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More Talk Or More Action from Washington?

Aired October 08, 2013 - 18:28   ET



ANNOUNCER: Tonight on CROSSFIRE, tough talk.


ANNOUNCER: And calls for more talk.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: The president said today was if there's unconditional surrender by Republicans, he'll sit down and talk to us. That's not the way our government works.

ANNOUNCER: When will somebody listen?

On the left, Stephanie Cutter. On the right, S.E. Cupp. In the CROSSFIRE, Bill Burton, who supports the president's refusal to negotiate, and David Limbaugh, who says Republicans should force him to the table. More talk or more action? Tonight on CROSSFIRE.


STEPHANIE CUTTER, CO-HOST: Welcome to CROSSFIRE. I'm Stephanie Cutter on the left.

S.E. CUPP, CO-HOST: I'm S.E. Cupp on the right. President Obama and the Democrats spent the day trying to paint the Republicans as extremists. I think it's other way around. Insisting he won't negotiate on the debt ceiling, something that's routinely been negotiated, is worse than political posturing. It's threatening to bring the country to the brink of default.


OBAMA: I'm not budging when it comes to the full faith and credit of the United States, that that has to be dealt with, that you don't, you don't pay a ransom, you don't provide concessions for Congress doing its job.


CUPP: It isn't intellectually honest or productive to say, "I'm willing to negotiate, but not until I get everything I want." Republicans are right to insist on negotiations. They're right to insist on spending cuts. And the American people support them.

CUTTER: I think that's a really good try. CUPP: OK.

CUTTER: However, for the president to get everything he wants, let's be clear about what we're talking about here. We're talking about Congress doing its job, paying the bills that it's already racked up and turning the lights back on in the government. That's Congress doing its job. That's -- you know, we're not going to negotiate on a crisis that they created.

And in terms of spending cuts, we're already below what the Democrats had offered. We already accepted the Republican spending for this next year.

And there's a process. It's called the budget process. If you really wanted to negotiate over these things, then they shouldn't have said no 19 times to getting together with Democrats to negotiate over the budget. They shouldn't have waited until the week before we hit the default button to say that they want to negotiate. This is all about Republicans looking for a way out, and it is political posturing on their part.

CUPP: Well, I think the president is going to be looking for a way out soon. Because that default is coming, and it is real.

CUTTER: In the CROSSFIRE, Bill Burton, who served as deputy White House press secretary during President Obama's first term. And David Limbaugh. He's a syndicated columnist and Rush Limbaugh's brother.

David, first question goes to you. I want to be clear on what your position is, defaulting on the nation's debt. Do you think that's a problem?

DAVID LIMBAUGH, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well, I -- first, I don't accept the premise that the Republicans are causing a default. I think it's both sides, and it's over Obamacare, and it's over spending, these global issues.

You cannot get Obama to the table to cut spending unless you use these lever points, such as the continuing resolution. You all say, "Let's do it in the course of business," but he never does it.

CUTTER: Well, there's a budget on the table that signifies that.

LIMBAUGH: The Senate hasn't passed a budget. They finally passed one budget after not doing it for four years.

CUTTER: Right.

LIMBAUGH: Obama has said on Letterman and other shows that he -- that the debt is not that big of a deal. He will not reform entitlements. There's an existential threat to the United States, and the Senate --

CUTTER: I'm still confused. Because there's a budget on the table in Congress that the Senate passed that the House also passed their budget. They've wanted to get together to negotiate. The Republicans have said no. So a budget has been passed. In terms of the deficits, they are going to be cut in half by the end of this year.

LIMBAUGH: No thanks to Obama.

CUTTER: Big thanks to Obama. For when Obama took office, the things that he was -- he inherited. And our spending is at record lows.

So look, all of these things are being done. This isn't about spending. If it was about spending, we would have already had a deal. This is about Obamacare. So my question to you --

LIMBAUGH: Obamacare is spending.

CUTTER: Defaults. Defaults. Do you think default is a problem?

LIMBAUGH: Pardon me?

CUTTER: Do you think default is a problem?

LIMBAUGH: Of course I think it's a problem. But I think it's worth the Republicans fighting. This is a hill to die on. Obamacare is a hill to die on, both for Obama and Democrats and Republicans.

We don't have many opportunities to bring Obama to the table. And that is what it takes. Obamacare is destroying our health-care system. Not one thing about it that Obama promised has come to fruition. It is a lie all the way down. I could detail every one of them.

CUTTER: So you're going to default over that?

LIMBAUGH: We're not going to default. If we, by the way -- if the debt ceiling is not raised, that does not constitute a default. We can still pay our bills. We can still pay the interest on the debt. We can still pay Social Security. And for Obama to deny that is demagoguery and dishonest.

CUPP: Bill Burton --

CUTTER: Every president has agreed with him. Every president --

LIMBAUGH: He's the only one that wouldn't negotiate.

CUPP: We have another guest here. Bill Burton, I know you said on Twitter, you only came to hang out with Stephanie Cutter. But I hope you don't mind if I ask you a question or two. That was tweeted. But no, I want to ask you some questions.

I actually agree with President Obama that the debt ceiling default would be catastrophic. And I think that we are facing that real -- that real catastrophe. I agree with him that even flirting with a default is dangerous.

And for those reasons, if I were him, I would do everything I could to avoid it. I would negotiate with anyone. I'd get myself to a table and say, "Let's find something that we can agree on to avoid this." Even to avoid flirting with it. Why hasn't he done that?

BILL BURTON, FORMER DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: Well, I think you can start with something that David just said here, that Obamacare is a hill to die on. I mean, that is a pretty grim picture of what we're dealing with. And the president --

CUPP: Why Obamacare, though? I brought up the debt ceiling.

BURTON: I know, but that's what this fight is all about. And what the president -- and what the president --

CUPP: Republicans want spending cuts --

BURTON: What the president has --

CUPP: -- in exchange for the debt ceiling.

BURTON: -- already done is he sat down with Republicans. Democrats sat down with Republicans. They came up with a deal, a deal that Steny Hoyer and other Democrats said, "This is not a good deal for us." They were quite vociferous in their opposition to it.

But John Boehner said, "This is the only thing that I can pass."

Eric Cantor said, "If we could get this, that would be a win for us." And now John Boehner can't take yes for an answer.

There's a very simple way to solve this. You know, my name is Bill. I was brought up on "Schoolhouse Rock." "I'm Just a Bill" is a very good song folks ought to check out. Fact -- All fact-based.

CUPP: True.

BURTON: If they just have the vote, if there is a bipartisan majority that will pass this that we can use to avert this shutdown, why the theatrics? Why flirt with disaster? Why show the global community that the United States can't, as a government, get the job done?

All over a law that was passed by the House, passed by the Senate, signed into law by the president, ratified by the Supreme Court of the United States.


BURTON: But a Republican court.

LIMBAUGH: This was crammed down the people's throats. And it is not -- it is not popular. And Obama has refused to back off of it at all, because, as Matt Lauer said, "I endorse what Chris Matthews said. This is Obama's baby." How can he -- This is not about Obama and his narcissism, no offense. I know you used to work for him. This is about the best interests of the United States. I don't care if it's his baby.

He is going to, in the end, ironically, bring down his own party as well as the nation by insisting on Obamacare, because he lost in 2010 the Congress because of Obamacare, 2012 because of the Limbaugh theorem my brother talks about. Obama's never held accountable for his own actions. He stated --

BURTON: He won the election where the American people overwhelmingly reelected him.

LIMBAUGH: He's going to -- it's amazing. It's mystifying. 2014, they're going to lose again.

BURTON: That's how democracy works, David.

LIMBAUGH: No, I can tell you how democracy works. It's not what Obama says. He says, "Democracy doesn't work like this with Congress not yielding to all my dictates." Yes. That's exactly how a constitutional Republican works. Checks and balances.

BURTON: Congress didn't yield. They voted.


BURTON: They didn't yield; they voted to pass Obamacare. Just to get back to your question, why -- why is the president being so strong in his position?

CUPP: Harry Reid -- Harry Reid apparently is telling the president, don't negotiate. Is that who he's listening to?

BURTON: I think what the president is saying is, if we -- if we buckle on this, we keep buckling on that, where does it end? At what point --

LIMBAUGH: It ends in a lower deficit. Every time you (UNINTELLIGIBLE) you take credit for it.

BURTON: But here's the question. So let's say -- let's say the president were to give up Obamacare. He would say, "You know what? I don't want to default. Obamacare is repealed. It's done. I will agree to that deal." Where does it stop? Right? Like where --

CUPP: That's not the argument I'm having. I know some people are. I'm not saying, "Give up Obamacare or we default." I'm saying attach the debt ceiling to spending cuts, deficit reduction, which, by the way, has historically happened multiple, dozens of times, and, which the American people, 61 percent, according to recent polling, think should happen because Congress cannot be trusted with spending. That's what I'm saying.

And you haven't answered yet why the president won't negotiate if he thinks defaulting is so catastrophic.

BURTON: Well, two things, and then Stephanie. But No. 1, he has negotiated. We have negotiated a deal that Republicans wanted. That Eric Cantor said would be a win.

And second, you know, just let me take a step back in what's happening here. I think that we are in a period of politics that you could say started with the recall of Gray Davis, where elections suddenly don't matter as much as they used to, because Americans or members of Congress or members of the Tea Party, however you want to look at it, look at this process and say, "I didn't like the outcome of that election. I'm going to try to undo it. I didn't like that bill that got passed. I'm going to try to undo it."

CUPP: That's what happened in Wisconsin.

BURTON: I'm not putting it all on one party or another.


BURTON: But what I'm saying is that we're in this new phase where there's no time in the process to actually make progress. And so as people are at loggerheads constantly, all we doing is moving backwards, because the world is looking at us, saying, "You can't even deal with your own government appropriately (ph)."

CUTTER: I don't think we're at a unique point of dysfunction. But I do want to point out a couple of things about negotiation.

The last time we were in this position where the president set up a negotiation process with John Boehner, John Boehner couldn't negotiate, because he didn't have any control over his Tea Party. So on the eve of a deal, he walked away.

What happened? The American people lost $1 trillion in their savings. That's 401(k)s. Money wiped out. The stock market dropped significantly. We got a downgrade in our credit rating. That's what happens when you try to negotiate with someone who doesn't have the authority to negotiate. So who do you negotiate in the House of Representatives? Boehner keeps moving the goal post. Tea Party's in control. Ted Cruz is in the Senate, but he's calling the shots in the House.

LIMBAUGH: We didn't get a downgrade because of the impasse. We got a downgrade because of Obama's economy and this debt: $17 trillion of debt, $90 trillion of unfunded liabilities which Obama has clearly stated he has no intention to do anything about.

But Obama has gotten his way, notwithstanding your statement that we keep having gridlock all over the place. He got his way on the stimulus. He got his way on Obamacare, Dodd-Frank. And on the things that he can't get his way legislatively, he has gone -- done an end run around Congress, lawlessly through executive order, with the DREAM Act and the EPA. It's shameful what's going on.

And look at the results of Obama's agenda being implemented. The worst economy, the worst recovery in 60 years. You guys talk about the best debt reduction in 60 years? That's because you compare it to a different baseline of 1.1 trillion starting. And he has only reduced the debt -- deficit because Republicans made him. You guys ought to be ashamed --

CUPP: Because of successful debt-ceiling negotiations. LIMBAUGH: Yes, thank you. You ought to be ashamed of his record, with all due respect. I am scared of our future, for our future, because we won't do anything to rein in the debt and spending.

CUPP: Bill, are you ashamed of his record?


BURTON: I think it's fair to say I am not ashamed of the president's record, because I was there.

CUTTER: Nor were the American people when they reelected him.

BURTON: Right. Stephanie was there at the White House --

CUPP: Well, the poll numbers are pretty bad right now.

BURTON: -- when we pulled this economy back from the brink.


BURTON: The financial industry got saved. The auto industry got saved. The war in Iraq was ended. The war in Afghanistan was -- begun go -- winded down.

The president inherited a historic disaster of an economy, and what he's been able to do through the leadership of himself, his economic team at the White House, partners in Congress, is actually bring it back and put us on a path to growth as opposed to the path that it was on, if you recall, shutting 700,000 jobs per month when he came into office.

LIMBAUGH: He inherited a bad economy caused by policies that he endorsed like the housing policies, and Bush had a good economy for six to seven of his eight years. And unemployment averaged 5.3 percent. The deficit --

BURTON: That's right. He inherited an awesome economy from Clinton.


CUTTER: Bush turned record surpluses into record deficits. And that's a fact.

But we have to go to a break right now.


CUTTER: We can continue this when we come back. David, in a minute, I also want to ask you about the latest proof that voters, including many Republicans, are getting sick of these antics. They're tired of being pushed around by the Tea Party.


CUTTER: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. We're talking about Washington's dysfunction.

Both President Obama and Speaker Boehner held afternoon press conferences today. And it turns out people are getting really tired of the Tea Party's antics, even Republicans. In fact, "The Washington Post" reports mainstream Republicans are starting to run in primaries against Tea Party members.

And one new poll shows only 52 percent of Republicans approve of how their party is handling the budget negotiations. Forty-five percent disapprove.

So the facts are adding up. The Tea Party is getting stale. David, it's not just Democrats who are saying this. Republicans are saying this all over the country. They're tired of this. They're tired of being held hostage.

LIMBAUGH: Absolutely, establishment, Rockefeller Republicans are saying this. And this -- this isn't --

CUTTER: More than half the party.

LIMBAUGH: This fissure has been going on for a long time, and yes, they don't approve of us redneck Tea Party people. But the truth is --

CUTTER: Those are your words.

LIMBAUGH: Tea Party -- Yes, facetious. The Tea Party is basically just a mainstream Reagan Republican. Now not on -- Reagan was a social conservative. Tea Parties are mainly concerned about spending and the economy and the issue -- and the budget.

But it formed because of the concern over the spending, runaway spending, including some during President Bush's, yes.

But -- but you guys talk about the Tea Party being extreme. The truth is, we just want to enforce the Republican platform. The Republican platform has not changed. Obama is the one who is extreme, and his Democrats are extreme. We've had an incremental march of socialism and statism for the last 70 years, with the exception of the Reagan years, and even then spending went nuts, because he couldn't control Congress.

But now we've got the Tea Party wants to rein it in wants to pull it in. And Obama wants fundamental change. He wants to fundamentally -- those words were precise.

CUPP: And Bill, let me ask you -- Let me turn this around. Let me turn this around. Are moderate Democrats also in a tough spot and vulnerable, too? Look at these ads running now in Arkansas for the campaign next year.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Exemptions and special subsidies for Mark Pryor. Higher insurance premiums for you. Mark Pryor, voting with Obama, voting against Arkansans like you.


CUPP: I mean, you've spent a career advising Democrats. Are you worried that President Obama is jeopardizing the Senate in 2014?

BURTON: Look, I don't think that this is the first time that when there's a Democratic president, Democrats in red states aren't necessarily running with the president of the United States.

CUPP: Yes, the terms are not good. Yes.

BURTON: But it goes for Republicans, as well. That's always just par for the course.

What I'd be concerned about, if I were a Republican, is Mitch McConnell, for example, in Kentucky, where he's got this challenge from the right that's starting to eat into his support against who's a very great candidate the Democrats have put up.

I'd be worried about what's happening in Georgia where Democrats put up Michelle Nunn. And on the Republican side, Paul Brown, who is not a mainstream candidate, is now charging forward.

And in Virginia where Cuccinelli, who's now tied to the shutdown, is having some real problems as a result. I mean, he's had real problems all throughout the election. But this is just making the bottom fall out for his campaign.

So if you're looking at the politics --

CUPP: So you feel good about 2014?

BURTON: If you're looking at the politics of this, I think that Democrats are doing much better than Republicans are, in a situation that Democrats never would have asked for. Don't want, would never want.

LIMBAUGH: Just the opposite. They -- they are sitting behind closed doors, secretly laughing, "Well, this is great."

BURTON: Actually not true.

LIMBAUGH: Except now, contrary to what they're saying, they're not as happy with what's going on. That's why we see the panic and the hysteria among Democrats now. This isn't going away. They expected Obama's approval polls are cratering. They're nervous about how this is playing out. Obama's pettiness, the way he's shutting down things he wants to shut down and not -- and lying about Obamacare. But can I challenge --

CUPP: And frankly, they're losing a lot of independents.


CUTTER: Let's not talk about who's losing independents. Seventy percent of independents disapprove of the Republican strategy. So --

LIMBAUGH: Can I challenge one premise that we all seem, nobody challenges this, that everybody says we just want everybody to get along. I heard someone on the panel say that last night. We want the two parties to get along. We want them skipping along, holding hands, Kumbaya.

I think -- I do not want the parties to get along. This is an adversarial system.

CUPP: It wasn't me. It wasn't you, either.

LIMBAUGH: I want what's best for the nation. And if the only way to get it in this case is to use these strategies the Republicans are using, then I endorse them.

CUTTER: So you're with -- you're with Ted Cruz who said --

LIMBAUGH: Absolutely.

CUTTER: -- "I don't think Washington needs more compromise."

LIMBAUGH: My main man.

CUTTER: That's what he said on FOX News.

LIMBAUGH: Compromise is not the end game. Nor is it going out to have cocktails with the other -- across party aisles. The end game is bringing America back to its founding principles, getting it to live within its means, getting a robust economy. We have forgotten about growth. We don't even talk about growth. All we talk about is malaise.

CUTTER: That means more shutdown?


CUTTER: Potential default on our debt?

LIMBAUGH: You're talking procedure. You're not talking about --

CUTTER: Impact on economic growth? That's what all of this means.

LIMBAUGH: The impact on economic --

CUTTER: If you're not going to compromise, that's what all of this means.

LIMBAUGH: No, no. Economic growth is the Obama tenure -- I mean, the dampening of economic growth. His entire tenure. Worst recovery in 60 years -- 50 years.

BURTON: Right worst economic disaster in 60 years.

LIMBAUGH: You guys, that's -- BURTON: I will say -- I will say that I do agree with something David said, which is that you don't need everybody in Washington to agree all the time. And the fact of the matter is, I'm never going to agree with everything S.E. has to say, everything you have to say. We shouldn't agree with what John Boehner has to say. But the fact of the matter is there's such a log jam in Washington that nothing can happen.

LIMBAUGH: That's good.

BURTON: It's not good.

LIMBAUGH: If Obama stuff happens, it's terrible.

BURTON: It's hurting our economy.

LIMBAUGH: No, no, no.

BURTON: And when you talk about the president's extreme agenda, I don't know what measure you're using to say that the president's -- the president's policies are extreme. Because what the president supports and the president is trying to advance and what the president has got done are mostly pretty popular things. Even things that weren't popular when they got passed. Health care is an exception to that, and I think the American people are still undecided. They're still 50/50 or 45/45 on that issue.

The things the Tea Parties supports. Now that is what is extreme. And the only measure that you have is national polls?

CUPP: But Bill --

BURTON: Yes, the Tea Party is in a very far right off the --


CUPP: But Bill, to David's point it does seem like there is a sense on the left of giddiness around this shutdown that it's working. In fact, I thought it was really inappropriate that the vice president and Democrats sent out fundraising e-mails over this shutdown.

Do you think that that -- while the president was refusing to negotiate. Do you think that was --

BURTON: First of all, Republicans --

CUPP: Do you think that set the right tone?

BURTON: Republicans have been raising money off this. And you just showed me an ad that Republicans are running about this.

CUPP: The exact language was -- the exact language of this is "We can't watch this happen. It's up to us to call out every last Republican we can and make sure the American people know exactly who caused this mess." It just seems like this is petty politics. And it seems like there is an ethos on the left that is, yes, let this shutdown happen. It'sworking.

BURTON: I guarantee that Stephanie and I are in more closed-door meetings with Democrats than you guys are.

CUPP: True story.

BURTON; And that there is no giddiness about the shutdown.

LIMBAUGH: Not now, because it's -- you didn't anticipate Ted Cruz.

CUTTER: Your example there is an example ten times over on the Republican side. And they're on record. You have Michele Bachmann saying, "We've never been happier" than this shutdown.

LIMBAUGH: Because -- because --

CUTTER: Ted Cruz saying, "We got what we wanted." So yes --

LIMBAUGH: Yes, we want the nation's attention.

CUTTER: -- they want the government shut down.


CUTTER: You know we're not going to roll back Obamacare.

LIMBAUGH: No, they don't want it shut down.

CUTTER: You know we're not going to delay Obamacare. You know that was going to result in a shutdown.

LIMBAUGH: I don't know that.

CUTTER: And here we are.

LIMBAUGH: What hurts the economy, back to your point. You guys were saying what hurts the economy is the shutdown and these defaults. What hurts the economy is Obama bad-mouthing the economy, bad-mouthing the markets, scaring the markets, scaring seniors, demonizing wealth, demonizing the successful. Always pitting people against each other. That hurts the economy.

And his policies are killing the economy. Overregulation, overtaxing, overspending. Let the market breathe. Believe in America. Believe in its founding principles and let's restore growth the natural way. Believe in the people and what they can do.

BURTON: That's a lot. It's a big grab bag of things that you said the president did to harm the economy. I just -- the president doesn't demonize well. The president thinks that -- the president thinks that business is good, that growth is good and has grown this economy in a way that I don't think that was obvious when he came into office.

LIMBAUGH: That's like saying black is white, white is black, up is down, down is up. He has broke the economy.

BURTON: No. More people have jobs than they did when he took office. The economy is growing, not shrinking. Those are just facts. That's not -- that's not perception.

LIMBAUGH: More people on Food Stamps. Yes, but we don't have any kind of robust growth. It's anemic growth. We've only seen -- just by the population increases you increase growth.

We -- this -- we have got egregious unemployment. Sustained egregious unemployment rates and more people leaving the work force than ever before. This is a scary time, and I think we're on borrowed time because of the continuous money that the Fed is pumping into this thing.

BURTON: But if this is such a scary time, David, it's no time to toy with the nation defaulting on its debt. It's no time to cause a situation where you could spike interest rates that could affect everyone from students who have loans, small businesses that are trying to grow, huge corporations that are --

LIMBAUGH: Well then start being -- start being responsible and getting the spending under control and get the government off people's backs. And quit calling Republicans -- a small group of Republicans irresponsible like Obama, who never says anything bad and polarizing, said today.

CUPP: Well, I think we solved this problem here in a half an hour. It was a great debate. Thanks to Bill Burton and David Limbaugh.

We want to you weigh in on today's "Fireback" question. Who do you think will cave first? Reply now by tweeting Boehner or Obama to hashtag CROSSFIRE. We'll have the results next.

BURTON: It will not be --

CUPP: Thank you. Thank you so much.


CUPP: Welcome back. Tonight on CROSSFIRE, we've been debating the government shutdown and debt limit fight. That brings us to our "Fireback" question: "Who do you think will cave first?" Right now, 26 percent of you think President Obama will; 74 percent of you say Speaker Boehner will.

What do you think?

CUTTER: Well, I think I agree with the American people there.

CUPP: OK. We'll see.

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

From the left, I'm Stephanie Cutter.

CUPP: From the right, I'm S.E. Cupp. Join us tomorrow for another edition of CROSSFIRE.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.