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Press Conference with John Boehner; Boehner Says Obama "Going it Alone" Will Bring Big Trouble; Adam Schiff Comments on Boehner Remarks; Interview with Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper; Interview with Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders.
Aired November 6, 2014 - 13:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
REP. JOHN BOEHNER, (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: And when you listen to these employers talk about the concerns they have over what it means for their work force, what it means for their employees, and you see them hesitate in terms of hiring more people, it's pretty clear to me.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Mr. Speaker, you have a new crop of conservatives coming into the House who have suggested, among other things, that women need to submit to the authority of their husbands, that Hillary Clinton is the anti-Christ and that feelings of Sandy Hook victims should just get over it. The "Hell No" caucus, as you put it, is getting bigger. Some of them --
BOEHNER: No, no, no, no.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: -- you're conservative enough. How do you deal with them differently than you did in the last Congress?
BOEHNER: I think the premise of your question, I would take exception to. Yes, we have some new members who have made some statements. I'll give you that. But when you look at the vast majority of the new members that are coming in here, they're really solid members. Whether it's the youngest woman to ever serve in a Congress, whether it's another African-American Republican from Texas, we've done a very good job of recruiting good candidates and we're going to have a very good crop of members.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: On immigration, for example, you tried to act in the last Congress and your conservative members yanked you back.
BOEHNER: No, no, no.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: How would you work with the president on an issue like this?
BOEHNER: No. Again, I would argue with the premise of the question. What held us back last year was a flood of kids coming to the border because of the actions that the president had already taken. And let me tell you what -- the American people, from the right to the left, started to look at this issue in a very different way. That's why I'm -- I made it clear, the president, if he continues to go downs this path of taking action on his own, is inviting big trouble.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What about the 18 months before that-- (INAUDIBLE)?
BOEHNER: I could regale you with all of my challenges of trying to get --
-- members on both sides of the aisle to deal with this. They were numerous.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What's different now?
BOEHNER: But hope springs eternal.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Harry Reid, the Republican Party has done what it set out to accomplish by firing Harry Reid. Is he no longer an obstacle to getting the agenda of the Republicans through this Congress?
BOEHNER: I don't know. You might want to ask Mitch McConnell about that question.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Do you see him as still being someone who has power to thwart --
BOEHNER: Well, of course. You all know how the Senate works. Requires 60 votes to do almost anything in the Senate. Clearly, he's going to have some power. If you look at -- let's take the 46 jobs bills sitting in the United States Senate that have been held up by the Democrat majority in the Senate. Almost all of those passed the House on a bipartisan basis. And I believe that almost all of them enjoy bipartisan support in the United States Senate. If you're doing -- you've heard me say this before. I tell my colleagues all the time, if you're doing the right things for the right reasons, you don't have to worry about anything, the right things will happen.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Mr. Speaker, would you be able to compromise on the 30, 40 hour week?
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Strong words from the speaker of the House of Representatives, John Boehner, saying if the president goes ahead, takes unilateral action, acts on his own to try to change the immigration procedures here in the United States, the speaker of the House says the president will find himself in big trouble. He is very upset that the president, in his words, might "double down" and take this, what he calls, this "go-it-alone" approach.
Gloria, I guess they're going to have a meeting tomorrow. The president made it very clear if the Congress doesn't pass comprehensive immigration reform, he's going to sign an executive order changing the opportunity for illegal immigrants in this country to have a pathway to legality at a minimum. You heard the speaker say that will be a disaster if he takes that unilateral action.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. And you heard the incoming Senate leader say it would be like waving a red flag. You also heard John Boehner just said, about this, when you play with matches, you take the risk of burning yourself. And so it's very clear he's saying, if you do that, it's going to poison the well on absolutely everything else we need to get done.
What was interesting, though, on Obamacare, it is clear he's going to have another vote talking about repealing of the president's health care reform bill, but he also said, we can try to do things piecemeal, which is exactly what I think he's going to do. He'll have a show vote on repealing Obamacare, but there are other parts of it that Republicans would like to attack and may actually put on the president's desk. One or two of those, the president might sign -- Wolf?
BLITZER: He said very specifically, Dana -- you were sitting in the front row over there at the news conference -- you play with matches, you will burn yourself. He did not mince words at all. And he directly warned the president, don't do what you have promised your liberal base and many Latinos out there you will do, take this unilateral action to change the regulations as far as illegal immigrants in this country are concerned.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And let me give you the context here. John Boehner is somebody who wants to do immigration reform. He said it here. He's said it in private. He says it to us. He says it to his caucus. But he is also somebody who has been struggling for years, since he has been the speaker, for four years, with convincing his own members that this is what he should do. I mean, remember the Republican Party here has an entire industry, literally, an industry of conservatives who raise money and spend money to attack the Republican leadership on issues where they think they're not doing the right thing, and immigration is at the top of the list. So what -- the point he was trying to make and the context is, that it is going to be so much harder for him to do what everybody says they want to do if he has the president sign this executive order and anger the rank and file and, more importantly, get these outside groups to anger the rank and file for him.
But the other thing I want to point out, the flip side of this equation of trust and needing to work together, I don't know if you heard my question about the fact that, out of the gate, they're talking about repealing Obamacare which is never going to become law, ever, while the president is in office, because they don't have anywhere close to the veto-proof margin in their new Republican majority, and he shrugged his shoulders and said we got to do what we got to do. That's the flip side to the trust deficit which is real which they will have to talk about at this lunch tomorrow. How do you expect the president to trust the speaker is going to do big things like immigration if he's continuing to take show votes, as Gloria put it, on repealing his signature law?
BLITZER: Let's get some reaction from Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff, of California, joining us right now.
First of all, on this warning that the speaker of the House gave to the president of the United States -- don't take any executive action, you'll burn yourself, this will be a disaster -- what do you make of that, a very strong word, strong words from the speaker of the House, Congressman?
REP. ADAM SCHIFF, (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, plainly, the speaker doesn't want the president to go forward. At the same time, the speaker was unwilling to give any kind of commitment they would actually bring a comprehensive bill to the floor. So I don't think the speaker is leaving the president much choice. I think the president will be compelled to act.
I thought it was significant, too, when he was asked, why haven't we had an immigration bill, and he pointed to the unaccompanied minors. That took place almost a year after the immigration bill passed in the Senate. So that was a pretty weak argument for the failure of the House to act on immigration reform.
I think it's going to happen, as the president committed to do, very soon after we go back into session. And I wish the speaker had spent more time today talking about the areas where he could work with the president, what issues he wanted to put on the president's desk tomorrow, or later on today. I think that would have been a lot more productive.
BLITZER: Quickly, on what he said about these negotiations with Iran -- and you've been -- you're a member the House Intelligence Committee, looking at this closely. He says these efforts -- there's an end of November deadline as you know to try to work out a deal that would eliminate Iran's capability of developing a nuclear bomb. The speaker said these negotiations, in his mind, he says he doesn't think they're serious. He has his doubts. He doesn't trust the Iranians. This new Republican majority in, not only the House but in the Senate, they have a lot of doubts about what the president and these international partners, these other members of the Security Council and Germany, are doing right now. Where do you stand on these negotiations?
SCHIFF: Well, I would love to see them succeed but I'm skeptical of the Iranians as well, and I'm not sure that they've made the decision that they're prepared for the sacrifices they'd have to undertake, that they're prepared to give up the bulk of their enrichment program. So I'm skeptical we'll get a deal. I'm skeptical that the Iranian leadership, the Ayatollah is prepared to deliver. I think Rouhani is willing but I'm not sure he has the free hand to do it. But we'll find out very soon. I think the president is committed to trying to get a deal, but not settle for a bad deal, and we'll know soon enough whether that's going to be possible.
BLITZER: Let me bring in Aaron David Miller, of the Woodrow Wilson International Center here in Washington, also the author of a brand new book entitled "The End of Greatness."
Aaron, what's your take on what's going on right now? Not only -- the whole Middle East seems to be exploding right now, not only Iran. Iraq, Syria, we're seeing what's happening in Jerusalem right now, tensions escalating, fear that there could be a third intifada right now. You spent a whole career studying all of this. What's your take?
AARON DAVID MILLER, WOODROW WILSON INTERNATIONAL CENTER & AUTHOR: I think it's melting down and we're stuck in the region. We can't leave. We have interest, allies and enemies, and we can't transform it. So I think the president has to focus on what makes sense, what's vital as opposed to what is discretionary. That means avoiding another attack on the continental United States. It means continuing to wean our service off of Arab hydrocarbons. And on the Iranian piece of it. Look, before the so-called wave, there was almost no political space in this town for Iran, forget the nuclear issue. Iranians are executing almost as many people as China. They are supporting Assad, backing Hezbollah. Their policies on Iraq aren't nearly the ones we would like to see them pursue. Now there's zero political space. Unless this deal on November 24th -- given the fact there will be a comprehensive deal, not something that can be finessed or snuck by Congress. It has to be a good deal, accountable, and really transparent. I don't think, in view of what happened yesterday, there's any other alternative. Most likely Wolf, you will end up with an extension, maybe even some -- a breakthrough on a piece or two of the substance. But a comprehensive deal by November 24 that satisfies Congress and the Israelis, and what we need in terms to put more time on the Iranian clock, that's going to be a hard sell.
BLITZER: Aaron Miller, thanks very much.
Gloria, of course, thanks to you.
Congressman Schiff, we'll continue our conversations.
Dana Bash, on Capitol Hill, of course, thanks to you.
Coming up, he was one of the few who survived the GOP wave. Colorado's newly re-elected governor managed a narrow a victory in the midterm elections. We'll speak live with John Hickenlooper about his win, how the political landscape in the United States has changed.
BLITZER: A victory by the incumbent Colorado governor was one of a few bright spots for the Democrats. John Hickenlooper managed to stave off his Republican challenger, Bob Beauprez. But it was a close vote.
The Colorado governor is joining us live from Denver.
Governor, congratulations to you. I know you're happy you won.
But why did the Democrats generally do poorly? The Democratic Senator, Senator Udall in your state, he lost, so many other Democratic incumbents lost. Why do you believe Democrats fared so poorly this time around? JOHN HICKENLOOPER, (D), GOVERNOR OF COLORADO: Well, clearly, it was a
steep hill. There's a lot of dissatisfaction and a lot of reasons for that. I think there's a resistance against what -- the kind of stagnation and things not happening in Washington. Also the economy is recovering, consistently, but it's still a slow recovery that isn't affecting -- hasn't gotten down to a lot of working people yet. So there's a frustration on that level as well.
BLITZER: Did the president -- how badly did the president hurt Democrats, let's say, in your state?
HICKENLOOPER: Well, there's probably some effect, but it was more dissatisfaction with people's -- where they are in life. And they haven't got a raise in a few years. We're working -- Colorado has one of the fastest-growing economies in the country, so it shouldn't have mattered as much here as other places. Even Republican incumbents like Scott Walker or Rick Schneider in Michigan, they faced serious challenges as well. It was a tough year for any incumbent.
BLITZER: The Republican governors, generally speaking, they did pretty well, the incumbents. The Democrats not so well. The Democrats even losing in really Democratic states like Maryland, Massachusetts, even the president's home state of Illinois. I think some sort of message was sent. If you're a Democrat out there, what was the message?
HICKENLOOPER: Well, the message was to make sure that you -- again, what we talked about in our campaign was that we were going to be relentlessly pro-business, that this state was going to be the most pro-business state in America but with high standards, the cleanest air, cleanest water. We're going to hold ourselves accountable at the highest level.
BLITZER: Couple questions our followers on Twitter wanted know ask you. How is that legalization of marijuana in your state of Colorado working out?
HICKENLOOPER: I'm amazed it took you this long to get to the question.
It's actually, we're getting there. We continue to focus on making sure that teenagers, you know, kids whose brains are still maturing, they don't get access to the high THC marijuana. Scientists continue to warn us THAT this could have permanently diminished long-term memory. But the rest of the regulatory framework is coming along well, I think.
BLITZER: It's going to stay will. A few other states voted to legalize marijuana as well. No effort serious effort to get rid of that legalization in Colorado?
HICKENLOOPER: No, I don't think so. I opposed it. Most of the elected officials out here opposed it when it was on the ballot a couple years ago. The voters have spoken and we are working as hard as we can to create a regulatory framework that will work. You know as well as I all the conflicts between state law and federal law, we can't -- our banks can't bank the marijuana business. There are plenty of challenges. We're trying to work through them.
BLITZER: So if a fellow governor from another state asks you for your opinion, what do you say to him?
HICKENLOOPER: I'm the chair of the National Governors Association, so I do get asked fairly often. What I say is you should wait a couple years. Don't go out. I don't think any state should do it just for tax revenues or, you know, that kind of revenue decision. Let's see what the unintended conflicts, whether it can really diminish them to a point where this new system makes sense for everyone.
BLITZER: One final question. I know the president called you yesterday to congratulate you. Did he have a specific message he wanted to deliver?
HICKENLOOPER: I teased him that I won because I played pool with him. He laughed but said, no, that wasn't the case. He was offering congratulations and just wanted to make sure -- I think he said the same thing to governors across the country, that they wanted to work in partnership and do anything they could to help our states. And certainly, when we had the wildfires and the floods out here, we had that terrible shooting in Aurora, the federal government, the White House, and Congress, worked very effectively as partners with us to help us recover.
BLITZER: You got a beautiful state, Colorado. Love Colorado. And I want to just congratulate you once again on your re-election.
Governor Hickenlooper, thanks very much for joining us.
HICKENLOOPER: No, thank you very much. We love that Colorado is everyone's second-favorite state. Those who live here, it's our favorite state.
BLITZER: I suspect with that legalization of marijuana tourism in your state is going up, is that right?
HICKENLOOPER: It's been going up steadily for about 10 years, so I'm not sure we've seen a change because of marijuana but there's no indication that it's hurt it.
BLITZER: All right. Thanks very much, Governor, for joining us. Good luck to the folks in Colorado.
Still ahead, we will get an Independent's take on the midterm and own political future. My special conversation with the Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. You see him right there. That's coming up next.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: President Obama plans to meet with a bipartisan delegation of congressional leaders over at the White House tomorrow. It's an effort to try to chart the path forward but they may not -- that path may not necessarily be very easy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm eager to work with the new Congress to make the next two years as productive as possible.
REINCE PRIEBUS, CHAIRMAN, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE: If you put yourself in his shoes and you adopted his view on these policies, he has screwed up even his own priorities on this issue by mishandling the politics on this from the very beginning. So now to come back and say, after the American people repudiated the policies of Barack Obama and everyone that was connected to him to now say what are you guys going to do to compromise with the person that the American people just repudiated, I think it's a little bizarre.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: The Republican National Committee Chairman, not mincing words on his part. Not a very positive assessment from the Republican leadership.
Let's bring in Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. He's the long-standing Independent member of the United States Senate. He's joining us right now.
You caucus with Democrats. Very quickly, Senator Sanders, what happened to the Democrats? They suffered hugely this week.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS, (I), VERMONT: The Republicans ran a very smart political campaign. The American people are extremely dissatisfied at the state of the economy. The middle class continues to collapse. That's been a 30-year collapse. The gap between the very rich and everybody else is growing wider. Real unemployment is close to 12 percent. What the Republicans successfully did is blame Obama for all of these problems and then go after the Senators who have supported Obama. What they also managed to do, Wolf, and a brilliant political strategy, is not tell us what their agenda is. All over the country in conservative states, people said, let's raise the minimum wage to a living wage. What's the Republican position on that? They are against that. Poll after poll tells us the American people want to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure and create millions of decent paying jobs. What's the Republican position on that? They're against it.
BLITZER: Let me just ask you, I want to get your quick reaction to what we heard from speaker of the House, John Boehner. He was very blunt. He said if the president goes ahead and, through executive action, unilaterally, without going through Congress, tries to change the status of illegal immigrants here in the United States, that will be very dangerous, he'll poison the well. And it's as simple as that. He says the president better not even think about doing that. Your reaction?
SANDERS: Well, my reaction is the people of this country overwhelmingly want to see the minimum wage raised. Is the Republican Party going to do what the American people want? The American people do not want more tax breaks to the wealthy and large corporations. Is the Republican Party going to poison the well by going forward, at a time of massive wealth and income equality, giving more tax breaks to people who don't need the tax breaks? Boehner is talking about a political attack on the president.
BLITZER: Will you support the president if he goes around Congress and takes that executive action to change the status of illegal immigrants?
SANDERS: Look, what I support is Congress and the president doing everything they can to address the serious problems facing the American people. Immigration is one of those issues. In the Senate, we passed a bipartisan bill. The House did nothing. Let's do something together. That's the preferable route. Most importantly, let's not turn our backs on the middle class of this country and ignore the enormous economic problems they are facing. Let's not simply work for the rich and big campaign contributors who control the United States Congress. If we can do that and respond to the needs and the pain of the American people, you know what, I think you'll suddenly find that Congress is regarded more favorably than is currently the case.
BLITZER: I know you are seriously thinking about running for the Democratic presidential nomination. Now that midterm elections are over with, candidates will start create exploratory committees. Will where you stand on that?
SANDERS: I'm giving thought to running, but for me and the nature of the campaign I would be running, I have to get input from people all over this country, and we haven't made that final decision yet. When you take on the billionaire class and you take on the Koch Brothers and Wall Street and the drug companies and all these guys, you don't do that haphazardly. You have to think it through. I want to know whether there is grassroots support in this country for an agenda that's going to speak to the needs of working families and the middle class prepared to take on big-money interests, and I have to determine that, and we're not there yet with that determination.
BLITZER: Correct me if I'm wrong, you have already made a visit or two to Iowa. I assume you've been to your neighboring state of New Hampshire. How are you being received in those early primary and caucus states?
SANDERS: Well, you know, in fact, quite well. We've had very decent turnouts around the state of Iowa and in New Hampshire as well, and in other places around the country. But it's one thing, you know, when 300 or 400 people come out to a meeting and another thing to see and get a sense of where millions of people in this country are.
Look, the American people today are demoralized. One of the takeaways of this last campaign is that in my state and all over this country, vast majority of the people didn't even vote. Young people don't vote. Low-income working people don't vote. They are disgusted. Is it possible to bring people back in so that they stand up and fight for their rights and take on the big money and trusts? I don't know the answer to that yet. That's just something we're exploring.
BLITZER: We'll see when that decision comes forward.
Always a pleasure having you on the program, Senator. Thanks very much. Good luck to you.
SANDERS: Thank you. Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Bernie Sanders, Independent Senator from the state of Vermont. He caucuses with the Democrats. He's always got important views.
That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching. I'll be back 5:00 p.m. eastern in the "The Situation Room."
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