'This Week': Powerhouse Roundtable

Jonathan Karl, Alicia Menendez, Peggy Noonan, and Katrina vanden Heuvel on the debt ceiling, Obamacare, 2016, and Syria.
3:00 | 02/16/14

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Transcript for 'This Week': Powerhouse Roundtable
A big reversal by house speaker John Boehner. We weigh in on that after a roundup from Rick Klein. Reporter: It's another battle in the gop civil war. I am disappointed to say the least. Reporter: Speaker John Boehner letting democrats provide the vast majority of votes to raise the debt ceiling, no strings attached. The same formula would have worked in the senate, until senator Ted Cruz spoke up. I insist a 60-vote threshold instead. I think it's an irresponsible course of conduct to keep giving president Obama a blank check. Reporter: That set up an extraordinary scene, a roll call open an hour, forcing the republicans to vote politically tough on the debt ceiling increase. The vote will resonate throughout 2014. Starting with republican primaries where tea party groups view it as surrender. And 2016 is top of mind too. Chris Christie, once the republican front-runner, back on offense this week. Our party's priority should be on winning. Not winning the argument. Winning the election. Reporter: A taste of the old Christie, and for Hillary Clinton, a reminder from her past. The diaries of an old friend, Diane Blair, revealing her unvarnished thoughts about the affair with Monica lewinsky. It was a lapse, Blair writes, but she says to his credit, he tries to break it off, pull away. Tried to manage someone who was clearly a narcissistic alony toon. Rand Paul trying to do keep them from fading. Democrats say we're the great defenders of women's rights, when the leading fundraiser was bill Clinton, a perpetrator of that kind of harassment. Thanks for that. And the roundtable. Jonathan Karl, and Alicia Menendez, and Katrina vanden heuvel, and Peggy Noonan. Katri Katrina, let me begin with you. And what happened in the house this week. John Boehner allowing a clean debt limit to go through. Exactly what the president wanted. But probably shrewd for Boehner too. Clears the decks in a year where he thinks they can pick up a lot of seats in November. The failure of the shutdown concentrated the mind, and the hostage takers left the scene. We have seen manufactured crisis by a party which has eroded business confidence, hurt the economy, hurt families, and I think as 2014 approaches, the republican party decided they needed to pull up their bootstraps and get in place to pose any real challenge. With Ted Cruz, you have to -- he is an anti-establishment figure. But when we talk anti-establishment, that the tea party is a corporate-hugging, well-funded lobby. And you saw in Ted Cruz the possibility for our country moving forward, is that the delusional is no longer marginal when you look at Cruz. For the moment he's marginalized. We need to refocus. The real conversation should be creating jobs and investing in this country, not manufactured crisis. You're taking notes. Wrote down the word bait. Look, I think the republican leadership on the hill didn't take the bait and have a big fight. And -- and cause a bit of a disturbance over the debt ceiling and the closing of government. I think it was wise. But I think as usual, Mr. Cruz, the senator from Texas, decided he was going to go his own way and cause some trouble. I think it is a reflection of what we all know. Either a basic split or maybe basic splits in the republican party, part of which one split of which has to do with those who are on the ground, have a lot of Numbers, are impatient, don't want business as usual, don't understand why things can't be moved forward in Washington. It's a big -- This was a pivotal moment. The white house might say the fever has broken. The use of the debt ceiling for hostage, as the white house put it, is over. You had the entire republican leadership vote for this in the house, pretty much, Boehner, Kantor, Mccarthy, in the senate, Mcconnell, Cornyn, all top leaders voted for it and all the rank and file against it. So the question, the fever broke, will the patient survive. I thought the New York times had an excellent analysis of this whole dynamic when they talked about the vote no, hope yes caucus. John Karl's right, the leadership voted for this, but only 28 republicans voted for this. When they know it must and believe it should pass. It's a sign of dysfunction. Which makes it the fewest members of a majority to vote for a piece of legislation since 1991 when we have the first record filing. This is huge. How does it play out in the mid-term elections? Right? Can Boehner prove that taking a moderate chance, showing they can get things done, is what they need to secure the votes they need to take back the senate? And Ted Cruz does this thing. The republicans in the senate have this set. This was going to pass with only democratic votes. He says I'm going to filibuster, need 60 votes. Ted Cruz is so hated among the republicans. More so than the shutdown, the Tuesday lunch they have, he's going to need a food taster. He had tough votes -- He does have a high tolerance for personal pain. To step back for a moment, these are games inside the beltway. They are important, but this is a manufactured crisis. I come back to it. Look at the top republican leadership. They voted 19 times, collectively, to pass the debt limit when George W. Was president. And they passed an increased pro Forma, with the tax cuts, $350 billion for the richest. It's a game that Americans look at and wonder what's going on inside of a city which is supposed to represent what we care about? We need a different conversation. The debt ceiling has held up conversations about rebuilding the middle class, rebuilding and the recovery. And there's a conversation about health care. We saw a bunch of headlines on this, somewhat contradictory headlines. Number one on Tuesday, we saw that the president putting off the health law mandate again on businesses between 50 and 100 workers, yet at the same time, later in the week, news that showed that the enrollments are picking up. Just a little bit over a million added to the rolls in the past month. Peggy Noonan, is sets up what this is going to mean come November. As well it does seem that the enrollments are taking hold. Not going to reach the goal of 7 million by the deadline. Might get within a million. Hard to take that away once people have it. Yeah, I think there's so much doubt at this point and so much questioning about the HHS Numbers as put forward semi-regularly. I'm not sure they're compelling. What I think is compelling is the amount of difficulty people are having with the ACA, trying make it work in their lives. I think that's what 2014 is going to be about. Obamacare, but I think 2016 is going to be the about the split in the republican party and which way are they going to go as they choose their president. First of all, this has been an important week or month for obamacare. Rough patches, but working. 1.1 million enrolled, higher proportion of young people, premiums are down, insurance companies can't deny pre-existing coverage. What we're going to see in 2014 and what we're seeing now are republicans lying. Scaring people, actually keeping people from health care coverage. The governors, Scott, jindal, Perry, that's cruel. I think what we need to focus on is to say the broad mass of Americans, not interested in repeal. Fix it, embrace it. And what's the republican plan? Vote for me, I won't give you health care. Now that's compelling. The plan a few months ago, look, this isn't going to work. Delay this part, work with us, Mr. President. He said we can't change this, I'll veto anything. And he changed new through executive fiat is making the changes. He's not changing his own program because it's a great success. He's changing it because he knows it is surrounded by failure. Hikes in costs were deductibles. He's working to fix it. There's a slight uptick in the millennials, the key to the future. But not the levels they need it to be. They need it at 35%. Now amended those Numbers, 30%, we're happy. But you know if you look -- They're short of that. But getting closer, especially in the last month. Look at romneycare in Massachusetts. Young people sign up as close to the deadline as possible. You're going to continue to see these Numbers push up. The idea with the young invincibles is we must sign up because we are young and healthy, we make it work. You saw yesterday, a national youth enrollment day. The administration knows they have a lot of work to do. Here's why it matters, October 1st, the premiums for next year. If you don't have the high proportion of young people, premiums are going up right before the election. There's a conventional wisdom in 2014, that it's going to hurt the president. I take issue with the conventional wisdom. I think a day politics is a lifetime. The Numbers are going to get better. And a lot of people will come out in a mid-term. And the gop implosion over immigration is going seal their fate with Latinos heading into 2016 as well. Maybe in 2016, but maybe not in 2014. Having that come up in this election. I want to move to Syria. It was a horrific week in Syria. We see the images from the region right now. U.n. Ambassador Samantha power called it the worst humanitarian crisis in a generation. James clapper says it's an apocalyptic disaster. And John McCain saying these I believes haunt me. What haunts me more is we will continue to do nothing. We saw the peace talks collapse yesterday. The U.N. Had to apologize to the people of Syria for the collapse. Putting pressure on president Obama to come up with a change in approach. No question. And the white house made it clear, the president's not initiating a review now. If there were to be a new review. The options are incredibly limited. One is you could have air strikes to hit the -- kind of the assets that are doing the killing for Assad. For instance, these barrel bombs is what we're seeing now. Dropped out of helicopters. Some are asking why don't we go with air strikes and take out his helicopters? The military is against it. Military saying then what? What's the next step? Arming the opposition is almost a time who's gone. We sus spepended aid to the rebels because some of it was getting into the hands of al-qaeda. The opposition is a mess. It's limited. One person who is haunted is Samantha power, who's ambassador to the U.N., who's whole career was about making an argument to protect when you have a crisis like this. And she's saying the biggest in a generation, and the united States is effectively doing nothing. The humanitarian crisis is horrific. But don't forget the diplomatic success enforcing Syria to dismantle its chemical weapons. I think we have to push -- we have to push for humanitarian roots to be open. I'm sure there are back channel discussions, Russia, tougher than we are seeing. The U.N. Security council. A tough diplomacy, a negotiated settlement is going to be key to a true humanitarian resolution. Militarization of this is a disaster. And don't forget something which was controversial but true, many of the killings of civilians are being done by the militant insurgents, some with links to al-qaeda. Bring aid, but don't forget diplomacy. She brings up one of the scariest parts of this. It's a breeding ground for a whole new generation of al-qaeda terrorists. It has. Assad is not going to be negotiated out. Assad feels he is fighting for his life. I think the biggest thing America could do is help with the refugee situation. That'll take financial aid, that will take people too. But sometimes that's what you can do. Right. And I think it is the refugee thing that is something that at least quickly we could be helpful on. And that is also strategically a wise move. But you can't have these political negotiations until they change the game on the ground. Even if we all believe in diplomacy and humanitarian aid, there's the reality he has no reason to leave. He does not. He has a backer in Russia. What you want to change on the ground is double down on the assist tans to refugees, hum humanitarian assistance. This is a civil war. This is going to play out in the end at a bargaining diplomatic table. But in the three weeks we have been at the table -- it's -- But again -- Of the entire conflict. The last three weeks have been as bad as its been. The options are limited. But people like John McCain are shockingly delusional if you can pump in weapons and not hurt more civilians. That's not a reasonable outcome. One more thing. You had a column about the papers we saw from Hillary Clinton from her friend, Diane Blair, university of Arkansas professor. They are notes and diaries of the conversations are Hillary through the 1990s. It wasn't a lot of new news to close watchers of Hillary Clinton, but revealing. I think so. It reminded me of the intensity of the personal drama going on in the white house. Some white houses are relatively free of profound personal drama. That one was not. I had a little PTSD. You did. So that was all pretty interesting. I also thought there was a similarity between the Clintons and the Obamas. The Clintons, according to the Blair papers, clearly experienced themselves to be faces an unprecedented personal, vicious onslaught from the Washington establishment when they started. The Obamas too. Not this is the way it is. You're the youngest person on the panel by a long shot, so this is all ancient history to you and a whole generation of voters. Do you think they'll care if she runs? No, especially because it's been litigated. Right? There's nothing new in the papers. There's a real debate to have over whether or not Hillary Clinton should be the democratic nominee. I think there's a real debate to be had over whether or not she should be president of the United States. I don't think that's in relitigating the past. You're right. Amen. I agree. News that Hillary Clinton is tough, disciplined and smart? No. What this country deserves is to learn about what she stands for. Does she stand for Elizabeth Warren's idea of expanding social security security? Where does she stand on surveillance or trade? That's what people to want know. That's where we're going to be looking for. Out of time on this one right now.

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

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