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State of the Union

Interview With Fmr. Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL); Interview With Former Vice President Mike Pence; Interview With Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT). Aired 9-10a ET

Aired September 17, 2023 - 09:00   ET




JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST (voice-over): On the line. United Auto Workers hit the picket line, demanding higher pay.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT): It is a fight to take on corporate greed!

TAPPER: But with automakers warning the strike could hurt America's economic recovery, how long could this last?

Senator Bernie Sanders joins me for an exclusive interview.

Plus: reaching out in a crowded 2024 field. A former vice president hopes his record will earn evangelical voters' support.

MIKE PENCE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Pray and to stand and to vote.

TAPPER: But leading the field, his former running mate.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No president has ever fought for Christians as hard as I have.

TAPPER: Can his message compete?

GOP presidential candidate Mike Pence joins me in moments.

And pile-on. Another test for President Biden on the world stage this week, as he confronts a looming government shutdown, the indictment of his son and House Republicans' impeachment probe. Will it all hurt his campaign?


TAPPER: Hello. I'm Jake Tapper in Washington, where the state of our union is at each other's throats.

For the first time, autoworkers are on strike against all three of the Big Three car manufacturers simultaneously. It's the latest and most powerful union to voice concern about a growing pay gap between workers and CEOs, that strike one factor that could impact America's fragile economic recovery, another on Capitol Hill, where House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has less than two weeks to avert a painful government shutdown that some of his members are embracing in the name of spending cuts, as the nation's political divisions grow even more fraught.

House Republicans are also juggling an impeachment inquiry into President Biden, despite what one prominent House conservative says is a flimsy basis.

One thing that has not changed, the Republican field. Former President Trump's rivals are still trying to cut into what is a commanding lead.


TAPPER: And joining me now, Republican presidential candidate former Vice President Mike Pence, joining us from Iowa.

Thanks so much for joining us, Mr. Vice President.

PENCE: You bet, Jake.

TAPPER: Let's talk about the autoworkers strike. You blamed the strike on President Biden's policies.

Most Americans, 75 percent, according to Gallup, support the strikers. As a general principle, do you think it's fair that the CEO of General Motors makes 362 times what a typical GM employee makes?

PENCE: Well, let me say what I don't think is fair is that Joe Biden has put forward an economic agenda from the very outset that launched the worst inflation in 40 years. I mean, literally the cost of living has gone up almost 17 percent since we left office.

Their war on energy has caused gasoline prices to go through the roof. And I have no doubt in my mind that all those hardworking autoworkers are living in the same reality every other American is living in, and that is, wages are not keeping up with inflation.

I also think that this green agenda that is using taxpayer dollars to drive our automotive economy into electric vehicles is understandably causing great anxiety among UAW members. These guys are seeing the Green New Deal that was passed under the guise of an Inflation Reduction Act, they're seeing it driving their industry into electric vehicles, benefiting China that makes most of our batteries.

And I think they're pushing back rightly. And I also think the American people stand behind them in the numbers you suggest because we're all living in the failed reality of Bidenomics today, Jake.

TAPPER: But there's also this issue of general fairness.

In 1965, during this era of the great middle-class expansion in the United States, CEOs made about 20 times what their typical workers made. But, as I noted to you, the CEO of GM makes 362 times what her typical employees make.

I just want to make sure I get an answer from you. Is that OK? Do you think that's fair?

PENCE: Well, I think that ought to be left to the shareholders of that company.

I -- I'm somebody that believes in free enterprise. I think those are decisions that can be made by shareholders and creating pressure. And I will fully support how these publicly traded companies operate. I'm not interested in government mandates or government bullying when it comes to those kind of issues.

And I got to tell you, I don't think it's about the usual fault lines of the difference in salaries between white-collar and blue-collar. I think it's that everyday Americans out there working hard are living in the midst of the failed policies of Bidenomics.


TAPPER: Inflation has been horrible, no question, but their wages haven't gone up since the auto bailout in 2008. Meanwhile, the CEOs, their wages have gone up 40 percent in the last five years. That's what the union workers say as to why they're striking.

I guess just a question here, do you side with the CEOs or do you side with the union here?

PENCE: I side with American workers. I side with all American families. I side with the people of this country, Jake, that are living under the failed policies of the Biden administration.

Families are struggling. Families are hurting. They know we need new leadership in the White House. I have got a vision,, to tackle inflation, to revive and unleash American energy. That's what we're talking about, and that's where every American is focused today.

TAPPER: So, you're giving a foreign policy speech on Monday focused on China.

Ambassador Nikki Haley told me when she was on the show that she considers China to be an enemy of the United States. Do you agree with that? Is China an enemy of the U.S.?

PENCE: China is the greatest economic and strategic threat facing the United States in the 21st century. And I was proud to lead during our administration on changing our national policy toward China.

In fact, I'm returning the first of this week to Hudson Institute, where, about five years ago, I gave that first speech. I mean, look, we sent a message to China after years of trade abuses, intellectual property theft, military provocations in the Asia-Pacific, let alone human rights abuses against Muslim Uyghurs and Christian pastors in China, that enough was enough.

We put $250 billion in tariffs on China. And while the Biden administration hasn't undone those tariffs yet, to be honest with you, we should have been increasing the pressure as we see even more aggressive behavior by China.

But if I'm president of the United States, we're going to meet this moment with American strength. We're going to limit China's access to our economy until they straighten up and fly right and live by the rules of the road in international trade. And we're going to build a 355-ship Navy. I believe we can eclipse the Chinese navy in the Asia- Pacific, because, ultimately, peace and prosperity comes through strength.

TAPPER: Another big foreign policy challenge for the next president, whoever it is, has to do with Ukraine and Russia.

I want to play a clip from your former boss from an interview. This is how he said he would handle Putin's -- and how he would resolve the conflict in Ukraine when it comes to Russia's invasion, illegal war against the Ukrainian people. Take a listen.


TRUMP: I would get him into a room. I would get Zelenskyy in a room. Then I would bring them together, and I would have a deal worked out. I would get a deal worked out.


TAPPER: "I mean, bringing Putin into a room, bringing Zelenskyy in a room, I would have a deal worked out," do you consider that a serious answer to the question of how to end this war?

PENCE: Look, the only way this war would end in a day, as my former running mate says, if you let -- let Vladimir Putin have what he wants, which, frankly, other candidates for the Republican nomination are advocating as well.

Look, I want to be clear. I think Joe Biden has done a terrible job explaining our national interests and giving Ukraine what they need to repel that Russian invasion. Look, I mean, it's not about these gauzy speeches that President Biden gives about democracy. It's that I know that, if Vladimir Putin overruns Ukraine, it will not be long, Jake, before he crosses the border of a country where our men and women in uniform will be required to fight under Article 5 and the NATO Treaty.

So, I stand on that old Reagan doctrine that, if you're willing to fight our enemies with your soldiers on your soil, we will give you the means to fight them there, so we don't have to fight them.

TAPPER: So you have been courting evangelical voters this weekend, emphasizing your faith and your values.

This comes at the same time as a profile has appeared in "The Atlantic" where Republican Senator Mitt Romney is quoted saying that, when it came to your actions as Donald Trump's vice president, nobody had been -- quote -- "more willing to smile when he saw absurdities, more willing to ascribe God's will to things that were ungodly than Mike Pence" -- unquote.

What do you say to that? Do you think that you used your faith to justify ungodly things as vice president, as Mitt Romney believes?

PENCE: When that phone rang in 2016, my wife and I went to prayer about the invitation to join the national ticket.

I believe we were called to serve. And I'm incredibly proud of the record of the Trump/Pence administration. And in just those four short years, we rebuilt our military, revived our economy, and appointed three conservatives to our courts that gave us a new beginning for the right to life.


Look, Mitt Romney has no idea what I was doing in the administration. I haven't talked to Mitt Romney for years. And I think he can go off into retirement. I know he was even critical of his old running mate, Paul Ryan, in the pages of that book.

So I know the stands that we took. I know the stands that we maintained. And I will always believe that we were called to that fight. And I believe, in this moment, that my family's called now to step forward here in Iowa.

TAPPER: On Capitol Hill right now, Speaker McCarthy is struggling to unite House Republicans behind a plan to avert a government shutdown. He's facing a revolt by some more conservative members of his conference who are demanding major concessions when it comes to spending, threatening to oust him as speaker if he does not comply.

Do you think that the House Freedom Caucus should hold the line and keep pushing McCarthy, even if it means a government shutdown, or do you think a shutdown would be a mistake?

PENCE: Look, I think House conservatives are the last line of defense for taxpayers in Washington, D.C. And I strongly support their effort to stand firm and demand the kind of budget cuts necessary to make a small down payment on fiscal responsibility and reform.

You remember back in the day, Jake, after Hurricane Katrina, I led the effort. We stood firm. We demanded the offsets. And that was the last time that there was major deficit reduction actually in Washington, D.C. I think they should stand firm. They should get as much as they possibly can.

But, at the end of the day, we're still talking about nickels and dimes, Jake. We have got to have leadership in the White House different than Joe Biden, whose policy is insolvency, different than Donald Trump, whose position is exactly the same as Joe Biden. We can't have people in the White House that ignore that debt crisis.

If I'm president of the United States, I will lead for those kind of reforms that will preserve Social Security and Medicare and set our nation back on a path toward a balanced federal budget.

TAPPER: I want to play something else that former President Trump said on Friday night. Take a listen.


TRUMP: Crooked Joe Biden and the radical left thugs who have weaponized law enforcement to arrest their leading political opponent, and leading by a lot, including Obama.

I will tell you what. You take a look at Obama and take a look at some of the things that he's done, this is the same thing.


TAPPER: In addition to seeming to confuse Obama and Biden, the president, the former president, also went on to say that reelecting Joe Biden would lead to World War II, which, of course, is a war that already happened.

If Joe Biden had made comments like that, Republicans would be all over it, talking about his age, his mental fitness, his sharpness, his acuity. The DeSantis camp has already tweeted that clip out.

You have said that, in your view, Biden has lost a step. Do you think that 77-year-old Donald Trump has lost a step as well?

PENCE: Well, I didn't hear the speech, so I'd leave it to judgments of others.

But, look, I have said very clearly we don't need a president who's too old and we don't need a president who's too young. I'm in this race because I believe that I will bring the experience, the energy, and the commitment to a consistent conservative agenda that's going to be necessary to turn around the failed policies of the Biden administration that have weakened us at home and abroad.

I think, as I said a week ago in New Hampshire, Jake, I think we have come to a Republican time for choosing. I mean, when Donald Trump ran for president in 2016, he promised to govern as a conservative. For four years, we did govern as conservatives, but, today, Donald Trump makes no such promise.

He's embracing the politics of appeasement on the world stage, walking away from our role as leader of the free world. He's willing to ignore the debt crisis facing Americans. And he wants to marginalize the right to life. And I think, as people come to know us, as we continue to travel here in Iowa and New Hampshire and other states around the country, they can see that I am the most consistent and the most qualified conservative.

I'm going to be ready to lead on day one, put those policies back into effect that have not just secured victory for the Republican Party, Jake, but, more important than that, they have achieved real prosperity and real security for the American people, and they will again starting in 2025.

TAPPER: Just to clarify, is 77 too old to be president?

PENCE: I think that's a judgment for voters. I trust voters to make their decision, whether it be the mental competency of people or whether it be their age or energy level.

Again, I say to you, we don't need a president who's too old. We don't need a president who's too young. We need a president with the experience and the commitment to the conservative agenda that I bring.

TAPPER: Last question, sir.

The medical community would certainly herald Operation Warp Speed as one of the unqualified successes of the Trump/Pence administration. The FDA and CDC formally approved a new COVID booster shot this week. They're encouraging all Americans 6 months and older to get it.


Are you going to get your booster shot?

PENCE: You know, we haven't made a decision that yet as a family.

But I -- I think every family ought to make those decisions. I mean, let's be very clear. I'm incredibly proud of what the American people accomplished during the worst pandemic in 100 years. And the fact that American innovation developed not just therapeutics, but three safe and effective vaccines, was a medical miracle.

But let's -- let's -- let's put a point on it. Joe Biden was wrong to mandate those vaccines. And I think it's one of the reasons why vaccines have been caught up and become a political football, Jake. It never should be. Frankly, we ought to take the vaccine mandate off of health care workers in this country.

And I -- I think every American should just evaluate their own condition, their own family's health, make those own decisions. But never, ever again should we be mandating vaccines in a situation like we went through in 2020.

TAPPER: Vice President Mike Pence on the campaign trail in Iowa, thank you so much for joining us. Good luck out there. Have fun.

PENCE: Thank you, Jake.


TAPPER: Coming up next: Could an autoworkers strike knock the Biden economy off track?

Progressive Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont joins us next.

And then shutdown for what? The latest on infighting between House Republicans. That's ahead.



TAPPER: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Jake Tapper. Talks are back on this weekend between union leaders and the Big Three

auto companies, as the United Auto Workers union considers whether to expand their strike beyond those three plants.

Joining us now, independent Senator from Vermont Bernie Sanders, who rallied with workers on the picket line Friday.

Senator Sanders, Vice President Pence was on the show earlier. He said, when I asked him about the fact that the CEOs make multiples more than their average workers, 362 times more in the case of Ford -- I said, do you think that's fair? He said CEO pay is up to free enterprise. It's up to shareholders, not the government.

What's your response?

SANDERS: No, I strongly disagree.

I think what's going on in America today in terms of income and wealth inequality, the fact that CEOs are now making 400 times more than their average worker, the fact that we have three people on top who own more wealth than the bottom half of America, the fact that, during the last 50 years, the wages, the weekly wages of the average American worker are lower today than they were back then is -- speaks to the anger that the American people are feeling and what this strike is about.

The American people are sick and tired, in my view, Jake -- and I have been all over this country -- they are sick and tired of corporate greed, in which the very richest people are becoming richer. The head of General Motors now makes $29 million a year, and yet, if you go -- if you're a new worker in the Big Three, you make less than $17 an hour.

They have temp workers who are temp year after year after year who make far wages than other workers. You have profits there, $21 billion in profits in the first half of this year.

So what you're seeing in the automobile industry, in my view, is what we're seeing all over this economy, greed on the top, suffering on the part of the working class. And people are tired of it.

TAPPER: I want to get to some of those bigger issues in a second, but, first, I want to ask you.

This push from the UAW for a four-day workweek, is that a negotiating tactic, or do you see that as the future of labor in the U.S., a four- day workweek?

SANDERS: Well, I will tell you what I think. And thanks for raising that question, Jake.

We are looking at an explosion in this country of artificial intelligence and robotics. And that means that the average worker is going to be much more productive. Worker productivity is going to increase significantly. The question as a nation that we have got to ask ourselves is, who's

going to benefit from that increased productivity? Is all of that new income and wealth being created by worker productivity going to go to the people on top, or are workers going to benefit?

So, right now, in my view, I happen to believe that, as a nation, we should begin a serious discussion -- and the UAW is doing that -- about substantially lowering the workweek. People in America are stressed out for a dozen different reasons.

And that's one of the reasons why life expectancy in our country is actually in decline. People are overwhelmed. They got to take care of their kids. They got to worry about health care. They got to worry about housing. They're worried.

It seems to me that, if new technology is going to make us a more productive society, the benefits should go to the workers. And it would be an extraordinary thing to see people have more time to be able to spend with their kids, with their families, to be able to do more in cultural activities, get a better education.

So the idea of using -- making sure that artificial intelligence, robotics benefits us all, just not the people on top, is something absolutely we need to be discussing.

TAPPER: I want you to take a listen to what President Biden said on Labor Day about the potential for a UAW strike.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No, I'm not worried about a strike until it happens. I don't think it's going to happen.


TAPPER: All right, obviously, I didn't know the sound was going to be that -- that bad.


TAPPER: What he says is: I'm not going to -- I'm not going to -- I'm not going to I'm not going to worry about it until it happens.

He seemed to downplay the idea there.

After that comment, Michigan Congresswoman Debbie Dingell reportedly tried to warn the president about the strike. She called the White House. The UAW leader has been privately frustrated that the White House has not been as engaged.

Do you think President Biden should have done more earlier? Should he be doing more now?

SANDERS: Well, President Biden gave a speech a couple of days ago in which he made the absolutely correct point, corporate profits for the automakers are soaring, and that they have got to use those profits to benefit their employees.


And he has made the point many, many, many times that a strong labor movement benefits all of us. So, I think the president has made it clear which side he is on in the struggle.

But I think, Jake, to tell you the truth, that all of us in this country have got to stand with the UAW now. They're not just fighting for decent wages and benefits for automobile workers. They're really standing up to the kind of corporate greed that is impacting tens and tens of millions of Americans.

And what they are really saying -- they're saying this to the Big Three, but I think that message has got to go out all over corporate America -- you people on top, you have never had it so good, more income and wealth inequality today than ever in the history. The richest people are becoming phenomenally richer.

TAPPER: Right.

SANDERS: But 60 percent of American workers are living paycheck to paycheck.

So, UAW is standing up against corporate greed, and I applaud them for what they're doing.

TAPPER: So, as I mentioned to Vice President Pence, in the '60s, during this time of the huge expansion of the middle class, CEOs made about 20 times more than the average worker. Now it's, as you know, 300 to 400 times more.

It's clear that these companies are not going to solve the income inequality out of the goodness of their hearts. It's clear that shareholders aren't necessarily going to be demanding it. They want their stocks to go up. The problem's getting worse. The middle class is getting squeezed and is shrinking.

In addition to a higher minimum wage and higher taxes on the wealthy -- I know you support those two as a way to solve the problem -- but is there another way, a more holistic way to solve this problem? Because you're right.

I mean, polls indicate this is not just a -- progressives aren't the only ones who are concerned about this. This actually is something that Democrats, Republicans, independents, people across party lines -- part of -- I mean, honestly, part of the MAGA movement is an opposition to corporations, et cetera, frustrations with this.

SANDERS: That's right.

TAPPER: Do you think there's a holistic solution to this problem?


And I think what we have got to appreciate -- and you're absolutely right, Jake. This is not a progressive issue. It's not a conservative issue or a moderate issue. What we have got to do is come together as a nation and tell the people on top they just cannot have it. Well, what does that mean specifically?

We are the only major country on Earth, Jake, that doesn't guarantee health care to all people as a human right, despite spending almost twice as much as any other country. We pay the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs.

Meanwhile, while people can't afford housing, while the price of food in the grocery stores are going up, what you are seeing is, corporate profits are soaring. So, we need to deal, by the way, with a corrupt political system. And, as a result of Citizens United, people in Washington too often represent the rich and the powerful, not the middle class, not the working class.

But we need to bring our people together around an agenda that says, you know what, health care is a right. Let's not pay more for prescription drugs than people around the rest of the world. If our kids want to go to college, they should be able to, regardless of their income.

So we have got to bring people together around an agenda that works for all, not just the few.

TAPPER: New numbers out this week show the child poverty in the U.S. more than doubled in the last year from 5 percent to 12 percent, one in eight American children.

This comes after Congress let that pandemic era enhanced child tax credit expire. Do you think it should be put back? And who do you blame for its disappearance? Because that was not just Republicans.

SANDERS: No, that's quite right.

Look, what we put in that tax credit that substantially lowered childhood poverty in America, we put that into the American Rescue Plan.

We tried to put it back into so-called Build Back Better plan, which had zero Republican support and did not have the support of Mr. Manchin and Ms. Sinema. We only had 48 votes to pass it.

Jake, take a deep breath. We're talking about the head of General Motors making $29 million a year. We're talking about the rich getting richer, and yet we have the highest rate of childhood poverty of almost any major country on Earth. What a disgrace. What a disgrace.

So, of course, we have to restore that child tax credit. We have to end this obscenity of how we treat our children. We have to deal with income and wealth inequality. We need health care, for these are not radical ideas. These are ideas that exist in many countries all over the world.

But, essentially, now the people on top, once again, they think they have a right to have it all, and to hell with everybody else. And that's a mentality that has to be changed. And what the UAW is doing is saying, let's all come together. Let's stand up for the working class of this country and the middle class of this country. And now is the time to do that.


TAPPER: Senator Bernie Sanders, independent of Vermont, always good to have you on, sir.

Thanks so much.

SANDERS: Thank you very much, Jake.

TAPPER: The Republican candidates have some advice for House Republicans considering a shutdown.

We will get into it with our panel. That's next.



REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): We're going to get this done. Nobody wins in a government shutdown.

REP. CHIP ROY (R-TX): I can't just sit here and rubber-stamp the status quo. We're only heading into a shutdown in October if you guys don't stand up and fight.

REP. DAVID JOYCE (R-OH): And they us urged into that shutdown in '13, and that went so well. And we have had these shutdowns. They haven't accomplished a hell of a lot.

REP. KEN BUCK (R-CO): I really don't know what the strategy is on how we're going to avert a shutdown in a week or two.



With less than two weeks until that government shutdown, House Republicans are once again at war with themselves.

Our panel joins me now.

Former Congressman Kinzinger, you heard Pence in the interview basically saying House Republicans should hold the line -- conservative, conservative House Republicans should hold the line on spending.



TAPPER: Trump on another network said that he would shut down the government if they can't make an appropriate deal, absolutely. What do you think should happen? What will happen?

ADAM KINZINGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, no matter how many times you touch the stove, there's always new people that come in that wonder what it's like to touch the stove. And this happens every time.

When I was new in 2010 or 2011, Boehner at one point is just like, fine, shut it down, guys. I don't care. Like, you're going to sit here and beg me to shut the government down, do it, and feel it. And so for three weeks, we shut it down, and it was the most miserable time.

And, at the end, we ended up spending more money out of the federal government, and we'd lost a lot of points. So they're going to -- I actually think they're going to do it again this time, because such a tight majority, everybody wants to.

But, listen, you obviously shouldn't. Now, I get that they think this is like the one time to leverage less government spending. And it could be. But you always end up losing and you always end up getting stuff extracted to reopen, because, eventually, you're begging to reopen the government.

So what McCarthy actually should do is go to the Democrats, the moderate Democrats, and work with moderate Republicans and find a majority of 218 to get this done, like they do in the Senate. It's not what he's going to do.


TAPPER: But would moderate Democrats work with him after some of the things he's done, such as the impeachment inquiry into President Biden?

FINNEY: Yes, probably not. Oh, well, that's ship sailed. Sorry, Congressman.


FINNEY: Once that impeachment went out, it was like, oh well.

KINZINGER: It's not my fault.


And, look, we knew this moment would come. We saw it when it took 15 rounds for Kevin McCarthy to become the speaker, that the far right wing -- I remember many sitting here at the table with you, Jake, said, they won. And this is another example of how they have won.

I mean, Kevin McCarthy has no power to stop it. I completely agree. I think they're going to shut it down. It's actually going to be bad for everybody, probably more bad for Republicans, who then have to go home and say, this is what I did with my time in Washington. I shut down the government and I tried to impeach Joe Biden.

Oh, sorry that your kids don't have health care. I mean, OK, great. That's a great way to use your time to lead.

TAPPER: The Republicans in the Senate are not with the Republicans in the House on this, wanting to shut down the government.

BRAD TODD, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, the Republicans in the Senate are not with each other on much of many things, I mean, first off.


TAPPER: Right.

TODD: But the shutdown is a strategy of both the Freedom Caucus and Joe Biden.

You don't see Joe Biden, who told us he was going to do bipartisan compromise, be the signature of his presidency, he's not trying to find a thing that Republicans in the House can take. He's just waiting and letting Republicans try to self-destruct. That's his strategy.

His hope is for Republicans to not get it together.

TAPPER: Is he wrong?

KATE BEDINGFIELD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: This is -- he's absolutely wrong.


BEDINGFIELD: This is -- essentially, this is a hostage situation. You're basically saying, the hostage should say, let's find common ground.

That's absurd. You know that what House Republicans are doing here is laying out a strategy that is going to -- frankly, is kind of a double whammy for them. They're going to have to go home to their constituents and show that they didn't get anything done. They're also -- it's opportunity cost.

You only get so much bandwidth to talk to the American people about what you're doing, what your agenda is, what you're getting done. So they're choosing to use this time to show that they're completely incapable of functioning. So, the idea that somehow...

TODD: It's the job of the president of the United States to work with the House that the voters send him.

FINNEY: But he has. By the way, he has tried to work with the House and the Senate, and he has actually gotten a lot done on a bipartisan...


TODD: He's not trying to pass this. He's not trying to keep the government open.

KINZINGER: Every time we approach a shutdown, this is our talking point, I'm saying, as a former member, is, well, the administration should come to it with us.

The Constitution states that spending bills start out of the House.

TAPPER: Right.

KINZINGER: You're the ones that start.


TODD: I think they will. I think the House will pass a spending package that the Senate will take. But it will originate with the House, and then you won't see the president come try to meet the Republicans in the middle.

FINNEY: But it will be something that's completely unrealistic.


TODD: But not from the House Republicans' standpoint.


TAPPER: For argument's sake, for argument's sake, let me say, the idea of, let's have top-line spending be at 2019 levels is not crazy, right?

But that's a small step towards fiscal monetary -- just for argument's sake.

TODD: Right.

TAPPER: Have you seen any strategy from House Republicans to make that happen, reaching out to Senate Democrats, reaching out to House Democrats, talking about this as, like, for the -- they got the majority in January -- talking about this for the last eight months as,like, oh, we want to do this?

I mean, I haven't.

TODD: Well, you certainly hear about a lot of those conversations within House Republican Conference circles. But it's hard to keep 218...


TAPPER: No, I mean out in the real world. Out in the real world, I'm saying.


BEDINGFIELD: The rest of us want to hear them too.

TODD: It's hard to keep 218 Republicans in the House together to vote for the chaplain of the day.

(LAUGHTER) TODD: You have to remember that, no matter how many we have.

TAPPER: That's not a bad point.

But don't -- you hear what I'm saying? Just as a messaging point of view...

BEDINGFIELD: Yes, absolutely.


TAPPER: ... it's not a crazy thing to argue to the American people.


TAPPER: And I bet a smart campaign could convince people this is not a wild suggestion.


And I think, but, instead, what you have is essentially a message of, we are unwilling to move unless we get all of our demands met, by the way, most of which are completely out of sync, out of touch with where the American people are. So, absolutely, it's a missed opportunity.


TODD: How is that -- I don't think the American people want domestic discretionary spending to go up 15 percent a year. That's not what they want.

They don't want it to be far above what...


TAPPER: They don't even know that it goes up.


KINZINGER: The Republicans have spent so much time talking about Hunter Biden this year, and they could have been talking about spending.


TAPPER: Right.

KINZINGER: Things like I cared about were things like spending levels, not this witch-hunt because we have to somehow equate Biden to Trump.

TAPPER: And let's turn to that, because Republican Congressman Ken Buck, who wants to hold the line on spending, he has an op-ed in "The Post" saying: "My fellow Republicans, one disgraceful impeachment doesn't deserve another," writing about Trump's first impeachment. "I joined my Republican colleagues then in 2019 in denouncing that

impeachment was, as we argued at the time, an inversion of our own rule of law system. The Democrats had their man and found a pretext to impeach him. Trump's impeachment in 2019 was a disgrace to the Constitution, disservice for Americans. The GOP's reprise -- reprise in 2023 is no better."

You -- by the way, just as an aside, you voted against that 2019 impeachment. And you later said you regret voting against it.


Well, I do. And -- but, look, Ken Buck is consistent. I will give him that. He's -- it's been very good that he's been speaking out. I disagree with that somehow 2019 and the 2021, I guess impeachment, is somehow similar to this. It's not. That was a very, very serious issue. And this may be a serious issue if you can show evidence, the Hunter Biden thing.

They have shown no evidence. And so they're going on an impeachment inquiry to hopefully find evidence that they can impeach on, which is a very different way to do impeachment. But I will give Ken Buck that. He is very consistent on that. And I think he actually lives by a set of principles that he believes in, unlike a lot of people.

FINNEY: I think that's another sign again. I mean, we heard it from Mitt Romney this week. We have seen it over and over this week.

Who controls the Republican Party? Donald Trump, period, full stop. The MAGA crazy wing control -- the crazies are running the asylum here. I mean, this is why we're seeing impeachment, not because, after four years, there is actual evidence, not because there is any principled stand that might also say, let's look at what Jared and Ivanka made while they were actually serving in government.

TODD: Hang on.

This impeachment inquiry, which is all it is right now, is a perhaps, maybe an inquiry, has something in common with 2019 and 2021. It's not going to go anywhere in the trial in the Senate. And, in 2019, everyone in official Washington establishment said, this is just theater. Why are we wasting time with theater? That's what's being said now. That's what should have been said then.

The Congress doesn't have time to do impeachment now any more than it did then. However, it's a legitimate oversight function of the House of Representatives to look at the administration. If the administration and Joe Biden have nothing to hide, they can stave this off. Just produce everything.


FINNEY: I think it would be more legitimate if it wasn't about job security.

BEDINGFIELD: But it's also -- but, remember, Ken Buck doesn't represent -- he's not a Biden district Republican.


BEDINGFIELD: He represents a very Republican district. And he is coming out and saying, there is no evidence. This is a waste of time. And it's dangerous, frankly. And

so that also tells you -- I mean, if somebody who is sort of that embedded in the Republican base is willing to come out and say, this is a problem, then we have serious -- then we have got a serious issue here.

TODD: He's a small-C conservative. Ken is a small-C conservative.

KINZINGER: The reason that you have this happening right now -- and I said this, I think, actually even before I was out of Congress.

I said, the Republicans next year are going to try to impeach Joe Biden every month, because somebody -- it started with Marjorie Taylor Greene -- filed articles of impeachment. The most extreme position always ends up now in the last few years becoming the mainstream position, because, if you stand outside of it, like Ken Buck is doing right now, you're called a RINO.

I have been -- I have experienced this. And so this is just like the train has left the station. So it may just be an inquiry right now. This will end up having to be an impeachment, because I don't know how Republicans can walk back and say there's nothing impeachable.


TAPPER: OK. Can I just ask you very quickly? Because we only have 30 seconds left.

What have you made of Pelosi and on my show Jamie Raskin not having a simple answer for, is Kamala Harris the best person to run as Joe Biden's running mate?

BEDINGFIELD: Well, they're certainly entitled to their opinions.


TAPPER: But they didn't...


BEDINGFIELD: But what matters...

TAPPER: Let me put it to you. Is she the best running mate we've seen?

BEDINGFIELD: Absolutely.

TAPPER: But why couldn't they just...

BEDINGFIELD: Of course she is. Well, I don't speak for them. But I can tell you that the Biden campaign and the Biden White House

has put her out on the key issues that are fund -- that Joe Biden views as fundamental to his reelect. You saw him -- you saw her, rather, out...

TAPPER: But she's not going anywhere, right?

BEDINGFIELD: She -- sorry?

TAPPER: She's not going anywhere.

BEDINGFIELD: Oh, absolutely not. In terms of leaving the ticket?

TAPPER: Right.

BEDINGFIELD: Absolutely not.


TAPPER: Right. So, why are they...

BEDINGFIELD: She's been a phenomenal part -- she's been a phenomenal partner to Joe Biden. She is now a trusted voice on, like I said, the most fundamental issues that he believes are truly the soul of his presidency.

TAPPER: All right.

BEDINGFIELD: And so why they can't answer that, you would have to ask them.

TAPPER: Well, you need to make some phone calls, is all I'm saying.

All right.

TODD: It puts age front and center of the whole campaign.

TAPPER: Well, it was there already, I think.

Thanks, one and all, for being here. Really appreciate it.

Texas' attorney general was acquitted yesterday in an impeachment trial.

A look at what his acquittal says about the Republican Party going forward -- that's next.



TAPPER: The Republican speaker of the Texas House of Representatives blasted his fellow Republicans yesterday for voting to acquit state Attorney General Ken Paxton on 16 articles of impeachment alleging corruption and bribery. In the speaker's view, the evidence clearly proved that Paxton had

abused the office of the attorney general to help a campaign donor and real estate investor named Nate Paul in exchange for favors. Much of the evidence came from eight of Paxton's former top aides, many of whom went to the FBI in 2020 with concerns about alleged bribes, with Paxton's former personal aide saying he heard a contractor working on Paxton's home suggests that Paul was paying for the renovations.

There also were concerns about alleged abuse of power, Paxton interfering in a lawsuit against Nate Paul, issuing a legal opinion that benefited Paul, appointing a special prosecutor and leaning on local law enforcement to investigate Nate Paul's wild and baseless conspiracy theories about folks out to get him, concerns about an alleged cover-up, Paxton using a burner phone and a fake Uber account to hide communications with and trips to see Paul, as well as a woman who worked for Paul with whom the married Paxton allegedly had an affair.


The Republican-led Statehouse investigated all this alleged sleaze, and-, ultimately, a Republican-led committee in May concluded that the chief law enforcement officer of Texas had violated multiple laws. The articles of impeachment that committee voted for unanimously are really quite something.

The charges include directing the attorney general's office employees to take steps to intervene in a lawsuit from a charity against Paul in order to hurt the charity, retaliating against whistle-blowers, and some charges that relate to the delay of the securities fraud indictment of Paxton in Dallas in 2015, when he was accused of defrauding investors in a tech start-up, charges to which Paxton pleaded not guilty.

The Republican-led House voted to impeach Paxton overwhelmingly, 121 to 23. But, yesterday, the Republican-led Senate voted to acquit him on all counts, despite all this evidence, after what the Republican impeachment manager said was intimidation by the MAGA wing of the GOP.

And it is impossible to believe that these state senators would have voted the same way were Paxton a Democrat.

Here's how the conservative "Dallas Morning News" editorial board responded -- quote -- "We have come to a place of great danger, where the plain evidence of corruption can no longer overcome the majority party's determination to protect its self-interest and its agents. The philosophy at play is that the ends justify the means, and the means don't seem to matter" -- unquote.

And this all comes just days after Republican Senator Mitt Romney of Utah announced he would not be seeking reelection next year, expressing concerns about where the Republican Party is headed in the shadow of Donald Trump, himself no stranger to an impeachment.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. MITT ROMNEY (R-UT): He is the leader of the greatest portion of the Republican Party. It's a populist, I believe, demagogue portion of the party.

The Trump wing of the party talks about resentments of various kind and getting even and settling scores and revisiting the 2020 election.


TAPPER: Attorney General Paxton plays a prominent role in that part of the Republican Party.

He's the one that wrote that nonsensical 2020 lawsuit trying to throw out the electoral votes of several states that Joe Biden won, a document full of absolutely false and deranged claims.

In the Republican Party that Mitt Romney is warning us about, one he fears is authoritarian and lawless, Attorney General Paxton no doubt has a very bright future.

We will be right back.



TAPPER: And welcome back.

For those of you celebrating Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, shana tova. But, to all of you, may you have a good and sweet and healthy new year.

Thanks for spending your Sunday morning with us.