CENK UYGUR, HOST: Good evening. I`m Cenk Uygur.
It`s 6:00 p.m. in Washington, 30 hours before the United States government shuts down, maybe. At this point probably.
Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will be back at the White House at 7:00 p.m. Eastern, But there`s no reason to think another round of talks will make any difference as long as the GOP continues to play bait-and-switch during these negotiations.
Today, President Obama issued a rare veto threat against yet another sham bill from the Republicans. That`s a very good thing. The bill would keep the government running for another week. The Republicans are disguising it as a bill to fund the troops and daring the Democrats to vote against it.
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REP. HAL ROGERS (R), KENTUCKY: If you vote against this bill, you are voting against the troops.
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UYGUR: What nonsense. Now, by shutting the government down, you would be taking away the pay of the troops. Now, to their credit, the Democrats saw it as a political sham and called them out on it.
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REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER: For them to want to disguise their bad proposal by hiding behind our troops is really a disservice to our troops.
REP. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D), MARYLAND: This is a cynical ploy to use our troops, to the try to impose the Republican agenda through the budget process.
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UYGUR: Well, it`s also GOP 101. I`ve seen it for 10 straight years now hiding behind the troops.
Now, what`s becoming increasingly clear in all this budget battles is that, for Republicans, the fight is about ideologies, not about the numbers. They don`t care about a few billion here or there. What they really want to do is ram through those policy riders, attached to the budget that cuts social programs that don`t fit their conservative agenda.
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SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: We have bent, bent and bent as much as the caucus will bend. The only things holding up an agreement are two of their so-called social issues: women`s health and clean air. This is an extreme agenda that has nothing to do with a funding bill.
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UYGUR: Now, all of that is true. Extreme agenda, it has everything to do with those riders, and they bent and bent and bent. Those riders, by the way, target the EPA. They keep it from regulating greenhouse gases. They also defund Planned Parenthood and everybody knows this.
Look, it`s why protesters gathered today outside the capitol in support of Planned Parenthood and a woman`s right to choose.
Perhaps the only true moment of clarity spoke when Republican Majority Leader Eric Cantor spoke on the House floor and tried to blame Democrats for the country`s financial mess. The Democrats were not having it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ERIC CANTOR (R-VA), MAJORITY LEADER: Let us look at why we are where we are to begin with. You know —
CROWD: Bush! Bush! Bush!
CANTOR: We are —
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UYGUR: That was awesome. When he said, let`s look at how we got here, the Democrats started chanting “Bush, Bush, Bush.” Oh, I love that.
We ought to find a guy who did that and give him a medal. That was a great chant. And did you notice the look on Cantor`s face, like, oh, yes, oops, I shouldn`t have brought that up.
And look, I want you guys to remember that. Don`t ever forget how we got here. Bush and the Republicans destroyed our economy. They cost us 8 million jobs. They started a giant recession and handed us an enormous deficit.
So, you`ll excuse me if I don`t pay much mind to their nonsense ideas on the budget now. That`s my take.
But let`s get other takes here. Joining me now is A.B. Stoddard, associate editor and columnist for “The Hill.” Also with us is Representative Marcy Kaptur, Democrat from Ohio. She serves on the Budget and Appropriations Committee. And did you know this? She`s the most senior woman in the House. That`s awesome.
All right. A.B., I want to start with you. I want to get the latest here.
Now, look, for many days now, the Democrats come out and go, I think we`ve got it, I think we`re really close to a deal here, and the Republicans come out and go, we want more.
Is there any reason to believe that tonight will be any different?
A.B. STODDARD, THE HILL: No. They do — they still want more, and we are really looking at the strong likelihood of a shutdown tomorrow night because the two parties are so far apart. John Boehner does not up the ante every time he leaves those negotiations. He says every time he leaves, it`s not enough. And unless you get that number now at the mid-30s up closer to $61 billion, he cannot find the votes, and he cannot pass it.
So, it really looks at this point like a shutdown is going to happen. It got very dramatic today and far more interesting. But we did not see a lot of progress. And I think Republicans having passed that temporary stop-gap measure again in the House funding the troops, unlike what you see it as, I think it was a pretty good move, and they`re very comfortable with where they are rhetorically, funding the troops for the rest of the year and moving on with the budget fight.
UYGUR: Yes. You know, by the way, rhetorically, it was a nice trick on their part, right? And the president was talking about Yellowstone National Park. He should have been talking about the military first, instead, of course, the Republicans came in, even though they`re the ones who you say won`t compromise. And so, oh, we care about the troops, that they`re not going to get paid.
Let me go to Representative Kaptur. I mean, again, it seems like they somehow got a political advantage when no one believes in reality that they`re willing to compromise. Tell me about what the caucus is thinking. I mean, have you guys had enough of giving in and giving in and then pulling the rug up from underneath you?
REP. MARCY KAPTUR (D), OHIO: Well, I think it`s pretty apparent that the problem is on the Republican side. You don`t really know what happens when Speaker Boehner goes back into his own caucus. But it appears that they can`t seal a deal, that everyone can agree to. And so, they come back to us with measures that don`t do anything to create jobs in this country.
But, then, today, they talk about using our soldiers as a pawn in this protracted struggle to reach an agreement for the budget year in which we`re in, 2011. It appears that they can`t govern. And the Democrats, obviously, it`s the leadership that`s involved in these meetings, but when they go back, he can`t satisfy his own caucus. So, there`s a severe problem on the other side of the aisle.
And what`s sad about this is the American people really want to go to work. They want their government to work also. They want a country that`s stable during these difficult times economically and militarily around the world. And we`re into this kind of juvenile back-and-forth, this ping-pong between the caucuses and the White House.
They`re going back in again tonight at 7:00, I don`t know if they can pull a rabbit out of the hat by tomorrow. But I hope so.
You know, A.B., I want to go to you for a second actually because what I want to understand is: what is their priority here? Because as Representative Kaptur just said there, once they go into caucus, they come out saying, no, no, no. Are they saying no predominantly because of he riders, that they absolutely want the riders? Is it mainly that they just want more money? Or they`re just never going to get a deal — they actually do want to shut it down?
STODDARD: Well — no, it really is a mix of both, Cenk. I mean, the riders remain important to many conservatives in the caucus. You know those are environmental, abortion-related, and also efforts to stop the implementation of health care reform. Those are important to their members.
But, also, I think that if you saw an offer from the Democrats without riders, but far deeper cuts, it would be — it would be more popular among their ranks and probably something that they could pass, and likely with the help of the Blue Dog Democrats, 15 of whom voted with the Republicans today.
But I do want to make a point. While the Democrats were in the majority, they did not pass a budget. And it`s not that it`s on Congresswoman Kaptur and other House Democrats` shoulders, but the Senate Democrats have never passed a bill yet. All of the continuing resolutions to keep the government open have been written by Republicans and brought to the table by Republicans. The Senate Democrats have passed nothing, and the Senate Democrats and the House Democrats last year holding the majority passed no budget.
And so, as they come to the table, they are — if a shutdown happens, Republicans are convinced at this point that they`ve showed the public that they have been the ones trying to keep the government open with resolution after resolution.
UYGUR: Well — no, no, but, A.B., there`s a couple unfair things there. First, you have a better point when they controlled the Senate, right? Well, they still do. What I`m saying when they controlled all of Congress, when they had the House and they could have passed this.
STODDARD: They did not pass a budget last year.
UYGUR: I know. That`s what I`m saying. They didn`t pass it. That`s the better point of it. But at the same time, the Republicans filibustered everything anyway, right?
So, now — hold on — now when they have the whole House, what`s the point of the Senate passing a bill that they know isn`t going to go past the House? Isn`t it just political games? Is it a point to get a bill that everybody agrees on and then the Senate passes it?
STODDARD: Well, the way that it usually is done, and I know Congresswoman Kaptur will agree with me that you have two chambers, and each supposed to pass a bill, and you negotiate the differences between two bills. And so, when you only have Republican bills, they think that you`re supposed to come further to their bill unless you have your own Democratic bill.
I`m not arguing on behalf of them. I`m saying that is traditionally the process. Senator Reid could have passed a Democratic budget bill and represented that bill in the negotiations at the White House. That has never been happening. It`s all on Republican terms.
UYGUR: I`m going to let Congresswoman —
STODDARD: They`ve allowed Republicans to drive the debate.
UYGUR: I`m going to let the congresswoman respond. Go ahead.
KAPTUR: Yes. You know, it`s hard for me to speak about the other body, the Senate. But it is true with the filibuster process in place and with Senator McConnell pulling the rug out from everyone all the time, they can`t muster 60 votes over there. So, it places a great deal of burden on the House.
I will say, in the defense of Democrats, and I`ve served in Congress a while now, that the only balanced budgets we ever got were during Democratic administration administrations. We gave the Bush administration balanced budgets and we were paying down long-term debt. Until President Bush, he not only pushed us into these growing deficits, because the wars were not paid for, but he basically gave the public treasury to Wall Street.
And if you look at the tax cuts that he enacted which didn`t produce job growth in this country, over $1 trillion —
UYGUR: That`s right.
KAPTUR: — of public money is going into the pockets of the wealthiest people in this country when the middle class and working class are getting gouged.
So, I think you have to look at what`s on the table in these budget negotiations, and only 12 percent is even being talked about. These other tax breaks that I`m talking about and the costs of running a government are not even on the table.
So, it`s unrealistic to think you can balance trillion dollar deficits when not everything is on the table. You`ve got to produce a growth economy.
UYGUR: I actually have numbers on there. A.B., though, I`m going to be a little unfair and I`m going to spring a pop quiz on you. Do you know the last Republican president to balance a budget?
STODDARD: I`m not prepared for this pop can I see. It was not Ronald Reagan. How is that?
UYGUR: That`s true. It was Eisenhower.
KAPTUR: I was going to guess that.
STODDARD: You know, in fairness, I agree. You know, we can argue all night about how much the Bush administration and the Bush years recently drove us into debt with two unpaid wars and a prescription drug plan that also was used borrowing money from China. But what we`re talking about this, if the government shuts down, the Republicans believe they have shown a willingness to govern by drafting —
UYGUR: Nonsense. I`m sorry. I`ve got to jump in.
STODDARD: That`s all I`m saying.
UYGUR: Nonsense. Not true even remotely for two reasons —
STODDARD: They`re comfortable — I`m not their spokesman. I`m just saying they`re comfortable where they are.
UGYUR: And what I`m telling you that their position is nonsense.
Let me explain two things. First, historically, it does matter, because they have no credibility. Here, let me show you the numbers. Last time we had a balanced budget, of course, was under Clinton. He left office with $127 billion surplus.
When Bush left office, he had a $1.3 trillion deficit. These guys don`t know what they`re doing. They`ve never balanced a budget. They just — so they have no credibility.
Now, when you come to the present, the president gave them $40 billion, then he gave them $4 billion, and then $6 billion, and then $20 billion. And then, we were up to $73 billion and now, apparently, they`ve offered a couple more billion as you`ve reported, and it`s still not good enough.
A.B., how can anybody in their right mind think that the Democrats have not compromised enough and are not ready to govern, and that it`s the Republicans who are responsible? That defies all sense and reason.
STODDARD: You know, Cenk, I agree with you. I think that the administration has been extremely compromising and has come to the table willing to cut a long way to $61 billion. Unfortunately, the Republicans want $61 billion plus the riders, and as I said before, if they went way above 40, there might be a willingness to take out of the policy changes.
But that is what they passed in the House, there is no Senate bill, and they argue that`s not halfway.
UYGUR: Congresswoman, last question, are you willing to go above 40? Please tell me no.
KAPTUR: I want everything on the table. And if we put everything on the table, we could get well above 40, but that will mean every American, including the Wall Street billionaires, who are doing quite well, thank you, only paying at an 11 percent tax rate, they should be paying at a 35 percent tax rate like every other honest business in this country.
Companies like General Electric, ExxonMobil paying no taxes? They ought to put those tax breaks out on the table. It just shouldn`t be taken out hides of our veterans, children in school —
KAPTUR: — our senior citizens who are hungry. I mean, the 12 percent that`s on the table comes right out of the hides of the working class and middle class, the people who really need the help.
UYGUR: Absolutely. And later in the show, we`re going to talk about those oil subsidies, how they`re robbing us blind and nobody is talking about them, except Representative Kaptur here, as she pointed out.
But I want to thank both of you tonight for your time. A.B. Stoddard and Representative Kaptur, I really appreciate the conversation.
KAPTUR: Thank you, Cenk.