Morning Joe | March 01, 2013
>>> it's time for "get to know the sequester."
>> pre-sequester. lincoln memorial . post-sfeser. lincoln's statue is laid off. "get to know the sequester."
>> oh, man.
>> there it is. he's not in there.
>> so pretty.
>> with us from washington , moderator of "meet the press," david gregory , political director and host of "the daily rundown," chuck todd . guys, how's it going, man?
>> we're still here.
>> i want to hear more of axelrod.
>> how you doing, david?
>> i'm great.
>> you're grumpy today.
>> i'm great.
>> you think he's grumpy?
>> i do.
>> i feel great. what are you guys talking about?
>> so david gregory , how's washington ? can you report post-sequester?
>> it like "the day after," that movie?
>> are tidal weae aal waves coming up the potomac?
>> everything is still here.
>> except congress. they went home for the weekend.
>> exactly. but the congressional leaders are here, and they're going to go down to the white house for what promises to be a productive meeting this morning.
>> but do both sides ever sell this, on defense cuts? lindsey graham yesterday on the house floor talking about al qaeda and john mccain quoting chairm chairman?
>> a lot of the conservative critics are all over the place. on the one hand, they're issuing these warnings and the speaker of the house said this would threaten national security . and then you have other republicans saying that these are, you know, these dire warnings are unfounded. the reality is that neither side wants this. but the politics of this at the moment tend to favor the republicans in that there's no immediate effect of this. this will take time. not everyone's going to be affected by this. and look, there's a lot of americans who hear this and say, really? 2% of the budget, you can't cut 2% of the budget? i think we can live with that. now, there's lots of people who will be affected, whether it's by head start or furloughed employees in the military. so there are certain pockets of the country that will be impacted, and there will certainly be an outcry. my sense is wherever that outcry gets the loudest, whoever feels more pain, maybe we see some movement as a result of that. but it's not going to be immediate. this is not the fiscal cliff.
>> and chuck todd , it's not going to be widespread. it's not like the government shutdown of 1995 . this is about, if you believe the cpo numbers, $44 billion out of $3.6 trillion, that's a penny on the dollar. some people will be affected. some people will be hurt. but overall, it may not have the political impact that the president and the democrats may think it will have.
>> not only that, you know, there was -- the way the white house was spinning this this week, they were almost making an assumption that government workers were just going to drop their hands and stop working and not work as hard and all of this.
>> meat inspector were going to start spitting in food.
>> the other part of this, there's a lot of agency heads who frankly never thought sequester would kick in who are going to keep biding time. they're not going to make certain whacks. they're probably going to delay, delay, delay. i think it's going to be less than a bumpy feel. yes, some places are going to feel it more than others. and there's going to be that uneven feeling. but i think there's a chance it's even less than people think because you've got a lot of agencies still banking on sequester being rolled back sometime between now and, say, july of this year before we get to the end of the fiscal year. what a ridiculous spectacle this week. can i just say this? just a ridiculous spectacle.
>> it's ridiculous.
>> there was not a single serious meeting.
>> not one.
>> if sequester is so bad, not a single serious proposal or counterproposal from the white house or congressional republicans . i mean, come on. this is awful.
>> let me ask everybody around the table, and you guys in washington . i've been reading "the wall street journal 's" been talking about this for some time that actually the president has much more discretion than we're hearing. that he actually has the ability, like the department of hhs has ability to move around a certain percentage of their dollars. and he's got the flexibility to mitigate this damage. of course, the conservatives will argue, he doesn't want to do that because he wants the cuts to seem as painful as possible. but how much flexibility does the president have moving forward to mitigate some of the sharper edges of the sequester? anybody know?
>> melody, you're a --
>> you're the expert, melody.
>> melody barnes solutions.
>> i know it's not fair.
>> last night when i was rifling through.
>> that's melody.
>> sort of shaped on graham rudman which allowed, back in '86, allowed agencies to move the money around so they could make sure that essential services like making sure that our meat is safe could -- they could move the money from nonessential services to these sort of front-line services. is that the case?
>> well, it's a highly technical process, as i understand it.
>> right. which works really good on morning television.
>> right. which is why i'm not going to go into the highly technical process.
>> i know, i'm sorry.
>> do we have a white board ?
>> but agencies, there is some level of flexibility, but at the same time, they have to look at their contracts. they have to look at the kinds of responsibilities that they have, the commitments that have been made, and that in and of itself starts to shrink the parameters of how you can make and where you can make cuts. and where the greatest impact will be on people so that you aren't hurting the most vulnerable people. the president isn't sitting in the oval office saying, let's increase the pain as much as we possibly can. i, the leader of this country, for the sake of a political argument , but at the same time, we've got to figure out a way to do this given the kinds of contracts and commitments that departments and agencies already have.
>> well, there won't be the immediate pain that some anticipated. there is, as i said, a slow-rolling issue here that will get more severe as time goes on. so you can ameliorate things in the short term. if this were to stand in the long term, it would be a big problem.
>> if it were to stand -- if congress were to come back and increase funding in some of these areas. john.
>> yeah. i want to ask david and chuck, first i'll quote the great mike barnicle who said sequester is latin for incompetence. let's start with that. but let me ask you guys, coming into this, there were a lot of debates about -- coming into the sequester about who had political lempplit political leverage. republicans thought they had a certain amount of leverage. now we're past this day, and we're heading into some other things, right? the continuing resolution, the debt ceiling coming up over the course of the next couple months. what happens in terms of leverage now going forward? who has the whip hand coming out of this and heading into those big battles?
>> i don't happen to think it's clear. because the one thing that republicans have proven here is that they may not like it, but it's at least on their side of the column. if they want to force the president's hand on more spending cuts, the sequester, the white house 's idea to force an outcome different from this is what they can allow to prevail. they're not going to win points in terms of the standing of congress, but the feeling is that they can withstand that because because some of their individual members can be strengthened if the president comes after them. i think the bigger fight moves now to the funding of the government for the rest of the year. and does the president want to kind of turn the levers on shutting down the government partially to call republicans out, knowing that, whether it's on tax reform or tax increases, generally there's a lot of evidence in the polling that suggests the public supports him on doing that. and indeed, if you look at tax reform , republicans were for this a couple months ago, getting more revenue out of tax reform . but they refused to do it unless it's, you know, for the money to be paid to then turn around and lower rates. so i think that there's some room to make the republicans hu heard on this.
>> yeah, the white house thinks they have public opinion on their side, and obviously the evidence is there that they do, but i think they've made a fundamental miscalculation on where the republicans are because you've got to go back to the republican leaders. john boehner , mitch mcconnell and john cornyn . they cannot at all look like they're compromising on anything having to do with taxes to replace any of the spending. if they do, they will be out of a job. there's not a, they could be out of a job. it's politically risky. no, they will lose. they're both up. they had front row seats to paul and cruz in their own states. that's how they're operating. they're handcuffed. and if the white house doesn't see that, then, you know, they're not going to get what they think they're going to get out of this. and maybe they think, okay, they'll take it to 2014 . that's a long way from now, and that's a lot of supposed pain that they say is going to be out there.
>> as melody brought up earlier, people like lindsey graham and other republicans , and i certainly would support it, too, closing loopholes, fine, but we're not going to have unilateral disarmament again. we're not going to do what happened during the debt -- the fiscal cliff debate where it was all taxes. yes, we'll close the loopholes, but we're not going to do it for some stopgap measure. you want to talk about a big grand bargain, then yeah, let's pile it all on. but the political reality is, you're exactly right. republicans in the house, republicans in the senate, they can't do this without having a much bigger grand bargain.
>> david gregory , thank you very much. you have an exclusive this sunday on "meet the press."
>> it's exciting.
>> what is it?
>> gene sperling ?
>> gene sperling .
>> gene sperling . i do have gene sperling , but i've got the speaker of the house to top off the program on reaction to what happens today at the white house .
>> that's pretty good.
>> and how we get past this.
>> that's pretty exciting.
>> keep them separated, man.
>> david axelrod , thank you.
>> good to be with you.
>> good luck getting back to chicago.
>> yes, yes.
>> chuck todd , thank you so much. see you at 9:00 eastern time on msnbc.
>> hey, chuck, we've been a little late the past couple weeks.
>> that's all right. i take it out -- you know what happens, i take it out of jansing, and we pay it forward. and so i just tell her to blame you. so jansing's going to be all after you.
>> it's the circumstanle of life.
>> goth that, chris? it's all joe's fault.
>> it's all my fault.
>> former senator russ feingold joins us. more " morning joe " in just a moment. for over