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STATE OF THE UNION WITH CANDY CROWLEY
Interview With Delaware Senator Chris Coons; Interview With Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann; Interview With New York Congressman Steve Israel; Interview With South Dakota Senator John Thune; Interview With Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy
Aired November 9, 2014 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN ANCHOR: Two detained Americans home from North Korea. President Obama heads to Asia. And a whole bunch of Republicans are coming to the nation's capital.
Today, riding the ship of state or rearranging the deck chairs? From across the Senate aisle, Republican John Thune and Democrat Chris Murphy tell what Republicans in charge will mean for immigration, Obamacare, and you.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now it's up to people like me to try to regain the trust and confidence of the American people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: Three first-generation Americans, two veterans of the Iraq war, one the son of a janitor and a crossing guard, another the only elected Jewish Republican on Capitol Hill. The newbies speak.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The gentleman is out of order.
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CROWLEY: Change meets a rock and a hard place.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R), MINNESOTA: Let's repeal this failure.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the latest gimmick in the latest game.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: Delaware Senator Chris Coons, Congressman Steve Israel, and Republican Congresswoman Michele Bachmann sit down with our freshman members for a frank conversation of what's ahead.
And the last two Americans held by North Korea are safely back in the U.S.
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KENNETH BAE, FORMER NORTH KOREAN DETAINEE: I just also want to thank President Obama. I would like to thank the DPRK North Korean government as well.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: What does Pyongyang want? We will ask former Undersecretary of State Nick Burns.
This is STATE OF THE UNION.
Good morning from Washington. I'm Candy Crowley.
In the past few days, we have learned President Obama has reached out to a pair of U.S. adversaries. He sent a letter to the supreme ayatollah in Iran and sent Director of National Intelligence James Clapper to North Korea to secure the release of two Americans. The plane carrying Kenneth Bae and Matthew Todd Miller landed in Washington State overnight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BAE: Amazing two years. I learned a lot. I grew a lot. Lost a lot of weight, in a good way. But I'm standing strong because of you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: I'm joined now by Harvard University professor and former undersecretary of state Nicholas Burns.
Nick, it's good to see you. What does North Korea want out of this?
NICHOLAS BURNS, FORMER U.S. UNDERSECRETARY OF STATE FOR POLITICAL AFFAIRS: Well, you know, Candy, it's difficult to figure out sometimes what's happening in that hermetic kingdom called North Korea.
We have never had an American official meet with Kim Jong-un, the 31-year-old leader. We know very little about his motivations. But we do know this. He makes all the big decisions, so he obviously made the decision to release the two Americans this weekend and the American last month.
And it looks like he's looking for a conversation with the United States,I think, Candy, for two reasons. Here's two possible explanations for what is happening. Number one, North Korea runs the world's most brutal, repressive and savage prison system. And the United Nations did something that the United Nations doesn't always do. They issued a very hard-hitting report last month castigating the North Koreans.
And they're threatening to bring Kim Jong-un on -- himself to the International Criminal Court. We have seen in the last month a lot of activity by the North Koreans to try to deny these -- these stories about the prison system and to try to put themselves in a better light. Releasing three American prisoners over the last month helps them to do that.
And I think, Candy, the second possible explanation is the fact that President Obama is leaving Washington today for Beijing. And the protector of North Korea is China Xi Jinping. The Chinese over the last year-and-a-half or so have become very frustrated with these wild -- the wild behavior of the North Koreans, the constant threats against South Korea and the United States.
And it may be that, in his own awkward, unsophisticated way, Kim Jong-un is trying to reassure the Chinese that he's not such a bad guy after all, that he's not irresponsible. Those, I think, are the two probably most important ways to describe this and understand it.
CROWLEY: And what do you make of the fact that, well, North Korea requested that a Cabinet-level person come to get these two Americans and DNI, the director of intelligence, James Clapper, was sent? What do you make of that?
BURNS: You know, they are looking for attention. They obviously wanted to have a big international press coverage of this event.
It's the most isolated state in the world. They are under complete sanctions by the United Nations, not just by the United States. And we have seen this behavior from them in the past. They look for attention. They sometimes do outrageous things, sometimes some conciliatory actions, like the release of the two Americans.
So, I think that's probably at the root of it. But I think we should look at this, Candy, not as a big strategic shift by the North Koreans. We're not seeing something very meaningful here in terms of their behavior. It's a tactical effort to try to get pressure off that regime.
CROWLEY: And so, in the end, I notice the State Department said, by the way, we continue to advise people not to go to North Korea as tourists or anything else.
So you don't see any major shift in U.S.-North Korean relations?
BURNS: I really don't.
The fact is that we have been burned by that country, as you know. President Clinton tried to negotiate the agreed framework of 1994 to end the nuclear program. The North Koreans violated that agreement. President Bush tried the same effort -- same kind of effort in 2007 and '8. The North Koreans violated that.
They can't be trusted. It's an erratic regime. It's a dictatorship of one person and one family. And so the best thing I think we can do and what the Obama administration and Bush administrations have tried to do is contain the problem, contain the regime, sanction them, repudiate them, and hope that China helps in that containment policy. That's something that President Obama will want to talk to President Xi Jinping about tomorrow.
CROWLEY: Former Undersecretary of State Nick Burns, also a Harvard professor, thanks so much for joining us, Nick. Appreciate it.
BURNS: Thank you, Candy.
CROWLEY: I want to now bring in two top lawmakers.
Senator John Thune, he is a member of the Republican leadership in the Senate, and senator Chris Murphy, Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee.
Thank you both for -- for joining me.
I want to get to the consequences of the election, but, first, I want to ask you about something else that broke this week. And that is the president deciding to send 1,500 more U.S. advisers and trainers to Iraq to help in the battle against ISIS. This pretty much doubles the number of U.S. folks on the ground.
Senator Murphy, what do you think?
SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D), CONNECTICUT: Well, I think what we know is that, ultimately, your military operation there is only necessary insofar as it's giving you the ability to achieve some political reconciliation on the ground.
And my worry is, is that we're not seeing the kind of progress that we would like from the Iraqis when it comes to actually creating the political preconditions upon which Sunni populations inside Iraq are going to choose to move way from ISIL and back towards the Baghdad government.
And so these 1,500 troops are ultimately just going to be a temporary Band-Aid if there isn't a fully inclusive government inside Baghdad. What's maybe more important is that, tomorrow, I would argue, the 60-day War Powers Act clock expires. Tomorrow is 60 days since the president announced his initial strategy.
Congress has a constitutional responsibility to authorize this. I do not think the president has the ability under current authority to authorize 1,500 troops without Congress acting. So, my hope is that when we get back, we're going to have a full debate on this. And I think a lot of us are going to be very reluctant to support this kind of infusion of ground troops, absent some suggestion, some evidence that the Iraqis are doing what's necessary politically to complement this major infusion of American military resources.
CROWLEY: Senator Thune, do you worry about mission creep at this point, and do you agree with Senator Murphy that the president needs to ask Congress about this? SEN. JOHN THUNE (R), SOUTH DAKOTA: I think the president will --
at some point, we're going to be debating an authorization -- authorization on the use of military force, Candy. That could happen in this -- in the context of this request.
We have got a defense authorization bill that's pending that we have to dispose of before the end of the year. But I think the recognition here is that airpower alone is not going to accomplish the mission. Now, we already have, as you mentioned, a number of troops on the ground in Iraq. This increases trainers.
The intention here, as I understand it at least, is to try and get the Iraqi security forces, the Syrian rebels equipped and ready to be able to accomplish what we need to accomplish on the ground there, so that we don't have to put combat troops in.
And it strikes me at least that we would much rather have them carrying the battle on the ground than having American troops be there on the ground. So, I think it does need be debated in the Congress. I think, ultimately, it will. I guess the question is one of timing.
But, clearly, we're not going to get the job done with the current plan. And I think the administration recognizes that and I think most members of Congress do as well.
CROWLEY: Senator Murphy, you sound a little bit like you would oppose any more sending of troops, and if the president came up and -- with the War Powers Act, you would -- you would vote no. Is it mission creep you're worried about? Is it -- what is your basic objection?
MURPHY: Well, I think we have to recognize the facts, which are that we had hundreds of thousands of troops inside Iraq over the course of a decade trying to train the Iraqi armed force.
They got overrun in a period of weeks by a relatively unorganized force in ISIL. And so the idea that we're going to be able to complete with a couple hundred troops what we were unable to do with several hundred thousand troops, I think, strains credibility.
I want to make sure that this is a realistic mission. And I do worry about mission creep. I do worry about the fact that 1,500 could become 3,000, could become 5,000. And what we know is that the massive deployment of American military forces inside the Middle East is not the solution.
In fact, over the course of 10 years, it made the situation worse, not better. Now, if there's evidence that the Iraqis are really willing to share oil revenues with the Sunnis, to partner militarily with them, to push the Shiite militias off to the side to allow the professional Iraqi military to do the fighting, then I think that I can support an authorization.
But absent that political progress inside Iraq, then we're just a temporary solution. And I'm just not sure that the experience that we have over the last 10 years tells us that this kind of big deployment of U.S. forces on the ground is going to work.
CROWLEY: Senator Murphy, Senator Thune, let me ask you to stand by.
When we come back, I want to ask if you think gridlock is really the only common ground here in Washington.
CROWLEY: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION.
We're here with Republican Senator John Thune of South Dakota and Democratic Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut.
Let me start with the elections and with you, Senator Thune.
Elections have consequences. You all had a terrific election. You are going to be in the majority on the Senate side, already in the majority on the House side.
I want to let you hear something that Senator Rand Paul, a very visible member of your Republican Caucus, said on the night that Mitch McConnell won his election about what's ahead.
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SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: It will be two long years until we get to replace this president. Until then, we can and we will send him legislation. Under Mitch McConnell's leadership, we will send the president bill after bill, until he wearies of it.
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CROWLEY: Senator Thune, is that the Republican -- the plan for the Republican leadership, is to just keep sending the president bills? He didn't say it, but the implication was bills that he probably won't sign.
THUNE: Candy, the plan is to try and get the Senate opened up and working again and have some votes.
You know, the House has sent almost 400 pieces of legislation to the Senate that have been collecting dust on Senator Reid's desk. And 40 of those deal with jobs and the economy, which is where we think the focus ought to be. And so I guess what I would argue is that we can do big things in a time of divided government.
That's been true in the past, Social Security reform, tax reform, welfare reform, balanced budgets. There have been lots of examples where you have Democrats and Republicans, a Democrat in the White House or Republican in some cases working with the other party in Congress to do some big things. And that would be my goal and my objective. We will be sending legislation to the president.
CROWLEY: Can you name me something big that you think you can do? THUNE: Well, I would love to see us do something in the area of
I would love to see us do something in the area -- I think initially at least coming out of the gate things on jobs, trade policy, energy policy. Energy gives us a very competitive edge. It's very important to the economy.
THUNE: And that's something, I think, that the president I hope would sign into law. We know that, to get anything done, we have to get a presidential signature.
But we got to get the Senate and the House moving again and actually producing legislation that we can send to the president.
CROWLEY: Senator -- Senator Murphy?
THUNE: He's going to have to make a decision.
CROWLEY: Senator Murphy, do you hear anything there? You think there's some commonality there that you all could get done and get to the president something that he might sign?
And, of course, the reality is that under the way that the rules are constructed in the Senate today, you can't actually get anything to the president's desk without some members of the now minority Democratic Caucus supporting it. So it's got to be bipartisan in nature to begin with.
But, yes, listen, there's been bipartisan agreement there to be had for a number of years. And I think tax reform is a perfect example, infrastructure improvement. And there are Republicans and Democrats that want to move forward on a major infrastructure bill. And there's some good bipartisan ideas out there, like an infrastructure bank.
I have legislation with Senator Corker to put more money into the trust fund. So I absolutely am optimistic about our ability to move something like tax reform, something like infrastructure to the president's desk.
And I'm not necessarily worried about the Senate Republicans. We have been able to work together in the past. It's really a question of whether John Boehner is going to be able to convince the Tea Party crowd in the House of Representatives to go along with some of the compromises that we may be able to forge in the Senate.
CROWLEY: OK, but this has sort of always been the problem, hasn't it, is that Republicans have said there's all these bills passed by the House that are stacked up on Harry Reid's desk and he won't take a vote on them, and the Democrats say, you know, boy, the Republicans can't pass anything over there? You all don't want to consider the same bills.
MURPHY: Go ahead, John.
THUNE: Well, at the end of the day, I mean, you do have to figure out how to find that critical mass to pass legislation. And the House has done it.
In some cases, they have been bills with pretty big bipartisan support. And, as Chris mentioned, there are a number of things on which there's pretty broad bipartisan support in the Senate. We ought to focus on those things, try and move those things. Let's put up some legislative accomplishments which I think will help build trust to enable us to do some bigger things down the road.
Tax reform, entitlement reform, things that would really jump- start our economy are things that we ought to be focused on. But there are things right now coming from the House, sitting, awaiting action in the Senate that enjoy a considerable amount of bipartisan support.
CROWLEY: Senator Murphy, do you think that your Senate leadership, which will be in charge of the lame-duck session coming up, will want to do the confirmation process of the attorney general?
MURPHY: Well, I can only speak for myself. I hope that we do move forward on that confirmation process. And, in fact, we have a long backload of other presidential appointees and ambassadors and judges that...
CROWLEY: Even though Republicans want to wait until the next session?
MURPHY: Well, I think it's important that we have an attorney general. And so I would like to see us move forward.
I have not spoken to Senator Reid about his intentions. But I would like to see us move forward. I think this is an important post. And I think we should have somebody on the ground there sooner, rather than later.
CROWLEY: And do you want Senator Reid to remain minority leader of your party?
MURPHY: I do. I do.
I ultimately think that Senator Reid can work with Senator McConnell. And, really, I think John identified the issue. The issue is whether Republicans in the House and the Senate really want to work together moving forward.
If I was a political consultant for Republicans, I would advise them to compromise with Democrats and move some pieces of legislation through the process. With the exception of 2012, every political election that I have been a part of has been a change election because people are just sick and tired of nothing getting done.
If nothing gets done over the next two years, well, then Democrats are going to be swept back into power in 2016. So, I think it's in the interest of Republicans to sit down at the table and get some things done. That will actually help them.
CROWLEY: Senator Thune, talking about the confirmation process coming up for the attorney general, I'm not -- I can't remember if there's a way for Republicans to block the confirmation process, but your leadership has already said they want to do this in the next session of Congress. Is there a way to block it? Should it be blocked in the lame-duck?
THUNE: Well, since the Democrats changed the rules, it's very hard. But I think it would be in the best interest of the country and the Congress to wait and do this next year under regular order, Candy.
Loretta Lynch will get fair consideration, but there's going to be -- there's a process. There's hearings and everything that goes with that. We have got to move a funding bill. We have got to -- we have got to prevent some tax increases, a number of things that have to be done before the end of the year.
And Eric Holder has said he's not going anywhere soon. So, it's not like the position isn't going to be filled. It's an important position. It's one that needs to be filled. And we will give the president's nominee every consideration.
But we would like to do that, consider that next year, when the new Congress is seated.
CROWLEY: Senator Thune, Senator Murphy, thank you both so much. Come see us in studio next time, when you're back in Washington. I appreciate your time.
MURPHY: Thanks, Candy.
THUNE: Sounds good. Thanks, Candy.
CROWLEY: Up next, from New York to Florida, Pennsylvania to Arizona, four members of the congressional class of 2015 tell us what they think of Washington and how they hope to change it.
CROWLEY: With me now four of the new faces who will be in Congress come January, Democrat Brendan Boyle of Pennsylvania, Republican Lee Zeldin of New York, Democrat Ruben Gallego of Arizona, and Republican Carlos Curbelo of Florida.
Thank you all so much for being here. You even look wide awake, having been through quite a week.
CROWLEY: It's nice to have you here. I want you, if you can, to step back from your own elections and
look at the totality of what happened on Tuesday night. And there seemed to be two interpretations. One is that voters said, work with President Obama, work together, or stop President Obama.
Which message did you all hear from the overall voter message?
CARLOS CURBELO (R), FLORIDA CONGRESSMAN-ELECT: Candy, I think there's obviously a lot of frustration with the president's policies. That was obvious in my district.
But I think there's also a lot of frustration with gridlock. So, I heard both. I heard, you know, the president's policies aren't working. They really aren't helping low- and middle-income earners climb up the ladder. But they also said, we want Washington to work for us. And the last four or five years of gridlock haven't been good for the American people.
RUBEN GALLEGO (D), ARIZONA CONGRESSMAN-ELECT: I think what I heard is that people are sick of Washington. They are sick overall of just the nastiness that's coming out of it.
And you saw that by the reflection of overall turnout being down, not just among Democrats, but even among Republicans and independents. And what we need to see happen and what I'm hearing out there is that they want to see solutions to come out of D.C., instead of just more and more rhetoric and just more and more gridlock. And it's questionable that even that is going to happen even at this point.
LEE ZELDIN (R), NEW YORK CONGRESSMAN-ELECT: Certainly a strong frustration with the status quo in my district.
People believe that the country isn't heading in the right direction. They also know that it's not too late. I think people believe in America. They believe that there are better days ahead.
When you have a balance of power, there's no way for either party to have it 100 percent of their way all of the time. They want to see liberals and conservatives, Republicans and Democrats sit down at the table, see where you can find common ground to move America forward.
BRENDAN BOYLE (D), PENNSYLVANIA CONGRESSMAN-ELECT: I think part of it, too, at least in my district, but I think this is the case nationwide, is that there's such economic angst and pessimism among the American people, some of the most pessimistic numbers that we have ever seen.
And so that sort of mood, I think more than anything else, more than any sort of partisan calculation, really has helped drive things. And I think that that sort of pessimistic mood has been around for a while now and will continue to haunt us, unless we can get things moving in the right direction.
GALLEGO: The thing with the economy, too -- and this is the thing that I hear out there -- is, people feel it's getting better. It's just, they don't feel it's getting better for them personally. So, you know, we have, what is it now, 28 months of straight
employment growth. But a lot of people aren't feeling it in their actual pocketbooks. Our problem with income inequality just keeps on growing. And I think you saw a lot of reflection in that in this last election, because, even though we have this great news coming out of a constantly dropping unemployment rate, the fact is people just aren't feeling it yet.
CROWLEY: When you -- so when you all -- so you heard from voters, we're tired of Washington acting like this and we want Washington to do something.
So when you see this week play out, and you see the president going, yes, I'm going to go ahead and do my executive order on immigration, and you see Republicans going, no, that's like lighting a match, that, you know, that will set us off, it's going to be difficult to work with us if you're going to do that, and you hear Republicans saying, well, one of the things we want to do, of course, is continue to try to dismantle Obamacare, do you just think, whoa...
CROWLEY: ... how are we going to make a difference there?
ZELDIN: I would say in my district, use the Obamacare example, whether you're for or Obamacare or against it we want -- there is -- there are people who want to see improvements made, fixes to see our health care improved.
With regards to the president and executive orders, you know, it's important, he is a separate branch of government. We were elected to serve in congress. This president has to be very careful in working with his colleagues and Republicans and Democrats in Congress and working with him. There's no way to get things done if your only version of compromise is to have it 100 percent of your way all of the time. So the tone coming off of the election with regards to executive order is exactly the opposite of what the American people voted for on Tuesday.
GALLEGO: Well, if somebody (INAUDIBLE) Latino and then (INAUDIBLE) the other Latino side of this but the (INAUDIBLE) Latino area, we are very ardent and that we want the executive order to come down. We're very frustrated that a good bill that came out of the Republican -- I'm sorry, the Republican and Democratic bipartisan effort, comprehensive immigration reform, has not moved, sitting on Speaker Boehner's desk and, you know, in the meantime there's a lot of our families are getting deported. So, as I've said even before winning this seat, we do think there should be executive action. We do think there should be (INAUDIBLE) for our families. At least that's what I'm hearing from my Latino families in Arizona.
CROWLEY: (INAUDIBLE) it might be different.
CURBELO: Yes. Look, I think the president should be patient on immigration reform because I think it can get done in this next Congress and the president has shown to be very patient on this issue because he promised he would get it done in 2008 during the first year of his presidency. Didn't move a finger for it.
So, think now to rush into executive action and put at risk the possibility of getting immigration reform done when Senate Republicans, many have already shown a willingness to do it. And I think in the House Republican conference we can also make progress on this issue. I think it would be a major mistake.
And I agree with Lee. I think what both the president and congressional leaders should do is go after the low-lying fruit. There are some changes to Obamacare that I think both parties can agree to and maybe we can start there and set a good tone. And then allow, you know, build from there and start working -
CROWLEY: But you can begin to see here how difficult it is to get people, because the process sometimes does get in the way. You know you say we want to do this but then you have both sides kind of staking out territory.
Let me remind you of this that in the two years from now, you will either have or have not run for re-election for office. Between now and then, what do you want to accomplish so that you feel that you can go home and say, I did this for you and I want to do it again?
BOYLE: For me absolutely infrastructure and reinvesting in America. And this is -- and the previous panel was talking about this as well.
It's amazing to me that we are continuing to fall behind countries in Europe and countries in Asia when it comes to investment and infrastructure. As a state legislature and I am a Democrat I read a verbatim quote from Ronald Reagan when I was on the state House floor talking about why we needed a bill at the state level. We need exactly that same thing at the federal level in terms of roads and bridges. And also our transit system which happens to be profitable at least here in the northeast corridor. Those are the kinds of things -- there is no ideological fight over the role of government when it comes to infrastructure. So, we should at the very least be able to forge compromise there.
ZELDIN: I think, you know, Ruben was talking about how unemployment rate was going down. In my area there are more people working but not making enough to make ends meet.
So, any way we can reduce the cost of living and we can make health care more affordable, that we can make energy costs more affordable, (INAUDIBLE) tax reform. There are so many different ways to move America forward and any little bit that we can do to help people is progress.
CROWLEY: Let me halt the two of you here. I'm going to give you a chance on the other side. When we return I'm going to have three veteran lawmakers and they just might have a reality check here for the new guard.
CROWLEY: We're back with our soon to be members of Congress and joining them Senator Chris Coons of Delaware, Congressman Steve Israel of New York and retiring congresswoman Michele Bachmann of Minnesota.
Let me just quick wrap up with Congressman-elect Curbelo and tell me like two years from now what do you want to say did?
CURBELO: So, I think a lot of the ideas we heard in the last segment are wonderful but there's an overarching issue that I think is important here.
In every poll we see that two-thirds of the American people think the country is on the wrong track despite the fact we are in an economic recovery and I believe a big part of the reason is that they don't trust their government. They don't think their government can work for them. They think their government is incompetent.
So, I hope that we can show in the next Congress that like Clinton and Gingrich we can work past our differences to move forward some solutions like Reagan and O'Neal. I think that's the model that we have to look at and hope that we can get across some bills across the finish line so that the American people once again believe in this political system.
CROWLEY: Congress Gallego?
GALLEGO: I think the best way to do is to prove it and do it in a bipartisan matter in three areas. One, fix the V.A.
As an Iraq war veteran it's a bipartisan issue. A lot of us are still hurting to how the VAS (ph) treated us over the last couple of years. I think we could all come across and work together on that. Fix the comprehensive immigration reform. Everybody says we want it, everyone says we need it. Well, let's just get it done. We have a bill. It's sitting on Speaker Boehner's desk. If he wants it let's get moving on that. And two, let's improve and protect the Affordable Healthcare Act. If everyone agrees to that, we do those three things I think we could start building that trust that we need.
CROWLEY: Sounds so simple, Senator. What have you guys been doing?
SEN. CHRIS COONS (D), DELAWARE: Well, we've been doing a lot.
We've actually taken up, discussed and passed as the congressman just mentioned a broad comprehensive immigration bill on a bipartisan basis that has sat unaddressed more than a year.
We have good ideas. We were discussing them with the incoming congressmen about how to invest in infrastructure. And frankly we've got great bills for how to improve manufacturing, bipartisan bills in both House. So, there are things we can pick up and move forward. A lot of us in the Senate over the last four years have said the
challenge with Speaker Boehner and the real difficulties he had managing his own caucus. He would come to the table with the president, negotiate a compromise, and then couldn't deliver his caucus.
My hope is that the incoming majority Senator McConnell can manage his caucus. That the politics of 2016 don't make it impossible for the Senate Republicans to come together around a common agenda that we can then negotiate some progress.
CROWLEY: Congresswoman Bachmann, we don't want to call you guys the seniors, right, but you're the Republican and are already sitting in Congress people.
Why hasn't any of this been able to be done? Because it sounds so simple. Well, it's those areas of agreement -- and I just have this feeling that two years from now they are going to listen to this and think we couldn't get it done.
REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R), MINNESOTA: Well, It's possible to get it done.
I think now if we're going to have a Republican majority in the house and a Republican majority in the Senate. And we've already heard statements made by leader Kevin McCarthy that what we're going to try to do is begin with a retreat inviting both senators and Republicans together. That will be a first. I think that will be good.
And it will be communicating about what we heard on last Tuesday from the American people. They do want us to move forward. They do want us to get things done but the first thing they did, candy is they held up a big stop sign. They said we don't like what's been coming out of Washington, D.C. Listen to us. And if we here in Washington, D.C. only are talking about D.C. and not about back home, then we're going to be in trouble. We have to implement what people said to us on Tuesday. Then we'll be successful.
CROWLEY: Congressman, is that what they said stop the stuff you're doing in D.C.?
REP. STEVE ISRAEL (D), NEW YORK: No.
A third of the electorate voted for either a Republican or Democrat and two-thirds of the electorate stayed home and said, just get it done, figure this out. And I think there's a way of doing this. We tried it several years ago and I hope my colleagues will participate in this.
A few years ago I started something called the Center Aisle Caucus, 25 Democrats, 25 Republicans meet on Monday nights at a Chinese restaurant because it was cheap. Pick an issue, Affordable Care Act. You get five minutes to disagree and you get 55 minutes to figure out how to agree. You know what we learned? Democrats and Republicans are going to
disagree on 75 percent of the issues. There's a reason Michele is a Republican I'm a Democrat. The problem with Washington, Candy, is that we agree on the other 25 percent but we spend all our time beating each other up on the 75 percent where we will not agree. Let's focus on the 25 percent and the country will be 100 percent better.
CROWLEY: But those are the little things, right? I mean, the 25 percent you're not talking about some big agreement on Obamacare or some big agreement on even immigration reform.
COONS: Well the things we can do that would make a real difference for jobs for the middle class improving the minimum wage, improving access to higher education, the affordability of college, investing in our roads and bridges and ports, growing manufacturing. There are bipartisan ways to move forward on those.
On the other issues folks have to recognize that for the next two years President Obama is president. And so the Affordable Care Act isn't going to be repealed. If the Senate looks just like the House for (ph) the last two years where they repealed it 54 times knowing it will never go anywhere then the American people will look at this dysfunction and say, we don't want that either. And the Republicans will have a very hard time in 2016. If we show we can work together and make progress on those first four things I mentioned I think the American people will be very happy and will move the country forward.
BOYLE: There's one other aspect of this though and that is it's always easier and safer for elected officials both Republicans and Democrats to vote no instead of voting yes. Voting yes is the tougher vote, is the riskier vote.
I think you had many members in both parties but particularly on the Republican side who were so afraid of voting yes for anything that it would be used against them in a primary. Now that we've had a cycle where frankly very few members lost in primaries, I think that will empower more Republican members, it will empower Mitch McConnell and Speaker Boehner to kind of have a more cohesive unit within their caucuses.
ZELDIN: Candy, (INAUDIBLE) but over the course of the last couple of years there were almost 400 bills that were passed in the House that Harry Reid will not bring to the floor to debate and be voted upon. Those dynamics completely changed now.
Those legislation -- those pieces of legislation now will end up on the president's desk for him to either sign or veto. Just because the president going forward may indicate that any of this legislation that is going to be going through Congress will be vetoed by him does not make that acceptable. So I think that Republicans and Democrats in Congress need to work together but a lot of these bills that didn't make their way through Congress now are going to the president.
ISRAEL: Well, no. First of all I love somebody from Long Island. Look, some of those bills included as Senator Coons said 54
separate bills to repeal the Affordable Care Act. And so again rather than focusing on what we're going disagree on which will not pass, let's just focus on the big bold things that we can agree on. Let's not retreat to our corners after this election. Let's meet in the middle of the mat, have our philosophical differences but no brinkmanship. Instead let's try some cooperation because that was the message in this election.
CROWLEY: No brinksmanship. Right? I mean, that's hard for me to believe that's going to happen. I mean --
BACHMANN: That really isn't the only message, Candy.
I think the real question is did the president listen to what happened on Tuesday night and if you listened to his press conference he didn't. It's almost like he had his hands over his ears and he said I'm going to continue my agenda. I'm going to continue to fundamentally transform the United States of America. The American people said, no. They weighed in. The election had consequences.
The president needs to take a measure of that result and listen to the will of the people. It's not about him. It's about the people.
CROWLEY: To any of the Democrats sitting here think that the president should hold off on executive action about immigration?
COONS: Only if there's a clear commitment from the Republican leadership to take up debate and adopt an immigration reform bill. They've had more than a year almost a year and a half now since the Senate pass a broad bipartisan bill that was led in part by Republican senators and have taken no action on it.
BACHMANN: That's not true. That is not true.
We did pass an immigration bill and a remarkable bill where you had the Tea Party and establishment Republicans all agree. And we passed an immigration bill and sent it over to Harry Reid in August.
ISRAEL: Look, 68 senators, Harry Reid, John McCain passed a comprehensive compromise in the Senate. Now, my Republican colleagues they are free to vote for it or against it in the House of Representatives, but the leadership of the House of Representatives owes us a vote. Vote your conscience. Vote yes, vote no. You like it, don't like it, there are things you can find to vote on. But we have not even been permitted to cast a vote and we're getting paid to deliver for our constituents.
BACHMANN: But the Senate didn't pass a vote on the 400 bills including the immigration bill we sent over. There's another immigration bill.
GALLEGO: (INAUDIBLE) in Arizona I can tell you we are very frustrated when we see our two senators both Republicans McCain and Flake leading a compromise bill and it goes nowhere it shows us there's a lot more work that Republicans need to do and that's how -
CROWLEY: Let me get you just sort of -
ZELDIN: We're all getting along and things have changed now with the new members.
CROWLEY: This is (ph) working (ph) perfectly so far. That's right.
Listen we have to take a quick break. I want to talk about leadership in the House and the Senate coming up in this new congress.
CROWLEY: We are back with our incoming House freshman and our veteran lawmakers. We're just solving all kinds of problems here.
I want to put out two leadership questions and then have you all answer it in whatever order you'd like to.
First, for Democrats, is it time for a change in leadership given the kind of roasting you just got and actually the one in the last midterm as well? And for Republicans on the House side, is John Boehner's job now made easier because there will be less influence of Tea Party members or will there be more and make it more difficult?
ISRAEL: Well, I'll take the jump ball first, I suppose.
ISRAEL: Now is not the time for us to change our leadership, and --
CROWLEY: Why not?
ISRAEL: What I'm particularly proud of is because our leadership has helped recruit a class of members that includes people like Pete Gallego and Brendan Boyle. They are solutionists. They are young. They are entrepreneurial. They just want to solve problems rather than continue the partisanship.
A caucus is not defined by the leadership it's defined by its members. And we have the most diverse, entrepreneurial, solution- oriented caucus right now and we should keep it that way.
GALLEGO: I think as a new member, I'd like to keep the leadership. This is the leadership that got us the Affordable Healthcare Act, something I'm very proud of as a Democrat. This is the leadership that's going to fix the V.A. and that's what I want to continue seeing. And this is the leadership that got us almost all the way to getting immigration reform, so it's very important to my district and I want to see them continue being in place.
COONS: I think we ought to continue with our current leadership but with a different style. We have to hear the message of this election.
Harry Reid is a fighter. He's someone who fights for the middle class, who fights for economic opportunity in this country. But he has also demonstrated an ability at bipartisanship that often goes unappreciated and unreported.
He has a bill with Rand Paul dealing with the record number of folks we have incarcerated, who are unable to re-engage in society. There are ways that our leadership team can show that they have responded to this election and changed their style in the way that reflects the message of this election.
CROWLEY: So, everybody here at this stable is going to vote for the current leadership structure? Congresswoman Bachmann, you're retiring, but everyone's going to vote for the current leadership.
CURBELO: Candy, I think John Boehner did a great job in the last few months of bringing together the House Republican conference. And you have to understand, this is going to be a new dynamic. There was a lot of frustration in the conference during this current Congress because they knew that whatever they did was going to die in the Senate. Now that we know that our bills are going to get at least a fair hearing in the Senate, I think you're going to see big changes.
ZELDIN: I think that there's going to be a great two years of getting legislation passed that tackles energy policy, tax reform, reducing health care costs and increasing accessibility on so many different fronts. There's a great opportunity for Republicans, Democrats, House and Senate to work together to put good legislation on this president's desk. I'm confident and very optimistic that there's a great opportunity ahead for the leadership.
CROWLEY: Congresswoman Bachmann, I'm going to give you the last word here because do you think there will be more Tea Party influence on John Boehner or less coming up?
BACHMANN: I think we saw a lot of influence this Tuesday at the polls. It was really the energy of fiscal sanity. That's what the Tea Party is. It's maligned and people don't necessarily (ph) understand what it is but it's really about bringing fiscal sanity. That was the message of Tuesday and that's a united message both in the House now and in the Senate.
CROWLEY: I got to leave it there. I hope you all will come back. I love your optimism, you guys.
Thank you so much congressman-elect Brendan Boyle, Carlos Curbelo, Senator Chris Coons, Congressman Steve Israel, Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, Representative elect Lee Zeldin, and Ruben Gallego. Thank you all so much.
We'll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
CROWLEY: Thank you for watching STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Candy Crowley in Washington. Be sure to watch us each week at this time or you can set your DVR so you won't miss a moment.
Fareed Zakaria, "GPS," starts right now.