Meet the Press   |  March 31, 2013

Guns, immigration and social policy: What lies ahead

A Meet the Press panel of experts looks at remarks made earlier on the show by senators from both parties on the gun debate, immigration legislation and same-sex marriage.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> the entire country pledged we would do something about it, and that this time would be different. shame on us if we have forgotten.

>> we are back with our first roundtable. welcome back, everybody. all right, guns, david axelrod , the president has used the bully pulpit for is to re-energize the issue of gun debate. the polls are sort of speaking pretty loud here. the public doesn't seem too much the same desires.

>> well, yes and no. if you look at the same cbs poll you cited 90% still support background checks . i heard senator flake say it's a bridge too far. 90% of americans have crossed that bridge. 86% are republicans . and many of them, by the way, are in suburban swing districts that are currently held by republican members of congress . so i think the politics isn't all that clear on this, and if i were on the republican side , i would be looking hard at a way to find something that i can vote for that would satisfy that desire to deal with this problem.

>> tom davis , you did this for a living. what part of gun control is good politics for any republican?

>> it's tough. it's an intensity issue. polls measure one thing but the people who vote on it don't want the changes at this point. and in the republican base which is largely rural, there's no percentage voting for this in many of these districts.

>> peggy ?

>> i think a big part of the story is that people don't trust congre congress. after newtown there was a great bubbling feeling of, my goodness, there must be at least some things we can do legislatively to make this whole gun situation better. if the congress, if the senate had moved quickly on discreet, small bill having to do with background checks -- i mean quickry in the weeks after newtown --

>> these are small bills.

>> move it quickly, do it. don't put it together in this big thing and then talk about these different kind of guns you're banning and having all these hearings. they failed to move quick and small.

>> is she right?

>> well, the senate moving quick quickly -- those two things don't go together.

>> they don't go together.

>> and never have.

>> sometimes you've got to.

>> my question is whether michael bloomberg with his money and his enthusiasm can manage to turn this into a voting issue on the pro- gun control side --

>> a voting issue in november. i get that. we had mark pryor , we're not going it to let somebody from new york city -- mary landrieu , heidi heitkamp , democrats who don't seem to like the role.

>> i think he's a good foil for them to certify their authenticity.

>> their independence.

>> in states like new jersey, pennsylvania, california, new york, there are members for whom i think this could be an issue especially if bloomberg turns up the heat in the upcoming campaign.

>> you used to do his ysuburban district. that's the one you represented. there is a different type of voter there than in the majority.

>> there aren't many districts like that that are still republican. there are some. they'll have a vulnerability and these republicans that are most likely to cross on background checks and i think the mayor and others add pressure on these members to vote that way.

>> peggy , what did you hear on immigration between the two? chuck schumer , the deal is at hand. we're close. jeff flake , whoa, whoa, whoa. hold on a minute. what did you hear?

>> i heard a lot of interest in marco rubio . look, i think there's a broad sense that we've been talking about immigration reform in a very big way for almost ten years and in congress they do want to move forward, but there are anxieties certainly on the republican side . i think rubio said something in the past 24 hours or at least i read it, that seemed to me kind of smart. he said make this transparent. let everybody know. let the voters know what we're doing. maybe hold hearings. but don't just have these quiet little deals again.

>> wait a minute. you're contradicting yourself. on guns you said move fast, move quickly, get it done.

>> move fast and move quickly on immigration is now impossible. please, this has been going on for ten years. but i'll tell you something that i read something in a book the other day that i think has a little bit to do with what's with the general mood pushing immigration forward. it is the quote from calvin coolidge , it's in a book about him about 1922 and he said of immigration whether you came over -- whether your people came over on the mayflower or they came over last week in steerage, we're all in the same boat. that's an old american point of view. he explained afterwards the boat you're in is made magical by a feeling of americanism which we all have to communicate to each other, which we don't communicate so well these days. but i think there's just a general sense normalize and regularize this thing. don't make it punitive and nasty.

>> she does bring up a point every two generations.

>> oh, my goodness.

>> and eventually --

>> it was chinese in the 19th century .

>> and eventually we get through it and, guess what, we do communicate americanism very well. still after immigration . i think a deal gets done because of the impetus for the republican party to do something, to move. marco rubio has been preaching this since he got to the senate that we've got to do something, people, or else they're not going -- latinos are not going to listen to the republican party on other issues. i can't imagine him walking away .

>> brass tacks, the senate vote has to be large, right, tom davis ? to force the house and senate to come to an agreement that has a path to citizenship.

>> most of these house members got re-elected even while the democrats were getting a majority of the vote for the house. they're from pretty safe districts. they were about primary elections and this does not help those particular members. it helps the party.

>> does the republican party want to be a regional congressional party, or do they want to be a national party ? if they want to be a national party , the trends are unmistakable. the vote in november was very clear. they have to do this if they want to be a national party , if they're satisfied being a reaming nal congressional party then they will block it.

>> i don't disagree with you but you have to put urbina self in the mind of the members.

>> you have the national party leader saying one thing and the congressional leaders saying another. if it wasn't for gay marriage this week, what happened in north dakota on abortion -- and i want to get all of your takes on this -- would have been, i think, the big social issue. north dakota 's republican governor signed one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country six weeks to ban abortions. when he signed it he admitted legally it probably is not going to stand up to a legal challenge challenge. i want to show you there's been a lot of movement and they're all in red states on this issue of banning abortion at certain times, 20 weeks or less. that's the map we have on the board of all the states that have done 20 weeks or less, an abortion ban. every single one of them, by the way, states that were carried by mitt romney . peggy noonan , this issue of abortion, as gay marriage falls as an issue that maybe it's now splitting republicans a little bit, you can see jeff flake was uncomfortable just talking about the issue. abortion and the life movement could be what motivates evangelicals again, could it not not?

>> i don't know. actually that's not my question. here is the thing. this issue will not go away, abortion. it is a constant agitating of the american soul. you mentioned the legal move that was made in one of the states to cut off abortion after six weeks. the real story this week is the haunting and disturbing story of this doctor in philadelphia who is being tried this week. and if you wanted to watch the testimony, it was hard to find, but if you wanted to have a sense what was happening, you could find it on the internet or in the local papers. this was a man who had an abortion mill that was, in fact, a death mill for babies essentially born. being tried now we'll see how it goes. this is a story that is haunting about the implications of decisions made by courts. the abortion issue will not go away if you think it is the taking of a human life , and so it's going to stay there and get itself worked through in the courts again and again.

>> it does seem there is a strategy now that republican governors and legislators are basically trying to push the supreme court to retake up the issue.

>> i think peggy is right that abortion won't go away the way gay marriage i think will go away in a few years and we'll get past immigration . the best we ever get to on a abortion is a truce. the country is --

>> what's the new truce?

>> well, we're in one of those periods where maybe the sort of truce line people are trying to move it one way or the other. ultimately people who are opposed to abortion because they believe it's murder, it's very hard to compromise on that. it's very hard to say, well, you know, you go ahead and murder if that's what you believe. that's not what i happen to believe but it is what people --

>> and yet, david axelrod , the issue of rights was in colorado and virginia in particular.

>> yes.

>> that's why you carried those two states in your opinion, right?

>> and you look at the gender gap in the election. these were motivational issues for people on our side as well. let the me make a final point on your first point about all these social issues. what's interesting to me these were once wedge issues for republicans . now some of them are working as wedge issues against republicans . and it shows a shift of absence. now abortion is a separate discussion for the reasons that jean just mentioned but there's been a drift on some of these other issues.

>> that does seem as if every other time the culture war has percolated, it was something that would favor republicans . does it? it's not necessarily --

>> race, ethnicity, culture before you get to economics at this point and even many groups who agree with republicans on some of these social issues, branding on eth nnicity, immigration , is so bad they won't even look at republican candidates so it works in the democrats' favor in many of these cases. abortion is a different matter. the country moves slightly right. americans are very conflicted.

>> technology had moved the country.

>> of course are.

>> the question is are republicans pushing the envelope too much and is there going to be -- you saw it as a snap back.

>> look, ruth bader ginsberg herself last week was quoted as saying she thought roe versus wade , i missed the word, was a bit of an overreach in terms of the way the courts did it leaving this issue not settled democratically, not settled in legislatures and by the people and referendum but being imposed on them. when you have a great, terrible, moral issue and you want to put a certain thing, you will cause a half secentury of violence.

>> it's a polarizing issue. it's a difficult and troubling issue but i think the politics are more complicated and there will be a backlash to those kinds of initiatives.

>> and it's polarizing within the party sometimes as well. thank you all for part one