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Senate Approves Medicare Bill; Iowa Debate: The "Get Dean" Campaign; Interview With Dennis Kucinich

Aired November 25, 2003 - 15:30   ET


ANNOUNCER: Party time in Vegas. Has President Bush hit the political jackpot with the passage of Medicare reform?

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Today we had a major victory to improve the healthcare system in America.



ANNOUNCER: With friends like these, did anyone look like a winner in Iowa? We'll dissect the latest debate.

Promises, promises. Governor Schwarzenegger is following through on another campaign pledge, but will it come back to haunt him?



JUDY WOODRUFF, HOST: Thank you for joining us. President Bush today may feel like giving thanks a little early. First came word that the economy grew at an even faster pace in the third quarter than previously thought. An 8.2 percent annual rate, the best performance in almost two decades.

Then the Senate gave final approval to a sweeping $400 billion overhaul of Medicare that includes prescription drug benefits. Republicans emphasized the 54-44 vote was not entirely along party lines.


SEN. BILL FRIST (R-TN), MAJORITY LEADER: Boy, everybody keeps trying to come back to the partisanship, and that's why I keep coming back to the bipartisanship. The victory is not for Republicans. The victory is not really for the president of the United States. The victory is not for the Democrats. The victory is for the American people.


SEN. TOM DASCHLE (D-SD), MINORITY LEADER: Many senators know this is lousy legislation. We may spend the rest of our careers repairing the flaws of this disappointing bill.


WOODRUFF: While many Democrats were still arguing against the bill, Mr. Bush marked his political win during a trip to Nevada. Let's bring in our senior White House correspondent, John King.

All right, John, how does the White House plan to use all of this good news, the good news on the economy, and the win on Medicare out on the campaign trail?

JOHN KING, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, by talking about it Judy, and talking about it, and talking about it, and talking about, especially in key states, where it could help in next year's come pain. Take Nevada, where the president is at this hour.

As we speak, he's raising more money. But he had an event at a hospital a short time ago. He won this state by just 25,000 votes three years ago. It has one of the fastest growing, if not the fastest growing elderly population in the United States of America. The president believes he has now taken away an issue the Democrats have used against Republicans for years, and you can hear that in the president's comments a short time ago.


BUSH: They used to call Medicare, Mediscare for people in the political process. Some said Medicare reform could never be done. For the sake of our seniors, we've gotten something done.


KING: The president now will make the case that he has delivered on a promise that the Democrats have been unable to deliver on for years. He will continue to make that case tonight. Another key state, Arizona. He carried that by 100,000 votes last year, another state where the key elderly voters are a key voting constituency.

And, Judy, the president also will highlight the economic news. But focusing just on the Medicare victory today, the White House believes this is a very big deal that can help the president considerably. That's why he will have a big signing ceremony some time quite soon here at the White House.

WOODRUFF: Well John, we know they were looking for good economic news before Thanksgiving, early December. Is this enough good economic news that they now think that any liability associate with the economy is now taken off the table?

KING: Not taken off the table at all, Judy. But they do believe the news today reinforces the view here at the White House and in the Bush political team that there will be more good news to come, at least in the short term. The revised economic growth, 8.2 percent in the third quarter, new corporate profit numbers out, the highest consumer confidence now in about a year and a half or so.

The White House believes that sets the table for a pretty strong holiday season. Now, heading into the campaign year, what do they want most? The Democrats are saying that no matter what has happened in the past few months, that this will be the first president since Herbert Hoover to actually lose jobs during his administration.

The White House is sensitive on that point. Some two million jobs lost. So they want to see the economy keeping, creating jobs. They hope to get the unemployment rate down below six percent by early next year. They believe that jobs number is the one big question mark for them when it comes to the politics of the economy.

WOODRUFF: All right. John King at the White House. Thank you very much.

Well, for their part, the '04 Democrats used their latest debate to again blast the GOP-crafted Medicare bill. The Iowa event was also a showcase for Howard Dean's rival's efforts to slap him down.


GEPHARDT: I have a different version of how to do this.

WOODRUFF: (voice-over): Howard Dean under fire as John Kerry and Dick Gephardt teamed up to tackle the frontrunner in Monday's DNC debate.

GEPHARDT: He cut funding for the blind and the disabled.

WOODRUFF: They accused the former governor of balancing Vermont's budget on the backs of the disadvantaged. A sharp contrast, said Gephardt, from the way congressional Democrats got things done in the '90s.

GEPHARDT: We cut spend that went to mining subsidies and that went to the nuclear industry. We didn't cut the most vulnerable, as he did in Vermont.

WOODRUFF: Kerry, joining the fray via satellite from Washington, pummeled Dean on Medicare.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Are you going to slow the rate of growth, Governor, yes or no?

DEAN: We're going to do what we have to do to make sure that Medicare lasts.

KERRY: Are you going to slow or rate of growth, Governor? Because that's a cut.

DEAN: Well, I would like to slow the rate of growth of this debate if I could. WOODRUFF: On the defensive, Dean fought back...

DEAN: The people of Vermont were better off when I left the governor's office than they were when I got there.

WOODRUFF: ... as Edwards urged his components to dial down the rhetoric.

SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: People are tired of listening to politicians yell at each other. What they want from us and what we have to offer in order to win is something other than anger and something other than criticism.


WOODRUFF: Well, Ron Brownstein at the "Los Angeles Times" was in Des Moines for the Iowa debate. Now he's back in Washington with us.

Ron, who was the winner? Or was there a winner?

RON BROWSTEIN, "LOS ANGELES TIMES": Well, actually, I think that Dick Gephardt and Howard Dean probably had the best debate partly because of the way that they performed, but mostly because I think they had the clearest strategy. Look, what Dick Gephardt is doing may not be glamorous, but it is disciplined and targeted.

What he's doing consistently is attacking Howard Dean on trade and on social spending issues. First entitlements, then beginning with yesterday's debate, his budget plirtities in Vermont. Basically aiming his candidacy and these arguments at a blue collar and senior audience. Most of the people who have not been to college are less attracted to candidates, reform candidates like Dean to begin with.

Dean fired back in part by defending his record, but also by amplifying his attacks on the other Democrats, Gephardt and Kerry in particular, over the war. And they both seem to me to have a very clear strategy, clearer than anybody else at this point, about how they want to proceed and the voters they're trying to target.

WOODRUFF: So you're saying Dean was able to deflect some of this?

BROWNSTEIN: Dean was able to deflect some of it in terms of the immediate criticism, but I think that's going to keep coming. Where he was more effective was going after Kerry and Gephardt on the war.

Look, the argument -- the underlying argument that Gephardt and Kerry joining in on Medicare and the budget are trying to say is, this guy is not the reliable Democratic hero that you think he is. He embraced Republican economics.

And what Dean, in effect, was saying, Judy, in the debate yesterday was, how can you question my Democratic credentials? I'm the one guy up here on the stage who really stood up to George Bush on the war. In effect, he responded on a different lane than they were attacking, but it was a pretty forceful response, nonetheless. WOODRUFF: Was there a clear loser in the debate or somebody who did less well than they needed to?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, I don't know if there was a clear loser, but I think the candidates who did not get into this central argument were somewhat obscured in the debate. I mean, John Edwards tried to stand out by saying, look, can't we all get along. Wesley Clark, in his closing statement in the second half of the debate, really woke up, talking about foreign policy and trying to make the case that he is the one who can take it to Bush.

But right now, what's driving this race, at least in Iowa, is this Gephardt-Dean dynamic, with Gephardt pressing the attack on the spending issues. Kerry joining in.

It's kind of odd, John Kerry, when Dick Gephardt gave his speech criticizing -- when Gephardt gave his speech criticizing Dean on Medicare, Kerry then joined in right there after the debate. He did it again yesterday on the budget. You sort of wonder, well, if he has all of these rules, why didn't he give these speeches to begin with? Why is he waiting for Dick Gephardt to go out and raise the argument, and then just sort of pile on?

WOODRUFF: So does this Gephardt-Dean dynamic, does that directly play into what happens in Iowa?

BROWNSTEIN: Absolutely. Look, you have two candidates with very different constituencies in Iowa. As I said, Dick Gephardt is a blue collar senior (ph). Mostly people without high school -- with high school educations, non-college educations. Dean is sort of a -- more of a lifestyle liberal audience. College educated, more affluent, more drawn to social issues like the war, the environment, perhaps gay marriage.

It's a divide that runs through the Democrat race consistently, whether Bill Clinton or Paul Tsongas or Gary Hart and Walter Mondale. And this is going to play out, Judy, not only in Iowa, but down the road in places like South Carolina, Michigan, other states where you see this kind of demographic divide.

Dick Gephardt is aiming to be sort of the candidate of the beer track, as consultant calls it, while making Dean the candidate of the wine track. And that's what these arguments are aimed at, trying to isolate or reduce Dean's support among those blue collar voters.

WOODRUFF: But we can assume Dean will continue to fight that.

BROWNSTEIN: Absolutely.

WOODRUFF: All right. Ron Brownstein, thanks very much for making it back so fast from Des Moines. We appreciate it.


WOODRUFF: Well, more candidate headline in our "Campaign News Daily." Howard Dean headed back to the campaign trail this morning in Iowa. He visited a day care center with activist and Hollywood supporter Rob Reiner. The two have campaigned together in the past. Dean later took a flight to Hawaii, where he will attend a ceremony to accept what are believed to be the remains of his brother that was killed 30 years ago in Laos.

Senator Joe Lieberman has released a new TV ad in New Hampshire targeting Independent voters who once supported Republican John McCain.


NARRATOR: Something's happening.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: An ethical leader.

NARRATOR: McCain supporters are backing Joe Lieberman.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They're both straight talkers.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Both John McCain and Joe Lieberman vote their own conscience.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They both get passed party ideology and focus on the future.


WOODRUFF: Senator McCain, you will recall, defeated George W. Bush in New Hampshire and is still considered popular in the Granite State.

A new poll finds Senator Lieberman is the Democratic frontrunner in Florida. But the Democrats are struggling in match-ups with President Bush. The Mason Dixon Survey shows Lieberman on top with 21 percent. Howard Dean is next, followed by Wesley Clark.

When matched up with President Bush, none of the Democrats fared very well. The president leads Lieberman by 20 points, and Dean and Clark by 23 points.

You get a you unique perspective of the '04 race from the Ohio wing of the Democratic pack. Up next, candidate Dennis Kucinich on Howard Dean's continued rise, his own reasons for still running, and a bachelor life.

Plus, keeping up with Governor Schwarzenegger and the political license he's taking in Sacramento.

And later, an early read on the battle for Capitol Hill from the congressmen who are leading the power struggle for their respective parties.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) WOODRUFF: One of the eight Democrats participating in last night's debate in Des Moines, Iowa was Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich. He joins us right now from Cleveland.

Congressman Kucinich, good to see you again.


WOODRUFF: We've just been talking with Ron Brownstein about how much of last night's debate was taken up with beating up on Governor Howard Dean. Is he being hurt by these attacks by the other candidates on hand?

KUCINICH: Well, I don't know. I've been spending most of my time talking about the urgency of the United States ending the occupation of Iraq. And I think that we need to stay focused on what direction this country should take. And that's what I talked about repeatedly at the debate last night, that we need to get the U.N. in and the U.S. out of Iraq.

WOODRUFF: You've talked about getting U.S. troops home no later than this Christmas. How worried are you, though, about leaving Iraq unstable, ungoverned and completely vulnerable and potentially in chaos if that happens?

KUCINICH: Well, mine is a 90-day plan, which I put up a month ago. And it's on my Web site and And that plan calls for the United States to take a whole new approach, which is what we would have to do to get the United Nations involved.

We'd have to ask the U.N. to hand the oil, to handle the contracts. There would be no privatization of the assets of Iraq. We'd ask the U.N. to handle the cause of governance in Iraq. And then as the Iraqi people could be self-determining, then they could take over their own affairs.

If this kind of agreement would be presented to the United Nations, I think we would be able to get the member nations to participate, get the U.N. in, and bring our troops home within 90 days. A whole new approach could enable us to bring our troops home.

WOODRUFF: But how can you say that, Congressman, when there has been nothing but difficulty so far in getting agreement at the U.N. on doing something like you described?

KUCINICH: Well, we have to understand, Judy, the reason why we've had a disagreement is the United States has not renounced its policies of preemption and unilateralism. That the U.S. wants to hold on to the oil, wants to privatize the Iraq economy, wants to handle the contracts and give out contracts to their friends, and wants to set up their own government to control Iraq. Now, the U.N. will not participate under those circumstances.

WOODRUFF: That's a lot of "ifs". KUCINICH: Well, you know, state craft is always a lot of "ifs." But what I'm suggesting is that if we embrace the world community, take a new direction for U.S. policy, we can bring our troops home. And frankly, I can't think of anything more urgent on the agenda of our country today than to end the occupation and to bring our troops home.

WOODRUFF: Congressman, I want to ask you about some criticism that you and your campaign press secretary have leveled at that time news media toward their coverage of your campaign, saying essentially the media had given you short (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

I want to quote an Ohio newspaper today, the "Akron Beacon Journal," which bluntly today editorializes "Vanity candidates" -- and they include you -- "can be a distraction." But "the exercise will serve only to weaken the eventual primary winner, draining resources and driving him or her toward the fringes." It says you should get out of the race and concentrate on getting reelected in your congressional district.

KUCINICH: Well, they don't really represent the people that I represent. And let me say this, that I want to know why it's a vanity candidacy when I'm calling for the end of the occupation of Iraq, which I think is something that many Americans agree with.

You know, why is this a marginal candidacy when I'm calling for universal single payer healthcare, Medicare for all? You know, where are all of the other candidates in calling for tuition-free college education? You know, I'm calling for end of tax cuts to the wealthy and end of war and the end of this occupation.

Now, I think that when people hear what I have to say, they are ready to vote for me. So I'm glad to see, Judy, that you're giving me this chance to get my message out.

You know, I've been in Congress now for four terms. I'm co-chair of the largest caucus in the Democratic Party. And I've been leading the effort in the Congress to challenge the administration's march towards war.

WOODRUFF: Right. I want to finally ask you -- I have to -- a question about your personal life. You're willingness to put your name out there on a Web site in New Hampshire to win a date for a possible future first lady. Did you ever dream that running for president would involve this kind of commitment?

KUCINICH: Well, time out, Judy. You've got to realize what happened. I was asked a question at a presidential debate, and all the candidates were. You know, what would you want in a first lady, and what would their role be in an administration.

So when it came time for me to answer, I said, "Look, I'm a bachelor. I could only fantasize. But it would be good to have a first lady who was passionate for peace, for a full employment economy." And after a while, I ended up getting calls from all over the country and hearing about it from all over the world. So go figure. This has taken on a life of its own.

But you know what? American women have responded very positively because they've seen a candidate who respects a woman being involved on these kinds of issues.

WOODRUFF: We hear you. Congressman Kucinich, it's good to have you with us. Thank you so much. We appreciate it.

Another recall out West, but this one ends in failure.

Also, Arnold Schwarzenegger has plunged head first into his new job as governor of California. We'll check in on his first week in office when we come back.


WOODRUFF: The latest on two recalls, one successful, the other a failure, lead the headline in today's second edition of our "Campaign News Daily."

Nevada organizers have conceded defeat in their efforts to recall that state's governor. An anti-tax group started the effort against Republican Kenny Guinn after he backed a record tax increase. Organizers say they didn't collect enough signatures to force a recall election.

In California, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger of course won his job in a recall election, and he's close now to achieving one of his top come pain promises. The state assembly is expected to soon repeal a law that will grant driver's licenses to illegal immigrants. The state senate is already voted in favor of repeal.

The law would have taken effect in January. Schwarzenegger opposed the law based on security concerns.

Arnold Schwarzenegger has had a very busy eight days since being sworn into office. With me now, Dan Walters, of "The Sacramento Bee."

How big a political victory, Dan, will this be for Governor Schwarzenegger winning this repeal of the ability of immigrants to get driver's licenses?

DAN WALTERS, "SACRAMENTO BEE": Well, I think it's big. And it testifies to his kind of public standing. And the fact that this driver's license law is very unpopular with voters, and Democrats were fearing a backlash. They were fearing this is going to be a wedge issue in next year's elections and possibly extending over into 2006, when the governorship will be back up again.

No, I think this is a pretty significant victory. It's a validation that Arnold Schwarzenegger ruling the roost in the capital, so to speak.

WOODRUFF: So there's enduring value, it's just not a one-week win here?

WALTERS: No. I think it's a big symbolic issue, a big potential wedge issue. And one that kind of puts him on the map, as it were, to get a very liberal Democratic legislature which voted along party lines to grant driver's licenses to illegal immigrants to reverse itself unanimously in the state senate yesterday and probably unanimously or nearly so in the assembly. That's a pretty big win for the new governor.

WOODRUFF: Now, separately, Dan, the governor has taken the wraps off a proposal -- mid-year proposal to cut state spending, cut the budget, something like $2 billion in cuts. And mostly in social programs. How much of this do you think he's going to be able to get through the state assembly, state legislature?

WALTERS: Well, he'll get some of it. I don't know that he'll get all of it. Actually, I think maybe he had, from a tactical standpoint, kind of stumbled a little bit by unveiling his own tax cut, cutting the car taxes by $4 billion a year before he unveiled his spending cuts, because the inevitable comparison is made that he's cutting aid to the poor so that he can give relief to car owners and people who drive big SUVs, such as himself.

So that's kind of maybe a tactical mistake. But I think, more importantly, he unveiled a spending cap which is not very sexy, not like, you know, cutting welfare grants or something like that. But in longer term, would have a bigger affect on the state budget of California. There's a very strict spending cap that would also increase the governor's power tremendously over financial affairs in California.

WOODRUFF: How much has Sacramento already changed because of his presence? You were just telling me before we went on the air you've never seen anything like it.

WALTERS: No. The inauguration certainly was a once-in-a- lifetime event. The crowds, the enormous media turn out and so forth, and his news conference the next day was the same thing. Although, I think some of the attention has been diminished by Michael Jackson's problems. Suddenly, the L.A. TV crews decamped for Santa Barbara.

But nevertheless, it's a big thing. He continues to be something of a -- I don't want to say a mystery, but a celebrity.

WOODRUFF: That's probably the way to get work done. And it's only been one week. All right, Dan Walters, good to see you. We appreciate it. Thanks very much.

Well, with his Medicare victory, has President Bush taken a play from Bill Clinton's strategy book? Our Bill Schneider gives a diagnosis.

And later, Thanksgiving still two days away, but it's starting to look a lot like Christmas here in Washington. Our holiday countdown is under way.


WOODRUFF: This story just into CNN, and that is that a Muslim chaplain who served at the U.S. prison camp at Guantanamo Bay was charged on Tuesday with adultery and was storing pornography on a government computer. This according to a U.S. Southern Command spokesman.

Army Captain Yusef Yee (ph), who served at the prison camp for terror suspects in eastern Cuba, was released from pretrial confinement today after being served with these additional charges. Under the uniform code of military justice, adultery is a crime.

INSIDE POLITICS continues right now.


SEN. BILL FRIST (R-TN), MAJORITY LEADER: This is clearly a victory for the American people.

SEN. BARBARA MIKULSKI (D), MARYLAND: It is very sad day.

ANNOUNCER: That's the spin on Capitol Hill. But how will Medicare play out on the campaign trail? Is the costly bill the right prescription for President Bush?

It may be overshadowed by the race for the White House, but Democrats and Republicans are ready to rumble in the fight to control Congress. We'll look at both parties battle plans.

A pay gap due to the gender gap. Why are women still earning 20 percent less than their male counterparts?

Now, live from Washington, JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS.


WOODRUFF: Welcome back. Even as the newly passed Medicare Reform Bill heads to the president's desk for signing, many Democrats are promising to fight another day. They hope that once senior citizens realize what is exactly in the legislation, they'll mobilize against it, and against the Republicans who pushed it through.

CNN's Kathleen Koch is on Capitol Hill -- Kathleen.

KATHLEEN KOCH, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Judy, days of emotional rancorous debate preceded this morning's passage of the Medicare bill in the Senate. There was a lot of anger over the Saturday vote in the House, where it was kept open for some three hours until enough members could be persuaded to change their minds and vote for the measure.

A debate began here in the Senate soon afterwards and some very unusual alliances formed between Democrats who felt that this measure benefited insurance companies and drug companies more than it did seniors and conservative Republicans like Judd Gregg and John McCain who believe that its $400 billion price tag was simply a budget buster that was tantamount to a tax increase to future generations.

But in the end it was the supporters who carried the day, winning the vote this morning on the Senate floor, 54 to 44. And though this was not a party line vote, there was a lot of debate today over whether or not this was a partisan measure that was designed to, basically, end the Medicare entitlement system.


SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: I'm absolutely convinced that at the end of the day, we will preserve the Medicare system, which is threatened, threatened seriously by this proposal, and we will get the day when we have a real prescription drug program which our seniors deserve.

SEN. OLYMPIA SNOWE (R), MAINE: I know some say it doesn't live up to our aspirations or our expectations. But you have to measure this conference report against the fact that millions and millions of seniors will benefit against the stagnation of the status quo.


KOCH: Initially, in 2004, seniors will be able to get a prescription discount card for $340 a year. It would give them between 15 to 25 percent off their medication. But it's not until 2006 that the full prescription drug benefits kick in. But then really it only really covers fully the very poorest seniors and then the very sickest seniors with very high prescription drug costs.

Very controversial aspect of the bill also is an experiment that kicks in 2010 in six cities where basically Medicare would compete head-to-head for the first time with private insurance, as seniors will get something like vouchers that they could then take and shop around for the best deal they can get.

But many opponents say that's one reason they believe that once seniors read the fine print, they will rebel and come back to Congress to overturn the measure -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Democrats banking a lot on people realizing all that before it takes effect. We'll see. Kathleen, thank you very much.

Well two of the three senators who are running for president missed today's final vote on Medicare reform. Joe Lieberman and John Kerry. Aides say that both of them opted to return to the campaign trail when it became clear that their votes would not make a difference.

But Howard Dean's camp apparently is not satisfied. The Dean campaign sent out an e-mail specifically noting Kerry's absence from the final vote after he talked so much about the importance of Medicare during yesterday's debate.

Well political strategists of both parties already are planning ways to press their points about the Medicare bill on the campaign trail. Our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider, also has been considering the possibilities.


WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): What's at stake politically with the Medicare issue? Look at the last presidential vote. Among voters under 65, the election was a dead heat. It was seniors who gave Al Gore his popular vote edge over George W. Bush and endangered Bush's election.

Seniors have become swing voters. Now, Republicans can make a bold claim to them.

REP. BILL THOMAS (R), CALIFORNIA: Medicare isn't a Democrat program. You don't own it.

SCHNEIDER: Democrats claim the GOP bill is phony reform, aimed at undermining Medicare.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The impact on seniors will be that they cannot choose their own doctor. They're going to pay more money if they stay on Medicare or they'll be pushed into HMOs.

SCHNEIDER: They're counting on a backlash.

KERRY: You're going to find seniors as angry with this as they were with the catastrophic health insurance when we passed it in the 1980s and then had to take it back.

SCHNEIDER: Remember the pictures of angry seniors attacking the car carrying Dan Rostenkowski, the powerful chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee?

That's a vivid memory for members of Congress. Republicans were determined not to make the same mistakes this time. So they made participation in the new prescription drug program voluntary.

Still, voters are suspicious of what's in this new bill. A recent poll found Americans closely divided over whether Congress should pass the bill. Seniors opposed it. Changing Medicare makes them very nervous.

HOWARD DEAN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If this was such a terrific bill, why do you suppose the president put the enactment date in 2006?

SCHNEIDER: To avert any political backlash in 2004, that's why. Republicans expect to make a simple argument to seniors next year. We delivered. They think the parallel is not with the catastrophic health insurance catastrophe of 1989, but with President Clinton's welfare reform triumph of 1995.

Clinton stole an issue from the other party and made it his own. Liberals protested what their own president was doing.

KENNEDY: We will go down in history as the day the Senate turns its back on needy children and poor mothers struggling to make ends meet.

SCHNEIDER: Now, conservatives are protesting what their own president is doing.

REP. MIKE PIERCE (R), PENNSYLVANIA: The bill would add a universal drug entitlement to a largely unreformed Medicare program and warns for a fiscal disaster.

SCHNEIDER: Clinton was the first president to end an entitlement program. George W. Bush will be the first Republican president to create one.


SCHNEIDER: Liberal protests against welfare reform were shut down when Clinton got reelected. Republicans expect Bush to be able to make the same argument to conservatives. It worked. Shut up -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Pretty blunt.


SCHNEIDER: That's pretty blunt.

WOODRUFF: OK, Bill, thank you very much.

Well, question. Could Medicare reform help tilt the balance of power in the House? Up next, I'll talk strategy with the Congressman at the forefront of the battle for the Hill.

Also ahead, many women still are being short-changed on the job. We'll discuss the politics of the pay gap.

And rising spirits and a rising star as the nation's capital spruces up for the holidays.


WOODRUFF: Next year's election is about much more than the White House. One third of the Senate and all 435 seats in the House of Representatives are up for grabs.

I'm joined now here in Washington by California Congressman Robert Matsui, who is chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. And from Buffalo, New York, Congressman Thomas Reynolds, the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee.

Gentlemen, thank you both. Congressman Matsui, let me begin with you. Apparently, Democrats have never been able to make a lot of political hay out of blaming Republicans for prescription drug prices. What makes you think Democrats are going to be able to make hay out of this Medicare bill?

REP. ROBERT MATSUI (D-CA), CHMN., DEMOCRATIC CONGRESSIONAL CAMPAIGN CMTE.: We're not intending, Judy, to make hay out of this Medicare bill. We think by the time the senior citizen population learns about this bill, the fact that there is no cost containment and the $300 billion that the seniors will receive over the next ten years will actually probably be dissipated in higher drug costs, and the fact that ultimately this will lead to the privatization of Medicare will undoubtedly create a situation where seniors will be very unhappy.

And, also, their sons and daughters will be unhappy because they'll undoubtedly have to pick up the cost for the seniors who, in fact, will be having higher drug costs.

So this isn't about Democrats wanting to show what's going to happen. This is going to happen because the senior population is the most informed interest group in the country and they're going to find out exactly what's in this bill and are not going to be happy once they find out what's in this bill.

WOODRUFF: Well what about that, Congressman Reynolds? I mean you have the fact that seniors' ability to get better prices or better arrangement through private insurers doesn't kick in until 2006. You not only have Congressman Matsui, you have Mark Mehlman, who's a Democratic pollster, saying this is going to be a pyrrhic victory for Republicans. He said when seniors find out what's really in this bill, Republicans from the president on down are going to find themselves under attack.

REP. THOMAS REYNOLDS (R-NY), CHMN., NATL. REPUBLICAN CONGRESSIONAL CMTE.: Judy, first of all, this is a voluntary program, and that's important. But more importantly, I think Democrats went against both seniors and jobs. If this election were today I think we'd do just fine.

And on this issue, it was a bipartisan piece of legislation that was co-authored by Republicans and Democrats, primarily of the Senate. And quite frankly when I look at the yes votes from the Democrats, who were about 16 yes votes, most of those are on our target list of candidates that we're going to go after next fall.

So they must have saw something in the validity of this bill, they supported it.

WOODRUFF: What about that, Congressman Matsui?

MATSUI: Well, first of all, there was 15 Democrats out of 206. So I wouldn't necessarily call this a bipartisan bill.


MATSUI: If I could just complete my comment.

But the fact of the matter is that when is seniors find out about this, they're not going to be happy. Bear in mind, if somebody has $5,000 worth of drug costs, they will pay -- that individual will pay $4,000 or 80 percent of the total cost. This isn't a bill to help senior citizens. What the Republicans managed, unfortunately, is to do is to create a situation where basically they're taking care of the drug industry, they're taking care of insurance companies, they're taking care of $100 billion or 25 percent of the total benefits will go to other groups.

WOODRUFF: Congressman Reynolds, a quick answer on that?

REYNOLDS: Pardon me?

WOODRUFF: I just said if you could give us a quick response.

REYNOLDS: Well I just totally disagree with Bob. As he well knows, Democrats in the Senate helped write this bill. And I think that the House Democrats made a tactical error as they went against both seniors and jobs, that this bill produces, let alone my state and the states accurate country that will be helped from both rural and urban areas by the assistance to hospitals, doctors in doing their duties.

WOODRUFF: I want to talk to you both about the about the House races next year. Congressman Matsui, you've already said that it's tough recruiting new candidates. The fact is Democrats need to pick up 12 new seats in order to win back control in the House. You've got to win -- in the very competitive races, you've got to win something like 75 percent of those. Is this really an almost impossible battle for your party?

MATSUI: No, Judy. First of all, I think recruiting has become very easy. Since Memorial Day, after the war and the president declared "mission accomplished," we've been getting very good candidates. We targeted 42 Republican seats, actually we've expanded that since then. And we think that right now we have 25 first-year candidates in those 40, 45, 46 seats.

So we're going to have 42, 45 seats filled by the time the filing deadline closes, and we're going to have a good candidates and we're going to have good candidates.

And we have a little wind with us. Obviously, the situation worldwide is a problem now for most Americans. And most Americans, 57 percent think the country's going in the wrong direction. That's a very bad sign, obviously, for the Republican Party and President Bush.

WOODRUFF: Very quickly, Congressman Reynolds. We know that good news on the economy today, growth in the third quarter. Booming ahead. But jobs are still a problem. You still have more than 2 million jobs lost since...

REYNOLDS: No, I think that's not true. I think we did 326,000 over the quarter. I think we're on the move with the economy, 7.2 percent growth. That's the largest since 1984. The economy is on the move. We're seeing that in both consumer confidence, investor confidence.

But the reality is we're ready to continue recruiting candidates. We operate under the three Cs: candidates, cash and case. And we have all three, which is our candidates, the money to get their message out, and a record that they can run on.

WOODRUFF: All right, gentlemen, we're going to have leave there it. But I know we're going to be wanting to talk to you often between now and next year's elections.

REYNOLDS: Thank you.

WOODRUFF: Congressman Reynolds, Congressman Matsui, good to see you both. We appreciate it.

Well our next story is not going to surprise the women in our audience. A new report shows that they still are not being paid as much as men for the same jobs. In a minute, I'll ask a Congressman if anything can be done about it.


WOODRUFF: A new report from the General Accounting Office says women make about 80 cents for every dollar that men earn, a figure that is virtually unchanged since the early 1980s. Democratic Congressman John Dingell of Michigan is one who commissioned the study. A short time ago, I asked him why the pay gap persists.


REP. JOHN DINGELL (D), MICHIGAN: Well that's one of the things that the study goes into. And it's remarkable because the differential has been 20 percent all during those years.

But the important thing is that it seems to be bottomed on two things. One, discrimination of one sort or another, probably subtle, and not necessarily an active, malevolent or intentional but discrimination, nonetheless.

And the fact that women are compelled, by reason of being the care givers and the homemakers, in addition to other things, to have to, very frankly, make some choices which require them to, in fact, make less than men do.

There are probably other reasons though, too.

WOODRUFF: It is the case that women step out of the work force to have children, sometimes will ask for more flexible work schedule. Would that account for most of this discrepancy here?

DINGELL: Clearly, that -- those two events and those two circumstances do cause a major part of this. But we think they're only a part of it.

The interesting thing when you address, as we have -- and by the way, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney in New York and I have worked very hard on this, and she has been the great leader in the matter -- you find that it's like peeling an onion. The more layers of the onion you peel, the more layers you find. And so you have questions inside of questions inside of questions.

WOODRUFF: Now, you mentioned discrimination playing a role. Subtle discrimination. What are some examples of that, do you think?

DINGELL: Well, let's say that a woman is being hired at the same time a man is. Or let's say that a woman is up for promotion at the same time a man is. They look and they say, Well this woman is liable to have a baby, or this woman is liable to have to have special circumstances to address the problem of raising kids or caring for an aged mother or something of that kind.

So the job on that basis alone might be awarded or the promotion on that base alone might be awarded to a male competitor.

WOODRUFF: One thing that struck me is men with children actually are likely -- more likely to get a boost in pay, whereas women with children suffer just the opposite experience.

DINGELL: That's a very interesting thing. We're trying to figure out why that would be so. In the case of women, it's very clear that it happens because women have additional responsibilities that force upon them some difficult choices.

Now, the cure to that might be things like addressing the concerns that women have: health care, child care, family and maternity leave, and perhaps even additional legislation against discrimination in the workplace.

But it is true and it's hard to explain why this difference should exist.

WOODRUFF: Is there something the federal government, that Congress can do about this, should do about this?

DINGELL: Yes. There are many things.

First of all, one, we need to gather the facts and the information. So Congresswoman Maloney and I are getting ready to introduce legislation in the beginning of the next session of the Congress which will set up a center which will do research, which will begin to gather the answers that we, in fact, need.

Because as I mentioned earlier, we find that there's great difficulty in terms of understanding what is going on and why and getting useful, workable statistics.

It is very clear that some of the classical and traditional things that are done in Europe would be helpful. More child care -- something had which is desperately needed. Family and maternity leave. Enhancement of those programs. Perhaps a national health insurance proposal, which would ease the plight of women in terms of providing health care for a young family.

Then, of course, there's always, again, we come back to the subtle question of discrimination, legislation against that. Or perhaps -- perhaps amongst the most important of all, a Constitutional amendment to see to it that women have full equality of opportunity and full equal rights in the Constitution of the United States.


WOODRUFF: An effort that, as we know, has not passed. Congressman John Dingell.

Well, it is better to give and than to receive, the saying goes. When we return a presidential hopeful does his part to share the holiday spirit.


WOODRUFF: Finally, a little holiday cheer. Presidential candidate Al Sharpton helped hand out Thanksgiving turkeys today in Augusta, Georgia. Sharpton told reporters that Thanksgiving Day is not about how many pounds we can gain, it's about how much love and thanks that we can give. So spake Al Sharpton.

Here in Washington, we had another sign today that the holiday season is near. Lynne Cheney, wife of the vice president, helped top off the national Christmas tree this morning along the National Mall. She was joined by Peter Nostrand of the Christmas Pageant of Peace. Getting ready for the holidays.

That's it for INSIDE POLITICS. Thanks for joining us. I'm Judy Woodruff. "CROSSFIRE" starts right now.


Campaign; Interview With Dennis Kucinich>

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