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Ryan-Murray Budget Deal Debate

Aired December 10, 2013 - 18:28   ET


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

VAN JONES, CO-HOST: Welcome to CROSSFIRE. I'm Van Jones on the left.

S.E. CUPP, CO-HOST: I'm S.E. Cupp on the right. Tonight, we have breaking news, a brand-new deal to avoid another government shutdown.

JONES: But it contains a lot of stuff that Republicans don't like and Democrats don't like. Let's go right to CNN's chief congressional correspondent, Dana Bash.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Van. And as you look, the headline is that there is a deal and that you have the Republican budget chair standing next to the Democratic budget chair, in the House and the Senate, hand in glove, saying that they worked on this together. That in and of itself is phenomenal, given the atmosphere that we have seen for years here in Washington.

It is not expansive. It is not the grand bargain that many people want and we need in this country to reduce the deficit, but it is baby steps, a two-year deal to do away with those arbitrary forced spending cuts and, instead, replace it with different cuts that Congress would agree to that would be more acceptable to some Democrats and some Republicans, depending on how they look at this.

Both of the lawmakers said that this is not what they want, but they both said, "Look, we are in divided government. This is what we're going to get."

JONES: Well, Dana, look, there's opposition on both sides of this deal, though, so can you help us understand what some of the concerns are from Democrats and from Republicans?

BASH: Sure. Let's start with some of the Democrats, some of the liberals. They are not happy because the way that some of the changes are paid for is by forcing federal workers and those in the military to contribute more to their pensions. That's not something that a lot of Democrats like.

They also wish that there were -- there was an extension of unemployment benefits in this. That is not in this deal.

On the Republican side, you have a lot of conservative opposition from the outside, a lot of groups, including the famous Koch brothers, who have really financed a lot of conservative campaigns, writing a letter warning conservatives to vote against this, because they like those forced spending cuts because it keeps the -- it keeps spending down in a way that doesn't allow for members of Congress to change things. So that is, certainly, a problem on the conservative side.

But you did hear Paul Ryan say he's confident this is going to pass the House. You've seen this movie before. Things change when Republicans get in a room. We're going to watch for an important meeting, Van and S.E., tomorrow morning among House Republicans to hash this out and make sure that they can actually pass it. The deadline is by the end of the week.

CUPP: Thanks, Dana. We appreciate it.

In the CROSSFIRE tonight, Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff of California and Republican Congressman Tim Huelskamp of Kansas.

Congressman Schiff, let me start with you. Is this a good deal? Are you happy with what Paul Ryan and his counterpart announced today?

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, I'm pleased that we're back to negotiating again, and we may avoid another fiscal cliff or shock to the economy.

But I'm skeptical about what I've heard so far. I don't want to see an agreement that's balanced on the backs of federal employees who have already given up over 100 billion in terms of sacrifice over the last few years in lost wages and a freeze in terms of their income.

So is it balanced? This is going to be one of the questions I'm going to have. I don't like the fact there's no unemployment -- extension of unemployment compensation in this. I don't know about where we're going with revenue, I also think that where it looks like we're going for revenues. It doesn't make a lot of sense. Tacking on fees to airline tickets is a strange way to finance the government. I'd much rather see us do away with some of the farm subsidies to the major agra businesses that don't need them as well as closing other special- interest tax loopholes.

So I'd have to say, I don't like a lot of what I've heard about it, but the only thing I do like is that it might avoid another shock to the economy.

JONES: So it's good that we're moving forward, but I turn to you, Congressman. Now, a lot of conservative groups have already come out saying they hate this thing. Americans for Prosperity hates it. Heritage hates it. Freedom Works hates it. Are you willing to, in the name of moving forward and getting some deal, avoiding another shutdown, are you willing to buck those big conservative voices and stick with Paul Ryan?

REP. TIM HUELSKAMP (R), KANSAS: Well, I think far too often the question in Washington seems to be "Can we make a deal?" I'd rather say, "Can we find a solution?"

This deal raises spending. There's no way around it. It's more spending for both sides. And for far too long, most conservatives would agree that's the problem in Washington. I don't know how a deal is good for conservatives or for Americans if spending is going to go up.

JONES: Given what you know and given the fact that the alternative might be a shutdown, would you be willing to support it for now? Maybe you can do more later on, but are you willing to support Paul Ryan now? Knowing what you know now, would you vote for it?

HUELSKAMP: I would not. And it's usually not a binary choice. There are other options and proposals. But at the end of the day, in August of 2011, we said we're going to have some hard caps on spending. And what they're trying to do is blow through these caps. And our Republican Congress, we've discussed this for the last couple years. And the leadership has said again and again, this is the one thing we've achieved for $3 trillion in increases in the deficit.

CUPP: But so Congressman, let me push you on that. So you're suggesting, then, for Republicans who have just weathered some not fun weather during the first shutdown, you're suggesting for Republicans that it's better that they reject a bad medium-term deal than -- or you're saying it's better to go through another shutdown than to accept a bad medium-term deal?

HUELSKAMP: Well, in a way, I'm surprised leadership would even be offering this. Because we've talked about this again and again, about long-term solutions. So Paul Ryan's been very clear about that. We need not just short-term ideas; we need long-term solutions. That is one of the changes --

JONES: Do you feel that Paul Ryan has sold you out? You saw him at this press conference. He was not saying the things that you're saying now. He was saying you've got to take what you can get. Do you feel that Paul Ryan sold you out?

HUELSKAMP: I don't know about selling out. I'll have to see the details on that. And I will not say that.

But at the end of the day, spending is going up. Republicans and conservatives in particular have said for years we've been spending too much money, and the bipartisan agreement -- bipartisan usually scares us. That means more spending at the end of the day.

CUPP: Well, Congressman Schiff, let me ask you a similar question. Paul Ryan rarely gets credit for working across the aisle, and he does it frequently. Are you going to give him credit for coming up with this bill, working with Patty Murray?

SCHIFF: You know, I give him credit for that, absolutely, for trying to hammer something out. It may or may not fly. I think --

CUPP: Yes, but all we hear is the intransigent Republicans, the obstructionist Republicans. I'd like to give him a little credit.

SCHIFF: No, I think he deserves credit. This is not easy for him to sell to his own conference, as you can tell from our conversation here. So I do give him credit.

But I don't know whether we'll get there, because we're going to lose a substantial number of Republicans. We're going to lose a substantial number of Democrats if what we hear about the deal is that it too disproportionately impacts the federal employees if it doesn't go after any of the special interest tax breaks that Democrats would like to see help finance an end to the sequester.

Democrats don't like the sequester level. We feel this is an austerity budget that's really doing damage to the economy. I think if, frankly, we had an economy, if we had a budget that was making an investment in infrastructure and jobs and we were able to pass the president's jobs bill, our economy would have fully recovered from their session by now. So I don't think any of this is good economics. The only question is, is this less worse economics than going through with the sequester?

CUPP: But wasn't -- let me be a little counterintuitive. Wasn't the sequester good for you guys? Wasn't the sequester good for Democrats in that you got those defense cuts you wanted and you got to paint Republicans as being cold-hearted, slashing those social programs? What are you going to lean on now?

SCHIFF: I don't think it was good for Democrats at all. And Democrats don't think it was good for the country. And we're not willing to trade even a short-term political advantage for something that's damaging the economy.

A lot of Democrats, myself included, think the defense cuts are too steep too fast. They don't let the Defense Department go through a reduction in a more methodical way. So there's not a lot Democrats like about the sequester at all.

But the most significant thing is there are millions of people who are still struggling to get by, still struggling to find work, still struggling to stay in their homes. And all of this seems very unnecessary and a result of this austerity budget.

JONES: Well, you know, one of the things that I am interested in, talking about giving some credit to Paul Ryan. I'd like to give some credit to President Obama. And I wanted you to agree.

President Obama in some ways has defamed the Tea Party. You are a very strong hero for the Tea Party movement. You guys had one weapon, a super weapon. That was the shutdown.

And President Obama stood his ground, let you guys overshoot on the last shutdown. You can never fire that weapon again. And now you've got to take what you can get. Don't you have to give President Obama a little bit of credit for having played this chess game pretty well?

HUELSKAMP: We should give Harry Reid credit for the shutdown. It was Harry Reid --

JONES: Oh, was it?

HUELSKAMP: -- who wouldn't let things come to a vote. And one thing we can't forget is that it was President Obama and the two folks that announced the deal. And Adam, I voted against the Budget Control Act that started the sequester. It's interesting: Washington said it was the worst thing ever, but they all took credit for it in August 2nd of 2011. And so if it was such a bad deal, then why did they agree to it? Why did they move forward on that?

At the end of the day, we understand we have a spending problem here, and this increases spending. We all just agreed to a bipartisan agreement just two years ago.

SCHIFF: I think -- I supported the Budget Control Act, and I think that many of us who did made one fundamental misjudgment, and that is that we thought within the Republican Caucus, there would be such strong opposition to the defense cuts that they would never go along. That was the gamble.

But in fact, as it turned out, the deficit hawks were more powerful than the defense hawks, and that was a miscalculation. And we are all paying a serious price for that.

JONES: Well, now the deck has been reshuffled. We're going to have to -- we'll come back after the break. We'll keep talking.

Speaker John Boehner is going to need some Democratic votes to get this deal through the House. Next, I want to ask you, Congressman, what will -- will that spark a Republican revolt that could cost the speaker his job?


JONES: Welcome back. In the CROSSFIRE tonight, we have Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff and Republican Congressman Tim Huelskamp.

Tonight, we are following breaking news. We've got reaction coming in to the just-announced deal to avoid another government shutdown. We're going to go back to CNN chief congressional correspondent Dana Bash -- Dana.

BASH: That's right, Van, and just to recap, this is a deal that would last for two years. It would do away with those forced spending cuts and instead put in some new cuts. But raise the level of spending for the next year, at least.

And that is something that Paul Ryan, who is the architect on the Republican side of this deal, said that is necessary, because there's divided government. But guess what? As you can imagine, not all of his Republican colleagues agree, especially some others who might want to run for president in 2016.

Senator Marco Rubio of Florida just released a statement saying that he opposes this, because he says that this does nothing to deal with the long-term problems in the budget, dealing with the debt and deficit, and also, because he likes those forced spending cuts.

And this is something that we've heard from conservative groups all day long, writing letters to conservative members of Congress, saying, "Please oppose this," because they don't want to do away with those spending caps. Because that's -- they feel that that is really the only way, even in the short term, to force Congress to keep spending in the government down.

So you definitely see a 2016 presidential fight already shaping up. People say well, maybe it's too early to talk about the presidential race. No way. So much of this calculation going on, on both sides, all about that.

CUPP: Never too early for us here at CROSSFIRE. We're happy to have that debate. Thanks, Dana.

All right. While this deal is controversial, it's something we almost never see here in Washington: a bipartisan compromise. Look at House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan today.


REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), BUDGET CHAIRMAN: As a conservative, I think this is a step in the right direction. What am I getting out of this? I'm getting more deficit reduction. So the deficit will go down more by passing this than if we did nothing. That's point No. 1.

Point No. 2, there are no tax increases here.

Point No. 3, we're finally starting to deal with auto pilot spending, that mandatory spending that has not been addressed by Congress for years. Look, this isn't easy.


CUPP: So Congressman Huelskamp, Democrats are giving up some stuff in this. Is Paul Ryan wrong that what you're getting is not enough to push you over the edge to be in favor of this bill?

HUELSKAMP: We are a little disadvantaged to Paul, given we haven't seen the full details.

CUPP: -- about it. That's true.

HUELSKAMP: But that never stops people from commenting. But as I understand it, spending will be up higher. But this is not an unprecedented deal. This happened in December 2011, and it happened last December, as well. Every time there's some bipartisan agreement, there's more spending in Washington. This is the same. It's not unprecedented. They did the same thing each December.

And I think at the end of the day, as was indicated by Senator Rubio, this doesn't get to the heart of the problem, which is spending. Too much spending. It's $700 billion deficit. It's not good enough, you know, moving it a few dollars.

But I think spending is going up.

CUPP: But can we get to a deal that you want? I know the deal you want. I understand. I understand the disappointment in the deals that Boehner has put forth and he's gotten Republicans to sign off on. I get it.

Could we ever get the kind of deal you want?

HUELSKAMP: I think we've always settled for less than we can get with this leadership. At the end of the day, the American people want better than this. And they're going to say, this is what you did? This is considered a great, grand bipartisan deal?

And at the end of the day, spending is going to go up. The deficit, I believe, is going to be higher. We're still waiting to the final detail.

VAN JONES, CO-HOST: Well, you used a very interesting word there. You said "leadership". So, that brings the question Boehner.

Boehner is now in a very tough situation. And he's going to be looking over his shoulder at people like you. Is his speakership in jeopardy?

He is going to have to reach out to Democrats to get this thing passed. He can't get you. When he does that, does that put his speakership in jeopardy? Will you stay with Boehner even if he raises these caps and raising some revenue?

HUELSKAMP: Well, I don't see any speaker losing at midterm, as we see it now. But at the end of the day, the old Hastert Rule was we got to get a majority of your Republicans and they haven't even asked us. We've been out of town for the weekend. And all of a sudden, they have this deal.

Again, this has happened two Decembers in a row.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: Let me point out two problems with the so-called Hastert Rule. First of all, there are some major issues that we've been fighting on for a decade. Comprehensive immigration reform, for example, that could go to the president tomorrow if we would simply take it up for a vote in the House.

And by sticking to this artificial rule, you're prohibiting a bipartisan agreement. It would be a strong bipartisan vote that would send that package to the president. And there are a lot of other priorities that could go to the president but for that rule.


SCHIFF: Now, it does require the speaker to show leadership and it does require him to stare down some of the Tea Party caucus. But at the end of the day --

CUPP: It's fair enough.


HUELSKAMP: What was the Pelosi rule that prevented immigration to come to the floor when she was speaker? Why didn't she pass an immigration bill? To blame it on the Republicans when you had control of the House, and Senate and presidency, there was some rule. They didn't want to do it then.

CUPP: Let me bring it back to this --

SCHIFF: What changed that equation, frankly, was the elections, and the Republican recognition --

HUELSKAMP: Two straight years, two straight years to do whatever you wanted to do and you didn't do it.

SCHIFF: If the GOP ever wanted a shot at the White House again, they needed to show some flexibility in immigration. And that's a positive change, but we are so close, and to come this close after 10 years and see it held up by not even a statute, or regulation, simply a policy called the Hastert Rule is just a terrible disservice to the country.

CUPP: Let me bring it to the current debate and the budget news out today. I want to ask you, Congressman Schiff, about the potential and the news that we're getting that the unemployment benefits extension is not included in this. Is that a deal breaker for you? And hey, if Nancy Pelosi gets the votes, will she have caved on a really crucial issue for Democrats?

SCHIFF: Well, what I'm hoping will happen is that unemployment is not part of this deal. Let's hope we can put together a side deal that does pass unemployment compensation.

CUPP: Well, let me ask you about this deal -- is it a deal breaker for this deal?

SCHIFF: I don't know if it's a deal breaker for this deal. It depends on what else is in it.

JONES: But for Democrats, shouldn't it be?

CUPP: Oh, I can hear this in 2014 being a big deal.

JONES: You have to be clear now and you know as much about this as anybody, and you care as much about it as anybody. But you're talking about 1.3 million active job seekers. You're talking about 20,000 veterans being thrown under the bus right before Christmas and Democrats signing off on that? Can you sign off on that?

SCHIFF: You're exactly right.

JONES: In a side deal? We're supposed to wait (ph) for a side deal?

SCHIFF: Well, it's going to have to mean that the rest of this agreement has a lot to offer. And this is why I started off at the beginning of our conversation tonight saying I'm very skeptical, because it unemployment is not included. If it is unfairly balanced on the backs of federal workers, it's not going to have my support, and I think it's not going to have a lot of Democrats' support.

CUPP: Certainly not. I mean, you got this progressive wing leading the party leftward. I don't think that's going to stand. SCHIFF: What I hope will happen is that there can be an additional agreement on unemployment. That will sweeten the deal that's on the table.

CUPP: That's a big risk that you've got to take, though, voting for this in hopes that something else will come down the line.

SCHIFF: We only have a few days, so we'll know about the one when we know about the other.

JONES: Well, listen, we're going to get a little bit more information. We want to go to the White House to get some reaction from our senior White House correspondent Brianna Keilar.

What are we learning out there at the White House?


Well, early reaction and this is just what we're getting on background from officials as we await an official statement from the White House, is that they're looking on this very favorably. One White House official telling me they see to be a very positive development. And I just got this, pardon me, so I'm reading it off my iPhone.

They say it's great to move beyond governing by crisis after the chaos of October. They said the sequester is doing real harm. This is a balanced package that helps deal with that. And also adding that they don't love everything in there, but that's what compromise is about.

So I think this is certainly what President Obama will be saying that he supports. He is currently on his way back from Africa and we are waiting official reaction, Van and S.E.

JONES: Brianna, just one question, though. The president spent an awful lot of political capital last week. His entire speech to the country, his weekly address was about unemployment insurance. He was talking about --

KEILAR: That's right.

JONES: -- active job seekers.

Now, you've got this deal on the table. It has nothing in there about that. And the White House is saying that's a good thing?

KEILAR: I think they're not saying that's a good thing. Let me explain what we've heard from Jay Carney, and certainly you could argue that the preference would have been for unemployment insurance to be in this package.

Jay Carney was asked last week, will the president sign a bill that doesn't include unemployment insurance? He side step that, making it -- certainly making you wonder if the president may do that. It sounds like he's going to do that.

We've heard from Jay Carney. He said that it's is important that unemployment insurance is passed. The vehicle for it doesn't matter so much.

So I think you heard President Obama pressing for it last week. He did dedicate his weekly address. So, I think he's going to continue to push for it when you're talking about 1.3 million Americans who are losing their unemployment benefits.

But when it comes to this bill, it sounds like he will sign it.

CUPP: OK. Thanks, Bri.

Stay here for our continuing breaking news coverage of the budget deal and we'll be back after this.


CUPP: We're back with Adam Schiff and Tim Huelskamp.

We're following breaking news of a budget deal reached on Capitol Hill.

Let me ask you, Congressman, we just heard from White House correspondent Brianna Keilar that the White House pretty much likes this bill. But don't you think it is really just a short term fix that kicks the can down the road on so many other long material problems?

SCHIFF: Absolutely. But it's probably from the White House point of view, better than going through another budget fight and another ballooned economy that that would produce. Nobody was expecting a big deal here. I think expectations were set very low and they have met those expectations, at least in the White House's view.

CUPP: Sorry, Paul Ryan and Patty Murray.


JONES: And final question for you, Congressperson. Now, from my point of view, this is a small breakthrough but it's a historic breakthrough. I think we now see the end of the shutdowns, the end of the spending caps. There is a grand bargain out there for you. I think this president actually wants to bring the deficits down. He's going to need some tax increases though to sell his base. Will you help the president now that we're in a new era looking for the next grand bargain?

HUELSKAMP: No more tax increases. In my understanding, this has tax increases in it.

JONES: They call them fees. Your friend Paul Ryan called them fees.

HUELSKAMP: People in Kansas are going to pay more money to Washington and they know how that works.

JONES: Right.

HUELSKAMP: And they had a big tax increase last January and we still have a $700 billion. The problem is spending. This deal raises spending at the end of the day.

JONES: Well, listen, we are -- we're very low. We did bust these caps apparently. We came up a little bit, not a whole lot.

But now, listen, we're in a new era. There could be another bipartisan deal that could be more to your liking for deficit reduction. But you and I both know, you're going to have to accept some tax increases. Are you willing to do to get the deficit reduction? To get the debt off the backs of your kids? Are you willing to compromise or find some common ground, whatever the word is, with this president?

HUELSKAMP: With this president, raising taxes just like anywhere else, it's not going to help the economy, and this deal does need the economy. We need a growing economy. We need less regulations, and we haven't even talked about the president's health care plan.

If you want to get the economy growing, you've got to roll back on something on that.

SCHIFF: I have to say that continuing with this sequester, with this austerity budget, which it is by any other term is the worst for the economy. It kills job growth. It kills investment in our future. And ultimately, it's just the poorest of economics. And that's why we're not fully recovered.

If Congress would at least get out of the way, I think the economy would have fully recovered by now.

JONES: Well, listen, I want to thank both of you for being here, Representative Adam Schiff and Representative Tim Huelskamp.

The rest of you, I want to you stay engaged with us here. You can go Facebook or Twitter to weigh in on our "Fireback" question. Are you happy with the budget deal and this breakthrough? Right now, 40 percent of you say yes, 60 percent of you say no.

The debate will continue online at, as well as on Facebook and Twitter.

From the left, I'm Van Jones and I'm happy.

CUPP: From the right, I'm S.E. Cupp, and I'll wait to see.

Join us tomorrow for another edition of CROSSFIRE.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.