Meet the Press   |  April 14, 2013

2: Gillibrand, Lee on the bottom line

Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand and Mike Lee discuss the future of legislative initiatives moving forward on Capitol Hill.

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

and we are back with our roundtable. joining me republican senator from utah, mike lee , and democratic senator from new york , kirsten gillibrand . columnist for "the new york times," david brooks , washington correspondent and anchor for bbc world news america , katty kay , and white house correspondent, our political director, chuck todd , who might have to take over at any time. thank you for being here. senators, let me begin with you and get reaction to senator rubio. on immigration what is the bottom line here? are there going to be poison pills that ultimately kill this legislation or do you see it surviving?

>> it's something that might well survive the senate with a few republican votes that appear to be on it. it could get through especially if a few others join it. what we do not know are the details, the fine print of the bill. some is say it could be as long as 1,500 pages. i look forward to seeing it.

>> what are you concerned about as you hear senator rubio?

>> i think we need to undertake this in a step-by-step fashion. i agree with 70% or 80% of what they've been talking about. i think we're best served if weigh start with border security and move on to modernization, the entry/exit system. we can get those things passed. there's broad based bipartisan consensus. it will be easier to deal with the 11 million.

>> is the pathway to citizenship a real deal breaker to you?

>> the pathway to citizenship right now before those elements are in place is a deal breaker for me. it's not necessarily something that would be a deal breaker down the road. i think we need it to get the other things in place first. it's a matter of sequencing.

>> some of that is very processed. it seems what conservatives want is a real down payment literally and figuratively on border security before they're willing to open up the pathway to sit citizenship piece of it.

>> i think this conversation is so important because the bottom line is immigration reform will strengthen our economy, strengthen our security, and really honors our tradition as americans that this kcountry was founded on immigrants. it's the richness and the diversity that strengthens our country.

>> what's different now than when president bush pursued this with senator mccain ? what has changed fundamentally that can get conservatives to a place they don't appear to be which is to support the pathway to scitizenship?

>> i think the national debate has changed. the country has shifted. and we know that if you have comprehensive immigration reform , you are going to strengthen the economy. you are going to have more people pay into the system, pay into social security , paying their taxes. you're going to raise wages so you have more people investing in their local communities and our small businesses . we want to see economic growth . there's an economic engine and, again, i mean, we believe that diversity strengthens our nation. it's what our country was found founded on. so this comprehensive approach and this balanced approach that does really focus on national security issues as well is something that i think will garner long-term bipartisan support.

>> we're talking about immigration and the gun debate this weekend. ""saturday night live"" had a pretty pointed, with a laugh, criticism at the what is being debated about the background checks . here is a portion of their open last night.

>> good evening. my fellow americans , as you know over the past few months i have made gun control legislation a top priority for my administration. which is why i am so excited to announce that this week the senate voted 68-31 to begin debating the idea of discussing gun control . let me say that again. they've agreed to think about talking about gun control . amazing.

>> senator gillibrand, isn't that really the problem? despite all the emotion, despite the public opinion polls , not a lot is about to be accomplished here.

>> i disagree. i think moving forward on this debate is so important because we have republicans who say this is important for the country. and we have gun reform legislation that is bipartisan already. we have a back ground check bill that is not bipartisan. we have an anti-straw purchaser bill that i helped to write that is bipartisan. we have a lot of bipartisan support on mental health assessment. we have a very good start on beginning to crack down on gun crime . and the bottom line is, the families of newtown, the families all across america who lose children every single day to gun violence deserve a vote, an answer, leadership. that is what is happening.

>> it appears they'll get that, senator lee. do you think what is called manch manchin/toomey here in washington to an expanded background check bill will pass the senate?

>> it remains to be seen whether l it will pass the senate. it wasn't introduced until after we had voted to proceed to the bill. following the tragedy at sandy hook , americans have been rightfully focused on how to prevent such tragedies from occurring in the future. but, unfortunately, the proposals we've seen would seem to limit the rights of law abiding citizens while doing little, if anything, to tally prevent tragedies like this from occurring in the future. so toomey/manchin does have some carveouts. today's carveouts are tomorrow's loopholes and that's of concern to us us this bill, i believe, would do more to limit the rights of the lay law abiding than to prevent violent crime and that's why i can't support it.

>> can i disagree? there is so much in these bills that have nothing to do with law abiding citizens. they specifically work with criminals. my bill in new york state 85% of the weapons used in crimes come from out of state and 90% are illegal. you're talking nine out of tenuoused in crime are being trafficked by straw purchasers with the intent on selling them directly to gangs and, david , there's 30 people who die every single day because of gun violence . we have to answer the pleas of their parents and the communities that are suffering.

>> i want to get everyone involved here. this is a tough vote from members of your own party, for fellow senators. even you as a congresswoman from upstate new york talked about guns much differently and the power of the gun lobby in 2008 in your campaign website. it had this. congresswoman jill grand grew up in a family of hunters and supports the rights. she's been an ardent opponent of legislation that will curb the second amendment. you were touting that back in 2008 as a congresswoman from a more conservative area. this is tough for democrats.

>> that's why i know this bill will work and this compromise will work. it is making sure that you protect second amendment rights, not undermining second amendment rights by saying cripple mals have to go through a background check before they can buy that weapon or straw purchasers and traffickers can't.

>> the nra does not agree.

>> it is not about the nra . this is about families. it's about america . 70% of nra members like the background check bill, like the straw purchase bill. they even the foot the assault weapons ban . when you talk about people, america , and what americans want, americans want these reforms. we just saw that mother who lost their child. you cannot do nothing in the face of that tragedy.

>> david brooks , from immigration to guns to the budget, do you see the parties finding mutual self-interest to get something done?

>> yeah, if you woke up this week you would be under the illusion we're a functioning democracy. things are working well he is especially on immigration . i have to salute the gang of eight. they have worked well. they are working well, the administration gave them space. i think marco rubio is a hero. he said earlier today he is not thinking about the politics. i hope he's thinking about the politics. the politics are going to be touch for him if he runs for president with this. it's heroic what he's doing and so it's senators acting in prudent and courageous ways this week. and i think that's true on guns but especially immigration . it's been a good week for those of us who watch this.

>> chuck todd , a quick question or comment?

>> i would say i agree. i do think the difference between immigration and guns is immigration the emotion has been taken out of it and that's why you're seeing a whole bunch of people attack it as public policy rather than getting -- the gun issue because it's emoti emotional makes it harder. senator lee, i guess my one question is do you not believe the metric that they're going to have with the border security ? that supposedly has to -- there's going to be an amount that they have to come up with and say, okay, the border is secure. then the path to citizenship begins. do you just not believe that's going to be the case?

>> it's not so much --

>> that's what you target in the bill.

>> it's not so much i don't believe the metric. it's that i think it's a matter of political reality and as a matter of practical implementation of these laws. we can pass things right now that would deal with border security and that will implement the entry/exit system and will update and modernize our visa system. we can get that done. there is broad based bipartisan support for all of thoets those things in both parties of congress. we can get that done. there's a lot less consensus on what to do with the 11 million. what i'm saying is let's get those things done right now. we will deal with the 11 million once those things are done and i think we'll be able to convince a lot more people to support addressing the 11 million that way.

>> on the immigration question it seems that it's the border security can be secured there is no reason for the republican party nationally not to jump onboard on this. actually aren't we looking in your party at the conflicting polls between house districts, house races, and what is clearly right for the republican party in terms of presidential and even senatorial politics? what november revealed with about the changing demographics of this country is something that is clear from a party policy point of view but which, when you talk to individual members of the house , is still going to be -- i would love to agree with david that we are at a time of functioning government. america has gotten to the stage it was almost ungovernable recently. i wonder when these things get out of the senate and into the house , are we going to hit that roadblock again where individual congressional districts , whether it's on immigration or whether it's on gun control are still going to gum up the process.

>> katty, to your point, if you are just saying that a border security is the most important issue, we've come a long way on border security . president obama has made a big commitment on that. he has 21,000 boots on the ground to do the work. they have aerial surveillance technology they've never had before. they've done a lot. confiscations that have taken place continue to decrease over time because they're just getting it done. so i think to say you can't do immigration rae form before you do border -- is not only a red herring but so shortsighted because, again, immigration is such an economic issue. as you said if you take the emotion out of it, it's a huge economic engine. if you want to put the emotion back in, i'm happy with that, too. i like the dream act and i think these young children who are brought here by their parents should be able to litsch the american dream .

>> in 17 house districts where there is an immigration reform , then that gets used. it gets used as the reason to gum up the process.

>> if there's one thing we learned from the last comprehensive immigration debate we had in 2007 is that when we play politics with this area of the law, everyone loses. we stalled out further immigration efforts for effectively six years. what i'm saying is not necessarily that you have to do border security first because it's the most important. these are all important issues. what i'm saying is that as a matter of sequencing, you have to deal with border security , have an entry/exit system, update and modernize our visa system so that it works and that way we'll be in a better position to enforce whatever laws we have.

>> i only have a couple of minutes. i want to throw the budget out here. it's part of what washington is dealing with. david brooks , the criticism from republicans and president obama he wasn't taking entitlement seriously. now he's talking about reducing the benefits of social security over time and here a key republican who had called upon him to do that this week and his response in the president's budget was the following.

>> the budget really lays out a shocking attack on seniors, if you will.

>> he is the head of the republican committee to re-elect republicans in the house saying we asked to you do this but now you've done it.

>> that was opportunism. i think he was more or less alone. i talked to house leadership people and they're still, we should do reform. and so i think what obama can did is the right thing to do. it was too small. essentially we have this widening inequality problem, 52% of the kids born out of wedlock to moms under 30, born out of wedlock, and discretionary spending , the domestic programs, health education , welfare, that's going down to eisenhower levels under this budget. so we should be more aggressive on entitlements so we can could be spending money on young people . he does do that. he takes a tiny step in that direction but not big enough.

>> i think you make a good point. the quickest way to pay down the debt and the deficit is to create a growing economy. that's why the investments matter to david . for example, investing in universal pre-k makes a difference. investing in high-tech manufacturing research and development makes a difference. increasing the minimum wage makes a difference. those are all priorities in the president's budget that are about economic growth . i think he goes a long way to entitlement reform in the medicare/medicaid area are where they're harmonizing rebates. that's smart.

>> against the social security .

>> the reason i don't agree with the social security cuts is because why, why, why are we cutting benefits to seniors and veterans when social security is not a driver of the debt. for me it's the wrong priority.

>> i want to get a comment from chuck, about 20 seconds left here.

>> watching what happened with greg walsh, the white house couldn't have gone any better for them. this is exactly what republicans thought was going to happen the minute they desperately wanted the president to put change on the paper. go own it. because they thought one of the side benefits will be the left and he'll have this divisiveness. it gave the president a walkaway.

>> i have to leave it there.

>> and he doesn't want to walk away from the talks.

>> i don't think he does. now he has the claim.

>> i have to get a break in here. thank you all very much. we're going to take a quick break. when we come back, my voice is going to get remarkably better as you will hear my special conversation i taped on friday about the legacy of baseball legend jackie robinson and what the struggle means today. joining me the woman who stood by his side through all of it, his wife of 20 years, rachel robinson , as well as documentary filmmaker ken burns . we'll also hear from harrison ford who stars in the new robinson film "42" playing the man who made robinson's story possible all coming up.