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Notes on the February 10, 2013 Broadcast of Meet The Press

February 10, 2013

All Rights NBC NewsThis morning’s Meet the Press began with host David Gregory introducing his two guests. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Congressman Eric Cantor (R-VA). He then went to his bizarre practice of interviewing the two men back-to-back rather than hearing what they might have to say to each other. He began with House Majority Leader Cantor.

Gregory first asked Cantor, do you really want sequester to happen? Gregory noted that the Associated Press says Virginia would suffer deep economic wounds if these automatic spending cuts come about. Cantor said, “Clearly this is not the best way to go about trying to control spending.”

Gregory asked, then why not work with the president to bring about some short-term cuts? Cantor said because the answer from the White House is always “raise taxes.” Cantor added, “We can’t be raising taxes in this town every three months, David.”

Cantors bottom line is that he does not want the indiscriminate budget cuts to happen, but he said that it is up to the president to act.

On immigration reform, Cantor repeated his earlier statements that children brought here as minors should have some way to become citizens. He was noncommittal on reforms that would go beyond children.

In a discussion about “re-branding the Republican Party,” he gave a passionate defense of conservative principles.

Before moving on to the discussion with Senator Durbin, Gregory shook up the normal agenda and went to a conversation with his political roundtable. GOP strategist Mike Murphy said the president’s current strategy will lead to gridlock in Washington. Instead, Murphy suggested, the president should do a “Nixon to China move.” The BBC’s Katty Kay says job growth must be at the top of the president agenda.

After Senator Durbin cooled his heels for a few more minutes, he said everyone should understand that, “Sequestration was designed as a budget threat, not a budget strategy,” and if it goes forward, it will have dramatic negative impacts on the country.

Durbin gave a strong defense of comprehensive immigration reform that goes beyond just children. On the issue of drone strikes, both Representative Cantor and Senator Durbin expressed moral concern about the actions, but neither seemed eager to curtail the president’s authority in this matter.

Regarding the nomination of former Senator Chuck Hagel (R-NE) to be Secretary of Defense, Durbin believes that he will be confirmed and said Republicans have told him that they will not initiate a filibuster to stop the nomination. (UPDATE: Durbin apparently did not know what Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) was saying over on Face The Nation at about the same time.)

Back in the (second) roundtable discussion, Mayor Kasim Reed (D-Atlanta) said he wanted to respond to the idea that the president should be more conciliatory in his State of Union address this week. Mayor Reed said the president tried that early in his first term and was rejected by the Republicans.

NBC’s Michael Isikoff seemed to agree, saying the president currently has the upper hand in the budget negotiations. Michael Gerson of the Washington Post worries that Republicans don’t remember how bad things were when they lost the budget standoff in 1996. On the other hand, he said, the president risks an economic slowdown. He predicts Congress and the president will find a way to approve a three-month solution.

Going back to his “Nixon goes to China” recommendation, Mike Murphy said the president could just say, “Chain CPI and beneficiaries pay a little more.” By this, Murphy means big change for entitlement programs, especially Medicare. He notes that it would be difficult for the president to sell to his own party, but it would mean much for compromise with Republicans.

Kay reminded everyone that the cuts called for in the sequester will cut exactly the kinds of things that lead to economic growth.

Isikoff described the story of the White House memos on drone strikes he revealed earlier this week. Kay warned that the drone policy is starting to turn moderates in the Muslim world against United States.

The program ended with a quick little roundtable on number of topics including Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), Gov. Chris Christie’s (R-NJ) weight, and Ashley Judd’s potential Senate run in Tennessee. No new ground was broken.

Today’s Meet The Press transcript will be here.

Also follow the show on the MTP Facebook page, track Twitter feeds from host David Gregory, Meet The Press, and Executive Producer Betsy Fischer, watch the midweek PressPass interview, and don’t forget Gregory’s blog.

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