<i>FTN</I> Transcript - April 1

face the nation logo, 2009
BOB SCHIEFFER: Today on Face the Nation, the Senate's Democratic leader Tom Daschle on campaign finance reform and the president's budget.

The vote on campaign finance reform comes Monday. Most believe it will pass, but what will its effect be? We'll ask the Democratic leader of the Senate, Senator Daschle.

Can Republican Tom Delay stop the measure in the house? We'll ask one of the sponsors there, Republican Christopher Shays of Connecticut. And we'll get an opposing view from Republican Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas.

And then we'll talk about the rest of the week's events with Dan Balz of The Washington Post and Bill Kristol of the Weekly Standard. Gloria Borger will be here, and I'll have a final word on students.

But first, Senator Tom Daschle on Face the Nation.

And good morning, again. Joining us in the studio, the Senate Democratic leader Senator Daschle.

Big week in the Senate, Senator Daschle. You're going to vote on the president's budget outline that includes his $1.6 trillion tax cut. It's my understanding the Democrats are going to try to defeat that. Why?

SEN. TOM DASCHLE (D-SD): Well, Bob, first of all, I must say we don't have the president's budget. We won't get it until after the debate is over, which is really pretty amazing. Only in Washington would you vote on something you haven't seen. But that's exactly the case. We won't get it for at least another week.

But we're also very concerned beside the $1.6 trillion, or what we would call $2.5 trillion in tax cuts. It is going to rob us of the ability to pay down the debt. It's going to destroy our ability to invest in education and our other priorities - health care, defense. So, we're very concerned about the budget even though we haven't seen it.

SCHIEFFER: Well, is it my understanding that your strategy here is that if you can defeat this budget, then you will be able to renegotiate the tax cut with the president? You think that the present tax cut favors people at the upper end of the scale. You want to move it down. Is that the strategy here?

DASCHLE: Well, Bob, there are three concerns. One, it is based on projections that may or may not be realized. Secondly, as you say, it crowds out the other real priorities we have, including paying down the debt. And third, and perhaps every bit as importantly, 43 percent goes to the top 1 percent. It's not very fair. It's too disproportionate.

SCHIEFFER: Well, it sounds like this is going to be a cliff hanger here. Do you think you can do it? Do you have votes to beat it? Do you think the Republicans have the votes to pass it?

DASCHLE: Well, I'm encouraged by the reports just in the last 48 hours that the Republicans publicly acknowledge they don't have the votes today. So, we think there is a possibility that we could defeat the budget resolution, go back to the negotiating tabl.

What we'd really like to see is a 90-10 vote or 100-0 vote. What the Republicans want to do is get to a 51-50 vote. We don't think that's right. We don't think that's the way we should do a budget and certainly something of this import.

SCHIEFFER: You have Senator Chafee, I believe, a Republican who said he is going to vote with you. We know of one Democrat, Zell Miller, that's going to vote for the Republicans. Do you have any other Republicans you can count on at this point?

DASCHLE: Well, I don't think it is appropriate to name names, but I think there are a couple of other Republicans who are looking very carefully at their options and considering voting against the resolution as well, primarily because of the tax cut.

GLORIA BORGER, U.S. News & World Report: Well, you may not want to name names, but I can name names. So what about Senator Jeffords and Senator Specter? Those are two Republicans that are potentially wavering. What about those two?

DASCHLE: Well, I don't know, Gloria. We won't know until probably the next couple of days just what their intentions are. We do know that they, among others, are giving very careful consideration of the resolution.

And they share our concern about the $1.6 or $2.5 trillion tax cut. They know we can't do it and do all the other things this country needs to do.

BORGER: We've heard that the White House is really playing hardball with those wavering Republicans. What have you heard about this?

DASCHLE: Oh, hardball is one word for it. Doesn't get much harder than what they're being subjected to as I understand it. But they're also independent people and they're very determined to make the right decision, and I give them a great deal of credit for their courage.

SCHIEFFER: Now, what about on the other side of the coin? We hear that there may be some Democrats that are thinking about voting with the Republicans, Ben Nelson, for example of Nebraska. What do you hear on that?

DASCHLE: Well, Senator Nelson told me this week that he would be with us, and so I'm very encouraged by that.

I think that we'll be able to hold all 49 of our Democrats and we're very hopeful that we can pick up one or two, maybe three Republicans.

SCHIEFFER: But at this point you think you've got 49 Democrats?

DASCHLE: I know I have 49 Democrats today.

SCHIEFFER: You know you have 49 Democrats.

DASCHLE: That's correct.

BORGER: Are you going to insert your proposal for a $60 billion tax rebate into this?

DASCHLE: Gloria, that's one of the things we'd really like to do.

We agree on two things, Republicans and Democrats. We agree on a $60 billion stimulus. We agree, as well, on what the make-up ought to be. Lower the lower rate from 15 to 10 percent. Give a $300 rebate to every taxpayer in the country. We can do that, we could do that today.
Republicans don't seem to be able to take yes for an answer, but that's exactly what we want to do. That's what they said they want to do. So we're ready to deal. We're ready to sit down and negotiate. We're ready to find a compromise. But that ought to be part of the budget.

BORGER: Well, you've got the budget coming up next week. You've also got this final vote on campaign finance reform that we've been talking about so much over the last couple of weeks. Will campaign finance reform pass Monday in the Senate?

DASCHLE: Yes, it will. I think it'll pass by a comfortable margin. This has been a great couple of weeks for the United States Senate. I think it was one of the better debates I've participated in in a long time. You had bipartisan support. You had a good opportunity to air the issues. I think the Senate looked good the last two weeks.

BORGER: Can you avoid a conference committee? It will then go to the House, and we don't know what the House is going to do to campaign finance reform. But there is some talk that perhaps you could avoid the delay of a conference committee and just approve the Senate version of the bill. Is that a real possibility here now?

DASCHLE: I don't think it's a real possibility, I guess it is. There is some possibility that we could avoid it. I would hope we wouldn't do that. I think we have to work out our differences in conference like we do on any other bill. I think it's important we do that.

I can't imagine that the House bill will come back exactly the same as the Senate bill. You've seen Congressman DeLay the last couple of days saying he's going to try to defeat it. Certainly they're going to amend it, so most likely there would be a conference.

SCHIEFFER: Maybe we ought to just point out here that the kind of the way this works, because I think if you don't follow this on a day to day basis, we sometimes miss this. If the House passes an identical bill to what is passed in the Senate, then you don't need a conference committee. It just goes to the president to be signed into law. If there are differences, there is a conference committee appointed.

Now, one of the things that I have heard is that the Republican leader, Trent Lott, if there is a conference committee, if this gets through the House and it is different and you have to have a conference committee to work out the differences, we have heard that Senator Lott may not appoint John McCain as a member of the conference committee.

DASCHLE: I've heard that, too, and if that were the case, I'd appoint John McCain. I think he has to be part of the conference. I don't recall that that's ever happened before. I think it's important that he be there. I will support and endorse not only John McCain, but Russ Feingold. They both should be in the conference, as well as Chris Dodd and a number of others who played a key role in getting the bill this far.

SCHIEFFER: So you would appoint a Republican, John McCain, to the conference committee to work this out?

DASCHLE: I would, Bob. I think it's only fair. John McCain deserves to be in the room when the final details are decided. I don't think there's any doubt the only way that that can happen is if either leader appoints him. If Senator Lott isn't prepared to do it, I will.

BORGER: Isn't that kind of a snub to John McCain from Trent Lott if Lott says, "You're the chief sponsor of this bill and I'm not going to appoint you to the conference committee?" What is their relationship?

DASCHLE: Well, I can't comment on that, Gloria. All I know is that I think John McCain has done an outstanding job. And in the process, he's probably alienated some of his friends, at least in the short term, with some of this debate about the campaign reform bill.

But clearly, given the investment he's made and the leadership he's shown and the commitment that he has to meaningful reform, he ought to be on the conference.

SCHIEFFER: Let me just go back and ask you one question. Do you think - you say you're against the tax cut that the president wants. But are you in fact in favor of any tax cut, and do you think, at the end of the day, there's going to be some kind of tax cut here?

DASCHLE: Absolutely, Bob. We very strongly support a tax cut. And we're willing to look at all the rates, we're willing to look at marriage penalty and certainly the estate tax. We're willing to commit $900 billion of the surplus to a tax cut.

But we really believe it has to be fair. It has to be based on real projections, and certainly it has to take into account the other priorities we have in our country today.

SCHIEFFER: Senator Tom Daschle, we covered a lot of ground this morning. Thank you very much for being with us.

DASCHLE: My pleasure.

SCHIEFFER: When we come back, we're going to talk with some people in the House of Representatives about the chances for campaign finance reform there, in a minute.


SCHIEFFER: And with us now from Fort Smith, Arkansas, Congressman Asa Hutchison, a Republican, and here in our studio, another Republican, Congressman Christopher Shays of New York.

Congressman Shays, you have been the sponsor of campaign finance reform, a bill very similar to what has passed the Senate this time.

REP. CHRISTOPHER SHAYS (R-CT): With Marty Meehan and a whole host of other people.

SCHIEFFER: Absolutely. It has been a bipartisan bill that's passed.

So what do you think? What are the chances going into this now? Are you going to be able to pass in the House what has passed the Senate?

SHAYS: Well, I'm really excited. The Senate had a great debate, and they've given us a good bill. There may be some technical problems.

So, one possibility is, we can send it to the president ad avoid a conference. Another is to send it to the president with an addendum bill to the Senate, and another is to send it to the Senate with an agreement that they'll go along with our amendments and send it to the president.

SCHIEFFER: Are you...


SHAYS: ... conference committee.

SCHIEFFER: You don't want a conference committee.


SCHIEFFER: So you could accept what has passed the Senate?

SHAYS: No. I mean, there may need to be some changes. And it's not what I can accept, it's what 252 members who voted for this bill can accept.

BORGER: Well, you just heard Senator Daschle, though. He said, we're going to have a conference committee.

SHAYS: Yes, but why would you want a conference if the opponents of the bill get to write it? That would be kind of dumb.

SCHIEFFER: Well, Asa Hutchinson, you were not exactly on board on McCain-Feingold. What's your take on all this at this point, and where should it go from here?

REP. ASA HUTCHINSON (R-AR): Well, I'm not on board for that. I applaud them for moving the debate forward and Chris Shays, but I think it has some serious constitutional problems.

Basically, it restricts the citizen non-partisan groups that try to get their message out and participate in the political process, and it blocks them from doing ads 60 days out from the campaign.

Secondly, I think that the bill does damage to the political parties by stopping the soft money, which is good and I support. But it really throttles them and doesn't help them enough raising money from individuals.

And so, I think that in the House we will ultimately pass a ban on soft money, but the debate will be whether we're going to have those type of restrictions on the citizen groups, and secondly whether we're going to do damage to the parties or strengthen them.

I think it will go to conference, but I believe in the end we will pass something, it'll be signed by the president, and it'll be a good reform.

SCHIEFFER: Well, you've heard from Congressman DeLay, who is the number-three Republican in the House. He vows to defeat this bill and do whatever it takes. Do you think there's any kind of campaign finance bill that you can get past him?

HUTCHINSON: Well, you have to remember that he led the charge against it the last two Congresses, and it passed the House anyway.

This is obviously a little more serious. We're dealing with real bullets here, because I believe it will be signed by the president. I think we're going to have a debate. I think it remains to be seen as to, not whether we're going to pass reform, but what shape it takes.

And so that will be the debate, and I think it's going to center on the Constitution and whether we're going to pass something that'll signed by the president and supported by the Supreme Court or struck down.

But it's not gong to be one person, whether it's a Tom DeLay or a John Doolittle, that defeats it. It's going to work the will of the House, and we're all going to be a part of that debate, including Chris Shays.

SHAYS: We're all going to be part of the debate, but this is about enforcing the 1907 law that bans corporate money, the 1947 law that bans union dues money. This is about still allowing corporate and union dues money to crowd out the individual Americans.

The individual groups can spend their own money. But 60 days to an election, it has to be hard money. It can't be union dues money; it can't be corporate treasury money.

BORGER: What about the timing of all of this? People who want campaign finance reform...

SHAYS: Sooner rather than later. The longer we wait, the worse the outcome will be.

And this isn't about reforming the electoral process. You can wait until next year. This is about raising funds now that affect next year's election. We need to deal with it now.

BORGER: Do you have any commitment from the speaker that this bill will come up sooner rather than later?

SHAYS: The commitment I have from the speaker is that it will be fair. He was last time, and I think he will be this time. And that translates to me that we'll deal with this bill sooner rather than later.

BORGER: When is that?

SHAYS: Well, I hope we deal with it by Memorial Day. I don't have any commitment, but I would think that's what we should do.

SCHIEFFER: Congressman Hutchinson, some of the Democrats are having problems with the fact that in the Senate version they have raised the limits of hard money from $1,000 to $2,000. How will that play in the house?

HUTCHINSON: Well, I think there is going to be some concern about that. Some of the Democrats expressed concern there, but they also expressed concern about what it does to the Sierra Club or the AFL-CIO and their participation in the political process by these groups that do the ads. And it is not just corporate money or labor union money. It's also individual money that would be prohibited from being spent in excessive amounts during those 60 days before the campaign. And so I think there's going to be some questions raised by those groups.

Also, you have time that a lot of people are going to look at this closely and I think that can change the shape of the debate between now and the time that we consider it in the House.

SCHIEFFER: Congressman Shays, final word?

SHAYS: This bill has had strong support. It passed the 98th Congress, the 99th Congress in those years. It passed with 252 votes. And I think it is going to pass. Both sides think it is going to hurt them, and both sides are wrong. It is going to help the individual American have a stronger voice.

SCHIEFFER: I want to thank both of you. Very enlightening discussion this morning.

When we come bac, we'll talk with Dan Balz and Bill Kristol about all this and a lot of other stuff in a minute.


SCHIEFFER: Well, we're back now with Bill Kristol of the Weekly Standard and Dan Balz of The Washington Post.

Gentlemen, thank you very much.

It was quite a week in Washington last week, wasn't it? I must say I thought the Senate has never looked better, whatever side you're on on campaign finance reform, with the way they handled it.

But one thing we haven't talked about this morning is the president in all of this. Bill Kristol, do you think in the end he's going to sign some kind of campaign finance reform legislation if it passes?

BILL KRISTOL, Weekly Standard: That's what he signaled this week, Bob. I think the president would prefer to switch than fight on campaign finance reform. And I wouldn't be surprised if tomorrow the bill's going to pass the Senate around 6:00 p.m. just in time for the evening news.

And I wouldn't be surprised if President Bush calls up Senator McCain and Senator Feingold at 6:05 p.m. and says "Congratulations, I didn't agree with every part of it, but you guys have fought the good fight. I'm going to take a serious look at this." George W. Bush does not want to be fighting reform and fighting John McCain at this stage of his presidency.

SCHIEFFER: Well, Tom DeLay certainly does over in the House of Representatives. Dan, who do you think is going to prevail over there? Chris Shays points out that something like this has passed the House a couple of times.

DAN BALZ, The Washington Post: It has, and I assume it will pass again in the House.

There will be some fights over particularly the hard money limits that individual contributions to candidates that people make. A lot of Democrats think that the $2,000 limit is too high, and there will be a battle over that.

In one form or another, though, this will come out of the House and, as Senator Daschle said, probably go to a conference committee.

SCHIEFFER: Well, what do you all make of these reports that some top Democrats in the House, I wouldn't say top Democrats, but influential Democrats have gone to some of the Republicans and said privately, "Look, we've got to beat this thing"?

BALZ: Well, there's been a lot of rumbling for the last couple of months among Democrats quietly that this is a bill that is going to be bad for them because they did very well raising soft money. They don't do nearly as well as the Republicans raising the so-called hard money. And so, the Democrats are nervous, particularly Democratic operatives who think this is going to be a real problem for them.

KRISTOL: Yes, the Democratic Party committees last year raised almost exactly the same amount of soft money as the Republican Party committees, about $240 million each. In hard money, Republicans raised $470 million, Democrats I thnk about $270 million.

I talked to a very senior Clinton administration official who was active in the Gore campaign Thursday night after that Radio and TV Correspondents Dinner. One of the useful things about these dinners is you can actually talk to some people off the record, but still - or on background.


He said he's for the bill, it's good for the country, he thinks. But it is bad for Democrats in the next cycle, especially House Democrats. The Republicans' ability to raise more money from wealthy individuals will help Republicans in 2002, that's what this Democrat thought.

SCHIEFFER: Gloria, while we're talking about the president, let's talk a little bit about the president in a broader sense. Many people here seem to be shocked, shocked that George Bush turns out to be a conservative. What about that, were you surprised?

BORGER: I think conservatives were the most shocked, Bob. I spoke to an awful lot of conservatives this week who said, "Look, we were worried. He was supported by the establishment. His last name is, after all, Bush, and we're always ready to be betrayed once we elect a Republican."

And suddenly, he comes into office; he's the best friend of business. They believe he's done the right things on the environment. He's doing a big tax cut, and suddenly they're thrilled. And they're not thrilled about campaign finance reform I might add, but they have been brought into the fold in this administration in a way that they have never been brought into Republican administrations, even with Ronald Reagan.

You know, they said when Reagan was elected, he was the only Reaganite in town. When George Bush was elected now, George W. Bush, there are a lot more of them around town, a lot more of the party is conservative. And so they feel they've been treated very well.

SCHIEFFER: Well, I'll tell you one thing, some Democrats are not all that pleased with what they've been seeing from the president this week.

BALZ: No, but I'm not sure that they should be that shocked. I mean, I think the interesting thing is, during the campaign, he used the education issue to kind of modulate what was in other ways a very, very conservative agenda.

And what's happened now is that the education issue has kind of fallen off the screen because it's tied up in the Congress, and he's been pushing hard on the tax cut. Plus they've been doing environmental decisions that are anathema to the environmental movement.

And so, a lot of the kind of public activity that he is doing shows the conservatism that has been there all along.

SCHIEFFER: The campaign between John McCain and George Bush is still in play though, isn't it, Bill Kristol? There just still seems to be a little problem there.

KRISTOL: It's a little problem. But look, Bush has tried, by accepting campaign finance reform, Bush, I think, takes away McCain's signature issue. An he doesn't really give McCain a very good excuse to continue an assault on him, on Bush.

So I think one reason Bush signaled so strongly this week that he is going to accept campaign finance reform is he does not want to give John McCain a credible ground on which to attack George Bush over the next 18 months.

SCHIEFFER: Where does McCain go from here, Gloria?

BORGER: Well, I think there is a real possibility he is going to take up the environment. We know he is going to talk about gun control and health care. But one thing that we have not talked about, some Republicans are worried that McCain may start being the best friend of the environment.

KRISTOL: But that just makes him a liberal, that makes him John Anderson. If you talk to the Bush advisers, they are scared of McCain because he got six million votes in Republican primaries last year. They are not scared of John McCain if he just becomes another John Anderson.

SCHIEFFER: But, you know, just last week, John McCain, there was some talk that he was even thinking about running as an independent. Last week on this broadcast he said flat out "no way, no how." Do you take him at his word on that?

BALZ: I basically do. I have always thought that there has been a little bit more attention to that than is real. I mean, who knows what is going to happen in 2004?

But I think the real difficulty for Bush is if McCain decides on half a dozen issues he is going to cozy up with the Democrats and work with Democrats in opposition to what Bush is doing.

SCHIEFFER: Do you think, quickly, Bill Kristol, that the president will get his tax cut or not?

KRISTOL: I think he will pass the budget resolution this week. The tax cut is another story coming up in two or three months from now.

But, yes, Democrats are now in favor of a big tax cut. If you had said three months ago that the debate would now be between a faster, more front-loaded tax cut, which the Democrats are for, and Bush's tax cut, we would have been surprised. Three months ago Democrats were saying no, a much smaller tax cut. Bush has moved the debate in his direction over the last couple of months.

SCHIEFFER: OK. Thank you very much all three of you.

Final word now.

You know, I wake up early. And as for as long as I can remember, the first thing that comes to my mind is: "I wonder what's in the paper this morning." My routine never varies. I scan the headlines while I make the coffee and for the next hour or so, my wife and I read the paper. It's our favorite part of the day.

The golf teacher Harvey Penick once said "Anyone who likes golf is my friend," and I'm that way about anyone who likes the news. Frankly, the people who don't mystify me.

Which brings me to this. Last week 17 students from the advanced placement government class at Kutztown, Pennsylvania, High School got up at 3:00 a.m. and drove to ashington to tell me their weekly assignment for the last two years has been to watch Face the Nation and then discuss it in class.

Now, that may sound like cruel and unusual punishment, but I wish you could have met these kids. They asked the kinds of questions I usually get from college graduate students. They knew more about the government than some reporters I know.

I give Face the Nation about 1 percent of the credit for this. The rest goes to their teacher, Barry Adams, who, it quickly became obvious to me, has that gift of all great teachers - the enthusiasm and the ability to make learning fun.

On the way out, one of the kids asked me if I thought adults knew there really are young people out there who care about their government. Well, if I didn't know it before, I know it now, and that's the best news I've heard in a long time.

They also gave me this tie.


That's it for us. We'll see you next week right here on Face the Nation.

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