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State of the Union
Interview With Rep. Summer Lee (D-PA); Interview With Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL); Interview With Rep. Tim Burchett (R-TN); Interview With Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) and Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ); Interview With U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. Aired 9-10a ET
Aired September 24, 2023 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DANA BASH, CNN HOST (voice-over): Congress in chaos.
Days before the government shuts down, does House Speaker Kevin McCarthy have a plan to avoid it?
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): We still have a number of days.
REP. TIM BURCHETT (R-TN): We are completely dysfunctional.
BASH: Republican holdout Congressman Tim Burchett will join me.
Plus, the bipartisan co-chairs of the Problem Solvers Caucus, Josh Gottheimer and Brian Fitzpatrick, respond.
And face-off. Republican rivals prepare to debate. But with President Biden and former President Trump set for a union clash in Michigan this week, has the general election already begun? Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg is here next.
Plus: defiant stand. Shocking bribery charges against Senator Bob Menendez.
DAMIAN WILLIAMS, U.S. ATTORNEY, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: Some of the cash was stuffed in the senator's jacket pockets.
BASH: As Democrats in his state call for him to resign, do his colleagues in Congress agree? The number two Senate Democrat, Dick Durbin, is ahead.
BASH: Hello. I'm Dana Bash in Washington, where the state of our union is watching the clock.
Time is running out for Congress to avert a crippling government shutdown this week. But, right now, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy's plan seems to be hoping hard-liner members who have vowed not to fund the government without massive spending cuts will, well, change their minds.
Last night, President Biden blamed those hard-liners.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Funding the government is one of the most basic responsibilities of Congress. And it's time for the Republicans to start doing the job America elected them to do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: And for more on that, here with me now is Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.
Thank you for coming in. It's nice to see you.
We are less than seven days now from a potential government shutdown. How seriously is the Biden administration taking that possibility?
PETE BUTTIGIEG, U.S. TRANSPORTATION SECRETARY: Well, look, this is something that can and should be prevented.
So, the administration, as always, will be ready for anything. But, look, Speaker McCarthy and the president made a deal. They made a deal earlier this summer. And, by the way, it wasn't an easy deal. I mean, just from the transportation side alone, it meant us accepting cuts that Republicans were demanding to programs that we wanted to use to fund more roads and bridges and airports.
But we made that deal. And all we're asking is that they live up to that deal. A shutdown would include, just in the transportation side alone, shutting down air traffic control training at the exact moment when the country recognizes the need for more, not less, ATC staffing and when we have finally got cancellations back at or below normal rates.
That's just one example of a shutdown that would mean service members wouldn't get paid. Coming back to transportation, the air traffic controllers who would be working in the towers, they wouldn't get paid. They're under enough stress as it is doing that job without having to come into work with the added stress of not receiving a paycheck.
So, the American people don't want a shutdown. From what I can tell, the Senate is ready to go. The administration is ready to go. House Republicans need to come to their senses and keep the government running.
BASH: You talk about what would happen when it comes to air traffic controllers, the training. Those who are being trained and also those are actually working now.
But what would it mean for passengers?
BUTTIGIEG: Well, look, one thing that we have been through a lot of is disruptions, right? Those disruptions are largely caused by the weather, but, sometimes,
it can be because of staffing issues. That's exactly why we're trying to grow the work force. This would stop us in our tracks. In January, there was an outage of a critical I.T. system that the FAA has been working to modernize.
A shutdown would slow down our progress modernizing technology, at the exact moment when we need to do it. And, again, I'm just giving you some examples out of the transportation space. Across the country, so many impacts would be felt. This has to be avoided.
BASH: You mentioned the deal that the president and the House speaker cut a few months ago. Have they spoken about this crisis right now?
BUTTIGIEG: I don't know the latest time that they have spoken, but I think the president's position is very clear.
And, by the way, there's also been a dialogue going on about making sure that there's measures to keep the government open that have things like disaster relief in them, that have things like support for the FAA to be able to get through some of these issues that the FAA is facing.
By the way, you mentioned passengers. Another thing that grinds to a halt in the event of a shutdown is the work that we have been doing to have rules that get passengers refunds when they get delayed. We have all of these parts of the government for a reason. And Americans expect Congress to keep that up and running and keep the lights on.
BASH: And you mentioned that there's some day care centers like yours that are going to close.
BUTTIGIEG: Absolutely, yes, to take just one example that hits pretty close to home for our household, but, more importantly, for people across the country, and whether we're talking about federal workers or just people who -- parents who are depending on WIC benefits might be wait-listed, instead of being able to support their kids.
And I would add, the shutdown is being used by some House Republicans as leverage to get budget cuts over and above the deal that was made, which would also have an incredibly negative effect...
BASH: They didn't like the deal in the first place.
BUTTIGIEG: Yes, but think about what this means for transportation again. Obviously, I'm speaking mostly to what's in my lane.
But some of the very same House Republicans who were lining up to try to make partisan political issue of air travel disruptions are proposing cuts that would make it harder to modernize our systems. Some of the very same House Republicans who were aligning up to try to make the pain of the people of East Palestine, Ohio, into a partisan political issue would cut railroad safety inspections.
It makes no sense.
BASH: President Biden is planning to join the autoworkers on -- who are striking. He's going Tuesday to your adopted home state of Michigan.
Donald Trump says that President Biden is only going because he had planned to go on Wednesday. Is that part of what's going on here, President Biden trying to draw a contrast?
BUTTIGIEG: No, President Biden is doing what he has always done, which is to stand with American workers. He is proud of being the most pro-union, pro-worker president, not only compared to the Trump administration with its anti-union policies, but really compared to any modern president.
You're not going to find somebody who has more consistently stood with unions. Now, having said that, it's also the case that these auto companies can thrive in a win-win deal that does what the president has called for, which is to say that record profits should lead to record pay and record benefits for the workers who are creating all that value.
And, as the auto industry, the global auto industry moves into the E.V. future, which, just to be clear, is going to happen no matter what, our goal and certainly the UAW's goal is to make sure that is a made-in-America E.V. future where American workers thrive.
BASH: I want to ask you about a new "Atlantic" profile that says that then-President Trump complained to Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley after an Army veteran who lost a leg in combat sang at the Pentagon, at an event at the Pentagon.
Trump reportedly told Milley -- quote -- "Why do you bring people like that here? No one wants to see that," the wounded.
Now, after that article came out, Trump attacked Milley on social media. It was kind of a rambling post. But he suggested that Milley deserved the death penalty.
You are a veteran. What's your response?
BUTTIGIEG: It's just the latest in a pattern of outrageous attacks on the people who keep this country safe.
And September puts me in a reflective mood, because it was actually tomorrow nine years ago now that I got back to South Bend after my one tour in Afghanistan. I served with people who did five, six, seven tours, some of them after being injured.
I served with a guy who had the fin of a rocket go through his tricep while he was standing in -- he was standing in Ghazni province. And, miraculously, the rocket didn't blow up and kill him. But he was eager to get back onto his next tour when I got to serve with him.
I, in an airport, ran into someone I served with who basically had her leg shot off, and with her new leg. When I ran into her, I asked her how she was doing, she said: "The Navy fixed me up just fine." And she went right onto her next assignment.
These are the kind of people who deserve respect, and a hell of a lot more than that, from every America and definitely from every American president.
And the idea that an American president, the person to whom service members look as a commander in chief, and the person who sets the tone for this entire country, could think that way or act that way or talk that way about anyone in uniform and certainly about those who put their bodies on the line and sacrificed in ways that most Americans will never understand, and I guess -- I guess wounded veterans make President Trump feel uncomfortable.
When I encounter somebody who put their body on the line and paid a price for this country, I feel about this big, because I see what they have done and I see again and again and again their willingness to continue giving. But those are exactly the kinds of people we should lift up, because their commitment could help unify the country.
And we need voices, whether it's ordinary people, service members or political leaders, who are interested in unifying, not dividing Americans.
BASH: Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, thank you, and thank you for your service.
New Jersey Democrats are turning on Senator Bob Menendez after bribery charges. Can he hold onto his job? The number two Senate Democrat, Dick Durbin, joins me next.
Plus, a Republican who's warning McCarthy against giving in joins me ahead.
BASH: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION.
Senate Democrats focused on a potential government shutdown got an uncomfortable surprise this week, a detailed and shocking indictment against a powerful committee chairman.
Here with me now to talk about that and more is the senior senator from Illinois, Dick Durbin, the number two Democrat in the Senate.
We do have a lot to talk about, sir, but, first, I do want to ask about this member of your caucus, someone you have served with for a long time, Senator Bob Menendez. He is due in federal court on Wednesday on bribery and corruption charges, including allegations that he received gold bars, a luxury car, and hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes and he gave sensitive government information to Egypt.
He is denying these charges, I should say. But many Democratic members and officials in New Jersey are saying that he should resign. Do you?
SEN. RICHARD DURBIN (D-IL): Let me tell you, Dana, this is a very serious charge. There's no question about it.
But it bears reminding us of what I have said about the indictments against Donald Trump, equally serious charges. These are, in fact, indictments that have to be proven under the rule of law. The person who is accused is entitled to the presumption of innocence. And it's the responsibility of the government to prove that case.
I have said that about Donald Trump. I will say the same thing about Bob Menendez. But the bottom line is, the Senate Democratic Caucus has a hard-and-fast rule. When indicted, you lose your position in leadership or chairmanship of a committee. And that is what has happened with Senator Menendez. He lost the chairmanship of one of our most important committees, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which the president himself served as chairman of in years gone by.
In terms of resignation, that's a decision to be made by Senator Menendez and the people of New Jersey.
BASH: A lot of Democrats, I'm sure you have seen, agree with you that he does deserve the presumption of innocence in a court of law. But particularly those in his home state of New Jersey, they say that the detailed evidence in this indictment say it means that he doesn't belong in the U.S. Senate.
DURBIN: Well, keep in mind that these are charges, and they have to be proven. And there is a presumption of innocence.
How far it goes, in terms of his future service, is something to be decided by the senator and the people of New Jersey.
BASH: One last question this. He is going to be up for reelection. Do you think he should run?
DURBIN: Well, I can tell you that it's a significant event. Clearly, it is. And whether or not he will run for reelection remains to be seen.
Let's talk about this deadline in Congress this week. At this point, do you expect the government to shut down?
DURBIN: I don't know what to think.
I can tell you this. There is one clear point that we should remind everyone of. The solution to this problem, funding our government, the critical services, depends on a bipartisan approach, Democrats and Republicans working together.
I think the Senate got off at least to a good start by our Appropriations Committee under Republican Senator Susan Collins on that side of the aisle and Patty Murray, the Democrat on our side of the aisle, reached an historic agreement we haven't seen for more than five years.
We were in a positive frame of mind moving forward, when the interruption occurred on the floor of the Senate by one Republican senator and in the House by the inability of the speaker to get a majority for anything.
It's going to take a bipartisan approach to solve this problem. And I hope we can move to it very quickly.
BASH: Well, on that, conservative House Republicans, one of the things that they are insisting on is funding for additional border security in any bill.
Is that a bipartisan solution that you could support and that could be supported in the United States Senate?
DURBIN: I don't want to presume what's going to be in the final package, but there are two things I will say.
One is, Speaker McCarthy reached an agreement with the president of the United States to avoid the last shutdown a few months ago. And that should be the starting point of our conversation. Secondly, I agree that we need to put more thinking and resources into the border to bring order to the chaos that's there.
BASH: Sounds like you might be OK with additional funding for the border in order to keep the government opening -- open?
DURBIN: Well, I'm not going to single-shot any one item that needs to be there, or else. I think that's the wrong approach to use.
We're talking about a continuing resolution to keep the lights on in the government while we debate the appropriation bill for the next fiscal year, which starts October 1. So I'm not going to say it's a requirement for any element to be included.
Let's sit down on a bipartisan basis and pass a continuing resolution.
BASH: Let's stick to a discussion about the border.
There is a surge of migrants at the Southern border. New numbers out Friday night show 233,000 border encounters in August alone. The Biden administration announced that it will extend temporary protected status to many Venezuelan migrants in the U.S.
I'm sure you have heard Republicans argue that that will only encourage more migrants to cross the border. Do you expect border crossings to keep rising?
DURBIN: Well, I can tell you it's a very serious challenge that we have never seen before, at least in this volume.
I supported the temporary protected status for Venezuelans, because I have been to Venezuela. I can tell you, we warn Americans not to travel to Venezuela, it's so dangerous. And the notion that these people could return to this country, their country, is just not practical at all.
And I might also add, they're in the United States in a legal status awaiting a hearing for asylum status. During that period of time, they need to work. I have met many of these migrants coming off the buses, sat down and talked to them. They don't ask me where the government welfare office is in the city of Chicago. They ask me where they can find a job.
And that's what's going to happen now that President Biden has made this decision. They will have that chance to work. They are desperately needed in our economy. We have jobs that go unfilled at virtually every level in every community.
So I think this could be a move in the right direction. But the bottom line for the border is, the chaotic situation there has to end. And we need to do that on a bipartisan basis.
BASH: Before I let you go, I have to ask you about something that's going on inside the Senate, which is a debate about the dress code.
You say that you are concerned about the fact that your leader, Chuck Schumer, directed that the Senate no longer enforce its dress code. Can you explain why you're concerned about that?
DURBIN: Well, let me tell you, the good news is, the conversation continues. And I believe there's going to be an agreement, I hope, very, very soon among members.
It is experience in the Senate to see individual senators and their individual fashion taste. I could go through the long litany of those that I have seen in the past. But I think it's very positive that Chuck is sitting down with the senators who are interested in this issue. And I expect an agreement to be reached very soon.
BASH: Why do you think the dress code shouldn't change?
DURBIN: Well, I can tell that you really don't have a dress code in the rules of the United States Senate. What we need to do is to reach an accommodation that is realistic.
Some of this is more challenging than it sounds, but I think with -- the progress that's been made today is very encouraging.
BASH: OK, Senator, thank you so much for joining me this morning. I appreciate it.
DURBIN: Thanks, Dana. BASH: My next guest is a Republican giving Kevin McCarthy heartburn
this week, that, plus a response from two moderate congressmen -- after a quick break.
BASH: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION.
As a government shutdown looks more and more likely, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy says he hopes the mounting pressure might force members to compromise.
One of those members is here with me now, Republican Congressman Tim Burchett.
Thank you so much, sir, for joining me.
We're now less than a week away from a potential shutdown. You just heard me talk about the House speaker trying to get a short-term compromise, or at least a short-term bill, for 45 days through the House.
Is that something that you would support?
BURCHETT: No, ma 'am. I have not voted for a C.R. I didn't -- continuing resolution. I didn't vote for one under President Trump, and I haven't voted for any in the past.
I think it's just completely throwing away our duties. We have a duty to pass a budget. We have got a Budget Committee. And, for the last, I think, 30 years, though, we haven't even passed a budget. Could you imagine at your church or your synagogue or your temple or your charitable organization or your business or even our states -- all 50 states pass a budget.
Daggone, we can't seem to -- we just don't do it. And part of the reason is, it's easy. And part of the reason is, it hides a lot of things from the public.
BASH: I want you to listen to something that your fellow Republican Congressman Garret Graves of Louisiana -- Louisiana said yesterday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. GARRET GRAVES (R-LA): The arsonists have lit their house on fire. They're whining about their house burning. They're going to want credit for putting the fire out, and then they're going to set up a GoFundMe to get paid for what happened.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: This is a fellow House Republican saying, not only are you unreasonable; you're like an arsonist.
BURCHETT: Well, Garret, he's close to the speaker, and I get that. He's a buddy of mine.
But, ma'am, we take in $5 trillion a year, and folks like Garret want to continue spending over $7 trillion a year. I don't know where that ever works anywhere, only in Washington, D.C. And the status quo from East Tennessee -- I know you're a Jersey girl -- hardworking people, ma'am, and they have budgets.
And we ought to get a budget and stick to it.
BASH: So, if that's the...
BURCHETT: But this dysfunctional Washington -- go ahead. I'm sorry, ma'am.
BASH: No, no, I didn't mean to interrupt you. Please go ahead.
BURCHETT: No, I was just going to say that this dysfunctional Washington cannot continue.
The American public knows what we're up to, and they're sick and tired of it. That's why folks like me, I'm -- we're sticking to our guns. And, all of a sudden, we're the bad guys because we want to balance our budget. I mean, imagine that we have come to Washington, we represent our constituents, we say what we're going to do.
And then we come to Washington and do it. Now, you have folks that come to Washington and say, oh, I'm going to be a fiscal conservative, I'm going to be tough on this, and then they're not.
You close those doors, ma'am, the only color they see is green. They look -- that's why they love an omnibus package, because it's like Speaker Pelosi said, we got to pass it to know what's in it; 2,000 pages, they read down until they find their district, and they see the funding for all their special pet projects, and then they stop.
BASH: So, let me ask you about that.
BURCHETT: They don't read the other 1,995 other pages.
Go ahead. Yes, ma'am.
BASH: In 2020, you -- in 2020, you said President Trump's budget had achievable, reasonable priorities for America. That budget came with a $966 billion deficit.
Why was President Trump's budget reasonable, but you can't get behind anything that you have seen so far with President Biden and the White House?
BURCHETT: Well, because those were attainable goals in the growth of the government, ma'am.
And I dare say that any of my colleagues would say that, since the COVID -- if we could just go back to pre-COVID spending levels, for goodness' sakes, that we would balance the budget.
Now, can you name me anything that's been added to our budget since COVID that you could not live without? And it's just reasonable. There's 15 or 16 of us. Look, they wouldn't even get in the room with us and talk to us about it until -- until this all broke.
We were -- we had the whole month of August to deal with this, yet they sent us home. And I get it. I work harder in -- back in East Tennessee here than I did in Washington, D.C., any day. But the reality is, we had the whole month. September 30 came upon us. And it happens about this time every year, ma'am.
BURCHETT: And yet we had our head in the sands, and we didn't do anything about it. And now we're up on that.
And now the folks that want to keep their word to their constituents, we're the bad guys. And all we want to do is have responsible government, ma'am. You cannot keep spending. You can't keep spending $7 trillion when you're only taking in $5 trillion. That just doesn't work. And it's completely dysfunctional.
And we have got to -- we can't continue this path.
BASH: And I just -- I know that you think that you're being portrayed as a bad guy, but there are leaders in the House and the Senate in both parties who want to try to avoid some real-world effects for Americans.
Service members, federal law enforcement won't get paid. You just heard Secretary Buttigieg talk about the effects on air traffic controllers, TSA agents. Small business loans and federal infrastructure projects would stop.
Even Speaker McCarthy says that you and your fellow Republicans, you're going to get the blame for that pain.
BURCHETT: Well, I submit to them that we're just -- we're going to get the blame because we're trying to do our job, is what the rest of them were supposed to be doing.
And now they're going to take the easy route out by buying -- by borrowing more money from China. Ma'am, that just doesn't work, any stretch of the imagination. And...
BASH: Even if it's temporary just to keep it -- just to keep it open?
BURCHETT: Mayor Pete -- OK.
Every year, we do this, the temporary. We say, let's -- and the latest strategy is to say, let's not call it a continuing resolution. The American public won't know it. That's ridiculous. Or they say, let's pass the C.R., continuing resolution, so that we can pass -- so that we can stop passing C.R.s. That's like telling a crack addict, we're going to give you more crack
to keep you off a crack. It doesn't work, ma'am. It's the continued -- here's what will happen. We will pass a 30-day C.R., continuing resolution. Then we will pass another continuing resolution. And then that will back us up to the Christmas break.
And then guess what? We will pass an omnibus again, and we will not do our duty. If they want to do their duty -- they're all struck on doing their duty. Tell them to pass a budget. Jodey Arrington out of Texas, God bless him, chairman of the -- of -- he's gone ahead with it.
They gave him 10 minutes in conference to talk about a budget. Nobody paid any attention. But that's what we're supposed to do.
BURCHETT: It's a 10-year plan to get us back on our feet. And that's reasonable.
BASH: We're out of time. Just one final question.
If Speaker McCarthy ultimately allows a deal to pass with Democratic votes, would you support ousting him from the speaker's chair?
BURCHETT: That would be something I would look strongly at, ma'am, if we do away with our duty that we said we're going to do.
They're all talking about this promise that he made with Biden a year ago -- I mean, with Biden a year ago. What about the promise we made to the American public that we were going to be responsible Americans? Ma'am, we are going to be -- we are going to be governing over a pile of rubble if we're not careful.
Our financial ship is sinking. And the American public needs to realize, all these fancy titles, C.R.s and omnibus, to confuse the American public is not working. The curtain's off. We need to do our duty. We should be back in Washington right now and dealing with it.
But what are we doing? Well, they sent us home.
BASH: Thank you so much. Appreciate your time this morning, sir.
Josh Gottheimer, Brian Fitzpatrick
Now to the bipartisan group that has a plan, they say, to try to avert this, the Problem Solvers Caucus.
We have Democrat Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey and Republican Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania.
Thank you so much, both of you.
Congressman Gottheimer, I'm going to start with you.
You are the Problem Solvers Caucus. REP. JOSH GOTTHEIMER (D-NJ): Sure.
BASH: You're trying to work to solve this very big problem. Is that even possible at this point?
GOTTHEIMER: I think so.
It's why our caucus, 64 of us, half Democrat, half Republican, came together last week and put out a solution, including a continuing resolution to keep the lights on in the government and not hurt people, not hurt our military, not hurt our seniors, not hurt our veterans, put resources aside for Ukraine, which is critical, as we all know, put resources aside for what we need desperately to deal with a lot of our disasters in this country, and have a fiscal and debt and deficit commission, fiscal responsibility, debt and deficit commission.
It's something that actually can get Democrats and Republicans together, which, as you know, right now, in a divided government, where you have got the House control by Republicans and the Senate controlled by Democrats, the only solution will be one where both sides come together.
And I think our plan is reasonable, and it deals with the extremes and says to them, instead of burning the place down, as Speaker McCarthy said of the far right, it actually provides a reasonable, commonsense solution working with people like Brian Fitzpatrick, who want to get things done.
BASH: And, Congressman Fitzpatrick, your fellow Republican Congressman Mike Lawler of New York says, if hard-liners will not vote to avert a shutdown in any way, your plan or another, he and other moderates will join Democrats in what's called a discharge petition to pass a bill and keep the government open.
Would you join him?
REP. BRIAN FITZPATRICK (R-PA): I think all options around the table to get our bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus bill on the floor.
It was introduced Friday. As Josh alluded to, it represents an intersection of where Democrats and Republicans agree. That's what America wants us to do, Dana. They want to sit down in the room. Just like our personal relationships, just like we manage our families and our businesses, you sit down at the table and you figure it out.
And that's what our caucus does. We don't allow the perfect to be the enemy the good. And we take the perspective that we'd rather get 80 percent of something than 100 percent of nothing. That's what our bill that we introduced, equally balanced between Democrats and Republicans -- it was introduced on Friday, the Keep an Open -- Keep America Open Act.
We will do whatever it takes to get that bill on the floor. BASH: And if it doesn't, will you join Democrats to keep the government running?
FITZPATRICK: Well, that's -- we're going to do whatever it takes to get that bill on the floor. And we have multiple options.
A discharge petition is one -- one of several options. And a group of us met with the parliamentarian this past week to discuss all the options we have to force a vote on our bill.
BASH: Congressman Gottheimer, hard-line Republicans are threatening to try to remove Kevin McCarthy as speaker. You just heard Congressman Burchett say that he's open to that as well.
It will need -- Speaker McCarthy would need Democratic votes to save his job. Would you vote to protect McCarthy if that comes up this week?
GOTTHEIMER: I think -- well, first of all, I'm focused on protecting the country and the people in the Fifth Congressional District. That's always my goal. And shutting the government down is not a way to actually protect people and look out for our veterans and law enforcement and making sure we have what we need.
And, as you saw, what we did during the debt ceiling deal, where Democrats and Republicans, with a lot of our involvement, came together. And when the far right -- and when they tried to burn the place down, when they threw procedural hurdles in the way and tried to stop progress for the country, we all stepped up, Democrats and Republicans, with the support of our leaderships, to make sure we averted that disaster.
And so our focus is going to be getting this to the floor, Dana, making sure that we can have a bipartisan solution, stop a government shutdown, keep the lights on, so we can keep working together for the country.
BASH: Right. But they're connected, as you know.
GOTTHEIMER: And if that means dealing with any procedural hurdle -- yes, well, any procedural hurdles get thrown in the way that the far right tries, we're going to make sure that we can get a vote done.
And that means getting the support of both sides to the table. And that's all we're focused on, is keeping the lights on this week. We have got seven days left to do it. And you're going to see us working around the clock to make sure we get that done.
BASH: Congressman Fitzpatrick, you represent a swing district that Joe Biden won by six points in 2020.
How do you respond to hard-liners like you just heard, Congressman Burchett? And are you worried about what a shutdown could mean for you and other Republicans who are in vulnerable seats?
FITZPATRICK: Tim Burchett is my friend. He's a good man, as you saw there. He's principled in what he believes in, and he's representing his constituents.
Josh and I are representing our constituents. That's how this system works. And I don't begrudge anybody for the way they vote or the positions they take. That's between them and their people back home, just like my votes are between me and the good people of Bucks and Montgomery County, Pennsylvania.
So we're going to do whatever we need to do to do our job to keep the government open, because our districts, and Josh's as well, we -- our district wants us to keep America running. We don't want the FAA reauthorization to expire. We don't want the government to shut down. We want to continue to support Ukraine in their fight against the genocidal Russian regime.
We want to make sure that we fund community health programs.
FITZPATRICK: We want to make sure that the TANF program, which is also in our bill, the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, that that maintains its funding.
That's what our people want. So we are going to do what it takes to represent our folks...
FITZPATRICK: ... just like Tim is going to do for him.
And we will put it all -- we will put all options on the floor and let democracy take hold.
Before I let you go, Congressman Gottheimer, you represent New Jersey. Your Senator Bob Menendez was indicted on federal bribery charges on Friday. You called on him to resign. You heard Dick Durbin saying he believes in the idea of innocent until proven guilty.
GOTTHEIMER: Listen, I have called on him, given the gravity of the charges, to step aside, as I said.
And I think, right now, given how we have got elections coming up, there's a lot of distractions, obviously, giving the senator time to defend himself, I think what's best is that he step aside, and we focus on issues like the one we're talking about today, right, making sure we put our country first and get this done.
And that means putting aside distractions and focusing, all sides, Democrats and Republicans, coming together. That's what we're going to continue to do in these days ahead. And Brian and I will be working with the Problem Solvers Caucus around the clock to do that.
And we can't afford -- this is a decision the speaker's going to have to make. He can bring that reasonable bill to the floor that we have proposed. And I guarantee you're going to get Democrats and Republicans coming together to support it and we can keep the lights on and keep functioning. And I hope that's what happens this week.
BASH: Congressman Gottheimer, Congressman Fitzpatrick, Democrat, Republican, nice to see you all, especially together. Appreciate it.
FITZPATRICK: Thanks, Dana.
GOTTHEIMER: Thanks. Thanks so much.
FITZPATRICK: Good seeing you.
BASH: And did Joe Biden just catch Donald Trump off guard?
We're going to talk about that with my panel next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: Now a small group of extreme Republicans don't want to live up to the deal, so now everyone in America could be forced to pay the price.
GRAVES: Get your little games over with. Then we will get back to focusing on the things that actually matter.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION.
A rare bipartisan agreement there between President Biden and a top McCarthy ally.
My panel joins me now.
Thank you all for being here.
I want to start with you, because you're the only sitting member of Congress at the table, Congressman -- Congresswoman Summer Lee.
How is this going to end?
REP. SUMMER LEE (D-PA): Hopefully, it ends -- personally, I hope it ends with the American people realizing that the Republican Party is incapable of leading and incompetent and unserious.
But, before then, we need to not just keep the lights on. We can't just keep the lights on at the Capitol. We need to make sure that we're keeping the lights on of American people. If the Capitol's lights are on, but our working families can't put food on their tables, they can't afford formula, then we have a bigger problem.
So that's what we need to be focused on right now. We need to make sure that we come up with a deal for working people, not just a deal for politicians who are scoring political points.
BASH: And do you agree, Scott, with Kevin McCarthy that Republicans are the ones who will get blamed if there's a shutdown?
SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, I -- mostly, that's what happens.
The one that didn't turn out that way, it was the Schumer shutdown, when Democrats staged a stunt a few years ago over immigration. But, mostly, that's what occurs. And there's a handful of Republicans right now that are holding this up without really a clear strategy or an endgame in mind.
I mean, it'd be one thing if they had sort of an outcome on the horizon that they could get to. But there's a Democrat president, there's Democrat Senate, and this is divided government. And I do agree with you that the economy's in terrible shape. And that's where we ought to be fighting this out over Joe Biden's policies and not whether the Republicans can live up to their responsibilities.
BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: There are two things that I think the American public probably will take from this.
One, to harp on your point here, is, Kevin McCarthy has not proven himself to be a strong leader. And I think, when you go back and look at the leaders or speakers throughout history, you see some strength. There will be no one who tells you that Nancy Pelosi was a weak leader. Republicans and Democrats alike have that respect.
And I'm not sure McCarthy has garnered that respect from his fellow colleagues within the caucus. I'm not even talking about Democrats. I'm just talking about Republicans.
BASH: But can any Republican get that kind of respect, as you call it, or consensus, given where the Republican Caucus is, A, and, B, the four-seat majority?
ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Here's what we have with such a slim majority in the House. We have -- we need more people like the Problem Solvers and not the flamethrowers.
And speaking with the rational Republicans we have in the House, many of them support the work that McCarthy's doing, saying that he is putting forth ideas and putting forth reasonable conservative policies that can actually get things done. But he's running into a brick wall.
McCarthy has the support of rank and file. And then we have people like Matt Gaetz, who are the rowdy and feckless wing of the Republican Party, and they're not able to get anything done. And what he is doing is, he is getting further and further away from finding a consensus, and we're going to lead to a shutdown.
And it's taking away from the Biden administration policies, it's taking away from the open border, and it's taking away from issues that Republicans should be talking about, and we're going to potentially...
LEE: To be clear, I will never argue with you about Matt Gaetz being a flamethrower wherever he is.
SELLERS: Oh, we can get T-shirts that say rowdy and feckless.
LEE: We can all agree on that one.
But, to be clear, this is not the slimmest majority that someone's had, right? Other speakers have been able to deal with slim majorities. They have been able to deal with their caucuses being divided. Nancy Pelosi became speaker. It didn't take 15 rounds. She also had different points of her party that she was able to bring together.
This is unprecedented, and it's embarrassing, and it's the third manufactured crisis we have.
SELLERS: Can I ask a question? Like, I know you're supposed to be asking the questions.
BASH: Go for it.
BASH: The floor is yours, Bakari.
SELLERS: But why -- I think, just sitting here, and we play inside baseball, the four of us, a lot, and, sometimes, we get caught in that kind of Washington bubble.
But why do we always end up here? I think the American people want to -- I mean, Democrats and Republicans need to be able to answer the question of, why do we always...
BASH: I will add to -- can I add to that?
BASH: Six weeks off. The House was gone for six weeks. The Senate was gone for five weeks. I know that they're doing work at home.
But, like, if you have this crisis coming that everybody knew, why?
JENNINGS: Well, it's not really a crisis unless you make it into a crisis.
I mean, the Congress knows at the beginning of the Congress, well, we have to fund the government.
BASH: Yes, it's kind of in the Constitution.
JENNINGS: It's not a crisis until you make it into one.
And I just have to disagree on McCarthy. He has pulled a few rabbits out of a few hats this year. And he still has time to do it here. They're working through it right now. And I do sense a growing restlessness or anger in the bulk of the Republican Conference that they're being held up by a handful of people.
I don't know how this is going to end. I hope it ends in a way that advances the ball for Republican priorities. But the correct way to move conservative values forward is to get what you can get in divided government and then go win the election next year and win elections next year. And if you look dysfunctional, it does make it harder to win those elections.
BASH: Let me just look ahead in a different direction. This is obviously going to be the big focus, as it should be, in Washington.
But there's going to be something else that's going to be going on in Michigan this week. You're going to see the first time a U.S. president will join an active picket line in Michigan. How big of a deal is this?
STEWART: He's obviously -- as he has said and the administration has said for many years, he is the most pro-union president this country has ever had. He really has to go there.
But it goes to show what he has not been able to do for the unions and these workers, the fact that we're in this situation to begin with. And, look, I'm a Republican. I am more for private sector. I'm for free enterprise. I think, if there is such a huge disparity in what the CEOs are making and those on the floor, that should be handled internally.
And shareholders should put the pressure on these company heads to make things right. I don't think government should get involved. I don't think they should be persuading and making these moves. And when Donald Trump goes there this week, he's probably going to make it more about Joe Biden and electrical vehicles than what he's going to do with regard to the unions.
SELLERS: I think Joe Biden showing up for working-class Americans is going to speak loudly.
Also, Joe Biden getting out of Washington, D.C., is what all of us have been clamoring for him to do. Like, just stop giving speeches from, like, here -- I'm not going to say basement, because I hate when Republicans say that -- and go out into the communities.
I mean, go into a state like Michigan, where we actually have to campaign to win president of the United States. Go to where working- class Americans are. The Democrats have forgotten -- you're excluded for the moment.
LEE: Thank you.
SELLERS: But Democrats have forgotten that the number one thing we have to do when running this country and actually running races is meet people where they are.
LEE: Yes, we need to be where the energy is.
The energy is on picket lines, and it's not just workers at the Big Three. We're looking at the WGA. We're looking at the actors. We're looking at coffee workers. We're looking at the whole span of our work force. This is a moment for labor. And they need to know that their government does work for them, does serve them.
BASH: Scott, I just want to ask you just about tactics.
BASH: Because we hear a lot about Democrats rolling their eyes, taking Tums for the heartburn about what Joe Biden isn't doing.
This is something that he is doing. He's going there and going ahead of Donald Trump. And Trump is not happy about that, saying that this is all political. But it is a strategy. Could it be applauded just from the raw tactical perspective?
JENNINGS: Well, he made the announcement after Trump made his announcement, number one.
BASH: I mean, but that's a -- I mean, that's what I mean about the tactics.
JENNINGS: Showing up for working-class Americans who largely blame him for the anger that they currently feel.
Since they branded this economy Bidenomics, Joe Biden's numbers on the economy have never been lower. They blame him. They blame his policies. And now he's going to go and say, I stand with you. Essentially, he's saying, I'm standing with you against all the hardship you're enduring because of what you think I have done for you.
It's this circular thing. They still have no answer for inflation. These people are largely mad that their paychecks don't go as far as they used to. And they blame Joe Biden for it.
LEE: They blame the corporations, and they blame those bosses. And that's why they're on strike right now. They have been explicit about who they are blaming.
And CEOs that are making exorbitant amounts of money, while the workers are not getting more money. They know where their issues lie.
STEWART: It will take a lot more than a photo-op on the picket line to change people's hearts and minds on what this administration is doing on the economy.
And that's not going to move the needle.
SELLERS: It's a start.
BASH: Thank you all.
Don't go anywhere. We're going to be right back.
BASH: My colleague Manu Raju is taking the anchor chair for "INSIDE POLITICS SUNDAY." You will not want to miss this hardworking, enterprising reporter, someone who I'm proud to call my friend.
He will be in the chair every Sunday. And it starts today 11:00 a.m. Eastern. Please tune in.
Thank you so much for spending Sunday morning with us.
Fareed Zakaria picks it up next.