JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS
Prescription Drug Plan Moves Forward; Democrats Devise Emergency California Plan
Aired June 18, 2003 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: Drug tests on Capitol Hill: A new prescription for Medicare moves forward, but not without a fight.
SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: When we get this as a down payment, we're going to come back again and again and again and fight to make sure that we have a good program.
ANNOUNCER: Judy asks Senator Edward Kennedy whose side he's on.
Could he be California's next governor? We'll look at the Democrats' emergency plan if and when Gray Davis is about to get the boot.
A shift in New Hampshire? A 2004 Democrat rebounds in the lead- off primary state.
ANNOUNCER: Now, live from in Washington: JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS.
JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you for joining us.
In the political to-and-fro over prescription drugs for seniors, one minute they're sniping, the next, bipartisan smiles. President Bush today is making an appearance of encouraging the spirit of togetherness and keeping that Medicare legislation on course.
Let's go to our senior White House correspondent, John King.
John, a bipartisan meeting, not all the Democrats, but some of them invited. Does the White House really think that they're going to get this controversial issue through when they're getting close to an election year?
JOHN KING, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: They do, Judy.
It is quite remarkable. There are still differences from the policy perspective to be worked out between the Senate bill and the House bill. Many of the interest groups involved are raising concerns about this point or that point, trying to change the legislation. But here at the White House, they do think there will be a bill, perhaps not by the president's hope of July 4, but quite soon. And a remarkable scene in the Cabinet room today, the president bringing together some of the key congressional members on this issue at the table, some Democrats, the ranking Democrat on the Finance Committee, Max Baucus, there, Senator John Breaux of Louisiana, someone who has pushed this issue for years, there as well, also some Republicans who have been at odds with the administration from time to time, moderate Olympia Snowe of Maine, independent Jim Jeffords, who, of course, left the Republican Party in a dispute over the president's tax cut plan.
So quite a remarkable group at the table today, and the president said he is quite confident that, yes, some work needs to be done, but that there will be a bill, a Medicare prescription drug benefit, on his desk soon.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're committed to reforming the Medicare system so America's seniors get the health care they need. These senators around the table are going to work together to see that we get a good plan.
I asked them to come so I can figure out ways that our administration can continue to help the process move forward. The work has been really strong this far.
I want to congratulate you all for fine leadership.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: There are still some Democrats seething about this. Some think the bill making its way through Congress is not good enough, not a good enough prescription drug benefit. Others privately say they simply do want to give the president a victory on this issue heading into his reelection campaign.
Here at the White House, Judy, they understand, if he gets this bill -- and they expect to get it -- there will be a debate in the campaign about who gets most of the credit, whether the program needs to be improved down the road. But here at the Bush White House, they think this will be delivering on a major promise the president made in the last presidential campaign. And they think, when you look at some of the most contested states, Pennsylvania, Florida, Iowa, places like that, elderly voters matter and that this president will have something quite important to say when he's out running for reelection -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: A little bit earlier today, John, I taped an interview with a Democrat who was not at that meeting, Senator Ted Kennedy. We'll be showing that in just a few minutes.
But I want to ask you separately about another matter. And that is Tom Daschle's request that the White House meet with Democrats before any vacancy that came up on the Supreme Court be filled. Now, the White House doesn't like that idea. What's going on there? KING: Judy, put this one in the column of pure politics. This will be the biggest fight, if there is a resignation. And, of course, the speculation centers on the chief justice, William Rehnquist, another one of the justices appointed by a Republican president, Sandra Day O'Connor. There are rumors that one or both might step down when the Supreme Court term ends in the next week or so.
Nobody knows if that will happen. But just the anticipation has set off one of the greatest political fights, even before there is a vacancy. The Democrats say: Hey, let's not have a political fight. Let's agree in advance or at least early in the process on who those nominees should be. The White House says, gee, thanks.
Judy, the president's counsel, Alberto Gonzales, who himself is mentioned as a potential candidate for a vacancy, sent a letter back to the Democrats, saying, if they have any suggestions, they are welcome to come down here and meet with him, but don't expect them to get a meeting with the president. And here, behind the scenes, they say, the president will make his pick and then the fight will move to the Senate. Expect the president to make his pick -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: Well, it's a nice try. You have to give them a little credit for that, at least.
KING: Yes. Yes, you do.
WOODRUFF: OK, John, thank you very much.
Well, now we go out to California and the campaign to drive Governor Gray Davis out of office. Two leading state Democrats have announced that they will not run for governor if the recall makes it on to the ballot. But Democrats increasingly are worried that this recall vote will happen. This landmark campaign has more plot twists than Hollywood could dream up.
And our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider, has been following them all.
All right, Bill, first of all, what is the procedure, the actual procedure, for making this recall happen?
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, recall supporters will have to gather -- write this number down -- 897,158 valid California voters' signatures. They are aiming to have them by early July.
It takes 30 to 60 days to validate the signatures. If the signatures are validated before September 4, the secretary of state's office informs us, the recall would become a special election held this fall. And that's what recall supporters want, because a special election would be dominated by Davis haters. It's not clear that Democrats would flock to the polls this fall to save Gray Davis.
If the signatures are not certified until September 4, we're told, then the recall could be held at the same time as the March 2 presidential primary. The recall organizers don't want that, because there's no Republican primary for president. Democrats would come to the polls to vote for president and probably to keep Davis.
WOODRUFF: Now, Bill, if they're able to get this Governor Davis out of office, how do they then go about selecting a new governor?
SCHNEIDER: Judy, that's the beauty part. A new governor would be chosen in the same election as the recall. All you need to do to get your name on the ballot is pay a $3,500 filing fee and collect 65 valid signatures -- 65! Or, alternatively, you can get on the ballot with 10,000 signatures and not pay any filing fee.
Well, if Davis is recalled, then whoever gets the largest number of votes becomes governor immediately, no primaries, no runoff. So if there are, say, 10 reasonably well-known names on the ballot, someone could get elected with just over 10 percent of the vote.
WOODRUFF: So it sounds to me like there's nothing Governor Davis or the Democrats can do to stop this.
SCHNEIDER: Well, there has been a little speculation that, if it looks like the recall will qualify, Davis could resign and turn the governorship over to his lieutenant governor, Cruz Bustamante. Now, he's one of the few prominent Democrats who has not ruled out running.
The recall would then be moot, because Davis wouldn't be governor any more. You know, I can't find anybody in California who believes Davis would ever do that. He is nothing if not relentless. The prevailing wisdom in California, my sources tell me, is that the recall will qualify, Davis will fight it, and he might survive. But there's a wildcard: Arnold Schwarzenegger. If he puts his name on the ballot, then a vote to recall Davis becomes a vote to elect Schwarzenegger.
Why not? And the governor could very likely be, shall, we say, terminated.
WOODRUFF: Hmm. Schwarzenegger on the ballot, we've been hearing about it. We may be hearing about it more.
SCHNEIDER: He'll be back.
WOODRUFF: Bill Schneider, thanks very much.
Well, to Texas now and a new round in a political showdown there. Republican Governor Rick Perry called for a special legislative session to deal with congressional redistricting. Now, that's the same issue that prompted statehouse Democrats to flee to Oklahoma last month.
The walkout killed a GOP-backed redistricting plan. But now Texas Republicans will get another shot at passing it during the 30- day special session that begins on the last day of this month. One of the Democrats involved in the walkout tells INSIDE POLITICS that the governor's call for a special session is -- quote -- "bogus and below the belt." Well, the Democratic presidential race tops today's "Campaign News Daily" here. Massachusetts Governor John Kerry has surged ahead in a new poll in New Hampshire. He now has 28 percent support among likely Democratic primary voters. That is 10 points ahead of former Vermont Governor Howard Dean. That is Kerry's largest lead since back in January. Joe Lieberman and Dick Gephardt round out the top four in the ARG poll. The other Democratic contenders all are in single digits.
The first event in the Bush campaign fund-raising blitz pulled in at least $3.5 million.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The political season will come in its own time. Right now, this administration is focused on the people's business.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WOODRUFF: More than 1,000 people paid $2,000 each to listen to Mr. Bush speak at a Washington hotel and dine on hot dogs, hamburgers and nachos.
Housing Secretary Mel Martinez says that he has ruled out running for the Senate seat of Democratic presidential candidate Bob Graham in Florida. High-level national Republicans have been looking for a strong Senate contender in the Sunshine State. But Martinez says that he will stay in the Bush Cabinet through the 2004 election and then assess his chances to succeed Jeb Bush as Florida's governor in 2006.
Still ahead: A Democratic icon has some advice for his party's presidential candidates.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KENNEDY: Democrats can never win because of the inadequacies of the Republican Party. We have to stand for something.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WOODRUFF: I'll talk to Senator Edward Kennedy about the presidential race and his pivotal role in the political debate over prescription drug benefits for seniors.
Plus: Who's signing up to debate the Davis recall campaign? Donna Brazile and Bay Buchanan can't wait to have at this one.
And later: the Bush fund-raising machine trying to give a famous burger chain a run for it money?
WOODRUFF: As we reported, Medicare reform is the focus of some intense debate on Capitol Hill, at the heart of the matter, a prescription drug benefit. The House bill would create competition between private plans and traditional Medicare in 2010. The Senate bill opens the door to certified private prescription drugs plans, if they offer the same benefits as the government.
Earlier today, Senator Edward Kennedy gave me his views of the issues involved. And I began by asking him about his signing off on a plan that would leave some seniors with less drug coverage than they need and whether he undercut those seniors and some of his own Democratic allies.
KENNEDY: Absolutely not.
There's enormous need for prescription drugs, a need for the senior citizens of this country. Costs are too high. This is only $400 billion. The seniors are going to spend $1.7 trillion over the next 10 years. We're only providing $400 billion. That's only 22 percent. I'd like to do much better.
And on the floor of the United States Senate, in the period of these next 10 days, there will be efforts, which I'll be involved in, to strengthen that program. I think we ought to try to have a more expansive program, rather than some of the tax cuts that we have just recently enacted. But this is going to be a down payment. And one thing is going to be for sure. When we get this as a down payment, we're going to come back again and again and again and fight to make sure that we have a good program.
WOODRUFF: But, Senator, right now, Democrats are in the minority in the Senate. And not only that, whatever you do in the Senate is going to have to be compromised in the direction of the House version, which is much friendlier to the insurance industry and which has provisions in it which you have already called a poison pill.
KENNEDY: Well, it is true. The House bill has a provision which would effectively dismantle Medicare. We will have no bill if that is the provision that comes out of the conference. But the fact is, we're making good progress. There is a bipartisan effort in the Senate to get legislation. I strongly believe that this is a foundation on which to build.
WOODRUFF: But you're saying you trust the administration to hold up its end of the bargain here?
KENNEDY: They have not stated exactly what their position -- I'm not a naysayer. We're not going to have this $400 billion in another year.
The Republicans in the Senate of the United States basically abandoned the administration's view that they were going to hold our seniors, the Medicare recipients, hostage to getting into a drug benefit only if they join the private sector. And they were going to coerce them or bribe them to do that. That was unacceptable. And we Democrats have fought that.
WOODRUFF: Let me ask you, though, about the politics of this. At a time when the Democrats are trying mightily to carve out distinct positions for themselves against a very popular Republican president, in effect, what you have done is helped a Republican president take a very controversial issue off the table.
KENNEDY: What's happened here, if this bill passes that we have in the Senate of the United States, and we strengthen it, the winners are going to be the seniors. And what we will be able to do for the seniors across this country is say, we were the ones that have been battling for Medicare. The Republicans have been opposed to it. When we pass this, we're going to say in 2004, elect Democrats. We'll finish the job.
WOODRUFF: One final question, Senator.
Another thing the Democrats, a big issue the Democrats have tried to make something out of this year is the economy. A number of those running for president have been, in effect, counting -- or counting on the economy not recovering. And yet, you have got the markets coming back. The jobs issue, they don't seem to be able to make much of an issue out of that. Are the Democrats making a mistake, do you think, by counting on the economy remaining sour? And if they're making a mistake, what issue do they have?
KENNEDY: Well, first of all, Democrats can never win because of the inadequacies of the Republican Party. We have to stand for something.
We have got high unemployment and long periods of unemployment where people that want to work, can work, have worked, just can't find a job. And it isn't just sort of blue-collar workers. These are white-collar workers. And isn't in my home state of Massachusetts. It's in the state of Washington. It's across this country. The economy is the key, and it has been, traditionally, historically, for the Democrats. And I think our nominee will be able to make the case.
WOODRUFF: Senator Edward Kennedy.
And when we return, Donna Brazile and Bay Buchanan weigh in on efforts to recall California Governor Gray Davis.
WOODRUFF: With us now: former Gore campaign manager Donna Brazile, American Cause President Bay Buchanan.
All right, the move in California to try to recall Governor Gray Davis, Bay, where is this going?
BAY BUCHANAN, PRESIDENT, AMERICAN CAUSE: It's great politics, grassroots at its very, very best, Judy.
Where it's going is, they're going to have the signatures. There's no question about it. They're very, very close now. They have a whole month now to go -- or at least three weeks to go. And so they're going to put it on the ballot. It is going to be on the ballot in September, I believe, as early as September. And I believe that Gray Davis is going down the chute and we'll have a new governor in California come September.
DONNA BRAZILE, FORMER GORE CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Well, I wouldn't throw away my Gray Davis button just yet.
Look, the recall movement now has legs, but I don't believe it has the arms to actually change the election. Here's what I think. I think the Republicans once again is trying to overturn an election by recall, as opposed to a recount or a redistricting. So I think this is sour grapes. But Gray Davis will get himself together and be reelected, if it comes to that.
BUCHANAN: You're wrong on one point. Sure, it was started by Republicans. There's 30 people deep to sign this, 30 people in line to sign this petition. This is independents, Republicans and Democrats. He's at 27 percent. They have said: He deceived us last year. He didn't tell us the truth about our problems in this state and we want him out.
And they're going to fire him, the people of California, no party. The people are going to fire this fellow. And that's what is good. That's real democracy. That's...
BRAZILE: Oh, Bay, don't go out there just yet, because I think Gray Davis, with the anti campaign that he's starting now, the campaign to keep his job, he will succeed.
WOODRUFF: We will see.
All right, yesterday, last night, the president issued some guidelines, in effect barring law enforcement from using any sort of racial profiling, except when it's a case of terrorism, Donna, or a matter of national security. Is this a loophole that is too big, in effect, here?
If you wear a burka or a turban, you can be pulled aside at the airport or on the road. And that's unacceptable. And I think the ACLU and other groups are absolutely right that they should ban all racial profiling across the board, issue an executive order, not just federal guidelines, and get the state and local governments to follow suit.
BUCHANAN: That's just completely wrong.
The first and most important thing and the job of your law enforcement officers is to be able to keep this country safe. They're trying to make it secure and safe. We've got to give them whatever tools they need. And we all know that, if a crime is being committed, and we're concerned about additional terrorist threats against country, and we feel we know where it's coming from, then we should -- we do everything we can, including stopping everyone at airports that we think are a threat to this country.
BRAZILE: But, Bay, we should find other methods, beyond physical characteristics, to target people. After all, after the horrible bombing in Oklahoma, we didn't go after blue-eyed blondes. We went after Timothy McVeigh and those who were responsible. So I think we should not use physical characteristics alone.
BUCHANAN: Donna, in this country, everybody who is on a plane knows that, when you see the little old lay, the grandma, 80 years old, 95 pounds, up against the wall being patted down, we think, what a waste of time. And then you see the big, strong, lean 22-year-old Middle Easterner going through, we said, could you just -- could you check him out?
It's not because we want to discriminate against him. It's because we want to be safe. And I believe that that is exactly what should be done, not just for terrorism, but for crimes in general.
BRAZILE: If grandma is packing more than just her little
BUCHANAN: Her knitting needle.
BRAZILE: ... then she should be patted down.
WOODRUFF: All right, last issue here: Al Gore. "TIME" magazine. Karen Tumulty -- we talked to her about it an hour ago -- is reporting that Al Gore is working on an effort, Donna, to put together a liberal radio network, raising money for that, and maybe something in television as well.
BRAZILE: Well, we all know that Al Gore is not only committed to making sure that this move is going to pay for the public, but I'm sure that Gore is the person who can actually make this TV channel or this radio station happen. And I look forward to seeing Al Gore make it happen.
WOODRUFF: Is this needed, Bay?
BUCHANAN: I would like to see Al Gore on, because that would just help conservatives all the more, to see him on and then they would realize they're really not with him. They're with us.
This is ridiculous. This shows that they do not understand the marketplace. There's a reason people are tuning in to Hannity and Limbaugh. That's because they want to hear what they have to say. It's a conservative message and they're beating up the liberals. And they want to hear that. This is a conservative medium. Liberals have taken over many of the newspapers and they've taken over the networks. We've got cable TV. (CROSSTALK)
BRAZILE: The progressive voices would like to hear people they believe in.
WOODRUFF: All right, much more on that one to come. Donna, Bay, thank you.
And when we come back: A hamburger and hot dog reception kicks off President Bush's big reelection fund-raising blitz. Were those burgers worth the price?
WOODRUFF: Some contributors may have left the big Bush campaign fund-raiser last night here in Washington asking themselves, where's the beef? We're told the hamburgers on the no-frills menu were smaller than White Castle's famously tiny burgers, which cost about 50 cents each. That's a bargain, considering the GOP donors paid $2,000 each to show up.
That's it for INSIDE POLITICS. I'm Judy Woodruff.
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Emergency California Plan>