This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," December 8, 2010. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I think it is inaccurate to characterize Democrats writ large as feeling, quote/unquote, "betrayed." I think Democrats are looking at this bill and they've already had a bunch of them who said this makes sense. And I think the more they look at it, the more of them are going to say this make sense.
REP. ANTHONY WEINER, D-N.Y.: If the Republican Party and Republicans, every one of them, want to say no one who makes $60,000 a year can get a tax cut until we give one for people who make $1.6 million, I think we want to join that fight. You want to have that debate. I don't recall having that debate. I recall that we're going to zero and compromise in about 3.5 seconds. That's the problem here.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Well, Democrats are outraged. And there you see Vice President Biden just a short time ago leaving a meeting with House Democrats as the White House continues to twist some elbows, if you will, up on Capitol Hill, about this compromise framework that the president announced this week.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid suggesting a bill may be ready to roll out this week. However, his caucus saying they'd like some changes first.
What about all of this?
Let's bring in our panel tonight. We welcome John Fund, columnist for The Wall Street Journal; Nia-Malika Henderson of The Washington Post; and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer.
John, we'll start with you. What's your take of the back-and-forth and where we are?
JOHN FUND, WALL STREET JOURNAL: Well, I think the president did a very smart thing today. He dispatched Larry Summers, his departing top economic aide, to go to Capitol Hill and tell the Democratic members who are in open revolt -- look, think about this carefully. If you vote this down, we could see a double-dip recession. And that kind of language gets people to sit up and take notice.
I think the majority of the Democrats may vote against this to appease their base, but this president is going to pass this bill. It will help the economy and therefore, it will help his re-election chances.
BAIER: You heard Congressman Weiner there about some of the push- back, that the president didn't fight hard enough, that this went from zero to compromise in 3.5 seconds in his words. Is that getting any traction from Capitol Hill?
NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, WASHINGTON POST: It is getting some traction. But what you see from the White House is that they are very much going on offense on this. All day, they were flooding everyone's e-mail boxes with messages from the senators like Senator Kerry, governors like Governor Granholm out of Michigan, the mayor of Philadelphia, the mayor of Detroit, saying that they back this. So, that's very much what they're doing.
The keyword in listening to the president there, he said that Democrat s are writ large up in arms over this. Of course, there are some that are. Reid and Pelosi very much want to tweak this. But, ultimately, they are seeing some support. I mean, Senator Clinton. Some people are going to back this.
BAIER: Senator Durbin from Illinois, the number two Democrat in the Senate, said that the estate tax deal that may be the sticking point they may want to push back a little on that. If they do that, will Republicans relent on that issue?
HENDERSON: I mean, that could -- that could possibly happen. I mean, I think Democrats just want to have some sort of victory out of this. I mean, there are some things, obviously, that they get out of this, the 2 percent payroll tax hike, the extension of unemployment benefits. But they want to have their hand in shaping this so they can come out of this and be able to say that they sort of pushback -- pushback against the rich essentially and come out of here with some sort of compromise that makes them feel a little better.
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: I think the Larry Summers argument shows the change in the substance of the administration's argument in trying to convince liberal Democrats. The point of this, they're actually saying, is forget about the fairness argument or the tax argument. This is a huge stimulus, the biggest in U.S. history. It's $1 trillion. Two-thirds of it are completely unrelated with the extension of the Bush tax cut.
And whereas Republicans come out ahead if you like on $100 billion, which is the cost of what the extension for the upper income folks will be, the Democrats get 3 1/2 times that. They get $360 billion in a whole set of incentive, breaks, tax cuts and unemployment insurance that the Democrats have sort of -- and a lot of these are extensions of the tax breaks, the tax credits that the Obama stimulus of 2009 had given.
Overall, it's pulling something out of a hat that nobody had expected. After the November elections, who would have expected an election that was run on the size of government, huge debt and shrinking government? Who would have expected that the Democrats would get the largest stimulus in galactic history a month later?
BAIER: What about the timing of all of this? It comes out to the deficit and debt commission, the president's commission, comes out with a dire warning about needing to deal with the national debt. And if we don't, we are in real trouble. And then turn around and this is what they're dealing with.
KRAUTHAMMER: That's why earlier in the show, you reported that the co-chairs of the deficit commission, Bowles, will be meeting with the president to read him the Riot Act on this. He's just coming in with a report that's saying we're going over a cliff.
KRAUTHAMMER: And the Democrats and Republicans are agreeing on $1 trillion of essentially unpaid new debt that's going to be added on to the problem.
FUND: The deficit commission has this wonderful report, all kinds of interesting ideas in it. But the crisis is down the road a little bit. A newer crisis arrived last Friday: 9.8 percent unemployment. That created this agreement, because everybody panicked and said, whatever we've done in last two years isn't working.
The most important thing of the stimulus package in addition to what Charles said is, this is an implicit rejection of what Obama is doing the last two years because it clearly didn't work. Just look at the unemployment number. So, they are moving in a different direction. Stimulus, but also extending the tax cut to try to increase the economic stability.
BAIER: But isn't this the kind of stimulus that the president, that his supporters envisioned? And by signing on to this, is he then changing his stripes about what potentially works to turn around the economy?
FUND: These are largely tax cuts or tax extensions of existing rates, not spending, because we just -- we tried all of that in early 2008 and it laid a goose egg.
HENDERSON: Yes. But, I mean, I think some of this is -- are extensions of some of the provisions of the stimulus act. And in that way, I think these Democrats are getting some of the things that they wanted. I mean, everyone --
BAIER: Wait a second. When the stimulus was being argued, those tax cuts in the tax credits were seen as sweetener for Republicans.
BAIER: I mean, are Democrats really getting it?
FUND: Everything is -- the debate has shifted completely towards the Republicans simply because of the underlying facts, the weak economy and nobody wants to run in 2012 with this kind of unemployment numbers.
KRAUTHAMMER: It's true that this is a Republican idea of what a stimulus ought to look like as opposed to a Democratic idea, which was essentially all spending, except that it's two years too late and it's going to add another trillion on the debt, in a country that is going over a cliff on this. I think it's really overreaching on the part of the Democrats and Republicans. And they're going to have to undo it quickly, probably within a year or two.