Return to Transcripts main page
Mattis to Speak at Press Briefing; Trump Wants Parade; Senate to Reach Budget Deal; Compromise on DACA. Aired 1-1:30p ET
Aired February 7, 2018 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Appreciate you joining us on INSIDE POLITICS.
You're 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.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Wolf Blitzer. It's 1:00 p.m. here in Washington. Wherever you're joining us from around the world, thanks very much for joining us.
We begin with major breaking news here in Washington. The Senate majority leader, Mitchell McConnell, just said that he and the Democrats, they've reached a bipartisan budget deal.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), KENTUCKY, MAJORITY LEADER: I'm pleased to announce that our bipartisan (INAUDIBLE) negotiations on defense spending an other priorities have yielded a significant agreement.
A compromise we've reached will ensure that, for the first time in years, our arm forces will have more of the resources they need to keep America safe.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: But there's still some potentially bad news. Even though the Senate looks like they've reached an agreement, it has to go to the House of Representatives, and it's, by no means, a done deal there, at least not yet.
Take a look at this, speaking for close to three hours on the House floor right now, the minority leader, the Democrat Nancy Pelosi, she's already throwing some cold water on the idea of this budget, that's about to be approved by the Senate, moving forward.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. NANCY PELOSI (D), CALIFORNIA, MINORITY LEADER: It does nothing to even advance, even with a commitment, without having passed the legislation first, to advance bipartisan legislation to protect Dreamers in this House.
Without that commitment from Speaker Ryan, comparable to the commitment from leader McConnell, this package does not have my support.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right, let's go to our Congressional Correspondent Sunlen Serfaty. She's tracking all of these late-breaking developments.
Sunlen, so, where does it look, in the House of Representatives? Let's say the Senate overwhelmingly passes this bipartisan budget deal and moves it to the House. How does it look in the House?
SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, certainly, as you said, Wolf, by far, not a done deal.
It certainly has, essentially, two sides of a problem for speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, to pass this for through win. It gets over from the Senate.
First, you have many House conservatives who are, frankly, not for it, already saying this is hugely problematic. Very concerned about the deficit, as the fact that the spending would not be offset with budget cuts. They are already raising red flags to speaker of the House, Paul Ryan.
Then, you have the other side of the coin. And you've heard there, House minority leader, Nancy Pelosi, speaking to this concern for many Democrats, saying, look, we're not going to go for this deal, because it doesn't address DACA.
So, you have this, really, divide where speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, potentially needs to get this passed through. And he's facing problems among House conservatives and also House Democrats.
So, certainly, he's going to need to corral some support from Democrats to get this passed through. At this point, very unclear how he does that.
First, a little bit of review, though. What exactly is in this Senate deal that just got announced on the Senate floor? A big two-year bipartisan budget deal.
It would fund the government until the next month. It would boost military and nondefense spending for the next two years. This is something that makes both Republicans and some Democrats happy.
It raises the debt ceiling. That was a big problem that was looming that needed to be addressed by next month. It gives more than $80 billion in disaster relief for Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, those places that got hit hard by the Hurricanes this year. It also funds community health centers for two years. That's something that Democrats wanted in this.
But just to reiterate, Wolf. This is a Senate deal. It will pass through the Senate.
But the huge problem is when this gets sent over to the House. House -- Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, will be able to corral enough support, among Republicans and Democrats.
He will need Democratic support to get this through when he faces that, potentially later this week -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Well, is the speaker ready to do in the House of Representatives what the majority leader has done in the Senate and guarantee there will be a full debate? There will be an up-and-down vote on DACA, on the Dreamers, in the House of Representatives?
SERFATY: That is a good question. And that is exactly what Nancy Pelosi is asking for this morning. We saw her take this to the House floor.
She is still speaking, at this moment, and is, essentially, demanding that they have some assurances from Paul Ryan, that he will hold a debate, an open debate, and move to a vote on immigration, before House Democrats sign off on this big budget deal.
And now, House -- Speaker Paul Ryan has been pretty clear, in recent days, that he is not going to move to that -- to anything until the president signs off on something.
So, certainly, the House speaker waiting for a signal from the White House here, what exactly to do. Certainly, that a huge dynamic as he faces the goal to corral these votes behind a specific budget deal without DACA fix (ph).
[13:05:01] BLITZER: All right, Sunlen, keep us posted. We'll get back to you. Sunlen Serfaty up on Capitol Hill.
Let's go over to the White House right now. Our Senior White House Correspondent Pamela Brown is on the scene for us.
Pamela, is there any concern that the president's comments yesterday could undermine these late-breaking talks on immigration reaching a budget deal? We all know what he said yesterday. He said he's ready for a government shutdown, if there's in commitment on the border security issues he wants.
PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right. and, at this point, officials we've spoken with haven't expressed
As we've seen today, lawmakers are moving full-steam ahead with the announcement of this bipartisan two-year deal that would, essentially, raise money for -- increase money for the military which is something the White House, of course, has been pushing for. And lawmakers seem to view the president's comments yesterday as, you know, the president being the president. Trump being Trump.
And he's made similar comments in the past. Last year, he also said that he would like to see a government shutdown. You saw Sarah Sanders here yesterday sort of cleaning that up, saying the White House is not advocating for a government shutdown.
But, as you point out, Wolf, what this doesn't include, this deal, is a fix on immigration. The president has clearly been very outspoken that he wants a fix on immigration, DACA.
The lottery system, what the White House calls chain migration, that is not included in this deal. That will be treated as a separate issue.
And there's still several hurdles. It still has to pass through the House and then come to the president's desk.
So, of course, one of the questions we're going to be asking Sarah Sanders here today is what the White House thinks about this bipartisan deal that was just announced on the Senate side -- Wolf.
BLITZER: This has got to be welcome news, this agreement reached by Mitchell McConnell and Chuck Schumer, to go ahead with this bipartisan budget deal.
I assume the White House is going to warmly welcome this agreement to move forward, avoid a government shutdown. The government could have shut down Thursday night at midnight, if they don't have an agreement on spending.
So, I assume when we go to the White House briefing, momentarily, Sarah Sanders will warmly welcome the news from the Senate.
BROWN: That's right. I mean, I don't think anyone has the appetite for another government shutdown.
And, like I said, the White House has been very clear that it wants to increase spending for the military which is included in this bipartisan Senate deal.
So, I think, here at the White House, there is -- people are cautiously optimistic about this.
But, again, there -- it has the hurdle of passing through the House. And Nancy Pelosi has already come out and, sort of, expressed her disdain, that it doesn't include a fix for the Dreamers.
So, we'll have to wait and see what happens there.
BLITZER: We'll see what the speaker of the House says about an upcoming separate piece of legislation, to deal with Dreamers, to deal with border security, and the other related issues.
They have an early March deadline that they've got to get that through as well. That's a separate issue, apparently, right now, from this budget deal.
All right. The briefing is going to be starting fairly soon. We're going to get back to you, Pamela, over at the White House.
In the meantime, let's get some analysis with our panel. We're joined by retired Rear Admiral John Kirby, he's our CNN Military and Diplomatic Analyst; CNN Political Analyst Molly Ball; CNN Politics Reporter and Editor at Large Chris Cillizza; and CNN Political Analyst Jackie Kucinich.
So, Jackie, what do you make of this compromise? Pretty impressive.
I was impressed that Chuck Schumer -- excuse me, that Mitch McConnell kept referring to Chuck Schumer as my good friend.
JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It's weird. It's like you -- we went back in time where the Senate is actually working.
Now, of course, we kick it over to the House where there are a lot more problems than a split screen with Chuck Schumer making a deal with Mitch McConnell.
With Nancy Pelosi holding down the floor, it's quite stark. It just shows the fishers are still in the party.
That said, this deal does present a problem for Nancy Pelosi. A lot of the Congressional Black Caucus, for example, wanted these community health centers funded. The disaster funding that's included in this bill.
I think it's going to be hard for some of these Democrats to say no to this.
BLITZER: Yes, money for Puerto Rico, for example, is included, for Texas and Florida as well.
CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER AND EDITOR AT LARGE: Yes, this is how compromises used to work. Which is you -- if you're the majority, you sweeten the pot. Things like domestic spending, not military spending. You give some while getting some.
The issue is, we live in a politics of extreme polarization. So, the question is, is good, good enough for the liberal wing of the Democratic Party and the-it's not really the Tea Party wing necessarily.
It's more so the fiscal deficit hawk wing of the Republican Party. There's some overlap between those two but it's not -- it's not (INAUDIBLE.)
BLITZER: And just to be precise on that. The Republicans will like the $160 billion increase in defense spending. They won't necessarily like the $128 billion increase in what's called nondefense spending.
CILLIZZA: That's right. And adding to the deficit. So, can you find a coalition in between those two polls? Are the two party leaders, Nancy Pelosi and Paul Ryan, willing to allow that, sort of, compromise to happen?
[13:10:09] There will be a lot of pressure to do so. I think Chuck Schumer was very incentivized to find a way this time around. Because I think -- while he didn't admit it, I think they, basically, caved after the last government shutdown. They didn't get anything, and they just reopened the government.
The question is, how hard does Nancy Pelosi want to push on a DACA promise? My guess is you won't get anything more out of Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan than you got out of Mitch McConnell today. And what you got out of him, you know, right before the government shutdown which is, I pledge to have a fair process.
And you have to, sort of, take it or leave it.
BLITZER: How do you see it?
MOLLY BALL, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. But I -- but I think it's important to point out that Pelosi is not being less reasonable than Schumer here. She just wants what Schumer got.
BALL: Right. McConnell did give this assurance that there would be a floor debate on immigration. Republicans, including the president, have repeatedly promised that this -- that they would act on DACA.
And so, I think Pelosi is just asking for what Schumer has already received from McConnell which is an assurance that just that the debate will actually happen on the floor of the House. And we don't know if Ryan's going to be able to offer that.
BLITZER: Because there is a history here. A few years ago, the Senate passed, in a decisive, overwhelming manner, comprehensive immigration reform. It went to the House of Representatives. Because a majority of Republicans didn't like it, the speaker at the time didn't even allow it to come up for a debate and a vote.
BALL: It never went to the floor. It never went to the floor. And most people working on the issue believe, had it gone to the floor, had what passed the Senate gone to the floor of the House for an up and down vote, it would have passed. It would have passed with the majority of Democrats and a minority of Republicans.
But it was never allowed to go to the floor because it was seen as so politically toxic. And I just feel that the rule of thumb on immigration reform is Republicans cannot do it. They cannot do immigration. They want to do it, some of them. But for decades, they just can't bring themselves to get there.
BLITZER: And what will be critical, right now, for these Republicans in the House of Representatives, will be the president of the United States. How far will he be willing to go to speak out, to twist their hands, and said, you know what? And say, you're going to get all this money for defense.
You got to do this. The government is not going to shut down. There's going to be an increase in spending. Just accept it. We'll see how aggressively, assertively the president reacts to all of this.
BALL: Well, and there was a pointed comment from Schumer in his floor speech, saying we reached this agreement without very much input from the White House, without very much leadership.
He intended to take a shot at the president with that, but it may be that that was better for the process, that the leaders were able to do it between themselves, without the president making more chaos in the process.
CILLIZZA: Though, I do think that there is a role for Trump to play in trying to assuage and convince. If Ryan goes to him and says, look, there's 15 of these people who, like, I really need you to call.
Remember, Donald Trump, I mean, he -- for all -- everything he billed himself as, the guy who gets it done and who closes deals, was number one on that list. This is, sort of, that role.
Paul Ryan will need him, whether it's a strong voice of support from Sarah Sanders, whether it's an actual quote from Donald Trump, or whether it's an aggressive effort to recruit -- you know, call, get them on the phone, bring them in.
KUCINICH: But I think the issue does matter. And when it comes to spending, remember, you had members that were patted on the back for pushing back against the president, when it comes to health care.
So, we'll see where the fishers lie.
BLITZER: There's a lot we need to assess. The breaking news we're staying on top of. Everybody stick around.
We're also waiting for the White House briefing to begin. We'll get the first official reaction from the White House to this bipartisan deal just announced in the U.S. Senate.
Also, just in, as the Pentagon is now planning a major military parade, at the president's request, for Washington, D.C. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham with some rather blunt comments about how those parades are, quote, "cheesy and show weakness."
Stand by, lots going on.
BLITZER: All right, you're looking at live pictures coming in from the White House Briefing Room. We're just -- we've just been told that James Mattis, the defense secretary, he will be introduced by Sarah Sanders right at the top of this briefing. He will make a statement, answer reporters' questions, presumably on
two subjects, the Senate's decision to go ahead and work out this bipartisan budget agreement, which will increase defense spending by about $160 billion. It will also eliminate what's called the sequester, something that the military and the Pentagon has always hated, to keep a tab on defense spending. I'm sure he'll speak about that.
He'll also speak about the president now giving orders for the Defense Department to plan a military parade through the streets of Washington, D.C. The president says he was very impressed by what he saw in France on Bastille Day, that military parade there. He wants one like that here in the United States. But there's not necessarily enthusiastic support for that, including from Republican Senator Lindsey Graham. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MANU RAJU, CNN CORRESPONDENT: (INAUDIBLE) the military -- the president wants to have this military parade. What do you think about that?
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I don't mind having a parade honoring the service and sacrifice of our military members. I'm not looking for a Soviet-style hardware display. That's not who we are. It's kind of cheesy and I think shows weakness, quite frankly. But have a parade where you can display our finest and we can all say thank you and honor them would be fine. I'd like to see kids marching. I'd like to honor military families. The idea of saying thank you through a parade makes sense. The idea of showing muscle through a parade, I think, is counter to what we're about and would actually be a sign of weakness, not strength. So honoring the military through an annual parade, count me in. I just don't want it to become about hardware. I want it to become about people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right, let's discuss this and more with our panel. John Kirby, you're a retired U.S. admiral. What do you think? What are we going to hear, first of all, from the defense secretary, James Mattis? He's going to be speaking first at this upcoming briefing in the next few minutes.
[13:20:01] REAR ADMIRAL JOHN KIRBY (RET.), FORMER STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN : Can I just say, I can't remember the last time a secretary of defense went to a White House briefing, a daily briefing, to open it up. That's incredible to me. And Mr. Mattis is not really doing a lot of press briefings in his own pentagon. So this is remarkable.
I suspect the purpose is to talk about this budget deal and to laud it and to try to encourage, you know, quick passage of it because he was on Capitol Hill yesterday testifying about the nuclear posture (ph) review and was very eloquent about the damage that these continuing resolutions and sequester has been doing to military readiness, training and maintenance. So I think that's his main purpose. I don't think he's going to go up
there to talk about the parade. But I have no doubt that he'll get asked about it.
When asked about it, I suspect that he'll say that he understands the task he's been given by the commander in chief. They're going to work up some options and get it to the president. I don't think he's going to show any leg in terms of where this is going, when it's going to be, how big, how ostentatious it's going to be. I think he's just going to talk about the fact that they're going to -- they're going to plan for it.
BLITZER: The assumption has been, Jackie, that the president would like this parade as early as November on Veterans Day. He actually thinks it would be a good day to have this kind of a parade, although it's by no means a done deal, very early in the process.
KUCINICH: Well, yes. And as Admiral Kirby said, the details are still -- are still shaping. But it's the politicization of the military I think that a lot of folks are worried about. You can already sort of hear -- we were talking about this, the rhetoric starting, saying it's un-American to not support the troops. Everyone supports troops. You're never going to hear anyone say, I don't support the troops. But it's a question of whether you support them through this parade or -- you know, Democrats might be smart to say, you know, why don't we support them a different way. Why don't we support them through funding veterans programs rather than just saying this parade is terrible and making it look like they're against Trump, not the troops.
BLITZER: The defense secretary, though, is obviously very pleased, as is the Pentagon, is -- by this agreement that's been worked up by Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer. Presumably it will sail through the Senate now that both leaders, the majority and the minority leader, are on board.
It will go to the House. We'll see what happens in the House. I suspect eventually there will be enough Republicans and enough Democrats to pass it in the House. It will go to the president for his signature.
It's not a done deal yet. But certainly the fact that we're going to hear from the defense secretary, as John Kirby points out, from the Briefing Room at the White House, that will send a very strong message.
CILLIZZA: Yes, I think with the possible exception of Donald Trump, I don't think there are a lot of people -- and I'll include Nancy Pelosi in this -- who want another government shutdown so quickly after -- the last, granted, was three days, but a shutdown is a shutdown is a shutdown. So I think that you always have to think of that, Wolf, as sort of the background here. That's the end. We haven't focused on it all that much, but we're talking about, you know, 36 hours from now, if this deal isn't done, the government shuts down again and there's more why is Washington broken talk. And I actually genuinely think that on matters where they can give
some and give some and find some common ground, most of the members of Congress are willing to do so. The issue is, what can you do on issues where there is not any common ground. And, you know, I continue to wonder about DACA versus border security and, you know, protecting the dreamers. I just don't know how you get there.
Molly brought this up in the last segment. And, you know, John McCain basically came very close to losing the Republican nomination in 2008 because of his immigration stance. It almost happened again. You know, Mitt Romney has struggled with it. The party -- the Republican Party does -- the elites of the Republican Party are in favor of it because they see political gain. The rank and file of the Republican (ph) Party, which, by the way, Donald Trump very much channeled and represents, just does not support it. They do not support a pathway to citizenship. I don't know that they support what Donald Trump proposed, candidly, if you (INAUDIBLE).
BLITZER: He proposed a pathway to citizenship for 1.8 million dreamers.
CILLIZZA: Right, 1.8 million people.
BLITZER: There's only 700,000 who have officially registered as DACA recipients.
BLITZER: And that is seen by some of the hardliners as amnesty.
CILLIZZA: Absolutely. Anything that gives people who are here illegally a pathway to not be here illegally, to not just go back to where they came from, is viewed as amnesty by a decent chunk of the Republican base. So I think this happens because I think that the alternative is worse. I'm still -- I think that DACA, the border funding debate is --
BLITZER: But it's part of the (INAUDIBLE).
KUCINICH: It's not the -- it's not the border funding --
CILLIZZA: Which is being promised --
KUCINICH: It's more the legal immigration limiting that is the real sticking point.
BLITZER: But it's --
BLITZER: But only part of the compromise will be increased spending for the border, for border defense, including what the president really wants, a wall.
BALL: Well, but I just want to correct something that Chris just said, or disagree with it, because poll after poll after poll for many years have shown that even Republican voters believe that there should be a path -- some sort of pathway to citizenship --
CILLIZZA: Yes. True.
BALL: For all illegal immigrants, not just the dreamers. When you narrow it down to just the dreamers, it's even more popular, including with only Republican voters, including with Trump voters according to some polls. They support the idea of giving some type of citizenship or stability to the dreamers. This is a very, very, very popular thing.
[13:25:15] Republicans have always hit this stumbling block with the hardliners who are very vocal and very active. But it isn't the case that their voters are majority against this. And that's one of the reasons -- and you know who else wants it is the business community.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Very much so.
BALL: The Chamber of Commerce, lots of people, particularly now that this new element of legal immigration has been brought into the debate, which was not part of the discussions about immigration reform in 2013 or the traditional debate about, you know, border security plus legalization. When you bring legal immigration into the mix, that really scares the business community because they need workers.
BLITZER: They've got a lot of work to do to work out a compromise on immigration, a comprehensive immigration reform. They've got an early March deadline, I think March 6th, when the current arrangement for the DACA recipients expires. We'll see what happens.
Everybody stand by. We're waiting for the White House briefing to begin. The defense secretary, James Mattis, will open the briefing with a statement. He'll answer reporters' questions. Then Sarah Sanders, the White House press secretary, will take over. That's scheduled to begin within the next few minutes. Stand by for that.
We're also following more news involving the Russia investigation. CNN now reporting that President Trump still wants to talk to the special counsel, Robert Mueller, despite his attorneys telling him it's not necessarily a good idea. You're going to hear the president's reasoning.
That and more when we come back.