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Can US trust Russia to disarm Syria's chemical weapons? Is fight over ObamaCare worth risk of a government shutdown?
Written by John Roberts / Published September 15, 2013 / Fox News Sunday
Special Guests: Rep. Michael McCaul, Rep. Chris Van Hollen, Rep. Tom Price
This is a rush transcript from "Fox News Sunday," September 15, 2013. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
JOHN ROBERTS, GUEST HOST: I'm John Roberts, in for Chris Wallace.
The U.S. and Russia hammer at a tentative deal on Syria after the president puts a vote and a strike on hold.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: This initiative has the potential to remove the threat of chemical weapons without the use of force.
SECRETARY OF STATE JOHN KERRY: The United States and Russia are committed to the elimination of Syrian chemical weapons in the soonest and safest manner.
ROBERTS (voice-over): But can we rely on the Russians to get Assad to comply?
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, R-ARIZ.: Now, the Russians are supposed to be the ones who are telling us that they would be in charge disarming the guy they are arming?
WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY JAY CARNEY: Russia has put its credibility on the line in pursuing this with us and others. And it's an important objective.
ROBERTS: And what does it mean for action in Congress? We'll discuss with Maryland Congressman Chris Van Hollen, and the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, Michael McCaul of Texas.
Plus, with a military strike on hold, Congress gets back to its battle over the budget. Our Sunday panel weighs in on the threats of a government shutdown.
All right now on "Fox News Sunday."
ROBERTS: You can actually hear those heads butt.
Hello again from Fox News in Washington.
What a difference a week makes. Just last Sunday, we were discussing the president's push to steer Congress to vote authorizing the use of force in Syria. Now, that's on hold waiting to see if a tentative deal Secretary of State John Kerry brokered this weekend with Russia will stand.
A draft agreement gives Syrian President Bashar Assad's government one week to submit a comprehensive listing of its chemical weapons stockpiles. It calls for Syria to destroy all of those weapons by the middle of next year and includes an agreement to work on a U.N. Security Council resolution that would allow for punishment if Assad does not comply but stops short of military action.
We'll discuss what that all means for action in Congress in just a moment. But first, to Greg Palkot. He is live in Damascus, Syria, this morning. He's been reporting on the story from the very beginning and has a look at the mood there in light of this weekend's developments.
Greg, good morning to you.
GREG PALKOT, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Hi, John.
We have been here in Damascus for about 24 hours, enough time to begin to get a sense of what is happening here.
Here is the front page of one of the state-run newspapers. As you can see, the deal regarding chemical weapons struck between Secretary of State Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov is on the front page. What we haven't heard yet is a details response of that deal as you say described as a draft agreement or a draft decision.
One of the reasons we decided to go out into the center of Damascus, to get a sense from the people here what they think of the various developments of the last couple of days, as is often happens here in Damascus, also accompanied by a representative of the government.
Take a look of what we saw, what we heard.
PALKOT: A busy weekend afternoon in Central Damascus with the threat of U.S. military strikes lessened, more people are out. But the war is not far from away. We can hear the artillery in the distance. So, there are new hopes with new talks for peace.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have this problem, and we didn't see that something wrong will happen in Syria.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (translator): And this man says no doubt this is a good step to solve the problem and fulfill the peace.
PALKOT (voice-over): It is hot so ice cream is selling fast, and there seems to be enough of it. War across this country is creating shortages of food supplies from rice to milk, and everything is more expensive. The U.N. says prices are up by 50 percent. Also costly and in short supply, essentials like fuel, gas can run at $9 a gallon.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As far as the problems, (INAUDIBLE) end in the -- Damascus.
PALKOT: In fact, this busy market, one of the oldest in ancient Damascus, is just about 15 minutes from where a chemical weapon attack last month allegedly left hundreds dead.
While the shoppers make their rounds, they say, at least, they feel safe. All the while pictures of leader Bashar al Assad hang on walls and regime militia members lurk in the shadows.
A government official helped us with this translation: "Since we have a good leader and our army is controlling things," this young girl says, "We don't care about anything."
PALKOT: Again, the government presence here in Damascus is fairly constant. But what also is constant and cannot be spun is the sound of war. Throughout our visit, we have been hearing artillery blasts and air strikes hitting the outskirts of the city, and we've also been hearing some incoming. At least one mortar hit on a government building here in the center of the city -- a sign that government forces still are clashing with rebel forces in the outskirts of the city and maybe a little bit closer to the center of power, a sign that this war is far from over, John.
ROBERTS: And yet life still goes on there in the center part of Damascus.
Greg, the consensus opinion seemed to be that most people think this is a good thing. But do they really think that Assad will deliver on this agreement?
PALKOT: That's the big question, John. Over the past week, there have been some mixed signals coming from the regime. The foreign minister who first broached this chemical weapons deal, welcomed it, said that Syria would be signing on, gave some details about how Syria would be signing on, but also we've been hearing from conditions including from President Bashar al Assad in a media interview two days ago, saying that he has to be sure that the United States will not strike Syria and also that the United States would not arm what he calls the terrorists, the rebel forces.
So mixed signals, and that's one of the reasons why we are here in Damascus, to try to pin the regime down whether they will comply, John.
ROBERTS: Yes, obviously the war is the big issue here. Chemical weapons are a part of that. The United States has been trying to get the two sides to a peace table for a while now.
Is there some hope that this agreement might lead to some sort of peace conference, or could this potentially be a distraction from all of that?
PALKOT: It could be both of those things, John. We've been hearing both takes on this, that this could be a watershed moment. For the first time, at least according to a few analysts that I've been speaking to, you have the Syrian government, you have Bashar al Assad beginning to agree to an international track of negotiations even though, as you note, it is on the narrow measure of chemical weapons here. And that could, in fact, pave the way to more cooperation, not just between Syria and the outside world, but also the other folks that have to cooperate on this, including especially the United States and Russia and other countries in the region.
At the same time, though, it could very well just be a minor distraction. It could very well be just something that the Syrian government is doing to fend off a possible attack from the United States.
And again, as we have been hearing in our brief time here, there is no lull in the fighting between the folks on the ground here, John.
ROBERTS: Obviously a long way to go on all of this.
Greg Palkot doing some extraordinary reporting right from the center of things there in Damascus -- Greg, thanks so much.
Now to the mood in Washington. Joining us from Austin, Texas, is Congressman Michael McCaul who opposes military action against Syria. And here in the studio, Maryland Congressman Chris Van Hollen, who supports the president and is working on a use of force resolution should a vote still come to the House floor.
Congressman McCaul, let's start with you there in Texas. Do you have any hope that this is going to work?
REP. MICHAEL MCCAUL, R-TEXAS: Yes, we really have to, I think. As Americans, I think I've said from the beginning, the way to solve this crisis is to the chief objective should be to secure and destroy these chemical weapons.
Not picking sides. Both sides are not good actors. Assad is a dictator who used chemical weapons. Rebel forces have been infiltrated in large part by Al Qaeda factions.
The key threat in the region is the -- are the chemical weapons themselves. And I think this is a step forward, if you will. It will not be easy. I think the devil's in the details.
As Reagan said, trust but verify, but we owe this -- we need to do this because it can't be done without a shot fired and hopefully without any American troops being put on the ground. And so, I'm -- you know, we're going to take a look at this.
I do think that Putin is in a unique position rather than the president to get this done because of his leverage over Assad and over Syria. Putin has now come forward as a leader, and he owns this now. And I believe that that gives us the greatest ability to get this thing done.
ROBERTS: All right. We'll talk more about Putin in just a couple of minutes. But you mentioned Ronald Reagan.
And no question, Congressman Van Hollen, there's going to be a lot of heavy lifting if this is going to be successful.
Let's listen to what Secretary of State Kerry said about that in Geneva yesterday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KERRY: In the case of the Assad regime, President Reagan's old adage about trust but verify, that is in need of an update. And we have committed here to a standard that says "verify and verify."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: Verify and verify -- but how do you do that? Because as Greg Palkot showed us, life does go on in Damascus, but there is a war raging in the country. It's difficult to do something like this in peacetime.
REP. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN, D-MD.: Well, it is difficult, but there are clear benchmarks that you can have and if you don't reach those benchmarks, it will be clear that Assad is not living up to the agreement.
So, I think the path they've set forward, in other words, he has to declare a stockpile within one week. By November, you have inspectors in. By next year, you begin the destruction of the chemical weapons stockpile. Those are all benchmarks that can be verifiable and can be reached.
I do think it's important to point out and emphasize what the president and others have said, that we would not be at this point had it not been for the president's credible threat of a use of force. That's what brought the Russians to the table. That's what brought Assad to the table.
And the president laid out a very clear objective. He said he wanted to deter the future use of chemical weapons in Syria.
We now, in the space of a week, have gone from Assad denying he even had any chemical weapons to admitting them, that he's signing a convention on chemical weapons, that he's allowing international inspectors in there, and ultimately destroying them. Because the president said if you don't do that, we're going to come in and use force. In a limited way, but we're going to use force.
ROBERTS: You also have in a week gone from John Kerry making a credible case for war, to the president saying, no, I want to go to Congress, to John Kerry freelancing a question with what he thought was a rhetorical answer that became a proposal to the president giving a kind of a kitchen sink address on Tuesday. Are you happy with the way the administration kind of rode the horse through this whole thing?
VAN HOLLEN: John, I think there's going to be a lot of Monday morning quarterbacking on that. I look at results. And this result could not be more in line with the president's objective. In fact, we've gone beyond just deterring the future use of chemical weapons to a plan to actually destroy Assad's chemical weapons stockpile, which as Mike said, has been our national security interest in the region to begin with to get rid of those weapons of mass destruction in Syria.
ROBERTS: Congressman McCaul, weapons inspectors will go in at some point while the environment will be somewhat permissive from the Syrian government side of things. There is a war raging so they need protection.
Who is going to protect the weapons inspectors? Has there been any discussion of that? Will we see U.S. troops on the ground as part of this chemical weapons inspection team?
MCCAUL: We don't have all the details of that. I would hope that it would be mostly Russian forces on the ground. I think it's going to be very difficult, as you mentioned, going into a civil war situation, trying to remove and destroy chemical weapons is going to be extremely difficult. And, in addition to fact these rebel forces, who we have been arming, unfortunately, are there, and many are radical types, some jihadists. The opportunity for them to possibly take over some of these chemical weapons as the process goes forward. From a security standpoint, there's going to be a huge concern.
I do want to follow up to just one thing my colleague said. And I don't think this is a time for the White House to be boastful. I would exercise humility here that this threat that secretary called them unbelievably small military intervention won today.
I quite frankly think what won the day here was that Putin looked in his own backyard and realized that these policies that he saw in Egypt and Libya was going to happen in Syria, which could potentially fall to the Muslim Brotherhood and the extremists. And you know what? He decided it was time to step in and try to fix the problem.
When the president walked out of the G-20 Summit with all the international leaders, he only walked away with two that were willing to help him in this military effort, and it was Latvia and France. And so, I would, again, caution this administration to not do a victory lap here.
ROBERTS: I just want to zone in on one thing that he just said there. We hope the Russian troops would do it all. Congressman McCaul, if I could, do you not think we need to have U.S. forces there to verify? If we'd leave this in the hands of the Russians and Syrians, are we going to know for sure?
MCCAUL: It will be an international coalition of forces. There's no question. I want this to be not just a Russian solution, but an American solution.
But I'm a little wary about putting Americans in that situation as well. I do know the Russians have, again, the most leverage over Syria and Assad and can be most effective.
ROBERTS: All right.
VAN HOLLEN: We should have international inspectors on the ground, no Americans on the ground. And look, Mike --
ROBERTS: Would you support some U.S. troops being part of --
VAN HOLLEN: No, I don't think U.S. troops should be on the ground.
ROBERTS: At all?
VAN HOLLEN: This should be an international team that's inspecting and holding this accountable.
But look, there's a reason that the Russians went from vetoing every press release at the United Nations for three years, press releases that just mentioned chemical weapons, to getting Assad to get rid of those chemical weapons, at least put a plan in place to do that. The only factor that changed is that the president had the credible threat of force out there.
Putin was sitting there powerless. This is his big ally in the Middle East -- powerless to stop a potential limited U.S. strike. And the answer is that he helped deliver to the president everything that we wanted.
So, it is a good result, as Mike said, finally dealing with those chemical weapons, weapons of mass destruction, but let's not kid ourselves as to why this happened.
ROBERTS: To hear Rand Paul tell it, it was opposition to the use of force in Congress that brought Russia to the table.
But let me ask you this question, our James Rosen who was with John Kerry over the weekend asked Secretary Kerry if he thought Assad was going to live up to the agreement. Kerry told Rosen, quote, "We're going to have to make him."
But the U.S. has agreed not to put the threat of force in the United Nations resolution. Even France said that was an absolute requirement. So, where's the teeth?
VAN HOLLEN: Well, as you just said, I mean, the Russians, as I just said, the Russians have been blocking action at the Security Council when it comes to use of force. They've been exercising their veto. That hasn't changed in this agreement, but there is a process now set out.
So, what the administration has said is that it reserves the right to move forward, to enforce this in a limited way, with U.S. action. I do believe, John, that now that Syria and Russia have said we're going to agree to this particular destruction of chemical weapons, it's much easier for the president to rally both international and national support behind that goal because the Russians have now put this on the line. The Syrians have put this on the line. We have a clear objective.
If they turn out to violate that, there are other ways we can enforce them.
ROBERTS: And I know that you have a back-up resolution which would allow the use of force in the case this agreement doesn't come to fruition.
Congressman McCaul, do you think there would be the appetite in Congress to pass Congressman Van Hollen's resolution if Assad plays too many games here?
MCCAUL: You know, right now there's not a lot of appetite from the American people. The case has not been made to use force and put American troops on the ground. Having said that, I do believe that you get to the U.N. resolution, and there is an enforcement provision in there. They would have to go back and get an additional resolution that deals with security. Then, I think if Assad is violating those terms, then, you know, that's another issue.
But this is what I've been arguing all along is we should have been going to the international community to help with this issue, not go it alone. The president -- usually you rally the international consensus --
ROBERTS: The president did go to the international community, went to his closest ally, Britain, but they said, thanks, but no thanks.
MCCAUL: Isn't that interesting? And he has no persuasion over, you know, Britain. Britain backed out. The whole thing fell apart. Putin came in and said, you know what? It's in the global best interests to deal with this issue.
And I think, you know, working -- it's an odd scenario. Don't get me wrong here. But I do think that, again, Russia has the greatest leverage over Assad in Syria, and we need to be working with them to do that.
And, you know, to Chris's point, of course it's going to be an international coalition. You know, we don't want American troops on the ground in Syria in a civil war. But in a situation that had no good outcome about two weeks ago, we see actually something that I think could possibly be a good outcome down the road.
ROBERTS: Let me put the final question to Congressman Van Hollen.
Do you believe, as some members of Congress do, that Putin has outfoxed President Obama on all of this?
VAN HOLLEN: Well, if outfoxing means giving the president of the United States everything they asked for and more, maybe that's kind of outfoxing we need because, look -- again, the president had a clear objective: stop Assad from using chemical weapons. In the last six days, we have accomplished that and more.
So, what -- and why? Look, Putin was sitting out there --
ROBERTS: Senator Lindsey Graham believes Putin has put the president in a box.
VAN HOLLEN: That's absurd. Look, Putin was out there. His big ally, Assad, is sitting there, and Putin's powerless to stop a potential military strike from the United States. What kind of message does that send any other allies Russia has around the world?
So, Putin was acting from a position of weakness, and the reality, as Mike said, is he has some leverage over Assad. He did not want to see military action taken. And at the end of the day, he helped deliver exactly what the United States wanted, which is to put an end to Assad's weapons of mass destruction.
ROBERTS: Congressman Chris Van Hollen, thanks so much. We're going to bring you back to talk about the budget.
Congressman McCaul, thank you for joining us as well. Really appreciate it.
ROBERTS: Well, of course, we're watching developments over the next week. There is a lot to talk about over the next few days.
With a deal in hand, all eyes are on Syria now. Plus, what does this mean for the confusing state of U.S./Russia relations?
Our Sunday panel joins us next.
ROBERTS: The head of the United Nations inspection team determining whether chemical weapons were used in Syria said he had wrapped up his report and would present it to the secretary-general this weekend. Ban Ki-moon is expected to present it to the U.N. Security Council tomorrow, but it's not clear whether the report will point to who committed the attack.
Time now for our Sunday group.
Brit Hume, Fox News senior political analyst, is with us. Former Democratic Congresswoman Jane Harman, Bill Kristol of The Weekly Standard, and Charles Lane of The Washington Post.
Let's talk first of all about how we got to this point. It's been a torturous road for President Obama.
Here's how John McCain summed up the president's conduct with this with Greta Van Susteren on Friday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCAIN: He said he was going to strike. Then for the first time in history after saying he was going to act militarily said, but I'm going to get the approval of Congress. Now, without seeking the approval of Congress, which he wouldn't have had, now, he goes on national television and argues for two courses of action -- one, to strike, and two, to pause.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: Brit, you once famously asked the U.S. president if there was a certain zigzag quality to his decision-making process. Could you fairly ask that question in relation to this?
BRIT HUME, FOX NEWS SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I certainly could, but I think I'd have to look for a more extreme term than zigzag. This has been quite a spectacle to watch.
But in the end what we have now is a proposition that is substantively all problematic on a whole host of fronts. But politically -- and you could tell it listening to Chris Van Hollen -- it's quite wonderful. It gets the president off the hook. It gets members of Congress off the hook. It does everything you want to do. It keeps the U.S. military out of action. And for Barack Obama, this was an escape from a corner in which he painted himself that he could partly have paid for (ph).
ROBERTS: A question I had, Jane Harman, is -- if that correspondent had not stood up on Monday and said is there any way out for Assad, might we be bombing Syria right now?
FORMER REP. JANE HARMAN, D-CALIF.: I don't know. You know, the claim is that these conversations about the workout we're now going through occurred months ago. The president personally talked to Putin, and John Kerry had been talking to Putin and to Lavrov for a while, and it wasn't an off-the-cuff comment at all. It's played --
ROBERTS: It was a random question.
HARMAN: It was a random question, but it wasn't an off-the-cuff comment.
HARMAN: I don't know.
HUME: If it wasn't, why he's saying it can't happen?
HARMAN: But let me just -- I don't know why he said that. I mean, we all know -- and I'm sure you're about to ask us -- that removing chemical weapons is a daunting task, it hasn't worked in Libya, even though that was the agreement, and a lot of those weapons migrated to Mali and are now in the hands of bad guys.
So, this is -- this can't be the end of the process. I agree the process has been messy, but let me just say this -- I thought that when Obama was poised to strike, something I personally would have supported, he looked around, nobody was with him. Nobody was publicly with him. I thought the notion was going to congress was a good idea because I thought Congress would approve it.
I remember the foreign policy consensus which obviously doesn't exist anymore where moderates in both parties would pull together. I am part of that consensus. David Ignatius writes today that it's splintered. It's gone. I don't think Congress will be back.
But I do think this route through the U.N. has some promise if -- this is only a first step, and if there is work behind the scenes over a longer term in fashioning a transition government and getting Bashar out of there.
ROBERTS: There was a lot of debate over whether or not Vladimir Putin got the better of President Obama. Lindsay Graham, senator from South Carolina, certainly thinks so. Here's what he told our Mike Huckabee yesterday:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, R-S.C.: It's a blind alley. It's a box canyon for America. Putin's led us down a road here where there's just no good outcome. Without of threat of force, this agreement means nothing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: So bill, did the president get hoodwinked? We talked about verify and verify. If you don't have teeth in some sort of resolution that says this will happen if you do not, can you get control of all these weapons?
BILL KRISTOL, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: I don't think the president got hoodwinked. I think the president knew what he was doing. He didn't want to strike, it turned out, after having said he wanted to strike, which is an extremely irresponsible position for an American president to put himself and the country in.
Jane says no one supported the president. I supported the president. John Boehner supported the president. He had all of us lined up. He would have at least 25 Republicans with us in the House because they do not trust this president to use force. They don't trust him to be serious about foreign policy.
And I've got to say looking back on the last few weeks, I can't really blame all my conservative Republican friends who said, look, in principle, of course, you should support a president when he goes to Congress to ask for a resolution to authorize the use of force against a dictator backed by Iran and Russia who's used chemical weapons, crossed a red line, an American president sat down (ph). I don't even think it's a close call.
After his performance over the last few weeks, it's going to be harder and I say this with great sadness, wouldn't (ph) hope for pleasure, to get conservative internationalists now to support him if he wants to do anything tough. On the other hand, it seems like he doesn't want to do anything tough.
ROBERTS: Yes, if it comes down to Syria playing games with its chemical weapons and the president wants to go back to this idea of using force, has that bell already been rung and rung out?
CHARLES LANE, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, you know, there's absolutely nothing in this framework agreement that provides for any kind of use of force by anyone to enforce it if it's violated. The whole enforcement mechanism is completely up in the air. It makes me wonder, do we have a parallel here with North Korea? Everybody here remembers about 20 years ago at the brink of war, President Clinton struck a framework agreement with the regime in North Korea to get rid of their nuclear weapons which 20 years later, they still haven't gotten rid of -- not only haven't gotten rid of but have actually tested one, and the regime is still in power.
My worry is -- and, of course, this is all remains to be seen -- my worry is that we're setting up something similar here because the most important transition out of this agreement is that the president of the United States has identified the removal of chemical weapons as our issue in Syria. It's no longer about regime change and Assad must go. It's about chemical weapons.
ROBERTS: How do you prevent this from becoming a years-long cat and mouse game as happened with Saddam Hussein?
HUME: I don't think you can under this agreement. I think the practical difficulties of finding the weapons, identifying them, cataloging them and removing them in the midst of conflict with a couple of -- with an untrustworthy player like Assad in place are probably insurmountable.
But what this does, though, is defuses the issue. It takes all the urgency out of it. It takes the air out of it. And as time goes on, it recedes into the background, which is exactly in my view is exactly what the president is hoping will happen.
HARMAN: Well, I really don't agree. I think the president has taken what he can get from Putin as a phase one. I think the threat of force has to remain. The president has said it will remain. Our ships are still surrounding the area.
But I want to put another word on the table called Sochi -- the Winter Olympics in Russia. I think Vladimir Putin really wants to reset himself as a world player at that point. That's in four months from now or five months from now.
KRISTOL: Can I just --
HARMAN: And I think -- just let me finish my sentence, my friend -- and I think that that will cause him not only to -- I'm not saying I trust, and "verify but verify" is the right language, but I think that will keep him in the tent.
I'm not worried about Bashar. I'm worried about Putin. If Putin figures out that moving Bashar out in some near period after the chemical weapons are disclosed, I don't think they will be used.
ROBERTS: Quick thought, Bill, and then we'll go.
HARMAN: It will change things.
KRISTOL: I want to put one word on the table. It's not Sochi. It's Iran.
And the president of the United States said already on television today, he's looking forward to negotiating with Iran. He thinks this is a model for a bad agreement with Iran which will get him off the hook of his promise to use military force to prevent them to getting nuclear weapons. And I believe the Iranians think that, too.
ROBERTS: We've got to take a break, but when we come back, the Syria crisis has taken crucial time from congressional leaders also facing a looming budget battle. Now, Republicans must decide if fighting to derail ObamaCare in the threat of a government shutdown is worth the risk.
Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)]
HOUSE MINORITY LEADER NANCY PELOSI, D-CALIF.: Just because you're an anti-government ideologue who has landed in Congress doesn't mean that you should be shutting down government.
REPORTER: Are you spent dealing these guys here?
SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE JOHN BOEHNER, R-OHIO: No, I'm fine.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: Georgia Congressman Tom Price and Congressman Chris Van Hollen back with us, next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOEHNER: This strategy is intended not to really satisfy the House. We've already voted. It's to force the vote, enforce the fight in the United States Senate. That's where the issue is. The United States Senate. Let's get the issue over there and force them to actually have a vote on getting rid of ObamaCare.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: While the Syria crisis has been front and center this week in Washington, a bitter battle over the budget looms large. Congress has just a little more than two weeks to approve new spending bills or risk a government shutdown. But a group of House Republicans is insisting that funding for ObamaCare be cut first. And that's putting House Speaker John Boehner in a very tough spot.
Back with us now is the ranking member of the House Budget Committee, Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, and joining us from Atlanta, Congressman Tom Price, who is the vice chairman of the budget committee. Congressman Price, let's start with you. You and 42 of your colleagues ...
REP. TOM PRICE, R-GA.: Yes.
ROBERTS: ... have signed on to a bill that would defund and delay ObamaCare for a year. If it comes to the floor and passes, it will most certainly hit a brick wall in the Senate. Are you willing to go as far as shutting down the government to get what you want?
PRICE: Well, John, thanks so much. As the speaker said, it's time to put the ball in the Senate's court. But what we're interested in is stability and security and fairness. Stability for the government. Funding the government for a full year period of time. Security so that the men and women who protect us every single day have the resources that they need to be able to carry out that protection. And then fairness. Fairness as it relates to ObamaCare. This administration has already delayed or waived fully a third of this legislation, and we believe that it's only fair for the American people now to have that same delay. And that's the proposal I believe that will be coming forward this week. That's the proposal that we support. We hope that some of our colleagues -- Democratic colleagues in the House support it like they did, the delay of the individual mandate and the employer mandate. The bipartisan position here is to delay this law for a year. I'm hopeful the administration will come on board and that the Senate will see the light as well.
ROBERTS: But again, are you willing to shut down the government to get what you want?
PRICE: Well, there's 15 days between now and that deadline. And what we need is the House to act and then the Senate to act. And this is the dynamic nature of legislating.
ROBERTS: You told our Neil Cavuto last week, you said if that's the only way, I'm there. Are you still there?
PRICE: The president is the individual who's talking about shutting down the government. The Democrats in the House and the Senate are the individuals that are talking about shutting down the government. We want to fund the government and protect the American people from a destructive law as it relates to health care. I'm a physician. The last thing that this nation needs is this law that will destroy quality health care in this country. You've got James Hoffa, the president of the Teamsters Association, saying that it's going to destroy the 40-hour workweek. You've got the AFL-CIO saying this isn't as was billed. Look, you need to change it, or delay it or repeal the whole doggone thing. So, people across the political spectrum all across this country recognize that this law is not good for the American people. It's not good for our country. It's time to delay it.
ROBERTS: Congressman Van Hollen, let me talk about the union aspect of this. You know what happened at the AFL-CIO convention earlier this week. They were up in arms about it, thinking that people were going to get thrown out of employer-based health care. They wanted -- they wanted subsidies. Let's listen to what Terrence O'Sullivan from the Laborers International Union said about it. He was incensed.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TERRY O'SULLIVAN, PRESIDENT, LIUNA: But we'll be damned if we're going to lose our health insurance because of unintended consequences in a law! It needs to be changed! It needs to be fixed! And it needs to be fixed now, brothers and sisters!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: So the unions are demanding a fix. There's a lot of problems with this bill. Why not just delay it? You've delayed the employer mandate. You've delayed the cap on out-of-pocket maximums. You've delayed the eligibility requirements. Why not just say, you know, let's take a pause for a year and figure this all out?
VAN HOLLEN: Well, first, John, let's just make sure we understood what Tom's answer was. The answer was that he's prepared to shut down the government if we don't shut down ObamaCare for a year.
ROBERTS: He didn't come right out.
VAN HOLLEN: Well, I mean -- OK, look.
ROBERTS: As much as I tried to get him out.
VAN HOLLEN: Look, he said that on an earlier Fox show. He just didn't say it on -- here. So listen. The reality is that ObamaCare is already in place for millions of Americans.
ROBERTS: But it's been delayed for millions of others.
VAN HOLLEN: No, no, no. The employer mandate, which affects only five percent of businesses in this country, which is a relatively small part ...
ROBERTS: But still how do you say ...
VAN HOLLEN: ... of the overall system.
ROBERTS: How do you say to employers, we're going to give you a year, how do you say to insurance companies, we're going to give you a year, but you say to individuals in this country, you're still on the track. You've got to sign up for these exchanges. And as of January 1, you have to have health insurance when you've delayed it for other people.
How is that fair?
VAN HOLLEN: Well, the reality is that the business piece is not central to the overall idea behind ObamaCare. We're going to open up these supermarkets of health care plans. People will be able to purchase insurance in those exchanges. So the physician that says, let's delay it for a year is to deny access to affordable insurance for millions of Americans for another year. That's not acceptable.
ROBERTS: But then at the same time the union say, this is going to make it unaffordable.
VAN HOLLEN: The issue with the unions has to do with the ability to both claim tax credits in the exchange and get the tax deduction for employer-provided health insurance. So, as the president has said all along, we're willing to work out the kinks in this, but we're not going to throw out the central idea, which as you know, was the same idea that Republicans put forward in the 1990s and is the basis for Romneycare in Massachusetts. They didn't throw it out in Massachusetts. It's working in Massachusetts.
ROBERTS: Let me bring in the congressman from Georgia because he's being very patient here. The Treasury Department, through the president, I guess, affirmed, Congressman Price, on Friday that the unions would not be getting any subsidies for their multiemployer- based health care plans. Are you concerned that the White House, because the unions are incensed about this, will try to backdoor something to satisfy them, to keep them on board? PRICE: Well, apparently the White House said on Friday that they wouldn't do that, but the White House has always picked winners and losers in this. And that's why they have chosen to delay or waive fully a third of this piece of legislation. We believe, however, that it needs to be waived and delayed for the entire American people, for the entire country. That's the only fair thing to do. Now, what the unions have done, what the AFL-CIO has done and what the teamsters have done is finally read the bill and recognized what's in it. And they know that what the president said, that is if you like what you have, you can keep it, simply is not true. And they believe they've been lied to, and they believe that we need to step back and say, let's just stop the madness. Let's delay this for a year. And see if we can't get it right. Move in the direction of patient-centered health care where patients and families and doctors are making medical decisions, not Washington, D.C. That's what we need to be doing.
ROBERTS: You know, I didn't want to make this discussion all about ObamaCare, but certainly, a lot of people care about this. There are obviously, Congressman Van Hollen, things that a lot of people like. They like being able to keep the kids on till age 26. They like the idea of pre-existing condition exclusion. They like that. But the further we get in this bill as Congressman Price just said, the more these problems start to arise, was this -- you know, and remember Nancy Pelosi saying we have to pass the bill, so that we can find out what's in it. Now, that people are finding out what's in it, I mean even your most strident supporters, the unions, are saying this is wrong.
VAN HOLLEN: John, look. Any time you have a piece of legislation that's this comprehensive, there are going to be issues you have to deal with along the way. And we have said to our Republican colleagues, we're happy to work with you to try and fix those parts where there are issues. But our Republican colleagues have taken the position that they just want to wipe the whole thing off the map including the important provisions you talked about, including the core idea, which had been a Republican idea, that individuals have a responsibility to get health care, that those who can't afford it will get a tax credit to help them do it. That's the core idea. Republicans right now, I really believe, are not afraid that this is going to fail. I think they're afraid that it's going to work. And all the scaremongering we have heard from them is going to be proven to be false. That's what's happening.
Now, it's interesting, Tom said we should move to a patient- centered health care system. The fact of the matter is in the House, the Republicans have voted over 40 times to repeal ObamaCare. They've never put on the floor of the House a replacement. Tom has a replacement bill. Less than ten percent of the members of Congress have signed on. Not his own party hasn't accepted that. So they just want to take us back to the days when the insurance companies got to deny care based on preexisting conditions, and that's not right.
ROBERTS: Well, 43 Republicans have signed on to this Graves's bill, which might come to the floor of the House. So we'll see where it goes from there. I assume you won't be voting for it.
VAN HOLLEN: But that's not -- that's not a new -- that's not a replacement for ObamaCare. That's just designed to kill it.
ROBERTS: Congressman Van Hollen ...
PRICE: What it allows us to do -- what it allows us to do, is to get to the stability for the country for a year, make certain we provide for security and fairness for the American people on ObamaCare.
VAN HOLLEN: Now, they just want to turn it back over to the insurance industry and let them discriminate based on preexisting conditions and that's just not acceptable.
ROBERTS: Congressmen Van Hollen and Congressmen Price, we've got to run, but thanks so much for joining us. Our Sunday panel returns ...
PRICE: Thank you.
ROBERTS: And looks ahead to the debate in Congress over ObamaCare and the budget coming up next.
But first, get Fox News daily politics newsletter straight to your inbox. Fox News First gives you the scoop first thing in the morning. Sign up at foxnews.com/foxnewsfirst.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Still to come, our Power Player of the Week.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, it certainly wasn't what I set out to do.
WALLACE: So, Knoller started keeping his own records. He spends 60 to 90 minutes at the end of each day logging every presidential activity.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Like are they official? Yeah, I guess I'm unofficial.
WALLACE: Stay tuned. We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. DIANE BLACK, R-TENN.: In an attempt to prop up a struggling health care law, the Obama administration decided they hand out subsidies without verifying who's eligible. They just want to rely on the honors system. Not only is that unfair, the hardworking taxpayers like you, it opens the door a mile wide to fraud and abuse.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: Republicans devoting their weekly address to sounding off on ObamaCare and doing away with the president's signature health care law. Congresswoman Diane Black of Tennessee there highlighting her verification bill, which passed this week that would help prevent fraud in the system.
And we're back now with our panel. All of this is wrapped around the continuing resolution and whether or not that's going to pass. Bill Kristol, do you think we're headed for a government shutdown over this showdown?
KRISTOL: I don't think so. I don't think either party has a real interest in that. But no one ever thinks things are going to happen, and sometimes they do. But now, I don't think so.
ROBERTS: All right. Congresswoman Harman?
HARMAN: I don't think so. I think if that happens again, we saw this movie in 1996. It will hurt -- 1995. It will hurt Republicans a lot more than it will hurt Democrats. But let's not go there. Let's amend this law. Let's implement this law and amend the parts that don't work well. It is a good idea to prevent fraud. Good for that Republican congresswoman. But to have 41 votes in the House to repeal this is a total waste of time. 40 of those should have been on specific well-considered amendments. And then maybe it would be a better law that we're implementing now.
ROBERTS: Brit, do you think that they're going to hold the line in the Republican-led House on this Graves bill, which does put in the actual bill itself language to defund and delay ObamaCare?
HUME: Well, I don't know that the votes will be there for that.
ROBERTS: Because the votes weren't there for the other bill.
HUME: No, I know. But look, I said this is -- government shutdown as a way of forcing policy when you control one House of the legislature is a loser. Now, people like Ted Cruz who Senator Ted Cruz who is one of the main leaders on this issue and certainly one of its principal spokesmen believes that the political conditions are different now from the ones that prevailed in 1995. And in some respects they are. But in one respect they're different and not in a way that's helpful to his cause, which is that the Republican Party is in much worse favor (ph) with the public than it was in 1995 when people had just installed a new House Republican majority for the first time in decades, and my sense about this is that the sort of axiom in Washington that when the government shuts down, it doesn't matter who causes it. Republicans get blamed is still in effect. And this is a very risky proposition.
Now, Cruz and company say, you can win the vote, if you win the argument. Well, they're out trying to win the argument now, and they're trying to provoke something along the lines of what happened on guns. When a popular sentiment just rose up and next thing you know, no bill passed. What remains to be seen if they can do that. I have real doubts.
ROBERTS: Democrats are certainly doing everything they can, while they may be divided on strategy on how to approach this, in saying that, you know, whatever happens, it's the Republicans' fault. Let's listen to the way that Harry Reid put that on Thursday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SENATE MAJORITY LEADER HARRY REID, D-NEV.: The anarchists are winning. Anything that can be done to slow down, hurt or get rid of government in any way, that's good. Shutting down the government, obviously, is what the majority of the Republican caucus wants to do in the House.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: But Charles Lane, Republicans have lost every time on ObamaCare. Is this a loser for them?
LANE: Well, I think their own leadership in the House recognizes that it's a loser, and they're having this battle with this group of kind of die-hard Republicans within their own caucus. And my goodness, privately I think the House leadership is even harsher about its own members than some Democrats. Harry Reid is enjoying the spectacle. And it really does come down to this complete lack of unity within the Republican caucus. Having said that, I think there's a lot of theater in terms of these rebels. I think they're showing off for their base back home, and that ultimately enough of them can be compromised by the leadership in such a way that a continuing resolution, but only through maybe a couple of months, will get passed.
KRISTOL: I think there is a way out of this, I mean, for Republicans.
LANE: What's the way out?
KRISTOL: Look, the entire House, joined by 22 Democrats, voted to suspend the individual mandate for a year. President Obama suspended the employer mandate. Add that to the continuing resolution. The House just now joined by a few Democrats voted to acquire verification, the security and privacy concerns for the exchanges before they ...
ROBERTS: So, you would (inaudible) rather this idea of defunding.
KRISTOL: I would target the most vulnerable, the most unpopular and genuinely the most problematic parts of ObamaCare, delay those for a year, add that to the continuing resolution. I think that's a tough argument. (inaudible) as I say, or we can't delay the individual -- I just delayed the employer mandate for a year, but I couldn't sign the bill to delay the individual mandate.
HARMAN: But it's all -- but Bill, it's all a game.
KRISTOL: It's not a game.
HARMAN: It's blaming the other side.
KRISTOL: It's the individual mandate.
HARMAN: I don't think that the CR should be where you play this. Offer serious amendments.
KRISTOL: But it has the individual mandate.
HARMAN: ... serious consideration.
KRISTOL: Harry Reid -- they passed the serious bill in the House HARMAN: I don't agree.
KRISTOL: ... to delay the individual mandate.
HARMAN: And also, whatever happened to Simpson-Bowles ...
KRISTOL: Senator Reid --
HARMAN: Why don't we get back to something responsible ...
KRISTOL: Senator Reid will not take it up in the Senate ...
HARMAN: ... during the year where you can actually consider it.
KRISTOL: The only way to get the Senate to take it up is to add it to a continuing resolution. If we had normal business, if the House passes legislation with 250 votes in the old days ...
KRISTOL: The old days -- the majority -- the old days, the majority leader of the Senate took that up.
ROBERTS: I'll ask (inaudible) this question. Why would it be so terrible to delay everything for a year, to line it up with all the other things that have already been delayed?
HARMAN: My answer to that, is because most of the bill is going to be implemented. The bill did pass. It was signed into law. And my -- I voted for it as a member of the House, because I thought we need to reform health care rather than do nothing. I think we need to amend this bill, but not end it.
HUME: There's a very simple reason why the president and his fellow Democrats do not want to delay this bill pass for another year, and that is in January, subsidies for purchase of insurance kick in for a great many people. And the belief is based on much history, that once the subsidies begin to be provided and start flowing to people, they will like them. People tend to feel that way about money coming their way.
ROBERTS: And the unions won't like it.
HUME: Well, the unions may feel differently about it. The point being that once a government benefit like that begins to flow, history shows that it is very hard ever to reverse that. And that once -- and that that would mean that ObamaCare is here forever, and any chance of ending it is probably over.
HARMAN: The underline.
HUME: That's what they believe.
HARMAN: The underline of the model for the bill is a competitive model. It was actually invented by Republicans. It started with Richard Nixon. It went on to Bob Dole. And then it was implemented in Massachusetts by Mitt Romney where it has not worked perfectly.
HUME: I understand all of that.
HARMAN: But this isn't a handout. This isn't welfare.
HUME: I understand all that. But the point remains, once the subsidies begin, it's more difficult to repeal the bill.
HARMAN: Well ...
KRISTOL: Well, it is, but the good news is that subsidies, they're not checks that go to people. They're reductions to the insurance people pay. This isn't going to pay a fair amount. And there are only a few million people. So ...
HARMAN: Already, now.
KRISTOL: So, all I'm saying is politically I'm a little more optimistic that Ted Cruz ...
KRISTOL: ... is that even if goes, some of it goes into effect on January 1st, I still think the thing could be -- is unpopular and can work poorly enough that it can then be repealed.
ROBERTS: Well, if there is any sign of the debate that we face over the next 12 legislative days, it's going to be a doozie. Thanks, panel, for joining us this morning. I really appreciate it. Remember, our discussion continues every Sunday on Panel Plus. You can find it on our Website, foxnewssunday.com. And make sure to follow us on twitter @foxnewssunday.
Up next, our Power Player of the Week. The unofficial record keeper of the presidency. You won't want to miss this.
ROBERTS: Well, the president sat down for six network television interviews Monday. It was the most that he had done in a single day. Twice before, he had sat down for five. This statistic courtesy of a reporter that we first introduced you to back in February. Here's Chris Wallace with his "Power Player of the Week."
MARK KNOLLER, CBS CORRESPONDENT: The numbers really help tell the story in an important way.
OBAMA: I'm going to call on Mark Knoller. Where's Mark? There you are.
KNOLLER: Mr. President ...
WALLACE: The numbers CBS White House correspondent Mark Knoller is talking about are meticulous records he keeps on almost everything the president does. Think we're exaggerating?
KNOLLER: I keep logs on number of speeches. Did he use a teleprompter? How long did the speech run? Where did he go? How many times has he been there before? Number of flights on Air Force One? Number of flights on Marine One.
WALLACE: We squeezed into Knoller's cramped booth in the press room where he showed us his file on each of the 114 rounds of golf President Obama has played.
KNOLLER: I keep logs. What date did he play? How long did he play it? Who was in the foursome? What time did the golf game begin? What time did it end?
WALLACE (on camera): You love this stuff, don't you?
KNOLLER: At least now I've got an aspect of the presidency that pretty much I own. And I like that.
WALLACE (voice over): And Knoller does own it. His colleagues in the press corps come to him to find out how many news conferences the president has held. And when National Security Adviser Tom Donilon was briefing reporters on the economic summit last year, he deferred to Knoller.
TOM DONILON, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: It's always risky to do this with presidential historian Mark Knoller in the room, but I'll do this anyway, at the risk of being -- at the risk of being corrected immediately.
WALLACE (on camera): How do you feel being the unofficial records keeper of the presidency?
DONILON: Well, it certainly wasn't what I set out to do, but unofficial, yeah, I guess I'm unofficial.
WALLACE (voice over): Knoller started his recordkeeping a couple of years into the Clinton administration when he noticed the president kept going to California.
KNOLLER: I tried going back to reconstruct how many trips he had made to California, and it took all day.
WALLACE: So Knoller started keeping his own records. He spends 60 to 90 minutes at the end of each day logging every presidential activity. The presidents have noticed. When Knoller reported George W. Bush had spent more than a year at his Texas ranch, it came up at a White House Christmas party.
KNOLLER: I come up to shake his hand and he says to Laura, "This is the guy who tells everybody how often we go to the ranch. And if we get there at 10:00 in the evening, he counts it as a full day." And I corrected him, "I don't count it as a full day." And he seemed glad to do that.
WALLACE (on camera): Do you think that's (ph) obsessive?
KNOLLER: OK, I'm obsessed with doing my job well, to doing it thoroughly. You got me.
WALLACE (voice over): Knoller has been covering presidents since Gerald Ford. At age 60, he's never married, but he has no regrets.
(on camera): Is this job, is this group, is this your family?
KNOLLER: Sure. It's my life. I'm able to cover this place exactly on my terms. And I find that very satisfying.
ROBERTS: Since we brought you this story in February, the president has added 29 rounds of golf including 27 holes yesterday. And on a personal note, I sat elbow to elbow with Mark Knoller in that little booth for seven years. And every day of it was a joy.
That's it for today. Have a great week. We'll see you next "Fox News Sunday."
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