Web Video: For GOP, a bigger problem than finding a way to fund Homeland Security

Mar. 03, 2015 AT 11:42 a.m. EST

Gwen Ifill talks to Amy Walter of the Cook Political Report and Nia-Malika Henderson of The Washington Post about internal struggles within the Republican party, the political tension surrounding an upcoming speech by Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, plus pressures on Hillary Clinton to start her presidential campaign.

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

GWEN IFILL: We’re looking ahead to a big and potentially unpredictable week in politics. What better time then for politics Monday, with Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report and Nia-Malika Henderson of The Washington Post?

We heard John Boehner on “Face the Nation,” a Sunday show, yesterday say that things were a little bit messy on Friday, which is kind of an understatement. But we also heard him blame it on Democrats.

Let’s listen to what he said.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER, Speaker of the House: The House is a rambunctious place. We have 435 members. A lot of members have a lot of different ideas about what we should and shouldn’t be doing.

JOHN DICKERSON, CBS News: Can you lead those members?

REP. JOHN BOEHNER: I think so. I think so.

I’m not going to suggest it’s easy, because it’s not. But remember what is causing this. It’s the president of the United States overreaching.

GWEN IFILL: It’s the president’s fault. That’s not surprising that he would say that. But this afternoon, he had another small setback. He tried to get the Senate and the House to get together and meet and agree to move forward on this. And they rejected it. The Senate Democrats rejected it again.

So, whither John Boehner?

AMY WALTER, The Cook Political Report: Well, John Boehner does have an unruly group. But we knew this going on, that he was always going to have at least 30 or 40 folks who were going to be against him almost at any turn, anything that they saw as sort of helping Democrats, helping the president, compromising with the president.

And I think they’re digging in even more now, because they see that they have a president, at least on this issue, that they feel like is on the ropes. The courts have made a decision that they think justifies their action. And what we always seem to come up with as an answer in the segment is the fact that there are really ultimately no consequences for bad behavior in the House.

These guys sit in such safe districts, that they are — if it shuts down, if it doesn’t shut down, they don’t think it’s going to impact their prospects.

GWEN IFILL: But are there internal political consequences for John Boehner and his speakership?

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, The Washington Post: Possibly. Right? I mean, I think we saw him, I think, lose 25 votes this time when he was up for speaker. There’s always going to be…

GWEN IFILL: They lost 52 on this one, on the vote.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON: Yes. He lost 52, exactly.

You said he always had trouble with 30 or so. It was 52 this time.


NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON: I think he will survive.

I think he’s probably more bruised and battered than he’s ever been. And I think, if you look at where the party is, this issue is about immigration, right? And it’s about Hispanics. In so many ways, the Republican Party has struggled with this voting bloc.

Sure, it’s about whether or not to shut down the government. But I think a lot of people see this as Republicans once again really — really not — not heeding the sort of larger story about their demographics problem.

GWEN IFILL: The Wall Street Journal editorial page, not known as the most liberal editorial page in America, called this a self-defeating rebellion.

So is there any sign of any kind of backing away from this kind of rebellious behavior?

AMY WALTER: Well, I — I spent part of my weekend with a group called the Club for Growth. These are fiscal conservatives. There were a lot of members who came down to speak to this group.

And a lot of them basically had — the message that they got was, we need to dig in even harder, because the leader is not leading. We need to take it to the president. As you saw Speaker Boehner say, we need to put the blame back where it belongs, on the president, on Democrats.

And I think Nia is exactly right. The bigger problem for Republicans is not about whether it shuts down, doesn’t shut down. The bigger problem is, this party cannot figure out a way to deal with immigration. And if they’re going to win in 2016, they have got to figure out a way to win over voters that aren’t white.

GWEN IFILL: Is there a true party split, or are we just dancing around the issue?

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON: No, I think there is a true party split. And I think this is certainly an example of that.

And I think — it’s also I think you hear a lot of people saying, if there were hopes for things getting done in the House and the Senate, it doesn’t look like things are going to get done. And, also, Republicans very much came in saying, listen, we’re going to prove to everyone that we can govern, right?

And so far, if you look back at these weeks of what they have been able to do, it’s not much.

GWEN IFILL: I’m going to ask you about something we talked about a little bit a few moments ago, and that’s the visit tomorrow of Prime Minister Netanyahu to Capitol Hill.

We talked a little bit about the internal politics. We have talked about the politics in Israel. We have talked about the politics in the American Jewish community. How about the internal politics on Capitol Hill if a couple dozen people don’t show up at the speech tomorrow?

AMY WALTER: Well, I don’t know that it’s going to have long-lasting repercussions.

But I think it’s just a latest example of a polarization of Congress, where you do have Democrats who say, this is absolutely the wrong thing to do, first of all, for the speaker to have invited him, and this is setting a terrible precedent.

And the other interesting thing too is, you do have a split in the Democratic Party — this is one of those rare instances — support for Israel, where you have some liberal members who are going to be — while they will be — say they’re supportive of Israel, they’re also going to see a Palestinian view as well.

GWEN IFILL: Lest we spend the entire time talking only about Republicans, where are Democrats? Are they sitting on the sidelines watching smugly, just waiting for Hillary to announce?


And I think the people who don’t want to wait on the sidelines are donors, who really want to see her get in there. Some of these super PACs are saying, listen, we have got to get her in here, not in July, but in April, because we are looking at a need to raise $1 billion.

So I think it’s interesting. She obviously doesn’t want to get in this early, because who does want to run for president for a year-and-a-half? But there is all sorts of chatter among donors in these super PACs saying, listen, get in. And ,also, she’s had a difficult week, I think.


NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON: There have been so many stories about the Clinton Foundation, this foreign money. And she has got to get out there and defend herself.

GWEN IFILL: Why? I don’t understand why.

AMY WALTER: About rather — than letting it blow over?

GWEN IFILL: Why get out there? She can defend herself without being out there, right?

AMY WALTER: Well, that’s — I talk to people around her who say that exact same thing, which…

GWEN IFILL: That’s what they say?

AMY WALTER: … is, not only do you want to let the Republicans fight amongst themselves. Why would you want to get into this mix now?

The other is, if you get in, when you get in, you’re Hillary Clinton, you have to be firing on all cylinders. There cannot be one single mistake because the expectations are so high. So, if you get out early, get ahead of your supply line, so to speak, there is going to be real problems.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON: Yes. And you have got to comment on every single thing that comes up.


One final thing on the Democratic side of the aisle, and that’s the kind of surprise announcement today that Barbara Mikulski, the longest-serving woman in the Senate, is going to not run again in 2016. I remember covering Barbara Mikulski back in Maryland in 1996, when she was running for one of her many reelection races, when she ran for the Senate.

So, tell me, what’s your sense about it?

GWEN IFILL: 1986. I think I just dated myself.

AMY WALTER: Well, it was 1986.


AMY WALTER: I remember, in 1992, when I started covering politics, she was the only Democratic woman in the Senate, and you had Dianne Feinstein come in a little bit later.


AMY WALTER: She to think she was the first woman elected in her own right as a Democrat to the United States Senate in 1986. I know, for some people, that was a long time ago, but it wasn’t that long ago.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON: Right. It wasn’t that long ago.

AMY WALTER: And now seeing the number of women that are there, she has to be able to look back and say…

GWEN IFILL: Quickly.



AMY WALTER: That’s right.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON: She was one of their first people that they endorsed. And this is a big group that obviously is waiting for Hillary now.

GWEN IFILL: And apparently every elected official in all of Maryland is now saying, maybe I will run.


GWEN IFILL: Nia-Malika Henderson of The Washington Post, Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report, see you next Monday.




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