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State of the Union
Interview with Senator Schumer; Interview with Senator Barrasso; Interview with Senator Reed, Congressman Rogers
Aired February 17, 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: Have bully pulpit, will travel. Today from Decatur to Asheville and Chicago, the president pushes gun control, a higher minimum wage and universal preschool.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And that whole plan, well, others by the way, is a trade we could use more in Washington.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: A conversation with New York Democrat Chuck Schumer on the president's wish list and Senate about reality. What and when can the Senate deliver?
Then, drawing the line.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, (R) KENTUCKY: Read my lips, I'm not interested in an 11th hour negotiation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: Republicans dig in from budget cuts to some of the president's nominees. We'll talk with a member of the Republican leadership team, Senator John Barrasso of Wyoming.
And then mandatory spending cuts take effect eleven days from now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It would have significant and destructive consequences for domestic investments, national security.
JANET NAPOLITANO, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: Average wait times to clear customs will increase by 50 percent.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All this is purely the collateral damage of political gridlock.
(END VIDEO CLIP) CROWLEY: Senator Jack Reed of Rhodes Island and intelligence committee chairman Michigan congressman Mike Rogers on whether sequestration is that dire and that inevitable.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's sort of predictable.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: The head of the Motion Picture Association deflects criticism that entertainment violence contributes to gun crime.
That and more with our political roundtable.
I'm Candy Crowley and this is State of the Union.
Before taking his show on the road, the president laid out his agenda in front of congress. House Speaker John Boehner called it more of the same and suggested where the president could take his proposals.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOHN BOEHNER, (R) OHIO: The president elects to attack congress, but if he's serious about enacting his agenda, I think it must start with part of this congress that his party controls, the United States Senate. You know, what can he get passed in the United States Senate?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: Joining me now is the number three Democrat in the Senate, Senator Chuck Schumer out of New York for us today. Senator, thanks for joining us.
SCHUMER: Good morning.
CROWLEY: Let me ask you that question. We see the president, he wants to increase the minimum wage. He wants to do something about reducing carbon in the air, universal pre-school, immigration, guns, more money for infrastructure. You know congress. I know congress. What is reasonable to expect you will get done this year?
SCHUMER: Well, I think that there's going to be more done than most people think, and that's because...
CROWLEY: And that would be what specifically do you think will get done?
SCHUMER: Well, I think immigration has a very decent chance of getting done. We're working hard on a bipartisan proposal on guns. I think we're going to avoid sequestration, and the proposal that we've made will prevail. I think that on some of these jobs issues -- you heard Eric Cantor in a speech where he talked about the same issues that the president did. So I think you're going to find out on minimum wage, we're going to bring that to the floor this spring, and I think you're going to find we're going to get more Republican support than people think because the policy...
CROWLEY: That's different, though, than passing it as you know. There's a lot of thought that the minimum wage, which appears to be something that's not going to clear congress is this year, is more about setting up 2014 to give Democrats something to rail against Republicans on. SCHUMER: Well, it is an issue of fairness. If you work 40 hours a week, you shouldn't be way below the poverty level. The minimum wage is at a lower level than 1960, and I think that you may find some Republicans changing their minds on these issues.
What I was saying, Candy, is I think there's a sea change in our politics. The politics of obstruction, the politics of just cutting, cutting, cutting and shrinking, shrinking, shrinking, not things that are need to be cut or shrunk, but everything across the board is losing clout. And I have seen it in many areas. Our Republican colleagues are coming to the middle to meet us. We're going to have to come to the middle to meet them, too, but there will be less obstructionism.
I can't predict which issues, but I'll predict it will be a more productive congress than the last one.
CROWLEY: OK. Let me take some of these issues one by one.
First of all what, makes you think that sequestration will not take place which, boy, most people up there this week have said, yeah, it's going to happen, and that is the across-the-board spending cuts.
SCHUMER: Well, here's what I think. I think that Democrats have the high ground, both substantively and politically, and we will win on this issue.
The bottom line is very simple. The Republicans are proposing devastating cuts. They would lose 750,000
CROWLEY: But you all agreed to these across-the-board cuts.
SCHUMER: Please, I would like to finish what I'm saying here. 750,000 jobs will be lost. The economy will shrink by 6 percent, and what we've produced is very simple. It's closing loopholes. The only people who support them are the people who benefit them from them, oil and gas loopholes, the idea that businesses shouldn't get breaks by sending jobs overseas, the idea that someone who makes over $1 million should pay a higher rate than others. And whether it's right on the eve of sequestration or if god forbid it has to take effect for a few days, the devastating effects will be so strong. The president will be out there on his bully pulpit that just like on the fiscal cliff Republicans will come on board. They have no choice. Their arguments are untenable and don't meet the favor of hardly anyone other than themselves and the few whose special interests they are protecting.
CROWLEY: Let me move you on to immigration simply because we now see the White House sort of drafts immigration bill, at least the skeleton of it, has been leaked out there. We know that Democrats had been saying to the White House we don't -- please don't put your proposal out there because these are very delicate negotiations. We see that Marco Rubio, who is a part of the bipartisan group that you are also with working on immigration, has said the president's plan is dead on arrival. This leak cannot help the cause on Capitol Hill.
SCHUMER: Well, look, I -- I don't know what bill the president has out there. I haven't seen it, but they did say last night when this leak occurred, and I don't know how it occurred, that it wasn't their final or complete bill. The president and those of us working on immigration are working very well. Senators Durbin, Menendez, Bennett and I met with the president Wednesday, and he agreed to give us the space we need to come up with a bipartisan proposal. And so we're working well together.
I know that Senator Rubio was upset with this leak...
CROWLEY: Are you upset?
SCHUMER: We talked to him.
No, I am not upset.
We've talked to Senator Rubio, and he's fully on board with our process. And I am very hopeful that in March we will have a bipartisan bill.
You know, it's obvious. If a Democrat, the president or anyone else puts out what they want on their own, it's going to be different than what you have a bipartisan agreement, but the only way we're going to get something done is with a bipartisan agreement.
So I'm happy with the president. He's given us the space, and I'm optimistic we can get something done.
CROWLEY: I have to move on to guns now and ask you, you're also working on a deal with -- and on a bipartisan basis. How close are you to a deal of putting bill on the floor about gun control?
SCHUMER: Well, look, we have Democrats and Republicans, some of whom are pro NRA, have been supported by the NRA and some of whom, like myself, have been opposed by the NRA sitting down trying to negotiate the sweet spot where we can get something done.
We're talking. We've made some good progress. There is still some hard issues to be resolved. Guns is a very difficult issue, but our talks continue, and we've solved a good number of the problems. We have some significant problems still to overcome. CROWLEY: What significant problems are there yet?
SCHUMER: Well, I am not going to get into the details of our negotiating publicly, but I can tell you we both made progress and have a ways to go.
CROWLEY: Do you think that there will be any kind of assault weapons ban in your bill? SCHUMER: Well, I think that certainly Senator Feinstein has championed assault weapons. And it will be voted on by the senate. Whether it's part of our bill, we've been focusing on universal background checks where I think there's a greater chance to come to a bipartisan agreement.
CROWLEY: And do you have at least within your group agreement about universal background checks, at least to include those gun shows?
SCHUMER: We are. I'm not going to get into any details. There are many issues we've resolved and some we yet haven't.
CROWLEY: And so as I understand you, you are looking at perhaps your bill and then maybe a separate vote on assault weapons which looks a lot less likely to pass, is that correct?
SCHUMER: Well, Senator Leahy is going to determine the structure as we move through judiciary committee and Senator Reid as we move to the floor.
CROWLEY: But you're going to recommend something?
SCHUMER: We are hopefully going to recommend -- I'm certainly going to recommend something. And hopefully it will be bipartisan, and hopefully it will have both those have been supported by the NRA and those who have been opposed by the NRA on it.
CROWLEY: And finally, is there a mental health component, do you think, in what your group is working on?
SCHUMER: Well, there's one of the aspects of things we have to clear up is mental health records. The mental health records is part of the NIC system are weak. Five years ago I did negotiate an improvement in that system with the NRA support, and we're continuing to work in that area to tighten it up more than it was back in 2007.
CROWLEY: Senator Chuck Schumer, thank you so much for joining me this morning.
SCHUMER: Thank you. Good to talk to you.
CROWLEY: Appreciate it.
Should your pediatrician be allowed to ask you if you keep a gun in the house? President Obama thinks so, but some Republican lawmakers say it's an invasion of privacy. Next up, I'll ask senator and doctor, John Barrasso.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. HARRY REID, MAJORITY LEADER: I'm going to go call Chuck Hagel when I finish here and say I'm sorry, sorry this has happened. I'm sorry for the president. I'm sorry for the country and I'm sorry for you, but we're not going to give up on you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: Democrats vowing to stand by their man, even as Republicans delivered a sharp rebuke to fellow Republican Chuck Hagel this week in his bid to become Defense secretary.
Joining me now is Republican Senator John Barrasso from Wyoming.
Senator, thanks for being here.
BARRASSO: Thank you, Candy.
CROWLEY: I went -- something caught our eye that Senator McCain said in explaining the Republican -- part of the Republican resistance to Hagel, in which he said, "It goes back to there's a lot of ill will towards Senator Hagel because, when he was a Republican, he attacked President Bush mercilessly, at one point said he was the worst president since Herbert Hoover, said that the surge was the worst blunder since the Vietnam war, which is nonsense, and was very anti his own party and people. People don't forget that."
Is this a revenge vote? I mean, this seems -- I understand that people, there are a lot of Republicans who personally don't like Chuck Hagel, but is that a reason to vote against him?
BARRASSO: No, that's not a reason, Candy. The reason is that if anyone saw his testimony, it was very unsettling. It was weak and it was wobbly, and, you know, you want competence and confidence in the person that is going to be Secretary of Defense. And what we saw was a lot of confusion by this nominee.
So what we're doing is just asking for some information, a little more time to get some more of the speeches that he's given, to see what he said, because he says one thing on one day when it's popular, and then, at another time, says another thing.
The Defense Department -- this is a very, very important job. This is the number one employer of the United States, and we need to have somebody there who can manage that, do it well and give confidence to our military.
CROWLEY: Do you worry that there is a line between being the loyal opposition and being labeled as obstructionist?
And you know that that's where Democrats are going now, saying they say no to everything. This is unprecedented, et cetera, et cetera.
Do you think holding up the Hagel vote was worth it?
And do you think it was -- you know, it puts another chink in the party image?
BARRASSO: Well, this is a nomination that's being rushed through by the Democrats. The hearings were only two weeks ago. The vote in the committee was just last week. There is -- really shouldn't be a rush in something of this importance.
All we've asked is for another week; we've asked a number of questions. They have continued to obstruct -- this president said we have the most transparent administration in the history of the country.
Then why are they trying to hide and not allow us to get some information so we can vote a week from now?
CROWLEY: You sound a little bit as though you'll vote against him.
BARRASSO: I have grave reservations. I think he's been wrong about Iran, wrong about Israel, wrong in Iraq, wrong with nuclear weapons; absolutely, I plan to vote against him.
CROWLEY: So do you think that the sort of discussion that has come up and the hold or whatever you want to call it that you've put on the Hagel nomination, which we still expect to pass, do you think that harms soon-to-be -- if you agree with that -- Secretary Hagel in his dealings with Congress?
Is he less -- rendered less effective by this process?
BARRASSO: Well, I think he's going to be less effective because of the fact that the president nominated him. There were a lot of Democrats on Capitol Hill that don't believe he was the best choice, and I'm sure the White House is very disturbed with how poorly he did during his confirmation hearings.
So, you know, I think it is going to impact him as he tries to limp across the finish line to get confirmed. But you -- I don't believe this is obstructionist. John Kerry just got confirmed a week or two ago for secretary of state, 96 or 97 positive votes in his favor, but the Cabinet is in chaos right now because of so many resignations, and I think we have another seven or eight to confirm.
CROWLEY: What about John Brennan then, nominated to be head of the CIA? He's had his hearings.
BARRASSO: He's had his hearings. It's not yet come up for a vote. They want to do that because there are questions by both Democrats and Republicans, questions about drones, questions about Benghazi, lots of questions both sides of the aisle, so they are not making a, you know, a kind of a political statement on him because Democrats have legitimate questions that they want answers to.
CROWLEY: What is your state of mind when it comes to a confirmation vote on Brennan?
BARRASSO: Well, I still want to review the hearing. You know, they have classified hearings and then those that are not classified. I've seen the public. I want to read some of the other information.
CROWLEY: Are you leaning one way or the other?
BARRASSO: Not at this point.
CROWLEY: How about Jack Lew, Treasury Secretary?
BARRASSO: Jack Lew, again, a long history of public service, but they have to ask and answer questions regarding his time on Wall Street, the large bonus payment that he got not too long before the big bailout of the group that he was working for on Wall Street, his investments in the Cayman Islands, for which the president criticized Mitt Romney.
So we need an administration that doesn't say, you know, do as I say, not as I do. You know, Tim Geithner, the former Treasury secretary, I voted against him because he hadn't paid his taxes. So American people deserve answers to these questions because the Treasury secretary, Candy, works not for the president or for Congress, works for the American people.
CROWLEY: I don't know if you heard Senator Schumer at the top of the show. He was talking about sequestration.
CROWLEY: He expressed the belief either on the eve of or sometime in the first two or three weeks of sequestration, if it goes into effect, those big across-the-board budget cuts, that Republicans indeed will come to the middle and agree to essentially what the Democrats have proposed, which is some cuts in farm programs as well as closing the loopholes for oil and gas companies, as well as taxing more -- the so-called Buffett tax, that no millionaire should pay less than 30 percent.
He said that your current position, Republicans' current position is untenable, given what sequestration will do.
Do you think that Republicans will go ahead and agree to some kind of cuts, and perhaps an increase in revenue for those making $1 million or more?
BARRASSO: No. Let me be very clear, and I would say this to the president as I say it to you.
These spending cuts are going to go through on March 1st. The -- their taxes are off the table. I've read the Democrat proposal that even Chuck Schumer said is just a chess piece, so the American people need to know tax cuts are off the table, and the Republican Party is not in any way going to trade spending cuts for a tax increase.
CROWLEY: So you have heard all these dire warnings, so you think Republicans are willing to walk off this particular cliff and say, no, we are not going to raise taxes in order to stop these across-the- board cuts, which will dig deeply into the Defense budget, among other things?
BARRASSO: I think there are much better ways to do these budget cuts, and I welcome that sort of discussion with the president, but the cuts are going to occur.
We're talking about 2.5 percent of what we spend this year, and this is just the first year of 10 years of cuts, so you have to be realistic about this. Families all across the country, Candy, have had their budgets cut by larger than that as a result of the economic downturn.
CROWLEY: So you don't believe all these dire warnings that, you know, it's going to -- it's going to hollow out the military, that it's going to interfere with getting onto planes, it's going stop food inspection, you don't believe any of that? BARRASSO: Well, I believe the president has a lot of authority that he can decide where this -- how this works, and, yes, he can make it very uncomfortable, which I think would be a mistake on the part of the president. But when you take a look at the total dollars, there are better ways to do this, but the cuts are going to occur.
CROWLEY: Let me ask you. The American Academy of Pediatrics has backed the idea that pediatricians certainly should or could ask their young patients' parents whether or not there's a gun in the house. The president, apparently in an executive order, said they certainly wouldn't bar that from happening.
What do you think about the general idea? You're a doctor. You've practiced -- of saying to a patient, do you have a gun in the house?
BARRASSO: Well, you know, this has been a position of the American Academy of Pediatrics for a long time. They have a number of things that they recommend, that most gun owners, responsible individuals, do in their own homes when there are children in the homes.
But there is no role, in my opinion, Candy, for the government to tell doctors what they should or should not ask the patients or the families, and I would really see a focus more if they worked on the mental health components of -- with the pediatricians than what they have to or cannot do in talking to their patients.
CROWLEY: Senator John Barrasso of Wyoming, thanks for being in Washington this weekend.
BARRASSO: Thanks for having me.
CROWLEY: Appreciate it.
BARRASSO: Thanks, Candy.
CROWLEY: Another looming fiscal crisis promises to bring a lot of pain and, some are warning, make us less safe.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) LEON PANETTA, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Members of Congress need to understand that they were elected to protect the public, not to hurt the public.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: Senator Jack Reed and Congressman Mike Rogers on what to brace for if Congress can't break the budget gridlock, next.
ASHTON CARTER, DEPUTY SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: We'll protect to the extent we can capabilities that are critical to our new defense strategy, but the reality is we can't protect much of which is of value.
GEN. RAYMOND ODIERNO, U.S. ARMY CHIEF OF STAFF: It's a reduction in intelligence capability, training, reduction in our aviation training, so all of these will have an impact on providing much of the enabling support that we provide to special operations forces.
GEN. MARTIN DEMPSEY, CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: It will put the nation at greater risk of coercion, and it will break faith with men and women in uniform.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: The nation's top military leaders raising the alarm bell before automatic budget cuts go into effect March 1st.
Joining me now, Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island and Congressman Mike Rogers of Michigan, thank you both so much.
It's -- we had sort of two different versions here so far on the show, and that is Senator Schumer saying oh, I think we'll get a deal, and it will include a tax on the wealthy.
And we heard Senator Barrasso say it's not going to happen. These cuts are going into effect. It is hard for me to believe that things are as dire as these military men lay out, and Congress is going to let it happen.
REED: Well, these are serious challenges to the military. Secretary Carter, General Odierno, General Dempsey all made a very compelling case before the Budget -- the Op Services Committee and the Appropriations Committee.
I don't think it has to happen. Senator Reid, Harry Reid, proposed legislation that would defer the sequestration to the next year. It would be paid for in a balanced way by additional revenue as well as additional reduction --
CROWLEY: Tax hikes.
REED: -- spending -- indeed. And that, I think, is the way to proceed, avoiding the blunt across-the-board cuts and also giving us chance to get back into regular order, proposing a budget, doing an appropriations bill.
CROWLEY: And we should point out, that it's been the Democrats who have been in charge of the Senate, who haven't come up with a budget for the last four years, so that's why we haven't had a regular one.
REED: (Inaudible) budget. We had the Budget Control Act of 2011, which set the caps, which is actually statutory, not just a resolution between the two houses. Senator Murray is working on a budget right now and we hope we can get that done. But we need time. So the sequestration will prevent -- preempt us from getting a budget done and other factors.
CROWLEY: It's kind of always -- it's kind of always that you guys need more time and that -- can we put it off until next year. And I guess what's -- to me it's a little bit like the fiscal cliff only now it involves the military, and these men saying, oh, well, you know, we'll -- we won't be able to do this, and the force will be hollowed out, et cetera, et cetera.
CROWLEY: Answer me this: if these cuts not just go into effect but are allowed to stay in effect -- let's say nothing gets done even after that March 1st deadline, will the U.S. be less safe as a result of these across-the-board cuts?
ROGERS: A couple of things. First of all, the president lined this up in a way that put us in this problem by calling for across- the-boards cuts in the military and in intelligence business. That's dangerous. It means that they can't manage --
CROWLEY: Can I just say you all agreed to it?
ROGERS: Well, yes.
CROWLEY: (Inaudible), OK.
ROGERS: But this was the proposal by the president. So some notion that it has been shifted to the Republicans, I want to see a way out of this for the simple reason that when you have that across- the-board cut, it is damaging to our national security and our national defense, for the simple reason that they can't manage the reductions in spending.
I argue the best way to go through this sequester -- and I do believe we're going to go into this -- is give the agencies the ability to manage those reductions, so that they can move money around without across-the-board cuts, because it could mean things like the second carrier group doesn't show up in the Med. It means that some thousands of intelligence professionals --
CROWLEY: So take the overall number and then allow the various departments to say, OK, you're going to -- this program goes away but that saves this program, et cetera?
REED: But I think there's another aspect here, too, is that even if you are -- give flexibility, you still have significant reduction. It's not just defense. It's education, it's border security.
CROWLEY: Sure. REED: Et cetera, so there's a better try do this, and that's the way we propose by simply arithmetic. If it it's all cuts, then it's going to be very, very difficult. That's why I think you need additional revenue.
CROWLEY: Senator McConnell called it a political stunt, the Democrats' proposal, because it includes that millionaires' tax -- which, frankly, I don't know how many votes you all have had in the Senate on the millionaires' tax, but it never passes.
REED: It's something I think that most Americans would be extremely supportive of. It would essentially say people making over $1 million would be paying roughly the same rate as those middle class Americans who are working very hard. That's fair, and it also will allow us --
CROWLEY: But they also just got a tax hike as well though.
REED: For $1 million and above, it would preserve the charitable deductions.
ROGERS: The challenge here, though, is the president made the argument that everything will be fine if we get the wealthier to pay more in taxes. He got that. You can't get that and then come right back and say, well, the wealthier need to pay more in taxes.
So he's gone after seniors that are doing better. Now he's going after Americans who have -- who are doing better in the economy. He got that.
Now he's coming back and saying if I spend -- if you -- if I can tax more -- and then he proposed in his State of the Union address more spending -- and the problem here is, Candy, the greatest threat to our national security is the debt and the deficit long term.
That's why those of us who are very interested in national security, trying to get this right, trying to make sure we posture ourselves, put ourselves in a position to defend the country, are so worried about the debt and deficit debate.
We can get through this. We can do it in a way, I think, that is respectful to what America's priorities are, but you have to do it in a way that doesn't hurt us long term.
REED: I think it's important, though, to say that we've had about $2.4 trillion in cuts from the approved baseline; $1.7 trillion of those are spending cuts, $700 billion are revenue.
Unless we get back to a more balanced approach, we're going to -- we can't cut our way to national security. We can't cut our way to investing in education, research and development. We just have to get back to a balance, and I think the American people understand that.
CROWLEY: Let me ask you -- I want to just ask you a quick question about Chuck Hagel and the problems that he's had getting his nomination through, and that is a strictly political question.
The president knew going in that this would be a tough fight for him, that Chuck Hagel is not the most popular guy on capitol hill. Do you think that the president -- and yes, he liked Chuck Hagel and his work with him, et cetera, also did this because they would rather have a Republican do these kind of cuts to the Pentagon than a Democrat?
ROGERS: Boy, I don't think that was his -- he worked for something called a PIAB (ph), which was in the national security space at the White House, Chuck Hagel did, for some period of time. I think he built a relationship with the president.
He is a Vietnam veteran, a decorated Vietnam veteran at that, and I think that's why the president selected him.
The problem was, I think the Senate now -- and certainly Senator Reed can talk to this better than I can -- are having some difficulty, both sides of the aisle, seeing if he is able and ready to lead the Pentagon in what's some very difficult times ahead.
REED: I think Mike is exactly right about why he was chosen. He's got the experience; not only is a combat veteran, but as a business leader, as the second deputy head of V.A. in the Reagan administration. And he's got the confidence of the president.
So I don't think this was designed to provoke a fight. I think, in fact, what's happened is a very unusual, unprecedented review, asking for speeches, asked -- going back five years, asking for all sorts of material we've never requested of a confirmation before.
We're -- I'm confident we're going to get the confirmation concluded when we return at the end of the week.
CROWLEY: Yes .
I need a sort of a quick yes or no from you, as the question about drones and the use of them targeting Americans overseas. Al- Awlaki, known terrorist but an American citizen, as well as his son were killed. You have talked about oversight. You think there's plenty of oversight for this drone program.
Were you told in advance of those two killings?
ROGERS: For the planning purposes of airstrikes against terrorist and enemy combatants overseas? Yes.
CROWLEY: These specific men?
ROGERS: If they're -- if people make the target list, we know that in advance. There's appropriate oversight. And then how we target those individuals changes from day to day. But airstrikes are certainly a part that have.
CROWLEY: Congressman Rogers, Senator Reed, thanks for joining us this morning.
REED: Thank you very much.
CROWLEY: Pope Benedict makes one of his final appearances in St. Peter's Square. Our news headlines are up nest.
And later, senator turned lobbyist Chris Dodd says don't blame violent movies for gun crimes.
CROWLEY: Our political panel is next, but first a check of the headlines.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY (voice-over): At least 21 people were killed and 125 others wounded in a series of car bombs and roadside explosions today in Iraq. The blast mainly targeted Shiite neighborhoods in Baghdad. Recent attacks in Shiite areas have spread fear among Iraqis that sectarian violence may be overtaking the country again.
Police in Pakistan say a suicide bomber was behind an attack that killed 83 people at a busy marketplace. The Saturday explosion targeted Shiite Muslims just outside the southwestern city of Quetta. Authorities originally said explosives were packed into a parked water tanker and remotely detonated.
In one of his final public appearances, Pope Benedict XVI recited the Angelus from St. Peter's Square this morning before a larger-than- usual crowd. He thanked the faithful for their prayers and asked them to pray for the next pope.
Benedict officially steps down at the end of the month. Roman Catholic cardinals will meet by mid-March to select a new pontiff before Easter.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: And those are the headlines.
The House Speaker says if the president wants something done, he's got to get the Senate on board first. Will John Boehner's strategy backfire? Our political panel is next, with former Republican Congressman Steve LaTourette, former chief of staff for Vice President Biden Ron Klain, Jeff Zeleny from "The New York Times" and chief CNN congressional correspondent Dana Bash.
CROWLEY: Steven LaTourette, Ron Klain and Jeff Zeleny and Dana Bash join me now.
I want to talk to you about something. Chris Dodd, former senator from Connecticut, he's now a head of the Motion Picture Association, he was asked whether he thought motion pictures, or, you know, the entertainment media in general, adds to gun violence. Here's what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS DODD, CHAIRMAN, MPA: Well, it's sort of predictable in a way, and the -- if you go back over the years, I mean, there were people who suggested that comic books were the reason for people doing things, before any of this existed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: Didn't exactly say no, it has nothing to do with it, but he said what we ought to do is be looking at mental health.
But I want to play something his fellow Connecticut senator said, also a former senator, Joe Lieberman, about the entertainment industry and violence.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN (I), CONN.: I think the entertainment culture has to accept some responsibility. You know, in almost every one of these cases of mass shootings, it's the same pattern. A young man, troubled, reclusive, almost always involved in some kind of violent entertainment media, gets guns and then kills a lot of people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: And, yet, all we're hearing on Capitol Hill is about an assault weapons ban, universal background checks, nothing about mental health, other than well, we don't want -- you know, we want our records to be better about people who shouldn't have guns, but not about caring for those who are mentally ill or finding care, and nothing about the media.
Why is that?
STEVE LATOURETTE (R), FORMER OHIO CONGRESSMAN: Well, first of all, asking Senator Dodd about gun violence and movies is like asking the CEO of McDonald's if a Big Mac is good for you. Let me say that. But I think he -- I think he is right, that it is mental illness. There was a great letter that went viral by a woman -- she titled it, "I'm Adam Lanza's Mother," that talked about her difficulty in getting her son, I believe it was, treatment.
And where Senator Lieberman is right is, I would add one other thing, five of the last six horrific shootings have been by young, white men, late teens, early 20s, who have untreated mental illness. And until you get to that problem, you're really not going to get to the problem.
(CROSSTALK) CROWLEY: But we don't -- you know, the president said, I think in his first statement when he did the Joe Biden panel, said I want mental health treatment to be as accessible as guns are. And no one's said a word about it.
RON KLAIN, FORMER BIDEN CHIEF OF STAFF: Well, Candy, I think that's something that the folks at the White House have looked at, Congress has looked at. But look, Congress has to do what Congress can do. We have a First Amendment. You can't really do much about the media culture, no matter how we feel about it.
What it can do is do what the president challenged it in the State of the Union to do, which is to give the victims of these horrible crimes an up-or-down vote on universal background checks, an up-or-down vote on banning military-style weapons, an up-or-down vote on modernizing our system of making sure guns stay out of hands of people who shouldn't have them.
And that's Congress' job. That's the business that needs to get done here in Washington now.
CROWLEY: And is it going to get done? Sounded to me -- Schumer sounded like -- they sound fairly close. And it will be separate packages. They will cut off assault weapons from the package they actually think will pass.
JEFF ZELENY, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": I think that's probably right. But the up-or-down vote, I mean, it was interesting; it was certainly the most rousing part of his State of the Union speech, but a lot of these Senate Democrats who are sitting out in the audience don't want to vote yes on this. So they will vote no.
But that is probably good for their politics back home in Arkansas and Louisiana and other places.
But it is sort of striking that we're just talking about that. The White House does not seem to me to be pushing the whole package. We haven't heard from the vice president in a while on all this. We'll see if that changes.
DANA BASH, SR. U.S. CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I mean, I think part of the reason for that -- I mean, Ron, correct me if I'm wrong -- is that the White House gets the delicate politics of that, just like immigration, that, you know, the president needs to use the bully pulpit, but at a certain point, if they genuinely are making bipartisan progress -- which I'm told that they really are -- Senator Schumer, Senator Coburn, who has an A rating from the NRA -- don't touch it.
Because the minute the president touches it or says something, he could, you know, ruin the whole thing. It could blow the whole thing up.
CROWLEY: Or leaks a plan or something --
BASH: Or that. CROWLEY: Let me ask you, the president, you know, we've heard aggressive, ambitious, however you want to describe his agenda for the second term, he clearly is back to his transformative presidential mode, that he wants to be remembered as actually changing the way business is done, changing the way budgets are done, et cetera.
Does this put him at odds with Senator Harry Reid, for instance, who needs to keep a majority, or would like to keep a majority in the Senate? And, as Dana mentions, he's got some senators in Reagan -- I'm sorry, Reagan, whoa -- in Mitt Romney-won states that could lose on votes on immigration, on gun control. Are they at odds?
LATOURETTE: I don't know if they're -- he's at odds with Senator Reid, but Senator Reid's first statement on the assault weapon ban is he couldn't bring it up in the Senate because he has five or six red state Democrats that are up for re-election in 2014. And it's a very delicate issue.
The president has been bold in both his inaugural address and the State of the Union address. And I think if he focused on what was doable rather than sort of this wish list, he could get a lot done.
LATOURETTE: But what we find here in Washington, both parties, is that they want to overplay their hands and go for what I want rather than what I can do.
CROWLEY: Well, exactly. And isn't there some thought that when you look at things like minimum wage, when you look at some of the other things on the president's agenda, those look more like political talking points for 2013 into 2014 than they do actual things that could happen.
KLAIN: I don't think so, Candy. I think what the president has set forward is bold, but achievable. And I think times have changed.
CROWLEY: Minimum wage...
KLAIN: I think setting the minimum wage at $9, which really just buys people back the purchasing power they had had ten years ago is a pretty reasonable and achievable goal and doing something about guns, I think there is bipartisan support for that.
I think the real issue here is whether or not we'll let the Boehner rule, what used to be call the Hastert rule that somebody can come to the floor of the House unless the majority of Republicans support it... (CROSSTALK)
KLAIN: ...majority rule. Those things have to come up. We have to have majority rule, not the Boehner rule.
CROWLEY: But there isn't a Boehner rule. He doesn't do that.
KLAIN: We'll see on guns. We'll see on immigration.
BASH: Now it might be different because he got burned for the past two years. He might be...
BASH: But, look, to your point about Red State Democrats, somebody who covers Capitol Hill, as soon as the president initiates something, I don't go to Republicans, I go to the conservative Democrats to figure out if something is doable. That's the dynamic, no question about it. Got to go there first before you even think about Republicans.
CROWLEY: Hang on for me, we'll be right back. We'll have a sort of final look at what is doable and what isn't.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: We should take on once and for all, the issue of illegal immigration. We should be working on comprehensive immigration reform right now.
The time has come to pass comprehensive reform.
The American people deserve a tax code that helps small businesses.
We need to change our tax code.
Simplify the tax code.
Focus on the hardest problems in clean energy.
I will not walk away from the promise of clean energy.
As long as countries like China keep going all in on clean energy, so must we.
Our first priority is making America a magnet for new jobs and manufacturing.
This blue print begins with American manufacturing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: All of which is to say that what gets said in the State of the Union doesn't necessarily get done, at least not right away.
So let me ask you, immigration, reforming the tax code, clean energy, some sort of carbon tax manufacturing, you know, cleaning up the voting system, raising the minimum wage. What's really going to happen?
LATOURETTE: I do agree with senator Schumer from before that immigration reform in some form is doable. I think some movement on universal background checks is doable. Who doesn't like manufacturing? I mean, it's like world peace. We can throw that in there, too.
But you know, Washington is really like Groundhog's Day. And I think the only thing I noticed from those clips is that Boehner and Biden keep switching ties from year to year.
KLAIN: Purple ties are in now apparently.
CROWLEY: Ron, what -- take the other side and be honest with me. What's out there as a political weapon and not really doable realistically? KLAIN: Well, I think the political weapon will be if this stuff doesn't get done. That is, you know, the clips show that a lot of these items have been on the agenda for two, three, four years. The president is being very aggressive about saying, OK, it's time to get this done: immigration, close tax loopholes, raise the minimum wage, universal pre-K.
The political weapon will be a self-inflicted wound by Republicans if they don't act on these things. The public wants action. That was the message of 2012. The president has heard that loud and clear. He's making the press for action. Now we'll see what the Republicans in congress do.
CROWLEY: Do you agree?
ZELENY: It's not just the Republicans in congress, though, I think it's these Senate Democrats, as Dana was talking about earlier, specifically on energy and climate. There are a lot of those Senators, Mary Landrieu, Mark Pryor, some others who are up in 2014 who don't want to take those votes.
So I think in terms of what's realistic, if anything is going to happen on energy and climate, you almost have to wonder if it's going to be an executive action. I think the White House is going to be much more aggressive on that in the second term.
CROWLEY: Well, the EPA, there's some power there that he could...
ZELENY: And as for immigration, I mean, there is this leaked proposal over the weekend, but the White House is trying to stay out of it, at least be the best I can tell in trying to make this work. And of course, it makes sense for Senator Rubio to be out there sort of against the White House because he needs that for his base.
But I still think something will likely happen on immigration. CROWLEY: So immigration, gun control...
BASH: I think immigration is by far the most likely. What surprised me this week is I was at a breakfast with John Boehner the day of the State of the Union and he was very pessimistic about tax reform, which of course as we were in all those crisis modes and we are about to get in another one, everybody is, oh, we'll just get through this then we'll reform the tax code later. Very pessimistic saying that people in his caucus just think the will isn't necessarily there because...
CROWLEY: Because it's another way they think to raise taxes, right?
BASH: Exactly. And they've been talking about the fact that they're done with revenue, meaning raising taxes to get to any kind of deal. They're just going to talk about spending.
So, that actually was a little bit surprising and kind of depressing.
KLAIN: But I think, Candy, when congress faces the hard choices, sequester tees up between firing teachers, kicking kids out of Head Start, having long lines at the border, all these horrible as you saw earlier in the show what the general said, between all those things and closing some loopholes, I think that loophole closing thing will start to look more attractive.
BASH: I have got to say since I don't have any time left, you totally disagree with that.
LATOURETTE: I do. I mean, what people completely forget is sequestration was Jack Lew's idea to get the budget deal that we had a year ago. And so now you can walk away from it, blame Republicans, it doesn't make any difference. This was the White House's payment.
CROWLEY: ...LaTourette, Ron Klain, Jeff Zeleny, Dana Bash, thank you, guys, so much.
And thanks for watching State of the Union. I'm Candy Crowley in Washington. Head to CNN.com/SOTU for analysis and extras. If you missed any part of today's show find us on iTunes. Search State of the Union. Fareed Zakaria GPS is next for our viewers here in the United States.