Meet the Press | December 15, 2013
>>> from nbc in washington, the world's longest running program, this is "meet the press" with david gregory .
>> i was part of the last presidential election . we tried defeating this president. i wish we would have. elections have consequences, mr. speaker.
>> good sunday morning. so how is it only in washington can an agreement be so divisive? that's how it works around here. that was house committee chairman paul ryan , challenging gop critics on this budget deal that passed overwhelmingly in the house this week with support from both sides of the aisle. the deal is expected to pass the senate coming up. i spoke exclusively to the architects of the deal, both ryan and senator patty murray of washington state . we'll show you that interview in a couple minutes, but to me the more provocative question with our congressman, bill richardson , nancy gibds, managing editor of time, kathleen parker and steve inskeep . you have this fight on the right.
>> you're going to have lawmakers who complain about this because they have constituencies and it's safe to fight about it because it's going to pass, anyway. a lot of them are being addressed, deficits have gone down, taxes are going down a little bit, spending has gone down and that does create a little room for lawmakers to address issues they want to pass. it's safe to complain.
>> it's a different conversation that i had with ryan on the hill. you look at that furious response on the right, it makes me wonder whether things get worse, whether the right gets more entrenched on some of these questions.
>> i've been talking to people on the hill, and on both sides, there's actually not much public interest in the budget , to tell you the truth. the conservative groups, yes. but john boehner made a very bold statement when he came out against these conservative groups. which he needed to do for a very long time, because they have been using these more junior members to advance what they want to do.
>> why now was my question. why did he decide now was the time to strike back?
>> my view is this is a positive turning point. this is a substantial budget agreement, not forever, but at the same time i think it shows that the grown-ups in the republican party have basically prevailed the vote, 3-1 in the house. boehner taking on the tea party in a successful way, basically sending a signal that we are losing votes, we, the republican party , are losing votes by the shutdown. so i see it as a positive turning point on immigration coming up. if boehner does the same thing on the debt limit. john podesta coming in. i served in the clinton administration when he was chief of staff. he talks to the congress, he'll do executive orders , he's good on process. i think it's a good turning point.
>> we're going to come back with the rest of the roundtable with nancy and the rest in just a couple minutes, but let me take you to this interview i had this week exclusive with senator patty murray and congressman paul ryan . welcome, both of you to "meet the press." this is where republican and democratic peace was actually achieved, in this room?
>> in the center of the capitol.
>> what does this represent? is this a breakthrough for a sign of how little can be accomplished in that environment?
>> i guess it depends on your perspective. what do you think?
>> i think it's a step forward that shows that there can be other breakthroughs in compromise if you take the time to know somebody, know what their passions are and know how you can work together.
>> that's exactly right.
>> a lot of government by crisis.
>> we spent a lot of time just getting to know each other, talking, understanding each other's principles, and we basically learned that if we require another to violate a principle, we'll get nowhere and we'll just get gridlock. then we spent a number of weeks finding out where the common ground existed. we went through the budget . where is the waste, what common reforms can we do, what do we agree on? we wanted to make this divided government work, at least at a minimum basic functioning level, so we had the impetus to do that.
>> do you feel like that's a change for you for a conservative caucus ? you said on the floor that we've been at each other's throats, elections have consequences. you were on the ticket to try to defeat the president. you felt you needed something different.
>> well, sure. i wish i could go back and change the results of the election, but it is what it is.
>> and we disagree on it.
>> that's where we disagree. but government has to function, and we saw the specter of two possible government shutdowns in 2014 , one in january, one in october. that's not good for anybody. that's not good for the country.
>> liberals and conservatives are upset. liberals say you're negotiating on public terms.
>> they couldn't believe i walked in the room with him.
>> for a starting point. republicans have dictated budget negotiations over the last couple years. we're talking about across the board cuts. there's nothing big here, spending programs to get the economy going, that democrats think are really important, and jobless benefits don't get extended.
>> we didn't get everything we wanted, but we did get certainty for the next two years. we're at a point where we're not going to tell everybody congress is in a tailspin because we don't have anything. and a budget is about managing the country's resources so we can have the things i do care passionately about, whether it's education or health care or transportation infrastructure . we were not managing our country in a way to get the things i cared about.
>> on the right, my colleague kelly o'donnell spoke to your colleague marco rubio . he calls this an unamerican deal. there are other conservatives from outside groups that said, look, you and others made a promise, across the board cuts. you're going back on that promise now, and there will be consequences, they warn.
>> my reaction to that is the budget control act which created these cuts said, a dollar for auto pilot spending for a dollar sequester. we exceeded that.
>> but not by much.
>> we're not saying this is a massive agreement. it gets government working but it has $85 billion of savings from what we call mandatory spending , the auto pilot part that congress all too often ignores to pay for $63 billion of sequester relief, half of which goes to defense, which is a big concern among republicans. you don't get everything you want in divided government .
>> when senator rubio says it's unamerican, is that just because he's running for president, do you think?
>> i'm not going to go into what marco rubirubio's motivations are for that, but we got a budget that keeps from raising taxes and keeping a budget for 2014 is what we wanted to do.
>> the speaker of the house really teed off on some of these outside groups.
>> they're using our members and they're using the american people for their own goals . this is ridiculous.
>> a lot of people saw that and said, why now? why didn't he lay down that gauntlet before?
>> i think john just kind of got his irish up. he was frustrated these groups came out in opposition to our budget agreement before we reached a budget agreement. i was frustrated, too, but these are very important elements of our conservative family. i would prefer to keep those conversations within the family, and i think he was basically voicing his frustration with the opposition.
>> do you share that? do you say, look, we have to compromise more?
>> i think these groups are in indispensable to keeping taxes accounted for. we all believe the same thing with respect to our ultimate goal. the budget i passed in march, that's what i really want. balance the budget , pay off the debt, don't raise taxes. but i know in this divided government , i can't get that budget and she can't get her budget she passed. to her credit, she passed a budget . she can't get that into law. we know that. and we can either keep doing this and have shutdowns or we can look for common ground and get things down.
>> there's a lot of what we haven't seen much before, right? i don't know if this is a kum kum ba yah moment, but it passes for what we want on capitol hill . okay, that's a start. but now let's talk about the big, hard stuff . as paul rand said, this doesn't deal with the debt ceiling, it certainly doesn't deal with our entitlements that are drivers of the debt. you haven't taken on the hard stuff here, senator.
>> i think what both of us feel very strongly, and i know i do, is that we can't take on the tough discussions unless we can learn to use the word compromise so that we can have that be a respected, trusted word in this congress. i come here with passionate things i care about. i know that chairman ryan comes with passionate things. but if we just sit in our corners and yell at each other, and that's all we get rewarded for, we'll never get to those big discussions about tax reform or strengthening our entitlements or how we fund things in the future or immigration reform , or any of the other big challenges of our country. so what we're trying to do here is bring some respect to the word compromise, and if we can do that, i think it does pave the way for other people to do what we've done.
>> so surprise me. meet in the middle on something really hard. maybe it's medicare, which you've worked hard on, or tax reform . where could you two reach common ground on something that you would at least mark as a starting point?
>> first of all, we're actually starti starting to talk to each other, which is kind of new for this day and age. step number 2 , this isn't a large agreement, but it's a symbolically large agreement. i would love to throw a couple more zeros at these numbers, but the fact we're doing this, passing bipartisan legislation. it passed the house 332-94, majority of both parties. that's a good step in the right direction. you have to crawl before you can walk before you can run. i'm hopeful as a ways and means member as well that we can start moving tax reform .
>> they didn't seem to want to move on it.
>> tax reform ? in the next year, we'll be moving tax reform because we think that's a key ingredient to getting people back to work and growing the economy.
>> am i missing something? is there something on tax reform you would agree with with the chairman?
>> the other day they said the tax reform is 100 years old, and it looks like it.
>> could you agree on tax reform to rainot raise the deficit?
>> anything you do would be revenue generated from that. that doesn't mean we couldn't find a compromise with that. it would be intense discussions. there were intense discussions here in this room. but yeah, you can find that ground.
>> so what's going to happen on the debt ceiling? this comes up again in a few months. another fight on that?
>> we agreed the debt ceiling would not be part of this. i don't think our country wants to see another crisis and send our country into a tailspin. so we'll take that road when we get there. i defer to you.
>> you're asking things that are unresolved, and the reason we did this agreement is we didn't want to bring those controversies into these talks.
>> my question is as i talk to people around capitol hill , there is a sense, probably true among republicans, that the chance for a grand bargain, if this is a mini bargain, the chance for a grand bargain probably isn't going to happen with this president, especially with the overhang of health care and how divisive that still is. do you think that's fair, that's accurate?
>> i think the grand bargain that puts everything into a whole lot of tough votes on the table is impossible to find at this point, but i do think we can take steps toward reaching a point where we deal with those tougher issues.
>> you said earlier you didn't think the president was willing to moderate. is that still your view?
>> it actually is.
>> he's behind this, though, right?
>> he is behind this, and i think it's because we made this a common ground agreement and we're not tackling the really big challenges which we've been offering budgets to do that for years now. i just don't think that it's his interest to do that. i don't think he wants to do that. but i would rather not focus on the fact that we're not going to agree on these things, and that's why we talk about tax reform . maxim max baucus and dave campo are trying to work on tax reform . what we're looking for is get a foundation under this economy, create some stability, see where we can work together and then we can disagree on these other things.
>> february of this year you were on "meet the press."
>> here's the issue. if we keep kicking the can down the road and don't face up to these issues we have. we have a debt crisis ahead of us, and if we don't face these right now, we have to face the kind of austerity they're imposing in greece. we're saying let's fix this now while we can do it on our own terms.
>> you said that in february, that hasn't happened.
>> i'm worried because the federal reserve is going to start tapering. they're going to go back to start normalizing their policy. interest rates have a tendency to rise under those situations and that makes our fiscal situation even worse . i'm very worried about it. there are two ways of tackling this fiscal problem. one, grow the economy, get people back to work through solid economic growth. two, do this type of comprehensive entitlement reform we've been advocating, but we have a huge difference of opinion on it.
>> these guys have been warning about this, this austerity in greece, and it hasn't happened yet. you can talk so honestly to each other.
>> i'll tell you what people i know feel and businesses i know feel, is the instability caused by congress to not even find a path forward together. it creates uncertainty in the families. they've been furloughed because of sequestration. they don't know what we're going to do. i have a lot of important businesses in my state tell me that our credibility globally has been damaged by governing by crisis, and i think that people want us to focus on that.
>> health care is the big battle, still, between republicans and democrats. 50% of those in our poll think it's still a bad idea. how does this survive politically?
>> i am not one of those rooting for the failure of obamacare. i think it's incredibly important, i can tell you as chair of the budget committee , that we get a handle on our health care expenditures in the future. this is an important step forward . no one wants to go back to the point of having our insurance companies decide whether or not we get health care or not. i'm rooting for us to be able to make this work.
>> understood, but how does it survive politically? 50% in our poll. they just think it's a bad idea.
>> this is an area where we'll disagree, but i think as it's implemented and people do -- like a woman told me last weekend, that for the first time her 29-year-old son with a disability has insurance. she said for the first time in a long time, i sleep tonight .
>> i think we have to replace this law. i believe we can have a system in this country where everybody has access to affordable health care , including people with preexisting conditions without a costly government takeover with more pree dfreedom. but we didn't yell at each other because we knew we would disagree on this issue.
>> i think people will see the results of this law, meaning more security for themselves in terms of their own health care coverage.
>> on our side of the aisle, we like the fact, for the economy, no shutdowns, we also don't want to have shutdown drama so we can focus on replacing obamacare, so we can focus on showing better ideas than this coming in. we don't think people like this law, we don't think it will get any more popular. we don't agree on that, so each of us gets something out of this agreement that we think is good. most importantly, the country is not going to see she's shthese shutdowns and the government will get back to prioritizing spending.
>> you have a chance to do a lot of things like talk about football and all that.
>> we found common ground on russell wilson. he played for wisconsin, we like him.
>> what else did you learn in this process that you would like to drive forward?
>> you know, i think one of the things that doesn't happen and hadn't happened in a divided concourse is people listening to each other. one of the things we had to learn to do was listen to each other and to respect each other and to trust each other. a lot of discussions in this room, either one of us could have taken out and blown up and killed the other person on politically. we agreed from the start we wouldn't do that. very important to where we are today.
>> that's right.
>> you agree?
>> yeah. she's right.
>> thank you both very much. appreciate the time. my conversation with the budget chairs, ryan and murray. we're going to talk more with the roundtable about the budget and the politics of the moment, especially with the president's second term, coming up a little later on.
>>> but when we come back here, government spy edward snowden. michael hayden , head of the security agency during 9/11. i'll ask mr. hayden what proposed changes in the nsa mean for americans in the future. plus, does edward we know