Roundtable I: Obama Agenda Stalled?

Cokie Roberts, Bill Richardson, Jim DeMint, Mary Matalin, and James Carville.
9:39 | 05/05/13

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Transcript for Roundtable I: Obama Agenda Stalled?
Let me move on to the broader question, the president's influence in the second term. Facing tough questions at his press conference. James carville, I want to show you headlines. Getting it from right, left, and center. Bottoms up, lame duck. Is obama already a lame duck. Even "the financial times" barack obama captive on capitol hill. We've seen the president's poll numbers drift a little below 50 right now. How the do we fight the notion this early in the second term he's already a lame duck? When the democrats won in 1986, they said that was the end of the reagan administration. In 1994, the republicans took the house. And clinton was re-elected, saying he's not going to get nothing done for the rest of his term. When president bush lost the house and the senate in 2006, it with us the same thing. Look, there's not a lot of legislation that's going to happen. Probably between now and 2014. The president has enormous influence in a lot of places outside of legislation. And the idea that anybody has as much constitutional power as the president of united states, is irrelevant -- and mary matalin, he's more popular than republicans in congress. So what? That's irrelevant. He single-handedly wiped out his congressional majority in the last midterm. He set in place republican dominance at the state level for decades because we picked up so many -- 7,000 legislators and 30 governors, in control of the legislatures in the states, which is the bench -- back bench for rising stars. This cycle, he's going to wipe out his senate, if not the majority. Certainly, the critical mass of the majority. lost seats in the senate in the last election. And they did. And now, they're having a hard time finding republicans to even run for the senate in a lot of these democratic seats. It's not a place people want to be these days. But also, look. James is right. The power of the presidency, regardless of whom occupies the white house, is enormous. And this question is always asked. And the truth is, the president is a lame duck. The 22nd amendment is a terrible idea. You know? Term limits always create lame duckhood. And everybody in congress knows they'll never run with this guy again. That gets to the question of what can get done in the remaining 3 1/2 years of his second term. senator DeMint, let me bring that to you. It brings up immigration reform. The president said he believes this can happen this year. But we're seeing conservative opposition, including from your group, the heritage study, that takes up the cost of immigration reform. The president -- our country faces very difficult economic and financial problems. But he seems contend to bring up emotional, divisive issues. Whether it be guns or immigration. And start the fight and play the referee. A lot of republicans supporting immigration reform, as well. There are some. I think a lot of them are trying to solve the problem. The study you'll see from heritage this week, presents the staggering costs of another amnesty in our country. And the detrimental effects, long-term, that will happen. There's no reason we can't begin to fix our immigration system. But the bill being presented is unfair to those who came here legally. It will cost americans trillions of dollars. It will make our unlawful immigration system worse. Let me press you on one question. The question of cost. You think it will cost in excess of $2 trillion. Much more. But the congressional budget office, the cato institute, other republicans have said, no immigration reform is going to increase economic growth and increase wages because it brings more into the workforce. Your response? Cbo said obama care wouldn't cost us anything. Heritage is the only organization that has done an analysis of the cost. Unlawful immigrants make up about 2% of our gdp. And they consume most of that. And if you consider all the factors of amnesty and unlawful immigration, the costs will be in the trillions of dollars over the lifetime of these -- you remember, when I was in the house of representatives, i VOTED FOR A 1980s IMMIGRATION -- 1986, ronald reagan gave amnesty to 3 million undocumented workers. I think, senator, with all due respect, if the republican party wants to stay relevant in the electoral college with hispanic voters, they've got to be moderate on immigration. I think what is happening today is the senate has started out with a realistic bill. Although, I'm -- you know, as a hispanic, my beef right now is the path to citizenship. I think it's 13 years. It's excessive. Like becoming a judge. Like the cost is huge. All these trip wires we have to do. So, I'm -- you aren't going to get anything more liberal through the congress. I realize that. Especially when it gets to the house. But my hope is, a good part of the republican moderate party is moving in the right direction. AND I THINK IF senator DeMint and his organization saw that this is not just an important policy change for the country because, senator, immigrants contribute to our economy. It does seem to be splitting the republican party right now, increasingly. Right. But that's a false argument that the hispanic vote is contingent upon a single issue. For hispanics here legally, it's the fifth-most important issue. It is a gateway issue. There needs to be better articulation. AND senator DeMint has tried and senator rubio has tried to do. They disagree on the assumptions on the dynamic scoring, they say is absent from your study. But we're talking about real measures. We're not talking about the christmas tree stuff that the president passed so easily. It's a real approach with differences in the party. But if we do this because we think it's politically palletable, as opposed to good for the country. And it is taking 13 years. I think it would be worth becoming a judge and an american citizen for all of the trip wires in reform. It does divide the republican party. There's no question about it. There's people in the party that can do math and who say, you know, this is a huge, fastest-growing group in the country. And we can't afford to alienate them. And people say, wait. I represent a congressional district that is 100% republican. And that if I vote for this bill, I'm going to get in so much trouble in my primary, that I can't vote for the bill. James, one of the things you saw this week, even marco rubio, a big proponent of the bill, saying he doesn't think it can pass the house. Let's go to the raw politics. Let cato and the ceo fight it out. This does divide the republican party. I was listening to rush limbaugh. I love that. We're democrats. We listen to everybody. He said, look -- this is what you hear from a political standpoint. You're going to bring all these people in. You're going to make them legal. You're going to help them do that. And they're not going to vote for you. And you have 4 million people that sit back every election because we're doing this. So, the limbaugh -- this is a lot of republicans' calculation, you're not going to get credit for this. The democrats are going to is get the credit. I don't think I agree with that. But that's where the politics hit the ground. And there's a lot of opposition in the republican party. Conservatives support immigration. And lawful immigration, if it's merit-based, is going to build our country. Immigrants built our country. One of the primary reasons we oppose this bill, it's going to take away the opportunities that america gives the folks who come here unlawfully. But the way we calculated the costs. And I read the study over the weekend, I don't think anyone can argue with it. If you consider all the factors related to the amnesty. And believe me, this is comprehensive. It will have a negative long-terpact on our gross domestic product. So, we just want congress, for once, to count the costs of a bill. They're notorious for underestimating the costs. How can you say an amnesty, after it takes 13 years? The citizen track is very costly. You have to jump through a lot of hoops. Now, I agree. Background checks, make them learn english. Make sure that they embrace american values. But you know, to say it's an amnesty -- it's not an amnesty. It's a path to citizenship. Right. And also, there's legal -- there's legal immigration permissions in this bill. Legal, for thousands of engineers that want to stay here. Software engineers. It's no accident that the business community is lobbying like crazy for this bill. That the agriculture community is lobbying like crazy. The big ag companies and -- commerce is for it. Afl-cio is for it. A quick break. I'm going to repeat the question. Do you block this legislation this year or not? Well, it's difficult to -- i think if people read the bill, that it will be blocked because once you get into it, just like obama care, it is not what -- the way it's being advertised. Got to take a quick break.

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

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