that's -- i do think on the senate side, i'm with senator coburn . there really is more at least a friendlier atmosphere. senators actually -- bipartisan senators actually go to lunch together.
>> you need to remember how uncivil i was supposedly accused of being when i got here when i took on ted stevens and arlen specter . there's no change. you work your way into the senate . you build relationships, and then you work bipartisanly.
>> let me just say, i mean, i've known you for a long time, tom. you were uncivil. and then you grew a beard and you've become an elder statesman of sorts.
>> elder is the only correct word that could be associated with me.
>> robert gibbs , you have a question?
>> i think senator coburn , what do you think has to happen to get these two sides together? what do republicans have to put on the table in order to get the president to move, as you talk about, on entitlement reform?
>> or do you give up?
>> oh, no, we don't give up. we can't give up. the fact is is sequestration will be some very bitter medicine that will draw some people to their senses. and after two or three weeks of that, when we start seeing it, all of a sudden people are going to start, first of all, getting pressure from home. and in terms about the impacts of that. all of a sudden people's positions are going to change a little bit and become much more cooperative. but we can't -- you know, i know where the waste is in this government. there's a lot of waste in discretionary. but we could get rid of all of the waste in discretionary. we could actually clean all the waste out of the pentagon which is well over $100 billion a year. it still doesn't solve our problem. we cannot solve our problem unless we change medicare to save it and put a competitive model into our health care system that will allocate that scarce resource. it's really interesting. just yesterday the cms has finished going through all this bidding on durable medical equipment . and the statement coming from cms, for the first time, is hey, we just figured out competition works. about a 41% savings on durable medical equipment not just for the federal government but for the seniors who are going to be doing their co-pay. so competition works. and if it will work -- it works in this area, health care will work in the rest. we've just got to have a little pain. that happened to me as a child frequently with a popular switch.
>> okay. well, there you go.
>> there's a bumper sticker for 2014 .
>> chuck, good morning. senator, good morning. chuck, quick question for you. what are the odds you place on sequester going through and two, a government shutdown if they can't pass a continuing resolution? what do your sources say?
>> i think senator coburn telegraphed exactly what i keep hearing is going to happen. sequester will happen on march 1st . and then the markets will react negatively. there will be some quick pain. and over the 27-day period between sequester on march 1st and the government running out of money on march 27th , then maybe you'll see some action where they quote, unquote, fix the sequester. it's why republicans in the house feel comfortable letting it happen because they know they have 26 days to, like, undo sequester. it's like a trial sequester.
>> all right.
>> okay, chuck.
>> i said when tom coburn got elected to the senate , it was about as exciting an election as there had been in a long time.
>> you know, he stayed true.
>> grown a beard. when he drinks liquids, he owns that drink.
>> with the best of them.
>> and tom, keep fighting the good fight , my man. proud of you.
>> you guys have a great morning.
>> one of our previous guests sounded like he came up.
>> and joe , the senator was drinking starbucks, so he was also product placement appropriate.
>> you know, ted cruz came on, he'd probably drink dunkin' donuts.
>> just to show you. that's right.
>> chewing on munchkins.
>>> still ahead, the chairman and ceo of comcast, brian roberts . more " morning joe " when we