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State of the Union
Interview With Rep. Dusty Johnson (R-SD); Interview With Gov. Chris Sununu (R-NH); Interview With Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA). Aired 9-10a ET
Aired May 28, 2023 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST (voice-over): Agreement in principle. President Biden and Speaker McCarthy reach a deal to raise the debt limit.
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): We still have a lot of work to do.
TAPPER: But with lawmakers on both sides skeptical, do they have the votes to actually pass it? I will speak exclusively with House progressive leader Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal and GOP Congressman Dusty Johnson next.
And room to grow? More Republican presidential hopefuls jump in.
GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm running to lead our great American comeback.
SEN. TIM SCOTT (R-SC), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm the candidate the far left fears the most.
TAPPER: But with the former president dominating the polls, can they cut into his lead? Republican Governor Chris Sununu joins me exclusively.
Plus: fallen heroes. This Memorial Day, veterans reflect on their comrades who did not come home.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think about them probably every day, almost. Yes, really. You don't ever forget it.
TAPPER: A look at some of the incredible Americans we lost at war, coming up.
TAPPER: Hi. I'm Jake Tapper in Washington, where the state of our union is waiting to exhale.
President Biden and Speaker McCarthy last night announced that they have struck an agreement in principle to lift the nation's borrowing cap and avert a looming fiscal catastrophe, with the U.S. set to run out of money to pay its bills as early as Monday, June 5. But a big question remains: Can they now get this deal passed in
time? President Biden acknowledged last night that the agreement is -- quote -- "a compromise, which means not everyone gets what they want" -- unquote.
And, already, we know about deep concerns from progressives and from conservatives. McCarthy on a call with Republicans last night reportedly said the Democrats did not get a single thing they wanted in the deal. And McCarthy emphasized what the GOP got in exchange for raising the debt limit, capping nondefense domestic spending, canceling billions in IRS funding, and temporarily imposing work requirements on childless, able-bodied adults younger than 55 who receive food stamps.
President Biden says the agreement protects Democratic priorities and legislative accomplishments. One could also note that the deal lifts the nation's debt limit for two years, avoiding a messy fight just ahead of the 2024 election.
And, in general, the cuts are not as deep as many House Republicans wanted and many House Democrats feared.
Joining us now, a Republican leader who helped negotiate this deal, Congressman Dusty Johnson of South Dakota.
Congressman, thanks so much for joining us.
So, what can you tell us about the specifics of what's in this agreement and why do you think it's a good deal for House Republicans to vote for?
REP. DUSTY JOHNSON (R-SD): Yes, I think you did a good job of providing the outlines as far as the spending.
I mean, this is going to cut non-defense and non-VA spending back to 2022 levels. That is a big get for Republicans. That's what we had in Limit, Save, Grow, and it's going to save $1.5 trillion over the course of the next 10 years.
It also, for six years, establishes caps at 1 percent, so we can slow the growth of spending. But, Jake, two things I want to hit that your graphic did not have. First off, late last night, a new provision was agreed to by the White House and the speaker whereby we're going to unlock American energy.
We are going to provide shot clocks for NEPA review, environmental review, of 12 months and 24 months. That is going to help -- whether you like renewable energy or traditional energy, this is going to help unlock that energy.
TAPPER: Speed up the process by which people...
JOHNSON: Speed up the process.
TAPPER: OK. JOHNSON: Germany and France, the same kind of project they would get done in two years, it takes us seven years, Jake. So we do need reform here.
And, obviously, Democrats like Buttigieg and Manchin have talked about doing this. Well, now we're going to get it done. And then, finally, just a big thing. It's administrative pay-go. When you have the administration step forward and propose some vast new regulation that's going to cost hundreds of billions of dollars, now they have to go find the money within the existing bureaucracy.
It is a huge strike against a growing regulatory state.
TAPPER: Yes, that's one of the things that members of Congress complain about the most, not just with Democratic administrations, but Republicans, passing a law and not allocating money to make sure the law goes through.
We're hearing a lot of grumbling from conservatives in your caucus. Congressman Ken Buck called this deal a debt ceiling surrender. Congressman Ralph Norman said it was insanity. Congressman Bob Good tweeted that no one claiming to be a conservative could justify a yes- vote.
Their basic criticism is that McCarthy gave up too much and could have gotten more. What -- how do you -- who do you say to that?
JOHNSON: Well, I'm the head of a group of 75 pragmatic conservatives called the Main Street Caucus.
And so when we say conservatives are against it, I want to make it clear I don't know a single one of the Main Street Caucus conservatives.
TAPPER: House Freedom Caucus conservatives, I should say.
JOHNSON: Well, and even some of them. I -- listen, there will be Freedom Caucus people who vote for this package.
So, when you're saying that conservatives have concerns, it is really the most colorful conservatives. Some of those guys you mentioned didn't vote for the thing when it was kind of a Republican wish list, Limit, Save, Grow. Those votes were never really in play. We get that.
But, overwhelmingly, Republicans in this conference are going to support the deal. How could they not? It is a fantastic deal.
TAPPER: How many votes do you think you're going to get? How many votes can you afford to lose?
JOHNSON: We're starting the whipping process now.
TAPPER: OK. JOHNSON: I have talked to maybe between two and three dozen
Republican members. I have not had a single one of them tell me: "I can't support that."
TAPPER: Well, I just gave you the names of three you can call maybe.
JOHNSON: Well, yes.
TAPPER: Buck, Norman and Good, who have some thoughts.
JOHNSON: I'm not sure having Dusty Johnson call Bob Good is the perfect way to get his vote.
But, I mean, let's be honest. Bob Good will not vote for this thing. And it doesn't matter if Mother Teresa came back from the dead and called him. He's not voting for it. He was never going to.
We're going -- this is going to pass.
TAPPER: So, 70 members of the Main Street Caucus that you mentioned, are they all going to vote for it, you think?
JOHNSON: I would be surprised. I mean, I haven't talked to every single one of them, but everybody I'm talking to, Jake, understands that, when you're reducing spending, that when you're peeling back the regulatory state, when you are unlocking American energy and when you're getting people back to work, this is a big deal.
TAPPER: What concessions do McCarthy make to Biden and Democrats to get it across the finish line?
JOHNSON: That is kind of the amazing part to me. There were no wins for Democrats.
If you look at the state of policy today in this country and you say, OK, we're going into a deal and one side is going to get half and the other side is going to get half, Republicans will pull their half this way, Democrats will pull their half that way, there is nothing after the passage of this bill that will be more liberal or more progressive than it is today.
It's a remarkable conservative accomplishment.
TAPPER: Do you -- are you going to need Democratic votes to get it passed in the House?
JOHNSON: There will be some Democrats who will vote for this.
TAPPER: But will you need them, I guess is my point.
JOHNSON: Well, we only have 222 Republicans.
JOHNSON: I think it is certainly plausible that we could get 218, although I think it's going to look a lot better for this country if we can put a big number up on the board, Democrats like Joe Biden and some in the House coming together with Republicans to pass this. That's going to be better for the country.
TAPPER: So, Congresswoman Jayapal, the head of the House Progressive Caucus, a Democrat...
JOHNSON: She will be a no-vote too.
TAPPER: Well, I don't know what she's going to vote, but one question I'm sure is on her mind, which is, why was it so important for House Republicans to have this work requirement for able-bodied food stamp recipients who don't have dependents, but not important to get corporations to at least pay some taxes if they made a profit?
JOHNSON: Well, we raised taxes -- not me, but Joe Biden and Democrats raised taxes on corporations by $700 billion last year.
There was not, frankly, an appetite among Republicans to allow Democrats to do that again. What there is an appetite for is making sure that we're helping people find that pathway out of poverty. I grew up in a family of modest means. I saw my parents busting their butts every single day.
And I know it was those efforts that helped me escape poverty. You cannot escape poverty without work. You just can't. It's got to be a part of the solution. These requirements are not mean. They're not onerous. It's 20 hours a week work training, education, or volunteering at a local food bank for people who are able-bodied, not pregnant, don't have kids at home, live in an area where there are jobs.
We know they work. These requirements have been in place since 1996, when Bill Clinton signed them into law.
TAPPER: All right, Congresswoman -- I mean, Congressman Dusty Johnson, thank you so much.
I now turn to Congresswoman and Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal, who has had concerns about some of the measures that ended up in this bill.
Congresswoman, thanks so much. Appreciate it.
Congresswoman, so the specific legislative language still being worked on. President Biden says this agreement is a compromise, which means not everyone gets what they want. You just heard Congressman Johnson say Democrats didn't get anything in the deal.
Are you going to support the -- he also said that he thinks you're going to vote against it. How are you going to vote?
REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL (D-WA): Well, I don't know yet, Jake, because I haven't seen the text. You know I'm not a big fan of in principle or frameworks. That's always a problem if you can't see the exact legislative text. And we're all trying to wade through spin right now. I think that's
certainly what you heard from my good colleague on the other side of the aisle, is a lot of spin. But I think it's going to come down to what the legislative text is.
I think, at the end of the day, though, the American people have to understand that we are at the brink of default. We don't have a deal yet. We're not sure how many Republican votes can be produced. And it is all because Republicans said that they wanted to cut the deficit. And let's be clear that what they got from this was not that. They may have gotten other things.
I'm not happy with some of the things I'm hearing about, but they are not cutting the deficit and they are not cutting spending, because, if you think about the fact that they have agreed to increase Pentagon spending, number one, they have agreed to increase VA spending, number two, and while there are some fiscal calculations that are being made around what nondefense discretionary spending is -- and, by the way, for people that are listening to that -- that's a lot of mumbo jumbo.
That's basic spending on things like health care, education, childcare. All the things you care about is what Republicans want to cut. And they even took back $10 billion from the IRS that was supposed to go to taking on wealthy tax cheats in order to make regular Americans pay for wealthy people to be able to continue to get tax breaks.
So I think that you got to ask yourself, what was all the drama for? Because they didn't get what they said they wanted. We knew that was never actually what was on the table.
TAPPER: So, the deal, as you know, expands food stamp work requirements for able-bodied adults under 55 who do not have dependents. This goes throughout 2030. This excludes veterans and those experiencing homelessness.
You have said that your caucus would not support a bill with work requirements that -- quote -- "hurt poor people." Does this deal do that? Is this a deal-breaker for you?
JAYAPAL: I don't know because I haven't seen the language.
And what -- first of all, let me say, terrible policy, absolutely terrible policy, does not reduce spend, actually, by some estimates, creates a burden on administrative spending that is actually worse for the overall cost of a program like that.
Number two, it is about people who are hungry, people who just need a little bit of temporary assistance. And we are one of the only countries in the world, if not the only country in the world, that is an industrialized country that puts any requirements on people who just want food, so very bad policy, does not save money, and, by the way, does not work. We have seen reams of data that show that, when you put these work
requirements in, they're really just administrative red tape that prevent the people who need help from getting help.
What I'm not sure on and what I'm looking at right now -- and I need to see the legislative text -- is what it means in terms of the exemptions that were put in for veterans, for folks who are experiencing homelessness, for people who are coming out of foster care. Those are three exemptions that were included.
And so what do the numbers look like at the end of the day, I'm not sure. However, it is bad policy. I told the president that directly when he called me last week on Wednesday that this is saying to poor people and people who are in need that we don't trust them.
And the average amount of assistance for snap, for example, is $6 a day, Jake. I mean, we're talking about $6 a day. And I think it is really unfortunate that the president opened the door to this. And while, at the end of the day, perhaps this will -- because of the exemptions, perhaps it will be OK, I can't commit to that. I really don't know.
And our caucus -- and it's not just the progressives -- across the ideological spectrum, including Problem Solvers, by the way, people feel that this is bad policy.
JAYAPAL: So, it's very unfortunate that it's even made its way into the discussion, frankly.
TAPPER: So -- but what I'm hearing from you, though, is that if the exemptions are as I described, which for homeless, for veterans, it's possible that you're willing to hold your nose and vote for it to avoid a default.
And, again, it all depends on what you see in the text. I -- nobody should take anything as cement -- as cemented in...
JAYAPAL: Yes. I just -- I just...
TAPPER: Go ahead.
JAYAPAL: That's right. That's right.
No, I just don't know because the numbers of people that are affected are -- is really what this is -- we have to look at that. And if there is -- anyway, I don't want to get into suppositions, because I just need to see the text. And that's the other thing.
How is it possible that we are at a place where the debt ceiling -- and, by the way, Jake, two countries in the world have a debt ceiling, the United States and I think it's Denmark. And they do not -- they tie it to a percentage of GDP, debt to a percentage of GDP.
And our net interest payments have actually -- are below what the historical 50-year average is.
JAYAPAL: So, it's ridiculous that we're even in this situation.
TAPPER: But why didn't Democrats -- why didn't -- why didn't -- sure, but, like, you guys controlled the House, the Senate and the White House until January. Why didn't you just take care of this in November or December?
JAYAPAL: Well, as you know, that's what I pushed for. That's what the Progressive Caucus put in our lame-duck agenda that was published.
TAPPER: I know, but why didn't they?
JAYAPAL: Well, I think it's because we didn't have 50 votes in the Senate.
Unfortunately, we are also governed by a couple of conservative Democrats and/or independents in the Senate who refuse to take the actions that we need to take. And that's -- I think that's why we ended up in the situation we're in.
That's why we need a bigger majority in the Senate of people who are actually going to continue to do what the country needs and what our constitutional obligation is, because, listen, the debt ceiling -- and we have explained this ad nauseam, but I just think it's important to say it again.
We go through an appropriations process. You know this very well, Jake. We go through an appropriations process. We argue that is where the majority in the House and the Senate get to figure out...
TAPPER: Legislate, right.
JAYAPAL: ... who is going to negotiate what, right?
JAYAPAL: And -- legislate, exactly.
And at the end of that process, we come up with something. We pass it through a budget.
JAYAPAL: We pass appropriations bills. And the debt ceiling is essentially about implementing what Congress has already passed.
TAPPER: Yes. No, it's paying for bills, paying for money already spent.
JAYAPAL: And to somehow use that...
TAPPER: Yes, 100 percent.
JAYAPAL: That's right.
And I think, at the end of the day, this is going to make it easier, hopefully, to take the debt ceiling off the table permanently. Brendan Boyle, our ranking member on Budget, has a great bill -- I'm a co- sponsor of that bill -- to give the authority to the Treasury secretary to be able to just raise the debt ceiling in accordance with whatever Congress has passed.
JAYAPAL: That's really all we're saying, is, Congress passes this stuff. It should just be raised automatically.
TAPPER: Quick question.
JAYAPAL: We should not allow people to continue to take us hostage.
TAPPER: Quick question before you go, Congresswoman.
Speaker McCarthy, he briefed House Republicans last night. House Democrats aren't scheduled to be briefed until 5:00 p.m. later today. Have you spoken with Democratic Leader Jeffries or President Biden since the deal was announced last night?
JAYAPAL: I have not spoken with either of them, though I have been texting with Leader Jeffries.
However, I did get a lengthy briefing from a top White House official. Lael Brainard called me immediately when the deal was released last night to tell me. It sounds like perhaps not everybody was on the same page in terms of when the deal was going to be announced. And I think that there was supposed to be a final review.
So I think it got announced to Republicans quicker than was expected. But I did get a briefing. I still have questions, though. And, at the end of the day, I don't like frameworks. I think they are really problematic in terms of being able to make a decision. It's fine to say we have reached an agreement in principle, but all of the text matters.
And there are so many pieces of this that we need to look at in terms of what the spending is exactly like, because my understanding is, we're essentially held harmless at '23 levels. It will -- it is still not ideal, but not that different than what a C.R. would be.
JAYAPAL: I think, for me, the big questions are around, what is the -- what are the changes to NEPA? I understand they're pretty minor, but I'd like to see those.
JAYAPAL: And, then, what does this work requirements piece look like? TAPPER: So, I know you hate it when I do this, but I'm going to give
you a yes-or-no question right now.
And the yes-or-no question is, all the Democrats...
JAYAPAL: I may or may not answer you.
TAPPER: Well, that's fair.
But Democrats watching right now at the White House, your friend Hakeem Jeffries, others, do they still have to worry about the Progressive Caucus and whether or not your caucus will support?
TAPPER: Yes, they do.
OK, Congresswoman Jayapal, thank you so much.
JAYAPAL: Yes, they have to worry. Yes.
TAPPER: Yes, they have to worry.
OK, well, you heard the lady.
Thank you so much, Congresswoman. Good to see you, as always.
JAYAPAL: Thank you, Jake.
TAPPER: Who got the upper hand on the debt deal? We're going to have more analysis of the agreement and whether it can pass coming up.
And next up: some presidential politics. Is the GOP field about to get even bigger?
Governor Chris Sununu from the great state of New Hampshire joins me to talk about his big decision and the lane he sees for himself next.
TAPPER: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION.
A growing number of Republicans are attempting to knock Donald Trump off his throne as the party's leader. And plenty more are still considering jumping into the race, including my next guest, who sees a different path forward for the party, not as focused on culture wars or restrictive abortion bans, focused on other matters.
Joining us now to discuss, New Hampshire Governor, potential, potential presidential candidate Chris Sununu.
Governor Sununu, good to see.
I want to get to 2024 in a moment, but, first, I want to get your reaction to this debt deal. Republicans pushed to add new work requirements for some low-income Americans under the age of 55, people on food stamps. Last year, 69,000 New Hampshirites received food stamps. Are you concerned at all by what impact this might have, especially at a time when food prices are already so high because of inflation?
GOV. CHRIS SUNUNU (R-NH): Well, let's start with the fact that they got a deal done. It's a miracle. I mean, release the doves, right? Washington actually is moving forward.
Both sides seem pretty frustrated, which means it's probably a pretty good deal, actually. The fact that we have to have the threat of a -- of defaulting on our debt, which is one of the worst things that could happen in America economically, by the way, the fact that you have to get there to do some basic things, I thought you asked the exact right question.
Why didn't the Democrats make different changes when they had the chance to do it? Or why didn't Republicans make certain changes back in '17 and '18 when they -- when they had the chance? It's like Washington doesn't know how to react until they have to react.
So, in terms of what's being negotiated, the food stamps and all of that, those are kind of small pieces. They're important, to be sure, but they're not deal-breakers, so to say. And you got to give a little to get a lot. So I give both Kevin McCarthy and the Democrat side credit for actually getting something done and not waiting until 11:59:59, so to say.
TAPPER: All right.
Let's talk about 2024. After a glitchy Twitter launch, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is now officially running for the GOP presidential nomination. You have not been shy about criticizing him in the past. You have called him a big government Republican. You hit him over his focus on culture war issues.
You recently met with Governor DeSantis in New Hampshire. What do you think of his launch? Do you think he has what it takes to beat Trump and then Biden?
SUNUNU: Look -- yes, look, I think Governor DeSantis is a very good governor. His campaign is just getting under way. There's a lot to play. He's on the ground here, which I give him credit, coming to -- kind of doing the retail politics in New Hampshire.
And I think he will do it also in Iowa. I think he's coming back in a couple of weeks. So, he's doing -- so far, he's doing what he needs to do to get his campaign under way.
So, you kind of -- we will see where it all goes. Other candidates will get into the race. And what we have all learned is, you can't prevent candidates from getting in. Everyone says, oh, there's going to be too many folks getting in. And there could be 12 people that get in.
The key, the discipline is getting out. The discipline is, come November, late December, if you're sitting in low single digits, get your butt out of the race. Let's narrow this thing down to two or three candidates and really figure out where the party is going to go.
I think, when you do that, then the options will really present themselves. But, of course, former President Trump is doing better than anybody thought. He's playing this victim card. The media, the DA in New York, all these things have kind of worked in his favor very much. He's playing the -- I mean, just the fact that we're talking about Donald Trump as a victim, I mean, that's unique in itself.
But that isn't lasting, necessarily. That doesn't mean that the support he has today turns into a vote nine months from now.
TAPPER: If you think that culture war issues are too much of a focus for candidates like DeSantis or Trump, what do you think they should be focusing on? What would you, theoretically, if you decide to run, focus on?
So, look, I'm just about good government, right? I'm about efficiency in government and low spending, low taxation, individual freedoms and responsibilities. And I'm not saying we shouldn't talk about the culture war stuff, don't get me wrong. I just don't believe government is going to solve a culture war, right?
You got to be sure you lead on it. You can talk about it. But if your top priority is culture wars, and not managing spending, creating more opportunities at a localized level, draining the swamp, which I was told that was going to happen, never happened a bit -- former President Trump blew that one.
Securing the border, former President Trump blew that one. Fiscal discipline, former President Trump blew that one too. So I just think there's a lot of things within the mantle of the Republican Party that we have kind of lost focus on, right? We have all these other issues that kind of get in our way. They clog up I think what just good, practical, efficient government should be.
And, ultimately, that's what America wants, with the right attitude, the right approach, and someone that can just cross the aisle when they need to make sure we're getting stuff done.
TAPPER: Governor DeSantis said that, on day one as president, he would consider pardoning people convicted of crimes related to January 6, potentially even former President Trump.
Former Republican Congresswoman Liz Cheney tweeted -- quote -- "Any candidate who says they will pardon January 6 defendants is not qualified to be president" -- unquote.
Do you agree that that's disqualifying?
SUNUNU: No. No, it's not disqualifying, nothing I would do, of course, but not disqualifying.
Look, I think, in this day and age, there's nothing disqualifying for any candidate, unfortunately. We have seen kind of hyperbole on both sides. We have seen extremes on both sides. So when we say, oh, well, that will -- that one issue will drive that candidate out of the race, back in 1996, maybe something like that was the case.
But it's bizarre how single issues don't drive and don't cancel out any candidate anymore. But, ultimately, the candidates still have to live on their merits. And here's the key for Republicans, right? We're constantly talking about January 6, election denial, all these things in the past.
We have to be a party, we have to be a nation that is talking about the future. What are you going to bring us tomorrow, not what are we going to kind of relitigate and get retribution for in the past? And I think, if you have candidates that do, that focus on the future in terms of how to manage, how to bring both sides together, how to get all these things done that folks should talk -- I mean, no one even wants to talk about Social Security, Jake, 23 percent cuts.
If you are a senior citizen, you are getting a 23 percent cut in benefits in eight years. That is reality. That is in the law. Someone has to stand up and fix that, right? And so I think there's a huge opportunity for someone to step forward and say, well, Social Security is the third rail of politics.
It is not. The third rail of politics. It is good government. And someone can bring viable opportunities and solutions to something like that, which in itself is as big of the debt ceiling crisis, not today, but eight years from now, it's really going to hit America hard.
TAPPER: So, speaking of focusing on tomorrow, you have said that there's a 61 percent chance you will ultimately decide to run for president.
TAPPER: What factors would lead you to decide to not get into the race? What would keep you back?
SUNUNU: So, I got to tell you, the one thing I'm looking at is, where can I be most effective, in -- both in terms of making sure I can be a good governor?
I still have a 24/7 job. I'm one of the few people that I still very much focus on my state, and the state's in great shape, so that's good. Making sure that, when it comes to where I want to see the party go, these things that maybe I talk a little differently, I talk with a different approach.
I want more candidates to be empowered. Can I do that more effectively as a candidate? Can I do that more effectively as someone who's kind of traveling the country, maybe speaking a little more freely, kind of being that -- I don't like using the word referee, but kind of like a referee of the first-in-the-nation primary, making sure we're pulling the levers to narrow things down?
I just want what's best for the party. It doesn't have to be the Chris Sununu show all the time. It's just what's best. So, that's kind of what I'm narrowing down now. The money's been lined up. The support has been lined up. There's a pathway to win. All that -- all those boxes are checked. The family's on board, which is always a big one.
I just got to make sure it's right for the party and right for me.
TAPPER: All right, Governor Chris Sununu, we're going to hear a decision in June, is that -- do I have that right?
SUNUNU: Oh, I mean, I think very soon. I don't do coy very well, so when I start doing something, I'm 120 percent in.
So, I think, pretty soon, we will make a decision, probably in the next week or two, and we will either be go or no-go.
TAPPER: All right, Governor Chris Sununu, Republican of New Hampshire, good to see you, sir. Thank you so much.
SUNUNU: Thank you.
TAPPER: Coming up: Saturday night deal. Both sides claiming victory over the debt ceiling agreement, but will their rank-and-file members revolt?
My panel's next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCARTHY: We have got a lot more excited than depressed on this. And I think, once people read the bill, they will be pretty excited.
But, most important, it's America wins on this one.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: "Most important, it's America who wins this one."
That is Speaker Kevin McCarthy pushing back on the notion that Republicans aren't happy with him after reaching a deal with President Biden.
My panel joins me now.
So, Former Congresswoman Mia Love, what do you think? What do you think of the deal? Do you think Republicans got the upper here or President Biden did? What do you think?
MIA LOVE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think the American people got the upper hand, because there it was actually done.
TAPPER: So, you sound like Speaker McCarthy there.
LOVE: No. No, no, no.
What -- the reason -- we're here, and it's a good thing that we're actually getting this done.
LOVE: And the reason why we are here is because both parties have acknowledged that we cannot default on our debt. We cannot. We have to keep the commitment that we made to our creditors, our veterans, our seniors.
That's the reason why we're here, because both parties have acknowledged that we cannot allow this to happen. Now, we do have a spending problem, and both parties need to acknowledge that in order for us to actually work on them.
I have seen the budget over and over and over again when I was in Washington. I couldn't believe how many programs, duplicate programs there were, programs that weren't working, programs that were just -- it didn't make any sense to me why we weren't tackling some of those and we were spending as much.
Social Security is going to be insolvent.
TAPPER: Going to be insolvent in seven or eight years, yes.
LOVE: Yes, according to the CBO. We have to do something about that.
TAPPER: What do you think of the deal?
BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No, First of all, we had Congressman Dustin Johnson earlier, Dusty Johnson, and I thought that his remark that there was nothing in there, no Democrats wins at all, I just thought that was laughable.
I mean, the fact is we elected President Biden to go into rooms like this, be an adult in a room full of kindergartners and be able to bring people together. And that's what he did. He went in and got a deal done. Democrats get a two-year reprieve.
And for all the talk about work requirements, I mean, there was not a lot of juice for that squeeze from Republicans. The fact is, we have excluded veterans, we have excluded the homeless from these work requirements. We have only raised the age limit from 49 to 54 for those individuals without children.
TAPPER: Right. It's able-bodied individuals without children.
SELLERS: Without children. I mean, that's not a whole lot of juice for the squeeze from the Republican Party.
And so I think that this is a win. And the spending doesn't change, and nondefense spending doesn't change. And so, when you look at all of these things, for American people, they're going to be like, eh, I don't understand half of the things that are going on in this debate. However, I do know, if we default, the stock market is going to go down.
SELLERS: Things are going to get more difficult from our pocketbook. I'm going to see my investments plummet. And Joe Biden went in there and got it done, and I'm not going to see that happen.
TAPPER: So, Scott, there are a lot of conservatives who are upset about it.
Congressman Ken Buck called it a debt ceiling surrender. Congressman Ralph Norman said it was insanity. Congressman Bob Good tweeted: "No one claiming to be a conservative could justify a yes-vote."
What do you think?
SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Welcome to divided government.
I mean, this is the -- this is -- that position is not tenable, because Republicans don't control everything, just like Joe Biden's position that he held for months and months that I will not negotiate and I will do nothing but a clean debt ceiling, that's why this is ultimately a big win for Kevin McCarthy and the Republicans, because where the president started and where he wound up today miles apart.
He had to come towards Kevin McCarthy. And there are a great checklist of things that any Republican could be happy with. One other issue, defense spending, I'd heard some concerns among maybe people over in the Senate about what was going to happen to defense spending.
But because of the big increase in baseline defense in the omni in December, I think they can live with it. It's going to get a lot of votes.
TAPPER: What do you think? A lot of progressives feel like they got sold down the river. What do you think?
ASHLEY ALLISON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think it's important to note that also Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare all staying safe, not being touched at all.
I think the Republicans' obsession with work requirements are offensive to poor people, assuming that people want to be poor and don't have the fight inside of them to work hard. It's offensive. And I think it will ultimately come a backlash.
But I think the way that they were able to negotiate and protect veterans, people who are homeless is really important. I also think, though, is Kevin McCarthy going to be able to get it done in his caucus? I mean, we were all sitting here at 2:00 a.m. in the morning seeing if he can get speaker votes, and we weren't sure what concessions he made.
And so can he hold his caucus together, or is he going to have to rely on Democrats yet again so that our country doesn't default?
TAPPER: All right, everyone, stick around. We got a lot more to talk about.
Governor Ron DeSantis sets his eyes on early voting states. Can he turn things around? Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DESANTIS: I don't know what happened to Donald Trump. This is a different guy today than when he was running in 2015 and 2016.
I do believe that there's a limit to the number of voters that would consider the former president at this point. Call me whatever you want. Just make sure you call me a winner.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis in his tour of conservative-friendly media escalating his attacks on the former president after he made his highly anticipated 2024 campaign announcement this week.
My panel is still with me.
What do you think? Obviously, the glitchy Twitter Spaces moment notwithstanding, it looks like the launch went relatively OK for him.
JENNINGS: Yes, he raised a bunch of money, and he's going to go on a tour now of Iowa and New Hampshire, and they need to put the visuals with the audio.
I actually thought it was kind of interesting to try to do something nontraditional. And he's trying to draw a line, right, which is, I will not engage with the mainstream media. Trump, of course, still craves their attention and their approval. That's the distinction he's trying to draw.
But he really needs to do the visual part of what it means to run for president. He's got a very telegenic family, wife, kids, I mean, the whole nine yards. So when they put that with the other stuff, that will be helpful, I think, to his overall couple of weeks' launch Here.
TAPPER: Your former colleague Tim Scott, U.S. Senator Tim Scott from South Carolina, also joined the field. What do you think of him?
SELLERS: He's a complete contrast to Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis. I think it's kind of refreshing for the Republican Party to have somebody who doesn't indulge in, like, the bigotry and the xenophobia and just the bickering that Tim Scott (sic) and Ron DeSantis want to do.
He's also -- this is kind of going to be weird, but he's also the only true conservative that's actually in the race right now.
TAPPER: How so?
SELLERS: Oh, I mean, his voting record in the United States Congress is more conservative than most. He was aligned with Donald Trump. He's going to try to run away from that a little bit. But his voting record associated with Donald Trump was 97, 98 percent.
I mean, he is true conservative compared to what you're going to try to see Ron DeSantis and Donald Trump do. I know Ron DeSantis is going to try to run to the right of Donald Trump, but I just think that's weird. And Scott knows this better than I and Mia. I think that's weird, because Donald Trump was never a true conservative anyway.
LOVE: Especially now that he's, like, going after Donald Trump for criminal justice reform.
TAPPER: Well, let's talk about that, yes.
So, Ron DeSantis went after Donald Trump from the right, criticizing him for the criminal justice reform act that he worked on with Jared Kushner, Van Jones. I think Tim Scott voted for it.
TAPPER: Here's DeSantis criticizing Trump on that.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
DESANTIS: Under the Trump administration, he enacted a bill, basically a jailbreak bill. It's called the FIRST STEP Act.
It has allowed dangerous people out of prison who have now reoffended and really, really hurt a number of people. So one of the things I want to do as president is go to Congress and seek the repeal of the FIRST STEP Act.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
TAPPER: You voted for the FIRST STEP Act.
LOVE: I voted -- not only did I vote for it. I worked on it.
From the moment I stepped onto the floor in Congress, it was the first piece of legislation that I started working on. And we had people from think tanks and organizations from far right to the far left hand in hand.
TAPPER: He calls it a jailbreak bill.
LOVE: It -- he -- it's ridiculous.
I mean, we're talking about minimum sentencing requirements going away. Our system before this was a revolving door of Americans going in and out of prison. There was no way, actually, for people to reform their lives. This was a great accomplishment for America.
TAPPER: What do you think?
ALLISON: Well, I was one of those groups, traditional civil rights groups, that worked on the FIRST STEP Act.
The one thing that is super important is that the sentencing requirements that we're talking about here are at judicial judges' discretion and under the DOJ. And so, when you look at it, it actually was Bill Barr, who was the attorney general, who actually helped many of these individuals, who happens to be a Republican, and some of the Biden administration's Department of Justice who was actually applying this law.
But it's not a clean slate, bill. It was more retroactive than forward-looking work.
TAPPER: So, a new poll by CNN has more than half the country believing that Biden or Trump as the next president, either one, would be a disaster or setback for the country.
Congresswoman, your thoughts?
LOVE: OK. I have thoughts about this.
I have a daughter that's married. I have a daughter that's dating. And whenever they would ask me advice about dating, I would say, look, you don't want to look for someone with baggage. You don't want to have to fix problems. You want someone with luggage that's going somewhere.
I would say the same thing about looking for a president.
TAPPER: Luggage, not baggage.
LOVE: You don't want someone with baggage.
SELLERS: I was wondering where this was going. I like that.
LOVE: You don't want someone with baggage. You want someone with a good -- with an amazing vision and strategy for America.
TAPPER: You agree with -- you agree -- it sounds like you agree with the majority of the public that thinks, no thanks for either one, Biden or Trump?
LOVE: Let's just -- yes, let -- we want a choice. We want a choice.
JENNINGS: I mean, look, most Americans would rather not do this again, although it seems like that's what the political system is going to give us.
A lot of people are talking about how unelectable Trump is. Joe Biden's numbers over the last week, lord have mercy. Independents, Hispanics, Democrats. He's bleeding 30 plus percent of the vote...
JENNINGS: ... to a couple of nuts in the Democratic primary.
I'm telling you, he is in trouble.
SELLERS: Joe Biden does not have to be better than the almighty. He just has to be better than the alternative.
And Ron DeSantis has a problem. The more people meet Ron DeSantis, the less people like him.
TAPPER: All right, that's all we have time for.
Thank you so much.
And I hope you will join me for a CNN presidential town hall with Republican candidate Nikki Haley in Iowa. That's at 8:00 p.m. Eastern next Sunday, one week from today.
On this Memorial Day weekend, how the heroes who died serving our country are being remembered by their fellow veterans who happen to be members of Congress.
Stay with us.
TAPPER: A few days ago, a bipartisan group of lawmakers who are also U.S. veterans came together to scrub the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
I asked many of them, come Memorial Day, whom will they be thinking about?
TAPPER (voice-over): Ahead of Memorial Day, these lawmaker veterans are putting aside partisan differences to focus on the scars they all carry from war, scars of profound loss. REP. JOHN JAMES (R-MI): The long gray line is neither blue nor red.
It's more red, white and blue. And it links every generation.
REP. PAT RYAN (D-NY): It was really powerful. It was -- really one of the highlights of being in Congress so far was this morning for me.
TAPPER: Congresswoman and Air Force veteran Chrissy Houlahan is a granddaughter of Holocaust survivors, well aware she is only here today because so many Americans gave their lives to stop Hitler.
REP. CHRISSY HOULAHAN (D-PA): I would be remiss not to think about all of the people who are on that wall and who are in Arlington and other places, just line after line after line of monuments and stones in tribute to people who have fallen to give us the things that we have this weekend and every weekend to celebrate in our freedoms.
TAPPER: This weekend, Congressman Mike Waltz, who organized the event, thinks about his uncle and the men he left behind in Vietnam.
REP. MICHAEL WALTZ (R-FL): I'm thinking about my uncle, Greg (ph) Waltz, who was a Huey helicopter pilot, multiple tours in Vietnam lost members of his crew.
And just as this memorial represents a scar on the country that the Vietnam War was, he still has very deep scars. But I'm thinking of him, thinking of him today and thinking of his buddies that he didn't bring back.
TAPPER: Congresswoman and Navy veteran Mikie Sherrill thinks about her grandfather, William Donovan (ph), who was a B-24 bomber pilot in World War II.
REP. MIKIE SHERRILL (D-NJ): I think about what life would have been like if my grandfather hadn't come home, like so many of the veterans that we know, so many people on the wall who didn't come home, how that impacts their family.
TAPPER: There are only three Vietnam veterans left in the House, Congressman Jack Bergman, Jim Baird, and Mike Thompson.
REP. MIKE THOMPSON (D-CA): I have friends whose names are on that wall, people, kids that I grew up with and people that I serve with. I think about the people I grew up with, Gary Rodriguez (ph), Dan Long (ph), Bob Flannery (ph), Doug Zerva (ph), all from my hometown or real close to it.
REP. JAMES BAIRD (R-IN): I think about them probably every day almost. You don't ever forget it.
TAPPER: This weekend, Congressman and Army veteran John James is thinking not just about those left behind on the battlefields, but also those who came back, but whose anguish and pain caused them to die by suicide. JAMES: I'm thinking about my classmate Benjamin Recla. He succumbed
to his -- the unseen wounds of war. He took his own life as a West Point professor.
And I carry him with me each and every single day.
TAPPER: And James was far from the only one.
RYAN: One of my soldiers, Corporal Keith Nowicki, I brought him home from a 12-month combat deployment, only to have him succumb to the invisible wounds and take his own life on the phone with his new bride.
This is certainly a day to honor all who made the ultimate sacrifice in combat, but we also have to remember the wider sort of wounds that we're left with, and especially here at the Vietnam Memorial.
REP. SETH MOULTON (D-MA): I'm thinking about James Hassell, a Marine from my platoon, a real hero from Deep South Alabama, who, when we were in a building in Iraq, and they were rolling grenades down the stairs, another Marine, Ryan Borgstrom from (INAUDIBLE) got grievously wounded, and James put them on his back, ran through machine gunfire.
And Ryan's alive today because of that, but James never really healed from his wounds completely, and we lost him after he came back.
TAPPER: A reminder for all of us that we need to do more this year to prevent the need to memorialize others next year.
TAPPER: I hope you have a meaningful Memorial Day.
Coming up at noon: Three years after George Floyd's murder, I'm going to sit down with the man who successfully prosecuted the Floyd case, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison.
So, tune in.
"FAREED ZAKARIA GPS" starts next.