Welch and Hindery on Corporate Gridlock

This is a partial transcript from "Your World with Neil Cavuto," May 17, 2005, that was edited for clarity.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: A different angle on this filibuster fight: What is so nuclear about getting rid of it at all? Nothing at all, says former GE chairman and CEO and co-author of that runaway bestseller "Winning," Jack Welch. Well, a lot, says media powerhouse Leo Hindery. We're going to talk to both, first Jack.

What if we just dispense with this whole filibuster thing?

JACK WELCH, FMR. CHMN. & CEO, GENERAL ELECTRIC: Well, the idea of a filibuster is long in our history. But this obstruction that's going on now with President Bush getting 65, 67 percent of his judges appointed — he won the election. And he ought to be able to put his people before the Senate and have them vote up or down.

CAVUTO: But he's not getting that, so is the way to address it, as some Republicans propose, just junk this whole filibuster?

WELCH: Well, I mean, you've got to do something drastic. He can't go through the whole term and keep losing qualified judges. Everyone says these judges are qualified. The ABA gives them a high ranking. They're well-qualified. These people are trying to fight the election all over again. The election is over.

CAVUTO: Yes. But are you saying then, as just a businessman, who is a decisive businessman, you didn't have divisive boards or those stymieing whatever you were trying to do. The minority never ruled in your days at GE. So is this just coming from a CEO who just likes to move, move, move?

WELCH: No, the minority has a right to a voice. The voice ought to be heard. And there will be another election. If the public doesn't like what's happening now, there will be another election, and a chance to change it again. But they lost this election. And now it's time to make the decisive calls. They can vote up or down, if the people think that they have made an outrageous decision, if the Republicans have been unreasonable, then they ought to be punished in the next election.

CAVUTO: The minority says, Jack, as you know, that it's a fixed game then, because then we know that even the most controversial judges would be approved in what is a stacked deck.

WELCH: Well, I think we're doing it on this round. I don't think it has to be in every case. I think we can have some exceptions. Now, these people have been up now for some period of time. They have been in front of the Senate. They haven't gotten out of the committee. But they have been well vetted. Now, the question is, let's take a vote on these people.

CAVUTO: So what about the middle ground that Reid and others have recommended, maybe we'll take some of them to the floor and the others we'll just table?

WELCH: I don't like that. I don't like that.

CAVUTO: You say all or nothing.

WELCH: I think they won the election. They have the right to put their candidates out, up or down. We have a lot of moderate Republicans in the Senate, Chafee.

CAVUTO: Four of them are against cracking the filibuster.

WELCH: Absolutely. And so you will get a vote here and it may or may not be a locked barrel, but the facts are, they won the election, they have a right to put their people up. If the people are qualified, they should be appointed. If they are not qualified, then they will be stopped. If they're not stopped, the Republicans will be tossed out the next time around. And the Democrats will have that opportunity.

CAVUTO: So why is it called the nuclear option?

WELCH: It's a media term.


WELCH: I mean, come on. It makes it a little more exciting. Let's get the right people in the place, get them appointed, and get on with doing this thing.

CAVUTO: What would you think if the corporate world had this filibuster power, whatever you want to call it?

WELCH: Oh stop it. You couldn't do it. You would end up with a paralyzed economy. You can't do that. You have got to make the call, no maybes. Yes or no. Make the call, get on with it.

CAVUTO: I heard some who told me, Jack, if we had a dissident shareholder at Tyco or Enron during the crazy spending, we might have prevented the madness that we got?

WELCH: I mean, Neil, come on. We had to have a process in Tyco and a process in Enron that stopped the craziness. There's no dissident shareholder.

CAVUTO: No dissident director would have done that, right?

WELCH: He didn't know enough. Directors didn't do it, they don't know enough. They're there once a month.

CAVUTO: All right. Jack, always a pleasure seeing you. Thank you very much.

WELCH: It's nice seeing you.

CAVUTO: Jack and Suzy Welch's "Winning" is doing not only better than my book did, but it's — you know, Jack got lucky again.

All right. Now for a different take on all of this, top Democratic donor, Leo Hindery. Leo is the former CEO of the Yes Network and now managing partner over at Intermedia Advisors.

Leo, good to have you.

LEO HINDERY, INTERMEDIA ADVISORS: Always a pleasure, Neil, thanks for having me back.

CAVUTO: What do you make of Jack's basic argument, look, this is something that if the corporate world had, we wouldn't get things done.

HINDERY: You know, this time I disagree with both Jack and Senator Frist, in two respects. Firstly, we in business have boards of directors that opine and act and consent to and advise on the actions of CEOs, and they do it every day. So there is a bicameral approach to corporate life just like there is in the Senate and the executive branch.

CAVUTO: Yes. But Leo, the difference is those minority guys are those who are bicameral and doing all that stuff can't stop you from doing what you want if you and your cohorts are in the majority, right?

HINDERY: But this isn't traditional business. This is a constitutionally mandated burden on the Senate to advise and to consent. When Senator Frist and even Jack say there's no up or down, of course, there's an up or down. It's an up or down, this time it's 60. A rule that has been in place since 1917 when Woodrow Wilson said that 66 and two- thirds are required for cloture, now it's 60, a change that was made in 1976.

And we have had up or down votes for 88 years. They have just been according to rules of the Senate that seemed very good when this Republican now majority wanted to stop the Panama Canal Treaty, when they wanted to stop other nominees, when they wanted to stop Mr. Clinton's nominees, they used it.

CAVUTO: Leo, I think you raise a good point. I think it's fair to say the Republicans took advantage of this when they were the minority party in the Clinton years. And the Democrats maybe now. I say a pox on both your houses, stop the nonsense and maybe get back to maybe just yea or nay on this. And you're right, maybe someone, a controversial judge will be nayed right out of there.

HINDERY: But where I think you're wrong is that the purpose of these rules was to ensure bipartisanship, I'm sorry, in the Senate. And so, 88 years ago, they said it took 66 and two-thirds. In 1976, they amended that number, Neil, to 60. And it worked really well. It requires bipartisanship.

CAVUTO: You don't think it has been particularly abused in the last few months?

HINDERY: No, because I can find you 64 women and men in the Clinton administration that never even got to committee. There is a political solution.

CAVUTO: Well, that was wrong then, right? And one can argue it's wrong now, right?

HINDERY: Neil, there's a political solution and it's an easy one. All you have to do is get to 60. If Mr. Bush was spending half as much time trying to take his party to 60 as he is on the Social Security initiative of his, he would have it.

CAVUTO: Yes, but yet a judge can be approved by just getting 51 votes, right? Why should we change the math to favor what you are saying?

HINDERY: Well, because you're not changing it. You're changing it back. For 88 years, we have liked this system, both parties have liked this system. They have both gained from it, and they both have lost from it. And that's the agenda. And.

CAVUTO: So you think it is nuclear to disband it?

HINDERY: Well, I think that's a semantic blurring is to say it's not up or down. It is absolutely, Neil, up or down, it's just up or down on 60.

CAVUTO: All right.

HINDERY: A number that was comfortable to the Republicans when they used it against Clinton, it was comfortable to them when they used it on the Panama Canal Treaty. It was comfortable for them when they used it for them on numerous arms treaties. They just don't like it right now. And Senator Frist says he doesn't like it. His quote was, "it doesn't comport to our religion."

CAVUTO: All right.

HINDERY: And that's the issue.

CAVUTO: All right. Leo, you're such a gentleman, we're not going to argue.


CAVUTO: But it's actually because we have a commercial break. But, Leo Hindery, always a pleasure. Thank you, sir, appreciate it.

HINDERY: Thank you, Neil.

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