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Let States Legalize Marijuana?; Anger Along the Border: What's the Answer?

Aired July 8, 2014 - 18:28   ET


STEPHANIE CUTTER, CO-HOST: Wolf, this is an important moment for everyone in Congress. Will they show the world they can handle a crisis?

NEWT GINGRICH, CO-HOST: If it is such a big crisis, why isn't President Obama going to the border? The debate starts now.


ANNOUNCER: Tonight on CROSSFIRE, as children and protesters head for the border, President Obama is going to Texas and asking Congress for lots of money.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They're children! What is wrong with you?

ANNOUNCER: On the left, Stephanie Cutter. On right, Newt Gingrich. In the CROSSFIRE, Senator Ben Cardin, a Maryland Democrat, and Senator Tom Coburn, an Oklahoma Republican. Anger along the border, plus the "Outrage of the Day," tonight on CROSSFIRE.


GINGRICH: Welcome to CROSSFIRE. I'm Newt Gingrich on the right.

CUTTER: And I'm Stephanie Cutter on the left. In the CROSSFIRE tonight, two U.S. senators.

Nearly 10,000 children are coming here every month fleeing violence. It's a humanitarian crisis, and these kids deserve to be treated humanely. But we also need to figure out who has legal claims to stay, who must be sent home, and how do we stop more kids from making this dangerous journey?

Today the president asked for $3.7 billion to care for these kids and add more Border Patrol agents. He also asked Congress to help speed up the complicated legal process these kids face under current law.

Actually, Congress can fix this problem. But it will require many Republicans to put aside their politics and, on this issue in particular, that's not something that we've seen a lot of.

GINGRICH: Well, I think it's fascinating that the president's answer to this problem is to propose an appropriation larger than the entire Border Patrol for last year. Now, this is a problem which can be solved largely by a single fix.

Because prior to the Feinstein Amendment being adopted in 2008, the number of people coming across the border, children, unaccompanied children from those three countries, was somewhere in the 6 to 8,000 a year range. And it's been since that amendment that this has gotten worse.

But in the CROSSFIRE, Senator Ben Cardin, a Maryland Democrat, and Senator Tom Coburn, an Oklahoma Republican.

Let me ask you, Ben, I mean, this is a situation where literally, you wouldn't solve all the immediate and past problems but you would stop the flow by simply repealing the Feinstein Amendment and going back to the laws that existed in 2008. I mean, don't you think the country, prior -- before giving another $3.7 billion, the country wants to see the stream of people stopped?

SEN. BEN CARDIN (D), MARYLAND: I think what this nation wants to see is the countries of Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, take care of their own people. And these children are leaving. The parents are putting their children on trains because of the conditions within their country. They're afraid their children are going to be killed there.

Newt, we spent a couple hundred million a year on development assistance in these countries, and now we're spending billions of dollars to take care of the problems of the children being sent to our country.

Let's make an investment to help these countries deal with their family issues. Let's take care of the problems in the host country so that families aren't sending their children...

GINGRICH: OK, I just want to say, your position is unless we can fix Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, which is a pretty big assignment, about 40 million people; unless we can fix them, we have the obligation to take care of their children?

CARDIN: No, our policy is very clear. When these children reach our border, they're placed in deportation; they're placed in a circumstance where they're going to be returned to their host country. Yes, they're entitled to be cared for; yes, they're entitled to due process to make sure that, if they're returned, to be returned into a safe environment. That's our responsibility, our humanitarian responsibility.

But no, they're not being given an opportunity to come to America. They're desperate. And they're taking -- their families are making decisions. They're bad decisions. They shouldn't be sending their children here. It's extremely dangerous.

CUTTER: Senator Coburn, what about the kids that are already here, 62,000 of them; by the end of the year, it's projected to be 80,000? We have to find a way to deal with the kids that are already here.

SEN. TOM COBURN (R), OKLAHOMA: Yes, I think... CUTTER: And that's mostly what the -- you know, half of the money the president requested today goes towards the kids that are already here.

COBURN: It's the wrong approach. Look, for $8 million, we can put them all on a first-class seat back to their homes. That's $8 million. That's a first-class seat, one way to each of their homes.

CUTTER: And just skip the due process altogether?

COBURN: But it's not due process. The fact is, is that if you read the Council on Foreign Relations report, this isn't about violence. Some of it is, but violence has not changed significantly in two of the three countries; and one of them it's less.

CUTTER: One of them is the murder capital of the world.

COBURN: I understand, but it hasn't changed...

CUTTER: It's not getting better.

COBURN: No, but it hasn't changed in the last five years. So what changed is -- what changed was the expectation is that you could come here and you wouldn't be sent home.

And if, in fact, we have a policy where, if you come here, we're going to take care of you, we're going to feed you, we're going to doctor you, and we're going to send you back home. And what we have to do is change the 2008 law and say, you know, if you're not contiguous with us, we're going to treat you just like if you were contiguous with us. You're going to come in. You're going to be immunized. We're going to make sure that you weren't -- you weren't used as a scapegoat or human trafficked.

CUTTER: Absolutely.

COBURN: And then we're going to send you home. If we did that.

Here's the real problem. When I go out and talk to average America on this, and I was in Colorado over the Fourth with my family, and I had a couple conversations about this. You know what is really in the craw of Americans on this? It's not immigration. It's that they don't see our government enforcing our laws.

CUTTER: The president, though, is enforcing the law that's on the books. The law says if kids come across the border of these three countries...

COBURN: And I agree.

CUTTER: ... that Border Patrol has to take them in and begin the process of deportation.

COBURN: That's right.

CUTTER: That process takes much longer... COBURN: That right. But we can change that in two weeks in the

Senate and the House. Just reverse that law and -- retroactively and say...

CUTTER: So are you going to get that done?

COBURN: I'm all for changing that law and sending them back. Look...

CUTTER: And are you opposing the...

COBURN: ... $3.7 billion.

CUTTER: So you're opposing that money? Some of it is for Border Patrol.

COBURN: No, I'm opposing that money, because the money is going to be asked for again next year.

GINGRICH: Let me -- let me ask you, Ben, about this whole thing. I want to share with you something which Governor Huckabee said, because I do think there's a whole issue, as you know, of presidential non- leadership on this topic. Let's look for a second, you know.

He said, "For Obama to go to Texas and spend two days shaking down donors and never even get near the border mess he helped create, would be like flying into New Orleans in the highest waters of Katrina to eat their creole cooking but never getting near the Ninth Ward, the Superdome or the Convention Center."

I mean, isn't it almost bizarre that the president is going to be in Texas, do two fundraisers and not get to the border?

CUTTER: Meet with Governor Perry.

CARDIN: This is not -- he is meeting with Governor Perry. He is doing what is necessary. This is not about photo ops.

CUTTER: Exactly.

CARDIN: This is not about 30-second political ads. This is all about with the humanitarian crisis and dealing with it in a way -- look, I agree, these children who come over here, the message has got to be clear: "You're not going to get into the United States. You're going to be in deportation. But you're entitled to make sure that you're safe."

And that's what -- the president's appropriation is about safety of children and the process.

CUTTER: How much does it cost for the president to actually go to the border? And you're willing to waste that taxpayer money? It's taking Border Patrol agents off the job, so they're not projecting the border. Hundreds of local policemen...

GINGRICH: So you're arguing for presidential... CUTTER: ... hundreds of local policemen to protect him and negotiation with the Mexican government to secure the other side of the border. He's aware of what is going on. He's having discussions on it in Texas. He's meeting with Governor Perry. He gets briefed on it every day. And you're interested in a photo shop.

GINGRICH: He's meeting with Governor Perry after Perry turned down the photo op.

CUTTER: Well, Governor Perry -- you were sitting right here next to me. Governor Perry was here last week, week before. We asked him about this. He had not one single solution to this problem. So I can't wait to see what he says tomorrow.

GINGRICH: I think Perry has got plenty...

CUTTER: He figured it out? He figured it out?

COBURN: Let me bring this back to the 3.7 data. That's $60,000 per child that we're going to spend, in emergency money. Can we -- first of all, that shows just how incompetent we -- we can't do that for 3 or 4,000 per child? That's No. 1.

No. 2 is, if we can't do that, the Border Patrol is as bad as the V.A. And by the way, the vast majority of Border Patrol are not patrolling the border right now. They're involved in the humanitarian crisis.

CUTTER: Exactly. Which is why the president...

CARDIN: ... asked today for the money, but the money is more than the direct help with children. It has to do with border security. It has to do with proper detention. It has to do with circumstances in the host country. So it's a more comprehensive approach than just dealing with the children that are today at the border.

GINGRICH: Let me ask you this fundamental question. Both of you, frankly, a child arrives at the border today. They're allowed in the United States today. They may be put in a deportation center, although in a lot of cases they're being sent to their relatives.

Now, they get on the phone and call back home and say, "I'm doing fine. I'm in Indianapolis. This is terrific."

I don't care how many messages we send down there with paid advertising, saying, "Don't come to the U.S.," once they are across the border and once they're in a position to call back home and tell all of their friends, "This is terrific."

CARDIN: That's not the circumstance.

GINGRICH: It's not?

CARDIN: They're put in a detention cell that should be for adults. They're put in with a large number of children because of the numbers that are there. They are immediately -- yes, we take care of their health needs. If they have a health problem we'll take care of it. But they're in detention, and they're in deportation. They're not being welcomed to the United States.


CARDIN: They can voluntarily agree to be returned home, and many are returned home in a very short period of time.

COBURN: But they're not actually in deportation. Because only 1.5 percent will show up for their hearing. So once they're moved out of that setting...

CARDIN: Some voluntarily go.

COBURN: OK, so it's 3 percent.

CUTTER: And most of them are now in detention.

COBURN: So it's 3 percent. Once they move out of the detention center and they go to family or other friends or other relatives or whoever, less than 3 percent will show up for their hearing. So they're in the country. They won't be deported. And that's what has people riled.

CARDIN; Tom, I don't think your numbers are right. Let's get the right numbers. That's one of the things I think we should be looking at in the United States Senate. Let's take a look at the numbers. I think the numbers aren't quite as skewed.

COBURN: The no-shows on the deportation...

CARDIN: I think the no-shows are high. But I think before they get to the deportation hearings, many have agreed to return home. There's a difference between different circumstances.

But you and I are in agreement. We don't want people who have come in this way to be rewarded. I agree with you. We want them to be safe. But they are entitled to certain rights.

GINGRICH: So would you insist on including some kind of repeal or reform to the Feinstein Amendment as a part of the 3.7?

CARDIN: I think it's a fundamentally sound law that needs to be enforced. It's fundamentally sound. But now can we act in a more prompt way? Absolutely. Should we? Absolutely. It's for the children and for our country.

And the signal has to be to those who initiate sending their children here. It's extremely dangerous, and there is not a light at the end of the tunnel. They're going to come back home.

CUTTER: Senator...

COBURN: Best signal to slow this down is send them home.

CUTTER: Senator, on the 3.7 billion, you said you weren't going to support it. Are you going to actively work against it? Are you going to try to block it? COBURN: No. First of all, if we're going to spend $3.7 billion on

this, I think it's way too much money to accomplish; $60,000 per child is way too much money. And let's cut it in half. Thirty thousand is too much money to care for a child in a mass grouping and then place them. It's too much money.

But aside from that, whatever we have to spend to adequately take care of them, guarantee them, you know, the vigor that we would guarantee anybody, that we guarantee our prisoners, to guarantee them that vigor, we have plenty of room in the federal budget to pay for it. We don't have to borrow against our children again to be able to pay for this.

CUTTER: Even though Border Patrol says they don't have enough agents at the border, immigration law judges...

COBURN: Border Patrol has a number of -- there's 5,000 more Border Patrol now than there was in 2000.

CUTTER: And many of your colleagues, all of your colleagues say that's not enough to control the border.

COBURN: Well, no. They say there's not enough money being spent on it. I actually voted against the immigration bill, not because I was against the immigration bill but because I was against the money.

CARDIN: Can I disagree with Senator Coburn very quickly? I admire greatly you work on scrutinizing every dollar that's spent, and we should scrutinize every dollar in this request. And I fully support that type of scrutiny, and I thank you for your work.

But traditionally, when we have these unexpected expenditures and they have been funded without offsets. That has been the tradition in the Senate, because our budgets are tight today. Purposely tight. You have been responsible for making them tight.

GINGRICH: Next, we will try and do a remarkably different topic. Marijuana. As of today it's legal in two states to buy pot for fun. Should it be? Which brings us to the "CROSSFIRE Quiz." How many states have legalized medical marijuana? Is it 9, 17 or 23? We'll have the answer when we get back.


GINGRICH: Welcome back.

The country is off on a great experiment. Whether it's good or bad, you can decide.

Today, the state of Washington joined Colorado in legalizing recreational marijuana. That makes two states where it's legal for you to buy pot just for fun.

And the answer to tonight's CROSSFIRE quiz, 23 states plus the District of Columbia now allow medical marijuana. In the CROSSFIRE tonight, Senators Ben Cardin and Tom Coburn.

And, Tom, since you're a medical doctor, I will put you on the spot first.


GINGRICH: In your background as a doctor, forget politics, what's your whole reaction to this experiment with recreational marijuana?

COBURN: I think it's going to end up a tragedy. I researched the medical literature on this. There's never been a positive study on recreational marijuana. The connection to further drug use, the connection to depression, connection to lack of motivation, there is nothing positive that comes out of it.

The second point I'd make is when you smoke a marijuana joint, it is like smoking 18 cigarettes. That's the amount of carcinogens that you intake. And so, it's really very harmful to your physiology of your body and very damaging over the long run. And there's long-term studies to show what happened.

The third point is when you use medical marijuana to smoke it, versus take a pill, we have two prescription drugs that work.

And the fourth point I'd make, is marijuana is still a controlled substances. Which is raising the irony again that president is not enforcing the law. You know, legally, under Drug Enforcement Administration and under the law, states shouldn't be allowing marijuana to be sold because it's a controlled substances. But yet they are.

So, here we are have again, the same issue that I come across is leadership and integrity in the rule of law, because that's what hold us together. That's the glue that holds us together.

CUTTER: Do you think that states shouldn't be allowed to be doing what they're doing? The federal government should step in?

COBURN: I think we should either change our law up here to say it's not a controlled substance or enforce our law. I'm pretty much a state's rights. So I would say the federal government shouldn't be regulating that and the states should be able to do it, but it's still stupid.

You know, we're free to be stupid in this country. And it's really stupid in Colorado right now. I was in Breckinridge this weekend, that's a city that has pot. And boy, could you smell it.

CUTTER: What about -- in Maryland, there has been some reason to decriminalize part of it. What would -- you're a former speaker of the Maryland House, what would you do if you're still there?

CARDIN: First of all, I have reason to disagree with what he said about the medical aspects of marijuana. I was speaker of the House of Maryland Legislature. I was appointed by President Reagan to the federalism task force.

I believe in federalism. I do. Let's see what the states are doing. Let's see what comes out of the states. That's how we develop national policy by looking at the states first.

So, I think we should let the states proceed. Let's take a look at it. Let's have some studies.

COBURN: So, do you agree, though, we ought to take this off the list up here? Either enforce the law or take it off?

CARDIN: I was under the impression that in regards though these issues that it's OK.

COBURN: It's not. It's illegal under federal law.

GINGRICH: It's a perfect example of the administration using very, very wide discretion to basically say to people, don't enforce the law.


CUTTER: I think that they're making -- a decision to go after more dangerous drug crimes using scarce resources. And I think that that, unfortunately, because of budget cuts, some of them good, some of them not so good, those are the decisions -- GINGRICH: But I think the point that if you believe in the Tenth

Amendment, this a great challenge (INAUDIBLE) -- if you believe in the Ten Amendment, then states ought to run certain kinds of experiments and we're going to find out what happens.

CUTTER: I think we're going to learn a lot.

Stay here, after we took this turn to marijuana, we want you to weigh in on today's "Fireback" question: do you support legalizing recreational marijuana? Tweet yes or no using #crossfire. We'll have the results after the break.

We'll also have the outrage of the day. Newt things the entire country should be paying a lot more attention to the story he's upset about -- and rightly so.


GINGRICH: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE.

Time for the outrage of the day.

I'm outraged by the degree to which we as a country have not focused on what happened over the weekend in Chicago. At least 82 people were shot, 82 -- 14 of them died.

It's really troubling that the country is numb and so indifferent. In 2010, around 80,000 people tried to buy guns even though they were convicted felons or had mental problems. Of those 80,000 found by the system, only 44 were prosecuted by the federal government. You know, in any society, it's either dangerous to be a criminal or

dangerous to be innocent. Tragically, in Chicago, it's dangerous to be innocent because we tolerate criminals having guns.

CUTTER: You know, Newt, when you said that this was going to be your outrage of the day -- and I think it's a great outrage. I'm outraged by it, too. I, you know, looked on the Internet and see what I can find.

And I found this report from the city of Chicago Police Department from a month ago that says they do have a gun problem but their gun problem is as a result of illegal guns coming across state lines or from the outside county into the city of Chicago because there are lax laws -- lack of gun loopholes that allow people to buy guns without a background check. I think if there was an effort to strengthen gun laws.

GINGRICH: I'm going to yield to my friend over here because we're just talking about --

CUTTER: We can prevent some of these gun crimes that happened in the city of Chicago.

GINGRICH: There are 500 -- there are 500 gun places in Houston, Texas, and they have a dramatically lower crime rate. But do you want to comment for a second on this whole confusion?


COBURN: Here's the problem, I think Newt's major point was that we're not prosecuting the people that are violating the laws.


COBURN: It's illegal to carry a gun across the state lines in Chicago into Illinois. That's illegal.

CUTTER: It absolutely is.

COBURN: So, how do you enforce that? Do you enforce that by taking away somebody's right in Indiana to own a gun or do you enforce it by prosecuting the very people that break the law?

CUTTER: You do it by doing both.

COBURN: Should we take away their --

CUTTER: And I don't think anybody would argue that you would do one over the other. You have to prevent criminals, gun traffickers from getting guns in Indiana and in Cook County. Right now, you can get for a gun dealer, you don't have to have any license in Illinois. You need a license to have a nail salon but not to be a gun dealer. So these guns are being --

COBURN: You have to have a federal license.


COBURN: You have a federal license.

CUTTER: The thing that's missing, the stat that newt is mentioning, 80,000 people -- 80,000 criminals tried to buy guns, how many of them actually bought guns? They didn't because the national background check actually stopped them from doing that. So, if you want to stop additional criminals, not, you know, citizens who have a right to own a gun, we're talking about criminals we have to expand the background checks.

CARDIN: No one has tried to take guns away from people who are lawfully entitled to own guns. The Supreme Court has made that pretty clear. Those rights are pretty clear.

I think we all agree that we want to enforce our laws, but has been pointed out, our current laws have worked to stop a lot of people who shouldn't in there and not entitled to own guns to own guns.

CUTTER: That's right.

CARDIN: But we can strengthen the laws by dealing with loopholes that --

COBURN: Just remember one thing: the U.S. attorney did in Richmond in 1996. He started using the federal gun laws.

GINGRICH: We thank Senators Ben Cardin and Tom Coburn, and my colleague for a couple lively moments there, huh?

CUTTER: Thank you for outrage.

The debate continues online at, as well as on Facebook and Twitter.

From the left, I'm Stephanie Cutter.

GINGRICH: From the right, I'm Newt Gingrich. Join us tomorrow for another edition of CROSSFIRE.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.