'This Week' Transcript 11-19-17: Sen. Susan Collins and Marc Short

PHOTO: Pictured (L-R) are Sen. Susan Collins in Rockport, Maine, Oct. 13, 2017 and White House legislative director Marc Short in Washington, D.C., July 19, 2017.Reuters | Getty Images, FILE
Pictured (L-R) are Sen. Susan Collins in Rockport, Maine, Oct. 13, 2017 and White House legislative director Marc Short in Washington, D.C., July 19, 2017.

ANNOUNCER: This Week with George Stephanopoulos starts right now.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, HOST: Explosive allegations. The campaign against sexual harassment has swept from Hollywood to Capitol Hill.

LEANN TWEEDEN, MODEL: The forced kiss, he stuck his tongue in my mouth.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Democratic Senator Al Franken, the latest target, as yet more women confront Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Moore reached over and began groping me.

STEPHANOPUOLOS: And both President Trump.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When you're a star, they let you do it.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And former President Clinton.

BILL CLINTON, 42ND PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I did not have sexual relations with that woman...

STEPHANOPOULOS: Called out for their misconduct.

The movement shows no signs of slowing down. Is this truly a watershed moment? What will it mean for politics, culture, and the work place?

And as Republicans race to pass their tax bill. The first step, the House.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The motion to reconsider is laid upon the table.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Now a tough fight in the Senate.

SEN. SHERROD BROWN, (D) OHIO: This tax cut is not for the middle class. It's for the rich.

SEN. ORRIN HATCH, (R) PENNSYLVANIA: I really resent it. Anyone saying that I'm just doing this just for the rich. Give me a break.

STEPHANOPOULOS: With only two votes to spare, will the GOP hang together? Is their hold on congress at stake if they don't? That debate ahead with the Senate, The White House, and our powerhouse round table. We'll break down the politics, smoke out the spin. The facts that matter This Week.

ANNOUNCE: From ABC News, it's This Week. Here now, chief anchor George Stephanopoulos.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STEPHANOPOULOS: Good morning. The litany of allegations continue to grow this week as more and more women came forward, charging powerful men with sexual misconduct. It has sparked a national conversation from Hollywood to Capitol Hill, in corporate board rooms and kitchen tables all across the country. The question now, will all this talk bring real change.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TWEEDEN: He mashed his lips against my face, and he stuck his tongue in my mouth.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Leeann Tweeden says that happened on a USO tour back in 2006, before Al Franken was a senator.

Just the latest in a series of disturbing stories.

ASHLEY JUDD, ACTRESS: I remember the lurch when I went to the desk and I said, Mr. Weinstein is he on the patio and they said, he's in his room. And I was like, ugh. Are you kidding me?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am a victim of sexual abuse. It's really not an easy thing to let yourself believe that.

STEPHANOPOULOS: in the wake of this wave, the promise of action.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's a renewed recognition, rightfully, of this problem, and the need for change of culture that looks the other way because of who the offenders are, whether it's Bill Cosby, Harvey Weinstein, Bill O'Reilly, Marc Halperin, Roger Ailes, Kevin Spacey, or one of our own. It's time to say no more.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But we have heard that before. Look at this headline from 1975.

ANITA HILL, BRANDEIS UNIVERSITY: My name is Anita . Hill.

STEPHANOPOULOS: In 1991, TIME magazine touted America's watershed debate on sexual harassment.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Judge Thomas and the woman who accuses him of sexual harassment, Professor Anita Hill, have both been called to testify before the Senate judiciary committee.

STEPHANOPOULOS: 1995, Senator Bob Packwood resigned after charges of sexual misconduct.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's time for Senator Packwood to leave and I think the sooner he leaves, the better it is for him, the better it is for the Senate.

STEPHANOPOULOS: 1998, Bill Clinton impeached for lying about his sexual relationship with a young intern.

CLINTON: Indeed, I did have a relationship with Miss Lewinsky that was not appropriate. In fact, it was wrong.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And just last year, Donald Trump confronted by more than a dozen women after he bragged about groping.

TRUMP: And when you're a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.

BILLY BUSH, FRM. ACCESS HOLLYWOOD HOST: Whatever you want.

TRUMP: Grab them by the (EXPLETIVE DELETED).

(LAUGHTER)

TRUMP: You can do anything.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STEPHANOPOULOS: So, is this a watershed moment or will it pass like so many before?

Let's talk about it with our panel: Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, former Congresswoman Mary Bono of California, Carly Fiorina who was CEO of Hewlett-Packard, ran for president last year; and Ronen Farrow who has written some blockbuster stories for The New Yorker this month. Thanks to all of you for being here.

And Congresswoman Norton, let me begin with you. You were also the first female chair of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. And their lasted report reminds us that this is not just an issue for the rich, the famous, the powerful, it happens in every workplace in America. And most women are afraid to come forward.

REP. ELEANOR HOLMES NORTON, (D) DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: Most women are afraid to come forward, and it's even more difficult, interestingly, to come forward in the hallways of the rich and the powerful, because they are so powerful. Because they are so powerful, it is one woman against one very powerful man.

But what we have seen here may be a watershed moment, because we are seeing many women, for example in the Roy Moore matter, many women against one man. And that's what we need. This Me Too that is now encompassed not only congress but all through society may encourage more women, understanding that there strength in numbers.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Congresswoman Bono, this is something you experienced in congress?

MARY BONO, FORMER CONGRESSWOMAN: That's right. I did. But you know, there is a whole gradient scale here on sexual harassment on up to sort of inappropriate comments. So, in my case, I was just on the receiving end of inappropriate comments on the floor of the House of Representatives that I needed to just, you know, say to my colleague, that's not cool. Knock it off.

But it took awhile for me to find my voice in order say that.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And you were a member of congress.

BONO: And I was a member of congress.

So, in my case, this was a peer. But even peers, in that case, it was sort of -- it wasn't sexualizing me, necessarily, it was more about taking me down a notch in the eyes of my colleagues.

So, again, sexual harassment takes many, many forms.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Carly Fiorina, I see you nodding your head to that. And you had a powerful Facebook post out this morning. You said you started out as a secretary almost 40 years ago, traveled the corporate ladder from the very bottom to the very top. "I know this stuff has happened, because it has happened, still happens to me."

CARLY FIORINA, FORMER CEO HEWLETT-PACKARD: Yes. And I think to answer your original question, will this be a watershed moment? It will only be a watershed moment if men decide to step forward. Women have been stepping forward, as you point out, for a really long time.

What needs to happen now is the guys need to man up, the guys who know this is happening -- look, most men are good, decent, respectful men, but enough men are not. And all the other men around them know they are not.

The truth is about every single one of these stories, whether it's Harvey Weinstein or Roger Ailes, it doesn't matter who it is, everybody knew -- the women knew, and especially the men knew.

And so I think it's men's turn now to say, you know what, we're not going to respect someone who disrespects women. And when that starts to happen, if if that starts to happen, then we will have reached a watershed moment, when it's not just about the amazing and scandalous headlines, but when actually, the men who choose to abuse or disrespect women are confronted by another man who chooses not to let it go.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And Ronan Farrow, you have written these stories for The New Yorker, more are coming as well. One of the first things you see is the men not only deny in the face of those first questions, they do everything they can to quash that story.

RONAN FARROW, JOURNALIST: Everything they can. And there's a system around those men, George, that enables them to quash the stories. This, I think, is at the heart of this question of is it a watershed moment. Not just are people brave enough to come forward, but are we all as a society brave enough to actually confront the reforms necessary to the system -- I mean, Jackie Speier just came out in the last few days and said congress has paid tens of millions of dollars in settlements over the last, you know, several decades.

Now, what we need to see in terms of reform is exactly what legislators are already putting on the table around the country -- limitations on the use of secret settlements, for instance that silence these allegations. Are we going to be able to actually change that? That's an open question.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Congresswoman Holmes Norton, I think that did surprise a lot of people. Now, we're not sure how many of those settlements were actually about sexual harassment, but millions paid out over the last 20 years in secret.

NORTON: All settlements are secret, and that's typical of the system. But, look, there wasn't even the kind of training -- training is the wrong word for it, exposure to what sexual harassment is that is required in the federal sector and the private sector, that 30 minute video and let you know what sexual harassment is. We weren't required to do that.

I sent a letter and asked members to join me in sending a letter saying we don't have to wait for congress to say everybody, every member of congress and every staff member has to look at this video because, George, I am convinced that many women even may not understand what some unwelcome advances are. And that they don't have to welcome them, or they can turn them away, or they can say, you know, you're not supposed to do this, and that might stop some men.

But, at the very least, congress has to be put on the same footing as the other branches of government, and as the private sector.

STEPHANOPOULOS: That seems to make a lot of sense.

Congresswoman Bono, you knew how to handle it for yourself, as a peer, as you said, but there are a lot of young staffers on Capitol Hill.

BONO: You're right, George, and you know to kind of piggy back on what Carly is saying, it's not just about the men.

Look, we all knew it is the culture of Capitol Hill. We all know it's the culture of Hollywood. You know women, too, I think we gave up the fight and I think we started saying, you know, as long as I'm OK, I'm not going to worry about everybody else. Seriously, it's a cultural very deeply rooted problem and the women, too, both -- we have to learn how to empower our younger staffers on the Hill. We have to empower people in Hollywood. But, you know, women, too, have to step up, because I actually realized that my silence was part of the problem, too, on the Hill.

So, it's not just the men, we all have to step in and change this now and truly make it a watershed moment.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Carly Fiorina, perhaps step up at the ballot box as well.

You've now got Roy Moore now on the ballot in Alabama in the face of these seven new allegations. What the White House said this week about President Trump is that the election answered those questions about the allegations against him.

FIORINA: Well, and Democrats would say that, you know, President Clinton's popularity answered those questions.

And I think the problem is we politicize this always. And it gets to be a question of our team versus their team.

Look, again, for every Republican who has behaved badly, and Roy Moore certainly has, and I clearly believe these women, and I think he should step aside and he won't. But for every Republican who has behaved badly, there's a Democrat who has behaved badly. For every famous man who has behaved badly, there's someone we've never heard of who is behaving badly right now.

It cuts across every industry and every walk of life. It's in athletics. It's in coaches. It's in the churches. It's everywhere.

Again, most men are good and decent and respectful men, but enough men are not. And so we just have to decide, women and men, that this truly is not to be enabled, it's not to be excused. And in particular, that a man does not deserve respect from other men if he is disrespectful to women.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Powerful point you're making right there. Ronan Farrow, you get the last word right here.

Women came forward after years to tell stories to you, The New York Times and other news outlets. Where does it go next?

FARROW: Look, we're going to see multiple law enforcement agencies attempt to pick up where I think a lot of people feel the police officers feel the ball was dropped in the case of Harvey Weinstein, but, you know, as Carly Fiorina says this is bigger than just politics, than just Hollywood, this is about the abuse of power.

And I have now spent a year of women telling me that they felt there was a power imbalance that kept their allegations silent and so I think we're all going to be looking at that as a society.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Thank you all very much, important conversation.

Want to continue it now with Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine.

Senator Collins, thank you for joining us this morning. You just heard our panel right there. Weight in, please. Do you think this is a moment where we're going to see real change?

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: I do. But I thought that there was one aspect that hasn't been discussed. And that is that the women who bring fourth these allegations are often trashed. They're attacked. Their credibility is undermined. We saw that with some of President Clinton's accusers. We know the elaborate attempts that Harvey Weinstein went to in order to discredit his accusers. And that has to stop, as well.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And we see -- we saw just recently both -- we're seeing it right now. You mentioned President Clinton. And it certainly did happen then. We also see Roy Moore now calling all of his accusers liars. President Trump, more than a dozen women came forward during the campaign, he says that every single one of them are lying.

COLLINS: He did say that. And, President Trump was not my choice for the Republican nominee for president. And, I did not support him in part because of the way that all of these reports about how he was treating women. He is president now. And, I am working with him on some issues. But those allegations remain very disturbing.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Can you work with Roy Moore? If he gets elected, should he be investigated? Will you vote to expel?

COLLINS: Well, first of all, my hope is that we won't get to that point, and that the voters of Alabama will not elect Roy Moore. I've read his denials. I've listened to his radio interview. And I did not find him to be credible. As more and more allegations come forward, that adds to the weight of evidence against him. I believe, based on my reading of the Constitution, that if he is elected that we have no choice but to seat him.

Then, however, the Ethics Committee could have an investigation. And since I essentially would be a juror, if that happens, I'm not going to comment on what could happen as a result of that investigation. But, I hope that the good voters of Alabama decide not to send him to the United States Senate.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Al Franken is also going to be subject to an ethics investigation. You can't comment on that either?

COLLINS: Well, first, let me say that I believe the allegations and Al Franken has essentially admitted to them. I'm talking about what the outcome would be if the Ethics Committee proceeds with an investigation, which I believe the Ethics Committee is going to do so.

But I did find the allegations against him to be both credible, disgusting, and appalling, and degrading to women.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Let's move on to the tax bill. Passed the Senate Finance Committee this week. And a separate tax bill passed the House as well. You're already facing ads back in your home state by a group called "Not One Penny." Let's take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's hard enough for Mainers to find our way in this economy. But the Trump Republican tax plan would leave us lost in the wilderness just to pay for huge tax cuts for the wealthiest. Thankfully, Senator Susan Collins told us that she would say no to tax breaks for the wealthiest.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHANOPOULOS: Can you vote for the bill that passed the Senate Finance Committee?

COLLINS: I want to see changes in that bill. And I think there will be changes. There are some provisions of the House bill that I like better. For example, the House retains the top rate of 39.6 percent for people who make $1 million or more a year. That's a change that I would like to see be made in the Senate bill so that we can skew more of the relief to middle income taxpayers.

So some very good provisions in the Senate bill such as the doubling of the child tax credit and making it refundable for people of low income. So also a doubling of the standard deduction, which means that a family making $24,000 would not pay any income tax.

So, there are provisions of both bills that I like. But I think the bill needs work.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So you can't vote...

COLLINS: And I think the biggest...

STEPHANOPOULOS: You can't vote for it as written?

COLLINS: I haven't reached that conclusion yet, because I think there are going to be further changes. But the biggest mistake was putting in a provision from the Affordable Care Act into the Senate bill that is not in the House bill. And I hope that will be dropped or, that bills have been introduced by senators Alexander and Murray and Bill Nelson and myself will be adopted to mitigate the impact of those provisions.

STEPHANOPOULOS: That provision was put in at the insistence of the president. He was tweeting about it last week. He seems to think that it's the best way to both save some money and to get some of the partial repeal of Obamacare. So if it stays in the bill, are you against the bill?

COLLINS: It's a problem for me if it is not mitigated. But there is a way to mitigate the impact that it would have on insurance premiums. I do want to point out that that provision, all that provision says is that a person who chooses not to get insurance cannot be fined for that decision. That's very different from what we were faced with this past summer and fall when insurance was being taken away from people who wanted to be insured.

The fact is that those fines are paid by -- overwhelmingly by people who make less than $50,000 a year, 80 percent of the people who pay the fines fall in that category. But I'm worried about the impact on premiums. And that's why we're going to need to pass legislation. And I would like to see that done before we go to the tax bill.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And unlikely the Democrats are going to support doing that before the tax bill. One other feature of the Senate tax bill is that the corporate tax cuts are permanent, yet the individual tax cuts are temporary.

COLLINS: Again, that's not a provision that I like. The House made both of them permanent. I think that is a far better way to go. I also think the reduction in the business tax rate is too steep, and that we could go to 22 percent, and then use that money, which is about $200 billion, to restore the tax deduction for state and local property taxes. That would really help middle income taxpayers.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Sounds like you still have a lot of questions about this bill. One other feature pointed out by the Congressional Budget Office this week is that if this bill passes, with the increase in the deficit that it accommodates, over $1.5 trillion, there will be at least $25 billion in Medicare cuts next year.

COLLINS: I have talked to my colleagues about that, because that's obviously something that I cannot support. I do believe that's going to be dealt with as part of the budget negotiations that are ongoing right now. There are ways to reform our entitlement programs, but that is not one of them. The whole idea of across-the-board cuts or sequestration, or offsets that affect some of our most vulnerable citizens or our seniors is not something that I can support.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, Senator Collins, listening to you today, it looks like that bill is going to have to change an awful lot before it can get your support. Thank you for joining us this morning.

COLLINS: Thank you, George.

STEPHANOPOULOS: White House weighs in next. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

STEPHANOPOULOS:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The person on my right who, unbeknownst to me at that time was Donald Trump, put their hands up my skirt.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He was like an octopus. It was like he had six arms. He was all over the place.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When someone kind of grabs you, you want to hit him, and I did push him away.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He then grabbed my shoulder and began kissing me again very aggressively and placed his hand on my breast.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHANOPOULOS: Some of the accusers President Trump has promised to sue.

We're going the talk now to his point man on Capitol Hill, Marc Short. Marc, thank you for joining us this morning.

I want to get actually to the immediate question now facing the president and the Republican Party right now, that of course is, Alabama senate candidate Roy Moore.

The president said that the allegations against Moore are disqualifying if true. Seven different women have now come forward with corroborating witnesses. Does the president believe them?

MARC SHORT, WHITE HOUSE LEGISLATIVE AFFAIRS DIRECTOR: George, thanks for having me. I think the president has been clear on this when the allegations broke he was halfway around the globe, 6,000 miles away, and quickly issued a statement that said if these allegations are true it would be disqualifying.

I think it's important to remind your audience that the president went down and campaigned against Roy Moore in the primary in support of Luther Strange. So, we are uncomfortable with the explanations Roy Moore that has given to date. So at this point, we think, though, it's best for the people of Alabama, that all the information is front of them, for them to make the decision.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But I'm asking for the position of the president. Because the president also said he would back Roy Moore if he won the primary -- if he won the runoff against Strange. And Roy Moore did, indeed, win that. And it's now been two weeks since the allegations first broke. There are now seven women who have come forward. Here's what the leaders you work with in congress are saying about that right now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. PAUL RYAN, (R) WISCONSIN: These allegations are credible. If he cares about the values and the people he claims to care about, then he should step aside.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, (R) KENTUCKY: I believe the women, yes.

JEFF SESSIONS, ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE UNITED STATES: I have no reason to doubt these young women.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHANOPOULOS: That's the president's attorney general right there.

Does the president have any reason to doubt these young women who are making the allegations?

SHORT: George, I think that the vice president as well spoke out against this when the allegations came forward, the president has expressed his concern about this. As you noted the president has not gone down to Alabama to campaign for Roy Moore since the primary concluded.

We have serious concerns about the allegations that have been made. But we also believe that all of this information is out there for the people of Alabama. Roy Moore has been a public servant for decades in Alabama. He has run multiple times. The people of Alabama know best what to do and the right decision to make here.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But they may, but I'm asking you a direct question on behalf of the president. You work for the president. Does the president believe the women or not?

SHORT: Obviously, George, if he did not believe that the women's accusations were credible he would be down campaigning for Roy Moore. He has not done that. He has concerns about the accusations, but he is also concerned that these accusations are 38 years old. Roy Moore has been in public service for decades, and the accusations did not arise until a month before election.

So we are concerned about several aspects of the story. We are very concerned about the allegations. But at this point, as I've said, we think it's best for the people of Alabama to make the decision for them.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So, you're not willing to make a yes or no judgment on whether the president believes the women?

SHORT: I think I have answered your question three times now.

STEPHANOPOULOS: No. I think what you have said is you have said is you have questions and concerns about the allegations.

SHORT: We do. We do have serious questions about the allegations. And the president has raised those and it's one of the reasons why he has not gone down to campaign for Roy Moore.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So, he promised after the primary to back Roy Moore. Is he still backing Roy Moore?

SHORT: I don't think you have seen him go down there and campaign for him. I don't think you have seen him issue an endorsement. You have not seen him issue robocalls. I think he thinks at this point it is best for the people of Alabama to make the decision for their state.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So he no longer backs Roy Moore?

SHORT: I think he thinks it is best for the people of Alabama to make the decision.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So does that mean that if Roy Moore wins, he should serve the term , that the Senate should not move to investigate and expel him? He should serve the term?

SHORT: I think that that's a decision for the United States Senate to make. I do think, George, that several instances have happened in the past when senators have been removed from office, typically those instance, though, are when Senator Packwood, as you showed in your promo earlier, had abuses in office. I'm not familiar with the senate making the decision that all the public information was out there and the people made an election, and then the Senate decides to overturn the wisdom of the people of the state.

Having said that, we think that the people of Alabama will have a lot of wisdom in making the right decision come December 12.

STEPHANOPOULOS: That, again, and the right decision is?

SHORT: I think that -- the right decision will be what the people of Alabama decide.

STEPHANOPOULOS: That's now -- I know you think you have answered the question. And I understand that you're in a difficult position right here, but it's just -- it's a very simple yes or no. Does the president believe that Roy Moore should be the next senator from the state of Alabama?

SHORT: The president, I think, George, has made his perspective very clear on multiple occasions here. He has expressed concern about the allegations, but at this point, he is going to let the people of Alabama decide.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But he's willing to speak out on races all across the country. He's willing to endorse members of congress. He's willing to endorse senate candidates. Is he doing that here or not?

SHORT: I think you can take -- you should certainly be able to infer by the fact that he has not gone down to support Roy Moore his discomfort in doing so.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So he doesn't support Roy Moore?

SHORT: George, I think that the president has spoken on this, the White House has spoken on this. And I think that, at this point, we think he has been a public figure in Alabama for decades, and the people of Alabama will make the decision, not the president, not the leader of the senate, not members in congress, the people of Alabama.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And the president will work with him if, indeed, he is elected?

SHORT: The president works with all members of the congress, that is his role.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And he's comfortable with Roy Moore being in the United States Senate?

SHORT: George, the president has concerns if these allegations prove true about anybody of that nature serving in the United States senate. You have heard us make concerns in particular about allegations that come from teenage girls. And we have said on other networks, and other stations, the reality that we think that those are the most offensive and that there is a special place in hell for people who are child molesters.

Having said that, we also believe that these allegations are arising 38 years after the date, and Roy Moore has an opportunity to tell the people of Alabama his innocence. To date, we're uncomfortable that he has done that.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, right, you're uncomfortable. But again, if dating a 14-year-old, and you have used the word pedophilia in the past, is disqualifying, it comes down to a simple matter of whether or not you believe the women who made that allegation or not.

SHORT: And right here, sitting here 40 years after the fact, I cannot have any more information to tell you one way or the other. There are two people who know that, Roy Moore and the accuser.

STEPHANOPOULOS: OK. We're going to have to move on. I think that's the answer we're going to get to.

Let's talk about the tax bill right now. You heard Senator Collins right there lay out a litany of concerns on the tax bill. Can her concerns be met, particularly this issue of including the repeal of the Obamacare mandate in the Senate tax bill?

SHORT: Well, as I think you heard Senator Collins make the case, the reality was the individual mandate affects those families earning $50,000 or less the most. 80 percent of the people paying that tax are earning $50,000 or less. We always said we wanted the tax plan to focus on lower and middle class families.

And keep in mind that when this -- when Obamacare went before the Supreme Court, it was the Obama administration that argued the individual mandate was a tax. We don't think we're mixing health care into the tax debate. It has been determined by the Supreme Court that this is a tax, and those families that are choosing instead to pay a tax as opposed to get crummy insurance on the Obamacare exchanges are the ones that are most impacted. So, we think it's important to provide them with that relief.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But, you know, your colleague, OMB director Mick Mulvaney has just told CNN that he's open to taking that out of the Senate bill. Is that the White House's position?

SHORT: The White House is very comfortable with the House bill, because the House bill focuses on our three priorities: simplifying the tax code, reducing the corporate rate to bring jobs back, and focus on middle income families. As you know, it does not have the individual mandate in it.

We also, though, believe the individual mandate is a tax, and it is harming middle income families the most. So, we like the fact that the Senate has included it in its bill.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And how about that issue that I also raised with Senator Collins. She expressed a concern that the corporate tax cuts in the Senate bill are permanent if the individual are temporary. Is that fair?

SHORT: It's a good question, George. The reality is that many of the arcane Senate rules, as you're familiar with, are Byrd resolutions that make it difficult to make both permanent.

What you saw, and many criticisms of the Bush tax plan, 15, 16 years ago, is they said the individual rates would not be permanent. In reality, all the rates below $400,000 in income, those cuts were permanent.

So, we are hopefully that both the individual and the corporate rate will be permanent.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But that means you'll blow through the deficit caps right there and won't be able to be -- you'll have concerns on the other side.

SHORT: George, as you noted before, it's $1.5 trillion in deficit allowance. But for all those who are preaching concern about the deficit, who took the deficits that we have created as a country from George Washington to President Obama, President Obama doubled to make it $20 trillion in debt today that we have.

Now there's a lot of people preaching concern about those debts. The reality is if we don't grow our economy, we are never going to pay for the things that we need to do such as to rebuild our military. If we're the 1.8 percent GDP growth that we suffered under the Obama years, we will never be able to afford the things we need to do to make our border secure and make our world secure, and be able to provide the defense that we need to make America secure.

So, those are things that we need to do with this tax plan to get our economy growing again.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Final question. We also talked to Senator Collins about that possible Medicare cut pointed out by the congressional budget office, $25 billion. The president was very, very firm during the campaign, no Medicare cuts at all.

SHORT: The president's been consistent on that, you're right. He is not interested in entitlement cuts. It's a promise he made to the American people. And so we believe that that provision could be waived.

STEPHANOPOULOS: How? But do you have the 60 votes to waive it?

SHORT: I think that in end that's a provision that will get waived.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Marc Short, thanks very much for your time this morning.

SHORT: George, thanks for having me on.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Roundtable is standing by to weigh in on another big week. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEN. JOHN HYTEN, U.S. STRATEGIC COMMAND: I provide advice to the president. He'll tell me what to do, and if it's illegal, guess what's going to happen?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You say no.

HYTEN: I'm going the say, Mr. President, it's illegal. And guess what he's going to do? He's going to say, what would be legal? And we'll come up with options of a mix of capabilities to respond to whatever the situation is. And that's the way it works. It's not that complicated.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHANOPOULOS: America's top nuclear commander, Air Force General John Hyten this week, in the wake of the first hearing in four decades on the president's authority over nuclear weapons. We're going the try to get to that later. Let's bring in our "Roundtable." Our chief political analyst, Matthew Dowd. Stephanie Cutter, Democratic strategist, also White House communications director for President Obama. Lanhee Chen, the Romney-Ryan 2012 campaign policy director, now a fellow at Stanford's Hoover Institution. Megan Murphy, editor of Bloomberg Businessweek. And our own senior White House correspondent Cecilia Vega.

And now let's begin with this whole conversation over sexual harassment. We've talked a lot about it today. Carly Fiorina, I take her point that we should try to keep it out of politics, impossible right now.

MATTHEW DOWD, ABC CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: It's completely impossible right now. And I don't think it should be out of politics, because politics infuses all of this. I mean, I think one of the questions that you asked in multiple people is, is this a watershed moment? An honest answer is, I don't know, because there has been watershed moments that I thought in American history that turned out not to be watershed moments.

We thought electing Barack Obama was going to be a watershed moment for civil rights in the country and race in America. It turned out there was a pushback on it. We thought a watershed moment was when women got the right to vote back in the early 1900s. And that turned out there was a big pushback on that.

And so I think we're in a situation where, until the power structure of America and the world changes, because this is all about power, it won't change until that power structure changes, until more women, more non-whites, more non-Christians, are involved in power in the country, this will not change.

STEPHANOPOULOS: A lot of power now in the hands of the voters as well, Cecilia Vega. You saw that interview with Marc Short right there. One of the White House answers this week to the president's problems was, the people spoke last year.

CECILIA VEGA, ABC SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: You sounded like me going after him on, does the president believe Roy Moore's accusers? We were asking that day in and day out all week long. And that is a question that has not yet been answered by this White House. And it's one, I'm sorry, that has to be answered. And we have to hear it from the the president himself.

We're talking about a watershed moment. Not only is the White House not saying definitively whether that endorsement for Moore still stands, we have not heard the president speak out to the nation in its message to women yet in this watershed moment. And I don't think these questions are going to end until we hear that from them and from him.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And part of the reason the questions keep coming, Megan Murphy, the president wasn't shy about sending out that tweet about Al Franken this week.

MEGAN MURPHY, BLOOMBERG BUSINESSWEEK: Yes, he sent out a tweet about Al Franken. But, again, we saw Marc Short there trying to really slip this question here saying they're not going to campaign for Roy Moore, saying they have questions about his own conduct. But also pointing out that these allegations are 38 years later.

Cecilia is exactly right, these questions are not going to go away because not only because of what we have seen and how this is really gripping how the national consciousness across all industries, but also the president's own behavior and what he has done and his real refusal to come forward and say what he did and apologize and really take responsibility for that.

I believe here we are in a watershed moment because I know so many women, including women sitting around this table, who have women saying, I'm not going to stand for this kind of conduct anymore. I'm going to tell my story. I'm not going to be silent anymore. So many women I've worked for who have had the same experiences. That is the real difference I see. That's what we're not going to say, be able to put back in the closet. Women are going to continue to keep coming forward against people like Roy Moore, against people in media, against people in Hollywood.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Stephanie, 1992 was called the "year of the women," because in the wake of the Anita Hill story, Democratic women elected to the Senate. There's an open question what's going to happen on the ballot this year.

STEPHANIE CUTTER, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, there is an open question, but part of it was answered just recently when we saw the election in Virginia, and state elections all across the country. More women are running and more women are winning. And there's a reason for it. And, you know, we're skirting around whether Donald Trump is going to take responsibility for his own actions.

I don't think we should hold our breath for that. But one silver lining in all of this is it has empowered women to stand up for themselves. The entire "#metoo" movement is in part inspired by Donald Trump's election.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Inspired by it, but we have this election coming up right now December 12th in Alabama. What happens?

CUTTER: You know, I -- I don't know what happens. Polls have Doug Jones ahead. I think what ultimately happens is it's a lose-lose for the president and Republicans.

STEPHANOPOULOS: That's what I wanted to bring to Lanhee. It does seem like that they can't win either way.

LANHEE CHEN, FELLOW, HOOVER INSTITUTION: Yes, I think if you're the Republicans now, you actually prefer the certainty of a smaller majority over this hanging over your heads for the next six months, right? So Roy Moore wins...

STEPHANOPOULOS: Even if it comes before the tax bill?

CHEN: Well, you know, I think so, because you can deal with 51. You can say, look, we know the horse-trading we have got to do to get to the votes we need, whereas if you have got Roy Moore, you're answering questions about Roy Moore for the next six months, right? If he doesn't win, you're not answering those questions. You can move on to what do we need to do to get the tax bill done? What do we need to do to get infrastructure done? What do we need to do on Obamacare next year?

As opposed to, you know, do you believe Roy Moore's accusers? Do you believe the testimony? You're going to have ethics investigations. You don't want to get into that if you're Republicans. You would rather the smaller majority.

DOWD: I think Lanhee is right. I think it's more than six months. I think that if Roy -- the worst possible outcome of the Alabama election for the Republicans is if the Republican wins, because they have to deal with it in the immediate aftermath. They have to deal with it throughout the 2018 midterms. And then they have to deal with it in a presidential election in 2020. It hangs over them through the course of this. They would be much better off with the Democrat.

I think in this whole conversation, and there is all this -- I think there is -- part of the problem here is there's this entire conflating of all of the things, right? We put Al Franken together with Roy Moore together with Donald Trump together with Harvey Weinstein. And I think we have to have the ability, all have done bad things, all of them, but all of them have not done equally bad things.

And some of them's response to it has been either to blame themselves, Al Franken blamed himself, took accountability, even though -- I mean, obviously, he had to in the midst of it. And others have blamed the women and continued to call them liars.

So, to me, the first step in this process of how do we get through this is we have to believe the women. Until we stop calling them liars, we're not going to get through it.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Yet, that's what we see. One of the lessons you have to take away is -- and again, this is the White House answer, tough it out, don't admit anything, survive.

VEGA: Yes, except for this is a worst-case scenario for this White House right now. This is literally the very last thing they want to be talking about. Here we are. It sounds like the campaign all over again. I'm in the briefing room this week asking Sarah Sanders, is it -- if it's OK to investigate Al Franken, is it OK to investigate the president of the United States and the more than 12 women who have accused him of sexual misconduct?

They want to be talking about tax reform this week. And here we are, this entire show, so much of it, dedicated to sexual misconduct, and President Trump is right there in the middle of that discussion.

MURPHY: Let's be clear, this is not difficult. These are very sensitive issues. These are very torturous issues for the women involved. For people to come out, Republicans, Democrats and alike, to condemn this behavior is not difficult. They should speak with a unified voice. This is not a Democratic issue, this is not a partisan issue, this is not a political issue.

We are now in a situation where the president of the United States has not (ph) come out and forcefully defend a man who is accused of serial sexual predation against children. That is where we stand right now. It cannot stand. He will have to come out and say something. This is not the country we live in. It's not the values we live in. And I think most voters know that.

STEPHANOPOULOS: It has caused a lot of re-thinking for Democrats as well. Remarkable moment this week, New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand saying it's time to re-think the Bill Clinton situation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just to clear, so is it your view that President Clinton should have stepped down at that time, given the allegations?

SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D), NEW YORK: I will -- yes. I think that is the appropriate response. But, I think things have changed today. And I think under those circumstances, there should be a very different reaction.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Gillibrand drew some fire from the Clinton camp, Stephanie, but she is not alone.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Gillibrand drew some fire from the Clinton camp, Stephanie, but she is not alone.

CUTTER: She isn't. This is a really tough question. And, you know, and George it's something that I struggled with. I worked for Bill Clinton for eight years, you know, my formative years in my 20s.

And I think -- I think, number one, everybody would agree that Bill Clinton paid a price for what he did. He was impeached by one house, he was tried by another, but his presidency was tarnished. And I think for a lot of us in that time, especially those that were working for him, we rationalize this because we were doing -- we thought we were doing so much good in that White House and transforming our economy, creating jobs, expanding access to health care. Those were all incredibly important things.

Looking back on it, you know, what would have happened if he had resigned? Would we have a different conversation right now? Probably.

DOWD: I think part of, and you -- George, you know, and Stephanie, you know, I have been critical of Bill Clinton from the beginning. I didn't vote for him in '92. I didn't vote for him in '96 to a large degree because of this, and because of his behavior.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But this came out -- this mostly came out after.

DOWD: But there was a series of things that happened in the midst of the campaign that reflected on his value structure in the course of that.

I think until we take off our jersey and say some things are not about our jersey, some things are not about the tribe that we're in. We saw this in '91, the Republicans gave up on their vaCHENes in order to get Justice Thomas on the court. They basically called Anita Hill a nut and a liar in order to get Justice Thomas on the court. They empowered Bill Clinton in order to get the things that Stephanie says, all good and great things, but in order to get those things, they decided the ends justify the means. They decided that a tainted person was better to get what they wanted.

Donald Trump voters did -- many did the same thing, and the GOP did the same thing with Donald Trump. A tainted person. We'll get him in. We'll get what we want in that.

Until we take off our jerseys and say enough is a enough, there are some things we have to stand for.

VEGA: That's what's on the front pages of the newspaper in Alabama this morning. This is a referendum on whether we will accept this kind of behavior from our leaders. And voters in Alabama are going to decide that right now.

CUTTER: At some point, there that has to be a breaking moment where we stop rationalizing, where we stop taking sides. And bad behavior is bad behavior.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You know, it's so interesting you say that, but now we're sitting here talking about not one but two presidents who faced allegations about that. If that's not a breaking moment, what is?

CHEN: It has to come from the top. And when we talk about changing the culture in politics, we've been involved in environments with things have been accepted that should not have been. How does that change? It only changes when the culture changes from the top. It's got the be people like the president, like the speaker of the House, people who are in leadership positions, men who are in leadership positions stepping up and saying this is no longer OK.

And we're not -- look, I'm all for trainings and for additional sensitivation around these issues, that's not going to cut it in this case. It's just not going to cut it.

DOWD: This is a moral question. And we also have to have our moral leaders. The idea that many evangelical leaders supported Donald Trump and now support Roy Moore, because they have an "R" by their name or because they're part of their tribe and you have given up on the morality and basically given up on the message of the gospels and the new and old testament, that they have basically done that, totally diminishes their moral voice in this country and we need it.

VEGA: How can this White House possibly even address this, though? It's a lose-lose for them. He's facing accusations from 12 women. So, we're saying here, you have not come out and answered these questions. On the other side, what can he possibly say?

DOWD: The president has no moral voice. The president has no moral voice to speak on this at all because he has -- he has caught this virus, and he has this virus. And the only way he can get through this if he stood up and took full accountability for it and admitted what happened.

STEPHANOPOULOS: He may not be able to escape this entirely, though, because he promised to sue the women who made these allegations.

MURPHY: I'm still waiting for those to be filed.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Yet he's being sued for defamation by at least one of them. If that case is not dismissed, at one point he'll have to testify.

MURPHY: And that's the one suit that has been filed, we should point out.

And look, we say time and time again, that the president has lost moral credibility, that there is no moral force.

I believe that doesn't give us enough credit. We still have moral voice. We still have moral authority, you can either show it at the ballot box, or we can show it, and how women have supported each other, have come forward on this. This is our moment, not his, in this respect. We need to regain the moral force to go forward. We need to continue to educate, to mentor, to continue to try and change.

This is not just politics. I wish it was. It's ever industry. It's my industry, it's your industry, it's Hollywood. It's the hotel workers. It's maids. It's restaurant workers. It has to -- change has to come from the top, but it also has to come from the bottom, and empowering women and men at every rung of our social ladder to be able to be empowered when they see bad behavior to be speak up.

It happens not just between men and women, it's in the LGBT community as well. This is the -- this will be the watershed moment if people feel that this kind of abuse, bullying, harassment will no longer be tolerated at every wrung of our society, every sector.

DOWD: And Carly Fiorina is right, the only way it is going to work is if men lock arms with women on this and do it as well.

STEPHANOPOULOS: It's going to take men at every single level.

Do you feel it in the work place?

VEGA: In terms of working as a journalist?

STEPHANOPOULOS: Yes.

VEGA: In some ways, yes, you do, perhaps not as explicit as an Al Franken photo. I think in the way people speak to you. In the way people, the tone people use with you you notice a different tone that they use with our male colleagues. Perhaps in -- in some cases in terms of job opportunity. You certainly see it.

STEPHANOPOULOS: I see you nodding your head.

CUTTER: I agree.

I think, you know, over the course of your career, as you become more comfortable in your own skin and competence, you can take it on more. And I certainly have done that throughout my career. I feel very differently now than I did in my 20s about taking that on.

But when you look at other young women who are just starting out their careers, they have lots of questions. How do I handle this? Do I speak up? Am I penalized if I speak up? Do I make myself a problem if I raise this? And we have to answer them with a unified voice, no, you're not going to be penalized. We'll make sure you're not going to be penalized. Men locking arms with women to make sure that these women aren't penalized. It's incredibly important.

STEPHANOPOULOS: I think that's the most important thing. I can't tell you how many times I personally in the last several weeks have heard from people saying, yeah, something may have happened, but I just didn't want to come forward.

MURPHY: But that's the thing. There's so many things you look at as your career as women as you advance through that you just tolerated, frankly, that you just look the other way, that you just thought this is one person. I can through this and put my head down. I want to advance just as much as that man. I want to advance just as much much my women colleagues. That is what has to stop. We have a responsibility to step forward and to provide that guidance to women coming up behind us as well.

I wish it didn't happen. I wish there were so many times that I had spoken out instead of putting my head down and go forward, but that is why I do see this as a watershed moment, because I see that stopping.

STEPHANOPULOS: Just the beginning of the conversation. Thank you all very much. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

STEPHANOPOULOS: That is all for us today. Thanks for sharing part of your Sunday with us. And have a great Thanksgiving.

Comments