Mar 03, 2013
DCCC Chairman Steve Israel on CNN’s State of the Union - March 3, 2013
Crowley: Joining me now, Congressman Steve Israel head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and Congressman Greg Walden, he chairs the National Republican Congressional Committee. Thank you both for being here on your debut here for us and together. So it's very nice to have you. So we sort of laid out mathematically how the vast majority of Republicans and Democrats in the House were elected by big margins in today's terms: 55 percent or more. So realistically speaking, you all are never going to be able to find big legislation you're going to agree on in a bipartisan manner. Republicans can shove it through but you're never going to be able to agree, are you?
Walden: I don't think that's true. Look, we'll have competitive races. When the race is over we should get together and try to solve America’s problems.
Crowley: They’re realistic ideas, but it doesn't happen.
Walden: But it's a bicameral process. So when we pass something in the House, doesn't mean Senate has to takes it up exactly the way we pass it. Have them pass something back. We’ll get together to see if we can work it out. But at least the volleying back and forth so we can come to common ground or at least try.
Crowley: Have you seen common ground? Name me one really big thing in the last four years that the House of Representatives has passed on a bipartisan basis.
Israel: Well look, we just passed the Violence Against Women Act, it took the Tea Party Republicans 500 days to allow us a vote and we did finally get a vote for it. Look, I just came from my district, Candy. I think my district is like most others in America. I don't care if you're in a blue district, or red district, or purple district, you want a Congress that’s going to focus on solutions. You're tired of the politics of blame and want a Congress that focuses on solutions. On this major economic issue we have right now, sequestration, House Democrats have attempted on three separate occasions to get a vote on a solution that is based on compromise that is fair and balanced, that continues to cut spending beyond what we've already agreed to cut – a trillion dollars – that cleans out our tax code, eliminates corporate tax loopholes for special interest, archives, that reprioritizes. We couldn't even get a vote, not one vote on those three things. Look, I like Greg Walden a lot. We do a lot of work together. We share each other's pains. My question to Greg, can we at least – in the spirit of comedy and compromise – can we at least get a vote on our common sense solutions? You can vote no but at least give us a vote.
Walden: So the way this works, we've had two votes, one in May and one in December to offset sequestration in the House. We came up with common sense reductions in spending, some of which came from the President's own initiatives. We sent that to the Senate. The Senate never took it up, the Senate never passed it. The President never weighed in of support. He said if you don't increase taxes, I’m going to veto it. We’ve tried to get flexibility from the sequester moving forward. It’s been rejected, or it’s like the Jimmy Buffett song “if the phone doesn't ring, it must be me.” We're waiting for Harry Reid or we’re waiting for Barack Obama.
Crowley: Let me move you on to politics because something caught my eye in a story today in The Washington Post. It quotes you, Congressman Israel. Quote, the President understands to get anything done he needs a democratic majority in the House of Representatives, said Representative Steve Israel, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. To have a legacy in 2016, he will need a House majority in 2014 and that work has to start now. How is that substantially different from Mitch McConnell, who was pounded for years for saying his priority, was to get the president to be a one-term President?
Israel: There’s a huge difference. The difference is that House Democrats have consistently supported compromise. The president put out a plan…
Crowley: This is about the President's legacy now, which you point out. The President's legacy. How would we ever know that he really wants to work with House Republicans when we know that he wants the House to be democratic and is actively working in a way he has not worked at it before?
Israel: Here is why. Last Thursday Republican Speaker of the House, John Boehner, spoke to the Republican caucus and said there will be no more negotiations, no more talks. Not one corporate tax loophole will be considered as part of the sequester. The Republican caucus cheered. Since when did we begin cheering for failure, since we did cheer against compromise? The fact of the matter is the Speaker said we will not negotiate and there was cheering. What the president needs is more conversation about compromise and less cheering for the lack of compromise.
Walden: Let’s think of the first phone call the President of the United States made as he left the platform on election night it was to my friend here from New York Steve Israel as reported by The Washington Post, ‘I’m all in this trying to take back the House.’ The next phone call was to Nancy Pelosi saying I’m all in to take back the house. He’s had the never ending campaign using Air Force One at $180,000 an hour to campaign around the country. He’s not committed to solving these problems until he has nobody that will stand up and say let's have a check and balance here, Mr. President. For heaven's sake, don't get in the President's way or question him or you might regret staking out your position.
Crowley: Congressman Israel, you can see why people will look askance at the President’s dealings with Republicans in the House who he now has dedicated into getting out of office. Now we knew that obviously Presidents want their own party in, but this, in the midst of all these negotiations, shades how you look at it. Does it not?
Israel: Well look, the President has consistently supported compromise. The President and House Democrats have supported over a trillion dollars in cuts. We know we have to cut even more. What the president has said to House Republicans is let's substitute 750,000 pink slips, which this process will lead us to, with a reduction in big handouts to a few big oil companies. Let me finish. The kinds of cuts that are going to cost 750,000 jobs. We need compromise and solutions and less blame.
Crowley: Let me move you onto issues.
Walden: Before you do that, I do think I get a chance to respond here in terms of the fiscal cliff. The President just got 6 to 700 billion dollars in tax increases at the end of the year in a compromise on the tax code. That was a compromise by the House and Senate into law. That’s an enormous amount of revenue you think about 600 to 700 billion dollars in higher taxes. We’ve done the tax piece. We need now to deal with Washington wasteful spending and it needs to be done. The trillion dollars he's talking, the Budget Control Act, it did happen. Its law and it included the sequestration. That’s what we're arguing about today. That’s where the cuts come from.
Crowley: Let me ask you, moving forward on sort of separate issues you have. We have a situation where a number of Republicans joined in publicly stating their support for gay marriage. I wanted to ask you as you look at these upcoming elections for House members, how do you hold true to the social pillars of the Republican Party and still invite in those, and there are many Republicans who say we need to be supporting gay marriage?
Walden: There's certainly Republicans who do. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Richard Hanna and others have actively engaged in that and support that. In other parts of our country, they don't support that.
Crowley: It kind of invites primary challenges.
Walden: It can, it does, but that’s what primaries are about. I think we're evolving on a lot of these issues. But the thing Americans care most about is am I going to have a job, are we going to get the economy going, sign off on keystone pipeline, create 20,000 jobs. I think the economy is just number one and should be for everybody.
Crowley: Let me ask you on your side of the aisle, you have, I think, more than almost a dozen, maybe more than two dozen, actually, Congressmen written the president, no way, no how can you touch Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid which everybody says are the huge drivers of the deficit. How do you sort of bring the Democratic Party behind not a single but at least a consensus view of what should happen to these entitlement programs?
Israel: Number one we've already achieved over $700 billion in savings and efficiencies in Medicare. Number two, we understand we've got to go beyond that. We’ve got to have a serious conversation, good compromise and start strategy on entitlements. What we get is we want to reform Medicare. We want to begin to reduce Medicare and Social Security from the Republicans but we can't find one single special interest tax loophole they are willing to roll back or end? Why is it that seniors have to be the first to sacrifice the most?
Crowley: Everybody does think the entitlements are what really you have to approach and we don’t see any sign of that. I got to go here. But I want to thank you so much, Congressman Israel and Congressman Walden.