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McConnell Says Trump to Sign Bill, Declare National Emergency; Nancy Pelosi, House Speaker, Weekly Briefing; Pelosi Says Border issues Not an Emergency. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired February 14, 2019 - 15:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[15:30:00] APRIL RYAN, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, AMERICAN URBAN NETWORKS: And -- just being here for the last two years in this White House -- or two-plus years -- you know, it didn't sit well with the president. He did not look good in this with the government shut down and how the Democrats played. And this is now his sucker punch -- if you want -- or his punch, whichever way you want to want to make it. But he is going to, if indeed this is the case, declare a national emergency. He's going to start trying to take money everywhere, from everywhere, from every agency, to fund this wall at the tune of at least $5.7 billion that he called for.

ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: Kirsten, we've been listening in to the ongoing conversation on the Senate floor and being told that Senator Schumer just said that he hopes the President doesn't declare an emergency. Any chance now that it's out there for Mitch McConnell, that this is exactly what's going to happen, that the President actually doesn't?

KIRSTEN POWERS, COLUMNIST, USA TODAY: Well, I mean, it seems like this is sort of the deal that was made, because Mitch McConnell, I don't think he's probably particularly excited about this. But this is the only way to get the President to go along with it because of the backlash to the base. And so, I think that this is something that everyone should be thinking about what kind of precedent this would set if this is what's considered a national emergency. National emergencies are usually, you know, involving something like terrorism or the Iran hostage crisis.

They're not for what is frankly a manufactured crisis at the border. And we saw this in the most recent sort of dueling rallies on the border. Where you had all of the leaders in El Paso come out, including the Republican Mayor and say, what you're saying about El Paso is not true. There isn't a crisis here. And the things you're saying about the fence, you know, and how it's affected, you know, crime in this area, is not true.

So even when he went to try to highlight this crisis, the people, including the Republican Mayor said, that's just simply not what's happening here. So, people -- Republicans need to really think about, when there's a Democratic President in the future and they say, we believe that there is an actual crisis, something I actually do think is a crisis, the environmental crisis, and either you give us everything we want, the President -- CABRERA: Kirsten, I'm going to interrupt you. I'm sorry, we are

hearing now from Nancy Pelosi, the House Speaker. Let's listen.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), HOUSE SPEAKER: -- celebrated the life of Chairman John Dingell at Holy Trinity Church in Georgetown. And right now many of our colleagues are in North Carolina to again, celebrate the life of Walter Jones, our colleague from North Carolina. A beautiful, lovely man. I've served with him and served with his father, two different parties and wanted to help his father, a Democrat, Walter, a Republican. But both of them southern gentlemen, patriotic Americans, both of the Joneses, and certainly Walter Jones and John Dingell.

Today is also a day of sadness, because it marks the one-year anniversary of the Parkland tragedy of gun violence. One year ago, America's heart was broken by the horrific act of violence in Parkland, Florida. Today, we remember the 17 lives that were stolen from us then.

I'm very pleased that last night, the House Judiciary Committee, under the leadership of Jerry Nadler and with the full participation of our members, took a strong step to end the epidemic of gun violence and they advanced HR-8, the bipartisan common-sense background legislation.

Our committees are hard at work, I'm very proud of our freshman. I think I've said to you before that in this freshman class, we had 18 chairs of subcommittees. To contrast that to the over -- and other historic freshman class of babies when they came in with all the sighs and enthusiasm that they did, they didn't have one subcommittee chair in the first year that they took office. So we're very proud that 18 of them have gavels, by all accounts, from our chairman. They've come enthusiastic, well prepared, all of the members, and especially, of course, our subcommittee chairs.

So we're very hard at work on our "For the People Agenda". While we're waiting for the Senate to pass the conference report, the bipartisan, bicameral conference report, which I understand is imminent in the Senate and then we'll vote on it later today. So that's real progress I think, for us to have left it to the appropriators to make the decisions, come up with a bicameral, bipartisan bill that we can overwhelmingly support.

But at the same time, we are working on our "For the People Agenda". Our "For the People Agenda", first and foremost, said it was going to lower health care costs by lowering the cost of prescription drugs. We've already had a committees, the Ways and Means Committee and the Oversight Committee -- Government Reform and Oversight Committee have already had hearings on the price of precipitation drugs.

[15:35:00] Our second point in the "For the People Agenda" was to lower health care costs, bigger paychecks, by building the infrastructure of America. And again, last week, the Transportation Infrastructure Committee held a hearing with representatives of private and public sector, the Mayor of Los Angeles, representing our nation's mayors, Governor Walls, representing our governors, and others participating there.

A third point in the "For the People Agenda" is HR-1, to reduce the role of big, dark special interests' money in politics, lower voter suppression, and increase the voice of everyday Americans in our political system. To restore confidence in our political system and we've already had an outside of Washington hearing under the leadership of Marcia Fudge in Brownsville, Texas, great participation from our members, including our distinguished whip, Mr. Clyburn, participating.

And here this week, we've had the Homeland Security Committee having a hearing on HR-1 as it relates to the integrity of our elections. And we have the House Administration Committee having hearing on that as well. Again, part of our HR 1, 2, 3, the first 10 resolutions of the House, the first 10 bills, we're very pleased that we're advancing the "For the People Agenda" but also HR 8 of the gun violence prevention bill.

Probably I think they may be scheduled to report out two, that bill, and then Mr. Clyburn's initiative on a fix for South Carolina, which has bipartisan, bicameral support.

Just a word further on the agreement that we will be voting on later today. In addition to the pieces on Homeland Security, which are very important -- by the way, the homeland security budget is a big budget. It's not just about the Mexico border. It's about ice cutters off of Alaska and other parts of our border that are not necessarily just the southern part. And I'm very pleased that some long advocated for pieces are now in that budget as well. So when you talk about the size of the budget, it's broader than the U.S.-Mexico border.

But the bill that we will be passing is a long overdue pay raise for federal employees to make them on par with military employees as they have always been. An additional $1 billion for the census, to combat the administration's assault and to ensure a fair, accurate count.

$3 billion to keep communities safe by combating the opioid epidemic and hiring more police officers. $17 billion to rebuild America's infrastructure. Billions of dollars in support of small businesses. More than $9 billion to protect clean air, clean water and public lands. $9.1 billion in security assistance for our allies and $7.4 billion for global health and nutrition assistance.

So this is a very important legislation. Six appropriations bills that were agreed to and not as controversial, and then the Homeland Security Bill, which produced the result that today we will keep government open and that's very important for the American people. But we will also, as we do so, protect our borders and protect our values.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Madam Speaker?

PELOSI: Yes, ma'am?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The President just said that he will declare a national emergency when he signs this bill. Do you still plan to file a legal challenge if and when he does that? And how quickly --

PELOSI: Did I ever say I was filing a legal challenge?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You said Democrats --

PELOSI: I may, that's an option, and we'll review our options. But it's important to note that when the President declares this emergency, first of all, it's not an emergency. What's happening at the border. It's a humanitarian challenge to us. The President has tried to sell a bill of goods to American people.

But putting that aside, just in terms of the President making an end run around Congress, hear he said out of respect, what the committee will do, and then walks away from it.

But in the event the President an end run around Congress, about the power of the purse.

[15:40:00] You've heard me say over and over again, Article 1, the legislative branch, the power of the purse, the power to declare war, many other powers listed in the constitution, and, of course, and of course, the responsibility to have oversight. So the President is doing an end run around that.

We will review our options. We'll be prepared to respond appropriately to it. I know the Republicans had some unease about it, no matter what they say. Because if the President can declare an emergency on something that he has created as an emergency, an illusion that he wants to convey, just think of what a President with different values can present to the American people. You want to talk about a national emergency, let's talk about today, the one-year anniversary of another manifestation of the epidemic of gun violence in America. That's a national emergency. Why don't you declare that an emergency, Mr. President? I wish you would.

But a Democratic President can do that, Democratic President can declare emergencies as well. So the precedent that the President is setting here is something that should be met with great unease and dismay by the Republicans. And of course we will respond accordingly, when we review our options. First, we have to see what the President actually says.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Speaker Pelosi?

PELOSI: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: To that end, there has been some discussion of a resolution in the House that might force Republicans to go on the record and vote would that be an option?

PELOSI: I'm saying that we're reviewing our options. We have to see what the President will say. This, I don't believe that the -- that there's any good faith negotiations to have with the Republicans in Congress if they're going to support the President doing an end run about what the will of the people, the Congress of the United States has put forth. So we will review our options and I'm not prepared to give any preference to any one of them right now. Yes, sir?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On the news of the past couple of months, that the President told the Senate Majority Leader he would sign the bill, you must be pleased with that. But on the national emergency, does that change the vote calculus at all? Obviously, if you have the President saying he's going to sign a piece of legislation, he would say, OK, I would vote for that, but also that caveat, that could potentially be a few votes away. Does that have any impact?

PELOSI: Let's just have the vote. That's very interesting, but let's just have the vote.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does that change support one way or another?

PELOSI: I don't know. It's probably more of an influence in the United States Senate. We have the votes in the House. But it is interesting to see how the vote, the President has said to the Republican leadership in the Senate, Senator Shelby, a senior appropriated, the chairman of the Appropriations Committee there, respected leader in the United States Senate. I don't have confidence in what you did, even though the President failed to convince the American people and their representatives in Congress of his position. But let's just see what the votes are. Who knows what the calculus is on the other side? I don't --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Doesn't look like your side of the aisle?

PELOSI: No.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Madam Speaker, as far as the gun control bill or rather the background check bill is a concern. You just said that a national emergency should, declared --

PELOSI: Well, could be declared. If you want to talk about an emergency, that's a national emergency.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's something that you would like to see a president declare?

PELOSI: No, I'm just saying a president could do that. If you want to go down that path, then let's look at what really is a national emergency. I'm not advocating for any president doing an end run around Congress. I'm just saying that the Republicans should have some dismay about the door that they are opening, the threshold they are crossing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Madam Speaker, in your opening comments, you spoke some about the freshman class. There have been a number of viral moments that some of these new Democratic members especially --

PELOSI: That's the word, viral, viral, viral. That's your question now, the viral moments of the freshman.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I wanted to ask you about what you thought of their influence? Do these dem freshman have an outsize influence that you've never seen before? UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No. This is welcome to the Democratic Party.

We are not a rubber stamp for anybody. We are not a monolith. We have never been. And who would want to lead a party that would be described that way. The members come, they bring their enthusiasms, their priorities. We welcome that. And they are not programmed. They are spontaneous, prepared, and I'm proud of them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Last question.

PELOSI: OK.

PELOSI: Yes, sir.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Again, you mentioned the anniversary of Parkland several times and the legislation you're bringing to the floor --

PELOSI: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- enjoys broad support.

PELOSI: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Other legislation to that end, not quite as popular around the country, although it's more popular among the Democratic caucus than probably ever.

[15:45:00] Are you committed to bringing to the floor some further legislation to that end, such as the restoration of the ban on assault-style weapons?

PELOSI: Well, the committee -- the Judiciary Committee and the Committees of Jurisdiction will review any proposals that we have on any subject. And what they have put prioritized, and we have, in addition to the committee, we have a task force headed up by Congressman Mike Thompson of California that's worked in a bipartisan way to protect the American people. What are the measures that save the most lives? And how do we get them into law, a proposal that turns into legislation, that it passes as law, that makes a difference in the lives of the American people. And it's up to the committee and the task force to make their proposals as we go forward. We do think that the keeping guns out of the hands of people who shouldn't have them probably saves the most lives. Thank you all, very much.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE, UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you. Thank you.

PELOSI: Oh, happy Valentine's Day. All we need is love and chocolate, right?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What time are you voting? Can we still go to the Valentine's Day dinner?

PELOSI: That would be the hope of -- it depends on how soon the Republican -- the Republican? The Senate takes up the bill. We've said that we wouldn't vote before 6:30, because that's when our members come back from North Carolina. But we hope not to have it be one minute after that. So, you'll have time for dinner. Thank you all very much.

CABRERA: Nancy Pelosi now responding to the declaration from the Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, that the President will sign the spending bill, but he's going to declare a national emergency in order to get his border wall at the border.

Let me bring in CNN's David Chalian, who is joining us to react to what we just heard from Pelosi. Key line here. She says, the President is doing an end round on Congress. She said Republicans should have a problem with that, too, and this is potentially dangerous precedent if, in fact, the President declares this national emergency and goes the route in which it looks like it's going to go here, David.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: That's right, Ana. You saw she was trying to do two things at the same time. One, saying, hey, no President should be doing this, don't do an end run around Congress. But hey, I'm also trying to tell you, if there's a Democratic President one day, perhaps he or she will declare the Democratic Party's policy initiatives to be an emergency. She used today's anniversary of the shooting in Parkland as an example.

She said that perhaps a Democratic President would make the guns crisis in the country as they see it a national emergency. And that that may be something that Republicans look back on this day and realize that by going along with the President and declaring a national emergency, it opens the door to that type of precedent. When pressed on that, she said, most of all, she's not in favor of any president of any party trying to do an end run around Congress.

CABRERA: And most Americans don't even support an emergency. What do the polls say on this?

CHALIAN: Yes, this is amazing. When we were in the field last week with our poll asking this question -- you see on the screen there -- two-thirds are not in favor of it. But as we discussed at the time, this is the bind that Donald Trump was in. Whether he took a position here of being in favor of a national emergency action, even though the country is opposed it, but Republicans are fully supportive of it, Ana. 64 percent of Republicans are in favor of using this tool of a national emergency to achieve this goal and fulfill this campaign promise. Conservative Republicans even in a greater number support it.

So the President's base is going to be quite pleased with this decision to enact here a national emergency to achieve this fundamental promise that he has made over and over again. It is their way of victory that he doesn't retreat here, even though he's signing a government funding bill that doesn't necessarily make conservatives sort of sing with joy.

CABRERA: But Dana, a lot of Republican Senators, other lawmakers, have not been onboard with this emergency declaration idea. They've been very vocal about it, in fact. And what Nancy Pelosi brought up in that press conference is the reason why. DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Exactly. And you're

already seeing some e-mails from our colleagues on Capitol Hill talking to Republicans, senior Republicans like Roy Blunt, for example, of Missouri, saying just that. Still saying, this is a bad idea, this is a bad precedent.

The fact that Mitch McConnell -- now that we're digesting this -- the fact that Mitch McConnell was, and in his heart, still is in that camp, that declaring a national emergency sets a terrible precedent of going around Congress. And yet still went on the Senate floor and said it was OK. Says one of two things, maybe both.

[15:50:00] One, maybe the President said, I'm not going to do this, Mitch. I'm not -- I can't sign this. It's just not enough. And Mitch McConnell gave him a big, big rhetorical win, or a big win in general, by throwing his support behind something that he hates.

Or two, he just is over the drama, that the deadline is approaching. We're almost there. We're going to have a potential shutdown even if it just gets dragged out. So it could have been probably both of those, but it is really telling.

The other thing that I would say, is that for people -- for reasonable people out there, who have said over and over again, I'm so sick of the hypocrisy in Washington. Add this to the top of the list. Because I mean, I'm having flashbacks of Republican after Republican calling Barack Obama an imperial President when he went around Congress on a number of things, not the least of which was DACA, was DACA. And it's because Congress couldn't act. And it's because Congress didn't act that he went ahead and did it. Something he thought was important. Exactly what Donald Trump is doing.

CABRERA: Republicans could override the President here on this issue of the shutdown. They could have come out looking like the heroes, the Republicans in Congress, if the President were to veto the spending bill and it comes back to Congress and they overrule that.

BASH: They could have. That would take a lot of --

CABRERA: What does that tell you, though, about the control this President has over the party?

BASH: A lot. The President has a lot of control over the party. And, more importantly, it's the President controlling the party but it's the President's base aligning with their base. Meaning, Republicans in Kentucky -- Mitch McConnell's home state -- support the President and they're also the people Mitch McConnell is relying on for re-election in this election cycle. That's just one example. So they dovetail.

So, yes, the Republicans could stand up and they could stand with Democrats and let's just say they say national emergency say terrible idea. We're not going to be with you on this, Mr. President. We're going to approve this compromise. We're going to send it to you. If you veto it, this is what you're saying, Ana, we're going to override your veto. It is possible but it would be politically suicidal for most of these Republicans, even in big states in the Senate, in red states, to do that because it is the President's base that will probably get behind him on that rather than the members.

CABRERA: But is the base enough? And, April, I know you had something that you wanted to chime in with.

RYAN: Yes.

CABRERA: Let me throw it to you with this and you can add on. The bottom line is two-thirds of Americans do not support the President declaring a national emergency on this, and yet he thinks that is his best option?

RYAN: Yes. Well, there's a reason why. Because there is an impact on people, Ana. There's an impact on national security. Let's say if a President does do this, declare a national emergency, as we're hearing. You know, he could go to the Department of Defense and pull money from the Department of Defense. And that could, in turn, create a national security issue. He could go to FEMA and pull funding for emergency or disaster relief. That affects people.

This is not just talking about one end of Pennsylvania Avenue to another, Congress versus the White House. This is about national security. This is also about, you know, people possibly losing their jobs if projects from different organizations -- money is pulled from that. We're almost back at the same thing with the shutdown. But it will impact people, national security as well as, you know, possibly not having services work the way they are. And people could lose their jobs with this as well.

CABRERA: When we talk about precedent and if the President makes this move, assuming everything holds based on what we heard from Mitch McConnell. We're also now getting a statement from the White House. Let me read it to you real fast from Sarah Sanders, the press secretary.

She says, President Trump will sign the government funding bill, and as he has stated before, he will also take other executive action including a national emergency -- to ensure we stop the national security and humanitarian crisis at the border. The President is once again delivering on his promise to build the wall, protect the border and secure our great country.

Let's go to Chris Cillizza to explain why Republican lawmakers aren't fans of this move.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER AND EDITOR AT LARGE: That's putting it mildly, Ana. Let's go through it. Remember, Donald Trump has floated a national emergency repeatedly, and he has backed away from it each time. Apparently not now.

OK, let's put it in historical context. First of all, 1976 the National Emergencies Act is passed to try to codify in ways in which the President of the United States can use emergency powers. That doesn't mean it was never used before.

But, so here we are. Major national crises is one way in which these emergency declarations made.

[15:55:99] After 9/11, during the Iraq war, again, to try to sort of mobilize as many resources as possible.

During the great depression, obviously this was pre- that legislation I talk about. But FDR actually closed banks because he didn't want a run on banks. He didn't want a bunch of banks to fail. He closed banks until they could solidify them.

OK, now immediate reactions to things in the news, so Swine flu, H1N1. Obama essentially said, look, we're going to open up every hospital, every facility, put a bunch show resources in here to address this.

This one is fascinating. Postal workers went on strike in 1970. Richard Nixon put national guardsmen out to deliver the mail. So he declared a national emergency to do that.

OK, last one, ongoing issues. This is the most common way in which national emergencies are issued. Of the 58 that's been issued since 1976, since that national emergency act, Dana, 31 are still ongoing. Most of them are dealing with sanctions. Sanctions to foreign countries to try to ensure that they continue to behave.

This one was -- Bill Clinton did in the early 1990s. He said that nuclear -- chemical weapons proliferation was such a threat that he had to address it with an emergency.

OK, this is interesting. Little bit of arcana but could be important. Our new colleague, Mike Warren, made this point earlier in the week. If Trump declares a national emergency -- and we think he's going to. OK, here's Trump, declares national emergency. Got that. Nancy Pelosi, we just saw, the House could pass a privileged resolution, Ana, which say we condemn this, we think it's a mistake. Which would mean -- here he is, smiling Mitch. It would make the Senate have to vote because it's a privileged resolution. The Senate would have to vote on it. It would essentially be a -- is a national emergency a good thing or bad thing? But it would also be a stand in for is the border wall the right move or not?

That's one of the many reasons the precedents that are set here is the other one for what an executive can do with the money allocated by the legislative branch. But that's why Mitch McConnell led resistance for so long and why the big story, Ana, here is, Mitch McConnell is setting a huge precedent as it relates to what the executive branch can do when it comes to Congress' always existing power to allocate money.

CABRERA: Such a good point. Chris Cillizza thank you for breaking it down for us. Let's give our final thought to David Chalian on the current state of play.

CHALIAN: Ana, just that last point that Chris was making and what Dana was saying before, it now seems that we understand the real-world political impact of what the longest shut down in history was about. It moved Mitch McConnell off a position. See, the Republicans felt so burned by that last shutdown, as did Donald Trump, his numbers took a hit. It was very bad politics for him and his party and now we see the result of that at all costs and it seems at costs of Mitch McConnell changing his position and allowing this precedent. That's the cost now, for avoiding another shutdown, which they deem would be politically worse. Donald Trump was able to use that threat of another shutdown to move McConnell off that position.

CABRERA: I have a couple of more minutes. Kirsten Powers, I want to go to you. What did you make of Nancy Pelosi's response?

POWERS: Yes, I mean, it's what you would expect. And I think it's probably how many members of Congress, I think even Republican members, have to feel that this is an end run. I mean, there was a deal that was struck between Republicans and Democrats. And that is typically how this is done. It sets a terrible precedent, as she pointed out. In the future, I don't think that Republicans would like it very much.

But I think that what's happening with Mitch McConnell, is he's probably just dealing with the crisis that's closest to him. And the crisis that's closest to him is the government shutting down. And if there's a national emergency, that doesn't necessarily mean the President will get the money. He will try to get the money, but there may be ways to stop him. Not Mitch McConnell is going to stop him but other people might be able to stop him. So I think he probably feels like I just have to make sure that the government adopt get shut down.

I'm not defending it. I think the better way to do it would be to get the votes to override the veto. But as Dana pointed out earlier, that would be very, very hard to do, considering how many of the numbers would be afraid, frankly, of the backlash and going against the President.

CABRERA: Dana, we have 30 seconds. I know you're working the phone, working your sources and trying to report out. What are you learning?

BASH: Well, we're trying to -- obviously the key question is what happened in that phone call between Mitch McConnell and the President. We don't have to dig too deep to come to the conclusion that Phil was talking about, that I was talking about that is now very transparent. Which is Mitch McConnell knows how to get himself out of a pickle, out of a political pickle. And he had the chip of a national emergency, which he had made abundantly clear, he thought was a bad idea. And he used it to try just to end this. He used it with and, frankly, against on the other side -- on the other side of a negotiation with the President of the United States.

CABRERA: Dana Bash, thank you very much. Thank you to all of our contributors. Jake Tapper picks up our special coverage from Washington now.

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