Subscribe to Here’s the Deal, our politics
newsletter for analysis you won’t find anywhere else.
Thank you. Please check your inbox to confirm.
Leave your feedback
New York Times columnist David Brooks and Washington Post associate editor Jonathan Capehart join Geoff Bennett to discuss the week in politics, including the latest on President Biden's classified documents investigation and the debt ceiling debate in Congress.
This week, the U.S. hit its credit limit, with lawmakers still divided over the nation's spending. And President Biden has been waving off hand-wringing over misplaced classified documents.
That brings us to the analysis of Brooks and Capehart. That's New York Times columnist David Brooks, and Jonathan Capehart, associate editor for The Washington Post.
With a welcome to you both.
So, just yesterday, the U.S. hit its debt ceiling. The Treasury Department says it's going to take extraordinary measures to keep the U.S. government paying its bills.
David, this could be the riskiest showdown yet, given that House Speaker Kevin McCarthy offered those guarantees to those Republican hard-liners in exchange for their votes to make him House speaker that there would be no raising of the debt ceiling without significant spending cuts.
No, it makes me nostalgic for the debt ceiling crisis of 19 — 2011.
It seemed sort of more or less like normal people were in control.
And now you have got people off on the planet Debbie who are — have the speaker in their hands.
And so I do think it is a pretty serious crisis. And so how do the Democrats react? Well, there are some people who say they should take unilateral action. There are some very unusual ways that Democrats could act alone. The 14th Amendment says the government has to pay off its debt, and they could, say, invoke the 14th Amendment and hope the Supreme Court backs you up.
My favorite one, print a trillion-dollar platinum coin.
Apparently, somehow, that's legal.
But I think the most likely is to go to the Senate, try to build a bipartisan coalition, 60 votes, with a plan, and then throw it on the House, and hope you can take some of the — maybe the 18 House Republicans who were in Biden districts, districts Biden won. Hopefully, public opinion by that point will be so much against doing — going off the cliff that some of them will break, and then they could work with the Democrats and get it passed.
But that's a very tough row to hoe, actually.
Jonathan, what do you make of that strategy?
The White House says they're not budging. I spoke to one White House official who said the debt limit was raised without strings attached a number of times in recent years, when President Trump was in the White House and Republicans controlled Congress.
And I think the White House is absolutely right to say, emphatically and repeatedly, we are not negotiating over the debt ceiling. And people — every time we have this conversation, I am going to remind people that the — that the debt ceiling is not about new spending. It is about spending that has already happened.
We bought the car. We bought the ring. We took the vacation. We ate and digested the meal. We put it on a credit card. We have to pay the bill. And so the conversation about raising the debt limit and the conversation about spending cuts and getting our fiscal house in order, which always seems to come up when a Democrat is in the White House, is always forgotten when a Republican is in the White House, those should be two separate conversations.
Once they raise the debt ceiling, then I think, yes, everybody, get together and let's have a serious conversation about how to get the nation's spending under control. But they let's say they zero out the budget, cut everything next year. The bills for the car and the ring and the meal will still be showing up.
And so that's why the two must be separate.
And, David, to your point about hearkening back to the halcyon days of 2011, I mean, what makes this moment different is that it can't be assumed that every Republican is trying to avoid a fiscal Armageddon.
I mean, how do you see this resolving within the conference, the Republican Conference?
Yes, that's right.
Well, I think two things. I think the Democrats are right for right now to say, we need a clean bill, we're not going to — I think they should have in their back pocket a plan to — in case craziness happens, that offers the Republican something so they can get 60 votes.
The problem with the Republicans, and especially the more hardcore ones, is that they're doing what they always do. They're going into a battle for no plan on how to get out of it. And I don't think they even know what they're asking for in exchange.
And so there's all sorts of dissension over that. And there are some — there's just this nihilistic wing who think that stopping the system is what they're here to do. And stopping the system is not exactly governance. And you have just got to deal with the fact that they have got leverage right now.
And so that's why I think the Democrats should have a back pocket plan.
Is there a political benefit here for Democrats, as you see it?
I mean, it sort of pains me to discuss this through a political lens, but welcome to Washington.
Yes, there is a political benefit, because the Republicans will look even crazier. As we go down this road, they are more unreasonable by the day, and then we start watching the markets react to the craziness. In 2011, we watched the nation's credit rating get downgraded by one of the rating agencies for the first time in our history.
They're — the markets are used to this, and they might start reacting long before potentially June and start issuing warnings: If you don't take action, here's what we're going to do.
And the cost to the American people might not be seen immediately, but it will be felt down the road.
Well, as we mentioned earlier in the program, anti-abortion advocates from across the country gathered in Washington today for the annual March for Life, the first time since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.
David, opponents, abortion opponents, have really met their primary goal of gutting Roe, and, right now, at least half of all states have banned or restricted access to abortion in most cases. Where does the movement go from here?
Well, so far, it gets decentralized.
And so they used to have these big national organizations. They would do this march. They would end up at the Supreme Court, and they had a clear focus, which was to end Roe. But now it's state by state. And what you're seeing is a lot of the national organizations are being sidelined by state organizations, and the action is in the state legislatures.
And there's wide difference in what the activities should be. A lot of the Catholic groups, for example, are — they want to put the emphasis on the pregnancy crisis centers to help women through this process and support them in the way they need to be — support them. Others just want to work on the law and get to a zero — basically, a zero abortion set of laws on the state level.
What I'm curious about is how this evolves, because public opinion is shifting. And you see national Republicans walking away from hardcore pro-life positions because it's so unpopular. And the big question for me is, right now, it looks like you have some states where it'll be a complete abortion freedom and some states with none.
And will popular opinion ever evolve to the point where whether it's 20 weeks or 15 weeks or whatever the — some midpoint will be? That's where a lot of the country is, but it's not where the state laws are.
And, Jonathan, as it moves state by state, it is still a key issue in state legislative elections.
There was just a special election in Virginia that in many ways was a proxy vote about abortion access. And a Democrat won that race.
We were having this discussion before the midterm elections about, what kind of impact would the Dobbs decision have on the election? Now we know. And now, thanks to Justice Clarence Thomas and his concurring opinion, he made it clear that, we're not — it wasn't just Roe v. Wade. We should also look at Griswold, which had to do with contraception.
And I think, while the movement may decentralize to the states, we still have Senator Lindsey Graham, who in the last Congress introduced a national abortion ban. That's something that I think will be of great interest to the movement.
But, also, who's to say that contraception — someone might not introduce a national contraception ban? I mean, we're in crazy times, and we have to keep our imagination open. But just because the movement has won Roe v. Wade doesn't mean that the movement will stop at the national level, I don't think.
Well, this time last week, we were talking about President Biden's handling of those classified documents and how the White House was handling that whole issue.
Well, just yesterday, the president spoke on the record about it. And as he fielded the question, he first chided reporters, suggesting that there were more important things to talk about. And then he said this:
Joe Biden, President of the United States: We found a handful of documents were failed — were filed in the wrong place. We immediately turned them over to the Archives and the Justice Department.
We're fully cooperating and looking forward to getting this resolved quickly. I think you're going to find there's nothing there. I have no regrets. I'm following what the lawyers have told me they want me to do. That's exactly what we're doing. There's no "there" there.
So, the substance of the case is what it is.
But on the messaging, it appears that the White House has settled on something of a mitigation strategy. He's out here talking about it.
Yes, he's going to have to talk about it.
I think he's — with the proviso that it's not like Trump. I'm not going to make this — any comparisons.
I think the story is a little worse for the White House this week than it was last week. And that's for a couple of reasons. One, we have learned, thanks for reporting in my newspaper, that they were — they were hoping to deep-six it, so it would never come out. And so they were — they didn't report it for all those times because they thought they could make the Justice Department happy, and it would never see the light of day.
That just doesn't happen often in Washington. And so I think the effort to try deep-six it was not the right thing to do. And I think it's backfiring on them.
And then we have learned that they're — the story of revealing everything has been mostly right, but there have been hiccups. They said, we completed our search. Then they find new documents later. So, it gets a little messier.
I still think it's a medium- to medium-small-size issue. But I think the administration, as a general rule, has a tendency to hoard information. And this is maybe a warning shot that they should rethink some of that — those habits.
What's your take?
And thanks for the great reporting at my newspaper…
… on the front page yesterday — I mean, I disagree that the White House was trying to deep-six.
According to our reporting yesterday, it was they were taking the lead and giving deference to the Justice Department, which was already investigating. And what we have here, I think, is a political P.R. response vs. the legal response.
And we have seen in all sorts of instances where those two interests are completely different, and they are in conflict. And we're seeing it in high relief in this case.
Jonathan Capehart, David Brooks, it's always a pleasure to speak with you both.
Great to see you, Geoff.
Watch the Full Episode
Support Provided By: