Powerhouse Roundtable: This Week in Politics

George Will, Cokie Roberts, Donna Brazile, and Rick Klein on Obamacare and immigration.
10:09 | 07/07/13

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Transcript for Powerhouse Roundtable: This Week in Politics
Yeah, a little bit. Absolutely. I constantly get asked, especially if the first term, are you more like laura bush or hillary clinton? Is that it? Reporters say it are you hillary clinton or barbara bush. And I always just said I will be laura bush. That works pretty well. Great moment. First ladies michelle obama and laura bush with cokie roberts. We'll talk about that in a bit. Our roundtable is here, cokie, george is back, with us, donna brazile and abc's political director rick klein. Thank you all. George, the real political story this week was a significant setback for the white house on the health care law. They are delaying the implementation of the employer mandate that requires all companies over 50 employees to provide health care. How big a setback? What's going on? They're changing the law. We have a treasury secretary, three deputy treasury secretaries, underneath him, 12 deputies. They sent out one of the 12, didn't send him out, they did a web posting. The benefit of the law passed by congress that makes no provision to be waived will be waived. They did that while the press corp. Was on a 20-hour flight. Here's the problem. In addition to the fact that obamacare is hideously complicated, beyond that, it puts in place perverse incentives. The employer mandate says if you have 50 or more full-time employees, and until congress changes this, it defines that as 30 hours a week, you have to pay a substantial m for each of their health care. Now, the employers, not being dummies, have said let's have fewer employees, and make many of the employees we have part-time employees. Working 29.5 hours. Obamacare requires it for it to work, mass irrationality, both on the part of employers, to ignore that incentive, and on the part of young people who are supposed to pay three, four, five times for health insurance than it would cost to pay the fine and ignore it. A lot of people on the left were unhappy. Why are we setting employers off the hook? As mark twain said with the death of obamacare is greatly exaggerated. Look, 96% of businesses with 50 or more employees already provide health insurance. So this is not going to delay the implementation or the law. The law will go into effect on OCTOBER 1st, 2013 WITH RESPECT To the health exchanges. There's an 800 number so you don't have to text. It's 318-2956, consumer call numbers. They're providing information for people who are confused. It is a complex law. It's a large bill. But it's complex. It is complex. And when massachusetts went through it, they had similar difficulties, it was one fairly sophisticated state. This works for the president in the long run politically even though he's going to take a lot of flak on it right now. Because it delays implementation until after 2014 of the parts people are upset about. And there is an intervening election, as they say. That is helpful to him. I do think the republicans are telling me that thing they can now rev up the television on obamacare again, which they love, thing that's a strong suit for them, and hope that immigration goes off the front pages as a result of it. They have tried 43 times to repeal obamacare, and the administration was able to do something, they have not repealed a part of it. Get ready for 44. Having the democrats saying that implementing it is a train wreck, now it's a slow-motion train wreck. Here's the thing about this particular provision, this effects thousands of workers, maybe. Not the millions who are impacted over the long haul. If you can't this piece right, you need another year and half to put in that tiny slice -- this is not a tiny slice. This is huge. Employer mandates are by far the toughest part of it. The toughest to implement. But not doing -- it's going to affect every employer because of the paperwork requirements. Who is enforcing it? That's the other big question. At the moment, nobody. It's self-reported. All of that is genuinely complicated. There are policy reasons and political reasons for delaying. But what is happening now is hhs is giving grants to states to open up the health care centers. The individual mandate provisions will be in effect. Young people will sign up, they're learning more about this program. It's moving, but not as fast as -- both sides -- and george -- young people are not going to sign up if they can do elementary arithmetic, which they can. Second, why not -- they don't sign up? That's not why my children would do it. Why, indeed, not suspend the individual mandate because the law doesn't provide it, the law means nothing to these people. This is why, cokie, this is going to affect the immigration debate. Because the house republicans are going to say no matter what we write in the law, this administration will waive any provision it doesn't like. Let's go to immigration. We have a big week. You have a consensus of the entire republican establishment that the immigration bill should pass. President bush, scott walker and even jan brewer out in arizona is in favor of the senate bill. It's not going to fly in the house. That's right. The establishment and the house of representatives are not on the same page. No question. We know the central question. Speaker boehner, does he want to go against the conference for the greater good of the republican party and the policy interest and ultimately sacrifice his speakership on this? There are a lot of issues that you can foresee him going down in flames over, immigration, hard to imagine that on the list. His argument would be my main job is to hold on to the house of representatives. And the republican establishment, whatever that is, does certainly want to hold on to the hou ves. Without it, they would1: Be powerless in washington right now. And so boehner -- if boehner's calculation is that the only way to do that is sink the bill if it has legalization in it, that's what's going to happen. They are getting pressure from the business community, the chamber of commerce, the clergy, evangelicals, and the majority leader said they are going to do a piecemeal approach, look at what home hand and judiciary committee passed, come up with a bigger, better border security passage. Everything except for citizenship. But tell me, the white house doesn't sign a bill that doesn't have a path to citizenship. Absolutely. And the democrats and the republicans have a bipartisan model that passed in the senate that the house should take up, but they're not. The democrats will go after 24 to 25 republicans to try to get a more moderate package. Not the extreme package. The number of republicans who might lose their seats because they oppose this immigration bill is vanishingly small. It's not going to happen. Don't look at july, look at august. Four augusts ago, congress was in the midst of another comprehensive reform, that was health care reform. The republicans went home and the democrats went home and held town meetings. An uproar broke out. When they go home -- they want to pass it before they go home. I don't see july. They have a conference on the tenth in a couple of days. They'll decide that then. I want to move on to the extraordinary interview you had with first ladies michelle obama and laura bush. They seem to genuinely like each other. Take a listen. Tell us why, why this is important to you to come and have this conversation? It's because I -- I like this woman. And -- so -- that was a moment. That was quite a nice moment. You wrote theook on first ladies. Literally. What did you learn? Michelle obama wanted to be there and have a conversation with laura bush. She did not want to make a speech. Show could have taken over the conference that the bushs had set up. It was the first ladies of africa summit. If she made a speech, she could have gotten all the headlines. Instead, she wanted to have a conversation with mrs. Bush and talk about what it's like to be a first lady and to exercise the power of the first lady. And it was very important to those women in africa. Because they feel strongly that often when somebody is out of office, that person goes to jail or gets shot, and the notion of seeing these two women from different parties who had succeeded, one succeeded the other, be there together, be civil and friendly, beyond civil, was a very important message to send. Do you think we'll see a more assertive michelle obama in the second term? She has been in her own way. The crack about being put in boxes, that's true. And everybody says she's doing these things. It's very significant. Thank you very much, cokie, rick, donna, george. Appreciate it.

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

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