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Does the spending compromise set Congress up for a bigger fight later?

May 1, 2017 at 6:25 PM EDT
Congress was able to agree on a compromise deal to avert a government shutdown, but a bigger fight may come in the fall when the current spending bill runs out. Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report and Tamara Keith of NPR join William Brangham to discuss the spending deal, plus the current state of Republican efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare and President Trump’s 100-day rally.
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WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Turning back now to the compromise reached in Congress to avoid a government shutdown, the effort to pass a health care replacement, and the president’s contentious relationship with the press, it’s time for Politics Monday, with Tamara Keith of NPR and Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report.

Welcome to you both.

AMY WALTER, The Cook Political Report: Good to be here.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Amy, I would like to start with you.

So, government didn’t get shut down. That’s a good thing, right? What happened?

AMY WALTER, The Cook Political Report: Yes, great, they kept government functioning.

(LAUGHTER)

AMY WALTER: The most basic thing that Congress can do is to keep the lights on. So, yes, this is a success, but it also is not the hardest thing that they need to do.

We have big, difficult pieces of legislation that we have been hearing about. Obviously, one of those pieces of legislation, health care, has already been pulled. There’s talk that it may be reintroduced this week or later on.

But the fact that they were able to get one basic piece of legislating done, which, by the way, is supposed to be the easiest, I don’t think means that we’re going to suddenly see the floodgates open and now everything is going to…

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Kumbaya.

(CROSSTALK)

AMY WALTER: Right, everybody is going to work together and get the big stuff done.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Tam, do you think that is right? Have we just lowered the bar so low that, when they do basic things like cross kids across the sidewalk to school, that is a huge victory?

TAMARA KEITH, NPR: Yes, and if you liked this movie, just wait. The sequel comes in September.

AMY WALTER: Right.

(LAUGHTER)

TAMARA KEITH: Because this was just basically finishing out of the year. The year ends at the end of September.

And what the Trump administration is saying is, you know, we didn’t try that hard to get what we wanted this time around because it was already — the process was under way. It was a bipartisan effort. But we’re going to really fight for what we want next time around.

So, it becomes potentially a bigger battle in September, where you have a president who needs to prove that he can get some of the things that he wants. And Democrats aren’t going to be any more willing to roll over than they were this time around.

This — it is a fascinating thing. Basically, Democrats and Republicans in Congress have been fighting over how to fund the government, and not very successfully fighting about it, for years and years and years and years. And then you just — you know, we’re on like the eighth or ninth sequel. It’s like “The Fast and the Furious.”

(LAUGHTER)

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Do you think this is just …

AMY WALTER: But without any of the cool …

(CROSSTALK)

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Right, no car crashes, no Vin Diesel.

AMY WALTER: No Vin Diesel.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Was this just a case where the GOP was scared that they were going to get the blame?

AMY WALTER: Yes, if you control the government, you get all the blame, and you get the credit.

And the bottom line is, we have seen now in these past 100 days that, despite the fact that Republicans control all three levers of government, getting stuff done isn’t as easy as they thought it was. The president himself has said, boy, this is a little bit harder doing this governing thing that I thought.

And he is rightly pointing to the fact that Republicans have never had to govern before. They have been — most of them have been in the minority. They have never been with a Republican president. They have never had control of government.

So, this is a brand-new experience for them. All the old fights that, by the way, to Tam’s point, have been brewing for years and years and years — this isn’t Donald Trump’s fault. The divisions between Republicans on a whole host of issues have been there, I would argue, going all the way back to the Bush administration on a lot of these issues.

They didn’t just get cleared away because there is a new president.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: On health care, Tam, rumblings that there might be a piece of legislation. Are they going to be able to solve these divisions that they — that the GOP discovered last time they tried to do this?

TAMARA KEITH: So, these rumblings have been rumbling basically every week since the health care bill in the House failed to get a vote. They pulled it from the floor without a vote because it was going to fail.

So, these rumblings happen every single week. They are happening again. But until we see House leaders put a bill on the floor, the votes aren’t there. When they have the votes, they will put it up for a vote. But in the meantime, we will continue to talk about it.

Today, in a Bloomberg interview, the president said, I want this to be good for sick people. It’s not in its final form right now. It will be every bit as good on preexisting conditions as Obamacare.

What he is describing is not the thing that they are potentially voting on right now, because advocates from various nonpartisan groups will say that it isn’t as good on preexisting conditions. So, does that mean that this is reopened? I guess we will find out.

AMY WALTER: Yes.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Right.

AMY WALTER: And that’s a very difficult place if you are a Republican right now.

Your choice is, we don’t get anything done, and then the base is furious at you, because you have been telling Republicans, you have been telling the whole country, vote for us, we going to repeal Obamacare.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: For seven years.

AMY WALTER: For seven years. Don’t do it, that’s a problem.

Or you do pass something that is not particularly popular, where you lose the support of your moderate wing of your party, the folks who, by the way, are in the most vulnerable districts, most likely to lose in a midterm election. They are voting no because they see it as being unpopular, whether on preexisting conditions or others.

That is a very uncomfortable spot to be. Don’t pass anything, people are angry with you. Pass something that even a lot of your supporters don’t like, and then you have to defend it coming up in the midterm election. This is a very, very — you know, it’s like being in a vice. Not comfortable.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Let’s talk about this weekend.

Let’s just say, if I had been Rip Van Winkle, and I woke up, say, Sunday morning and looked at the newspaper, and saw President Trump had had that rally and seen clips from that rally, I would think we were still in the middle of a campaign.

TAMARA KEITH: It was absolutely a campaign rally. It was put on by his campaign. It included some of the greatest hits from his campaign, including the snake poem, song thing that was hugely popular among his supporters that it is supposed to be a cautionary tale about immigrants coming…

(CROSSTALK)

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: There is about — Trump is saying, if you let the snake into your house, and that snake bites you, who is to blame? You are to blame.

TAMARA KEITH: Exactly.

And it’s been something — it’s the kind of thing where he would say, I might talk about the snake at his rallies, and people would go, rah!

And this that is exactly what happened at this rally. He also did the CNN is terrible, the failing New York Times, the whole thing, a lot of bashing of the media, which is kind of fascinating, because it comes in a week where he has done so many interviews with basically every news outlet in America.

If the media is the opposition party or whatever he wants to call it, why does he keep talking to us?

(LAUGHTER)

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Right.

AMY WALTER: And his campaign, by the way — on top of all of this, not only did he have a campaign-style rally as a president, but his campaign is literally running ads right now that look like…

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Right. How unusual is that?

AMY WALTER: It’s not that unusual for a president out of the time when he is running for president trying to sow some good feelings.

And, definitely, he needs to boost his approval rating. But it is unusual that the campaign itself is already spending money trying to talk about a president who is 100 days into his presidency.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Right.

AMY WALTER: The other thing you noticed was, it wasn’t just the media. Of course, they had their own special event where they were defending themselves against attacks from Donald…

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: The correspondents dinner.

AMY WALTER: Right, which, again, felt like we were back in 2016.

And then there were rallies around the country, especially here in Washington, D.C., on climate change, where you had the so-called resistance shouting about how much they dislike the president and want to see him go.

So, it feels like we are never going to break out of this …

(CROSSTALK)

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: That’s probably why he wanted to get out of town.

Amy Walter, Tamara Keith, thank you both so much.

AMY WALTER: You’re welcome.

TAMARA KEITH: You’re welcome.

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