All-Star Panel: Debate over raising taxes to get students online

'Special Report' All-Star panel weighs in


This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," August 14, 2013. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


PRESIDNET BARACK OBAMA: I am directing the Federal Communications Commission, which is the FCC, to begin a process that will connect 99 percent of America's students to high-speed broadband Internet within five years. Within five years we're going to get it done.

JEFFREY EISENACH, AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE: The president twice has said he that he has directed this independent regulatory agency to spend this money and raise these taxes. And that's simply not within his power to do and would be wrong and really, at best, is a bad choice of words.

JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: The FCC is an independent body and they will have to make their own determination about whether or not they want to it upgrade the e-rate program.  


SHANNON BREAM, ANCHOR: And the end goal sounds like a good one, making sure schools have high-speed Internet access. Students can use digital notebooks and have different kinds of plans. But like many good ideas in Washington, you have got to pay for it somehow.

Let's talk about it with our panel now. Nina, Kirsten, and Charles are back. Kirsten, the president is going to take heat over this because each time he makes a suggestion or talks about something that a lot of folks view as outside the realm of his authority, there is going to be pushback. And here the FCC is independent, but he is saying he has directed them to do this and what it will mean, we understand is attacks on cell phone bills, and makes everybody's bill higher.

KIRSTEN POWERS, COLUMNIST, NEW YORK POST: Yes. Well, based on reports, the costs will be about $4 a year per person to expand our, you know, Internet access and to all over the country, which seems like a pretty good deal to me. I think that Obama probably feels like there is no point in even trying to get Congress to do something because there is really almost no idea that he has ever come up with that the Republicans will support. The fact --

BREAM: So you just skip them? You just skip the legislative branch?

POWERS: If can he do it – yeah. If he can do it and it's legal, I would do it. I mean, at this point there is no point in even trying to deal with the Republicans. They are not going to --

BREAM: You OK over there Charles?

POWERS: But they are not going to work with him. And I think, what is he just supposed to sit with his hands folded for the next three years?

BREAM: Checks and balances.

POWERS: Unless it's illegal, I don't have a problem with it.

BREAM: OK. Charles, do you have a problem with it?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well, look, that means is he a failure as a president.  Lyndon Johnson had the solid South against him. He worked, he cajoled, he dealt. He made speeches. He mobilized the country and he passed civil rights. Obama says, well, you know, these guys are obstructionists or I will do extra-legal stuff, unconstitutional stuff. I will direct an independent agency, and his own spokesman has to say well, you know, the agency will make up its own mind. That's not what the word "direct" means.

This is the way he operates. He says the other guys are bad guys.  They really don't have the national interest at heart. I do so and I will do stuff and ignore the law. Under our system, what you do is you propose a law. You get it passed and the Congress appropriates the money. This is not the way that we govern. And this is about the tenth time in his administration in which he has gone around the Congress in ways that are clearly unconstitutional, starting with the way that he has made all these unilateral amendments and suspensions in his own ObamaCare without ever consulting with the Congress.

BREAM: And Nina, I want to ask you, the GOP has said if this plan moves forward, that they, and they are not included the Congress isn't included that they're going to hold hearings. But what -- when you have at stake is Internet access for kids at schools. Does this threaten to blow up in their face if they say we are not going to go with this?

NINA EASTON, COLUMNIST, FORTUNE MAGAZINE: Let me put perspective on this. There actually is a program already at the FCC called e-rate and it already spends $2 billion a year to update and update technology, including putting Internet in classrooms.  For the president to have this soaring rhetoric, he is talking about expanding a program that actually already exists.

But let's go down and look at the details of this program. It's rife with all sorts of bureaucratic delays. When an FCC commissioner says you really need an e-rate consultant if you are a school to even get access to this money, it's just such a bureaucratic nightmare. And there is scandal and abuse.  They gave a $100 million grant to Puerto Rico to wire 1,500 schools. Nine schools were wired at the end of the day. Let's go in and look at that $2 billion and see if we can spend that better. Take it out of money for pagers and things like that. Let's start there.

But I don't think this kind of rises to the level of the end-run around Congress that we are seeing on some of the other policies. It's a program that already exists that's been -- that Congress has approved. The FCC is an independent commission. It has -- it does have a majority of Democrats and so it will probably go along. It's requesting comments – for Fox viewers, they are requesting comments right now, for a proposed amendment to the program; to change the program. So, I don't -- you know, I think it is more of a question of spending money that already exists the right way.

BREAM: And it is projected this would be $4 billion to $6 billion, but critics say it's going to be much higher than that if they fully expand it?

KRAUTHAMMER: It happens on a week where the highest law enforcement officer in the land gets a wild applause from the ABA when he proposes to direct prosecutors in the country to not enforce the drug laws as written and to actually conceal evidence in trials as a way to not trigger the mandatory sentences that are in the law.

This is a pattern. Of course it's not the worst, but it's absolutely astonishing how often this administration works outside what is our constitutional system.

BREAM: Final word to you, Kirsten.

POWERS: There is nothing unconstitutional directing them to do this. Directing means this is what I would like to you do. They will decide whether or not to do it. I don't see how it's unconstitutional even if it ends up being a little more expensive than, what is it, $5 a year or $6 a year. I think we can afford that to help children have Internet access.

KRAUTHAMMER: It starts at $5.

BREAM: And it goes up. Thanks, panel. That's it for the panel. But stay tuned -- the administration has spent millions to tell the American people about ObamaCare, but not everyone seems to be really clear on the details. That's next. 

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