UYGUR: Welcome to the show, everybody. I`m Cenk Uygur. Now, in a day of high political drama just two days before a possible government shutdown, President Obama accused House Republicans of injecting politics into the budget debate. That preceded word that the president and Vice President Biden will meet with top Republicans tonight at the White House to try to get a budget agreement. It may not be a very friendly meeting.
Here`s what the president said at an event in Philadelphia today.
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BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We`ve now agreed to cut as much spending as the Republicans in Congress originally asked for. I`ve got some Democrats mad at me, but I said, You know what? Let`s get past last year`s budget and let`s focus on the future. So we`ve agreed to a compromise, but somehow, we still don`t have a deal because some folks are trying to inject politics in what should be a simple debate about how to pay our bills. I do not want to see Washington politics stand in the way of America`s progress.
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UYGUR: I got to be honest with you guys. Look, I don`t want to do it, but to me, I don`t know if he doesn`t get it or what it is, but of course, you`re in politics. You`re the Democrats. They`re the Republicans.
They fight hard. Do they inject politics into it? Of course they do. But if you keep saying, I want to look towards the future and I want to just get beyond this, so just give them whatever they want, well, then, they keep winning.
Remember, politics is about policy ultimately. This isn`t just to say, Oh, you`re not playing politics. Well, every one of these cuts is real. They`re billions in cuts that wind up affecting you. That`s why we want the president to fight.
Look, I`m on his side. I want him to do better. But as he keeps constantly giving in and being proud of it, it`s frustrating! Now you`re going to see the Republicans in a second. They`re the exact opposite. The Obama administration, you know, has already agreed to the $73 billion in cuts. But of course, it`s not enough for the Republican Party. Now they want deeper cuts.
And as if to prove President Obama`s point, they`re playing politics to get what they really want. But when they play it, it is vicious. Republicans like Speaker John Boehner know that if a government shutdown happens, military members would remain working, but would not receive their pay until the government is back up and running. Now, think about that for a second.
So (INAUDIBLE) look, they say, Look, we got the $73 billion that we originally wanted. We don`t care. We want another $7 billion. And if the military doesn`t get paid — remember the guys that we used as props for eight long years under Bush, saying, Oh, you better watch it, oh, you`re hurting the troops. Now they don`t care about hurting the troops because they want their political agenda.
And they again, for the eighth time in a row, now they hold them hostage. Whenever they have a situation, they know the president cares. I get that. You understand that, right? The president cares. He doesn`t want the military to go without pay. But they use that against him. It`s almost like Spiderman. You know he`s going to save the bus full of people, right, so then you hold that bus full of people hostage. And that`s what the Republicans do time after time.
But he`s got to stop falling for that trick. He`s got to draw clearer lines, in my opinion. So Boehner, of course, today proposed another one- week spending plan, which he`s cynically is calling a troop funding bill. The only reason the troops would need special funding is because the Republicans cut off the money and shut down the government! That`s why they need the special funding.
But here`s Speaker Boehner.
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REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: The government`s due to shut down tomorrow, so we`re going to be prepared to move forward with our troop funding bill that would fund our troops, keep the government open for another week, and cut $12 billion in spending.
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UYGUR: I mean, that`s cynical, dirty politics in a nutshell. The guys threatening to take away troops` salaries pretend to be the ones fighting for it.
All right, joining me now is Congressman Jim McDermott. He`s a Democrat from Washington. Also with me, MSNBC political analyst Richard Wolffe. Thank you for joining me, guys. I appreciate it.
Congressman, let me start with you. I know they`re going over the White House. Will there be a deal? Do you know anything about it? And if there is a deal, will there be more compromise from the Democrats?
REP. JIM MCDERMOTT (D), WASHINGTON: I`m very doubtful there`ll be a deal because the Republicans have never wanted a deal. I voted no on the first one. I voted no on the second one. I`m going to vote no on this because you can never give them enough. They`re always going to want to take more. And the president should have figured that out by now, in my view.
I simply think you`ve got to stop backing up and say, Put your money where your mouth is. We are either going to close this government down because you won`t fund it, or we`re not going to. I think they are going to have to give on the Republican side, but they take the position that they don`t have to compromise because compromise is a dirty word and it means you`ve given up your principles. It is simply raw politics. There`s nothing else here but raw politics. And the president has got to stand up to them and jam them against the wall.
UYGUR: All right, now, Richard, look, you cover the White House. You hear Congressman McDermott`s frustration. You heard my frustration. Does the president here — do you get a sense that he gets that the progressive side goes, Come on, please stop giving in already?
RICHARD WOLFFE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Sure, he does, and that`s what he was saying today. That`s what he said out of the White House yesterday. You know, he has reached the end of the line here, and he is willing to call a bluff because this has turned into a game of blackmail, let`s face it. It was $1 billion or $2 billion for a couple of weeks, and now it`s turned into $12 billion for one week.
And enough already. That`s what the president is saying quite clearly. I think if you`re asking the question, Is he going to give them something more? Well, he`s given them everything they wanted to begin with. And this is moving in the wrong direction, from the White House`s point of view, because every time they sit down or try and talk about it, the demands get greater, they get more outrageous. And we haven`t even talked about the rider or anything else.
So you know, when you look at this, you look at the polls, look at the new NBC poll, although everyone gets blamed, there is no question Republicans come off worse out of this. That`s why you`re seeing Republicans trying to play this naked political ploy about the troop funding bill. They know this is going to hurt them more. They`re all about pre-positioning for what comes next.
UYGUR: How about the riders, Congressman McDermott? If the president says, All right, we`ll give you one or two riders, does that add to your frustration? You know, how do you vote on that? What`s your take on that?
MCDERMOTT: I`m not voting for it. I — listen, this — I`ve been watching these games for 40 years. I`ve been through budget battles since 1970, 23 of them here in the Congress. And what they`re doing now is a simple old game of jamming it down his throat and saying, We`re going to walk away.
Now, when somebody does that to you, they`re not negotiating with you. They`re not putting something on the table to negotiate it. They are just jamming it at you. And the president just cannot allow himself to be taken by that kind of maneuver. He has to say to them, No riders. I gave you the money. Now, that`s the end of it.
MCDERMOTT: Riders have nothing to do with balancing the budget. NPR — cutting NPR does not make the fiscal situation better. Taking away Planned Parenthood does not make the fiscal situation any better, and I`m not giving you that. If you can`t get it in legislation on the floor, you`re going to have to try, but you can get it at your own risk. You`re not going to get it by jamming me on the budget.
UYGUR: Now, Richard, take us inside that meeting at the White House today. What`s going to happen? Is the president going to say what Congressman McDermott is saying there, No on the riders, I already gave you everything you originally asked for and a billion dollars extra, and I`m not giving a nickel more, or is he going to go a little further down the road?
WOLFFE: I suspect he`s going to say, Come on, Congressman, Speaker Boehner, you`ve got everything you want. What`s it going to take to do a deal? You know you`re going to come off worse in this.
This isn`t a fight the president wants to have. It`s not his…
UYGUR: That`s the problem.
WOLFFE: … kind of politics. It`s not his kind of policies. He does not — he did not get elected…
UYGUR: What is his politics, can I ask, Richard? I`m sorry to interrupt.
WOLFFE: He didn`t — well, you know that…
UYGUR: I`m sorry to interrupt, but is his politics? What`s…
WOLFFE: You`re not that sorry. Don`t worry.
WOLFFE: But it`s — look, he was elected to unite red and blue America. He was elected to find the common ground and to come up with compromise and try to move beyond this kind of partisan squabbling.
He has been dragged into this unwillingly even at the time when he`s trying to say, I`m making a play for independent voters, I`m trying to be reasonable here, I`m giving everything I can. But there is a line here, and he`s come up against it.
He doesn`t want to play that kind of game, even though Democrats are going to come off better for it. That`s the kind of conversation he`s got to have with Speaker Boehner tonight because the question is, What can Boehner really deliver? Does he speak for the center of American politics or doe she speak for the Tea Party? And that`s the kind of realpolitik that`s going to be played out in the Oval Office tonight.
UYGUR: Well, who Boehner speaks for is incredibly clear. Of course he`s speaking for the radical right. And he has no delusions of speaking for the — I don`t think he does. I mean, he might say it, but it`s obvious to everybody watching that he does and he`s for the radical right. But at least he represents his position.
Congressman McDermott, do you think President Obama`s going to hold the line today? I don`t even know why they`re having a meeting if he`s going to hold the line. My guess is that he`s going to give them a little bit more. I mean, am I being overly cynical? And please also address what Richard said, which is, Hey, listen, he`s trying to find the center here. He`s the president of all of us, trying to unite red and blue. Is that a fair argument?
MCDERMOTT: This week, the president announced that he`s running for reelection. Now, if he`s running for reelection by backing down from the Republicans every time they push him against the wall, he`s going to have a real tough time in this election.
This is the time for him to take a stand and say, Look, I have been as polite and gracious and conciliatory as I can be. I`ve given you everything I`m going to give you, and we are done. You do whatever you want to do. You let the country fall on its face, and I will point to the people who could not put it together.
UYGUR: All right. Congressman McDermott, very clear. Richard Wolffe, great analysis. Thank you both for joining us tonight. Really appreciate it.
WOLFFE: You bet.
UYGUR: All right. And by the way, just so you know, I`m with McDermott. Not a nickel more.