'This Week': Powerhouse Roundtable

Rep. Tom Cole, Rep. Keith Ellison, S.E. Cupp, David Plouffe and Jeff Zeleny on the week's politics.
3:00 | 02/09/14

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Transcript for 'This Week': Powerhouse Roundtable
my story that begins with a golden ticket. Something that seems unbelievable to me even to this day, you might wonder what would qualify me to run. I'm not a politician, I don't want to be one. But I want to bring back, at least to my corner of north Carolina, the idea that someone can go to Washington to represent all the people. All right, we have two members of congress here who have not made the cut on American idol, but they have the golden ticket to the roundtable. And lots to talk about today. Including a surprise this morning. Did the republicans favorite general just endorse Hillary Clinton? But the week's biggest political development, house speaker John Boehner puts the brakes on immigration reform. Here's ABC news Jeff Zeleny. Reporter: What a difference a week makes for immigration reform. It's time for the president and congress to deal with the important issue. Reporter: But by Thursday -- There's widespread doubt whether this administration can be trusted to enforce our laws. And it's difficult to move any immigration legislation until that changes. Reporter: Speaker John Boehner backing down. His fellow republicans say the election-year focus should stay on criticizing the still-controversial health care law. We have to make sure we have a growing economy and deal with the health care situation before we wade in deep on immigration. Reporter: Perhaps it was doomed from this moment. So let's get immigration reform done this year. Reporter: President Obama saying 2014 is the year to act. There's little question public sentiment is slowly moving toward reform. But several republicans say why now? The energy behind doing something is coming from the president. We have to steer our own course in the house majority about things that are important to us. Reporter: Even before Boehner threw in the towel, the writing was on the wall. Minority leader Mitch Mcconnell, fixated on wing the senate, washing his hands of the issue Tuesday. I think we have an irresolvable conflict here. Reporter: A conflict the party may avoid, but not for long. And Jeff joins the roundtable with Oklahoma republican congressman Tom Cole, Minnesota democratic congressman Keith Ellison, former white house senior adviser, David Plouffe, and the co-host of CNN's crossfire, S.E. Cupp. Congressman Cole, what happened? Less than two weeks ago speaker Boehner's releasing a statement of principles, talking optimistic about immigration reform. And now what? What happened? I think actually people overread both of those incidents. We have begun a dialogue and conversation inside the republican conference on this. I think that's good. Step by step progress is still out there. Whether or not democrats want to work that way is unclear. But you could get a border security bill through, hb 1 Visas through, seasonal labor. I think there's still a path there. But it's political reality. There's a lot of division on the issue. Can we acknowledge the excuse that the speaker used, it's the president and republicans can't trust him. Can we acknowledge that was a pretty lame excuse? This was about opposition within the republican conference. Look, I was at the conference where this was discussed. There is a great deal of scepticism and concern. The president changed on immigration before. He said something he wanted to do was unconstitutional, a year later, he did it. We have seen him change the health care act repeatedly. This is nothing new in the last two weeks, though. No, it's not. That's a draft statement, not a statement of principles from the conference. Look, the president has led a government that's deporting people 1100 a day. There's no doubt the president was told, if he works on the border, the republican caucus will work with him on the bill. He's done his part. They have failed to do their part. It's obvious the speaker got a lot of push back from somebody within his caucus who he has to listen to, so he changed course. I don't think it's political courage and I was really disappointed. Jeff, you think it's dead? I think it is for now. It's certainly on the back burner. But one thing is totally different than a year ago. People aren't saying no, it's not now. Having conversations, rank and file republicans on the hill, the opposition is not nearly as strong. But the central thing is why do we want to do this now? Why split ourselves here? We are doing so well. This is such a banner year nor republicans. I think the opposition is still there. But there's a realization at some point this is going to happen. But one thing, maybe after these primaries. A lot of republicans face primary opponents. Perhaps in this summer it will start. But for 2014, it's unlikely much will get done this year. Part of this is strategy. I think a lot of republicans think, let's not anger too many other republicans before 2014. We'll win the house, we'll win the senate in 2014, have a republican majority, pass immigration reform that we can call republican. I think also -- Signed by a democratic president. Well, sure. Of course, he would have to. But the other part you alluded to is a real disappointment in the president. I think when he came out in the state of the union and more than a dozen times told congress he'd work around them, that really struck a sort of an anachronistic tone. Congress had in the past two months just come together on a bipartisan budget deal, a farm bill and real progress on immigration reform. They wanted recognition for that. Not a president who was going ignore it and say do it or else. They have been working together. I think they wanted recognition. But, David, I want to bring up something the congressman mentioned. Deportation. We put together the stats. It's remarkable. President Obama has -- do we have that graphic? President Obama is deporting in far greater Numbers than president bush did. So what gives? Does that need to be slowed down? I mean, he's getting a lot of heat from the left on this. He's following the law. As technology improves. So if the president and the administration are doing their part. And you questioned, it was lame, pathetic, childish. Do your job. Politically, the notion that this is going to get done in 2015, as Ted Cruz and Rand Paul and Rubio are running around Iowa and South Carolina, there's no way it's going to get done. If it doesn't get done this year, in 2016 on election night in November, Colorado, new Mexico, maybe Arizona, Nevada, Florida, will all be blue. But economically -- Do you think they can do it in 2015? The energy in Iowa, south Carolina, Nevada, it's the presidential, it's the hard-right tea party. This is the window. The cbo, the republican's favorite organization in the world has pointed out it's the easiest thing to do on the economy. Create jobs, growth, reduce the deficit. So the stars seem to be aligned. And Boehner could do this. He wouldn't have to ask a single member to cast a tough vote. 180-plus democrats. 50, 60, 70, pick the number, get it done, heal your party broadly. Don't ask for a hard vote specifically. But you mentioned cbo, what's really going on, congressman, is republicans want to focus on obamacare. No question. And this cbo report -- But they don't to want focus on health care. But this cbo report that showed that the equivalent of 2 million plus workers coming out of the economy was a gift to you guys. Did you overplay it? I mean, this was -- obamacare has been an issue that's hurt democrats and helped republicans. Cost them the house. Ate into the president's re-election totals. It's hurting them now. Not going to go away. It's a flawed, bad policy. Anything that discourages work. That's what the cbo found, it discourages some people from working. Not a good thing when the economy is struggling. But the cbo didn't say it was resulting in 2 million fewer jobs. I didn't say that. But it does -- what the cbo report does say is that we're going to lose 1-2% of hours worked because of this. You can argue that's a good thing. I've heard that argument, give people some choices. And I have no doubt in some cases it is. But discouraging work is not something we need to be doing right now. Making the economy less productive. Not a good thing. It's not like it's the only flaw in obamacare. We have a lot of them to talk about. What the congressional budget office is saying, we're going to discourage kids from being latch key. Have parents come home working reasonable hours. People can retire. People may be able to cook dinner rather than get takeout. The fact is is that if Americans can have more choices to open up a new business they have been wanting to start, this is a good thing. If you look at international comparisons country by country, Americans work way more than the average of industrialized countries around the world. We might to want look at our work-life balance. And this is something that gives us a great opportunity. One of the reasons why Americans live better than people around the world, because they do -- What about Germany, Denmark. The fact of the matter is we need a better work-life balance. Ask a working mother if she could use a few more hours in the day to take care of her family. That's what's really going on. Great spin. I don't think it's going to work. It's true. Unbelievable. An argument for you to make. The ad saying 2 million fewer jobs is easier than the nuanced argument about job loss. I highly think in November 2014 that voters who are undecided are going to be citing a cbo report. We blow these up in Washington. I ask this. Keep the focus on obamacare, they're obsessed with that. Voters see through that. In 2012, health care hurt the republicans. We had the advantage on this. So the republican strategy seems to be we think everything is great. Play four corners, we're not going to do anything. Most Americans, every swing voter they do not want another political fight about health care. They wt it to be implemented and fixed. I see you shaking your head. The spin on this is incredible. The congressman is right, we have a lot of things to talk about on obamacare, but on that issue, what's not controversial in the past is disincentivizing work is bad economically and culturely and socially. Economists have made it their project. The heritage foundation -- To develop welfare programs that disincentivize work the least. Disincentivizing work has been a bad idea. Now for democrats it's freedom. I think the American public sees through that. It's a pretty transparent effort. But it's too complicated a little bit. It can be broken down so easily. I went up to a few democrats running in trouble, Mary landrieu, the senator from new Hampshire. The look on their face when you ask about the cbo, is a look -- just validates the fears out there. I think at the end of the day, it differs in the electorate. The 2010 electorate was not friendly to democrats. If they're going to hold on this year, they have to change the electorate. It's always been a problem in memo mid-term elections. No, you say -- here's what the report said, reduce the deficit, reduce unemployment, helps the economy. Gives more flexibility. Not that complicated. Let's move beyond cbo. I want to look at your own words from 2010 when you famously warned about nervous democrats. The famous quote about bedwetting. Here we have no bedwetting. Instead of fearing what may happen, let's prove we have more than just the brains to govern, let's prove we have the guts to govern. But look now, look at the democrats up in these tough, close races right now, there's a new series of polls in several of the states, look at Obama's approval rating in the races where the battle over the senate will be waged. Look how many states he's below 40%. Don't democrats have a reason to maybe not be wetting their beds, but being nervous about this? Clearly they have a reason to be nervous in 2010 and now about the senate. 2010, it was a terrible economy. That was first and foremost why we had a tough election. We had wave elections in '06, '08, and '10. We have easier senate races in 2016. We have house districts more Normal in terms of the terrain. What are the chances you lose the senate? The republicans are going to have to win everything. Run the table. Happens sometimes, but not often. We've got incumbents -- What are the chances it happen this is time? Not good. It's going to come down to individual campaigns, the state of the economy. I think the health care story improves a little bit. And the republican brand is tarnished. It's not like the voters look at the republican and say that's the magic elixir to make it work and have the people represent the middle class. We're going to have close elections in both chambers. In 2012, republicans were in denial about the polls and about their weak position running into the presidential election. And I think democrats really run the risk of doing the same thing this year. I hear the sales pitches about how hard it is going to be for republicans. But I think what's telling is that you not only have vulnerable democrats in red states disagreeing publicly with the president, you have safe democrats feeling rebellious and coming out to disagree with the president. Those are realities that the president and democrats really need to confront. All right. I want to take a quick turn to 2016. We hear about the democrats. I want to talk about a democrat who's name is not Hillary Clinton. We talked about this this week. Take a listen. There may be reasons I don't run, but there's no obvious reason for me why I think I should not run. Doesn't mean I'm the only guy that can do it. But if no one else, I think can, and I think I can, then I'd run. If I don't, I won't. Joe Biden can't come up with a reason why he shouldn't run. You think he would be a good candidate. I really do. He's absolutely right. It's really remarkable that a sitting vice president for two terms and a former presidential candidate is being ignored in the conversation for the most part. Imagine if during the Clinton administration Al gore was the afterthought and everybody was talking about Madeline Albright running for president. That's what's happening now. Yeah, democrats are bleeding old, white, blue collar guys. If anyone can reach that demographic, it's Joe Biden. It's Joe. And on Hillary Clinton, a new book out. Hrc by Jonathan Allen and Amy Parnes. They had a fascinating nugget. David petraeus saying that Hillary Clinton would make a tremendous president. Giving her a pass on benghazi. Her impressive qualities were in tough times. In the wake of benghazi attacks, I thought she was extraordinarily resolute, determined and controlled. Tom Cole, if David petraeus is giving Hillary Clinton a pass, praising her for the way she handled the benghazi attacks. Takes the wind out of the sail. I don't think so. It was a debacle. She should have known security was not taken care of. She calls it herself her greatest regret in her time as secretary of state. So I think it'll be an issue. Do I think it's a deciding issue in the campaign? No. I think Americans look at presidential candidates in their totality. And Hillary Clinton has a long record. There's a lot of pluses and some minus. Give us last word. The only thing republicans are obsessed more than obamacare is benghazi. This is completely just a political game they're playing. Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, they're all great candidates. They're far better than what our friends are going to put up. What a predictable comment. Seal of approval.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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