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Which Party Is Better In Touch with American People?; Party Leaders Face Off

Aired December 3, 2013 - 18:28   ET



ANNOUNCER: Tonight on CROSSFIRE, a rare joint appearance by the heads of both political parties. Who's really in touch with the voters? Democrats --

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're not repealing it as long as I'm president.

ANNOUNCER: -- or Republicans?

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: The House has continued to listen to the American people and to focus on their concerns.

ANNOUNCER: On the left, Stephanie Cutter. On the right, Newt Gingrich.

In the CROSSFIRE, Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the Democratic Party chairwoman, and Reince Priebus, the Republican Party chairman. Who has the edge heading into 2014 and 2016?

Tonight on CROSSFIRE.


NEWT GINGRICH, CO-HOST: Welcome to CROSSFIRE. I'm Newt Gingrich on the right.

STEPHANIE CUTTER, CO-HOST: And I'm Stephanie Cutter on the left. In the CROSSFIRE tonight, the heads of both political parties. This is the first time in more than a year they've sat down for a joint interview.

I'm guessing that the two of you will not be agreeing on much. You'll be disagreeing about just about everything. But one of you is also dealing with real disagreements in your own party. And that's the Republican civil war. The Republican Party has a choice now between -- a choice between listening to those who want to govern or listening to those who just want to say no. You've got the Chris Christie wing of the party, and you've got the Ted Cruz of the party. The real question is, is there a tent big enough for them all? Or is one of these factions going to end up breaking off?

GINGRICH: Stephanie, I am thrilled that you are so concerned about the Republican Party --

CUTTER: I know you are.

GINGRICH: -- at a time when Obamacare continues to fade away, at the time when the president was up 31 percent approval for economic policy, under 40 percent on 9 out of 10 foreign policy issues. But I appreciate that you've taken time away from --

CUTTER: You know what's least popular than Obamacare? The Republican Party.

GINGRICH: Not by much. And it's fun this way. If we come back, they're going down.

But in the CROSSFIRE tonight, Republican Party chairman Reince Priebus along with Democratic Party chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz. The congresswoman has just published a new book, "For the Next Generation." We're delighted to have you here.

SCHULTZ: Thank you very much.

CUTTER: So I'm going to jump in and take the first question, based on my open on the civil war.

Mr. Chairman, in the three years that you have been the chairman of the RNC, that civil war has really flourished. Tensions are running high. Divisions are greater than ever before. As I said, you have the Ted Cruz wing versus the Chris Christie wing. What can you do about it?

REINCE PRIEBUS, CHAIRMAN, REPUBLICAN PARTY: Well, I mean, first of all, I really don't think it's all the hype that the media makes it up to be. I think that we're unified on core issues. I think that our party right now is very focused on Obamacare, very focused on something that I think unifies the party.

But you know, look, we've got kind of a tale of two parties. We've got one party in the midterm election that, quite frankly, wins about everything imaginable. I mean, governors' races, House races. We've got a huge opportunity in the Senate. And then we've had a presidential election. And the fact of the matter is that I think we've been wildly successful in midterms and we've had a hard time for 24 years in presidential elections. So I think we've been wildly successful in midterms. We've had a hard time in presidential elections.

CUTTER: Well, what about the -- you've got five senators, five sitting Republican senators who are being primaried by the Tea Party, including the minority leader, Mitch McConnell. That's sort of a problem when you have one faction of the party who's kind of feeding that. Ted Cruz is feeding that. Are you going to support Mitch McConnell in his reelection?

PRIEBUS: Well, look, of course, I support the leader of the Republican Party.

CUTTER: And his reelection?

PRIEBUS: Our party's always had a lot of primaries. When I came on in Wisconsin, Scott Walker was primaried by a congressman named Mark Newman. You might remember Mark Newman.

Ron Johnson was primaried by about three other Republicans that were running, but the cream rose to the top. Scott Walker won. Ron Johnson won. And it works. I think that we're a big enough party to have all these opinions in the same room, debating it out. And I think that we're going to do really well.

CUTTER: One last question on this. I'm sorry Newt. I know I'm hogging the time. One last question on this. What about Chris Christie?

He just was reelected less than a month ago. Part of the glory of his reelection was that the -- winning the majority of the Hispanic vote. Yet, he just flip-flopped on his DREAM Act position, just weeks after winning reelection. Is that a sign that you can take these positions in state races, but when you start looking nationally, start looking to winning the Republican primary, you're going to back off? Are you going to walk away from these positions?

PRIEBUS: I don't think so. I don't think so. He also won 20 percent of the African-American vote. He won a majority in the Hispanic community.

But one of the reasons he did so well is that he was there long-term. He showed up. I mean, one of the things that we did through the Republican National Committee through the Growth and Opportunity Project, is that we helped finance the entire ground operation in New Jersey on a long-term basis, and it worked.

And I think it does work. When you have a likeable candidate on the ballot. That's important. Likeable, relatable candidate on the ballot. And you have a ground operation that's consistent in every community across New Jersey and across this country, which we're working on. I think that we can do much better. I think Chris Christie showed that.

And so, you know, I'm hopeful for where we're going. Not just in the midterms but also in 2016.

GINGRICH: Let me see. First of all, you had a likeable candidate on the ballot in 2008 and 2012. And he proved it.

At the same time, he got the party to agree to pass this enormously complex health plan. The latest poll came out, said that by 58 to 40 the country disapproves of the plan. The Web site is supposedly fixed, except that the IRS today indicated they couldn't guarantee against fraud. The security experts say you can't guarantee against hacking. The insurance companies say that they're not sure who's going to actually -- so when you're out of the red states. If you're in Alaska, if you're in Arkansas, if you're in Louisiana, are you encouraging your members to wrap themselves in Obamacare for reelection? REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D-FL), CHAIRMAN, DEMOCRATIC PARTY: Well, let's take a look at where we've been since October 1. And if you take a look at the progress that has been made with the Web site, which the overwhelming majority of users -- you had 850,000, excuse me, a million users able to access yesterday and make -- and go all the way through the process. We've had half a million people between folks who signed up for Medicaid and folks who signed up for private health care insurance through the exchanges, be able to get all the way through the process in just the first month.

You, if you're asking me, are we going to have our candidates run on whether or not insurance companies should be able to drop people or deny them coverage for pre-existing conditions or that seniors should be able to get access to a wellness visit for free without a co-pay or deductible or whether lifetime and annual caps should be reapplied to insurance policies, like Republicans would do, or whether or not breast cancer survivors like me should be able to get access to mammograms and colonoscopies and other preventative care, or whether or not women should be able to access to birth control without --

GINGRICH: Let me get it down to a single thing.

SCHULTZ: If you're asking me whether or not our candidates are going to proudly run on delivering those things to the American people, absolutely.

PRIEBUS: Well, which candidate in the Senate?

SCHULTZ: As opposed -- as opposed --

PRIEBUS: Which candidate that's running for U.S. Senate?

SCHULTZ: Reince, just give me one second, because I let you finish. As opposed to -- as opposed to the Republicans, who almost 50 times have tried to fully repeal or modify, almost completely, the Affordable Care Act and deny people all of those things.

PRIEBUS: Tell me which --

SCHULTZ: And shut the government down.

PRIEBUS: -- which candidate that's running -- which candidate that's running for the United States Senate -- Kay Hagan, Landrieu, Mark Pryor, Begich -- tell me, which one of these candidates that's running in one of these big Senate races is going to -- is going to run on Obamacare?

SCHULTZ: Any of our candidates will run on the fact that --

PRIEBUS: On Obamacare?

SCHULTZ: A young adult can stay on their parents' insurance until they're 26 years old.

PRIEBUS: And Republicans are supporting that. Insurance companies have said they're going to provide it. SCHULTZ: You know what, Reince? I've had moms come up to me in the supermarket and say, "Debbie, thank you for supporting the Affordable Care Act, because now I can put my two young adult daughters back on my insurance."

PRIEBUS: Good. The insurance companies have already said that they're going to provide it. But you still didn't answer the question, who's going to run on Obamacare?

SCHULTZ: If left up to you and your party, we would shut the government down, all in the name of denying people health care. You have no proposal to replace it. You have --

PRIEBUS: First of all that's not true.

SCHULTZ: Oh, yes it is.

PRIEBUS: You haven't answered the question. I mean, the question that's on the table right now is which person that's running as a Democrat in these targeted states --

SCHULTZ: All of our candidates --

PRIEBUS: Who? So Mary Landrieu's going to run on it?

SCHULTZ: All of our candidates are able to run on the provisions of Obamacare.

PRIEBUS: But you won't say it.

SCHULTZ: I just said it.

PRIEBUS: So they're -- they're going to run on Obamacare?

SCHULTZ: They'll be able to use Obamacare as an advantage.

PRIEBUS: Excellent.

SCHULTZ: Because you know what? When a woman comes up to me who's dealing with breast cancer and she's told me that, under the old system, before the Affordable Care Act, she had to choose between the radiation or the chemo, because she couldn't afford the co-pay or the deductible on both, you're darn right that our -- our party brought that peace of mind.

PRIEBUS: Have you seen the -- have you seen the polling in Montana, in Alaska, in South Dakota, in Arkansas on Obamacare?

SCHULTZ: What's your -- you know what?

PRIEBUS: I mean, it's unbelievable.

CUTTER: Mr. Chairman, have you seen the polling on repealing --

PRIEBUS: And that's fine. I'm happy that you're going to run on Obamacare. CUTTER: -- repealing -- repealing the Affordable Care Act? And have you seen the polling in support of all of the provisions that the chairwoman just went through?

PRIEBUS: These provisions that you're pointing out --

CUTTER: And you said that you have -- you have a plan. I'd like to hear exactly what your plan is that Republicans are running on other than repeal.

PRIEBUS: First of all -- first of all, let's hit on these points. I mean, you're trying to make this argument into it's Obamacare or nothing.

CUTTER: Well, then what is it?

PRIEBUS: First of all, insurance companies have already stated that 26-year-olds can stay on their parents' insurance. Republicans have already been in favor of pre-existing conditions.

CUTTER: OK. Let's stop there. Let's talk about that for a second.

PRIEBUS: I'm going to answer your question.

CUTTER: You need to -- you need to tell the American people exactly right now how you're going to cover people --

PRIEBUS: Listen.

CUTTER: -- with pre-existing conditions because there is no --

PRIEBUS: Mitt Romney ran on --

SCHULTZ: Exactly.

PRIEBUS: Mitt Romney ran on -- Mitt Romney ran on this. Republicans have run on it.

CUTTER: I know exactly what Mitt Romney ran on, and there is a huge loophole in there.

PRIEBUS: Well, first of all, No. 1, this country --

CUTTER: If you are banned from coverage now or can't afford it, Republicans don't -- take care of that.

PRIEBUS: First of all, this country has never tried once -- When the Affordable Care Act was passed, not a single Republican was asked to be at the table. The Republican --

SCHULTZ: That is simply not true.


PRIEBUS: I knew you were going to say that.

SCHULTZ: It's not true. I served in Congress. I still serve in Congress. And we tried repeatedly, over and over --


SCHULTZ: -- to get Republicans to come to the table.

PRIEBUS: So hard the Not a single Republican voted for the Obamacare.

SCHULTZ: One thing that Republicans approved --

CUTTER: -- all headed. So we had a big fight over a government shutdown, because Republicans wanted to defund Obamacare. You supported that.

We are about to head into that same territory in January and February when we're talking about a budget deal. Are you going to support a shutdown again over Obamacare?

PRIEBUS: I doubt it, but I doubt that the leadership is going to propose it, either.

CUTTER: What changed?

PRIEBUS: I don't think the leadership is willing to go there on the shutdown. But the fact of the matter is --

SCHULTZ: On the Saturday before we were about to default. On the Saturday before we were about to default, you encouraged House Republicans to stay the course.


SCHULTZ: And not reopen the government and brought us to the brink of default. You lead a party --

PRIEBUS: Are you kidding me?

SCHULTZ: -- that was willing to shut the government down in the name of the denying people health care.

PRIEBUS: On the brink of default? And you're the congresswoman that has increased one debt ceiling after another and hasn't addressed spending one single bit in your career.

SCHULTZ: The deficit --

PRIEBUS: And you're accusing --

SCHULTZ: -- has been cut in half since President Obama took office.

PRIEBUS: You still haven't answered the question. Who's running on Obamacare? We don't know who's running on Obamacare.

SCHULTZ: I did answer.

PRIEBUS: Everybody.

SCHULTZ: Any of our candidates will be able to run on Obamacare.

PRIEBUS: Everyone is running on Obamacare. Perfect.

GINGRICH: Let me get back to this. But let me just say Democrats like to talk about a war on women. Today Vice President Joe Biden showed us how to take that war to Asia.

Next I'll play you his latest gaffe, and I'll ask how Debbie can explain it.


GINGRICH: Welcome back. In the CROSSFIRE tonight, an exclusive. Democratic Party Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Republican Party Chairman Reince Priebus.

Democrats like to complain about a Republican war on women. That was before Vice President Joe Biden started his current tour of Japan.

Today, while touring a Japanese game company, he walked up to a group of women and asked them, "Do your husbands like you working full time?" He also asked them if they were married and whether they could work from home. They seemed slightly confused.

How do you explain Biden's inability to stay in touch with reality?

SCHULTZ: I really think this is amazing that you're bringing up the Republican war on women in comparison to Vice President Joe Biden, the author of the Violence Against Women Act, when your party spent two years holding back on bringing the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women act to the floor. When your party has nominated consistently the likes of Corbett in Pennsylvania, who famously said, "Well, if women don't like the fact that we're going to force them to have an ultrasound when they have an abortion, they can just close their eyes."

Or the party of Mark Obenshain who was the Republican nominee for attorney general in Virginia, who sponsored legislation that required a woman after having a miscarriage to report it to police.

So, if you want to talk about the war on women, Republicans -- and that's just a couple of examples, there's Walker in Wisconsin.

GINGRICH: It's interesting you selectively --

SCHULTZ: McDonnell in Virginia.

GINGRICH: I understand your version of reality. Let me just point out one example --

CUTTER: That's not her version of reality, Newt. Those are facts.

GINGRICH: Let me just point out one example that you had mentioned, that you alluded to earlier about treating cancer. In your home state, the most important cancer treatment center, the Moffitt Treatment Center in Tampa, has now been dropped by the AARP, United Health Plan, because of cuts that the Obamacare program made. So, everybody who wanted to go there under those plans is now being excluded.

You go around the country and talk about people who can't get cancer treatments, I would suggest to you that in many ways, Obamacare is a war on people with critical disease.

PRIEBUS: Just wait until the employers have the option of drop the insurance coverage. I mean, if you think that things are bad now on the individual mandate, just wait until the employers and businesses started dropping entire plans for all their employees.

SCHULTZ: They have 37 million people for the Affordable Care Act --


PRIEBUS: This is a drip, drip, drip that isn't to go away.

SCHULTZ: So, your solution --

PRIEBUS: And the president made a specific promise. The president made a specific promise. Let me just finish. Not just that people could keep their insurance, but he made a specific promise that if people wanted to keep their high deductible insurance, their ACME insurance, his exact words, that they could keep their insurance. Now, that promise hasn't been kept. Millions of people have --


SCHULTZ: I have a question. You asked me a question, I have a question for you. Because your solution seems to be, is your solution because you referred to that insurance companies are supposedly allowed. Let me ask my question.

PRIEBUS: I know what you're going to ask.

SCHULTZ: Insurance companies are supposedly going to let people stay on their parents' insurance until they're 26. Is your solution that we should just trust -- go back to trusting the insurance companies because they did such a good job?


PRIEBUS: But, secondly, I think my solution is --

SCHULTZ: What is the Republican solution --

PRIEBUS: Quit lying to the American people.

SCHULTZ: No, no, no, what is --

PRIEBUS: Telling them that they're going to keep their insurance when they can't. What about keeping your doctor?

SCHULTZ: I have yet to hear, nor has anyone in the Republican Party said --

PRIEBUS: Is it true or not?

SCHULTZ: What is the solution to ensuring that everybody in America has access to quality affordable health care, because all you've proposed is repeal --

PRIEBUS: That's not true.

SCHULTZ: -- and no replace. Name one thing. How do we cover everybody?


PRIEBUS: This Congress has never, never proposed open prices, never proposed the idea that hospitals and doctors put out the prices of the services in, and the activities that they do in the hospitals and to their patients so people can see what the prices are. No one -- we have never tried ending junk lawsuits. They've never tried --

SCHULTZ: So, you're proposing basically throwing it all --

PRIEBUS: Hang on. You asked me a question. I'm going to answer it.

We've never tried small businesses and individuals being able to pool resources together so that more people could get access.

SCHULTZ: Yes, we have. We have small group -- what are you talking about? We have small group health insurance.


PRIEBUS: You didn't want to sit down three years ago and put that into the bill. You wouldn't sit down and do it.

SCHULTZ: There are many (INAUDIBLE) this country, Reince, that have small group health insurance. My home state --

PRIEBUS: But we haven't tried -- are you saying that around this country, we have a federal law that allows open pricing, individual pricing right now?


CUTTER: And maybe we should consider that. I want to jump in here.

PRIEBUS: We've ended junk lawsuits? We go straight to Obamacare.

CUTTER: Where's the legislation that something we should consider, however, it doesn't actually solve the problem of people being locked out of coverage. But I want to change --

PRIEBUS: But your solution is leapfrog from --

SCHULTZ: It does not deny people from being dropped or denied coverage -- PRIEBUS: Your solution is leapfrog directly to European Obamacare --

SCHULTZ: Oh, come on.

PRIEBUS: -- that people don't like. And people are getting dropped.

CUTTER: You're the one who said stop lying.

PRIEBUS: Oh, so, it's a lie? You can keep your doctor. Is that a lie?

CUTTER: So, I want to actually, I want to change topic.

PRIEBUS: Is that a lie?

CUTTER: You launched a huge --

SCHULTZ: The Affordable Care Act is a private market health insurance.

PRIEBUS: So people aren't going to the doctor.

SCHULTZ: No. People are not --

PRIEBUS: So, when they get their insurance dropped, they don't lose their doctor?

SCHULTZ: People will not lose their doctor any more than the current system in which year to year --

PRIEBUS: Millions of people weren't losing their insurance under the current system, by the hundreds of thousands --

SCHULTZ: Yes, they were. Every single year.

CUTTER: We can do a whole tutorial about the system to go back to, because you know what? Nobody was happy with it.

PRIEBUS: You're saying that --

SCHULTZ: You obviously don't understand how the health insurance works.

PRIEBUS: Well, obviously, you don't understand it because you're the one that promised that people would keep their health insurance and you promised that people would keep their doctor. It turns out that it's not true.

SCHULTZ: So often, employers have to change out --

PRIEBUS: So, maybe you were the one that needs to learn about what the effects are of Obamacare.


SCHULTZ: No, what I understand is that now, 37 million people who didn't have access to health insurance before now do. We have millions --

PRIEBUS: What about the millions that lost their insurance?


SCHULTZ: -- like me on January 1st who previously had to worry that the other shoe dropping if we had the recurrence of a preexisting condition, have the peace of mind knowing that can never happen to us again. You and your party would re-impose that.


PRIEBUS: You're taking one issue which is preexisting conditions. And you're applying it to the entire concept of Obamacare.

SCHULTZ: That's exactly what it is. And you have no solution of replacing that.


SCHULTZ: There's no replace. Go back to the old system --

PRIEBUS: Reid didn't run on it.

SCHULTZ: And let people tend for themselves.

CUTTER: OK. So I want to continue this conversation. It is obviously very heated.

We haven't been able to get in our question but that's good. That's good. This is a good discussion. Stay here.


CUTTER: We are going to have a final question for both of our guests.

We want you to weigh in at home on today's "Fireback" question. Who do you think is more in touch with the voters? All four of us have already voted and I'm sure it is not a surprise where we came down.

But we want to hear from you. So, you reply by tweeting Democrats or Republicans using #crossfire. We'll have results right after the break.


CUTTER: We're back with Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Reince Priebus.

Now, it's time for the final question.

Newt, why don't you take a --

GINGRICH: Well, I just want to set the stage. In a recent poll, 80 percent of the country distrusts Washington and does not think Washington makes the right decision on a regular basis. The country is clearly I think in three more years are going to want to change. You are likely to nominate somebody who first became active in 1972 as a McGovern field person who then became a national figure in 1992, which means that if you are under 42 years of age, you couldn't vote when her husband first ran.

Do you really think Hillary Clinton is the face of change that the country is going to want to vote for in 2016?

SCHULTZ: Well, there's a reason that my counterpart a few minutes ago said their party has trouble winning presidential elections. It's because they are dramatically out of touch with most Americans in the country. It's because even though he had a rebrand, it hasn't worked out so well, because just yesterday you could look at the things that the Republican Party and its various organizations did to alienate African-Americans, Hispanics, I mean, Jews and non-Christians. I mean, it's one thing after another.

And so, we are the party that is focused on expanding the map. We're a national party. We've turned red states to purple to blue. There isn't a single state in this country that is blue today that is anywhere near turning purple and on its way to being red.

The Republican Party has become an insular regional party in the midst of a civil war and it's why whoever our nominee will ultimately be elected president of the United States.

GINGRICH: So, you don't care --

CUTTER: I'm guessing you have a response to that.

GINGRICH: Can we put another 10 minutes here?


PRIEBUS: I don't know. Look at Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan, governors, legislators, Pennsylvania, Florida -- I mean, you go down the list. Republicans control 29 governorships, 24 state legislatures. I mean, come on.

I mean, the fact of the matter is other than presidential elections which I concede is very important, and I want to get better.

SCHULTZ: With a big asterisk.

PRIEBUS: Well, I would think 29 governors is a pretty big asterisk. I think 24 --

SCHULTZ: Those states in 2014 --

PRIEBUS: -- legislatures completely control. Yes --


SCHULTZ: The buyers' remorse of 2010, Tea Party legislatures and governors.

PRIEBUS: Yes, while you run on Obamacare.

I'll tell you what? Keep it up running on Obamacare, we're going to do just fine.

SCHULTZ: You know what? So, I can't wait until we compare government shutdown to giving people the peace of mine of being able to know that they have access to quality affordable healthcare. I'll take that --


PRIEBUS: -- American, every person in every congressional district in America said we did everything we could do to stop this monstrosity. It's a disaster.



PRIEBUS: Why wouldn't you want to repeal a disaster?


GINGRICH: You will both --


GINGRICH: I used to be speaker of the House. I'm getting control here. You'll both be invited back. This is terrific.

I want to thank Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Reince Priebus.

Go to Facebook or Twitter to weigh in our "Fireback" question: who do you think is more in touch with the voters? Right now, 62 percent of you say Democrats, 38 percent say Republicans.

But we noticed an awful lot of people voted for neither which was not even an option.

CUTTER: Do we have time to discuss the results?

GINGRICH: I think they're yelling and saying no.

CUTTER: OK. The debate continues online at, as well as Facebook and Twitter.

From the left, I'm Stephanie Cutter.

GINGRICH: From the right, I'm Newt Gingrich.

Join us tomorrow for another edition of CROSSFIRE.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.