SUNDAY: Chris will sit down for an exclusive interview with OMB Director Mick Mulvaney.
Transcript: Bipartisan Blue Ribbon Panel
Written by Chris Wallace / Published February 01, 2010 / Fox News Sunday
The following is a rush transcript of the January 31, 2010, edition of "Fox News Sunday With Chris Wallace." This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
CHRIS WALLACE, ANCHOR: I'm Chris Wallace, and this is "Fox News Sunday."
The president turns his focus to jobs and the economy. Can the White House and Congress get people back to work?
And now that New York City seems out, where will the administration hold those terror trials?
As the president reaches across the aisle, we convene our own bipartisan group — for the Democrats, Senator Evan Bayh and Congressman Chris Van Hollen; for the Republicans, Senator Lamar Alexander and Congressman Paul Ryan.
Then, the president's rare on-camera give-and-take with House Republicans.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(UNKNOWN): And I think a lot of Americans were disappointed.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: It can't be all or nothing, one way or the other.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: We'll ask our Sunday panel if Mr. Obama wants to deal or just win the argument.
And our Power Player of the Week, a young man who tells Washington's top reporters when they're wrong, all right now on "Fox News Sunday."
And hello again from Fox News in Washington. The new focus here in the capital is on job creation, and there was some good news Friday about strong fourth quarter growth.
Joining us now to talk about the economy, the president's revised agenda and more are four key congressional players.
And, gentlemen, welcome back to "Fox News Sunday."
(UNKNOWN): Thank you.
(UNKNOWN): Good to be here.
WALLACE: Let's start with the big picture.
Congressman Ryan, as the top Republican on the House Budget Committee, you called the president's State of the Union speech insincere and then you added this, "Instead of changing course, he inched his rhetoric a bit to the middle while doubling down on the substance of policies he's been pushing all along."
Now, the president proposed a spending freeze. He proposed tax credits. He proposed eliminating the capital gains tax for all investment and small business. To paraphrase him in the State of the Union, why aren't you guys applauding?
REP. PAUL RYAN, R-WIS.: The spending freeze is on top of an 84 percent increase of domestic discretionary spending that he signed into law. The freeze is delayed one year. So this really isn't fiscal discipline. It's the rhetoric of fiscal discipline but the policy of the opposite.
So the tax credit idea that he's talking about — when that's been tried before in the Carter administration, it didn't work. So we're looking at what works to grow the economy, and this doesn't work.
And more importantly, the debt and the deficit is just getting out of control. And the administration is still pumping through billions upon trillions of new spending. That does not grow the economy. If borrowing and spending all this money led to more jobs, then we'd be at full employment already.
WALLACE: Senator Bayh, you voted — I was interested to learn you voted against President Obama more than any other Senate Democrat, especially on spending bills.
And a couple of weeks ago you said your party is tone deaf in understanding the message that voters are sending. Do you think the president and now, separately, congressional Democrats — do you think they now get it, that they understand the message that voters have been sending them?
SEN. EVAN BAYH, D-IND.: Well, I hope so, Chris. And I think the president's State of the Union suggests that we are heading in a better direction. I mean, we can all criticize what happened last year under the previous administration, but I think the real question is where do we go from here.
I think a freeze on domestic discretionary spending is a good step in the right direction. I think the president's pledge to veto spending bills that go beyond his pledge to restrain Congress is a good step. A commission to restrain long-term debt, where we have bipartisan solutions - - I know Lamar voted for that. I voted for that. That's an example.
John McCain and I last week put out some suggestions, taking some of Paul's good ideas about how to restrain spending.
So it was a wake-up call, but whether we actually get the message and do the tough things to implement what needs to be done — that remains to be seen. I think — I took the president's speech as a hopeful sign that we're heading in a better direction.
WALLACE: Senator Alexander, you're chairman of the Republican Conference in the Senate. When you see, as we mentioned a moment ago, the U.S. economy growing at almost 6 percent in the fourth quarter — that's the fastest pace in six years — don't the stimulus and some of his policies deserve at least some of the credit?
SEN. LAMAR ALEXANDER, R-TENN.: I don't think so. I mean, the — it's growing from a low base, and the — but give the president some — I will give the president some credit. He's in the right church but the wrong pew is the way I would say it.
I mean, he's talking about jobs. He's talking about tax cuts. But as Paul pointed out, the specific things he's talking about I don't think work as well. The idea of some leaving out the payroll tax for a year, payroll tax holiday — that might help. But the idea of spending TARP to pay for this — that won't help. We should be...
WALLACE: That's the — that's the...
ALEXANDER: ... we should be...
WALLACE: ... that's the money...
ALEXANDER: ... ending...
WALLACE: ... that's been repaid...
ALEXANDER: ... we should be ending the bank bailout.
WALLACE: If I may, the TARP is the — is the money that was spent for the bank bailout...
WALLACE: ... and he wants to use some of the money that was paid back to continue for job...
ALEXANDER: And the bank bailout was a loan. It's been paid back. It ought to be used to reduce the debt. We ought not to be pretending to spend it. We ought to be ending the bank bailout.
WALLACE: Congressman Van Hollen, you have a tough job. You're in charge of the committee that is going to try to elect more Democrats to Congress in November.
You have to be keenly aware if this is a recovery, it's a jobless recovery, at least in the minds of most Americans. Unemployment is still 10 percent.
And Republicans, including these Republicans, say a big reason is that — is that employers are afraid of the uncertainty, the policy uncertainty, here in Washington — is Congress — is the president going to impose new taxes, are they going to impose more regulation — that it's not a good climate for more hiring.
REP. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN, D-MD.: Well, look. We have been focused on jobs from day one. The economic recovery bill, the stimulus bill, has seen a dramatic turnaround, the fastest turnaround that you've seen in three decades.
I mean, a year ago this month the economy was plummeting down at a rate of 6.5 percent. We just saw the GDP numbers going up. You have to believe in the tooth fairy to believe that that had no impact, the recovery bill had no impact.
And you see a lot of our House Republican members going to ground- breaking ceremonies and ribbon-cutting ceremonies around the country who voted against the stimulus bill. Those projects wouldn't be happening if they had had their way.
When it comes to retirement accounts and the stock market, they've risen in value $2 trillion. And when it comes to jobs, we were losing jobs at the rate of 750,000 a month a year ago — a tenth as many.
So we are making progress. We're on the upswing. That is why the president has focused on a jobs acceleration plan. We have adopted one in the House. We hope the Senate will follow suit.
WALLACE: Well, all right. We've got — set the table. We've got you all involved in the conversation. There's a lot that you've talked about. Let's pick up on it.
First of all, Senator Bayh, Congressman Ryan, this question is to whether or not the spending freeze and the president's ideas for fiscal discipline are real or a sham. Go at it.
BAYH: Well, I mean, if you look — I suspect Paul does not, but if you look at some of the far left-wing blogs and that kind of thing, they're severely criticizing the president for being too fiscally austere.
My own take on this is it's — Paul's right. Domestic discretionary spending increased last year. I voted against the omnibus. I voted against the minibus. I voted against the — so — but that's last year.
The question is where do we go from — here from now. This freeze is important. He's identified $20 billion which, if you aggregate it over the next 10 years, is $250 billion less spending. Does that solve all our problems? No. But it's a step in the right direction.
And his use of the veto pen — you asked me if it was a wake-up call, Chris. It is. But it's important Congress not hit the snooze button. So we need to implement these cuts and then look for long- term solutions to actually get spending and the deficit down.
RYAN: Look, a freeze is good, but — so why delay it a year? I mean, the president's saying, "Don't do a freeze now. Do it next year." And what matters in Congress when it comes to the budget is the first year spending levels set by Congress. And so we're delaying that.
So we just did an 84 percent increase in a very short period of time of all this new spending. The Democrats, since they took over Congress, increased domestic discretionary spending by $1.4 trillion. So there is so much spending going out the door, it's adding to the deficit. It's adding to the debt.
Economists are now telling us, "Stop doing all of this spending. Get your handle on the debt and the deficit and lower tax rates for employers, for workers. That's the best way to grow the economy." And so that's what we're seeing. We're seeing the rhetoric of fiscal discipline, but we're not seeing the follow-through on the policy.
WALLACE: There are a couple of things I want to pick up on there.
Congressman Van Hollen, it was interesting when the president said, "I'm going to have this spending freeze," in the State of the Union and then said, "And it will start next year." Frankly, some of the members, and I think primarily Republicans, laughed at him.
If it is so urgent, why not start with this budget, which he isn't submitting until this week?
VAN HOLLEN: Because the president understands that the most important thing you do today to address the deficit is to get the economy going. You've got to get jobs back. You've got to get the economy going.
One of the biggest factors in the out-year projected deficits is the continuing drag from the economic downturn.
So job number one is to get the economy going, and that's why we passed the recovery bill. That's why we've seen the most rapid turnaround in terms of GDP over a one-year period for three decades. And at the same time, you put in place the measures to make sure that you reduce the deficit over the out years.
Now, the Senate just passed a pay-as-you-go bill, statutory pay as you go, which constrains spending. It was a very important moment. The House has passed it. Unfortunately, our Republican colleagues oppose it.
But I think most families understand the concept that if you have a budget, and you're going to increase it somewhere else, you've got to find offsets or some other way to pay for it. It's a very simple concept, a very conservative concept.
And that, along with the commission and other ideas — the freeze on domestic non-security domestic spending — is a good idea.
RYAN: Chris, this is — this is a good difference between just where we are on policy. We don't think taking all this money out of the private economy up to Washington and spending it through Washington is the way to create jobs. We believe we should keep that money in the economy.
Look, the Democrats last year waived about $400 billion in spending on pay-go. Pay-go, when it's actually applied...
WALLACE: We should explain, pay-go means that if you're going to...
RYAN: Pay as you go.
WALLACE: ... if you're going to spend something that you find a way to pay for it so it doesn't add to the deficit.
RYAN: It usually just leads to tax increases, which is harmful for job creation.
WALLACE: Yeah, but wait, wait, wait. Let me — let me — and I want to bring Senator — I want to bring Senator Alexander into this for a minute, though.
With all due respect, Republicans always say the answer — across-the- board tax cuts. That's always the answer. That's what, as a matter of fact, Mike Pence, one of the leaders of your — of the Republican Caucus said to the president on Friday.
You've had across-the-board tax cuts that turned our huge budget surplus into a huge deficit, and it didn't stop us from getting into this mess.
ALEXANDER: Well, there are a whole series of steps we ought to take to create jobs. One is to reduce taxes instead of increasing them. Another is cheap energy instead of a national energy tax. Another is reduce health care costs instead of $2.5 trillion in new spending...
WALLACE: But would you give an across-the-board tax cut, I mean, to people making a billion dollars a year?
ALEXANDER: Today I wouldn't give that tax cut. Today I would — I would have tax cuts for — I would eliminate the capital gains tax, number one.
Number two, I wouldn't increase any taxes as they now are scheduled to be done.
Number three, I'd give a payroll tax holiday, and that would be that part of it.
And then I'd join with the president, who moved a little bit toward the Republican position on cheap energy, nuclear power, offshore drilling, energy R&D, electric cars, and say, "Let's have cheap energy instead of a national energy tax."
WALLACE: I want to — I want to pick up on something, because you all talk about debt, and you all talk about the deficit and doing something about it.
Senator Alexander, you and Senator Bayh, as he mentioned, voted for a congressional debt commission that would get together and try to do something on a bipartisan basis about the deficit. You voted for it. It went down in the Senate.
And the president said one of the reasons it went down is because seven Republican senators who originally co-sponsored it flipped and voted against it. How are we going to get anything done with that kind of politics?
ALEXANDER: Bring it back up. Now, let's think about this. The president gave a half-hearted endorsement for that over the weekend, not even mentioning it by name. It had 17 Republican senators who support it, and the president has 60 Democrats. Any effective president with 60 men and women on his side in the Senate who has 17 Republicans for an important idea ought to be able to pass it.
VAN HOLLEN: Come on, Chris. I mean, here you had a situation where these Republican senators had co-sponsored the legislation and for purely political reasons voted against it at the end of the day.
Look, the fact of the matter is the Republicans have said that their solution is, once again, big tax cuts disproportionally focused on helping the very wealthy. Those are the tax cuts that got us into this fix to begin with — unpaid-for war in Iraq and the fact that these guys voted for a prescription drug bill that was unpaid for, the largest expansion in...
WALLACE: All right. Wait, wait.
(UNKNOWN): It was a trillion dollar bill.
WALLACE: OK, but, gentlemen, gentlemen, we could go on and on.
WALLACE: Let me — as I said to you, let me just play traffic cop here. And I want to ask a specific question, and then we've got to turn to health care, which we haven't even mentioned yet.
Senator Alexander, the president says given the fact that this isn't - - hasn't passed, the congressional debt commission, that he has signed an executive order to create a presidential commission. It will have Republican members, Democratic members.
If he's asked — if you're asked, will you be willing to serve on the presidential commission on debt?
ALEXANDER: I would say, "Mr. President, don't waste your time on it." It'll be just a gesture. President Bush had tax commission. We paid no attention to it. It will be partisan. It wouldn't involve the Congress. It's not self-enforcing.
Go back to Senator McConnell and to the Republicans and to the Democrats, get seven more Democrats to vote for the debt commission that 17 Republicans...
WALLACE: Why can't you get seven more Republicans?
ALEXANDER: Well, we can work on that. But if you're the president, and you're the agenda-setter, and you have 60 votes, and you want to pass something, and I offer you 17 Republicans, you ought to be able to do it.
WALLACE: And, Congressman Ryan, would you serve on the debt commission?
RYAN: Sure, but I think...
WALLACE: Yes, you would?
RYAN: ... Senator Alexander is concerned...
WALLACE: Wait, wait. Yes, you would?
RYAN: I would if I was asked to serve on it. But here's the problem. The president more politicized this commission. The author of the commission, Senator Gregg, is now opposing it because the president made it more Democratically tilted so that the president — all of his appointees and elected Democrats can move the thing forward, so it's really not a bipartisan commission in all practical purposes.
BAYH: Chris, can I say something here?
BAYH: And I think it's unfortunate the kind of blame-laying that's going on here. Your question put the onus right where it belonged. Lamar Alexander did the right thing supporting this. I supported it. We had bipartisan support. The president endorsed it — maybe at the last minute, but he endorsed it.
The problem was a few members in the Senate who flipped position because of short-term political considerations. And the tragedy is whoever's in charge, Democrats or Republicans are going to be right back in the same place having to address these issues.
We've got to get this finger-pointing out of the way and get enough of our members, Democrats and Republicans, to step up and support this thing.
WALLACE: All right.
(UNKNOWN): I think we should just do our jobs...
WALLACE: Wait, wait, wait. We've got to talk...
WALLACE: Gentlemen, we've got to talk health care.
Congressman Van Hollen, is comprehensive health care reform dead for this year? When is the House going to bring it back up? And are you now looking toward smaller incremental bills?
VAN HOLLEN: No, it's not dead. We're in conversations with the Senate to figure out how we may be able to structure something. Certainly, there...
VAN HOLLEN: We're still looking at a way to do comprehensive legislation. Certainly, certain provisions have to be dropped out. The Nebraska deal and other portions of that — even Senator Nelson has said he doesn't want that in the bill. So there are certainly changes that need to be made.
And people were justifiably upset about certain things like that deal. But the goal is still to try to get comprehensive health care passed.
WALLACE: And finally, Congressman Ryan, Republicans keep saying they have their own plan and that they, in fact, can do more...
RYAN: That's right.
WALLACE: ... for less.
RYAN: That's right.
WALLACE: But let's look at the facts, and let's put them up on the screen. According to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, the House Republican plan would extend coverage to 3 million people by 2019, leaving 52 million uninsured.
And your health plan, because you have it in your own budget, would give a refundable tax credit of $5,700 to families to buy coverage. The average family policy costs $13,000 a year.
RYAN: Well, we do lots of things to bring down the cost of that, including high-risk pools so that people with pre-existing conditions can get affordable care.
Under the bill that I proposed with Senator Coburn, Burr and Congressman Nunes, we would get to universal coverage. We have much higher coverage numbers than the other bill you were talking about.
The point is Republicans have offered dozens of comprehensive health care plans, many of which achieve comprehensive health care reform without breaking what's working in health care. We have want to fix what's broken in health care.
WALLACE: OK. We have to take a break here.
But when we come back, with the Obama administration rethinking New York City as the venue for the 9/11 terror trials, does the president need a reset on his national security policy? Some answers from our bipartisan blue-ribbon panel in a moment.
WALLACE: And we're back now with Senator Bayh, Congressman Ryan, Congressman Van Hollen and Senator Alexander.
Senator Alexander, it seems almost certain the administration is going to move the trial of the 9/11 suspects out of New York City. Where should they hold it? And should it be in a federal civilian court or a military commission?
ALEXANDER: Military commission. We have to make a distinction between a kid who breaks into a sandwich shop in Detroit and a Nigerian terrorist who wants to blow up an airplane flying into Detroit.
And this — and the Congress this past year carefully went over the military commission provisions and increased the protections, made sure they were fair. And we have them for that purpose.
We need to find out from terrorists like the Christmas Day bomber what else he knows. What we found out is the best way to prevent airplanes from blowing up with Americans on them is to find out in advance.
And the failure to interrogate the Christmas Day bomber, the idea of trying the 9/11 architect in the middle of New York City — all of those show a reluctance to separate enemy combatants and American citizens who commit crimes.
WALLACE: Senator Bayh, while the White House does seem to be caving on the idea of New York City, in their new budget which they're going to submit this week there's going to be $200 million to provide backup for things like security for any city that holds civilian trials.
Will you vote for or against that $200 million to hold civilian trials for terror detainees in the U.S.?
BAYH: Chris, with the kind of budget deficits that we're currently running — you know, we had a discussion about this before the break — it's hard to justify spending more money on a trial in a location when you can have it someplace else.
Look, I think we ought to have three criteria. Number one, where can we try them safely? Where can we try them quickly? And where can we try them inexpensively? I'm for whichever venue accomplishes those things. And I think this is one of those things that sounded good in theory but in practice doesn't work so well.
WALLACE: So you at this point...
BAYH: I don't think we should spend any more money than is absolutely necessary to try these guys. We ought to try them quickly. We ought to impose harsh sentences, including the death penalty for people who've killed Americans. Those are my criteria.
WALLACE: So you would not support $200 million to cities for civilian trials in federal court?
BAYH: No. If there's somewhere we can try them without spending that money, why spend the money? We've got a lot of other fiscal problems.
WALLACE: Congressman Van Hollen, after the Christmas Day bomb attempt, you went after House Republicans, saying that they were trying to score political points and even raise money off a terror plot.
Going into the 2010 elections, do Democrats really want to be in the position of defending the handling of Abdulmutallab by the U.S. government and also civilian trials?
VAN HOLLEN: Look, this is an area that, unfortunately, I think we've seen our colleagues playing a lot of politics. And it was a fact that a number of members went right onto the Internet and tried to raise money.
Under the Bush administration, we used the federal courts and we used military commissions. Under the Obama administration, we're using federal courts and military commissions.
They are — they are using the military commissions for many of the people who have been detained at Guantanamo but, like the Bush administration, they've decided to use the federal courts for certain of the 9/11 perpetrators.
WALLACE: So would you — would you support $200 million in federal money to cities to hold civilian trials?
VAN HOLLEN: I agree with Senator Bayh that we shouldn't spent any more than necessary. It'd have to look at what the alternatives were in terms of...
WALLACE: Well, the alternative...
VAN HOLLEN: ... bringing thee people to justice.
WALLACE: ... is a military commission.
VAN HOLLEN: Well, no, but you — I don't think that we should decide — make the very important judgment of whether it's a military commission or a federal court based on dollars and cents. Those are much more important decisions, much more important considerations, than that. We should clearly find the area where you don't have to spend as much for federal court versus another — you know, one in New York City versus somewhere else.
But I do believe that if you look at the Bush administration record, they tried — we all know; it's a matter of record — Moussaoui and other of the 9/11 perpetrators, the — he was the 20th hijacker — the shoe bomber — these are all people who were tried in federal courts.
And all the Obama administration has said is, "We're going to pick the venue which most likely results in success in putting these people away." Sometimes it's federal courts. Sometimes it's the commissions.
WALLACE: It seems clear that Attorney General Holder made the call both to hold these civilian trials of Abdul — I mean, rather, of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and others in New York City; also to read Abdulmutallab his Miranda rights.
I want to ask you all, do you still have confidence in Attorney General Holder, or do you think that he should step down?
RYAN: I think he's...
WALLACE: ... I'll start with you.
RYAN: ... making the wrong decisions. We...
WALLACE: I'm sorry, go ahead.
RYAN: I think he's making the wrong decisions. We should have learned from the mistakes we made in the past. We shouldn't be Mirandizing foreign terrorists. We should send them to military tribunals. $200 million is about four times the startup cost of Guantanamo in the first place.
So this is a mistake. He's making the wrong decisions. And he's going to give Khalid Sheikh Mohammed a propaganda tool that's going to help the terrorists and not help U.S. citizens.
WALLACE: Do you think that Attorney General Holder should step down?
RYAN: I wouldn't have hired him in the first place.
WALLACE: Do you think he should step down?
RYAN: That's up to the president to decide.
WALLACE: Senator Alexander?
ALEXANDER: I think he ought to step up to Congress and admit, if he did it, that he's the one who made those decisions. Right now he's doing a better job of interrogating CIA employees than he is of interrogating terrorists. And he's not making a distinction between enemy combatants, the terrorists who are flying into Detroit, blowing up plans, and American citizens who are committing a crime.
That's what — he needs to go to Congress and say, "I made that decision. Here's why." And based on that, perhaps he should step down. But he ought to go to Congress and tell us who made that decision. We don't know that yet, and we've asked that question many times.
WALLACE: Senator Bayh?
BAYH: Well, the attorney general is a good man. None of us are perfect. And I think the decision to have these trials in New York, as I said, sounded good in theory way back when but, in practice, it just was not the right thing to do.
So we run the risk here of elevating form over substance. As I said, we ought to have three criteria — where can you try them quick, where can you try them as inexpensively as possible, and where do you not jeopardize American security any more than absolutely necessary.
And we ought to choose that location and that type of trial that accomplishes those things.
WALLACE: Congressman Van Hollen, do you stand by Attorney General Holder even in the decision to read Abdulmutallab his Miranda rights after only 50 minutes of FBI interrogation?
VAN HOLLEN: Chris, I don't know all the circumstances of that. What I do know is that the FBI agents who interrogated him, who are the best in the world, said that they got the information that they needed, and he will certainly be convicted as a result of the court proceedings...
WALLACE: You had the former CIA director in the paper today, Michael Hayden, saying it's not a matter of conviction, a matter of getting intelligence, and there's no way you can get a proper interrogation in 50 minutes.
VAN HOLLEN: My understanding, again, based on the statements of the FBI investigators, is they got what they needed. Now, I wasn't there. I don't know.
But what I do know is that it's unfortunate that we see some people calling for Eric Holder to step down when he has been making the same decisions with respect to federal courts for some of the terror suspects versus military commissions, as the Bush administration did.
And the same people who are calling for his resignation didn't call for the resignation of those Bush officials. That's politics.
WALLACE: Congressman Ryan, you participated in that remarkable session on Friday with the president where, for 90 minutes, you, the House Republicans and the president went at it. Here was the president's core message. Let's watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: They didn't send us to Washington to fight each other in some sort of political steel cage match to see who comes out alive.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Congressman, do you think, from what you saw there, that the president was looking for real compromise and was showing some flexibility on substance or just looking to score political points?
RYAN: Look, I think it was great. I'm really happy he came. It was refreshing. It was a good start. That's the first time I and just about every one of my colleagues have had the chance to have a policy conversation with the president. I've never talked policy with him before. So that was fantastic.
2009 was a year of sort of one-party domination, jam things through. Let's just hope that this is a new year of getting things done.
The one thing that came out of that is the president actually acknowledged we've been advocating substantive alternatives all year long. So all this business of the "party of no" has been nullified because the president acknowledged we've been putting up, you know, detailed alternative policies.
And so to me, that's the beginning of a new relationship, hopefully. Rhetoric was good. Let's see if it's followed up by substance.
WALLACE: The president also said that Republicans are unfairly portraying his proposals, his agenda. Let's watch that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: But if you were to listen to the debate and, frankly, how some of you went after this bill, you'd think that this thing was some Bolshevik plot. I am not an ideologue. I'm not.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Senator Alexander?
ALEXANDER: It was hatched in a strange place, I'll say that. I mean, anything that spends $2.5 trillion when fully implemented, cuts Medicare, raises premiums, sends the states a big bill for the Medicaid expansion — that deserves to be voted against and characterized as a bad idea, which we did.
WALLACE: Do you think he's an ideologue?
ALEXANDER: You know, in many ways no. But I think he doesn't think he's an ideologue, but I think he approaches things in the way a professor would in terms of big comprehensive schemes when, in fact, the way the big, complicated country we have works best — when we solve problems step-by- step.
WALLACE: Let's turn to — I mean, we've been skirting around it, but let's talk just some politics with a capital "P" here.
Congressman Van Hollen, as we've said, you're in charge of electing more Democrats to the House this year. In the wake of the November loss in New Jersey and Virginia, in the wake of Scott Brown's victory in Massachusetts, how much trouble is your party in?
VAN HOLLEN: The party's not in trouble, but at the same time we need to recognize what's on the mind of the American people, which is jobs, which is why the president and the Congress will be focused on a jobs acceleration package going forward, why we're going to make sure we try and pass the Wall Street accountability bill so that we don't have the taxpayers left holding the bag again in the future if you have bad decisions on Wall Street.
And the president's made a proposal to make sure that the taxpayer gets all those monies back at the end of the day, and we're hoping our Republican colleagues will join us in that.
So I think if we focus on the fundamental issues — and by the way, we all know health care reform is essential to bring down the deficit over the long period of time. All my colleagues would acknowledge that. So I think that if we focus on that, we will be in good shape going forward.
It's always going to be a difficult election year, the first midterm for a new president. We understand that. But let's focus on the fundamentals.
And if I just could, the president's point was not that the Republicans don't have any ideas. He pointed out he had incorporated some of them, like tax cuts, as part of the stimulus bill.
But what he was saying is, "Let's not go back to the same ideas that got us into the mess to begin with," for example, big tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.
We've got less than a minute left and I want to end it with you, Congressman Ryan, because the president had some nice things to say about you at Friday's session. Let's watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: You know, I think Paul Ryan's a pretty sincere guy and has a beautiful family.
And by the way, in case he's going to get a Republican challenge, I didn't mean it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Now, there's something else we need to add to the mix, and that is that we have found out that you are speaking at two Republican fundraisers in New Hampshire in the next few weeks. When you look in the mirror, do you see a president staring back at you?
RYAN: No. No, I do not. And I am not running for president. My good friend John Sununu asked me to come up there and help the party.
And by the way, I think that was the president's nefarious plot to get a primary challenge against me. I'm just joking (inaudible) those comments. That was great. It was — it was really nice to have him, pleased to have him. We just have a huge difference of opinion.
WALLACE: On the rare note of bipartisan good feeling, gentlemen, we want to thank you all so much for coming in. We very much appreciate it. And we'll see how much work Washington actually gets done this year.
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This week: We'll have an exclusive interview with Sen James Lankford (R-OK), member of the Appropriations, Homeland Security and Intelligence Committees.