msnbc | February 06, 2013
>>> hi, everybody. good morning. i'm thomas roberts . topping our agenda today, mission, mind meld. president obama will talk strategy with senate democrats today, looking to gain support for his ambitious second-term agenda that includes guns, immigration and the looming budget war. the president arrived in maryland in the last hour where he's going to spend the day in annapolis. it's his first chance to speak to senators directly about his proposed quick fix to avoiding the sequester with the acts about to fall in just a matter of weeks. now the sequester, which is a doomsday machine of $1.2 trillion in cuts, the pentagon would take the brunt of that blow with the rest of the pain coming to domestic programs.
>> our economy right now is headed in the right direction. and it will stay that way as long as there aren't any more self-inflicted wounds coming out of washington . so let's keep on chipping away at this problem together, as democrats and republicans , to give our workers and our businesses the support that they need to thrive in the weeks and months ahead.
>> the president's called for a fix of short-term spending cuts and tax reform hit a brick on capitol hill . politico reporting that obama 's plan dead on arrival , and house speaker john boehner was speaking on capitol hill , right now saying that his party plans to stand with the american people and we want to show you exactly what he had to say about that yesterday.
>> on two occasions has passed a plan to replace the sequester. it's time for the senate democrats to do that work. it's time for the president to offer his ideas about how to replace the sequester.
>> his first answer to everything is new taxes. and when you think about it, what happened in january, he got $600 billion in new revenue, where were the spending cuts? now again he wants to raise taxes. i think it's time for us to cut spending.
>> now with 1,379 days gone since the last time congress passed a budget and with the country poised to take a poison pill of cuts, what will it take?
>> not passing a budget is shameful. and now you have the president saying well, i'm against the sequester cuts. well okay, great. well what are you going to replace them with?
>> the republicans have other ideas. put them on the table. let's make a small deal. if we can't get to a big deal , he would like to get to a big deal . and he's invited them over, any time.
>> so let's dive in right now. joining me is maryland's democratic congressman chris van holland, ranking member of the senate budget committee . right now house speaker boehner is telling reporters it's time iffer the president as well as senate democrats that they need to do their job to avoid the sequester in itself. what's your take on how this is going to all crack out? is it going to go down to the wire?
>> well, thomas , first of all, the across the board sequester cuts will hurt the economy. republicans have acknowledged that. and this is a very timely discussion we're having right now, because just over the last two days -- and i just came off the floor of the house , the house democrats proposed a substitute, an alternative to those across-the-board sequesters. we proposed you'd have a garage call cut in the direct foreign subsidies, that you would ask oil companies to get rid of the taxpayer subsidies they have. so we put forward a proposal that would substitute for these very negative across-the-board cuts, and unfortunately, republican colleagues denied us the opportunity to even have a vote on it. so it's great that speaker boehner is calling on the president to take action, when the speaker refused to have a vote on the proposal that we've offered just in the last 24 hours to replace the sequester through a combination of other more targeted cuts as well as revenue from closing tax breaks .
>> one thing i want to show everybody, the nonpartisan congressional budget office was without their forecast giving overall picture of where we stand and where we're going. the 2013 deficit standing at $845 billion. last year it was $1.1 trillion. so obviously we're going in the right direction. but they do give a grim fast if there is a type of austerity measure that is in place while the economy remains very fragile.
>> well, that's right. there are two things we have to work on at the same time. the most important thing is to make sure that we continue to see an economic recovery, that we do what we can to accelerate that recovery, put more people back to work. and the sequester would undercut that effort, because if you take that much money out of the economy very rapidly in this across-the-board way, it will result in lost jobs, which is why we proposed this alternative. now over the longer term, there's no doubt we have to reduce our deficit, but we have to do it in a smart and balanced way as the president has said, and that's why we have proposed a combination of cuts and we've already done $1.5 trillion in cuts as part of the budget control act and other action. we did some revenue as part of the most recent agreement on the fiscal cliff, but we need to continue to do a combination of targeted cuts and revenue from closing those tax loopholes. i remember -- i think the american people do -- mitt romney and paul ryan talked about all those tax loopholes that benefit very wealthy people. well, let's get rid of some of those to help reduce the deficit.
>> i wanted to talk about the policy fights that are going on. and time is of the essence with what's going on with the sequester. we've got immigration , gun control , electoral changes that are in the works, all taking place, all these conversations happening simultaneously. and then we have your colleague congressman cantor coming out yesterday to talk about rebranding of the gop, and i just want to remind everybody what he had to say. take a look.
>> our house majority will pursue an agenda that is based on a shared vision of creating the conditions of health, happiness and prosperity for more americans and their families. we'll advance proposals aimed at producing results in areas like education, health care , innovation, and job growth .
>> congressman, how does this rebraineding or the mission or the hope that the republican party has of trying to put some new paint on the brand mesh with all of the big policy fights that are going on right now in washington , d.c.?
>> well, republicans know they're hurting after the last election, but they think the solution to this is somehow just to change the packaging, to change the way they talk about their policies, when the real problems are their underlying policies themselves. so, for example, the american people support comprehensive immigration reform . the president has put forth a proposal. we're looking at bipartisan proposals emerging from the senate. but the house for the most part under republican control is not taking any leadership on that issue. the same with gun safety issues. very common sense proposals, things like having a universal background check . again, the house is sitting on their hands. all they want to deal with are some of these budget gimmicks they're talking about and not even there, get at the underlying issue of jobs in the economy. so, again, the big issue for republicans is this fight that's going on between the tea party wing of their caucus and the others. we see that reflected in karl rove 's new group. but the result is very bad for the american people because it means that we're not able the move forward in the house of representatives on these very important measures. it's time for them to exert a little leadership instead of simply always pointing the finger at the president on these various issues, when in fact the president is taking action and simply allowing -- asking, thomas , for a vote on some of these things. i mean, our lrepublican colleagues in the house are free to vote against immigration reform . let's have a vote.
>> great to see you. real quick, on a personal note, i know your dad passed away , the ambassador just recently, 90 years old.
>> thank you, thomas .
>> and my parents who grew up on lake avenue just down the street. so they know your family very well. but again, our deepest condolences to your and yours. thank you, sir.
>> thank you, thomas .
>> want to bring in our wednesday morning political power panel. we have joanne reid, doug thornell, republican strategist hogan. the democratic strategy session that's going on, the immigration , the gun control , the electoral changes that are going to take place. but it was really interesting yesterday, as we saw with eric cantor coming out, rebranding or wanting to rebrand the republican party and where they're starting. it seems as if this message is one that we've heard before but from a different person. take a look.
>> well, it starts by making sure that everyone in america gets a fair shot at success.
>> our goal is to ensure that every american has a fair shot to earn success.
>> that's why immigrants from around the world historically have flocked to our shores.
>> that hope led generation of immigrants to risk everything to endure a tough journey to come to our shores.
>> we should be giving people the chance to get new skills and training.
>> as job markets are emerging, more skills and training are needed.
>> so the rebranding is about going to pre-election speeches and drafting those as your own now post-election for eric cantor ?
>> it's amazing, because "fair shot" has been such a signature phrase for barack obama . he's been using it for over a year. so it really was striking to hear eric cantor literally lifting lines from barack obama . i guess what the republican party has decided is barack obama is popular so they need to sound more like him. that doesn't mean they're going to change their underlying policy but they sure do want to sound like the guy who's more popular.
>> there has been a lot of pushback from the conservative entertainment complex , one being rush limbaugh . i want to hear what he had to say after eric cantor 's speech.
>> there isn't any resistance to obama anywhere. and it's going to get worse. even from this point. it is because of who obama is and what his policies are and the perception that the american people massively support it all. and that's cantor is saying we're going to have to do a better job of explaining who we are. we need to do a better job of explaining why we're doing what we're doing. that's -- i think -- well, that epitomizes how lost they all feel. and right now, folks, there is no fight.
>> so hogan, they have been labeled -- the right, that is, as the party of no. if eric cantor is rearticulating the position, is it basically just saying going from no, to nooo -- just to slow it down? because schultz was saying that eric cantor has a new tube of lipstick but it's the same old pig.
>> right. i don't think we need any republican candidates that are any less conservative . i think we need republican candidates that are more practical. i deal with this all the time with candidates our firm handles. you say all the things you want to. you can throw all the bombs you want to, but a lot of times, candidates on both sides -- republicans are definitely guilty of this, they talk about things they can't accomplish because it's not a dictatorship once they get to office. and b, you have to work with other people. it's not like you can go in there and under the purview of what you do in that particular off, it doesn't even handle that particular issue. so we need conservatives out there who understand, they can be as conservative as they want to be, but you have to move the balfour ward. you have to govern something. you have to show the people of this nation you care about what they care about. now, whether the legislation comes through a democrat president, a conservative congress, a democrat senate, that's different story. but either way , republicans have a real challenge here because they don't have the pulpit of presidency and we are in somewhat of a disarray here trying to rebrand and regroup as we move forward.
>> let's talk about that, the bully pulpit of the presidency, because politico is saying that president obama 's fill in the blank sales pitch -- so wahatever it comes to, whether it's immigration , gun violence , the sequester, that they say tout what he's already done, say the public's in his corner, demand congress to do something, lament washington dysfunction, warn it won't be easy, bask and applause. does it seem that it's become just that formulaic to get stuff done in washington , d.c., at least when it is the president's idea that he's trying to push through?
>> well, if i can just say one thing. i think the obama folks should ask eric cantor for a check for some of his speech writing.
>> you think there are residuals for that?
>> residuals, right. now, i think the president is showing some very good message discipline . it's something that hogan and myself and others really try to impress upon folks when they're trying to make their case. but the president has shown throughout his career that he thinks that change starts from the outside-in. i think that was how he approached his first campaign and second campaign and that's how he's approaching his legislative agenda. he's taking his message to the road. these are issues, whether it's immigration reform , whether it's gun violence , whether it's supporting the middle class , they have strong popular support. i mean, these are the issues that the american people voted on and supported the president on and i think he's doing the right thing. he's activating his base and he's asking them to help get this agenda through a very dysfunctional congress.
>> so when we talk about the dysfunctioning congress right now, let's talk about some of the policy fights that are taking place, and immigration is front and center. and right now, if we take the temperature of the american people , the abc " washington post " poll shows exactly where they feel that the president is doing, 49% are approving of the president's stance on immigration at 38% back in july, 43% disapprove. that number was higher back in july at 52%. is this something where unless the president stays ahead of the curve here and basically like a surfer reads the waves that are coming in, they're going to lose ground because republicans have everything to gain from looking like they're leading on the immigration debate .
>> right. but the problem is the republicans also have a divided base. the political people in the republican party , the hogan gidleys of the world understand they have to move on immigration . but their base has been taught a very different lesson for a long time and it's a lot harder to quiet the conservative activists who are just angry that the party won't just double down on conservative principles. i think the president is pursuing i think a smart strategy. it's different from what he did his first term where he went one issue at a time and sort of seated the public fight over it to the right where the tea party came in on health care reform . this time he's flooding the zone. they're pushing out so many issues so often that the republican party isn't having an opportunity to deal with any one of them in a coherent way and they're just letting the republicans fight.
>> their own defense all the time. go ahead. i'll give do you last word.
>> real quickly, marco rubio is a great example, very conservative , but very practical on this issue. barack obama is doing a two-pronged strategy that i think is effective. he is taking it to the people, he's trying to get that ground swell of grass roots support. that's how you move the country in the direction you want to go. however, the second prong, which we know has been a well-documented problem for the president, his disdain for the process. he's going to have to get better at calling some democrats in, calling republicans in, and hammering out legislation to move the balfol forward. if he does that, his agenda would have it move a lot quicker than republicans would have it move.
>> i do appreciate your time