MILES O’BRIEN: We turn now to the political news of the week, the reaction to the president’s visit to Texas Tuesday, his tax reform goals outlined today, and divisions in the Trump administration playing out in public.
John Yang has that.
JOHN YANG: Thanks, Miles.
To discuss all that, we’re joined again by Karine Jean-Pierre. She’s a senior adviser to MoveOn.org, a contributing editor to Bustle, which is an online women’s magazine, and a veteran of the Obama White House. And also Matt Schlapp, chairman of the American Conservative Union and the former White House political director for George W. Bush.
Matt, let’s begin with you.
Your old boss learned the pitfalls of dealing with natural disasters.
MATT SCHLAPP, American Conservative Union: He doesn’t like being called old. I just…
JOHN YANG: Your former boss.
MATT SCHLAPP: OK.
JOHN YANG: After you left the White House, I should also add.
MATT SCHLAPP: Yes.
JOHN YANG: How is President Trump handling his first major challenge dealing with a natural disaster?
MATT SCHLAPP: It’s tough for presidents.
They are damned if they do, they’re damned if they don’t. They’re criticized for going down and getting the attention off those whose lives are in danger. But then when they stay back and try to monitor things from the Situation Room, people say you’re not showing compassion and you should be out there talking to folks.
So, I think Donald Trump understood that there were going to be critics no matter what he did. And I think he demonstrated to the American people and really to the international community that he has compassion for those whose lives have forever been affected, those who have lost their lives.
He’s bringing the power of the federal government to everything that can be done possibly to help these folks. And this is going to be an ongoing, long recovery. This is something that we — I think President Bush realized, and his dad before him in Hurricane Andrew, which is, when you have devastating storms like this, it takes years to recover.
And some people will never get their lives back.
JOHN YANG: Karine, what is your take?
KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, MoveOn.org: Well, I’m going to agree with Matt on one thing here. It is going to be a long-term recovery.
And that’s my concern with Donald Trump. You know, yesterday, it was like a — it’s almost like it was like a 24-hour TV show. And my concern is, for him, he needs to understand that this is monumental, what we saw in Houston.
The whole city is underwater, practically. The Gulf Coast is in a devastating situation. And what we have right now with the Donald Trump administration, he hasn’t staffed up in the most crucial departments that are going to be leading this effort. We’re talking about Department of Homeland Security, SBA, Small Business Administration, and also FEMA.
And there are hundreds and hundreds of positions that are crucial for this, and he hasn’t staffed up. And he can’t blame on the Senate. He hasn’t brought people to be nominated. And, secondly, is, when he created his budget that went to Congress, there was slashes to FEMA, to SBA, to DHS, to programs that were incredibly important.
KARINE JEAN-PIERRE: So, what is the long-term — so, what is the — is he understanding what the long-term affect truly is, and how is he going to change that, going to fix what is going on?
MATT SCHLAPP: It’s conservatives who make this argument, like, let’s get good conservative Republicans in charge of these agencies, because we don’t always trust the career folks.
I’m going to take the defense of the career folks. Even when you don’t have political people in charge, you have hundreds, thousands of competent career people in these agencies.
I think General Kelly, is the chief of staff, someone who just came from Homeland Security, who has relevant experience in these areas, is really advising the president well.
I think it’s wrong to say, just because we don’t have political people in place, that the career people in place can’t do the competent job.
And every step I have seen, from what the federal government can do to help these folks, they are hitting it right on mark, even though this tragedy is terrible, people have lost their lives, a policeman lost his life. It’s terrible. You can’t do anything to change that.
But we shouldn’t assume that the federal government and the career civil service can’t do their job as well.
KARINE JEAN-PIERRE: Look, we were both in a presidential administration. I was in the Department of Labor as a political person.
They are incredibly important in helping kind of guide the policy of the agency.
MATT SCHLAPP: Sure.
KARINE JEAN-PIERRE: So, I disagree with you on that.
And also, how about the funding? He cut, he slashed important programs for those three agencies that I just mentioned.
MATT SCHLAPP: Unfortunately, at some point in our history, we decided that every emergency that happens in this country becomes a federal emergency.
As a conservative, I don’t like that approach. But don’t worry. I guarantee you that we will keep the 100-year trend in all the money that’s needed to try to fix the problems that this natural disaster…
KARINE JEAN-PIERRE: Well, we need to help people. There are people who are suffering, and they need to be helped.
MATT SCHLAPP: Yes, absolutely. Absolutely.
JOHN YANG: But also, Matt, on that point about the road ahead and the federal funding, the Northeastern, not only Democrats, but Republicans, Peter King, Chris Christie, are reminding the Texas delegation now what of they said after Sandy, when a hurricane — when they wanted to find offsets.
And the Texas — members of the Texas delegation, Republican delegation, voted against the Sandy funding, emergency funding. Is there going to be a similar fight this time, do you think?
MATT SCHLAPP: Are you assuming there’s some hypocrisy in politics?
MATT SCHLAPP: I’m shocked there’s gambling here.
The fact is, is this, which is I think it would be good to have all spending, emergency spending, offset. We are $20 trillion in debt. Congress seems to have no appetite to have any fiscal constraints on things.
I do think that these emergencies do overtake other priorities. I also think it’s smart, because of our kids and grandkids, to be responsible with our fiscal policy. So, I think it’s OK to pay for these things. But it’s OK to change the order of what is important.
When you have a great disaster like this, I’m OK, I’m comfortable with it being a greater priority than other projects.
JOHN YANG: Karine?
KARINE JEAN-PIERRE: Look, I think that Ted Cruz should own up and apologize and say he was wrong, and he shouldn’t make people’s lives and suffering — people are dying and suffering out there. He shouldn’t turn it into a political issue.
MATT SCHLAPP: Congress never has a problem appropriating money. This is really not an issue. They’re really good at it, as a matter of fact, too good.
JOHN YANG: Well, the other part that Congress is often good at — or people say Congress is good at — is raising money, is the taxes.
President Trump gave a speech today outlining his vision, his goals for tax cuts and tax reform. They’re still looking for their first really big major legislative victory of this presidency. Are taxes are going to be it, Matt? Is this going to be it?
MATT SCHLAPP: Just so you know, the Pew Foundation just came out said this is the most productive Congress we have seen in half-a-century, because don’t gloss over the fact that they have actually had great achievements on these congressional review acts, over a dozen, to pull back on regulations.
So, I just want to make sure we understand. I think it’s fair to say that they stubbed their toe on health care. And I have been the first one to say on this show over and over again this is a massive problem for those Republicans who promised to repeal and replace Obamacare and voted differently.
If they don’t get a big tax cut bill done this year, I think it’s a massive political problem. But I do think they’re going to get it done.
JOHN YANG: Quickly, Karine, the last word.
KARINE JEAN-PIERRE: I think they’re going to have a very difficult time getting it done.
We have even heard from the Trump administration saying, hey, because we weren’t able to repeal Obamacare, we’re not going to be able to get this tax reform done. So, I think it’s going to be an uphill…
MATT SCHLAPP: We’re going to get it done.
KARINE JEAN-PIERRE: I don’t think so.
JOHN YANG: Karine Jean-Pierre, Matt Schlapp.
KARINE JEAN-PIERRE: The people will not allow this. We will fight. We will fight tooth and nail, just like we fought Obamacare.
JOHN YANG: Thanks a lot, Matt, Karine. Thank you very much.