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Transcript (with my notes) from Feb. 28, 2010 (PART 2)

February 28, 2010

MR. GREGORY: And we are back. Joining us, the National Urban League’s Marc Morial; the House Republican whip, Congressman Eric Cantor of Virginia; and House Democratic chief deputy whip, Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida. Plus, two Washington journalists, Ron Brownstein of the National Journal and Katty Kay of “BBC World News America,” plus two minor league round draft picks to be named later.

Offscreen Voice #1: Right.

Offscreen Voice #2: Right.

MR. GREGORY: We have our own healthcare summit here. We have a big group. Welcome to everybody.

OK. Why five people in this panel? Four is already too many for a meaningful exchange. Wasserman-Schultz was added to the show very late in the process… but that means someone else should have been dropped. Of course, that someone would likely have been Marc Morial… and MTP is already under fire for lacking racial diversity. Still, this whole booking collision should have been foreseen and avoided. There are black or Hispanic members of Congress who could have been invited, there are black or Hispanic columnists who could have replaced Brownstein, and there are black or Hispanic television hosts who could have replaced Kay. The producers have to get on top of this so remnants of the back room struggles stop showing up on the screen.

Congressman Cantor, let me begin with you. The big question is where are we after this summit, after all the machinations and negotiations? Are there the votes in the House to get this done?

REP. ERIC CANTOR (R-VA): Well, I’m sure my colleague will have something to say about that. But, David, there’s a reason why we’re here with no healthcare bill having been passed and that’s because the American people have decided this is not the healthcare bill for them. And that’s why you heard, during the seven-hour discussion that we had at the Blair House with the president, Republicans come to the table and say, “Look, we do care about health care and we want to do something to effect positive reform.” It’s just that we want to take a much more commonsense, modest, incremental approach trying to address the first issue first, which is cost, and then go on to try and deal with some of the things that the president and Speaker Pelosi want to do.

MR. GREGORY: All right. We’ll come back to that. But—in terms of what the general approach is.

But, Congresswoman Schultz, is there and are there the votes in the House, which is really the, the big testing ground here, if it’s, if it’s reconciliation, for instance, where you go for a simple majority. Are the votes there?

REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D-FL): When we start counting, the votes will be there. Because the American people want to make sure that we take the abusive practices that the insurance companies engage in and make sure that we put doctors and patients back in the driver’s seat. Right now it’s insurance companies that decide what kind of coverage you have. Right now it’s insurance companies that can drop you based on a pre-existing condition. I know that from personal experience. Right now you can get dropped when you become sick. You—we’ve got to make sure that we put doctors and patients, not insurance companies, back in the driver’s seat. And if you look at the polling, if we’re going to talk about polling, that the American people have, have weighed in on, they support the components that are included in this bill because they want to make sure that we end abusive practices by insurance companies.

MR. GREGORY: But, Marc Morial, the—but the, the composite of all of those, the difficulty that the president faces is that he has not sold the public on his version of healthcare reform. That’s the reality of his situation right now. I spoke to one very close ally of the president’s on this fight, saying he thinks 40 percent chance this ultimately gets done. Where are we?

MR. MARC MORIAL: I think that there’s a strong chance that it’s going to happen because it needs to happen. Because, beyond the politics of Washington and the infighting, the fact of the matter is there’s a problem in this nation and that is there are many people uncovered, and for those who do have coverage, costs are exploding. So I think that the president rightfully went back and had a discussion which was a healthcare summit. Some may have said it didn’t make good TV, but what it did is it showed that the discussions are substantive, that the issues, in fact, are serious. And I think, at the end, something should get done and something will get done because it needs to get done.

Gregory keeps asking “will” the legislation pass. And Wasserman-Schultz and Morial keep answering that it “must” happen… this is not helpful or enlightening.

MR. GREGORY: You know, it’s interesting, Ron Brownstein, and our congressmen and women will talk about some of the philosophical differences, for all the talk of the petty politics, one thing that came through the summit…

MR. RON BROWNSTEIN: Right.

MR. GREGORY: …is that there are very big philosophical and ideological divisions about the role of government…

MR. BROWNSTEIN: Yes.

MR. GREGORY: …in the healthcare system and how many people should be covered, particularly given the finances during a recession.

MR. BROWNSTEIN: Absolutely. I mean, I think one of the, the real points that came out of the summit was the depth of the disagreement between the parties. And, in fact, each party’s healthcare plan I think largely crystallizes their view of the, of the role of government. And they differ not only in, in their solution to the problem but their definition of the problem. I mean, we’re not really, to use the president’s term, comparing apples to apples. The president’s plan, the Democratic plan attempts to cover roughly, by the CBO estimate, 33 million people who are uninsured over the next decade. The Republican plan, by the CBO estimate, aims to cover three million people. It is a much more minimalist plan. It’s basically recycling ideas—the association health plans, the interstate sale of insurance, the medical malpractice—that Republicans pushed and were unable to bring into law when they held unified control of the House and the Senate and the White House in the middle part of this decade. They were unable to build enough public consensus for those ideas when they had unified control to, to get them into law. So—I mean, I think what we’re seeing here—the, the reality is health care is a very difficult issue. It has, it has defeated every president who has tried it for 70 years, it’s a very complex problem. And, and what you’re seeing, in the end, are fundamentally different divisions of the parties about how to attack this and, really, what even you are attacking in the end.

Nice meaty analysis from Brownstein. This problem has defeated every president for 70 years.

MR. GREGORY: What about the president’s leadership on this, Katty?

MS. KATTY KAY: I don’t think that the summit changed things either way in terms of the potential for passage or not passage of this reform bill. And I want—one area where I think the president hasn’t managed to try to get those poll numbers to shift in favor of reform is to say to Americans, “Listen, you may have a level of care at the moment that you’re happy with, but if we carry on with these exploding costs, care will deteriorate.” At the moment, America has globally the 37th highest quality of care in the world. That puts it just above Costa—just above Cuba, just below Costa Rica. Now is that where America sees itself in terms of its quality of care? And that number will decline. It’s going to slip down the global poll of where its level of health care is if something isn’t done about healthcare reform. And that’s an argument that the president hasn’t managed to get across. I think the other thing he hasn’t done is really appeal to an—a sense of generosity in the American people. I travel around the country and I’ve seen the poll numbers, but I’m struck by how many Americans say to me, “We don’t see ourselves as a country that doesn’t allow people access to a doctor if they don’t have insurance.” That’s, that’s just not how Americans see themselves. This is the country that gives the highest level of charitable donations in the world. Americans think of themselves as a different country than that.

Great quote from Kay about the United States ranking 37th in healthcare quality around the world… and keeps slipping. She asks why the president hasn’t pushed this issue. And she asks why the president hasn’t appealed to Americans’ natural good will towards others.

MR. GREGORY: And, and yet—all of you can weigh in on this—the, the, the, the tension seems to be that individual elements are popular, you can talk to people who want better health care, better access to health care, reform. But there’s a lot of distrust that government can deliver this kind of care and handle it well. And isn’t that the fundamental tension?

MR. MORIAL: But, but you know, David, the fundamental delivery system here will be the private insurance system. That’s what’s key. This is not the government running insurance. It is changes to how health care is delivered. But what it would do would be to provide opportunities for more Americans to purchase private insurance. And I think there’s been a great deal of confusion. This is, in essence, a, a, a partnership between the government and the private sector to expand health coverage. And I think that it’s been confused by talking points, it’s been confused by political broadsides, but that’s essentially what it is.

REP. CANTOR: David, the, the…

MS. KAY: David…

Morial also makes some good points. Then Cantor fails to engage on what Kay or Morial have said.

REP. CANTOR: …the, the reality is, and take a little bit a different approach here and difference with that statement, the reality is Republicans do care about health care. We want to address the first and most foundational element which is cost, because if we can bring down costs, more people can access care. But we also know that there is something we need to do to get more people on insured. The problem is with the president’s bill, it’s about expanding Medicaid. No one wants to, to go onto Medicaid. That’s why physicians in Florida and other states are leaving Medicaid in droves because of the imperfect reimbursement structure. That’s what this bill is about is expanding the government programs that don’t work. We need real reform to bring down costs.

REP. SCHULTZ: David, you want to talk about bringing down costs, our bill makes sure that we address the problem of every family in America having an—a $1,000 hidden tax for covering the uninsured. There’s 47 million people in America that don’t have insurance, and we are all paying for them because they show up at the emergency room as their primary access point for health care. In order to reduce costs, we can cut to a tax of $1,000 on American families just by covering those people. We can also make sure that we bring down costs by broadening the pool, adding the healthiest people who are choosing right now to not, to not carry health insurance, and then when they get hit out of a clear blue sky by an unexpected illness, they don’t have insurance and we’re all paying for it. We’ve got to make sure we take care of this.

Nice point by Wasserman-Schultz on the $1000 hidden tax Americans pay to cover those without insurance. Cantor doesn’t address this either.

MR. GREGORY: But let’s reality-check this for a second, Ron. The, the, the, the claim by Congressman Cantor that there isn’t cost reduction here, we’re not lowering costs, is that accurate? Look what the CBO says about the effect on the deficit.

In the transition to Brownstein here, the camera goes screwy. Probably shows how crazy it is to have five guests around the table.

MR. BROWNSTEIN: Well, well, there, there are two ways to look at this. The CBO says that it would—the Democratic plan would reduce the deficit. Republicans believe that many of the changes in Medicare would not be implemented in the long run and call that into question. The broader question of what it means to overall national healthcare spending has been analyzed by the Medicare actuary, which is an independent position. And what they concluded was that between now and 2019, if you did the Democratic plan, you would ensure 33 million more people and national health—total national health spending would increase by less than a penny on the dollar. So does it break the back of rising costs? No. But does it reallocate resources within the medical system more efficiently potentially than they are now? Clearly, the actuary is suggesting yes if you can cover 33 million more people at a total cost of less than a penny on the dollar increase in our, in our total national health expenditures. That is a part of the debate that has not, that has not come through. Can I just go back to…

MR. GREGORY: Yes.

MR. BROWNSTEIN: …your point, though, very quickly, which was—you’re absolutely right—even though individual elements of this plan do poll well, overall, Democrats have never been able to get it to a position where most Americans, particularly most white Americans—because there is a difference between minorities and whites in the polling—believe it will help them and their family. That’s why this is, I think, a real gut-check moment for these Democratic majorities. I think if you poll them privately, clear majorities in both chambers would believe they have produced a plan that is a reasonable way to do universal—approach universal coverage if that is your goal. The question is, do they believe they can sell it to the American people if they go forward with it? Because, as you say, right now, they haven’t, and Republicans, I think, exuded confidence at that summit that they believe they are winning this argument.

Brownstein seems to have really researched the heck out of this issue.

MR. GREGORY: Well, so—and so, Congresswoman, what happens between now and the point at which you say you have the votes? What is the president going to say this week? How will he justify reconciliation going for a simple majority in a way that congresswomen, other than yourself, will presume they can cast a vote for this safely in her district? How do other members of Congress go back and say, “No, this is a good thing. We’re going to do this”?

Wasserman-Schultz looks a little scared after hearing Brownstein’s dissection, but has a decent answer.

REP. SCHULTZ: Because the American people support the pieces of this plan, and, after Thursday, they see through the Republican—the Republican mantra that we need to start over. Start over means do nothing. I mean, make no mistake about it. It’s disingenuous for my colleague to suggest that they really want to cover people when the only thing they’ve got out there covers three million people. Our—nothing in their plan would bring down costs. We have the largest tax cut for small businesses and people paying—who pay for health care in our bill in American history. And that’s the bottom line. We have cost reduction, we have comprehensive coverage, we cover 31 million people, and they don’t even come close.

MR. GREGORY: But, Congressman Cantor, let me revise that by asking this, what specifically—you had the bill piled up in front of you—what can you say yes to that’s in the president’s revised proposal? Anything?

REP. CANTOR: We, we can—listen, David, let’s take a step back for a second, because this notion that somehow Republicans never came forward with solutions, I think the American people are over that now.

MR. GREGORY: Well, but hold on.

REP. CANTOR: Even Ron…

MR. GREGORY: But what you said specifically is there is a big difference in scope: 30 million covered vs. three million covered.

REP. CANTOR: Well, and…

MR. GREGORY: Difference in the role of government. We established that.

REP. CANTOR: And what we say, what we say is this, our approach is an incremental approach. It is not do nothing. I think that’s a tired argument.

REP. SCHULTZ: Do very little.

REP. CANTOR: It’s an incremental approach. Let’s talk about doing the first thing, which is bringing down healthcare costs. That’s how this whole debate began over a year ago at the White House when the president had his first summit. Then we go about trying…

Gregory pushes Cantor on what he can say yes to, and the 33 million covered under the Democratic plan versus the 3 million covered by the Republican plan. Cantor explains that they are not “do nothing,” they are just “incremental.”

REP. SCHULTZ: Where’s the evidence that you’d do that?

REP. CANTOR: …to do the kind of things—well, we, we certainly—the CBO has validated that we bring down healthcare insurance premiums without a doubt. So that helps folks who have it, and we can expand coverage. We also say, “Look, we don’t approve of denial of coverage for pre-existing conditions. We have a plan…

REP. SCHULTZ: It’s not in your bill.

REP. CANTOR: Absolutely, it’s in our bill.

REP. SCHULTZ: It isn’t.

REP. CANTOR: We have a plan that creates universal access programs at the state level which allows folks to access insurance if they’re denied by their insurer.

MR. GREGORY: Right.

REP. CANTOR: David, let me, let me, let me just bring to…

MR. GREGORY: Well, wait. Quickly respond to anything there that you think should be…

Gregory is smart to go back to Brownstein. He clearly knows more about this than anyone else at the table.

MR. BROWNSTEIN: Well, well, no. In fact, CBO has estimated that both plans, both the Democratic plan and the Republican plan, if you’re looking at existing insurance—your existing insurance plan—would bring down premiums by about the same amount for the apples to apples. CBO says roughly for the Republicans, 5 to 8, roughly 7 to 10 percent for Democrats, on the effect, on the same plan. Now, the reason why Democratic—the cost goes up, and this is a question I think Democrats are going to have to answer as they go forward on this, is that they are mandating a richer plan than, than, than, than in some cases, people—a more comprehensive plan than people now have, as the baseline in these, in these exchanges.

REP. SCHULTZ: Ron…

MR. BROWNSTEIN: So one of the questions I think Democrats may be asking themselves is can they bring down the cost of this somewhat by moving back away from some of those, some of those mandates. But if you look at the CBO analysis of both kind of core proposals, remember, their impact on insurance premiums, it’s very similar for people who…

REP. SCHULTZ: David, if you look at…

MR. MORIAL: David, if I could…

MR. GREGORY: Well, hold, hold on. Let me get Kat, let me get Kat in here for a second on this question, too, of what are Republicans saying yes to, which goes to the overall question is, the politics for Republicans here. What’s it worth to them to have any sort of reform or not to?

MS. KAY: Well, it seems to me at the moment the politics of the Republicans is to say—to carry on saying no. I don’t see where the value for the Republicans politically is to signing up pretty much to anything. They do believe that they have public opinion on their side on this, and they will be able, in November, if health care doesn’t pass, to turn to the public and say, “Look, the White House was expending an awful lot of energy on trying to get the president’s signature bill through, when what he should have been concentrating on was jobs, jobs, jobs and the economy.” And you can see the Republican…

Kay understands how the politics will play. There is no political value for the Republicans in seeing anything passed.

MR. MORIAL: Here’s, here’s, here’s—no, no.

MS. KAY: …the Republican ads being written at the moment if this bill isn’t passed.

MR. MORIAL: Here’s what—here’s what, here’s what the people deserve. They deserve an up or down vote and not a lot of procedural delay tactics, the use of all sorts of measures. We deserve, the people deserve an up or down vote on health care. Let everyone put their proposals on the table, let the House of Representatives and the Senate vote it up or down. That’s what the…

Morial wants up or down.. which will likely be the theme of the week and the big topic next Sunday.

MS. KAY: The risk for that—the risk for that is…

REP. SCHULTZ: I think the…

REP. CANTOR: Let me weigh on this. Let me, let me just weigh in right now because, I’ll tell you one thing, if Speaker Pelosi rams through this bill through the House using the reconciliation process…

REP. SCHULTZ: Just like—a simple majority vote.

REP. CANTOR: …they, they will, they will lose. They…

MR. GREGORY: Hold on, hold on. One at a time.

REP. CANTOR: They will lose their majority in Congress in November.

Cantor throws down the gauntlet and Gregory follows up.

MS. KAY: I think—this…

REP. SCHULTZ: Hold on.

MR. GREGORY: No, but hold on. Let me just—I want to just follow the issue of reconciliation. But, Congressman, reconciliation has been used many times before by the, by the Republicans.

REP. CANTOR: Absolutely. Listen, there are differences in every instance when reconciliation was used.

REP. SCHULTZ: The Bush tax cuts pork package.

REP. CANTOR: This is, this is something, health care, that is going to alter a significant portion of our economy.

MR. GREGORY: Can I just…

REP. CANTOR: And if they do this, this—the public does not like this bill. And so it’s, it’s that somehow…

REP. SCHULTZ: That’s not true.

REP. CANTOR: …the Democratic majority just won’t listen to the public. If they do this…

REP. SCHULTZ: No. At the end of the day here…

MS. KAY: Just…

MR. GREGORY: Can I, can I just—all right.

REP. SCHULTZ: David, let me—I need to respond.

REP. CANTOR: If they do this and don’t allow us to start over with an incremental approach…

REP. SCHULTZ: Let me respond to what he’s saying here.

Gregory loses control of the crowd for a moment. (But is was kind of fun!) Wasserman-Schultz jumps in and scores points.

MR. GREGORY: OK. Quick comment.

REP. SCHULTZ: Because the Republicans have repeatedly said that they agree with 80 percent of what’s in our bill. And, at the end of the day, what we need to do is sit down and negotiate over the differences on the 20 percent. The Republicans right now are focused all about regaining power. They don’t have any interest in us accomplishing comprehensive healthcare reform. That’s been evident. There isn’t anyone that is saying, “Come on, let’s just work this out.” What they’re saying is, “Start over.” Start over, the American people understand, means do nothing.

REP. CANTOR: David—how can, how can you say that?

REP. SCHULTZ: Because if we are successful—because if we’re successful, then they lose.

MR. GREGORY: Final point. Hold on. Final point before I move to the politics.

Congressman, I want this very narrow point. What would be in a revised bill that you could vote for? What, out of all the president’s ideas, could you support now?

REP. CANTOR: Well, we, we could start with implementing real medical malpractice reform. We could start by creating universal access programs at the state level to allow those who are being denied coverage by their insurance company right now the ability to access insurance. We could put in place the ability, real ability for people to purchase insurance across state lines for real competition that would help bring down costs.

MR. GREGORY: And if those elements—for instance, those three elements, you could vote for it under those circumstances?

REP. CANTOR: If, if you listen to my discussion and my comments with the president on—at the Blair House, when he asked that, I said, “Look, it is the construct of the bill.” It goes back to the level of mandate from Washington, And the president and I had an exchange about why is it that we need the secretary of Health and Human Services here in Washington telling people what benefits should look like.

Gregory pushes Cantor on what he “could” support, and we get some points from him… but in the end it just highlights how big the chasm is between the two sides.

MR. GREGORY: I want to just—no, hold on, I just want to move—I want to move beyond some of the fine points of this to go a little bit larger in terms of the politics.

Katty, Charlie Cook talked about what all this means politically this year, and this is what he said in a report as Politico reported it this week. “I think choosing to take a Captain Ahab-like approach to health care – I’m going to push or this even in the worst downturn since the Great Depression – is roughly comparable to Bush’s decision to go to war. It basically destroyed the first year of a presidency.” Does the president comes through this, however it turns out, tarnished in some way? Is he hurt as he goes into the midterm race?

MS. KAY: No. I think to some extent, the whole debate, politically, about reconciliation, is a little bit of a red herring, because, if this bill passes and it proves to be popular with the American people, it will be judged on its merits. If it passes and proves to be unpopular, it would also be judged on those merits. People will soon forget how it was passed. That’s what happened with welfare reform. It took all of us a little while to dig out our books and remember that welfare reform was actually passed through reconciliation. People don’t remember the bickering beforehand. They will vote for—they will support or not support this bill on its merits. Now, the problem, I think, for the president, is that this is gumming up all of the time he needs to be spending on other things. Business leaders are going to the White House and saying, “We cannot make decisions about trying to hire people because we don’t know what our costs are going to be. We don’t know what our healthcare costs are going to be. We don’t know what the energy plan’s going to be. We don’t know what the tax reform is going to be.” So they—they’re not making decisions. They are frozen because Washington is frozen, and he needs to get moving on…

Kay asks the questions which will be key if “up or down vote” becomes the top issue next week. Will people ultimately forget how the bill was passed if it works?

MR. GREGORY: Mark…

MS. KAY: …on these legislative issues.

MR. GREGORY: Mark, the, the, debate, of course, is how close does the president get to legislation like this? There’s a reason why, with all respect, members of Congress often suffer in their popularity because sausage making, lawmaking, is not a popular thing in the public. Does he risk the tarnish of being too close to the process now that he’s decided to get this close?

MR. MORIAL: I think he takes credit for being able to get something very big and something significant done. Poll numbers change, public opinion changes. What people are reacting to is a messy, confusing process. I think that a victory on health care will help the president. He’s staked his first year of the presidency on it. People can debate whether he should have done something else. But the fact of the matter is, he’s on the goal line and now I think people want to see him get the ball in the end zone and pass his plan.

Morial says a victory will help the president and Brownstein agrees.

MR. GREGORY: Ron, the, the effect on the election?

MR. BROWNSTEIN: I agree with both of them. I—look, I think that the—this really is a gut-check moment for the Democrats. They have not won the debate to this point. And it is not unusual. Every other president who has tried to do this has found it is very difficult in a prospective manner to convince the country that government can reform a system this complex, especially at a time when you have such distrust of government after the 2008 financial meltdown. And I think the choice before them is exactly right, as Katty said, I don’t think people are going to remember very long how this was done. If they do go ahead with this, they would have to do so in the belief that they can turn around those poll numbers and convince the country that this is worth doing. And, ultimately, this has, this has been, you know, a top priority for every Democratic president since Truman. They are, as, as Mr. Morial says, on the goal line. And if they don’t do it, I think it would be a striking admission that they do not believe, in the end, they can win this argument about an issue at the core of the party’s mission for many decades.

This whole line about what a victory (even through reconciliation) would mean for Obama is no doubt steeling Cantor’s resolve to stop the process.

MR. GREGORY: Let me move, let me move on. There was another question I wanted to ask you regarding Charlie Rangel.

REP. SCHULTZ: OK.

MR. GREGORY: Congressman Rangel of New York, who was criticized by the Ethics Committee for a series of trips that he took down to the Caribbean. Should he retain his job?

REP. SCHULTZ: Well, I think we, obviously, when a member is found to have violated House ethics rules, it’s a very serious thing, and there are a number of other investigations that are ongoing. And I think what Speaker Pelosi has said is that we need to look at the totality of those recommendations and wait till the—all the investigations are completed to—before a decision is rendered on that.

MR. GREGORY: But you’re concerned about the finding?

REP. SCHULTZ: Obviously, anytime a member is found to have violated House ethics rules, it’s deeply concerning.

MR. GREGORY: What’s going to happen, Congressman?

REP. CANTOR: I mean, look, Nancy Pelosi said in the very beginning this is going to be the most open, honest and ethical Congress in history. And what we’re seeing is she’s breaking that promise every day. And I’m sure my colleague…

Cantor pounces with the Pelosi quote and calls for Rangel to step down as a committee chairman.

REP. SCHULTZ: The ethical…

REP. CANTOR: …would, I’m—would join me in saying that the American people would say right away Charlie Rangel should step aside in—from being chairman of the most major committee in Congress…

REP. SCHULTZ: We have the ethics process.

REP. CANTOR: …after having been found to be in, in violation of House rules, House rules. And, as we know in press reports, this is only the tip of the iceberg. So, you know, listen, I have—I called for his stepping down…

MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.

REP. CANTOR: …before even this finding, and now I do think it’s time for, for that.

MR. GREGORY: Ron, does he make it, do you think?

MR. BROWNSTEIN: This is the first shoe. I think that this is not enough by itself, but I think many Democrats are expecting that the further revelations on the, on the ongoing investigation on his financial dealings may create irresistible pressure for him to step down.

MR. MORIAL: I strongly support…

REP. SCHULTZ: But, Ron, the important thing is, yeah.

MR. GREGORY: Yeah. Yeah.

MR. MORIAL: …Charlie Rangel, and his future is up to the voters who elected him.

REP. SCHULTZ: The important thing to know.

MR. MORIAL: He’s had a long, great career in Congress, and I think there’s always going to be a lot of back and forth about ethics investigations. Not to sanction what he said, but his future should be up to the voters of his district.

Morial says it is up to the voters in Rangel’s district. But this misses the point. What Morial says is true about Rangel’s role as a Congressman. But the committee chairmanship is bestowed by his peers, not the district voters. That would have formed the basis of a good follow up question.

REP. SCHULTZ: David…

MR. GREGORY: Katty, another interesting point, another political situation. In New York, Governor Paterson saying he will not pursue his campaign for governor, striking because here you have the Obama administration, who tried to get him to back out of this race months ago, unsuccessfully, and now the scandal involving his administration and any potential interference with the domestic violence situation involving one of his aides has now come to the point where he’s still in the job, still calls for him to resign outright.

MS. KAY: Front page paper calls for him to resign, out from nearly all of the New York City papers included. I think it’s a suggestion, isn’t it, that the White House’s bid earlier to try to get him to resign is a—is an indication of the limitations of the White House’s clout when it comes to Democrats all around the country. I mean, they’ve, they’ve had this problem in elections across the country as well, in trying to support Democrats who didn’t then get elected. It is something that makes the White House not look particularly powerful.

Kay is an astute political observer who connects Patterson back to the clout of Obama.

MR. BROWNSTEIN: You know, you know, it’s a, it’s a measure of the kind of year it is right now for Democrats…

MS. KAY: Right.

MR. BROWNSTEIN: …that often the best headline for them this year is when somebody steps aside in the race.

MS. KAY: Is a Democrat steps down.

MR. BROWNSTEIN: Bill Ritter, Chris Dodd, Paterson.

MS. KAY: From the White House point of view…

MR. BROWNSTEIN: I mean, that is, that is a tough year when the good news is somebody isn’t running.

MS. KAY: From the White House point of view, it might have been better…

MR. GREGORY: Right.

MS. KAY: …if it was the White House who asked them to step aside, and then he would step aside then.

MR. BROWNSTEIN: Yes.

MR. GREGORY: Right. Good. Final point that you…

REP. SCHULTZ: The, the bottom line, when it comes to ethics reforms, is that we got the Ethics Committee—Democrats got the Ethics Committee moving again. It’s an effective process that was totally neutered under the, under the Republicans. And now we have an Ethics Committee that is fully functioning and making sure that we take care of the ethics problems when they’re there.

MR. GREGORY: All right. We are going to leave it there. Thanks to all of you. Covered a lot of ground.

We will talk more with Mark Morial about the National Urban League’s century of service to American communities. It’s in our MEET THE PRESS Take 2 Web extra. It’s up this afternoon. Plus, look for updates from me throughout the week. It’s all on our Web site, mtp.msnbc.com.

The fact that out of this group (with Brownstein shining so brightly) Morial is the one singled out for a “Take Two” special makes me think the effort to bring more diversity to MTP are having an impact.

And we’ll be right back.

(Announcements)

MR. GREGORY: Before we go, a programming note. On this final day of the Olympics in Vancouver, watch the gold medal hockey game right here on NBC, 3 PM Eastern Time. Team USA vs. Canada in the improbable matchup. And I can say since Ovechkin and the Russians were knocked out, I no longer have that uncomfortable divided loyalty in my house with my son that I mentioned here a couple of weeks ago. So it’s Ryan Miller and Team USA all the way.

That’s all for today. We’ll see you next week. If it’s Sunday, it’s MEET THE PRESS.

URL: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/35624901/ns/meet_the_press/

The original transcript of this program is the property of NBC News and MSNBC.com.
© 2010 MSNBC.com

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