Return to Transcripts main page


Will GOP Find Room to Compromise?; GOP Ready to Make a Deal on Immigration Reform?

Aired January 30, 2014 - 18:28   ET



ANNOUNCER: Tonight on CROSSFIRE, the president goes it alone. And in an exclusive interview with CNN says...

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I can't wait. And the American people, more importantly, cannot wait.

ANNOUNCER: While Republicans talk of compromise, even on immigration.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Turned into a political football. I think it's unfair.

ANNOUNCER: Will conservatives let their leaders make a deal? On the left, Donna Brazile. On the right, Newt Gingrich. In the CROSSFIRE, Neera Tanden, who worked with the Obama administration, and Amy Kremer of the Tea Party Express. Is reaching for compromise a slap in the face to the grassroots? Tonight on CROSSFIRE.


DONNA BRAZILE, CO-HOST: Welcome to CROSSFIRE, I'm Donna Brazile on the left.

NEWT GINGRICH, CO-HOST: I'm Newt Gingrich on the right. In the CROSSFIRE tonight, an Obama Democrat and a Tea Party Republican. After five years of failing to get the economy going, the president today used an exclusive interview with CNN's Jake Tapper to reveal his latest gimmick. Let's listen to the president.


OBAMA: What we've done is to gather together 300 companies, just to start with, including some of the top 50 companies in the country, companies like Wal-Mart and Apple and Ford and others, to say, "Let's establish best practices. Do not screen people out of the hiring process just because they've been out of work for a long time."


GINGRICH: So if you're a new college or high school graduate, you're out of luck. Because of the president's bias, you now have to wait a year and a half until you're among the long-term unemployed to get a job. You know, Donna, the fact is he's trying to find gimmicks because he won't go back to trying to really help the economy grow so everybody can have a job.

BRAZILE: Well, you know, businesses have created over 8 million jobs, 2.2 million in the last year alone. So I think the economy is moving. We've just got to get the Republicans out of the way so we can get things moving along.

Let's talk about giving the American people a raise. Amy, over 80 percent of the American people support giving the American people a raise: $10.10 an hour. Are you supportive of that initiative? And if so, what will you do to help the president get this initiative under way?

AMY KREMER, CHAIRWOMAN, TEA PARTY EXPRESS: Well, this is the thing, Donna, is we're playing political small ball here. Why don't we focus on the big issue? And that is putting people back to work, getting the economy going?

I disagree with you that the economy's doing good on all these jobs. They're part-time jobs. Obama care is the biggest job killer. And here you're trying to increase the minimum wage. We're talking about minimums here.

Why don't we talk about the American dream and opportunity and, you know, let's put forth some policies that Washington, everybody can get behind and businesses will have confidence in Washington again; and they'll invest in their companies, and they'll create jobs?

It is not the president or the federal government's responsibility to create jobs and increase the minimum wage and do all these little gimmicks like...

BRAZILE: The studies show that raising the minimum wage will boost the economy, will lift millions of Americans out of poverty. Again, why you...

KREMER: That will cost jobs.

BRAZILE: What jobs will it cost, when...

KREMER: It will cost jobs...

BRAZILE: ... when it will bring more people back into the workforce and give people a living wage.

KREMER: How is it going to bring more people back into the workforce, increasing the minimum wage? It is going to -- we already have the highest corporate tax rate, or one of them in the world, and we need to be creating incentives for businesses to come here. Not for businesses to go elsewhere. Not for people to get laid off from their jobs because small businesses can't afford to pay this, you know, increase in minimum wage.

GINGRICH: Let me ask you a question. A lot of people like to argue that the Tea Parties have various problems, but I was fascinated today, for example, when the president went to Waukesha. The Democratic candidate for governor happened to go to a minus 11-degree lacrosse Wisconsin so that she wasn't anywhere near it, right after the State of the Union.

You had a whole series of Democrats who have indicated that they don't want the president to come to their state or they didn't show up when the president came to their state. For example, we have just Burke, Udall, Begich, Hagen. As you know, Landrieu, for example, flew down with him and then hid when he came to New Orleans.

Aren't you concerned that you're actually seeing the beginning of the not-Obama wing of the party as they try to maneuver for the election and that that further weakens him?

NEERA TANDEN, FORMER OBAMA ADMINISTRATION ADVISER: You know, I actually saw the president speaking to issues that unite Democrats but also unite independents and also attract a lot of Republicans, which is economic opportunity for all Americans. And I think if you look at the Senate races in the past, it's not really dependent on the president's numbers, although I think the president did a lot of work on Tuesday to shore up his numbers and the party's numbers.

GINGRICH: If he has all of these unifying issues, why are they trotting away from him?

TANDEN: Well, I think you'll see more and more Democrats coming towards him. I mean, I think Donna's arguments about the minimum wage are really important ones. And I mean, you know, I think Tuesday was really about expanding economic growth, expanding opportunity for all Americans. Minimum wage is an important part of that.

It's an issue that divides Republicans, divides very conservative -- very conservative members of the Republican caucus against more moderate ones, because I think people recognize in this economy it is unfair, it is basically unfair to work 40 hours and live in poverty. And we know -- and we know that -- we know that we have demand problem in this economy. People don't have enough income and that we need to increase that.

GINGRICH: But politically you think it's OK to be the Lone Ranger in the fifth year of your presidency?

TANDEN: I don't see the president as a Lone Ranger.

KREMER: I want to say -- I want to say if they're all coming together to support the president, today Henry Waxman announced that he's retiring. He's not going to run. Why are all these Democrats announcing retirement? Because they can't support the president.

BRAZILE: So Republicans...


TANDEN: Waxman's seat I think -- I'm pretty sure is going to be pretty safe. I don't know if L.A.... KREMER: They cannot defend these policies. They cannot. They're running from this economy; they're running from Obama care.

BRAZILE: There are Republicans who decide to step down. Republicans would be in a position to be a leader in the House if they are able to...

KREMER: Does anyone want that job? I wouldn't.

TANDEN: With all due respect, I mean, I think you're seeing the Republicans moderate their language in the caucus states: talking about immigration reform, shying away from the fight on the debt ceiling, a fight that the Tea Party strongly pushed them to make, which was a disaster for them politically, and they're not going to do it again.

BRAZILE: Amy, but I wanted to get back to your point about the minimum wage, because there was a study by the Chicago Reserve that stated that, if you increased the minimum wage to $9, $10, it will boost the economy by $48 billion the following year. That means more consumer spending and, of course, that means more jobs will be created.

Let me ask you a question, because I listened to all the Tea Party and the Republican responses. You know, they had four rebuttals, including one in Spanish, and I also read that one, as well. But you had four different responses. Let me -- let me show you what Senator Mike Lee, who I believe you heard his rebuttal. He had a lot of things that he stated that he agrees with in terms of the president. Look at these proposals. Tax reform, investment in higher education, jobs training.

Look, is the real reason you can't get behind President Obama is that you don't like President Obama but you like these policies? Because President Obama is talking about tax reform and job training.

KREMER: This is the thing is that he has been nothing but a divider. And when you talk about the minimum wage in extending unemployment benefits, in immigration, his legacy -- at this point, he's concerned about his legacy, because Obama care has been an abysmal failure. And so he wants to push through immigration reform. The State of the Union was nothing more than a fluffy campaign speech with buzz words.

BRAZILE: All the things that you...

KREMER: Here's the thing.

BRAZILE: But you agree with the president on these issues. Job training. We all agree that that will help the American people.


BRAZILE: Tax reform that will help the American people. Investment in higher education, that will help. Why not just support those policies and forget about the next election? KREMER: Well, first of all, I'm not going to forget about the next election and I don't think many people are because there's no one that's created more gridlock in Washington than Harry Reid.

The Republicans need to take back the Senate so that we can get some things passed and send them to the president. Let's take back the Senate. No matter what the House passes, Harry Reid doesn't bring to it the floor.

And Donna, this is the thing. Every American should be concerned about that. And the reason why is because they work for us. We elect them. We are their employers.

BRAZILE: Do you feel that the bill that he passed this spring...

KREMER: Harry Reid does not even bring it to the floor for a debate, much less an up or down vote. That is not doing the business of the American people.

BRAZILE: Look, there's no question that Harry Reid, just like John Boehner, will not bring votes to the floor, bills to the floor unless they have the votes. But did you hear what the Republicans passed this week?

KREMER: The farm bill.

BRAZILE: No. I mean, yes, they passed that, but they also passed an abortion bill. I mean, is that a priority to the American people? Why not support tax reform job training and things that will grow the economy and help get people back to work.

GINGRICH: Let me stay on Harry Reid for a second, just because...

BRAZILE: Your favorite Democrat.

GINGRICH: Well, just because the point that I think you've just been making. Harry Reid announced he's going to block the president's request for fast track negotiating ability. And so not only do you have the Democrats who are running for re-election running from the president. You have the Senate majority leader saying, "You ain't going to get this." Now, isn't that a further decay of the presidency?

TANDEN: I mean, look, I think Senator Reid has been a stalwart champion of the president's agenda and also has been a very effective leader on behalf of the Democrats.

I would say, you know, the Democrats can also look at a bunch of issues -- immigration reform is a perfect example of it was passed. It's passed the Senate, had bipartisan, very strong bipartisan support. A lot of Republicans supported that bill. And it's -- have we even had a hearing in the House yet? I mean, that's an issue. I mean, there hasn't been significant action of any major -- there's not been a single bill that's been to the floor.

KREMER: Why -- why do we need to pass a new immigration law when this administration will not enforce the laws that we have right now?

BRAZILE: That's a question to ask the Republicans, because they're about to get on board.

Look, next we have more from President Obama's exclusive interview with CNN's Jake Tapper. And I'll ask my Tea Party friend if she feels like her fellow Republicans are selling her out. Stay tuned.


BRAZILE: Welcome back. In the CROSSFIRE tonight, Neera Tanden and Amy Kremer.

President Obama has decided to get new dance partners. He's just as sick of the job that Congress is doing as the rest of us. In his exclusive interview with CNN's Jake Tapper today, the president went out of his way to explain why.


OBAMA: The House Republicans in particular have had difficulty rallying around any agenda, much less mine. And in that kind of environment, what I don't want is the American people to think that the only way for us to make big change is through legislation. We've all got to work together to continue to provide opportunity for the next generation.


BRAZILE: The president's pen already has the House Republicans rolling over. They're suddenly talking about compromise on everything from immigration to the debt limit. Mr. President, keep on writing, and the Republicans will keep rolling over.

Amy, I mean, look, with 65 percent of the American people disapproving of the Tea Party, the House Republicans now running away from the Tea Party, are you afraid that the House Republicans will throw you under the bus and abandon their principles?

KREMER: Well, I mean, the movement is absolutely concerned about what they're doing. It's more big government, big spending, and you know, with this immigration thing, what's going to -- they're doing it because they think they need votes.

That's what -- I mean, the speaker hasn't said why they're doing it. The speaker has to come out and explain to us why they're all of a sudden doing this.

Marco Rubio, God bless him, I praise him for being part of the process in the Senate. At least we had our guys in there when they were trying to crack the legislation, unlike Obamacare where it was done behind closed doors and there was no input. But even after it passed through the Senate, Marco Rubio said this is not the time to do this because we have a president that's not going to follow the law anyway. He can't be trusted. And Marco Rubio has said at this point, he doesn't think we need comprehensive immigration. He said it needs to be done piecemeal. This is not the time. They're doing it for votes.

And you know what? They're going to lose their base and when they lose their base, they're not going to win. They can't win without the base.

BRAZILE: Will you run third party candidates against them in November?

KREMER: I mean, we're not running any third party candidates, but there are going to be primary challenges, I mean, leading up to November. Not only in the Senate but in the House.

GINGRICH: Let me ask you something. Because the president's whole point about the executive pen, I'm fascinated. Because first of all --

TANDEN: Aren't you a strong believer in executive authority?

GINGRICH: Well, that's clear. I was going to say that. No, I was going to say that in a very serious way.

Presidents as long as they operate within the law --

TANDEN: Absolutely.

GINGRICH: -- have an enormous authority. But here's what's fascinating -- in his first five years as president, Ronald Reagan signed 53 percent more executive orders than Barack Obama. If -- you know, doesn't it sort of bother liberals that it took five years for Obama to figure out how much authority he has. Literally, if he has the authority to do it today, why didn't he have the authority to do it five years ago?

TANDEN: So, I think there's a distinction between executive orders and executive action. I think the president is taking a wide variety of steps now. Obviously, in the first couple of years, he was passing legislation. And then there was a lot of focus on implementing legislation.

But I think -- I'm glad that you and I can unite between -- behind the president having strong executive action to answer the country's challenges.

GINGRICH: So, let me give you an illustration, this is sort of fun. The president announces with great, you know, fanfare -- he is signing minimum wage for federal contracts which will come into effect in 2015, et cetera, et cetera. I mean, the total number of people -- it's a nice symbol. But it doesn't change very much.

The things the EPA does, that changes a lot. That's a different issue.

But it just strikes me that he has no new authority today that he didn't have the day he was sworn in back in his first term. And so, if he suddenly finds 23 really good things to do, if I were a liberal, I would be asking the question, so why didn't you do those?

TANDEN: You know what? I actually thick the way the president suspects approaching it is the right way, which is to say, look, I want federal legislation. He called for a minimum wage increase last year. He wants Congress to act in this way. Unfortunately, he's tried very hard and they're not acting.

He's taking the right approach which is to say just because the Congress is dysfunctional doesn't mean I'm ceding my authority as president. So, I'm going to make change where I can, improve the lives of the American people where I can. Obviously, it would be better to pass legislation on a federal minimum wage or minimum wage for everyone, but if he's not -- if they're not going to act, then he should.

BRAZILE: Absolutely. I agree, he should act.

Amy, the House Republicans are meeting right now right across the Bay Bridge.

KREMER: Right.

BRAZILE: If you have an opportunity to tell John Boehner, you know, just what you think of this new approach to immigration -- what would you tell John Boehner?

KREMER: Well, first of all, let me be clear that Tea Party Express specifically, we've not focused on immigration. It's not one of our issues because it's an issue that divides people. We want to focus on the economy alone and bring people together and Obamacare. That's what galvanized the movement.

But the movement is against this. Many, many people are against it. And I don't understand why on earth House leadership would go and all of a sudden kick conservatives and play right into the hands of Harry Reid and Barack Obama. Why?

When every American is concerned about jobs and the economy and Obamacare right now, why are you going to pivot to this issue? Ted Cruz put out a great statement on this today --

BRAZILE: Neera, I know --

TANDEN: Yes, I have to say -- I have to say on this issue, I think the point is that actually passing immigration reform is an economic issue. It's one that will improve our economy.

Well, actually, this Congressional Budget Office said it will reduce the deficit, it will help create jobs in the country and I think that people can look at immigration reform through a divisive lens or see it as something that's actually helpful to everyone in this economy.

And if you look at the -- if you talk about the elections, if you talk about the elections going forward, I think the Republican Party will have a very hard time in 2016 and into the future if it has a, you know, an attitude that is not welcoming on immigration reform. In some ways, if they follow you, maybe it won't work as well.


GINGRICH: Because the adverse may also be true. That is if the Democratic Party loses the chance to pass immigration, you get into a whole different environment why are so many Latinos unemployed? Why is the economy so bad? Why is there so little opportunity? So --

TANDEN: I think they may look at certain partner who is the Republican Party, and have an answer for that, Newt.

GINGRICH: So, let me start with stay with immigration a second, because I do think there is a good chance that the Republicans in the House are going to do something much more intelligent than the Senate bill, which is a huge conglomerate bill that even Marco Rubio having crafted, in the House --


TANDEN: We might call that gymnastics.

GINGRICH: What happens if the House Republicans pass a series of six to eight bills, each of them solid, each of them a building block starting with control of the border methodically moving through.

Now, at that point, do liberals say, boy, this is real progress and here's a sign the legislative system's working and we ought to try to find a way to get a signature. Or, do they say, boy, we really need this issue, how do we kill this and demagogue?

BRAZILE: A few legislative days, I would hope they would pass a comprehensive bill. I mean, we have been talking about immigration reform for the last seven years under George -- it started under George W. Bush.

KREMER: We do need immigration reform because our current immigration system is not working. We do need immigration reform. The problem is amnesty. And I want to clarify that, because there are many people out there who support immigration reform. Amnesty is the issue here.

And, you know, Bill Bennett, I believe, talked about a simulation. You know, we need people that, people need to be able to speak English, they need to understand our Constitution and our federal government and they need to have, need a job skills to cut.

BRAZILE: Many of them already paying tax and participating in the economy.

GINGRICH: Stay here.

Next, the final question for both of our guests.

We also want you at home to weigh in today's "Fireback" question. Do you think Congress will pass immigration reform this year? Tweet yes or no using #crossfire. We'll have the results after the break.


GINGRICH: We're back with Neera Tanden and Amy Kremer.

Now, it's time for the final question.

BRAZILE: Amy, you're from Georgia. And as you know, everybody is suffering down there because of the weather. But also they're suffering because they think government failed to do its job. Does this incident show that we actually need the government even more to help us in times like this?

KREMER: Well, I mean, we're talking about state government there. And the power should be in the hands of the state government and the people where it belongs and not the federal government. But they clearly failed.

And they weren't prepared and they're -- I mean, I think our governor owned up to it today. I don't think it will ever happen again. But there are times when government is needed and this is one of those times that they should have done something about it.

GINGRICH: I actually think as a Georgian, and that Governor Deal had the right kind of honesty and the right kind of candor and they clearly blew it, and they admitted it and they have to learn from it.

But I have to ask you a question.


GINGRICH: Now, if you look at the numbers, which we're not sure they're going to put up, I believe. The State of the Union viewership has dropped from 52 million in 2009 to 33 million this year.

If you take the trend line, his last State of the Union slightly slower than "Duck Dynasty".

Does it worry you that the president is gradually losing the ability to attract people to listen to his speech?


TANDEN: I sense a theme here with you, Newt.


TANDEN: I would say, look, I think people tend to turn to politics a little bit. I think the president rallied Democrats and I wish more and more people tuned in to the State of the Union. I think an issue with newscast and TV in general, and people are fragmented in their news-watching. But I think a lot of people got what he said in social media and other venues.

So, I think this is something that needs to be amplified. GINGRICH: So, I just want to clarify what I said because I don't often fully understand the way liberals think. You don't mind that a number of senators are now dissing the president and running away, and you don't mind apparently and according to morning reports, that many donors are now dumping out of the House and saying we can't win the House, let's put all our money into the Senate.

And you don't mind that Obama's --

TANDEN: And it's going into the Senate, right? I think that's a good thing, to keep control of the Senate. What's the argument there, exactly?

BRAZILE: Forty-six percent approval rating. He's very popular.

GINGRICH: All right. Let me say, thank you -- I want to say thank you to Neera Tanden and to Amy Kremer.

Go to Facebook or Twitter to weigh in on our "Fireback" question. Do you think Congress will pass immigration reform this year? Right now, 34 percent of you say yes, 66 percent say no. The debate continues online at, as well as on Facebook and Twitter.

BRAZILE: From the left, I'm Donna Brazile.

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

Join us again tomorrow for another edition of CROSSFIRE.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.