Skip to main content

  National Press Foundation Hosts Discussion on Covering the Trump...  CSPAN  December 22, 2016 12:56pm-2:01pm EST

12:56 pm
survey as just the gold standard. and now i'm not even sure it merits a mercury standard. i mean, it's changing and moving and doesn't seem to have much of a form. it's like a terrible joke about what would you like the answer to be. i mean, anyway, as much as i'd like to dismiss this issue, we just cannot. as the facts come out, it seems to just open more and more questions. how did this go on over the span of three decades with the procedures, policy and management over the course of 18 years? how does this happen? i know the u.s. geological survey wants to put this behind them, but as a committee, we cannot close the books on this when the administration witness shows up with a two-sentence explanation. this was a chance to get the record straight.
12:57 pm
now we've been assured we'll get -- you will get us additional information when the investigation is concluded, but i would suggest to you that we're still waiting for documents that we requested three months ago. some of the documents we did receive were redacted, they were duplicates, or even blank pages. this document i'm holding up here -- "record of ic-2000-2011." that's page 1, cover sheet. page 2, it's blank. but page 3, it's blank. page 4 -- and it's a comfort because this says -- this page, like all these pages. it's only for our committee use. it's a blank piece of paper. page 5.
12:58 pm
this is only for committee use. it's a blank piece of paper. i don't know what you were expecting this committee, whether it's this side of the aisle or that side of the aisle, what's a committee supposed to do? are we supposed to play tic-tac-toe on this? for committee use only, page 6, 7, blank pieces of paper. oh, we have little bit on page 8. again, a blank piece of paper on page 9. 10, we at least have a few things on that. 11, another blank piece of paper. this is extraordinary. i mean, it's unbelievable. the federal government, regardless of administration, the federal government is being reduced to a joke, except it is so deadly serious.
12:59 pm
so, the gold standard, it's not even a good toilet paper standard. so, when you submit the additional information, please give us something besides blank pieces of paper, because otherwise, at the hearing where we get into the names of people who have dishonored the government, dishonored themselves, dishonored those who worked under them, we don't want to have to bring up your name as one of those that has dishonored the committee. you've been very gracious to come up here and to try to deal with this issue. what we hope is as this administration comes to a close, the integrity and transparency will be restored. the department of interior will abandon entrenched ideologies that have been going on for over three decades and finally hold wrongdoers accountable.
1:00 pm
because one way or another, this committee is going to hold wrongdoers accountable, and we want to make sure that your name is not one of those who is helping cover for people who have done wrong over the years. will you bear with me just one moment? with that, let me also mention the ranking member dingell, other members on the committee may have some additional questions for the witness. and under our rules, if any member has additional questions, you will be required to respond to those. and we're not talking about blank pieces of paper with a stamp on it, it's for committee's use only. under committee rule 4h, the hearing record will be held open for ten business days to provide
1:01 pm
those responses after such questions, if any, are asked. if there is no further business, then at this time, the committee stands adjourned.
1:02 pm
this weekend on american history tv on c-span 3, saturday afternoon just before 5:00 eastern, his torn barry lewis talks about the construction of the brooklyn bridge, why manhattan needed the bridge and why transportation changed at
1:03 pm
the turn of the 20th century. >> when the brooklyn bridge was open, it did not put the ferries out of business. the ferries were still running at capacity. because by the mid-1890s, the city of brooklyn had reached one million people. >> then at 8:00 on lectures in history. >> and that's the real -- sort of interesting thing about country music is that it is the music of poor white people, people that are privileged to be white, and i'll talk about that in a second, but also people who are underprivileged in terms of their class identity and their economic opportunities. diggen son college professor on the emerging definitions of whiteness and blackness in colonial america and how it impacts country music. then at 4:00 on real america. >> a caution congress, budget cut backs and a strangle of
1:04 pm
problems created evidence that problems may be slowed or may level off and fade. this was the climate, the land and the tasks that faced linden johnson in 1966. >> the film the president documents the final month of the year of linden d. johnson. awarding the medal of honor to a marine who fought in vietnam and celebrating the holidays with his families at his texas ranch. and at 8:00 on the president city, william, author of madam president, e dit wilson was woodrow wilson's wife and she buffered access to the president. go to for our complete
1:05 pm
schedule. tonight political profiles starting with a career of mike pence. at 9:20 the new senator democratic leader chuck schumer. my grandfather immigrated to this country from ireland. by dad built a gas station in a southern town in indiana. while i started in politics as a democrat, when i heard the voice of the 40th president of the united states, it all changed for me. i lived the dream of becoming a congressman from that small town and now i serve as governor of the great state of indiana. you know, i served 12 years in the congress. and i love to say, if i only had 12 years left to live, i'd want
1:06 pm
to live it as a member of congress because that was the longest 12 years of my life. >> let me just say our challenge has really just begun. the american public has rejected the policies of george bush and they're waiting to see what we can do, and we are going to show them that we will never lose sight of them in terms of making their lives better and creating a better america for the average person and for all americans. along with mike pence and chuck schumer we interviewed more than a does house freshman. hear from these members on house term and running for re-election for the new congress. political profiles tonight at 8:00 p.m. eastern on c-span.
1:07 pm
and now white house and political reporters discuss challenging of covering the trump adminadministration. hello. thanks a lot more coming out. i will be leading the program today. the first panel i'm turning over to jason dick from cq who is going to lead you through a discussion about the -- what will be happening with one party controlling events on capital hill. the second panel will be dealing with presidential authority and executive orders and what president trum can do from the authority of the oval office without dealing with congress and the third panel will deal with the relationship between the administration and the press and what legal precedence might
1:08 pm
be being set. and, so, this -- for each of these panels, there will be discussion from the moderator, but a lot of it is for questions. we want to set aside questions from the audience cht when it comes time for q and a, i believe we will have a microphone going on. we want to make sure you talk into the microphone. we're recording everything. everything in the room is on the record. it is being broadcast on c-span and also streaming live on facebook. the other thing i want you to keep in mind for half of the room right here are paul miller fellows, or early career journalists. the other half of the room and many people i think will be coming in aren't paul miller fellows. so i want to give a recognition to our paul miller fellows and also to the fact that at least two of our panelists today is a former paul miller. so we always like to see paul miller's do well and sung min is one of those who has.
1:09 pm
so the first panel. the panelist will give you some more info on them. >> thank you very much, chris. thank you for the university of maryland for posting this. just a quick little psa. we are talking into microphones but you won't necessarily hear amplification. don't worry. we will project. it is primarily for the cameras and for transcription and recording. it's been a whirlwind month for the election for a lot of us covering it. it was a whirlwind here or year and a half or two years for some people spending a lot of time in iowa corn fields and in nevada and prepping for the election. politics never sleeps. we're seeing the contours of
1:10 pm
future races. what we want to talk about, though, is is congress one thing that we've noticed as journalists and as scholars covering congress is that congress like it is always sort of only my present in our lives but not necessarily in the public's eyes. so we want to talk about how it is always relevant, but how do we make it resonant for the people reading our stuff and watching our news reports. so i want to first just start. we'll start with kristina and everybody is going to introduce themselves and talk about themselves for a couple minutes and then we'll get into a couple of questions beforehanding it over for qa. >> i have covered congress for four years, wall street journal and previously covered fed for a little bit and i'm from maryland. >> professional binder. >> sara binder. political scientist.
1:11 pm
half of me lives at the think tank. the other half of me and it's usually top bottom is a professor at gw. i study congress. i have to say i've been here in washington for about 20 years and every year congress gets slightly worse. so i'll just leave it right there. >> my name is sun min kim. i i'm a political reporter. i've been at "politico" since 2009 and covering congress since the summer of 2011. and i'm from iowa. >> let's start off with our paul miller alumna. and we were talking a little bit before we started the proceedings here just about what happens under unified control. it is not terribly -- we haven't seen that since the first couple
1:12 pm
of years of the obama administration, 2009/2010. before that it was in the bush administration from 2003 to 2007 and for a short period of time in 2001. the tendency i think is for people to make more in politics, this just makes sense, you exaggerate the mandate you may or may not have in order to pursue your agenda. let's talk about some of the things, what sort of burden that can be also, sung min. >> i think if you remember at the beginning of the obama administration, the obama administration, you had 60 votes in the senate. they got ambitious with their again dachlt they passed the health care law. the house at the time pushed through an energy bill. and i think it will be interesting to see how republicans on capital hill and also the president-elect handle
1:13 pm
what they do with -- first of all, do they see a mandate that was handed to them and also what they do with that. and i think what's really going to help kind of guide that is the philosophies of the two kp leaders in the house and kristina and they were talking about this. it is interesting how speaker ryan and mitch mcconnell have differing views on the election. paul ryan immediately after the election talked about this kind of manifest he thought republicans had because voters for the first time in many years handed republicans full control of washington. but mitch mcconnell two days after the election said, look, you know, i have seen from kind of histories in election passed, there is a tendency to overreach, and he is going to be careful not to do that. so how do those philosophies collide with each other as they try to set aside a republican
1:14 pm
cal agenda. what does that handle. i think that's going to be really interesting to see how that guides the thinking in terms of how ambitious they could be. >> the health care law is a great example because in the house they have had 50 manager votes to repeal the affordable care hakt. but now they are playing with real bullets it is a much dicier proposition. even the ordering of that has become something of a land mine. will people feel comfortable repealing the health care law before they know what they are going to replace it with? and, you know, you don't need democratic votes to repeal it, but you will people need democratic votes in the senate to replace it. so those are two very different procedures they have to go
1:15 pm
through. and i think you can see them grabbing now with how tricky that is going to be. it is a lot easier to say we want to repeal obama care than to figure out a working way to do that. >> professor, this is a nice segue right to you and your levels of expertise about what we're talking about with procedure. even within, like ar lin news rooms, you start talk about structured rules in the house and open rules. everybody is going to be -- this is starting as soon as we get back, as soon as the new congress is sworn in. what are some of the ways we need to look at procedure and be able to explain it in a way that gets beyond just a bunch of geeks like that, you know, who know these sort of things? >> perhaps it will be helpful both for us today but also thinking about how to cover these procedural or
1:16 pm
institutional questions i think just briefly -- let me just say one thing about why we should care about the rules and then second think about why the house and senate look so different and then maybe that will get us up to speed. just to keep in mind that, and this seems sort of obvious, but it's important to realize that majorities and politicians don't just materialize. they don't say tax reform and suddenly there is a tax reform coalition. that has to be built from the bottom up. and the ways they get built depends on the rules of the game. so the rules of the game are going to dictate who agenda setting power. the rules of the game are going to tell us which party has an easier time advantaging their proposa proposals. and there are also rules of the game that are going to tell us how many lawmakers are required, the majority, two-thirds, three-fifths. so the rules of the game matter.
1:17 pm
this isn't just political scientists playing egghead geeks here about the rules of the game. it is important to familiarize yourself with not so much why they are different but how they differ. the briefest of sketches here, for the house, it's evolved into an institution that is largely driven by the majority party, assuming the majority party is cohesive. keep in mind for your reporting to keep an eye on the house rules committee which is really an arm of the majority party leadership because the speaker appoints the nine, in this case republican members. the democratic leader will appoint the four democratic members. and you might think, wow, nine republicans and four democrats and we know that the house, senate of the majority is probably 52%. i don't know the exact number.
1:18 pm
so that rules committee is stacked in favor of the majority party and stacked in favor of the leadership. they decide what is the structure of the bills going to the floor. will they be open? can everybody get a vote on it and be able to an offer amendment they want on the floor? or will they be closed. so a tax reform package if it were to come to the floor, no amendments because you don't want to start unraveling the carefully together package. versus somewhere in between. and the somewhere in between is what most bills are. some where in between tends to advantage the majority party, assuming they are uniformed. and it usually knocks out my party for bipartisan coalition to come to the floor or split the majority party. so if we look at the house and say, how, the majority rule really works there. majority party rule. but that's dependant on the
1:19 pm
rules and sticking together to protect those rules. >> it doesn't always happen. >> you guys grew watches. when they can't get their rule, more likely the bill gets yanked from the floor. majorities don't like to air their dirty laundry on the house floor. turning to the senate, i think the thing to keep in mind here, there is one rule in the house, as i said, there is one rule in the house that is the critical thing for understanding the senate. in the house there is something called a previous question motion. all you have to know when a majority is ready to take a vote, they move the motion, ready to vote. all you need is simple majority and you take a vote. in the senate, there is no previous question motion. so there is no aebbility, excep in some circumstances, for majority to say, hey, let's vote except for nominations. you have to get a bill on the floor, mitch mcconnell will need
1:20 pm
to seek either unanimous consent, 100 senates, meaning all democratics as well as all republicans or he needs 60 votes. 60 we know that there are probably 52 republicans. he needs all. they don't usually get right to peel off. and you any there are a handful of moderates up for election in red states. but most of them, there aren't eight of them going to cross over. why is that important? you need 60 votes to get stuff done. and that means to replace obama care, to do immigration reform.
1:21 pm
finally where you started off reconciliation, there's a bunch of procedure. we don't need to get too far into it. there is a budget procedure, it does allow majorities to work with 351 votes in the senate because you can't fill buster these that come out. there's strict rules about how you can get to reconciliation and what can go in it. it's much easier. tax reform will probably be done that way. it's not clear. but rules of the game matter, especially in the senate, where otherwise you get crickets. >> moving on to some of the personalities we run into on a daily basis in the house and senate. congress can be a very intimidating place. it's not just more than 500 members of congress, it's their staff. it's a big place. it's like a small city. there are 27,000 people who work for the legislative branch of the united states. it's a big apparatus. how do you start just developing sources there?
1:22 pm
>> i think you just kind of start with a different -- start with a focus, start small. if you cover -- if you work for a publication, washington correspondent for a state newspaper, obviously start with your local representatives and local -- and the two senators. if you cover a policy, members of the committee that has jurisdiction over that policy, not just committee members, in terms of the lawmakers themselves but staff members on the committee and staff members for members who sit on the committee. i think i kind of came in to congress as a general assignment reporter. i was kind of a newbie, so i was being tossed everywhere, kind of whatever -- whichever breaking news story was going on at the time. but when i transferred to covering immigration kind of exclusively late 2012 and really focused on members of leadership, members of the gang of eight, members of the judiciary committees on both sides of the chambers, that's
1:23 pm
when i became sourced up in the capital, which not only helped me with immigration reporting but also how to help me kind of broaden that expertise to other policies and kind of helped me to where i got today. i think if you look at congress as like oh, my gosh, i have to get to know all these 535 people, get to know their staffs, agendas, you are going to be overwhelmed. it still overwhelms us every day. if you start with a small focus, develop a niche, home state or specific policy beat, or whether it's laetd -- leadership or interesting coalitions if you want to cover progressives in the house and senate, a great one for the next few years, i think if you tackle it like that, it will be -- that's the way to kind of dip your foot in the water and get going. >> i think that makes a lot of sense. since it is a new session of congress that's about to start, there are new lawmakers and they want to get to know people. so that can be a good toe hold into this.
1:24 pm
since we do have one party controlling both chambers of congress and the white house, there are more issues moving, so i do think there are more industries and fields with advocates like immigration or health care policy or tax reform where they know a lot and are happy to talk on background with reporters. so that's a good opportunity to start chatting with people from different angles. i think what's nice about the hill is there are so many different ways to get into every story and every beat. so you can be a white house reporter and cover the administration from the hillside, because, you know, we just have so much access and ability to bump into people and talk to different people and lawmakers and aides. you could do the same on a foreign policy beat. so it's just a great place to be able to have so many interactions on a daily basis. >> i think, you know, you can't emphasize enough the fact that
1:25 pm
there are no small beats. >> yeah. >> your background covering the fed will probably come in very handy when they start talking about a new federal reserve chair, chairman or chairwoman. >> yeah. and on immigration, which both sung min and i covered a lot, senator jeff sessions was a key person in that because he was a very vocal critic of legal immigration at the time when it wasn't being voiced very much in congress. now he looks likely to be the next attorney general. so really interesting how people you talk to years ago end up in a different role. >> professor bender, how important is it to know just how the -- this sounds like a squishy term but the culture of congress and of washington. washington has been disparaged like no other place in the universe the last couple of years in this campaign, so it may be difficult to think, oh, i'm going to spend time getting to know the people or the city.
1:26 pm
how important is that forming the basis of the context for developing an expertise and covering congress and a new administration. >> so, since i'm wearing the science hat i'll give you two contradictory answers. i think i believe the second one more than the first one. most political scientists tend not to study the culture of interactions, personality, all the ways you describe in which life gets done and happen on the hill. >> probably what we do more of, >> you're better at it than we would ever be, so that's why we don't try. but the reality is, though, particularly in a period of polarization where you can't just count on some broad political center to come together to mold political coalitions, the only way for congress to do big stuff is for people on opposite sides who don't typically interact with each other get to know the other side, right? just think about this.
1:27 pm
if politics were just a single pie, and we're going to divide it up, you get two pieces, three pieces, zero sum, you wouldn't have to know anybody. democrats wouldn't talk to republicans, send somebody over, divide up the pie and you're done. big deals don't look like that. immigration reform, even if it didn't make it to the house, i think of it as enlarge the pie. you really care about path to citizenship? great. you really care about border security? fine. we're going to knit them together. as barney frank told me, he said, you know, in congress the ankle bone is connected to shoulder bone. i'm not a doctor -- i guess i am a doctor but i'm not really a doctor. i don't know much about anatomy. they're not connected. but they are in congress. you can put things together. the only way they put things together is if they know what the other side wants. so your ability to try to figure out what those relationships look like i think is pretty important. education, alexander, patty murray, budget deals patty murray in the past, paul ryan, right, some of these folks are
1:28 pm
getting to know each other. some of them have dealt with each other repeatedly over the years, but you don't get big stuff even in unified party control, you don't get big stuff unless you bring along the minority. >> before we get into questions from the audience and conversations there, i do want to go over to the flip side of it, which is polling, data, following money trails and so forth. polling took a real like sort of beating in this particular campaign. how important is it, how much is part of your repertoire as reporters, and then also in the academic world, to look at those poll ing numbers and data trends and so forth. >> yeah, you know, that is a really good question. i don't know how things shake out with polling. it is something during the campaign year we've relied on a lot. from covering senate races, we looked at real clear politics average of polls.
1:29 pm
i will say broadly, i do think data is important. on the hill, things that have been very helpful are congressional research service reports, cbo reports, congressional budget office that gives dollar figures on legislation. gao reports. these are sort of very well respected, independent agencies that i think -- i hope still buttress our stories by giving us facts and analysis that both sides tend to agree upon, at least in the past. so i think will trump -- will president-elect trump say gao said that so i'll back down or cbo scored the bill this way, i don't know. in the past those have been very helpful resources for hill reporting. >> i think i agree with everything she just said. also on point, i'm not a polling expert either. i rely on the numbers the same way christina does when we're covering senate races, especially the battleground states. my one personal lesson from this
1:30 pm
is that i in terms of pitching story ideas, i was way too reliant on polling base ed on story ideas. actually in the last week of the race, we were pondering kind of a bigger story on the wisconsin senate race. but i think i thought that, look, you know, russ feingold may be losing his lead over ron johnson but look at the polling. we assumed he was going to be one of the republicans gone. and, like, the rolling -- the closing was an outlier. we should have done more on that race. i think we were probably -- i was probably too reliant on polling. now i know for the next cycle where to go with more than just where the numbers are. as we can see there's much more to that -- much more to reporting on these races than getting a sense of where the numbers are.
1:31 pm
so that's a good take-away from this cycle. >> did we overuse polling, professor bender? >> christina very kindly reminded me today we talked on the phone at 4:30 on election day and by 9:00, 9:30 when she wasn't going to be saved by alaska and probably ripped up whatever it was a sent her. >> that story got written through several times on the course of election night. >> so i would just offer one way to think about polls in terms of legislative contest or legislative politics. maybe the example of the 2013 government shutdown would be helpful. so october 2013, the government was shut down for two and a half weeks. it was all over the spending bills which you will eventually come to terms with why it's so important. but ted cruz, senator, had basically taken the spending bills hostage for an obamacare repeal. so it basically turned into a partisan battle.
1:32 pm
keep in mind democratic senate and republican house. who was going to get the blame, right? were republicans going to be blamed for trying to take the government hostage by going after obama care or would democrats be blamed for their inability to govern? it takes a little while for that but i think it was a messaging battle to play out. if you looked at the polling results, not just your approval of congress but what do people think of democratic leaders, what do people think of republican leaders, you kind of see even amongst republicans this dive that happens by the second, third week in october in the public and republican perceptions of republican leadership. i think members -- i think mcconnell and i think boehner, i think they understood it all along but clearly understood once numbers tank they can go to their members and say, look, we're being blamed here. we're losing the messaging battle. we've got to go to the table. and, of course, because they lost the messaging battle, they didn't get anything. there was no obama care repeal, raised debt limit.
1:33 pm
they had a budget deal. i actually think the spite the fact my whole discipline is having a little issue about polling, i think leaders will still be relying on them and it may help determine the direction these battles go to some degree. >> that's a really good point. candidates still use polling a lot. even if journalists reduce our reliance to some extent, they are still really important behind the scenes shaping legislative battles, campaigns. we're not done with polls for sure. >> we'll probably have more of them. it was a staggering amount of information to sift through. also a caveat, a lot of the polling at the national level, you know, predicted the margin on the popular vote. where they missed it was with the turnout in the battleground states. >> in some cases the margin of error was large enough that what occurred was still technically accurate.
1:34 pm
the poll was still technically accurate. >> that does tend to get lost a little bit. it's no fun to state margin of error and how much you can discount the polls. >> right. >> with that i'd like to get into some of the questions with the audience because i know there are probably a lot of questions. at least we hope. who wants to go first? >> i can restate the question. >> that will be good. >> ma'am? >> i had a question -- couple questions for dr. bender. first you talked about how what was going on in the senate with the majority and that 52 republicans, they need at least eight democrats. but then you said you'd railly have to peel off 20.
1:35 pm
i was a little confused how that would work. >> the question is just getting into explanations of the majority, there are likely going to be 52 republican senators, but you need 60 to cut off debate on any kind of legislation. and professor bender's statement if you need eight, you really need to aim a lot higher than that, 20 to 30. >> so to clarify, yes, technically on a rule you need 60 as jason just said. the thing is, let's say everybody was lined up left to right, liberals to conservatives. and some of these issues coming down the pike will not be left to right so my line is not going to be helpful. your left to my right. mine because i'm spatially challenged especially when we're talking different directions. the problem is here -- not the problem but the challenge is here that democrats and republicans are reasonably cohesive. so republicans are probably over here on the right. democrats are scattered over here. there isn't anybody in the middle.
1:36 pm
to have to go all the way over to attract your 60 votes, you go manchin west virginia, heidi heitkamp, if she doesn't go with the administration, mccaskill, donnelly. the further and further you go, you're going to hit some liberals, right. to get to eight you're going to hit liberals. in other words, the eight probably agrees with the person lined up at 80. that's when in essence it's not that you're aiming to pick up -- you may be. come back to that. it's not that you need 80 votes but the fact is the moderation of your bill, changes of your bill you need to get to 60, those changes are probably going to be amenable to other democratic senators near them. so you're not just peeling off -- you're not just buying individual votes, you're probably making concessions to bring everybody over. >> i think also there's a tactical element to this. with schumer, who is going to be the next senate democratic
1:37 pm
leader, he may let four or five of his most vulnerable democrats vote with republicans on certain issues, those are the people in the middle that professor bender was talking about but democrats may not want to let eight or nine go and give republicans a legislative win unless it's a big bipartisan topic for which you get 20 democrats on board. so you could see six democrats vote with republicans when it helps them but you don't get that whole -- you won't get to the number eight to pass legislation unless it's good for a lot of democrats. >> so i think the last major legislation in the senate at least, where they got right around 60 was a trade promotion authority in june 2015. it was like we were just kind of up there counting. who is going to be the democrat. who will be the 60th vote. i think those situations because of the political dynamics tend to be a bit more rare than you would think.
1:38 pm
>> that was a democratic white house lobbying democrats hard to get those votes. >> for sort of a precursor to battles next year, this week in the senate on the 21st century-- there's a little division among democrats. you may see this play out on the floor where liberals like elizabeth warren are not super happy about it. the white house wants this bill. they have sent out a statement of administration policy stating they want this signed into law, wanted senate to pass it, already passed the house. seeing those divisions and how you get passed 60 and get everybody on board, you recollect tune in this week. the white house feels so strongly about it they said vice president will preside over the vote tomorrow.
1:39 pm
next question. shawn? >> since the election everyone in the republican party has been more or less on the same page, at least a lot more than they were during the campaign. what do you think it would take for house republicans or senate republicans to start picking fights with trump again? >> the question is we're seeing a cohesion among republicans in the house and senate that we didn't see during the campaign and how long can we expect to see this peace until someone tries to pick a fight in the republican party with the president-elect. >> it's a really good question. we're talking about it this morning on the hill because the house majority leader kevin mccarthy held a pen and pad and talked with reporters. we were asking him about president-elect trump's tweets over the weekend about imposing tariffs on u.s. companies that ship production offshore. and you know, this is a difficult question for free market republicans who they say,
1:40 pm
well, our answer is overhauling the tax code. but they didn't want to directly answer the question of would you pass legislation imposing tariffs because republicans don't traditionally believe in interfering with the free market and have been reluctant to impose tariffs. it was this real moment of discomfort with what trump was tweeting, but we did see a reluctance on the part of mccarthy to say directly he disagreed with trump. i don't know how long it's going to take until people do voice their concerns more candidly. so that's a point i'm going to be watching for. what do you guys think? >> i do think we're at a point right now, in a honeymoon of sorts, republicans are ecstatic they control all levers of government, or they will early next year. i think they are -- i think that's natural to have a
1:41 pm
reticent to criticizes or tweets things you don't agree with. but i think when you start digging into policy fights, he does send infrastructure plan to the hill or immigration plan. i bet whatever immigration plan he sends, if he sends one, you will have people like jeff flake, dean heller, lindsey graham voice their objections. if it looks like we imagined an immigration plan from trump would look like. >> they have. >> they have already but that's going to be amplified more once we're actually kind of it's knee-deep, a reality of what these policy fights are. i think the infrastructure plan -- this i have less knowledge of but if infrastructure plan has more spending than the fiscal conservatives would like, you'll hear more from the freedom caucus than perhaps right now. >> yeah. i do think, and maybe this is true in sort of every
1:42 pm
administration, but it's very clear people who were early supporters of trump are being rewarded. they are on the transition team. they are able to talk to his staff much more closely. >> attorney general nominee. >> they are being discussed for cabinet official posts. there is a price to pay for criticizing mr. trump. you can be in a twitter storm. i don't know how much that will factor into people's political calculations moving forward. >> i would just add in -- lawmakers sometime s vote for things they don't agree with logically because it's good for their own electoral back reputation back home or their own brand name. vice versa, sometimes lawmakers will vote for things they oppose or vote for things they prefer enacted into law. again, their recognition back home or what the party is trying to put together for the brand.
1:43 pm
as sun min said, look, it's really early here. but i think one of the most valuable lessons i took, after being wrong so much about the election is not to forget that patte pattern, that party is this remarkable glue and within the chamber. there will be a lot more sacrifice than we might expect. we'll be demanded of some of these republicans on crony capitalism issue and many issues. as christina said, we don't know what it will take to crack. my guess it cracks first in the senate because, a, keep in mind two-thirds of them did run on the same ticket with trump. a third of them will never be on the ballot because of presidential term limits. they don't owe him anything, they weren't elected on the same issues. house is much harder, i think, to get that distance from trump. >> their terms are shorter. >> they are facing voters. >> in six months. >> yeah.
1:44 pm
it rachets up pretty quickly. >> one thing i think to note, too, there has been a lot of emphasis on the challenging political environment for democrats in 2018 in the senate. there are 25 democrats up to eight republicans. some of those democrats are running in very republican states like west virginia or indiana or north dakota. what we sometimes neglect to mention, too, is two of the people who were just mentioned, dean heller in nevada is up also and jeff flake is up in arizona. they have both been a little more moderate on immigration, to say the least. donald trump has threatened to campaign against jeff flake. they are cognizant of the fact their states are heavily hispanic and that's where the demographics are heading. so it's not to always divert toward the political situation but it is helpful to know the context of what people are
1:45 pm
making decisions in like this. next question. yes. >> a narrative come out that senate democrats are going to really try to hold back on trump's nominees because of what's been going on. with derek garland this year. how successful can they conceivably be with that. with . how successful can they conceivably be with that. >> the question is how successful can democrats be if they want to halt or delay the nominations of donald trump's cabinet officials or judges and so forth because of the way the republicans refer to hold a hearing for merrick garland, president obama's nominee for the supreme court. >> there's very little they can do to stop it. just because when -- so the senate democrats triggered so-called nuclear option in 2013 and helped change the level. like basically now you just need
1:46 pm
51 votes. as we noted earlier, republicans will likely have 52 seats next year pending outcome of louisiana senate election for saturday. so what's more important to stop -- what would be more powerful to stop a trump nominee if you have someone like rand paul or susan collins or jeff flake or a small coalition of those republicans standing against nominees. democrats can make it definitely painful, insist on roll calls for nominees. if you recall there were half a dozen obama nominees that were confirmed right on january 20th, 2009, to make sure he had at least parts of his cabinet installed immediately. i don't see that happening with this -- next january except for, perhaps, elaine cho, who happens to be martied to the majority leader and also very noncontroversial when she was announced. you already have some senate democrats in the judiciary
1:47 pm
committee demanding long hearings for jeff sessions and demanding a drawn out process that way. in terms of staffing there's very little they can do because of the lower threshold. but in terms of just making it painful and making it kind of annoying for republicans, "eating up floor time and committee time they would rather be using to enact their legislative agenda, democrats can certainly do that. >> i think the one exception is general mattis will need a waiver, which will be legislation and senator gillibrand said she would require procedure which will call for 60 votes. he's the one with the most support. he's the one democrats actually want so that's sort of the pro and con for them. i think we could also talk a little about the supreme court nominees, which is the one
1:48 pm
category that has the potential to get really interesting this year. whether if democrats do object to trump's supreme court picks, whether republicans will change the rules again so that it only requires a simple majority to confirm the supreme court nominee. i think it's hard to tell in his press conference the day after the election, leader mcconnell seemed to dwell on the peril of overreaching when you're in the majority. he is an institutionalist. that seemed to suggest he and other veterans might be reluctant to do that. if democrats don't go along i can see a lot of pressure to confirm supreme court nominee and maybe they would. >> we're talking about a fairly small universe of supreme court nominees who have faced that kind of scrutiny going back 100 years.
1:49 pm
some of the examples, abe fortis, lyndon johnson's pick on the supreme court faced a filibuster. i mean, there were procedural votes on samuel alito but this is relatively unprecedented for supreme court to filibuster a nominee for the supreme court. >> yeah, except there have been -- there were cloture votes on the most recent ones. i'm sure alito got less than 60 -- 58. i think the others got -- some of them were unified. yeah, i don't know that the fact it's not precedented -- there's less precedent for it is as consequential as the fact that this is kind of the reality of contemporary american politics, pretty tough, polarized parties and they
1:50 pm
disagree on quite a lot. certainly supreme court lifetime appointment, particularly in a world where congress hasn't been legislating very much and see the courts weigh in on health care, weigh in on immigration reform, overtime pay. there are all sorts of ways in important and increasingly important. so it makes sense to me that the parties would fight over it and makes sense that majority members might be a little circumspect about going nuclear, thinking that the shoe could eventually be on the other foot in having republicans facing a democrat in the white house making appointments. having said that, we hardly solved that problem last. >> one thing i feel compelled to mention, we're focusing on covering congress and the new administration but we've got that other branch of government across the street symbolized by the supreme court. but there are other -- the ways that the judicial branch influences the decision making in congress and pressures on the white house and so forth, i
1:51 pm
mean, this seems to me -- i don't know if you feel the same way as an academic, fellow reporters, the judicial branch may be the most undercovered part of government that we have. do you think that there's any merit to that, you know? >> i would just -- i guess i'd answer yes. for many of the reasons you talk about in terms of the ease with which one might cover congress, which access is very, very tough to come by for the court, unless you're in there or listening to tapes later, it's hard to know. you don't ever see negotiations in conference or exchange, if they do exchange. there's black box for reporters and academics. i think the thing to keep in mind here, we do have example during unified republican control where the courts put a wrench into the republican
1:52 pm
administrations by dint of the court cases that came up to work through them. particularly the war on terror and use of all the of the detainees in guantanamo bay, habeas corpus questions, there was a series of supreme court cases started in 2004, '06, and '08 that put screws on administration and forced congress to remarkably come to the table, to figure out what are we going to do about treatment of detainees? will there be trials? commissions, military commissions. like how are we going to deal with this. what are we going to do about torture. the courts really forced congress to the table there. john mccain is still there and he's not forgotten. so the court can kind of shake things up for the administration in ways they probably aren't anticipating. >> the courts will be a really interesting venue for democrats to push back on the administration. democrats may have been wiped
1:53 pm
out in congress and the white house, but you're going to have pretty high-profile influential state attorneys general that i can guarantee you will use the courts as a venue to push back against some trump policies. i think the one person first and foremost is congressman, javixavier becerra, who announc he's going to take over for kamala harris as california attorney general. i have a personal focus on immigration. but you're already seeing a lot of what the california legislature, are doing to push back against trump immigration policies. he will be a key person in kind of pushing that and being that antagonist to trump on the federal or state level. so the legal field will be a very interesting venue and interesting story line that way as well. >> also if you see medicaid changes coming out of an overhaul of obamacare, that will be interesting to see democratic governors push back.
1:54 pm
there are also fewer states now where democrats have control at the state level. >> you're also seeing some republican governors even say, hey, wait a second. before you get rid of the medicaid grant to my state, my own state, arizona, the governor there, is right out of the gate after the election, saying before anything takes hold, we need to figure out how to keep people covered, coming from a very republican like pedigree. questions, yes. >> as a health care reporter, i wanted to ask about reconciliation because i keep hearing conflicted stories about whether it can be used in the folks to appeal obamacare or overhaul medicare. if there's any tips on what to watch for there? >> the question is, is reports on republicans using the reconc reconciliation process which
1:55 pm
requires fewer votes in senate to get through, how much of obamacare could be repealed, how many changes could you make using the budget reconciliation process. >> one principle to keep in mind, the reconciliation has become used for measures or provisions that cut the deficit. so the overall package can't be increasing the deficit. so provisions are review ed and judged by the parliamentarian on whether or not they can be -- they can go into the package. >> opposed to just dealing. >> cutting the deficit. there has to be a budgetary implication of the provision to make it into reconciliation. the language is, if the purpose of the provision is incidental to the budget, so then it can't go in.
1:56 pm
so in a world where they wanted to repeal the requirement that you're allowed -- a requirement to cover pre-existing conditions, i think that will be judged today be incidental to the challenge. it has no budgetary, direct budgetary implications. just examples of this is the easiest -- i don't know if there's a parallel to health care reform. when they did tax reform, there was a very costly package because tax cuts actually cost money. but the way they got around it was to sunset, so in ten years when you have to score all these provisions that went into the bill, they just reinstated all the taxes. so it looked neutral. the whole thing looked neutral. so there are some smoke and mirrors here. there are ways in which to get things into a package to make a budget neutral over the ten-year
1:57 pm
window. and just to keep in mind, if things go into reconciliation, if somebody wants to challenge a budgetary issue because it's violating the rules, you can do point of order. that's 60 votes. yes, 51 is the final threshold for passage of reconciliation. it would have to pass all these 60-vote thresholds that might be lobbed against the reconciliation, provisions of the bills. >> i think -- oh, go ahead. >> i was just going to say in 2015 they did pass a repeal of aca through a congressional resolution -- >> reconciliation program. >> yeah, but it was vetoed by obama. but it did actually go to the parliamentarian a couple times and initially they couldn't do as much as they wanted to and they had to rework how some of it was structured in order to sort of make it, to protect it from these points of order. >> if i were a health care
1:58 pm
reporter, and we kind of all sometimes when it comes to congressional stuff, i would go back to what senate republicans laid out with the senate reconciliation bills in 2015. what that was back then, it repeals the employer mandate. it repealed two taxes in the health care law, also i believe it ended rolling back the medicaid expansion. and that kind of package -- that's not the entire health care law, obviously. but enough republicans felt that it gutted enough of the health care law to be sufficient to them and it pasted muster with the parliamentarian, and it defunding planned parenthood. that's kind of like how -- what we're going to start with in terms of how we guess they're going to repeal it are i guess those core tenants. >> i remember one tiny detail from that was that in getting rid of the mandate, they left it in but set it at zero.
1:59 pm
that's how it made it through the parliamentarian. >> they got rid of the penalties. the taxes. >> they essentially went along with it, but in order to get it through the hoops, i think that's what they did at least at one point. >> that's why the senate parliamentarian is one of the most powerful people. it's important to point how that the parliamentarian is a political appointment. the majority makes the decision of who is the parliamentarian. they're usually not going to put them in such a dire situation that they have a face-off with the parliamentarian and the majority that sits in there. but they make for interesting times as they say, will this work, will this work? >> questions. >> i was curious, how much time and energy do you think lawmakers will be spending worrying about policy and governing when the new congress
2:00 pm
comes back versus worrying about re-election, fund-raising, and those rigors? >> a phrase in the history of people who study congress is members of congress are single-minded on reelection. we never really separate them. like the policy, they're intertwined so we have these notions, yes, you can govern and think about policy and think about re-election. i think that moment is it's the approximate goal, the first thing you bump into every single morning, everything is seen through a prism of how is this going to affect my electoral reputation and my ability to get re-elected? and keep in mind, they make up policy goals. i want to work on health care. i want to work on immigration reform, but you have to get re-elected in order to do that. the house, particularly primaries, within six months, they're worried about filing and whether people will run against them.