Special: Aaron Schock's Resignation, New Fracking Rules, U.S. Jewish Community Debates Palestine & China's World Bank Alternative

Mar. 20, 2015 AT 9:16 p.m. EDT

On the Webcast Extra, Bloomberg’s Jeanne Cummings breaks down the “delicious story” of the downfall of Rep. Aaron Schock (R-Ill.) after his resignation from Congress when stories of questionable expenditures arose following his Downton Abbey-themed office. The Justice Department and FBI have started a criminal inquiry. John Harwood of CNBC details President Obama’s fracking initiative, which updates well-drilling regulations with a higher concentration on safety and the environment. Plus, Michael Crowley of POLITICO comments on the debate among the U.S. Jewish community about a two-state solution in Israel. And many U.S. allies are considering a new rival to the World Bank, the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. The New York Times’ David Sanger explains China’s place in the world as a newer economic power.

Get Washington Week in your inbox

TRANSCRIPT

Notice: Transcripts are machine and human generated and lightly edited for accuracy. They may contain errors.

ANNOUNCER: This is the WASHINGTON WEEK Webcast Extra.

GWEN IFILL, "WASHINGTON WEEK" MODERATOR: Hi, everyone. I’m Gwen Ifill.

This is where we pick up where we left off of the weekly broadcast. I’m joined around the table by Michael Crowley of "Politico", John Harwood of CNBC, David Sanger of "The New York Times", and Jeanne Cummings of Bloomberg.

Let’s start with the biggest story this week about someone you may have never heard of, a once rising star who was forced to resign in disgrace this week, Illinois Congressman Aaron Schock. This thing kept building and building, Jeanne.

JEANNE CUMMINGS, BLOOMBERG: It is the most delicious story that we got going on right now. I mean, this guy, if he could have figured out more ways, it seems like at least to, you know, sort of scam the system, I don’t know what it was.

IFILL: Allegedly.

(CROSSTALK)

CUMMINGS: I said it seems like, it seems like.

But, you know, it ranges from he charged the government for 170,000 miles for reimbursement, but he only had 80,000 miles on his truck. He used donors’ planes in order to get around to big events, where they think he might have used some campaign cash out to buy the ticket as well.

My personal favorite is the sale of the house. He sold his house to a donor and most houses in his neighborhood sale for about $350,000. But his went for more than $900,000.

IFILL: Wow.

CUMMINGS: So, we now have the FBI involved. This is more -- there’s more than what we usually see.

IFILL: But it’s also such a tale, because no one would have thought to look into all of this. If he hadn’t happened to paint his office a "Downton Abbey" red, peacock feathers and whatever, which his staff or whoever he hired kind of admitted to a "Washington Post" reporter, oh, yes, we want to build -- make this look like "Downton Abbey". And it seems so -- and plus, he was a guy who would pose with his shirt open on cover of "Men’s Health". He’s an attention-getter anyhow and these other things begin.

CUMMINGS: He absolutely was -- he was a rising star for a lot of reasons. He could raise money. He was -- he is handsome. And he’s popular and he’s young and he’s hip. And that’s -- you know, those are all great things for the Republican Party to embrace, and he had what seemed like the whole package.

But the "Downton Abbey" thing, the most -- the strangest thing that said, that "Washington Post" reporter has acknowledged, he was going in to do a soft feature. You know, he was talking to the interior designer.

IFILL: It was the way they reacted to it.

CUMMINGS: Yes, they tried to get him to kill the pictures and kill the story, and they were so edgy about that first story that it caught the eye of other reporters.

IFILL: My two favorite pieces of the story is what he told our friend Jeff Zeleny, hater’s going to hate, when he asked him about this. And the other part is, in his resignation statement, he said he was resigning because of the distraction of the questions, not because of his actions.

So, let’s move on from that. Goodbye, Aaron Schock.

John Harwood, today, the president -- today, Friday that is, the president announced something which sounds obscure, but which I find interesting because it tells you the direction this lame duck presidency is going in once again, and that’s a ban on fracking, hydraulic fracturing on federal lands. Now, let’s not -- most land, that’s not where most fracking happens, but it’s significant.

JOHN HARWOOD, CNBC: Well, it’s not actually a ban. It is regulations governing how the fracking can take place. This is something that has been going for four years, only about 10 percent or less of oil and gas drilling occur on federal lands. But there’s a lot of concern that the fracking process could contaminate ground water because they’re blasting into the surface of the earth, and going way down to get deposits of oil and gas.

So, there are requirements that the administration published for disclosure of chemicals and fluids that are used to make the hole, and for safety practices around those wheels. It is not likely to revolutionize the industry because many of these things are being done already. There’s a registry of chemicals that are being used. The administration acknowledged that it is up to states to govern fracking on private land, but what they’re hoping is that these regulations, these standards, these guidelines are going to be a template for states to use in regulating this practice, which is contribute to tremendous amount to America’s energy independence because of the new resources that allows us to tap.

IFILL: This is one of those things that the president is hoping when he leaves office, he will be able to point to it as the list of things that he’s accomplished when everyone is saying, well, what did they get done?

HARWOOD: Executive action is the only way for him to get things done right now, and he’s using it as much as he can.

IFILL: Michael, I want to pick up on the story we were talking about during the broadcast about the Israel elections, except want to take it home. What we saw exposed partly by the prime minister’s visit here to speak in Congress and partly by the outcome of this election is a pretty domestic split, not only among Democrats and Republicans, but also within the Jewish political community as well.

MICHAEL CROWLEY, POLITICO: Yes.

IFILL: Everyone had to take sides.

CROWLEY: That’s right. And, you know, I think there’s an increasingly vibrant, sometimes bitter debate within that community about whether it’s time -- this as the president says we are reassessing our diplomatic options when it comes to two-state solutions. There are some very, you know, purposeful voice as saying we as a community need to reassess what we’re OK with, in terms of Israeli government policies.

An old colleague of mine, Peter Beinart, has become very outspoken on the idea that the Jews in the United States just need to say enough and they can’t tolerate these policies, and people like Peter Beinart and others have said, look at the demographics, look at the polling numbers, younger Americans just don’t -- across the board, but also within the Jewish community, don’t have the same kind of almost unconditional sympathy and connection to the country, and that they’re more willing to criticize the government’s policies.

IFILL: But if you’re John Boehner, you had cast your lot with the most conservative view of this, and that’s why -- in fact, he announced this week, he’s going to Israel himself to visit.

CROWLEY: So, the partisan political question is a fascinating one, and, you know, the Republicans, I think, are kind of all in with Netanyahu --

IFILL: Right.

CROWLEY: -- at this point. You know, I was very struck to see Senator Mark Kirk, who is extremely pro-Israel, Republican, very active on the Iran talk, as David knows, say something to the effect, of why do we need a two-state solution anyway? I mean, he basically said, you know, Netanyahu is right and the two-state solution is overrated. I may be slightly misquoting him, but that is the sentiment on the Republican Party, and closing thought that I’ll be so interested to see is, what does Hillary Clinton say about all this? How does she feel? Does she dare create any distance between herself and Netanyahu, because she may pay a price politically, it would be an opportunity for Republicans to pick up some disenfranchised Democratic Jewish voters.

IFILL: He made a statement during the discussion about the speech on Capitol Hill, where she supported the president, and mildly criticized Netanyahu about coming here without an invitation. But we’ll see what --

CROWLEY: We’ll see what she says about the election, though, because that’s taking it to a new level.

IFILL: A whole new level.

CROWLEY: OK, another question. So, this is one of those stories about stories. A new rival to the World Bank - which this time, China and the White House didn’t think this is a great idea. But they lost.

DAVID SANGER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: The White House lost big. Now, this one doesn’t quite have the vivid nature of creating "Downton Abbey", OK?

(CROSSTALK)

IFILL: You’ll make it, David. I’m sure.

SANGER: But it’s close.

CUMMINGS: Get out the red --

(CROSSTALK)

SANGER: What you got is the Chinese painting the World Bank red, OK?

IFILL: That’s good.

SANGER: And the way they have done this is basically the same. We’re going to create a competitor organization.

Now, remember, the World Bank is what finances big projects and small, mostly for the poorest countries in the world. But, you know, China itself was a big beneficiary of World Bank projects. When the World Bank began and came out of a set of conferences in New Hampshire, in Bretton Woods in 1944, the Chinese were obviously, you know, busy with other things.

Now, they’re the world’s second largest economy, and rather than go try to join, as they did with the World Trade Organization and try to reorganize the organization from within, they said, you know, the World Bank is run by an American, the IMF is always run by a Frenchman, the Asian Development Bank is always run by a Japanese, where are we? So, we’re going to create our own.

Well, the remarkable thing came that while the Obama administration was looking the other way, Chinese went on and they picked off the British, the French, and the Germans, the Australians, they got them all to sign up for this, basically in the argument that if they’re members of this bank, they may get a slice of this infrastructure work.

And the Obama administration was kind of caught of sleeping on this one.

IFILL: It’s fascinating. It’s a story that none of us would normally pay attention of, but you made it almost "Downton Abbey"-like.

SANGER: Almost but not quite.

IFILL: Not quite.

(LAUGHTER)

IFILL: Thank you, David.

Thanks, everybody else, as well.

Stay online and see what else our panelists are seeing in our daily WASHINGTON WEEK feature, "News You Need to Know". And in my weekly take, you can find out what I really think about Starbucks effort to get us all to talk about race. All that at PBS.org/WashingtonWeek.

And we’ll see you next time on the WASHINGTON WEEK Webcast Extra.

SUPPORT PROVIDED BY

Support our journalism

MORE INFO
Washington Week Logo

© 1996 - 2024 WETA. All Rights Reserved.

PBS is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization

Support our journalism

WASHINGTON WEEK

Contact: Kathy Connolly,

Vice President Major and Planned Giving

kconnolly@weta.org or 703-998-2064