GWEN IFILL, "WASHINGTON WEEK" MODERATOR: The House in uproar tonight, as its speaker loses a fight within his own caucus, Republican candidates on parade, and the ISIS intervention dilemma. All tonight, on WASHINGTON WEEK.
IFILL (voice-over): On Capitol Hill, the clock ticks down at the Department of Homeland Security.
JEH JOHNSON, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: There are concrete, dramatic consequences for the Homeland Security of this nation if we allow the funding of the department to lapse.
IFILL: But Congress, divided over debates about immigration and executive power, can't agree on how to get it done.
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: You know, the House, by nature and by design, is a hell of a lot more rambunctious place than the Senate, much more.
IFILL: The ISIS dilemma deepens --
JOHN KERRY, U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: This is a spreading cancer.
IFILL: -- creating instability from Iraq to Nigeria, and nervousness in America.
JAMES COMEY, FBI DIRECTOR: I have homegrown violent extremist investigations in every single state.
IFILL: As the world debates what to do next. And Republican presidential hopefuls debate existential and political threats.
GOV. SCOTT WALKER (R), WISCONSIN: I want a commander-in-chief who will do everything in their power to ensure that the threat from radical Islamic terrorists do not wash up on American soil.
SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: We could have had Hillary here, but we couldn't find a foreign nation to foot the bill.
IFILL: Covering the week -- Michael Duffy, executive editor of "Time Magazine", Dan Balz, chief correspondent for "The Washington Post", Juana Summers, congressional reporter for NPR, and John Harwood, chief Washington correspondent for CNBC.
ANNOUNCER: Award-winning reporting and analysis covering history as it happens.
Once again, live from Washington, moderator Gwen Ifill.
IFILL: Good evening.
House Speaker John Boehner was on the receiving end of a hearty slap-down late this afternoon as 52 Republicans joined the vast majority of Democrats to reject a stopgap plan to fund the Department of Homeland Security before a midnight deadline.
Republicans wanted to force Democrats to back down on GOP immigration reform provisions attached to the bill. Before today's vote, Boehner said Senate Democrats were to blame.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOEHNER: I just think it's outrageous that Senate Democrats are using Homeland Security funding for blackmail to protect the actions of the president, where the president himself said he didn't have the authority to do this.
IFILL: But in the end, the Republican majority could not muster the votes for Boehner's compromise -- a three-week extension, because perhaps that's because the threatened shutdown would really not shut anything down.
John Harwood spoke earlier today with Republican Senator Orrin Hatch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R), UTAH: Some of the executives will have to work and get paid later. But it is essentially self-funded. So anybody who wants to make a big fuss about that really doesn't understand the budget, doesn't understand the self-funding mechanism of DHS or the Department of Homeland Security.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
IFILL: Maybe so. But optics matter, and it may not matter if Hatch is right, John.
JOHN HARWOOD, CNBC: It doesn’t matter, and the effect is much more likely to be political than on American security.
But, look, Republicans are not going to be able to blame this on Democrats. They officially made this the strategy when they were funding the government last fall or after the last election. They funded the entire rest of the government through September 30th except for the Department of Homeland Security.
IFILL: There would not be a government shutdown. It’s clear.
HARWOOD: That’s right. Not an entire government shutdown, but they did it explicitly for this purpose. The challenge for them is that they have so much ideological intensity in their party, so much antipathy toward President Obama and his agenda, that it’s difficult for them to do the normal things you do when a party is in control of Congress.
And Pew Research took a poll and said is either party too extreme? Fifty percent said, Republicans are too extreme, 36 percent said Democrats. That is not good for Republicans as they look to 2016.
IFILL: So, Juana, let's take this apart. The Republicans have the biggest majority margin that they’ve had in 70 years. John Boehner has, they said, about 20 or 25 intransigents members of his caucus who don’t do anything, he says. But today, 52 people voted against this.
What happened? How did it fall apart?
JUANA SUMMERS, NPR: You’re absolutely right. And to John’s point, this is exactly why they separated the Department of Homeland Security, and wanting that funded to expire now after they have expanded control of the House of Representatives and after they had control of the Senate, and yet, they still couldn't get there.
I think the first problem with what happened today was math. John Boehner and his whip team didn’t count well. They underestimated just how strongly some conservatives felt. I think the second issue is that they expected that a number of Democrats could potentially help them out on this one, even if they had more defections than they estimated, but that didn't happen. House Democratic leadership was outright whipping against this bell, telling their members, pressuring members to kind of hold back, hold their fire, don't give in, don’t join with them for this.
And that’s a change from what we have seen from Democrats on the spending bills in the past. Typically, when we’re on the brink of the government shutdown, you see the Democrats come in, help Republicans out, helped in the past, something in the 11th hour. But that is not what happened today and that’s why we’re still where we are right now.
IFILL: But earlier today, the Senate passed a clean -- as they call it -- Homeland Security bill, with the immigration stuff in it. But the House couldn’t do it.
What was the difference between McConnell’s caucus and Boehner’s caucus?
HARWOOD: Well, first of all, Mitch McConnell has got bunch of members in states that aren't so conservative who are up for reelection in 2016, who don't want to be called out as responsible in a shutdown in a case like this. That’s one difference.
The other is the one that John Boehner said that we played in the intro. The House is more rambunctious. It is more aggressive than the Senate and John Boehner has got a caucus that is on fire for what it considers conservative principles and he can't control them.
IFILL: Which couldn’t have been a surprise, though?
SUMMERS: Absolutely. As much as this is alarming, given that we have just what is it now, less than four hours until the department runs out of funding?
IFILL: East Coast Time, yes.
SUMMERS: East Coast Time, right. This isn't a huge surprise. I think you can tell by reading John Boehner’s language and by looking at the people in the caucus and hearing what they are saying, that this is not going down a good road, just track what John Boehner’s comments were. He never actually came out and spoke about supporting the plan that Senate Majority Leader McConnell said. He didn’t talk about it. He didn’t say, yes, I support this. What he said repeatedly, the House has done its job, but it’s time for the Senate to do its job.
And so, it’s been very interesting watching the body language and kind of what’s been telegraphed by our leaders this week.
MICHAEL DUFFY, TIME MAGAZINE: At the heart of the fight here is a dispute about the president's immigration policies, which in the last couple of weeks had been moved into the courts, and the courts are going to decide the future of it.
That gave both houses of Congress and both parties an out the way I always imagine and they could say, well, the courts will decide. So, perhaps we could move on to other things. Was that not seen as a possible exit?
HARWOOD: It was by some. John Cornyn, the Republican whip, said that was an out for Republicans and they should let the courts do their job. Lindsey Graham begged members of his party to take that lifeline from the courts.
But you’ve got people whose view of President Obama and their view of how he is using his power as president is such that they think if they do anything that seems to acquiesce in the use of power as the presidents pursuing, that that somehow makes them a renegade to the conservative cause, subject to a potential primary challenge. They’re not going to tolerate it.
DAN BALZ, THE WASHINGTON POST: What does this tell us about the speaker that we already knew or don't know at this point? And secondly, going forward looking at potential fights later in the year, where are we headed?
SUMMERS: It’s not a particularly good road and I think that if you are a member of John Boehner's leadership team or the speaker himself, you are not really happier right now. This is another case that House Speaker Boehner being tested. Republicans have the new -- the new Republican Congress with the mandate where they said they’re going to govern and stop having these spats and yet, here we are again having another discussion about Republicans being -- painting themselves into a corner. And so --
HARWOOD: Don't spend all your money on tax reform.
IFILL: The short answer.
Well, let me -- by the time we get to the West Coast here, this may be resolved. Is there is a path forward to resolve this? Is there anything, a plan C?
SUMMERS: It didn't sound like one when I left the Hill about an hour or so ago, that there was actually plan C out there. The most likely option of those on the plate is that House leadership will start asking members about a 7-day continuing resolution. So, give them one more week to figure this all out.
But a lot of members still have said, you know, we don't really have the appetite for that. We don't want to vote on anything that’s not going to deal with the actions on immigration, which is really what’s at the core.
IFILL: It’s actions -- executive action, that’s really part of what’s driving this --
HARWOOD: But at some point, John Boehner may have to do what he did during the fiscal cliff showdown when his alternative was smacked down by his own caucus, and that is to put even floor a plan that the majority of Republicans don't support and violate the so-called Hastert Rule, let it bass some Republicans and whole lot of Democrats. That is a way out that could work. It’s of some risk to John Boehner in terms of holding his speakership, but he might be forced to do that at the end.
BALZ: Can I ask you a political question about this, as we look forward to 2016? And I know at this point, the assumption is, this is such mess that the Republicans are going to get hurt for it.
Republicans look back at what happened in 2013 with the government shutdown, when everybody said this is going to kill the Republican Party, and they look at what happened in the election and then they say, you know what? That didn’t hurt us at all.
So, do they come into the fight with a somewhat different view of the political consequences than a lot of the conventional wisdom suggests?
HARWOOD: They do. But remember, the presidential election in 2016 is not going to be conducted just in Arkansas and Louisiana and Mississippi and a lot of the red states where those Senate elections took place. Bigger electorate, different playing field, Republicans don't want to take too many risks to that 2016 is going to be like 2014.
IFILL: Well, nice perfect segue. Thank you so much.
Let’s talk about 2016, because just outside Washington today and yesterday, a trail of senators, present and former, governors, present and former, and a business executive or two, have been punching their tickets at the Conservative Political Action Committee conference, one of the must-visit stops on the Republican primary trail. There was a lot of cheering, a little booing, and a couple of clear targets -- President Obama and Hillary Clinton.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. BOBBY JINDAL (R), LOUISIANA: President Obama has disqualified himself. That he's shown himself incapable of being our commander-in-chief.
SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: I believe Hillary Clinton's abdication of responsibility, her refusal to provide an adequate defense for Benghazi, her dereliction of duty, should forever preclude her from higher office.
SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: Hillary Clinton embodies the corruption of Washington. We need to take the power out of Washington and bring it back to the American people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
IFILL: There was also Chris Christie who was asked why he was trailing in the polls, and Marco Rubio and Rick Perry weighed in on immigration. And on and on, it goes. A lot of folks running for president.
What was your takeaway, Dan?
BALZ: You know, at CPAC, it’s always hard to come away with one takeaway. I mean, there’s so many speeches and so activists and a lot of story lines conflicting.
I would say there are several. One is as these comments show. Foreign policy is now the main attack line by Republicans getting ready to run for president against this administration. For two reasons: one, there is less consensus on the Republican side about economic issues. There is a real debate within the Republican Party about new policies and what they ought to be. But the second reason is that attacks on foreign policy make it easier to loop in Hillary Clinton to the criticism.
The interesting thing is, if you heard it, once you heard it 50 times, the issue of the president not being willing to call ISIS radical Islamic terrorism has in flamed the conservative base of the party and it opens up a line of attack that all of the candidates are comfortable making. The argument being, if you can't identify the enemy, there is no way you can defeat the enemy.
The president obviously has different view about this, but nonetheless, it’s there.
The second is the very partisan split with regard to the relations with the state of Israel. Prime Minister Netanyahu will be here next week at the invitation of the speaker of the House. The Democrats and president are upset about this. Susan Rice, the national security adviser, said, you know, this is a destructive act.
Those two together have given the Republicans an opportunity to talk about foreign policy. So, that’s one. I think a second is that when you look at this field you can't help but say to yourself, this is a much stronger potential field of candidates than the Republicans had running in 2012 and I mean, you mentioned -- there are a number of governors and former governors, all with records and a lot of experience at least domestically.
You have a number of first term senators. Put aside the question of the experience. But nonetheless, some very bright lights who are also in this. So, you’re going to have an ideological fight. You’re going to have a generational fight. So, that’s there.
The third is, it’s just a reminder of how wide open this race is.
IFILL: Yes, yes.
Everybody, want to --
HARWOOD: Dan, with the emphasis on foreign policy did you get any clues at CPAC to how sellable Rand Paul's foreign policy views which are somewhat different than those of the rivals for the nomination are going to do?
BALZ: This is the toughest audience to try to gauge that because it’s a younger audience, it’s a more libertarian audience, it’s a Rand Paul audience. So, there are people in that -- in that ballroom who are more inclined to be receptive him. It’s clearly going to be a line of debate, and that’s the one area you can see on the foreign policy discussion in which there was clear difference beginning to emerge.
SUMMERS: I’m also curious about Jeb Bush. How did he sell there?
BALZ: Well, this was -- I mean, this was Jeb in the lion's den, right? I mean, the conservatives are -- to put it mildly -- skeptical of Jeb Bush.
IFILL: He seemed kind of like it, he seemed sort of energized.
BALZ: Well, he was. Now, there was an interesting thing. This year for the first time, they changed the format. It used to be you just came in and gave a speech and tried to, you know, throw a lot of red meat to the crowd and get a lot of applause lines.
This year, they decided that all prospective candidates could give a speech but they also had to answer questions. They had the option of only answering questions and Jeb Bush decided to do that. So, he was interviewed for 20 plus minutes by Sean Hannity.
He was engaging. I thought he did pretty well with this audience. There were a couple of -- there was some booing when he arrived but a lot of applause. They kind of packed the room with supporters.
HARWOOD: That format seemed to suit him.
BALZ: He is very much more comfortable in that. It lowered the bar in a sense on the applause meter. He could co-show off his knowledge of things. He got tough questions about Common Core and about immigration, basically held his ground on those, was able to point out on education specifically, the conservative things he has done in addition to supporting Common Core. So, he did pretty well.
DUFFY: It sounds to me like they found their issue, though, just watching the tape. It’s not foreign policy or economics. It’s a former secretary of state. They’ve already seemed to have centered on that.
BALZ: They think she might be the nominee. Yes.
DUFFY: So, tell me how she loomed voter this or did she not?
BALZ: Well, she looms large over every Republican gathering at this point. But she is off doing, you know, her preparation. She was in Silicon Valley this week, talking about breaking every glass ceiling. So, she is moving forward without much regard to them.
DUFFY: No obstacles to her moving forward at the moment?
BALZ: There are many obstacles.
IFILL: Among them and we’ll talk about them in the webcast, because we have to move on.
One of the goals of all those would-be candidates was to prove they can handle foreign policy. And perhaps one of the most difficult challenges they face will be this -- how to beat a foe that derives its strength from the ability to provoke, whether through abduction or execution, or sudden, bloody carnage?
The options are limited: boots on the ground, bombs from the air, negotiations around the edges? Those are the questions raised on the cover of this week's "Time Magazine".
Did you all come up with any answers, Michael?
DUFFY: Well, certainly, no boots yet. More airstrikes and probably many more of those to come. But those are the questions that will be in front of President Obama in the next and months as the U.S. prepares to lay siege to the second largest city in Iraq. This is coming in two months at the inside or the outside, somewhere April and May.
IFILL: In Mosul.
DUFFY: In Mosul, that’s right. It’s the second largest city, 25,000 troops. No Americans except at the margins, maybe 2,000 or 3,000. Unlikely coalition of Kurds, you know, Iranian-linked Shia militias, remnants of the elements of the Iraqi Army, and then, of course, the U.S. forces at edges guiding, leading, and, of course, in the air.
What’s interesting is that in the last week, when the U.S. has become incredibly transparent, despite they’ve talked about how they’re going to do it, who’s going to be there, roughly when it’s going to go, how long it will take, how bloody it will be? Because right now -- and this gets to the psychological part of this -- we are in the third Iraqi war. There had been to before, this is the third for the last seven months, we have been attacking ISIS, 2,500 different targets and when it comes to the military battle space, we are doing great. We’ve killed, you know, several brigades worth. We’ve pushed them into a relatively manageable area but in the P.R., propaganda front and on the other side of this, and the virtual space, we are not doing that great.
They are, as you know, kidnapping and executing people on a regular, sometimes daily basis. That stuff goes out across the Internet on videos, and other forms and it scares people everywhere, and it lures new recruits to the region. And this as we saw this week in the United States, even there were arrests both in Florida and New York as people from this country though, they had come from other places prepare to go and that is happening elsewhere.
So, they think this will all come down a battle in Mosul. They hope they can win two bats there, military and P.R., we don't know if that is possible.
BALZ: Where is the president on all this?
DUFFY: A really good question. He has, up until now, been absolutely clear about additional U.S. troops. There are about 3,000, 3,500 in Iraq. He has said, so far, there will be no more in this battle or any other. It will probably go up some. They may not be, you know, men in uniform as we know them conventionally but they were probably increase of some.
It will depend entirely I think on whether the Pentagon pushes for them or he asks them for a plan in addition to the one they have. And if they decide to do that, that will be something that he will have to weigh. But at the moment, they have been clear this is more of a trap for the U.S., if they go any deeper and the threat is manageable as they have currently created the order of battle.
HARWOOD: Is the idea of a new authorization of military force from Congress which we have been talking about in the last couple of weeks, is that relevant to the fight? Is that window dressing off to the side? Does it matter for this offensive?
DUFFY: I tend to think it’s the second. If the president can get this Congress to agree to tie his shoes, it would be in his name. That would be a win for the president much less in the name of a military, an authorization of military force. I’m guessing that the Congress will have the same kind of divides about the limits and tactics that they have about some of the things we talked about earlier and that they will not get that.
Though, you know there is a consensus for this fight in the Congress. That doesn't mean they can actually get an authorization. I think. He would love to have it. I don't think he feels he needs it.
IFILL: Very quickly, is anybody waiting for the region to act? Perhaps for other nations to step up first?
DUFFY: ISIS has made some mistakes and one of the ones they’ve made is they beheaded people in Jordan and now, 21 Egyptian Coptics. That has led governments both of this nation to get involved, whether they will get involved more deeply is unknown and I would guess unlikely.
IFILL: Fingers crossed, though. Thank you very much, Michael. Thanks, everybody, as well.
We have to go now, little early because of pledge. But as always, the conversation continues online. That's on the WASHINGTON WEEK Webcast Extra where, among other things, we'll talk about the FCC's net neutrality decision.
And you can also find Pete Williams' behind the scenes take on the Supreme Court justice known as the Notorious RBG. That's at PBS.org/WashingtonWeek.
Keep up with developments with me and Judy Woodruff on the "PBS NEWSHOUR".
And we'll see you here, next week on WASHINGTON WEEK. Good night.