On Sunday, CNN’s Inside Politics spent several minutes hyping the supposed headache Tea Partiers could give GOP leadership despite the Republican Party winning their 54th Senate seat following Saturday’s runoff in Louisiana.
During the discussion, Robert Costa of The Washington Post insisted that Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is trying “to govern responsibly and he wants to set the party up for major gains in '16. And that started in 2014 by pushing back the Tea Party and it starts now by making sure that all the passions and eagerness in the House don't overtake the party.”
The segment began with host John King arguing that despite the GOP controlling both houses of Congress “gas prices are down. Friday's job numbers were robust. The president's executive actions on immigration are stoking the Republican civil war and has promised now to take steps to narrow the trust deficit between law enforcement and African Americans offers a chance to be, well, presidential.”
For the next several minutes, the panel discussed possible legislative deals that Congress and President Obama could make in 2015 before they turned to how the Tea Party will factor into any future negotiations.
After Costa insisted that GOP leaders want to reign in the Tea Party, Julie Hirschfeld Davis of The New York Times continued to hype how the Tea Party could hurt any negotiations between Congress and the White House:
McConnell is over there and he has his conference, he has a much tighter rein on that conference than in recent months we've seen Speaker Boehner has on his conference on the House side. And so he can make moves like he's going to make on the immigration executive order that are to sort of shore himself up on his right flank and make sure that those people aren't going to be in open rebellion.
Rather than push back at the anti-Tea Party sentiments, host John King concluded by throwing some fuel to the fire:
I want to show our viewers a picture that i think they love at the White House and they don't like if you're Speaker Boehner or leader McConnell. And that is that picture we had in the open, Ted Cruz standing around with a bunch of Tea Party members, conservatives in the House. This is great for us if you're political journalists, this is great for us. But how much of this is a real threat to the Republicans getting their act together and doing things --Or how much of it is just a nuisance?
See relevant transcript below.
CNN’s Inside Politics
December 7, 2014
JOHN KING: Welcome to Inside Politics I'm John King, thanks for sharing your Sunday morning. And with us to share their reporting and their insights, Julie Hirschfeld Davis of The New York Times, Robert Costa of The Washington Post, Jonathan Martin of The New York Times and Nia-Malika Henderson of The Washington Post. After a miserable 2014, here's a question to consider this Sunday morning. Does President Obama have an opportunity to end the year on a high note or at least on more stable political ground?
Yes, there's one more big democratic loss, the Louisiana Senate runoff. We know Republicans will have 54 seats, that’s up from 45, when the new Congress convenes next month. But, gas prices are down. Friday's job numbers were robust. The president's executive actions on immigration are stoking the Republican civil war and has promised now to take steps to narrow the trust deficit between law enforcement and African Americans offers a chance to be, well, presidential.
BARACK OBAMA: Beyond the specific issue that has to be addressed, making sure people have confidence, that police and law enforcement and prosecutors are serving everybody equally, there's the larger question of restoring a sense of common purpose.
KING: What to that question, he had a miserable year. 2014 will be a year he hopes to forget. But as it ends and as people start to think about a Republican Congress, you see even in the polls people saying, you know, they want them to get along and they think the Republicans ,you know, get in the president's way too much. Do they sense at the White House they can at least end the year on a better note?
JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS: I think at the White House they hope that looking toward a Republican Congress where Republicans feel some responsibility for governing that they really can get to a place where there's a little more room for deal making. But listen, they're realistic about the prospects of that. I mean, a lot of the things they can work with Republicans on, taxes and trade, it's going to be a very tough road to hoe. I do think that what's happened in Ferguson and with the sort of racial tensions boiling over around the country, the president does see an opportunity to play a coming together role, a unifying role. And in that respect, I think he does think he can end the year on a higher note to try to give a hopeful tone to next year.
JONATHAN MARTIN: And that will be full circle for this president. As somebody who began his career nationally in politics, in that famous speech in Boston John in 2004 saying there is no red and blue America. If he was to end his presidency with some efforts of racial reconciliation, it would sort of be a very symmetrical Obama era there.
KING: And it would be good for the country, don't get me wrong, it would be great for the country if he could have that conversation and narrow that trust gap, but would it also in some ways be an admission that he has to do bigger, outside of Washington things now. Important things, don't get me wrong, but because to your point, is he going to cut a grand bargain with the Republicans? Are we going to get big tax reform? Are they get to reach an agreement to significant changes to health care or anything else?
NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON: Yeah, hard to see and of that happening. I mean, if you look at sort of the goals from Republicans and the goals from Democrats, I mean, there’s so much daylight between them, it's hard to see that they’re going to be able to get anything done other than these very small ball issues. In terms of Obama and race and sort of racial reconciliation, sure, I think a lot of people would like to see that. Certainly he catapulted himself to national prominence with this promise. Almost a post-racial promise, right? But in reality, I think, you know, a lot of these incidents have really shown a divide. And also, when Obama talks about things, often times they get worse.
KING: But what does it tell us that after the election sometimes you have a cooling off period. Everybody sort of goes off, tries to cool down, see if we can get anything done. Mitch McConnell did come to the White House, had a private meeting with the president. Came out and said, we’ll see what we can get done. But if you listen to the public comments from Speaker Boehner, soon-to-be Majority Leader McConnell, they’re still poking the president. Speaker Boehner, you saw in the opening, you know, every time he opens his mouth, his proposals become less popular. And listen to Mitch McConnell this past week saying this election is a butt-kicking for the president.
MITCH MCCONNELL: If you look at the way the president reacted to what could only be described as a butt-kicking election. So I've been perplexed by the reaction since the election as sort of in your face, dramatic move to the left.
KING: Boehner and McConnell by DNA, at least their own DNA, were deal makers, they liked to cut deals in their prior [sic]. Is this proof though Robert that they know they got the grassroot conservatives, the Tea Party guys and others looking over their shoulder? So in public anyway, Boehner and McConnell feel the need to kind of have his anti-Obama bravado?
ROBERT COSTA: Sure, but there’s a new class of Republicans who are coming to Capitol Hill. And I think as much as some of the old passions from the Tea Party remain inside of the GOP, there's a pragmatic strain, and a streak that we're seeing emerging. And McConnell, Boehner, these are people who want to make deals. They’ve made deals in the past. Look for Vice President Biden to be a key player in trying to work with the Senate Majority Leader.
MARTIN: You know, Obama has always been his most productive, and frankly Washington has been at its best, which ain’t saying much, in these lame duck periods. Right? Under the last few years, that’s when stuff gets done. And why is that? Well it’s no coincidence it’s because that's typically when the sort of swords hanging over the collective neck of Washington. You have to get things done before deadlines. It says a lot about how gridlocked this city is. But this is always a pretty ripe season for progress relatively thinking.
KING: And what are we learning? I’m sorry, go ahead.
HENDERSON: And the White House certainly sees that. I was in the White House a couple days ago, they very much see Mitch McConnell as a dealmaker, as the adult in the room, as somebody who they can go to and get stuff done with. Of course, in a lot of ways Vice President Biden has been the point person in that but they see Mitch McConnell in a positive way in many ways.
MARTIN: And keep in mind, Mitch McConnell, I spent a lot of time with him this summer writing about him, this is somebody who is probably in his last term. He's in his 70s. This is his chance to really create a legacy for himself. Yes, he's a partisan. But as you mentioned, he's also a dealmaker. He wants to get something done with this president in the final two years. It might not be a big deal, on entitlements on tax reform but he certainly wants to create some kind of a legacy for himself before he retires.
KING: We talk about the Obama/McConnell relationship -- the McConnell/Boehner relationship. The Speaker by Constitution is more powerful. John Boehner is the country's top ranking Republican. But is in some ways, Mitch McConnell, as the new leader in town, almost more important to whether this works?
COSTA: I would argue, yes. And one of the things I've seen on Capitol Hill since the election, I've been there almost every day, is there's a new dynamic in Republican power. The House majority led by Speaker Boehner used to be calling the shots day in and day out. Now you have McConnell with -- running the -- prepared to run the U.S. Senate. And he's the one who seems to be playing point guard for the party. And he is the party leader with Boehner, of course, but McConnell I think wants to govern responsibly and he wants to set the party up for major gains in '16. And that started in 2014 by pushing back the Tea Party and it starts now by making sure that all the passions and eagerness in the House don't overtake the party.
DAVIS: And in a lot of ways, that helps Boehner, right? Because McConnell is over there and he has his conference, he has a much tighter rein on that conference than in recent months we've seen Speaker Boehner has on his conference on the House side. And so he can make moves like he's going to make on the immigration executive order that are to sort of shore himself up on his right flank and make sure that those people aren't going to be in open rebellion. But McConnell will be there saying, here's the plan, here's what we can do and driving toward what can be a pragmatic set of accomplishments.
KING: To that point, I want to show our viewers a picture that i think they love at the White House and they don't like if you're Speaker Boehner or leader McConnell. And that is that picture we had in the open, Ted Cruz standing around with a bunch of Tea Party members, conservatives in the House. This is great for us if you're political journalists, this is great for us. But how much of this is a real threat to the Republicans getting their act together and doing things --
COSTA: I was there.
KING: Or how much of it is just a nuisance?
COSTA: I was at the rally and I’ve been at Tea Party rallies for four years. This was a small Tea Party rally. There were probably about 30 or 40 people there and the rest were cameras and reporters. The conservatives still have a lot of power in Congress. But they are not the power. And I think that's something conservatives the are trying to grapple with right now.
KING: Vocal but we will see if they have less juice in 2015, I guess that’s the question as we watch this play out.