Meet the Press   |  December 22, 2013

1: Obama's year in review: Schumer, Coburn discuss

Sens. Chuck Schumer and Tom Coburn review the president's end-of-year press conference and the issues he discussed. Also, IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde joins Meet the Press to discuss what lies ahead for the American economy.

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

>>> from nbc news in washington , the world's longest running television program . this is "meet the press" with david gregory .

>> and good sunday morning. a miserable holiday weekend for millions across the country as deadly tornadoes, snow, ice, freezing rain affect much of the u.s. this morning. a lot of people having a hard time getting together with their families for the holidays. here in washington , it's beginning to look a lot like a tropical depression . incredibly warm. temperatures around 70 degrees. that's it for the weather this morning. the top issues we're going to explore. obamacare and the crisis over the government's spine program, but i'm going to start with my roundtable this morning and get some thoughts on a question that was asked the president at the end of the year news conference. was this the worst year of his presidency, 2013 ? e.j.?

>> no, i think 2007 was the worst year. they had to back off the shutdown. the change in the republican party is the biggest thing this year, and that's why 2014 could be a year of action.

>> a breakthrough year, the president says, ana.

>> if you're a friend, supporter, secretary, you better hope this is the best year, because if it gets any worse, he'll have to celebrate the new year next year with a bottle of whiskey in one hand and a box of kleenex in the other.

>> health care rollout and the government shutdown , the president looked the worst this year.

>> this is a test of the government solving a big societal problem. that's what he took on. that is the big project of his presidency.

>> no doubt about it. it does beat out 2011 . but -- well, and especially given where he started, the fact that the first year was better than the second, the second more productive. he might do that press conference with whiskey celebrating the fact that the economic boom has really come.

>> we'll talk about the economy, we'll talk more about obamacare. i want to bring in two voices in this fight. senator schumer from new york , senator coburn from oklahoma. welco welcome. here was the heading on the wall street journal . obama repeels obamacare. under pressure from senate democrats , the president partly suspends the original mandate. oeb's make it up as he goes improvisation will continue because it's failing. true or false?

>> false. i think what most americans want us to do is not repeal obamacare but fix it. the president is working to fix it, we are working in the senate to fix it, we urge our republican colleagues to join us in fixing it. the bottom line is there are a lot of good things in obamacare that people like, and the more people see that, the more positive it's going to be. and i would just say one other thing with all the focus on obamacare, david. the number one issue in the 2014 election is not going to be obamacare or the deficit. it is going to be who can get the middle class going again? who can expand middle class incomes, who can create jobs? that is far and away the issue that most americans care about.

>> fair enough. that's going to be the argument. but senator coburn , you know your colleagues, especially those who are running for tough seats in the south, they're going to make obamacare an issue and they're going to focus on the thought that government seems to make changes to pacify critics. is that the wrong thing to do?

>> i think they ought to talk about health care and what we're for rather than continuing to talk about what we're against. look, obamacare right now causes people to spend more money, have less choice, have a higher deductible and have less freedom. the rollout and the ideas behind the fact that the federal government could manage appropriately, one-sixth of the economy is proving itself erroneous. what i would say is we need to change health care , but what they've done, you can't fix this mess. the insurance industry , the indemnification industry, regardless of what you think about the insurance companies , it is on its ear now. and the fact that they granted people a hard exemption, everybody who signed up that had a high deductible policy should go and cancel today and ask for what is being granted to those people who have it.

>> i want to focus on that, senator shchumer, because that's the issue. i'm looking at a mandated delay for those who lose insurance, you have the small business exchange site delayed a year, a mandate was delayed until 2014 . does the original mandate survive? that is the one thing that makes health care go, because you make younger, healthier people buy insurance to pay for older, sicker people.

>> i think it does, and let's not forget all the good things that are happening. if you have a child with cancer, you couldn't get insurance because of preexisting condition. what agony. now it is there. ask and if you repeal the original mandate altogether, that would no longer exist. as i said, as we move on here to 2014 , i'm finding here in new york , our exchange is working, we have competition on it, the website is good. people are saying, wow, i am getting better care at a lower cost. i think that's going to preface what's happening in the country. there have been a lot of glitches, a lot of problems, but they're getting fixed. and six months from now, many more people will see the positives rather than the negatives.

>> that's the marker. senator coburn , let's talk about a budget deal. a small budget deal that has been passed. a glimmer of hope for bipartisan consensus. but here's the bottom line . they didn't take on the hard stuff . including in 2014 , and this smacks us in the face, the debt ceiling. are they going to manage concessions before raising the debt ceiling?

>> i guess i can't really speak for republicans. my thoughts are if the american people don't believe we have a debt ceiling because we always increase it, and they don't believe we have the discipline in washington . there is a positive out of what happened last week, is, yeah, we can come together and agree. what, david, i would say to you is the reason we're in trouble on deficits and debts is not because we didn't agree but because we did. we agreed to spend $740 billion we didn't have last year. we agreed to waste $30 billion as i put out the waste book in year. we agreed to continue to let medicare have $80 billion a year in fraud in it. we're going to have $80 billion a year in fraud in obamacare. we agreed to all those things. so the story coming out of washington that we don't get along, i would dispute that. we get along just fine with the status quo of the government being ineffective and inefficient. so we pass a bill that raises spending and raises taxes and denies what we promised the american people , and everybody says, oh, my goodness, how great. you grew the government some more and you charged us more taxes and you didn't fix any of the problems.

>> so senator schumer address the debt ceiling. it hasn't been addressed in this budget deal. do you imagine another fight on this?

>> no. i would predict that republicans will back off any hostage taking, adding extraneous, irrelevant issues to the debt ceiling. they learned in october that if they followed the tea party and said we're going to let the government default unless we get our way, it was highly unpopular. i understand there is some sabre rattling right now by speaker boehner and minority leader mcconnell. and that's natural. they cut a good deal, i thought, on the budget , and they had to show the hard right that they're going to do something else. but at the end of the day , the president is going to hold firm, no negotiations on debt ceiling, republicans will look back to october and say, we're not going through this again.

>> so here's a question about holding firm that some of the papers in new york are asking about you, and the topic sigh ran and new sanctions on iran . you and others are pushing for it. the president was asked about it in his press conference and he said, look, don't do it, senator schumer. he didn't call you out by name, but in effect he did. he says he knows it's good politics. that for you in office and running for office, you can look tough on iran . he's basically saying give me room to negotiate with iran and see if i can shut down this nuclear program . back off on sanctions for now. how do you respond?

>> look, there are many of us, democrats and republicans in this senate who believe the best way to avoid war and get around to give up nuclear weapons is by ratcheting up sanctions, not by reducing them. the iranians didn't come to the table out of the goodness of their heart. they're still labeled a supremacist organization, the leader is still pulling the strings. only tough sanctions will get them to give up. i give the president credit for talking. i don't agree with some on the hard line who say no talking until they give up everything. but the bottom line is very simple. it's pretty logical that it's sanctions, tough sanctions, that brought them to the table. if they think they can ease up on the sanctions without getting rid of their nuclear capabilities, they're going to do that. so we have to be tough. and the legislation we put in says to the iranians, if you don't come to an agreement after six months and the president can extend it to a year, the sanctions are going to toughen up. i think that will make them negotiate better and give up more.

>> all right, i'm going to make that the last word. senator schumer and coburn , happy holidays to you both. thank you for your time this morning.

>> happy holidays to you and yours.

>> as they say goodbye, we'll talk about the improving economy and more about politics. the stock market is at a record high. it's up more than 20% this year. unemployment has dropped to 7%. in the third quarter of this year, the u.s. economy grew at the fastest pace since 2011 . why isn't this being vuld iewed as a robust recovery? i spoke to the head of the international monetary fund , christine lagarde , about the prospects for 2014 and the political hurdles that lay haed. ms. lagarde, we will tomalcome to "meet the press "snoochlt.

>> thank you.

>> what do you see about the rebound of the u.s. economy at the end of this year?

>> we see a lot more certainty for 2014 . there habgos bee has been good action take n by congress to eliminate the fear about the budget and reduce the sequestration. we see the fed having taken some very well communicated action concerning the tapering of the program, and those are good signs, in addition to which we see some good numbers. growth is picking up and unemployment is going down. so all of that gives us a much stronger outlook for 2014 , which brings us to raising our forecast.

>> so you talk about the fed tapering. what does that mean, nofor my audience that may not understand? what does that mean and what is the immediate economic effect of it? people may be worrying about what they've been doing, creating a bubble, in effect.

>> what the fed has been doing is effectively buying a lot of debt, putting a lot of liquidity into the system, making it more fluid, and effectively keeping the economy going. that's what the fed has been doing. now, they said they would do that as long as the economy was, you know, low, as long as growth was tepid. the fact that they decided and announced to slow the volume of debt -- reduce the volume of debt that they're buying indicates two things. one is that the economy is picking up. two, the unemployment is going down.

>> unemployment is still high in the united states . if you talk to economists or business leaders, they say there's still a lot of the uncertainty. we don't have the animal spirits that have been unleashed, even though the stock market is performing at record levels. why does the economy still seem to be halting in its recovery?

>> well, first of all, i would observe that the economy has picked up. we forecast further pickup in 2014 . second, most people who invest, who hire will tell you that they are uncertain. they were uncertain. because seeing a budget deal, seeing tapering by the fed, which is a sign of confidence in the real economy , should lead them to invest, to hire and to be more confident into the future of the u.s. economy .

>> how low do you see unemployment going in this country?

>> two things. unemployment will continue to go down. it's around 7%. it's likely to move towards, you know, the high 6 but certainly will continue to move down. most importantly, what we need to see is a higher participation rate . participation means the number of people who actually join the job market and get a job. that number has not moved up significantly, and that's the one we will be looking at. are people getting jobs rather than are people receiving unemployment benefits and registering as unemployed?

>> do you see the minimum wage fight in this country going anywhere? do you think it has an important impact on the economy, raising the minimum wage ? the president, the pope have talked about income inequality being a huge problem in this country and around the world.

>> income inequality around the world is a big issue. we have done some work, and there is a clear indication that rising inequality leads to less sustainable growth . not to mention the fact that the social fabrics of society can be at stake. so reducing inequality, making sure people have a job, making sure that there is growth, that there is adequate redistribution through various systems, is important.

>> as you look at the united states and the rest of the world , last time we spoke, you were very concerned about the u.s. flirting with the debt ceiling and with default. we have another deadline approaching in february and march about raising the debt ceiling. has the u.s. reemerged as a global economic leader, or is it still acting irresponsibly?

>> it is the economic leader, let's face it, given the size of the economy and below potential but still reasonable growth that is picking up now. the budget deal that was gotten at year end is a very good sign of responsibility, accountability and realism. i, for myself, certainly hope that in february congress will be equally responsible and will not threaten the recovery with yet another debate about whether or not the u.s. will honor or default in february.

>> as a woman in power, you think a lot about these issues, about women in power around the world. a headline here significantly, mary berra now running general motors . perhaps a big deal was it wasn't a big deal that she has come up through the country. there are still only 5% of ceos in the fortune 500 who are women . but it's not just ceos, there are companies, law firms , large organizations who still fail to recognize the upside potential of women as managers, women as executives, women being powerful as consumers as well as leaders. why do you think that still is, and what breaks that? what changes minds about that?

>> why it is, i think it's historically based, it's deeply rooted in certain societies, more so than --

>> the power struggle .

>> the power struggle , absolutely. why should i leave my seat to somebody else and particularly somebody of the other gender, is sort of inherent to a tradition that has sustained over time . how can it change? first of all, because women can demonstrate that they can do the job, whether it's, as you say, first, being great leaders in their respect active ive environment with a corporate public, there is evidence that women can do the job and do it well. i think the second reason is it makes economic sense. there are countries, particularly advanced countries , like japan, like korea, that need to open up that job market to women , and in the u.s., as in other european countries , the participation of women in the job market , the access for women to credit is going to be con conducive to more growth, more stability. it's a factor to growth to include as many people as possible and to include women .

>> there is a lot of focus on hillary clinton running for the presidency. and there has also been speculation about you. would you seek higher work?

>> i don't think about the presidency. i think about the job i'm doing at the moment. i have more years to go, more work to do, and i'm really excited about it.

>> you wouldn't rule out the presidency at some time?

>> the future will tell.

>> thank you very much. that was not a shermanesqu comment, i don't think.

>>> coping with loss. my conversation with senator jim inhofe . he speaks for the first time about the tragic loss of his son in a plane crash .

>> well, i probably shouldn't say this, but i seem to have gotten more -- at least as many, maybe more, of, oh, communications from some democrat friends and i'm pretty partisan republican.

>>> plus, spy games . the bitter fight over government spying in our freedom. has the government stepped over the line and is president obama preparing to rein in the intelligence community ? our roundtable will be back. robert brooks , e.j. dionne , ana navarro and robert gibbs . when