'It's a mistake to keep viewing everything through the Trump lens': Justin Amash

The Powerhouse Roundtable breaks down the latest news on "This Week."
17:48 | 06/06/21

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Transcript for 'It's a mistake to keep viewing everything through the Trump lens': Justin Amash
January 6th was a dark day in history of the United States capitol. President trump and I have spoken many times since we left office. And I don't know if we'll ever see eye to eye on that day. But I will always be proud of what we accomplished for the American people over the last four years. Vice president pence in new Hampshire this week downplaying his differences with president trump over the course of their partnership. President trump, of course, returned to the political stage last night as well with that speech in North Carolina. Let's talk about it on our roundtable, Rahm Emanuel, Donna Brazile, "Wall Street journal" columnist Jason Riley, and former libertarian member of congress Justin Amash. Let me begin with you, "The new York Times" has an interesting analysis of president trump this morning calling him diminished but dominating at the same time. He had to give up basically his blog this week. He has a hold on the Republican you served with a lot of Republican members of congress. How do you explain it, what do Republicans do about it? Well, over the last couple of years I really have seen it take off. When I first got to congress, I could see this nationalist sort of movement starting to swell and by about 2015, it took hold of the Republican party in a pretty big way. At first a lot of the members of congress when Donald Trump took office were doubtful about him, would make fun of him in private, criticize him, they would insult him, even I thought they were going too far. I was a big critic of Donald Trump and I couldn't believe some of the things that were said about him. And then around two or three years ago, around the beginning of 2019 or so, I saw people really start to shift. And the party really became Donald Trump's party, completely. And that's going to be the way it is over the next few years. I don't think we're going back to a different kind of Republican party. One of the remarkable things about that, Rahm Emanuel, when presidents are defeated, first term presidents are defeated, the party tends to abandon them. It appears the GOP is doubling down. I want to be first one on this platform, I want it to be done discussing this man in 2020, I don't want to be doing that. That said he will not -- It is reality. It is reality. That said, if I were the Democrats right now, and, yes, you are right, George, Republican -- any president goes off and works on their books or takes a project like Jimmy Carter, habitat for humanity, does some other goodwill work. This is always been about Donald Trump, Donald Trump is always about Donald Trump and that's what he's continuing. If I were the Democrats, I would force every Republican right now, do you believe he'll be reinstated. Put him back on the ballot. In the swing districts, he is an albatross around the Republican party. They're trying to flip the cultural issues our way. I would flip them back and make Donald Trump the albatross around the Republican party. He's referring to the talk that president trump, former president trump is telling associates he believes at some level he's going to be reinstated as president, maybe as early as August. Yes. You hear that talk, you watch the rally last night, George, and then you hear Republican leaders in congress say, the problem is Liz Cheney. It is ridiculous. You wonder what planet they're living on. There is this hope that Donald Trump will fade away. But that is putting hope above experience. That sounded like a campaign rally to me what I heard last night. And to Rahm's point, in 2016, Donald Trump wants suburbanites and he won independents. In 2020, he lost both of those groups. That is the Republican party's they need to get those groups back. And nothing I heard last night that is going to help them with those groups. And he -- not only lost them in 2020, he also lost them in 2018. So my view is, the fact is if he's not going to go, albatross for the Republican party, I would for the benefit of the Republican party and the country, I wish he would disappear, but I would take this and force the Republicans to answer the question from senate to gubernatorial to congressional. It is an opportunity to once again remind them, Joe Biden's message is we have turned the page on covid and the economy to a different era. Donald Trump won't let the past go. Make the Republican party own it. I'm press you by putting the question to Donna Brazile, is that the right strategy or is there too much focus by Democrats on Donald Trump? Democrats can't help but focus on Donald Trump. He not only framed what the modern Republican party looks like, he leads the modern Republican party. You came to capitol hill in 2011 at the height of the tea party movement and then Donald Trump. There's no other playbook right now but to continue to make Donald Trump the central organizing principle that Democrats will focus on, but Republicans need Donald Trump to keep their base in tact, to keep the fund-raising in tact, and also to make sure that they have a strong message for 2022. I think this is a mistake for Democrats. I think it is a mistake to keep viewing everything through the trump lens. Trump is dominating the democratic messaging and while the Republican party may not be growing, maybe it is stuck, you know, it is where it is, I don't think the democratic party is growing. Look at the number of people saying they're independents now. As long as Donald Trump is the focus of democratic party and the party is not growing, the Republican party can still win in a two-party system. I'm trying to change that with the libertarian party, but that's the reality of it. I think Democrats have to have another message. I think what's going to play out is -- we saw this Friday -- president Biden is going to talk about the economy, talk about managing covid and as a distinct turning of the page from the past. That doesn't mean you let Donald Trump just disappear. But the economy will be the focus as it should be. And the good news for the Democrats, unlike in 1982, 1994, 2010, where the recession had ended but the recovery had not begun, Democrats will go into the midterm with a strong economy, and the leader of that voice will be Joe Biden, what we this is a man who went around saying China virus and was able to increase his number among Asians, it is remarkable. Donna Brazile, how big a problem? It is a problem. But Democrats recovered from 2016 when we had a precipitous drop and turnout among those groups. But the challenge in 2022 is that Democrats have to basically do what Joe Biden did in 2020, which is have a single message on the economy, on the recovery, and to try to make sure that grassroots Democrats are capable of hearing that message and not just listen to the noise, but understand the signal that is coming from the white house. Joe Biden is hugely popular among the democratic base. He's hugely popular despite all the Republicans and libertarians, but he needs to make sure that he delivers on everything he promised in 2020 and I think Democrats will come back home. Justin Amash, with the partisan lines hardening, is there a way for a third way? Absolutely. I think Americans are really tired of this stuff. I think they're tired of two parties that don't get anything done. They look at Washington and parties just fighting nonstop and one party is about owning the libs, one party is about owning the magas and there is no real policies being enacted that help the American people. Most of the those going through congress end up being messaging bills or one party dominating the message and running something through roughshod over the other party. We need a third party. We need a strong third party because there are independents out there who are looking at this mess and want something else. What about ending the wars? What about civil asset forfeiture? There are Democrats who talk about this stuff, but democratic party doesn't get any of it done. What about cutting spending and making sure that our tax code is reasonable? We want low taxes but we don't have a system where there are corporations that don't pay any taxes. Libertarians care about this stuff. What about ending the wars? What about civil asset forfeiture? There are Democrats who talk about this stuff, but democratic party doesn't get any of it done. What about cutting spending and making sure that our tax code is reasonable? We want low taxes but we don't have a system where there are corporations that don't pay any taxes. Libertarians care about this stuff. The Republicans don't seem to care that much about it. They're spending through the roof and cutting taxes on the biggest corporations while keeping taxes high on a lot of other people. Rahm Emanuel, the president is trying for a different kind of third way. Not giving up home as you heard secretary Raimondo talk about getting this kind of bipartisan deal on infrastructure. What do you say to those Democrats who say this is Lucy and the football. It is never going to happen? In the white house, you have many roads. I think the most -- first of all, here's conclusion, there is going to be infrastructure. Bipartisan deal? That's a different question. That is -- no, what I mean by that is everybody's collapsing two arguments into one. There is going to be an pinfrastructure and dramatic increase in investment and the president will be able to say we not only created jobs but we started investing in America again. Number two, how he gets it done. I think what is happening in the house with Peter Defazio is Democrats are saying we have a second tract. There is two different tracts, they're both happening simultaneously. I think if you watch the news and legislative process from both ends of Pennsylvania, they're saying we don't want to get up from the table, we want to do it this way, we offer you ever opportunity, I'm not getting -- the president was very smart on the tax proposal. It makes harder for the Republicans to say we don't agree with this process. That said, we have an alternative route here, we want you in this, et cetera. So to me, aid will happen, how it happens is a different question. The Biden administration's problem is not that they can't get to 60 votes with Republican support, it is that they can't get to 50 votes without Republican support. They don't have their own ducks in a row because moderates like Manchin and cinema are holding out. I think the problem here is that Joe Biden's legislative agenda is more ambitious than his mandate justifies it being. He won by not a lot. And he's got a spending agenda out there, a climate agenda out there, I think that far surpasses what the voters want out of him. Now you're seeing where those divisions are. He can't get his own Democrats in order. Not about Republican obstruction here. If you look at the polls, he seems to have the voters. May not have the legislators with him. But Jason brings up an important point right there. Joe Manchin and Kirstin cinema, a lot of Democrats whether they'll come around. I think Joe Biden is acting in good faith. He's trying to bring Republicans to the table. He's reduced his overall spending from $2.3 trillion to now a trillion dollars. Pete Defazio will move that bill because everyone knows that it is going to expire in September. So something will happen. But here's the bottom line. If Democrats don't go big, then guess what, voters are going to say come home because you're not able to deliver. I think at the end of the day Biden will be able to deliver on his promise to basically upgrade our infrastructure across the board. This does seem to be the dilemma for the president. He has to get something done. Honestly, the legislative process is not working at all. I just left congress not long ago. There is no legislative process. I heard the commerce secretary say we have a legislative process, the legislators are working, they're not working. What we have is a few people, some in the house, some in the senate, they work on everything. They decide everything. Then they negotiate directly with the administration, and then it gets rammed through with twisting arms and they go and tell the other members of congress, hey, get on board or else, there is no discovery process in congress anymore and this is a real threat to the American people. This is a real problem for America that the way we get legislation done nowadays is we stick a commerce secretary in a room with some senate leader, they decide everything, and then they tell everyone this is the package, take it or leave it, there is no amendment process and the house we haven't amended anything since 2016 on the house floor. There has been no process altogether. And this is really dangerous for the United States of America. This is dangerous for the people. Rahm, you served in the white house, you served in congress. You probably disagree with a lot with what the congressman just said there, have we become more of a parliamentary system? Let me say this, one is the comment that nothing gets done. I generally agree, we did respond unbelievably well to the economic recession that covid created and covid. It is a mixed bag. It is not one thing or the other. The second is there is a historical pattern where the legislative process used to be run only by chairman, now consolidated, and that is the process that both Democrats and Republicans would have happen and it is not just take it or leave it. There is a lot -- if you have four vote majority in the house and no vote -- one vote majority in the senate, you cannot run on a just take it or leave it approach. And there is -- I think the speaker has done a tremendous Josh and the senate majority leader in garnering the votes necessary to address the challenges. There are more challenges than what the legislative process is up to at this point. But the idea that they're doing nothing or haven't met the challenge, we are a year after -- if you look at covid, with the vaccine developed, distributed, on a major system, and we're growing at a faster pace economically and wages growing faster than anybody thought just 12 months ago. The idea that nothing gets done is not accurate. There are more challenges that congress is not meeting, it is also an accurate description. There is no amendment process. That sounds like take it or leave it to me so, you know, I -- It is just not a carrying message for the process. There is currently no amendment process. Whether Republicans and Democrats think that's okay, I don't think most Americans think that's okay. They send representatives to Washington to represent them. We talk -- we're going to talk about voting rights, right. People are concerned about voting rights. We're sending members of congress to Washington who have no say in the process altogether. They're told this is the piece of legislation, take it or leave it, I can't believe how many times I was handed a piece of legislation it might be hundreds of pages, you get half an hour to read it, it might be thousands of pages, you get a day to read it, and they say this is the legislation. You can't change it. You can't amend it, and then people say, oh, well, we care so much about voting rights, well, people aren't able to represent them in D.C. Because it is relevant to this conversation, which is healthcare took 12 months. The idea that there wasn't a legislative process in that is just not true. And the question in the end, Jason Riley, how much do people care about process versus what is actually happening in their lives and the Democrats seem to be betting on the fact that as Rahm was pointing out, covid is receding, the economy is rising, that should be good enough. Well, I don't think that the American people voted for Joe Biden to carry out the spending proposals he's putting forward, these climate proposals he's putting forward. I think that's overreach. At the same time that they elected Joe Biden, they also increased the number of Republicans in congress. They also split the senate 50/50. And I think that the Biden administration's agenda ought to reflect just how closely divided this country is. He's running like he thinks he has fdr-like majorities and that he just ran all over his opponent in the election. That didn't happen. If you look at his agenda, you would think it did. No, he ran on a vision of taking this country out of the 1950s and bringing it into the 21st century. That's why the majority of the American people voted for him. While he didn't have coattails at the state and local level, he did run on a very clear picture of how he wanted to transform theeconomy, how he wanted to deal with racial inequities, how he wanted to deal with climate change. I think the majority of the Americans understood that Joe Biden had a vision. Now, I agree that the sausage-making doesn't look as apetizing as some boudin I've eaten in Louisiana in terms of the legislative process, the fact he's trying to -- this agenda when Republicans simply have no agenda. Think about it. The Republicans campaign on no platform in 2020. They basically put all their eggs in the Donald Trump basket hoping it will, you know, produce more chickens. Now, I agree that the sausage-making doesn't look as appetizing as some boudin I've eaten in Louisiana in terms of the legislative process, the fact he's trying to -- this agenda when Republicans simply have no agenda. Think about it. The Republicans campaign on no platform in 2020. They basically put all their eggs in the Donald Trump basket hoping it will, you know, produce more chickens. That is going to have to be the last word.

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

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