Return to Transcripts main page

INSIDE POLITICS

Biden in High Demand For 2018 Midterm Candidates; Democrats Flip Deep Red Missouri State House Seat; Senate Leaders Announce New Bipartisan Budget Deal; Pence In Japan: New North Korea Sanctions Imminent. Aired 12:30-1pm ET

Aired February 7, 2018 - 12:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[12:30:00] JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: He is in demand in places, for example, where President Obama might not be welcome, where Hillary Clinton might not be welcome. Because since the week the nickname scrappy kid from Scranton. Why is that?

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes. I mean because he appeals to white working class voters in a way that all those other folks don't. I mean, you think about Barack Obama, you think about Hillary Clinton, Bill Clinton, those are the folks that you would bring in to some races, but you don't want them in West Virginia, you don't want them in Indiana, you don't want them in Missouri. Any of these races of sort of the red state Dems are going to be running in.

You saw him in Alabama, for instance. Doug Jones wanted him down there when he was running that race that he eventually won. I think Joe Biden's problem I think is he's always sort of been a favorite of the Washington, D.C. chattering classes but hasn't had much of a broad appeal. I mean, if you think about his prior runs in 1998 and in 2008, I think he dropped out before the Iowa caucus.

I think he also has two other problems, one of which is Anita Hill and the other is the crime bill, which he was a big sponsor of, and still defends in a way that I think is not going to really fit with where the progressive part of the Democratic part is and going into 2020.

KING: And the flip -- you're right. You would have a lot of explaining to do to the progressive part of debate. The flip side is, though, assuming Hillary Clinton doesn't run again, if she says she won't, he's the most familiar. He does have a fundraising network. He has a lot of friends in the Obama Administration who appreciated his loyalty to the former president.

So at the moment, at the moment, early moment, you have to say I'm not going to use the term frontrunner but he's like at the top of the Democratic pyramid, right? Am I wrong? Is it Bernie Sanders, is it Elizabeth Warren, is it Joe Biden.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I think you have to put Bernie Sanders up there obviously. But I think, obviously, the vice president has to be there and if because nobody else has been willing to step out to the level or the degree that he has yet, right?

I work on Capitol Hill every day. I see multiple potential presidential candidates who are saying they're not going to run for president, but everything they do in their votes and how they walk and their interviews and everything like that, is basically almost scheduled to identify with the possibility of running in 2020.

But I think at that moment, so long as they're sitting in the back and so long as Bernie Sanders is still working through kind of where he is and where his team is and where his people are, I think Joe Biden is by far the most publicly visible, obviously has a huge name ID. And as you know, he is a very attractive individual for a lot of the swing races that they're going to have to win if they want to retake the House or keep their ten seats in the Senate.

KING: You were way polite. I was around in 1988 -- 1998 when he first ran for president that he wants to be president. He has wanted to be president for a very long time. Even said during the Obama administration when President Obama was his president but of course he still thinks he would be as good if not a better president. That's how you're supposed to think.

One of the interesting part is we watch him in 2018, though, there will be a lot that Elizabeth Warren will be out there, Bernie Sanders will be out there, the walking castors (ph) will be out there. The younger generation of Democrats thinking about this will be out there. And one of the tests, and you raised this a minute ago, is can you please the whole Democratic spectrum.

Listen to Joe Biden right here in that interview with Chris Cuomo. He says it's a false choice that, you don't have to choose between being a centrist Democrat or a progressive Democrat.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS COUMO, CNN ANCHOR: Your party is not moving to the center, Mr. Vice President, it's moving to the left.

JOE BIDEN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT: Well, Chris, you know me well and I don't want to correct you. My point is, I don't think I have to choose between your heart and your soul. If you go back and look at my record of 36 years in the Senate, I was rated as one of the most liberal senators in the United States Senate in that 36-year period. I take a backseat to know on being progressive.

I found no distinction between being able to be progressive and worrying about working class people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: I don't mean this is disrespectfully easy to say in a TV interview, can you prove it? Can you prove it to the different pieces of a party that we focus a lot on the Republican faction? The Democrats are just as factionalized.

MICHAEL SHEAR, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: And look there's a big difference between his potential popularity in the midterm where he can pick and choose the specific places that he can go to make, you know, the places that you know was talking about that he can go to have you know sort of impact, and a presidential campaign where you have to do it all. And there has been no indication in his career that he's able to span, you know, everything from the far left of his party to the far right of his party.

And, you know, generationally too, you know, this is a Democratic Party that has been struggling with how to bridge the generations within the Democratic Party and, you know, I mean Bernie Sanders did this in a bizarre way, right, the old guy who somehow fired up --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Impression, yes.

SHEAR: -- this impression fired up. But like there's no way that a Joe Biden, he doesn't have that freshness and that sort of new to the scene kind of --

KING: The new to the scene part is the best because we don't know what 2020 is. Donald Trump as president in part, because he ran in the Republican primaries against governors and senators, and he ran against Hillary Clinton, who for all her strengths, was a poster child for Washington's Status quo. And the people wanted something very, very different. Will depends on swing back with one guy who's 36 years in the Senate, 8 years as Vice President.

MARY KATHARINE HAM, SENIOR WRITER, THE FEDERALIST: Well, I think his killer app is the there's a lot of affection for him, right, and his image is solidified.

[12:35:00] and the question is I think he's much more suited to a 2018 where he can go to these places in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Ohio, where he really does speak to white working class, and you're getting those voters that you might have lost to Trump.

And so that's I think a better fit for him in 2020. I think he has a primary problem and does that affection and being part of the Obama legacy override the policy issues with progressives and I'm not sure that it does.

SHEAR: And, look, affection is never tested like it is during a presidential campaign. Hillary Clinton found that when she -- her approval was sky high when she was secretary of state. You know, and then when you enter that crucible of the presidential campaign, all of that sort of affection --

HAM: He has more charisma --

SHEAR: No, I understand. I understand.

KING: I don't want to revisit this because I get feed up every time I do. But he also instinctively, reflexively talks about blue collar economics, and she didn't, she didn't period. So let's watch this very fascinating to watch in 2018.

Next, it's only a State House race, so how big of a deal is it that a Democrat just won a special election in a Missouri District. President Trump carried by almost 30 points?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:40:28] KING: Let's check some of the other stories on our political radar today. You're looking at live pictures now of the House floor. Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi has been speaking for more than two and a half hours about DACA recipients. She says she will not support a spending bill unless speaker Paul Ryan promises next to take up a bill to protect the dreamers.

Lawmakers can't filibuster in the House like they can in the Senate. But the leaders in both parties, she is the Democratic leader get so- called leader time and can speak indefinitely, even though, it's called a leadership minute.

Mike Gravis is the toast of the Democratic Party in Missouri. The 27- year-old just won a state House seat in a district get this, President Trump carried by 28 points in 2016. Democrats, note, this is the 35th legislative seat they've flipped nationally since the Trump inauguration. Missouri Republicans did, however, manage to hold their seats in three other special elections held yesterday.

Vice President Mike Pence is focused squarely on North Korea as he gets set to lead the U.S. Winter Olympic delegation across the border in South Korea. Today, the vice president said the United States plans to unveil the toughest and most aggressive sanctions ever he said against the Kim Jong-un regime. He did not offer any details.

The father of the former North Korean prisoner Otto Warmbier will be with the vice president at the Olympics. And the vice president says Otto Warmbier's death should be a reminder of the regime's brutality.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIDEN: As President Trump has said, we will honor Otto's memory with resolve. We will not allow North Korean propaganda to hijack the message and imagery of the Olympic Games. We will not allow North Korea to hide behind the Olympic banner, the reality that they enslave their people and threaten the wider region.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: We'll watch the vice president as he leads the delegation, including the big question will he have any face-to-face conversations with North Koreans.

I want to come back for a few second to this Missouri race because it is the 35th time we've seen a state legislative district flip from red to blue at this case, and this is what happens really in the Obama administration. Republicans over the course of those eight years flip a thousand state legislative seats, and you started to see it in the first year. Democrats seem to think they have the seeds of something similar. Is there reason to believe that?

SHEAR: I think they have a long way to go. I mean, look, one of the real sort of negative legacies from Barack Obama's presidency for Democrats over those eight years was this just dramatic upheaval and reversal in fortunes where Republicans really, you know, took command of State Houses and State Legislatures and the like. So, I mean, look, for Democrats, 35 is not a bad number a year in, but it's a long -- they've got a long way to go to reverse that trend.

MATTINGLY: I think with seats like this and when you're talking about State legislatures and State Senates, enthusiasm matters, right? You're obviously working for the smaller pool voters and they -- if a party has the enthusiasm to start flipping those seats in a major way, particularly at the point swings we've seen in a dozen or so or more of these seats, that's not a small thing. Enthusiasm is always kind of like

this and more, it's really hard to define thing going into a big election.

But I think it is certainly a leading indicator that things are in a good place, how transferable that is, particularly as you move on to the federal level, and it remains an open question. But it's something and it's something for Democrats to seize on, and something for them to use in their fundraising pitches, as they try and continue to try to rally the base, all those types of things that matters. That absolutely plays into what's going to happen over the course of the next 12 months, 8 months I guess you said that matters.

HAM: And I think we've seen in some of the federal special elections the determination of Democrats not just to crawl over glass to vote but also of the sort of operations to get out the vote in order and to not sort of rest on their laurels and use enthusiasm as all they've got. It's going to be much harder in federal states in a regular election than these smaller races with microscopic turnout. But it does matter.

KING: It does matter if the state level what you also see -- those -- Mitch McConnell is on the floor. We're going to get there right now.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MAJORITY LEADER: Yielded as significant agreement. I want to thank my friend, the Democratic leader, for joining me this afternoon and for the productive discussions that have generated this proposal.

The compromise we've reached will ensure that for the first time in years, our armed forces will have more of the resources they need to keep America safe. It will help us serve the veterans who have bravely served us. And it will ensure funding for an important effort such as disaster relief, infrastructure, and building on our work to fight opioid abuse and drug addiction.

[12:45:04] This bill is the product of extensive negotiations among Congressional leaders and the White House. No one would suggest it is perfect, but we worked hard to find common ground and stay focused on serving the American people.

First and foremost, this bipartisan agreement will unwind the sequestration cuts that have hamstrung our armed forces and jeopardized our national security. Secretary Mattis said, "No enemy in the field has done more harm to the readiness of our military than sequestration."

For years, my colleagues on the Senate Armed Services Committee, led by Chairman John McCain, have spoken out about these damaging cuts. In the face of continuing and emerging threats, these cuts have left us unable to realize the potential of our missile defense capabilities. They've whittled down our conventional forces, laying an undue burden on forward deployed personnel and their families. And they've shrunk our fleet to its lowest ship count in nearly three decades.

We haven't asked our men and women in uniform to do less for our country. We've just forced them to make do with less than they need. This agreement changes that.

In addition, this bill will provide for our returning heroes. Too often underfunded, overcomplicated bureaucracies fail to deliver the care our veterans deserve. The Trump administration and Congress, thanks to the leadership of Chairman Isakson, have made important progress for veterans in the past year. This agreement will expand on those steps.

This agreement will also bolster our ongoing national struggle against opioid addiction and substance abuse. It will fund new grants, prevention programs, and law enforcement efforts in vulnerable communities all across our country. It also provides funding for disaster relief efforts.

Last year powerful storms crippled Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands and damaged mainland communities from Florida to Texas. Thanks to the efforts of members such as Senator Cornyn, Cruz, Rubio and others, this bill will get more help on the way.

And the agreement will clear the way for a new investment in our nation's infrastructure, a bipartisan priority shared by the president and lawmakers of both parties. This bill does not conclude the serious work that remains before Congress. After we pass it, the Appropriations Committees will have six weeks to negotiate detailed appropriations and deliver full funding for the remainder of fiscal year 2018.

But this bill represents a significant bipartisan step forward. I would urge every senator to review this legislation and join us in voting to advance it. I particularly want to thank my friend, the Democratic leader. I hope we can build on this bipartisan momentum and make 2018 a year of significant achievement for Congress, for our constituents, and for the country that we all love.

Now, one final matter, as I've said publicly many times, our upcoming debate on DACA, border security and other issues will be a process that is fair to all sides. The bill I move to, which will not have underlying immigration text, will have an amendment process that will ensure a level playing field at the outset. The amendment process will be fair to all sides, allowing the sides to alternate proposals for consideration and for votes.

While I obviously cannot guarantee any outcome, let alone super majority support, I can ensure the process is fair to all sides, and that is what I intend to do.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), MINORITY LEADER: Ms. Madam President.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Democratic leader.

SCHUMER: First, let me thank the Republican leader for his comments and his work these past several months. We have worked well together for the good of the American people. We had serious disagreements, but instead of just going to our own separate corners, we came together with an agreement that is very good for the American people and recognizes needs that both sides of the aisle proffered.

[12:50:05] I'm pleased to announce that we have reached a two-year budget deal to lift the spending caps for defense and urgent domestic priorities far above current spending levels. There are one or two final details to work out, but all the principles of the agreement are in place.

The budget deal doesn't have everything Democrats want. It doesn't have everything Republicans want. But it has a great deal of what the American people want.

After months of legislative log jams, this budget deal is a genuine breakthrough. After months of fiscal brinkmanship, this is budget is the first real sprout of bipartisanship. And it should break the long cycle of spending crises that have snarled this Congress and hampered our middle class.

This budget deal will benefit our country in so many ways. Our men and women in uniform represent the very best of America. This budget gives our fighting forces the resources they need to keep our country safe. And I want to join the Republican leader in saluting Senator McCain. We wish he were here because he has fought so valiantly and so long for a good agreement for the armed forces.

The budget will also benefit many Americans here at home. Folks caught in the grip of opioid addiction, veterans waiting in line to get health care, students shouldering crippling college debt, middle class families drowning under the cost of childcare, rural Americans lacking access to high-speed internet, hardworking pensioners watching their retirements slip away.

Democrats have been fighting for the past year for these Americans and their priorities. We've always said we need to increase defense spending for our armed forces, but we also need to increase the kinds of programs that the middle class so needs and depends on. It is our job as Americans, as senators, to make sure that middle class people can live a life of decency and dignity so that they can keep in their hearts the American belief that their kids will live a better life than they do.

In this budget, we have moved for the first time in a long time a good deal forward on those issues. Alongside the increase in defense spending, the budget deal will lift funding for domestic programs by $131 billion. It will fully repeal the domestic sequester caps while securing $57 billion in additional funding, including $6 billion to fight against the opioid and mental health crises, $5.8 billion for the bipartisan childcare development bloc grant, $4 billion to rebuild and improve veterans hospitals and clinics, $2 billion for critical research at the National Institutes in Health, and $20 billion to augment our existing infrastructure programs, including surface transportation, rural water and waste water, clean and safe drinking water, rural broadband so desperately needed in large parts of rural America, and energy infrastructure. And $4 billion for college affordability, including programs that help police officers, teachers, firefighters.

The deal also boosts several health care programs that we care a lot about in this country. An increase in funding for community health centers, which serve 26.5 million Americans is included.

My friends, Senators Murray, Tester, Sanders and many others, have been champions for these community health centers. I want to thank them for the hard work they put to get this done.

The Children's Health Insurance Program will be extended for an additional four years. Credit is due to our ranking member, Senator Wyden, for his effort for this extension. American families with children who benefit with CHIP will now be able to rest easy for the next decade.

Seniors caught in the Medicare Part D donut hole will also benefit from this bill which eases the coverage gap next year helping thousands, millions of seniors afford prescription drugs. We have waited long for this.

[12:55:01] Rural hospitals that struggle, seniors, children and safety net health care providers will benefit from a package of health tax extenders as well.

On the pension issue, Democrats secured a special select committee that must report a legislative fix to the problem by December 2018. Millions of pensioners, teamsters, carpenters, miners, bakery workers and so many more, are staring down cuts to their hard-earned pensions. They didn't do anything to cause those cuts. Their livelihoods are staked to these pensions. We ought to make sure that they get every penny they earned.

We Democrats would have liked to take up and pass the Butch Lewis Act. We couldn't reach an agreement to do that, but now we have a process and potentially the means and motivation to get it done. And there were so many senators, led by Senator Brown, who were responsible for this. And I want to acknowledge him and Senators Casey and Stabenow, Manchin, Klobuchar, Baldwin, McCaskill, Donnelly and Heitkamp who worked so long and hard on pensions.

The budget deal also includes long-awaited disaster relief for Texas, Louisiana, Florida, the western states, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. Many of these places are still taking their first steps on the long march to recovery. Much of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands remains damaged and in the dark. This recovery aid could not have come a moment too soon. Senator Nelson worked very hard for both Florida and Puerto Rico relief, as did so many others in this chamber. I'd also like to thank our ranking member on the Appropriations Committee, Senator Leahy, who worked so diligently with his staff and his ranking members on these issues. As well as Senator Murray who's been our beacon on health issues where we've made real progress today.

The budget deal is a win for the American people. It will also do so much good for our military and for so many middle class Americans. And finally, consign the arbitrary and pointless sequester caps to the ash heap of history.

And a final point, Madam President, our work here in Congress on this budget deal between the Republican leader and I, between the Senate and the House was completed without a great deal of help from the White House.

While President Trump threatens shutdowns and stalemates, Congressional leaders have done the hard work of finding compromise and consensus. It's been a painstaking and months' long process. It is required concessions, sometimes painful, by both sides, but at the end of the day, I believe we have reached a budget deal that neither side loves but both sides can be proud of.

That's compromise. That's governing. That's what we should be doing more of in this body. And it is my sincere hope that the Republican leader and I will continue to work together in this way to get things done for the American people.

Now of course, we must finish the job. Later this week, let's pass this budget into law alongside an extension of government funding. I hope the House will follow suit and President Trump will sign it. I also hope that Speaker Ryan will do what Senator McConnell has agreed to do, allow a fair and open process to debate a DREAMers bill on the House floor.

This budget deal will be the best thing we've done for our economy, our military, our middle class for a long time. I yield the floor.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: The Democratic leader there speaking after the majority leader, Mitchell McConnell. Big breaking news on the floor of the United States Senate. Not only a deal to avert a government shutdown but a two-year spending plan in the Senate, a compromise on that.

Phil Mattingly, the question is, both leaders spoke, it'll pass the Senate, can it get this through the House?

MATTINGLY: That's the starting done, right. Now, you'll have 24 hours of people selling the deal to their respective conferences. Speaker Ryan I'm told behind close doors just announced the deal to his members. They start selling as well. It's all about House Democrats right now where they end up and then how many House Republicans you can get. That'll seal it by tomorrow.

KING: By tomorrow, midnight, is the deadline. We'll watch this play out but if you're watching here at home and you don't understand Washington speak, that is a rare bipartisan breakthrough. The two leaders House Democrat -- Senate Democrats excuse me, Senate Republicans coming together on a two-year budget deal.

It leaves for later after they pass this, the big immigration debate and some other debates. But, progress at the moment, no government shutdown it appears.

[13:04:00] Appreciate you joining us today on the INSIDE POLITICS, looking at live pictures inside the White House Briefing Room. The Press Secretary Sarah Sanders will brief a little bit later.

Wolf Blitzer will take you there starting now.