THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL
Date: September 30, 2013
Guests: Keith Ellison, Patricia Muprhy, Bruce Bartlett, Thomas Mann, Norm
Ornstein, Jonathan Cohn, Josh Green>
ALEX WAGNER, GUEST HOST: At this hour, the time for legislative gains is
over. We are two hours away from a federal government shutdown and right
now, all eyes are on Speaker John Boehner. Will he finally break away from
the Tea Party and allow an up or down vote on a clean funding bill?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It`s the final count.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: On the brink.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Bracing for impact.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No sign of a deal.
CHUCK TODD, MSNBC ANCHOR: Midnight madness, Washington style.
CHRIS JANSING, MSNBC ANCHOR: The midnight deadline to prevent first
government shut down.
TODD: The first shutdown of the federal government in 17 years.
TAMRON HALL, MSNBC ANCHOR: We know how this is expected to play out.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Republicans put on a united front.
SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: The president saying no compromise.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president is not even willing to come to the
PAUL: We are the party that`s willing to compromise.
REID: The party of compromise.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The American people are not going to buy it.
SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: I don`t think what Washington needs is more
PAUL: Is compromise the noble position?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Let`s get real for a second.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The federal government is
America`s largest employer.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: Eight hundred thousand federal employees
will be furloughed.
OBAMA: It does not have to happen.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Prepare for ping-pong potentially tonight.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The refrain is hot potato.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This could go very late.
OBAMA: The American people send us her together.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is where the obstructionism --
OBAMA: It`s our basic responsibility.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Obamacare, well, it does start tomorrow.
OBAMA: You can`t shut it down.
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: My goodness.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All eyes are on House Speaker Boehner.
BOEHNER: If there is such an emergency, where are they?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You really can`t go rally as caucus.
BOEHNER: The American people are worried about their jobs.
REID: Worried about losing their jobs.
BOEHNER: Because they are all under pressure.
REID: Feeling under pressure.
BOEHNER: Well, my goodness.
REID: It is like anybody you know.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The GOP leadership itself is a hostage.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Democrats are not going to throw Boehner a life raft
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The country is so fed up with this kind of
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Year after year after year, crisis after crisis after
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It has to come to an end.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They understand that what they`re doing is nuts.
ALEX WAGNER, MSNBC ANCHOR: I`m Alex Wagner, in for Lawrence O`Donnell.
If at first you don`t succeed, try plan b, then plan c and now plan d?
That is the latest reporting after the Senate just rejected plan c, the
third attempt by the Republican-led House to defund the nation`s health
care law by shutting down the U.S. government.
The House of Republicans position has moved from plan A, a complete
defunding of the affordable care act to plan B, a one year delay of the ACA
to plan C, a one year delay of the individual mandate with a bonus
amendment that messes with health insurance employer contribution for
Now, John Boehner is reportedly preparing a plan d. But this afternoon,
President Obama made it crystal clear that the only bill he will sign is a
clean bill to keep the federal government open.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: One faction of one party in one House of Congress in one branch of
government does not get to shut down the entire government just to re-fight
the results of an election. Keeping the people`s government open is not a
concession to me. You don`t to extract a ransom for doing your job.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WAGNER: And just in case there was any doubts about the president`s
position, the administration put out its bottom line position on plan C as
it did for plans A and plan B. If the president was presented with House
resolution 59 as amended by this amendment, her he would veto the bill.
Twelve House Republicans voted against plan C, although, some did so
because it did not go far enough. Here is how people in Republican land
view the implosion in the House.
Red state editor Eric Erickson writes, the House GOP has refused to fight
on Obamacare. Right now, they are going through an elaborate dance routine
complete with leotards and streamers to show everyone that they are really
fighting for something. They have gone through so many it rations, no one
is really sure what it is they are fighting for. But it is for certain,
they are not fighting to defund Obamacare.
They started this process letting everyone know they would never ever shut
down the government. Now, they are claiming they are willing to shut down
the government but will only shut it down over nothing.
So, pass a clear CR, embrace the fact and admit you never really want to
fight Obamacare. You guys are wimps.
In an interview tonight, Republican congressman Peter King said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: The situation has been somewhat lost
control of. That the Ted Cruz people are not going to back down and they
basically trying to hijack the party. It is a fools, aren`t we? He should
never (INAUDIBLE) in the first place. I understand the position of speaker
is in. I can never forgive Ted Cruz, what he has done, and the people who
stood with him against the party. Let me emphasize again, the people who
are asking for loyalty from the speaker and other are those who voted
against him in every key vote in the last two years.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WAGNER: Joining me now is NBC News political director and chief White
House correspondent Chuck Todd, host of MSNBC`s "the Daily Rundown."
Chuck, are we going to -- is the government going to shut down at 12:01
CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, it looks like
it is. And here is what is going on, Alex.
So, the latest, obviously, we have been following this ping-pong all night.
Senate continues to reject any of these House bills. So, the next sort of
legislative maneuver that the House speaker is considering, and this is
something that is being pushed on him by some conservative members who have
been pushing the idea is to vote to put this bill, the last bill that they
sent and vote to move it to a conference committee. Essentially, forcing
the Senate to have to go to conference for what John Boehner would do
tonight is the bill that has already been passed by the House, the one that
the Senate rejected that had those two new provisions and it delay the
individual mandate and the idea that members of Congress and their staff
have to be under the same rules as everybody on health care that he would
appoint a conference committee and essentially try to force Harry Reid`s
hand and say OK, you don`t like the bill that we have. You have your bill;
the House has its bill. Let`s instead of throwing the legislation back and
forth which tonight was designed to try to keep the government from
shutting down, this is now saying well the government`s going to shut down.
I can`t pass anything that can do anything other than what I have done so
instead let`s try to move this to a committee. You appoint five or six
people; I will appoint my five or six people and let`s see what happens.
So, it gives the appearance that negotiation is going on. It moves and
puts Reid in a different position than he had been in all night tonight
which is easily being able to reject this House bills. And then it does
mean we shut down. I mean, there is no government funding bill. But now,
House Republicans can feel as if well, we are forcing a negotiation and
maybe they will talk to use now.
WAGNER: So, I mean, this is basically a game of hot potato or musical
chair as no one --.
TODD: Hot potato is the better one. Nobody wants to be holding the potato
at midnight tonight. That`s the best analogy to use.
WAGNER: Where does the White House go from here? And the president just
tweeted out a message. It says it is time for Congress to do the right
thing and for our country and pass a budget that prevent the #government
shutdown. The president has a much more hard line stance as this round
than he did in 2011. What do you think the next move from the White House
TODD: I think it is exactly no budging on this at all. I mean, they look
back and see what happened in 2011 and in hindsight wonder. Did they make
a mistake negotiating over the debt ceiling? Did they make a mistake on
some of the deals when they negotiated before?
So, they believe in these hard line stance. They think the public is with
them on this. They think that they will -- that there are too many
Republicans in the Senate even in the House. You played the clip of Peter
King. We saw last week Bob Corker and going after Ted Cruz that the
Republican Party is not united on this. Democrats have stayed united. And
until somehow Democrats splinter, if they started splintering, the
president doesn`t feel politically probably doesn`t have to move off of
this position, Alex.
WAGNER: Heading for a shut down. Thank you to our very own Chuck Todd.
TODD: You got it.
WAGNER: Joining me now is Congressman Keith Ellison, Democrat from
Congressman, what have you been told to expect in terms of votes tonight?
REP. KEITH ELLISON (D), MINNESOTA: Well, we have been told to keep our
putter dry and be ready. We just learned that the Senate has rejected yet
again the House bill that would try to delay the affordable care act and
other measures. And so, now, with the balls back in the House`s court, and
we were been told to stay ready, stay up, keep my tie on and be ready to
come down to the House floor.
WAGNER: Go ahead.
TODD: I can tell you this, Alex. If the speaker just did what is sensible
to do, which is to put that bill on the floor, I am confident that there is
enough Democrats and sensible Republicans to keep the government open and
we can easily do that.
WAGNER: I want to follow on that point because your Republican colleague
Peter King says the leadership of the Republican Party does not want this
fight. (INAUDIBLE) that on the floor that he thinks there are 150
Republicans who would vote for a clean bill of funding to keep the
government opens. What are your sense from inside the House about how much
sanity there is in the Republican conference at this point?
Well, the Republican caucus seems to be dominated by a small group of very,
very extreme individuals. You know, it seems to be that the majority of
the Republican caucus or at least a substantial number, I can`t put a
number on it, are people who would vote to keep the government open. And
there is none of them has spoken up. I mean, we have heard Charlie did,
Tom Cola, Peter King. There are a number of them who would vote for a
We can have this fights about Obamacare later. Let`s keep the government
open and let`s not stick it to 800,000 federal employees that could be
furloughed. These people got mortgages. They got bills to pay. They got
rent to pay. They got tuition to pay and groceries to buy. I mean, this
is unconscionable what they are doing.
WAGNER: Congressman, Peter King seemed to suggest that John Boehner was
not working closely enough with moderates trying to confuse them or
communicate with them. Is that your sense that he would basically only
listening to these 20 or 30 sort of far right wing teat partiers in the
House and is it paying that much attention to the rest of his party in
ELLISON: From a week you would see the squeaky wheel proposition is in
full effect in the Republican caucus. The loudest most outrageous most
inflammatory people are ruling the day. And you know, a lot of the numbers
in the Democratic caucus we have been knowing Speaker Boehner for a year
say that not that extreme of a guy, but he seems to be under the control of
the extreme wing of his party.
WAGNER: Congressman Keith Ellison of Minnesota, thank you. It is going to
be a long night. Thanks for your time, Congressman.
ELLISON: You bet. I will be up.
Joining me now is the "Washington Post`s" Ezra Klein and MSNBC policy
Ezra, we are looking at a government shutdown. I guess the question is,
where do we net out if the government does shut down looking towards
October 17 debt ceiling limit? Do the Republicans have more or less
leverage here and what`s going to happen to the American economy in the
EZRA KLEIN, COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST: You know, how incredibly
alarmist and concerned I have been about the debt ceiling this whole time.
I felt there is a much larger chance that it is happening and other people
do. I`m a whole lot calmer tonight.
Going into a shutdown, going into a debt ceiling debate, the House
Republicans could not have done it in worse way. They burned through every
negotiating position they have. Remember, Boehner`s idea was to have
people not do a shut down, instead move over to a debt ceiling debate and
argue for a one year delay of Obamacare there. Instead, they burned
through defunding Obamacare. They burned through delaying Obamacare. They
burned through delaying the individual mandate. Now they are going to this
somewhat bizarre conference strategy.
They don`t have any new positions to bring out and now they folded on the
positions one after the other after the other after the other in the course
of a day basically to come out next week and say oh yes, well, we couldn`t
face down a shutdown but we are totally willing to do it on the debt
ceiling, it is not incredible.
So, I don`t know what their end game is here. But it seems to be a lot
less frightening than it might have been a year or two ago.
WAGNER: So then, what happens with the big picture in terms of
negotiations and bargains and so on and so forth. I mean, who does the
president talk to at this point if he wants to do a deal on earned benefit
programs or if he wants to do any sort of measurable legislative, if he
wants to get anything on the legislative agenda done? What the -- ?
KLEIN: I mean, one thing people have forgotten in this whole thing is back
after the fiscal cliff, John Boehner said to his members he would not be
doing further direct negotiations of President Obama. That was his
resolution coming out on the fiscal cliff. And at this point, it almost
doesn`t seem to matter because not clear Boehner can actually deliver on a
deal with his members.
So then, President Obama began talking to Senate Republicans with the idea
being that maybe he could crack off five or six or ten or 12 or 13 of them
using grab a deal in the senate, use that deal to gem the House.
Those talks began to break down, you remember that was called the dinner
club, the diners club, those talks broke down a month or two ago. I don`t
think there is anybody left for a deal because I don`t think the Republican
Party wants a deal on as you are saying, burn benefits on sequestration on
Now look. I could be proved wrong here. I -- the Republican Party could
have a change of heart. But you have a mix of people who a, can`t deliver
and b, don`t want to deal. So, when you have that there is not really a
deal to be had. It`s not clear there is a good solution to this problem in
American politics right now.
WAGNER: Ezra, can we just close this out by talking about the weirdness
and bad planning that is the vitter amendment. Someone in Congress and I
don`t remember who it was, but it was a Republican said if you`re going to
put pins in a voodoo doll, make sure the voodoo doll doesn`t work in your
own office. Basically, kneecapping their -- Congress kneecapping their own
staff to make an ideological point. What did you think of that on that
KLEIN: So the vitter amendment is this thing. So, Congress forced itself,
a Republican senator Chuck Grassley said Congress had to use the Obamacare
exchanges. Make them the only large employer of the country who has to do
that. Then, the vitter amendment says the federal government can`t help
members of Congress pay for their insurance the way it does now. So, what
the vitter would basically do is create a new special purgatory for
Congress, from members of Congress and the staff and actually the White
House as well would not be able to have the federal government give them
their insurance. It would not be able to have the federal government
contribute t their insurance. So, the result would be a massive pay cut to
congressional of staff and members of Congress and members of the White
House. And when you have that big pay cut, what you have is people have to
leave Congress because they can`t make ends meet anymore. They need to
have health insurance for their kids. Then they go to Kay Street.
The lobbyist become more powerful and we taxpayers, we end up paying more
because Congress just got dumber and weaker in K Street and the lobbyists
just got smarter and more powerful. It is a terrible idea and it is the
logical on some level end point of this Republican Party approach. And
Obamacare would have these problems, but they don`t want to fix them. They
want to make them worse. This, at this point, is just self-mutilation
against Obama care.
WAGNER: Right. If is self-mutilation in your own party wasn`t good
enough, try self-mutilation within in your own congressional office.
WAGNER: Ezra Klein, thank you, as always, for joining me tonight. I`m
glad you are calmer.
KLEIN: Thank you.
WAGNER: I`m going to try and take some of those of calm vibes and
We are watching the House and Senate. And if there is any change, any
action, we will bring it to you as it happens.
Coming up, the wookie (ph) on wookie (ph) war tonight. It is Republican
And later, why this really is the worst Congress ever.
WAGNER: In tonight`s episode of you can`t make this stuff up, one of the
country`s most important economic reports will not be released if the
government shuts down. The labor department told the AP that there won`t
be enough staff to compile this month`s jobs report which is scheduled to
be released on Friday. That means we won`t know what has happened to the
unemployment rate or how many jobs are added.
Up next, the heart of all of this darkness, the civil war in the Republican
WAGNER: Ted Cruz is continuing his mission to kill Obamacare, consequences
be damned, while also trying to convince anyone who will listen that
Republicans are not the Republican, it is the Democrats who are being
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CRUZ: And one thing to emphasize, I mean, you keep and all of the voices
of Washington keep saying we need compromise. Twice now Republicans in the
House have compromised and twice Harry Reid has said we won`t have a
conversation. I refuse to compromise. We want to fund it all. We want to
stick it on the American people and we won`t badge. That`s not a
reasonable position. And if we have a shutdown, it would be because Harry
Reid holds that absolute position and essentially holds the American people
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WAGNER: But because he is a self-admitted wacko bird (ph), Cruz also
admitted that Republicans are indeed part of the problem, pronouncing that
both parties are doing something wrong.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CRUZ: The people are frustrated with Washington and the simplest reason is
you have got politicians of both parties who are not listening to the
people and were living by a different set of rules.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WAGNER: Yes. Ted Cruz, who cannot comprehend that the affordable care act
is law of the land just as the politicians, are living by a different set
of rules without even a trace of irony.
At the root of Cruz`s consequences be damn strategy is the factoring of his
own party, perhaps, no person better communicate than Congressman Peter
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: What`s your sense of the end game? Do you
think your fellow Republicans would rather shut down the government than
pass a CR without an Obamacare limit?
KING: I guess it depends on how many people control by Ted Cruz.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WAGNER: But if you really want to see wookie on wookie inter-party
fireworks, just mention the name of a moderate Republican to a tea party
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: Would you consider backing off on the demand
that Obamacare be defunded or delayed?
REP. JASON CHAFFETZ (R-UT), OVERSIGHT AND GOVERNMENT REFORM COMMITTEE:
Well, we went from defunding which are now voted for some 40-plus times. I
think a delay is a reasonable expectation. I believe the Obama
administration unilaterally and multiple times over the last several months
have cherry picked which parts they are going to delay.
CHAFFETZ: This is my opinion. I don`t care what John McCain thinks.
Andrea, I don`t care what John McCain thinks.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WAGNER: Hash tag, awkward. Demonstrating just how broken the Republican
Party is, earlier tonight 12 House Republicans voted no on advancing the
latest spending bill which would delay Obamacare`s individual mandate.
Among them Congressman Peter King and Charlie Dent, both voted no because
they support a clean spending bill with no strings attached. Also among
the no vote, because they don`t think this bill is extreme enough, are
members like Michelle Bachmann, Paul Brown and Steve King. Weirdest voting
Joining me now Bruce Bartlett, the former deputy assistant secretary for
economic policy for President George H. W. Bush. He now writes for "The
New York Times" and "the Fiscal Times," and Patricia Murphy, columnist for
"the Daily Beast."
Patricia, can I start with you? I am shocked at just how unresolved the
conflict remains within the Republican Party. You have Ted Cruz going
after Republicans, Peter King going after Ted Cruz, and now we have Rush
Limbaugh going after Peter King.
I just want to play a little bit of sound from the Rush-Baugh. Let us take
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Peter King has just been trashing Ted
Cruz in the Republican conference. So, there is an effort ongoing to break
the back of tea party Republican influence on the Republican Party which
they can`t do. I mean, they might -- they are not, the tea party is you
and me. And I don`t care what they do. They are not going to wipe us away
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WAGNER: Patricia, are Republicans at war with Democrats or Republicans?
PATRICIA MURPHY, COLUMNIST, THE DAILY BEAST: Republicans are at war WITH
Republicans. Republicans are running ads against Republicans. Ted Cruz is
raising money for an organization that runs attack ads against his fellow
sitting Republican senators.
And this is no surprise to me and anybody who covered the 2010 elections,
this is no surprise to them either. Even in 2007, you started to hear
Republicans, grass roots Republicans, getting very frustrated with
Washington Republicans. And then in 2010 election, just think back to the
designs of President Obama and the health care town home meetings and just
the rage that you saw at the town hall meetings. That led to the class of
2010, the class of 2012. Those people who have the signs who were so
angry, they are in Congress now. And those are the voices that you are
hearing. And they are running not just against Democrats, they are running
even more against Republicans. They want to take the party for themselves
and that`s what this is all about.
Half of the GOP Republican caucus has been there for three years or less.
So you think about who is there now, who is in charge. John Boehner is
sort of a typical D.C. legislator who people think is very nice. That is a
huge disconnect. Mitch McConnell and that freshman class in the Senate,
that is a huge disconnect. So, to see this to see this sort of playing out
and opening, I think it is only surprising because it is so public. But it
not surprising that is happening.
WAGNER: Bruce, you sounded a note of hope in the wilderness earlier
tonight. You tweeted, there is a slight possibility that Boehner is a
genius and the tea party will die, a well-deserved death in the next few
Lots of fingers-crossed on that. Can you explain your thesis there?
BRUCE BARTLETT, FORMER ECONOMIC ADVISER: Well, it was based on a report by
Byron York in "the Examiner." And Byron is very, very well connected on
the right side of the Republican Party. And he was saying, basically, that
there is really only 30 members who are really, really dug in on this anti-
affordable care act position and absolutely refuse compromise. And he said
there are 175 who will instantly vote for a clean continuing resolution if
they are simply given the freedom to cast that vote and as yet, they have
not been given that freedom.
And I think in my thinking was that Boehner is waiting for something for
the public opinion for Wall Street for the other players in the Republican
Party to finally read the riot act to this tea party clowns and maybe put
them down or limit their influence in the Republican party to where we can
have a meaningful governing coalition.
WAGNER: Patricia, Bruce refers to the tea party clowns and I think a lot
of people would agree with that designation. But the question is, what
happens at the end of this in terms of national standing?
And in particular, I want to focus on Ted Cruz David Corn of "Mother Jones"
interviewed former Republican senate majority Trent Lott. And Trent Lott
said this, the tea party weighing of the GOP, they have made their point.
It is time to say enough and move on. These guys don`t care about making
things work. He was later asked who he feels about his old GOP (INAUDIBLE)
in the senate and if they have lost control. And Lott says that Ted Cruz,
they have to teach him something or cut his legs out from under him.
Those are sharp words and yet, I think that a lot of people doubt whether
Ted Cruz is damaged at all after this is all said and done.
MURPHY: Ted Cruz is totally emboldened by this. Ted Cruz is running the
Senate. Ted Cruz is running d the House Republican caucus. I mean, he is
stronger than he has ever been. He is reading the political tea leaves on
the right so clearly. And if you, again, if you go back to 2010, the only
word I heard from Republican activists was fight. I want somebody to fight
the president. I want somebody to take the fight to Obama. That`s what
Ted Cruz is going.
They don`t care if they shut down the government. I think that is just a
bonus. This is not their government. It is Obama`s government. So, I
think to them a shutdown of the government is just sort of a happy extra
surprise at the end of all of this.
But I think that Ted Cruz is stronger than he has ever been. There is a
huge, huge power vacuum. Mitch McConnell totally hamstrung by his own
reelection in Kentucky. John Boehner totally hamstrung period. And Ted
Cruz, I mean, eight experience is just walking off to the final line.
MURPHY: Bruce, the big picture here for 2016, I mean, I think this fight
is litigated again and again and again. I mean, I think a lot of people
said well, Mitt Romney was the nominee. That`s sort of -- that`s been the
stamp of the moderates on the Republican Party because he was defeated.
That seems to have emboldened the sort of fractious minority. This sets up
a major fight in terms of the nominating process and the legislation
process in 2016 and beyond within the Republican Party, does it not?
BARTLETT: Yes. You have to remember that for a significant number of
Republicans, they truly in their heart of hearts believe that the only
reason they lost in 2008 and 2012 was because they ran squishy moderates.
And they are absolutely determined to get a really hard core right winger
into -- to get him the nomination in 2016. And in their heart of hearts,
they absolutely believe this is guarantee that they will win.
And Ted Cruz, who I prefer to call by his given name, Raphael Edward Cruz
is positioning himself to get that nomination and so is Rand Paul. And so,
they are completely unconcerned about Senate etiquette. They don`t care
anything about legislative procedures. They are playing to the cameras.
They are playing to the base. They are playing to the Republican primary
voters in 2016.
MURPHY: They don`t care about legislating. They don`t like the
government. They don`t particularly care about the American public, so why
not run for president?
BARTLETT: And they don`t care anything about democracy.
WAGNER: Bruce Bartlett and Patricia Murphy, thank you both for joining me
MURPHY: Thanks, Alex.
WAGNER: Coming up, is the 113th Congress the worst Congress ever? That is
not a rhetorical question.
And what exactly happens when the government shuts down? We will answer
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Congress needs to keep our government open, needs to pay our bills
on time and never ever threaten the full faith and credit of the United
States of America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WAGNER: In the spotlight tonight, is the 113th Congress is absolute worst
Congress ever? It is currently on track to be one of the least productive
Congresses in American history. But if the public opinion is to be the
judge, the 113th may have already garnered the worst Congress distinction.
A new CNN poll finds Congress` approval rating is at an all time low, only
10 percent of Americans approve of the way Congress is handling its job, 87
Joining me now are congressional scholars, Norm Ornstein, a resident
scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and Thomas Mann, a senior
fellow at the Brookings Institution. They are also co-authors of the great
must read. "It`s even worse than it looks."
Gentlemen, thank you for joining me tonight. I am sorry that it in fact,
this may be even worse than it initially looked when you finished writing
And Norm, I want to start with you. You write in the book the Republican
Party has become an insurgent outlier, an ideologically extreme contentious
of inherited social and economic policy regimes, scornful of compromise,
un-persuaded by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science,
and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition, all but
declaring war on the government.
How does the Republican Party write itself from here?
NORM ORNSTEIN, AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE: And obviously, we didn`t
mean to understate it, Alex. And I should note the book is actually out in
a new expanded paperback which I`m now kicking myself that we didn`t call
it is even worse than it was.
WAGNER: It`s getting worse than it looked before?
But I think the answer to the question is it`s going to take quite some
time for the Republican Party to right itself. Because the normal
conditions in which a party that goes off the rails finds its way back to
the center losing several elections in a row, deciding that a new path
needs to be taken may not be there.
The obstacles that are in the way including this new role of money with
organizations like heritage action and the club for growth, the recruitment
of candidates for office. The fact that anybody who is halfway reasonable
as bailing out, Spencer Baucus, the former chairman of the banking
committee who has pretty much exiled, Bob Kaiser and the wonderful book on
the Dodd-Frank bill points out because he was too reasonable has decided to
retire. I think we have gone a long ways even if they mess this up more
than they have which may well be likely before they come back to sort of
reasonable conservatism, instead of crazy radicalism.
WAGNER: Thomas, the inconvenient player in all of this seems to be John
Boehner, right? He sort of represents almost a modern wing of the
Republican Party and represents concurrently the schism that is happening
within the party in terms of moderate versus tea partiers. Is it just a
matter of time before those outside groups like Heritage Action (ph) get
their speaker of the House in with the gabble?
THOMAS MANN, SENIOR FELLOW, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: They would certainly
like to do that. Boehner is certainly a half-less figure under the
circumstances because he feels such enormous pressure to produce the entire
majority on the floor of the House from his own party. And since 30 or 40
of those members are just completely out of touch with reality and care
nothing about governance or problem solving or practical matters, he has
become completely at their disposal and can`t get anything done.
So, I`m not sure thought, that the right-wing groups hovering over the
Republican primaries are in a position to actually produce another kind of
speaker. It isn`t clear to me that there is a majority for that in the
House. In any case, who the speaker is right now is less important than
which party is in the majority. We are not going to be able to govern in a
constructive way until either the Democrats regain control of the House and
hold the Senate or the Republicans take another serious licking in the
elections and new groups emerge to challenge as super PACs on the moderate
side of the party. Until then, it`s a disaster.
WAGNER: Norm, help us game this out here. In terms of what happens on the
government shut down, do we have a government shut down and then does
Boehner pass a clean funding bill and Harold the Republican Party as saving
the American government and saving the American worker? I mean, what
happens in the next couple of days? Does this inevitably end in the clean
ORNSTEIN: Well, inevitably, it doesn`t mean in the next day or two, Alex.
It`s possible. I think there is a small chance that they could try at
11:59 tonight to push it off for two or three days. I don`t think that
Harry Reid would agree to that at this point. And that becomes a question
of whether they shut down for a significant period. Remember, 95, 96, we
had one shutdown. They decided to open up again before we had the extended
one that went for three weeks plus. That really proved to be the disaster.
My guess is this has to play out for some time. And I do think that
underlying this, Boehner who has not a long strategic view. But some
tactical ideas here, is the hope that you can wind this through for a week
or ten days, get a public backlash, do the clean one and then use that as a
way of suggesting to his caucus that they better not do a debt limit
because they would be even worse. But I`m not sure, given what Tom said
and he is right, that he can control that caucus enough to avoid a real
confrontation over the debt limit. So, the shut down may last a week or
two. It`s going to cause serious disruptions, will end that at some point.
It is the bigger question of surrounding the debt limit that is more
worrisome down the road.
WAGNER: It`s even worse than it looks. It is a disaster.
Norm Ornstein and Thomas Mann, thank you both for joining me tonight.
WAGNER: Coming up, shut down or not, the affordable care act goes into
effect admit night.
And just a few minutes ago, President Obama signed the pay our military act
which the House and Senate passed tonight. The act makes sure that members
of the military will still get paid even if the government shuts down.
WAGNER: What`s considered non-essential for government spending in a
shutdown? Panda cams. The live animal cams that the Smithsonian national
zoo, including the panda cams, will no longer be up on the Internet when
the government shuts down. The cameras require staff to run them and that
staff is non-essential. The animals will still be cared for but you will
not be able to watch the growth of the newest panda and get your cute fix.
That panda was born just a month ago.
Up next, the other thing that happens at midnight, health care.
WAGNER: There is another countdown that is happening tonight. In a little
over an hour, the center piece of the affordable care act will go into
effect, giving millions of uninsured Americans the ability to buy health
insurance through new online marketplaces.
While House Republicans had voted to dismantle or defund the program more
than 40 times, a new CNBC poll shows that a plurality of people oppose that
strategy, 44 percent of Americans oppose defunding the health care reform
compared to 38 percent to support it. Opposition`s defunding the law
increases to 59 percent if defunding includes a government shutdown.
It is worth noting that the House is still trying to stop Obamacare from
going into place. We are looking at a live shot from the House rules
committee where the saga continues.
Joining me now from the New Republic is Jonathan Cohn.
Jonathan, thanks for joining me tonight.
I`m intrigue on some sort of academic level about the summersaults that are
taking place in Congress right now. We have seen obstructionism sort in
the greater sense in three forms. One is refusal to accept federal funds.
The second is refusal to operate the state exchanges and the third is
outright sabotage which is the thing in Congress.
But then there these sort of small provisions that are intended to weaken
the law including the repeal of the medical device tax, the addition of the
conscience clause opting out of contraception clause and the forcing of
executive and congressional staff to participate in the exchanges.
Do any of these ends up becoming law in your mind? Are any of them just
insidious enough to make their way through Congress?
JONATHAN COHN, NEW REPUBLIC: Not this round. You know, I mean, there is a
certain irony here, right? I mean, we are going through all of these
summersaults, you know, that talking about shutting down the government.
They probably are going to shutdown the government, all of this for the
sake of trying to stop Obamacare. And we don`t really know how this is
going to end except the one thing we know is that we are going to get
The switch flips basically at midnight. Starting tomorrow, insurance
exchanges will be open. People will be able to buy insurance. The money
will flow. It`s not affected by the shut down. So, despite of all the
efforts, they are not going to be able to stop it. And I don`t think any
of these provisions are likely to end up in the law. I mean, you know,
some day down the road if there is a separate negotiation, you know, I can
see them getting rid of the device tax, for example, which is extremely
unpopular. But none of this negotiation and I think that`s because the
White House, Democrats and Congress have drawn a hard line, they considered
this extortion. They`re not going to deal with it.
WAGNER: That is the irony, right? We have no idea what is going to happen
with the Republican Party. But we do know that Obamacare is rolling out in
an hour and ten minutes. We know that 14 states and the District of
Columbia are going to run their own exchanges and expand Medicaid. Eight
states will expand Medicaid or participate in the exchanges and 28 states
have opted out of exchanges the expanding Medicaid.
What is your prognosis sort of in a long term? Because a lot of people are
saying once Obamacare, once ACA is up and running, it`s going to actually
be popular and you are going to see many more states adopt the provisions.
COHN: Yes. I think that`s right. I think, you know, one of the reasons
we are seeing this fit of activity, this desperate attempt to stop
Obamacare is because I think most conservatives realize that once the
coverage expansion is in place, once people start getting subsidies, these
tax credits to help them buy insurance, once you have a lot more people
enrolling in Medicaid, you really can`t take that away.
You know, this was always the fear of the Republicans. And if you go back
to the 1990s, you know, when Bill Clinton was trying to do health insurance
and Bill Crystal (ph) back then was just, you know, a strategist for vice
president Quail, and he wrote this famous memo. He said, we can`t let the
Democrats do this because if they ever get this in place, we will never be
able to remove it.
And I think that is right. Now, we do have this problem where there are
number of states that are refusing to be part of the Medicaid expansion.
And it is really, it is cool. I mean, these are states with some of the
most low income people. We are talking places like Texas in such. But I
think they will come along eventually as well. I think they will see this
as a good deal. It will take years but it will happen.
WAGNER: The mystery will be revealed that the ACA is actually a good thing
for the country.
Jonathan Cohn, thanks so much for joining me tonight.
COHN: Thanks for having me.
WAGNER: Coming up, what happens tomorrow when the government shuts down?
That`s coming up.
Also, we are waiting for Senate majority leader Harry Reid to come to the
Senate floor and speak at the top of the hour regarding the latest proposal
from House Republicans. We will bring it to you live.
WAGNER: Add another musical act to the line-up of celebrities tweeting
about the affordable care act. Today, no longer boy band In Sync tweeted
to its followers, love, hate or just confused by it, learn all you can
about the affordable care act which starts enrolling tomorrow. Which on,
surprisingly resulted in several unfollows from In Sync`s more conservative
Up next, what a shutdown will do to the economy. Josh Green joins me just
WAGNER: Global stock markets fell Monday as investors worried about a
possible U.S. government shut down. The Dow Jones industrial average fell
129 points or 0.8 percent. The Standard & Poor 500 slid 10.2 points or 0.6
percent and the Nasdaq composite drops 10.12 or 0.3 percent.
Not only would a prolonged government shutdown, lower the country`s
economic growth this quarter by as much as 1.5 percentage point, it would
do the very thing Republicans claim they are trying to stop, make the
budget deficit worse.
Joining me now is Josh Green, senior political editor for "Bloomberg
Josh, the irony here is it is so thick one cannot even know where to begin.
But the OMD estimated that the 27-day 1995, 1996 shutdown cost taxpayers a
total of 2 $billion in today`s dollar. What gives?
JOSHUA GREEN, SENIOR POLITICAL EDITOR, BLOOMBERG BUSINESS WEEK: Well, I
think what is going to happen here is probably a chain reaction. The thing
that the markets hate, and the Republicans are right about this, is
uncertainty. But what is a shut down do? It introduces an enormous
element of uncertainty. That is going to be coming right before the debt
ceiling fight. And that is what markets really worried about.
And you see today, I dove into my Bloomberg terminal to try and find some
indicators of what people are worried about. The prices for credit default
swaps had soared in the last two days. And what that basically is, is an
insurance policy against U.S. government bonds. In that sharp lime in
jotting upward like Mount Everest, reflects that people are suddenly
worried that the U.S. may default and miss payments. That is really the
first kind of early tremor of an earthquake that I think really going to
start shaking if the situation doesn`t clear up and get resolved pretty
WAGNER: Josh, Harry Reid is speaking in the floor. We are going to have
to listen. Let`s hear what he has to say.
(BEGIN LIVE FEED)
SEN. HARRY REID (D-NY), MAJORITY LEADER: -- speaking through the chair
there, the senior senate from Illinois a couple of hours ago. Just take a
couple of examples. We have 15,000 people a day come to Lake Mead,
spending huge amounts of money to help the economy. They come there to
boat, to fish, to recreate. Tomorrow morning they can`t go.
We have a beautiful area, recreational area just a short distance out of
Las Vegas. When you fly into Las Vegas you can see those beautiful red
hills. It`s called red rock. Over a million people a year come and visit
that, not tomorrow.
Now, the Republicans are shutting down places like that all over America
because they don`t believe in government and tomorrow will be a bad day for
government, a day of celebration for the Republican dominated House led by
the tea party over there. We hear the next camp at the House is to request
a conference on the CR.
Madam President, we like to resolve issues. In the Senate chamber tonight
is chair woman Patty Murray, chairman of the budget committee. She worked
so awfully hard to pass a budget in this body. We worked until 5:00 in the
morning to get it passed. We voted in over 100 amendments. We passed a
budget because it`s the right thing to do and the Republicans said we
should pass a budget and we did.
Senator Murray has for more than six months requested a conference on the
budget 18 times. So we like to resolve issues, but we will not go to
conference with a gun to our head. The first thing that the House has to
do is to pass a clean six weeks CR. They have that before them and they
can do that right now. If they do that, then we will agree to work with
Republicans on funding for the government for the remainder of the fiscal
So, I propose that the House passes our clean CR, we`ll sit down to pass
funding for the year. That`s it. This deal they are pulling, they have a
rule over there that says that they want to go to conference on the C.R.
Madam President, that closes government. They want to close government.
This is all a subterfuge to satisfy the tea party-driven Republicans. And
this very, very strange agenda that is so hurtful to the American people.
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THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL