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State of the Union
Interview with Richard Durbin; Interview with Lindsey Graham; Interview with Heidi Heitkamp, Richard Hudson
Aired January 06, 2013 - 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: Week two of a new year, and in the offing, a controversial cabinet nomination and a battle over money matters.
Today, is there an echo in here?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: One thing I will not compromise over is whether or not congress should pay the tab for a bill they have already racked up.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, (R) KENTUCKY: We cannot agree to increase that borrowing limit without agreeing to reforms that lower the avalanche of spending.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: Raising the debt ceiling and raising objections over former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel, the president's expected choice for Defense Secretary. Our conversation with Senators Dick Durbin and Lindsey Graham.
Then, learning the ropes with two freshmen, Democratic Senator Heidi Heitkamp and Republican Congressman Richard Hudson.
Plus, can either party compromise and keep hard core supporters on board? Neera Tanden of the Center for American Progress, the Wall Street Journal's Stephen Moore, Jackie Calmes of the New York Times and CNN's Dana Bash.
I'm Candy Crowley, and this is State of the Union.
You know what happens when Sisyphus rolls that boulder to the top of the hill, it rolls back down, a piece of Greek mythology that brings to us the reality of the U.S. Congress. It got a deal for now that raises taxes on the upper brackets and prevents for now huge spending cuts. It has moved on to the issue of avoiding a U.S. default.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCONNELL: The president needs to show up early this time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: Republicans say they are done raising taxes. They want the president to agree to spending cuts in exchange for raising the amount of money the U.S. Treasury is allowed to borrow. The president says he just wants the debt ceiling raised without debate. But be serious, this is Washington.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. HARRY REID, (D) NEVADA: Any future budget agreements must balance the need for thoughtful spending reductions with revenue from the wealthiest among us and closing wasteful tax loopholes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: Joining me now to tell us where this is all headed, the Senate's number two Democrat Dick Durbin of Illinois. Good morning, and happy new year, senator. Thanks for joining us.
Can you get a deal on the debt ceiling? Can you raise that debt ceiling without agreeing to some spending cuts?
DURBIN: Well, I think we're going to need both. What the president has said is we need some balance here from this point forward...
CROWLEY: Excuse me what, the president said he's not going to deal. He's not going to negotiate. He just wants you to raise it. Is that going to happen?
DURBIN: Let me add one thing. I think in the course of his State of the Union Address, and the president has already said it, we're going to be talking about further deficit reduction, but it has to be done in a balanced way. At the heart of this debt ceiling debate is whether or not we're going to continue to reduce the deficit. I think we need to do it in a thoughtful way. And the president said as long as it's balanced he's open to the conversation.
CROWLEY: OK. So I'm confused because I've heard him say multiple times I am not going to negotiate over raising this debt ceiling. So are you going to negotiate?
DURBIN: I can just tell you this, the debt ceiling is something that we should put behind us in a hurry. You know, it was John Engler, Republican governor, former Republican governor of Michigan now head of the business roundtable who said we ought to project debt ceilings for the next four or five years and not fight over them every time they come up. It was Newt Gingrich of all people who said it was a dead loser for the Republicans to choose this as an issue.
What I'm saying is the president should not have one of these last-minute showdowns over the debt ceiling, but we should speak in honest and I think complete terms about dealing with this deficit. It truly is a challenge we haven't faced as much as we should.
CROWLEY: So taking the president out of it, do you think that you could agree to spending cuts, provided you were amenable to whatever the cuts were, in order to get the debt ceiling raised?
DURBIN: I can tell you that sounds like a bargain, and it sounds like a deadline that I don't want to see. What I'd rather see is a bipartisan approach starting soon, as soon as we return, between Democrats, Republicans in the House and the Senate, talking about where we go, for example in, tax reform. There's money to be saved in tax reform. There's money to be saved in other areas.
Debbie Stabenow is head of the Senate ag committee, found a way to save $23 billion in spending we don't need in the farm program and reduce the deficit. Why doesn't the House take that up and pass it? That's a good move towards deficit reduction.
CROWLEY: Let me ask you about money to be saved in tax reform, because if the government saves money in tax reform, that means somebody's taxes go up. Do you think that taxes have been raised enough on the wealthy?
DURBIN: I can tell you that there are still deductions, credits, special treatments under the tax code which ought to be looked at very carefully. We forgo about $1.2 trillion a year in the tax code, money that otherwise would go to the government, and when you look closely, some of those things are near and dear to us individually and to the economy -- the mortgage interest deduction, charitable deductions, deductions for state and local taxes, but beyond that, trust me, there are plenty of things within that tax code, these loopholes where people can park their money in some island offshore and not pay taxes, these are things that need to be closed. We can do that and use the money to reduce the deficit.
CROWLEY: So there are other taxes that you believe that you can, however you want to put them, raise, retrieve, whatever, from the wealthy?
And I'll also tell you that I think we need to open our minds to our tax revenue. You know, we've had conversations about an infrastructure fund that will really start America building again, for the highways and airports and locks and dams and things like that.
CROWLEY: How do you fund that? I mean, it's already funded by gas taxes, right. You want to raise the federal gas tax?
DURBIN: I believe we should have energy taxes that really fund infrastructure investment.
CROWLEY: On who?
DURBIN: It's going to create jobs in America.
CROWLEY: On who. I'm sorry, who would -- whose taxes would be raised? DURBIN: Well, there's a variety of ways to approach this, Candy. I mean, we've talked about the gas tax. Now is not the moment to raise it, but it really is something we should consider in the future. But there are other sources of energy taxes we ought to consider. I'll give you an example, the electric grid, power grid in America is ancient. And if we are going to expand it so that it can meet the needs of the 21st Century, we need an investment. That means revenue coming in from that sector. I think they would be open to it if the investment went back into the infrastructure. CROWLEY: Let me ask you, when you're talking about these special loopholes and -- et cetera, that you want to close in tax reform, there were some things in this fiscal cliff, last-minute deal, didn't even make the deadline, and it was all to save the middle class from not getting a tax hike, and yet included, and this is just a partial list, included in this bill were tax breaks for Puerto Rican rum producers, tax breaks for Hollywood film-makers, tax deductions for NASCAR and tax credits for algae growers. So this is money coming out of the Treasury, so why is all of that in this bill? Isn't that's exactly the kind of thing you're going to run into in tax reform because something is sacred to algae growers, and somewhere somebody is making sure that they can -- it may be very important. I have no idea what the tax break is for algae growers, but nonetheless they were included in this bill. Why?
DURBIN: Well, I haven't heard from the algae lobby, so I don't know what their position was on this bill, but I think you're describing that category of tax extenders. These were temporary tax breaks given long ago that have been renewed year after year.
Max Baucus has been the first to say we need to sit down and look at these. Am I for the wind energy tax credit? Yes. I want to see us move toward a greener, cleaner form of energy in our future, but when you start ticking off the others, as small as they may be, these things have really outlived their usefulness, and that can be part of tax reform as well.
CROWLEY: I suspect, senator, that it's possible you might not have had enough votes for this bill if some of these tax breaks weren't in there, that these were sort of payoffs.
DURBIN: Well, you're certainly not new to Washington because you know how it works. You bring together a majority by putting something in the bill that is appealing to a member of congress.
DURBIN: And who knows who represents the algae lobby on Capitol Hill, but they must have been very happy with the outcome.
CROWLEY: We'll try to find out.
A final question for you, senator. President Obama has said, look, I'm not going to do any kind of negotiating over this debt ceiling. You all have spent this money, and he points to congress, so you have to raise this debt ceiling. He is, and we expect him to appoint Senator Chuck Hagel whom you know, a Republican senator, to be defense secretary. He's quite controversial amongst some of your Democratic colleagues, but especially among Republicans.
What do these two stances by the president, his decision to go forward on a nomination that he knows will be controversial, and his decision not to deal with the all on the debt ceiling with the Republicans. What does it tell you about President Obama's tone in this second term? DURBIN: It tells me that he not only won the election but he wants to lead this country. You know, sitting back here and avoiding any confrontation and any controversy is going to make a weakened presidency. He needs to lead for the good of this nation, and we need to work together and find compromise and consensus in both political parties.
Chuck Hagel was a Republican Senator from Nebraska, a decorated veteran of the Vietnam war, a person who has a resume that includes service on the foreign relations committee as well as the intelligence committee. Yes, he is a serious candidate if the president chooses to name him.
And when it comes to the debt ceiling, the more often we have confrontation, the more uncertainty there is in this economy. We need the certainty to move forward so that businesses will invest and jobs can be created.
CROWLEY: Senator Dick Durbin, it's always a pleasure to have you on. Thanks for joining us.
DURBIN: Thanks, Candy.
CROWLEY: Up next, the Hagel confirmation process could be anything but smooth, particularly within the Republican Party.
CROWLEY: And later the new arrivals to Capitol Hill have some big plans.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. DOUG LAMALFA, (R) CALIFORNIA: It's up to us in this new class, the new congress, to figure out how to govern and get the things done that need to be done.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: President Obama is expected to nominate Chuck Hagel, a former Republican senator and Vietnam vet, to be his next secretary of defense, a nice bipartisan gesture, right? You'd be wrong. A number of Republicans and a sprinkling of Democrats are underenthused.
Hagel has bucked his party on several issues, many of them dealing with war and keeping the peace. He opposed the 2007 Bush announcement of a U.S. troop surge in Iraq with gasp-inducing rhetoric.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHUCK HAGEL, FRM. U.S. SENATOR: Ii think this speech given last night by this president represents the most dangerous foreign policy blunder in this country since Vietnam.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: As Senator Hagel also voted against sanctions on Iran, a country dedicated to Israel's extinction. Instead, he favored direct negotiations, viewpoints not at odds with but to the left of President Obama. Hagel also supported negotiations with Hamas, a U.S.-designated terrorist group, and he said a lot of things criticized as insufficiently supportive of Israel, a longtime and strong U.S. ally.
In his 2008 book "The Much Too Promised Land," Middle East analyst Aaron David Miller quoted Hagel saying the "Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people up here, but I'm a United States Senator, I'm not an Israeli senator."
Hagel supported the Pentagon's old Don't Ask, Don't Tell Policy governing gays in the military. And in 1998 said of President Clinton's openly gay nominee to be ambassador of Luxembourg, quote, "I think it is an inhibiting factor to be gay -- openly, aggressively gay like Mr. Hormel to do an effective job."
Last month more than 14 years later Hagel apologized for those comments. Mr. Hormel said he was skeptical. Let's just say if Chuck Hagel is nominated set your TiVo for the hearings.
Republican Lindsey Graham is here next on Hagel and the debt.
CROWLEY: I'm joined by Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. Senator, happy new year. Thanks for being here.
Let me first talk about Chuck Hagel. You have said and predicted that very few Republicans would vote for him. I want to read you something from ambassador -- former Ambassador Ryan Crocker. As you know, he's been ambassador to Lebanon, Kuwait, Syria, Pakistan, Iraq, Afghanistan, certainly qualified to talk about matters of foreign relations, and he says "Chuck Hagel is a statesman, and America has few of them. He knows the leaders of the world and their issues. At a time when bipartisanship is hard to find in Washington, he personifies it. Above all, he has an unbending focus on U.S. national security, from his service in Vietnam decades ago to his current position on the intelligence advisory council. Mr. Hagel would run the Defense Department. It would not run him."
What is -- you know as a senator, you say lots of things that make people angry. You've done that yourself, and it -- it has a long record. You can go back. But for now and for here why isn't Chuck Hagel the man should the president nominate him?
GRAHAM: Well, it's a controversial choice. Ryan Crocker truly is a diplomat in the best sense of the word. I like Chuck Hagel. He served with distinguish in Vietnam as an enlisted man, two Purple Hearts, but quite frankly Chuck Hagel is out of the mainstream of thinking I believe on most issues regarding foreign policy. I expect the president to nominate people different than I would think. I'm going to vote for Senator Kerry. I don't agree with him a lot, but I think he's very much in the mainstream of thought.
Chuck Hagel, if confirmed to be secretary of defense, would be the most antagonistic secretary of defense towards the State of Israel in our nation's history. Not only has he said you should directly negotiate with Iran, sanctions won't work, that Israel must negotiate with Hamas, an organization, terrorist group that lobs thousands of rockets into Israel. He also was one of 12 Senators who refused to sign a letter to the European Union trying to designate Hezbollah as a terrorist organization.
He has long severed his ties with the Republican Party. This is an in your face nomination by the president to all of us who are supportive of Israel. I don't know what his management experience is regarding the Pentagon, little, if any, so I think it's an incredibly controversial choice.
And it looks like the second term of Barack Obama is going to be an in-your-face term. I'm not going to talk to you at all about the about ceiling and here's my secretary of defense nominee that will get a lot of bipartisan concern.
CROWLEY: Well, let me ask you. He is the president. He did win. You say all the time.
GRAHAM: He won.
CROWLEY: Elections have consequences.
CROWLEY: One of the consequences is barring some horrible felony or something awful, the president ought to get the cabinet he wants.
CROWLEY: And he wants Mr. Hagel. And that's the kind of thing in the past you have said to fellow Republicans, when you supported not so popular nominees from Democratic presidents.
GRAHAM: And I will continue to support people chosen by President Obama that I would not have chosen. Senator Kerry has a lot of different views than I do. We're on the opposite ends of the political spectrum, but I respect him. I think he's a thoughtful man. I think he's in the mainstream. I'll have a hard time voting for anybody to be secretary of defense who believes that the surge was a foreign policy blunder. I'll have a hard time supporting anybody for secretary of defense who believes that the Iranians are misunderstood, we should just negotiate with them and not sanction them and to ask Israel to negotiate with Hamas who is trying to kill Israeli children and not recognize that Hezbollah is a terrorist organization and to be so wrong on Afghanistan, it's probably going to be a bridge too far for me and a lot of others. This is a controversial pick. He is an antagonistic figure when it comes to the state of Israel. It's a signal you're sending to Iran at the worst possible time and to our allies.
CROWLEY: Are you opposed enough to filibuster the nomination?
GRAHAM: The hearings will matter. He can set some of this straight. Maybe these are statements taken out of context, but when you put all the statements together, you have somebody who is very antagonistic towards the state of Israel and the issues we jointly face.
GRAHAM: And there is no Jewish lobby. There's a pro-Israel lobby. His hearing will matter. There will be a lot of bipartisan concern about a lot of the issues I've just discussed, and this will be a controversial choice, and we'll see where the votes go.
CROWLEY: Let me move you on to President Karzai, as you know, is coming to town. The U.S. is now looking at a year where there will be significant drawdowns of U.S. troops in Afghanistan. Yet the latest assessment that they have is only one of 23 Afghan brigades in the army can actually operate without U.S. ground or air support.
CROWLEY: What does that tell you about the speed with which you think the U.S. should withdraw the 66,000 remaining troops in Afghanistan? How quickly should that be done?
GRAHAM: I think it should be done based on the best military advice our commanders can give.
CROWLEY: Apparently General Allen wants them to stay until the end of next year -- until fall, through the fighting season.
GRAHAM: I think that's a -- right. I think that's a good decision. Come fall, let's reassess and you can -- I want to withdraw our forces in a reasoned way. But the biggest strategic decision President Obama will make in his presidency as a whole is the follow- on force in 2014. I would love to be able to support President Obama's winding down Afghanistan. I would love to be able to say you've done a good job here. Don't withdraw the 68,000 too quick. Leave them through next fall and withdraw in an organized manner, but announce soon, Mr. President, that we're not leaving Afghanistan. we're going to have a robust military force left behind.
CROWLEY: What's robust. Give me a number.
GRAHAM: As an insurance policy against the Taliban and al Qaeda.
I think somewhere in the 15,000 to 20,000 range, depends on what the military commanders say..
The worst possible solution is have a small footprint left behind in Afghanistan where they become sitting ducks and it will lead to failure. We fought too long and too hard not to get this right. His decision about a post-2014 force will affect our national security interests for decades, and would I like to support the president in it's a robust number.
CROWLEY: Let me move you on finally to what's going on on Capitol Hill on the domestic side, and that is this debt ceiling that will need to be raised sometime in February. Where are you on the idea of a partial or a full government shutdown to stop the spending in order to get some cuts in exchange for republicans raising the debt ceiling.
GRAHAM: I believe we need to raise the debt ceiling, but if we don't raise it without a plan to get out of debt, all of us should be fired. Every American owes $52,000 in terms of their share of the national debt. We've raised the debt ceiling last August. We went through $2.1 trillion in 17 months. The size of the debt 2013 -- 2037 will be twice the size of the economy.
I want to raise the debt ceiling, but I will not do it without a plan to get out of debt. Senator Durbin has done some hard work with the Republicans on entitlement reform. If you raise the debt ceiling by a dollar, you should cut spending by a dollar. That is the way to go forward.
And we need a budget. Our Democratic friends haven't passed a budget in three years, contrary to the law of the land, and why raise money and spend it if you don't have a budget. So a dollar for dollar offset and a budget I think are two conditions to raising the debt ceiling.
CROWLEY: And you would not raise them unless you've got cuts certain in spending. You will not raise the debt ceiling.
GRAHAM: I'm not going to borrow trillions more dollars without a plan to get out of debt, and one last thing about Afghanistan, if we don't get this right, the place falls apart and all those who helped us get killed and the Taliban come back and it becomes a safe haven for al Qaeda, that's the worst possible signal to send to Pakistan, Iran. We fought too long and too hard. We can get this right. Please, Mr. President, listen to your commanders. Let's end the war well in Afghanistan. Let's do immigration reform in 2013. Let's start saving Social Security and Medicare from bankruptcy.
I want you to have an historic presidency. I'm willing to work with you. It's going to take effort on your part as well as mine.
CROWLEY: And one last thing, since we're kind of going back a little. You sound very much as though you have made up your mind to vote no regardless of whether you would filibuster on Senator Hagel, correct?
GRAHAM: Well, I think the hearings will matter, but I'm very inclined not to support him based on his antagonistic approach to Israel and some of his decisions.
And in terms of the debt ceiling debate, the rank and file in my conference have had it with last-minute deals where you can't read the bill before the ink gets dry. We've got to do better in the future than we've done in the past. This doing things at the last-minute behind closed doors must stop.
CROWLEY: Senator Lindsey Graham, always so much to talk about, so much going on. We really thank you for your input today. Appreciate t.
When we return, the beginning of a new congressional term.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOHN BOEHNER, (R) OHIO: Congratulations, you're now members of the 113th Congress.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: We talk to two of the newcomers next.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) CROWLEY: With me now are two freshman lawmakers. From North Dakota, Democratic Senator Heidi Heitkamp and from North Carolina Republican Congressman Richard Hudson.
I don't know if you all know it, but you have a lot of things in common, and I want to talk about that in terms of issues. But first I just -- I want to know your first impressions. You've already had a vote on the House side on the Sandy insurance, the superstorm. But what's your first impression?
HUDSON: Well, it's -- it's exciting. It's an exciting time. We have family and about 80 people from our district in town, but it's also a very sobering time to be coming to Congress, because there's so many challenges facing us, most particularly the spending issue. We've got a huge spending problem in this country, and so, you know, while I'm excited for this new opportunity, I'm hopeful that we can find ways to work together. I'm also, you know, coming into this with a little bit of anxiety about the challenges facing us.
CROWLEY: And you have been on Capitol Hill as a staffer for many years, so it's not a totally strange place to you. It's a strange place, but not totally strange. Senator, how have you found it?
HEITKAMP: You know, it's an interesting place, because I think there is a sense from the outside that it's so, you know, there's so much conflict and people don't get along and you really don't sense that here. But I'm hoping that we can start this new Congress with a new sense of cooperation, collaboration, and getting the job done.
I think one thing that has frustrated me is I have a much greater sense of urgency, it seems. I'm ready to get going and I'm ready to start solving these problems and move the country forward, so I'd like to see us move maybe a little faster than what we've been moving so far.
CROWLEY: I must say urgency and the Senate are not two things I think of in the same sentence, but good luck to you on that.
Let me talk about a couple of things that the two of you have in common. One is you both actually support a constitutional balanced budget amendment, you with some exceptions on a lot of the things actually that drive up the debt, which are wars and some of the entitlement programs.
Where do you stand now, as you look ahead to this debt ceiling fight, both of you who believe that there ought to be a balanced budget amendment. You're a Democrat. I can almost assure you that the Democrats are at the beginning going to say we're not going to negotiate this. We're not going to talk about spending cuts. Where do you come down on raising the debt ceiling and whether it should be connected to spending cuts?
HEITKAMP: Let's look at where we are right now. 40 cents of every dollar that we spend in this Congress is borrowed. Interest on the debt is our third largest expenditure. We have a debt that almost equals our gross domestic product. We can't sustain this. We have to look at reality. And why I came out for a balanced budget amendment is in 2000 we were on a path, we were on a path to balance the budget. The budget was balanced, and we were on a path to retire our debt. Guess what happened? It blew up. And saw we saw committees. We saw Bowles/Simpson, and none of it did it, and I think we need the discipline of a constitutional amendment.
CROWLEY: So, but the debt ceiling is going to be the first thing you're going to deal with.
CROWLEY: And Republicans are, as I'm sure the congressman will tell you, are going to want to have at least one dollar in spending cuts for every dollar that they raise that debt limit. Is that something you can support?
HEITKAMP: We cannot jeopardize the full faith and credit and the credit rating of this country.
CROWLEY: So no?
HEITKAMP: No. We have got to -- to take this in an incremental way, and then recognize we need these spending cuts. We need to take a look at where we go on a path forward.
A big part of balancing this budget is in fact getting people back to work. That balances us twice (ph), so that's another big piece of it. That's not really getting talked about here.
CROWLEY: But you won't -- you don't want to link the two of them, the spending cuts and raising the debt ceiling.
CROWLEY: And yet we're hearing more and more Republicans saying, I'm not voting to raise the debt ceiling unless they do something about spending. Is that your line in the sand, as you've talked about?
HUDSON: Absolutely, and I'm encouraged to hear the senator talk about the challenges we're facing and the fact that we need to be serious in addressing the spending problem, and that tells me that hopefully there's some room for Republicans and Democrats to work on this.
But the bottom line is we can't continue down the path we're on of borrowing money to pay our own debt with, and we've got to have serious spending cuts. We've got to have dollar for dollar within the same year as far as I'm concerned.
CROWLEY: Would you vote to raise the debt ceiling unless -- if there were not spending cuts attached to it?
HUDSON: Absolutely not. CROWLEY: So you see why it's not quite as easy as it all sounds. Everybody comes with the same idea, right, and we have two opposite things. You want to just do it because of the full faith -- there's another issue that I want to talk about as well, that I found that the two of you have in common. You're both strong supporters of gun rights. Both of you live in areas where gun rights are a part of the culture, and there's a Washington Post story today talking about where the president's council at this moment, headed by Joe Biden, possible gun control measures. They include universal background checks for anyone who buys a gun, a national database for all gun sales and movement of guns, strengthening mental health checks at the gun purchase site, tougher penalties for carrying guns near schools, and tougher penalties for giving guns to minors. Could you go along with all of that?
HEITKAMP: Well, let me say it this way. North Dakota has the highest rate of gun ownership in the country and the lowest rate of gun violence.
CROWLEY: So is that a no?
HEITKAMP: What I'm saying is--
HEITKAMP: I'm not going to comment on what's in a Washington Post story. I want to see the proposal. But I'm a staunch supporter of the Second Amendment, but I also believe that we need to do things that will prevent what happened at Sandy Hook elementary. When I was --
CROWLEY: It would be gun control that you're talking about?
HEITKAMP: I think you need to look at everything in the mix, but I'm not a big believer that this is a one-size-fits-all solution, and we absolutely need to have a balanced approach, and then we need to live in reality. What can you actually get passed? What can you actually get done that's going to make schools and communities safer in America? And I don't think that that proposal necessarily as you've described it to me fits the bill for me.
CROWLEY: Congressman? Can you find some agreement there? HUDSON: I can be clear. I will not support any of the measures I'm reading about, for two reasons. No. 1, we have a constitutional freedom, the right to keep and bear arms in this country that's critical, and I'm a strong defender of that.
But secondly, look at the effectiveness of the public policy we're talking about. These kind of measures were already in place in Connecticut. Connecticut has the third most stringent gun policies in the country. You know, the gun-free school zones didn't help in that case. You look at places like Detroit, New York City, places that have the most stringent gun control laws in the country are some of the most violent gun crime areas. CROWLEY: So let me ask you just as sort of a close-up question. When you saw the NRA, both of you have very high marks from the NRA for what you've done legislatively, you in North Dakota and you in North Carolina, and what did you think of their reaction to what happened at Sandy Hook in Connecticut? Which was to say we need to enhance school safety. We're willing to help wherever we can, but we're not interested in gun legislation. You supported that?
HUDSON: I did, and I thought that Wayne LaPierre used good judgment to wait and not come out with a statement right away, and I agree that having security at schools is a good idea, but I don't necessarily think it's a federal government role. I think it's up to communities, states, to decide. And Charlton-Eccleburg (ph) schools in my districts, we already have resource officers in every school, and so this is something that's being done on a local level in some places, and we ought to look at whether that's good policy everywhere. But, again, I don't think the federal government needs to be involved in funding it or telling states that they have to do it.
CROWLEY: Senator, I've got to have it quickly. What did you think of the NRA response?
HEITKAMP: Quickly, what I tell you is we ask teachers to be parents, we ask teachers to be babysitters, and oh, by the way, you might want to teach. And now we're asking them to be security guards. That's not a formula for success.
CROWLEY: The NRA said trained and armed. They didn't say anything about teachers. But the NRA response, you were solid with?
HEITKAMP: No, I think the NRA missed the boat in understanding that there is some concerns out there, that people need to have a reasoned discussion, and by saying that there's absolutely nothing on the table that can be considered, I think -- I think it was an overstep.
CROWLEY: Senator Heitkamp, Congressman Hudson. So many issues. We hope you'll come back. Thanks for joining us on an inaugural day for us with you all.
Ahead, a banner week for the vice president as he charms a deal out of the Congress, hams it up during the swearing-in, and sparks an online petition for his own reality show.
CROWLEY: Joining me around the table: Jackie Calmes of The New York Times; Neera Tanden of the Center for American Progress; Stephen Moore of The Wall Street Journal; and CNN's Dana Bash.
I want to talk about reaction to the fiscal cliff deal and sort of sew that up. The first comes from the co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, and he said: "The president remains clueless about how to use leverage in a negotiation. Republicans publicly admitted they lost the tax debate and would be forced to cave, yet the president just kept giving stuff away."
And then we have this from the leader of the Tea Party Express.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AMY KREMER, CHAIRWOMAN, TEA PARTY EXPRESS: We elected the House of Representatives. We have the majority. The Republicans have the majority there. We still control part of the government, and the House controls the purse strings.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: Basically saying, wait a minute, we have the House majority, you know, why didn't they stick up for, you know, spending cuts? So let's -- the left and the right seem to be not happy with this, which almost makes it a perfect deal. Can you hold on to -- can either party hold onto their wings as we move forward to much worse confrontations I think?
JACKIE CALMES, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, I think that's the big question. I mean, I think for all of the "sturm und drang" on the left, I think if there had been a comprehensive deal, and eventually there is going to have to be comprehensive if you count some of the prior incremental steps and look at it all in a big picture say like a Simpson-Bowles, I think the president can get the votes of Democrats -- enough Democrats, for a plan that really does promise savings in the entitlement programs which, along with revenues, you have to get in order to get the level...
CROWLEY: Savings meaning cuts, which is hard for progressives to go along with?
CALMES: Right. But like the CPI, the cost of living adjustment formula for Social Security, very controversial with the group you just quoted from the left, but I think Democrats would go along in a balanced package.
CROWLEY: So where do you think this goes? Progressives -- I mean, in the end, only three senators, Democrats, voted against this deal, so clearly they are going along with the president.
NEERA TANDEN, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: Look, there was overwhelming Democratic support for this, and that's because we were able -- you know, the president was able to fulfill his promise of getting the rates to 39.6, and it has substantial revenues. I think the big issue going forward is whether it's going to be a balanced package between revenue and savings. And I would say, you know, it's something that gets lost in this debate, is that we've already had $1.7 trillion in savings. These additional revenues come together with that. That's over $2 trillion of deficit reduction that we've already had. We need additional deficit reduction...
CROWLEY: Have we had the 1.7 trillion that was agreed to in the last deal? I mean, have they been enacted?
STEPHEN MOORE, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: I mean, there have been these kind of phony cuts that they say will happen in the future. I can say this pretty definitively, I think. If Democrats think they are going to get more taxes out of Republicans, they are living in la- la land. I mean, this was the high ground for the Democrats. And...
TANDEN: Well, that is arguing that you're going to take us over. The debt ceiling, you're going to actually play with the full faith and credit, and that's hostage-taking.
MOORE: I think Republicans believe -- look, there's no question President Obama won the first two innings of this game, no question. I mean, this was the president's deal, and he won the support of it probably because Republicans didn't really have any other choice.
Taxes were going to go up on 100 million Americans if they didn't get a deal. But I think now that the playing field tilts more to the Republicans. I think the whole fight over the next six months to a year is going to be about spending.
And by the way, not just about the debt ceiling, and I think the Republicans can play that card, but they have another card. Don't forget the other card they have, the sequester. Those are automatic cuts that are going to really hurt liberal programs unless President Obama comes to deal.
MOORE: The Republicans have decided they are willing to take those cuts so this is -- I think the Democrats are in a lot weaker position than they thought they would be.
CROWLEY: Let me get Dana in here before I have to take a break. In the end it does sound to me as though Democrats understand they are going to have to agree to some plan to have spending cuts in order to get the debt ceiling raised. The president says he's not going to negotiate, but it sound like the Democrats will.
DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, they do understand that, but that is why literally the vote was not even taken yet in the House. And I had Democrat after Democrat coming up to me in the hallways of the Capitol saying, they think that this is going to be about spending in the future, uh-uh, we are going to increase taxes.
That's why you heard that this morning from Dick Durbin. They want to get that out there, get that on the table to make sure it's not lost.
CROWLEY: And they definitely wanted to say that taxes -- we still see some more taxes we want to raise.
BASH: Whether that's going to happen is a different question.
CROWLEY: Right, exactly. I need you all to stand by. We're going to take a quick break.
Up next, the life and times of Vice President Joe Biden.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: That's Vice President Joe Biden during Thursday's Senate swear-ins on Capitol Hill. We are back with Jackie Calmes, Neera Tanden, Stephen Moore, and Dana Bash.
Happiest guy on the Hill, right? I mean, first of all, he flew in there like Superman. It was dark, and we were going to go over the fiscal cliff, and he and Senator McConnell saved the day. So it was a good week for him.
BASH: It was a very good week for Joe Biden. It was also very interesting because you saw the -- that old triangulation happening a little bit, that Dick Morris term from the '90s, because along the way, as things were getting very intense and as Harry Reid was not as involved, and it became a Biden-McConnell deal, we, as those covering it, really got a couple of sort of selective leaks about what they were talking about, not to pressure McConnell but Democrats trying to pressure Biden.
They were concerned, back to our earlier conversation, that Biden was selling out Democrats too much on some key issues. But at the end of the day, the fact that you had only three Democrats voting against it in the Senate, and only a handful of Democrats, even though there's like 70 members of the Progressive Caucus, only a handful voted against it, that tells you something.
CROWLEY: So how does this -- you know, it's interesting to me, is he -- was Joe Biden kind of the canary in the cave for the president going, hey, Joe, can you go fix this? MOORE: You know, everybody is talking about -- you know, I think this resurrects his hopes of being the Democratic nominee in the next presidential campaign.
But I want to go back to the issues of taxes that we're discussing, because it's interesting, you know, this fight that we've just been having at this little table. I mean, it presages the fact that there are still really deep divisions between where -- it's almost like the Democrats and Republicans are totally talking past each other. Democrats think they're going to get more taxes and Republicans are saying, hell no we're not going to raise taxes, again. And I guess what I'm saying is, this is the early stages of battles to come that really still haven't been resolved on the budget.
TANDEN: Republicans for three years have been talking about uncertainty. People at this table have been talking about uncertainty. There's no greater uncertainty to the business community, to Wall Street, to our global competitiveness than having arguments about whether we're going to default or not. And so I think at the end of the day, just like Mitch McConnell picked up the Bat Phone to call Joe Biden, you know, in order because he didn't want to go over the fiscal cliff. Those issues are dwarfed by what would happen with the default.
So the idea -- already Newt Gingrich is saying this is a dead pan loser...
MOORE: I think we've got to do something. We can't just keep saying, oh, we'll keep extending. I mean the Republicans aren't just going to give...
TANDEN: We should have a negotiation. We had $2 trillion.
MOORE: Should we have an unlimited credit card?
TANDEN: No, you should pay your bills.
MOORE: That's what Tim Geithner said, give the president an unlimited credit card.
TANDEN: And what I would say to Republicans is that we have dealt with issues of default and all these issues about raising the debt limit without actually threatening a default for decades.
CROWLEY: But it's called leverage, right? I mean, you've got to -- if you were the minority party.
MOORE: There's no default.
TANDEN: So this is an unprecedented act and Republicans should not threaten the economy and just to get their way. There should be a negotiation.
CROWLEY: There is a way to pay the bills, but it is unsettling, you would agree. There's a way that they can pay their bills.
My goodness, they have manipulated for two months before they say, OK, we've hit the ceiling. So we know they can figure something out.
But it does shake up the economy and it has investors not wanting to -- has businesses not wanting to hire because they're not really sure what is going to happen. Where does this end? I feel like every month we're going to do this.
CALMES: Well, we got a taste of this in July and August of 2011 where they did make a deal at the last minute. They averted default, but the economy was significantly damaged by it. The credit rating was downgraded by Standard & Poor's. Others have -- rating firms have had warned that they will downgrade, as well, if it isn't fixed. We already have an unlimited credit card in effect because, for all this talk about going to default, we're either, "a" not going to do it. We'll come in like 2011. Or, "b," if we do it, such a crisis that somehow we'll step in and...
TANDEN: So we should negotiate now. We should negotiate around the sequester. We should actually not negotiate around on the debt limit. We should have a negotiation...
CROWLEY: But again to back that's the best calling card at this point that Republicans had. The president had the threat of, go ahead, Republicans, raise the rates on everybody and that was his leverage. The Republicans' leverage now is you want a debt ceiling, the question is whether they'll stick with it.
MOORE: ...negotiate a deal on the debt ceiling...
CROWLEY: The question is whether they'll stick with it.
BASH: I don't think so. I mean, you talked to John Boehner this week. I mean, I've talked lots of Republicans who tell me in private, even members of the House Republican leadership they realize that you have to really go to the brink and be willing to follow through on...
CROWLEY: Don't threaten unless you can follow it.
MOORE: ...unless you shoot them.
BASH: Unless you shoot them. And there's certainly a lot of members of the Republican caucus who want to do that, but not the leadership.
TANDEN: Shooting the hostage is actually destroying our economy.
CROWLEY: I've got to go, thank you all very much.
We can do this, again, next week, I'll bet. Thank you so much.
Up next, hearing from the new voices on Capitol Hill who have already made their presence known.
CROWLEY: And finally today for 97 members of the 113th congress, it was day one.
The most diverse congress in U.S. history was sworn in this week and for that moment, partisanship gave way to predictably lofty goals for the new term.
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BOEHNER: Put simply, we're sent here not to be something, but to do something. (END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: Like the old bulls that came before them, the new freshman want to change Washington. They are the young Turks.
REP. JOAQUIN CASTRO, (D) TEXAS: Hi, I'm congressman Joaquin Castro...
REP. TULSI GABBARD, (D) HAWAII: My name is Tulsi Gabbard.
REP. TAMMY DUCKWORTH, (D) ILLINOIS: Hi, I'm Tammy Duckworth.
REP. TREY RADEL, (R) OHIO: My name it Trey Radel.
REP. KYRSTEN SINEMA, (D) ARIZONA: I'm Kyrsten Sinema, congresswoman for Arizona's ninth district.
The American public doesn't care about Republican or Democrat, they just want solutions.
LAMALFA: It's up to us in this new class, the new congress, to figure out how to govern and get the things done that need to be done.
CASTRO: When the government works right, when it's not heavy handed, when it doesn't go too far, that it can create great opportunities in people's lives.
GABBARD: And now we have the great opportunity and responsibility to serve as their voice.
REP. STEVEN HORSFORD, (D) NEVADA: It's about making sure that we are protecting Medicare and Social Security.
REP. SUZAN DELBENE, (D) WASHINGTON: and making sure we will put policy together that supports innovation, that allows companies to succeed.
DUCKWORTH: Be a watchdog to make sure that we're not wasting money.
RADEL: We have a debt that is crushing this country. We have a congress which has been unable to work together to solve what is essentially math.
REP. LUKE MESSER, (R) INDIANA: We cannot continue to spend the way we have in recent years.
REP. MARKWAYNE MULLIN, (R) OKLAHOMA: Quit playing party politics. Start moving the ball forward, put American people back in front.
REP. AMI BERA, (D) CALIFORNIA: That's how we move forward as Americans.
CROWLEY: It's the sort of thing freshman usually say and they mean it, but sometimes Washington changes them.
We wish the class of 2013 well. If you want to see more from our conversation with the new congress, we've posted the full interviews on our website, just go to cnn.com/sotu.
Thanks to the freshman lawmakers who gave us some of their time on these busy first days in congress. And thank you for watching State of the Union. I'm Candy Crowley in Washington. If you missed any part of today's show find us on iTunes, just search State of the Union.
Fareed Zakaria GPS is next.