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CNN CROSSFIRE

Senate Troubles Coming to a Head

Aired April 25, 2005 - 16:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Coming up on CNN at 6:00 p.m. eastern on "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT," we'll take a look at one principal who managed to turn around a failing Georgia middle school, and find out what it takes to make that happen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JUSTIN TORRES, THOMAS FORDHAM FOUNDATION: It becomes a challenge of putting power in the hands of principals, to get the people that they need, get the resources they need, find the curricular approach that is right, then you can see amazing things happen in schools.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

Also tonight, the U.S. prison population is the largest in the world. Nearly 100,000 are foreigners, often in this country illegally. We'll look at this huge expense for U.S. taxpayers.

Plus, the president of the U.S. Business and Industry Council says CAFTA is just another United States outsourcing agreement. He'll tell us why.

Then, Senator Saxby Chambliss talks us about his alternative recommendation for the Ag-Jobs bill to create a guest-worker program for illegal aliens. That, and more, 6:00 eastern on "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT."

Now back to Judy Woodruff. Judy?

WOODRUFF: Hey, Christine, thanks very much. We'll be watching. And, that's it for INSIDE POLITICS. I'm Judy Woodruff. "CROSSFIRE" starts right now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: CROSSFIRE, on the left, James Carville. On the right, Robert Novak. In the crossfire, the fight over judicial nominations in Congress goes to church on "Justice Sunday." The Senate majority leader tells a televised religious rally that he's ready to end the filibuster to bring the president's nominees up for a vote.

SENATE MAJORITY LEADER BILL FRIST (R) TENNESSEE: Never in 214 years, never in the history of the United States Senate, has a judicial nominee with majority support been denied an up or down vote until two years ago. ANNOUNCER: Democrats remain determined to block nominees they think lean too far to the right, and they say changing time-honored Senate rules is a sign the Republicans want too much control.

SENATOR PATRICK LEAHY (D) VERMONT: Whether you have a Democratic president or a Republican president, they should not be able to make the independent judiciary an arm of their party. I think the whole country suffers.

ANNOUNCER: Religion, politics and the courts, today on CROSSFIRE.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: Live, from the George Washington University, James Carville and Robert Novak.

JAMES CARVILLE: Welcome to CROSSFIRE.

Conservative Christians are going after Senate Democrats over blocking some of the president's more conservative judicial nominees. Last night's nationally televised "Justice Sunday" featured Majority Leader Bill Frist repeating his threat to get rid of judicial filibusters in the Senate.

ROBERT NOVAK: For years, when the Democrats controlled the Senate they would do anything they could do to decry the filibuster, calling it affront to majority rule. Now that it suits their political purposes, they seem to be promoting it as the most important rule in the Senate. But before we look at the showdown over judges, here's the best little political briefing in television, our CROSSFIRE "Politic Alert."

In New York City today, the state's two Democratic Senators, Hillary Rodham Clinton and Charles Schumer, conducted an event attacking President Bush's Social Security reform. Tomorrow some 75 Democratic members of the House will deliver the same message in a rally near the Capitol. Democrats are waging campaigns against House Majority Leader Tom DeLay and U.N. ambassadorial nominee John Bolton, and Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid threatens to shut down the government if he loses the fight to keep Bush judicial nominees from being confirmed. What does all this have in common? It's against, against, against, for the Democrats. Is there anything the Democrats are for? Nothing they want to talk about.

CARVILLE: Oh, yes, Congressman Ronald Magnum (ph) has this beautiful reform bill that he's -- will introduce it in the House, as -- grassroots (ph) have this beautiful tax reform thing, cuts it down to three different things, treats all income the same. You are going to love this, Bob. It's going to ask you and I to pay some more taxes so we can get this budget under control and we can give the middle income people tax breaks. Democrats are for drugs, for having a federal government be able to bid on drug prices, we're for allowing people to buy drugs from Canada. They can buy (INAUDIBLE).

NOVAK: James, am I mistaken? Did I read you in the paper last week saying the Democrats didn't stand for anything?

CARVILLE: No, I think they are starting to now, and they want to stand for all retirement security, and so I feel very good about that. Way to go Senator Clinton, way to go Senator Schumer. Good job. This thing is sinking fast.

(APPLAUSE)

CARVILLE: You could argue that "New York Times" columnist Paul Krugman is the smartest man in America. Some people would say yes, some people would say no, but you can't argue he's the gutsiest man in America. In this morning's "New York Times," he points out the Bush administration Treasurer Secretary John Snow says we're in an economic "sweet spot," unquote, while our own Gallup-CNN poll shows only 33 percent think the economy's improving, while 59 percent think it's getting worse.

And, of course, Republicans continue sucking up to corporations and right-wing preachers with Social Security privatization, Terri Schiavo, the nuclear option, drilling in Anwar, and special interest bankruptcy legislation, all this while job growth remains nil, wage growth is non-existent, healthcare costs and gasoline prices are exploding. This administration's policies has produced the highest increase in corporate profits and the lowest increase in wages of any administration since World War II.

NOVAK: You know, James, at one time Paul Krugman was considered a pretty smart left-wing economist. But, right now he's just a Democratic hack putting out the same Democratic...

CARVILLE: Do you have any facts? Do have any facts that....

NOVAK: Hey, do you mind if I talk?

He's just putting out the same -- the same Democratic stuff that you do, all negative, negative, negative. He is not...

CARVILLE: Corporate profits are higher.

NOVAK: Hey, wait a minute. I let you talk, you let me talk.

CARVILLE: Just correcting you, Bob.

(DING)

(APPLAUSE)

NOVAK: Former Secretary of State Colin Powell did not exactly come out against his undersecretary John Bolton to be confirmed as ambassador to the United Nations. But it was leaked that General Powell might have some reservations. Five other Republican secretaries of state, in contrast, strongly support Bolton. Former Secretary Lawrence Eagleburger (ph) wrote a stirring endorsement in yesterday's "Washington Post," revealing that the U.N.'s 1991 reveal of its odious Zionism (ph) (INAUDIBLE) was fundamentally the work of John Bolton. Former Secretary James Baker is an enthusiastic Bolton booster. Why is it that Powell's silence gets so much attention in the media, so much more attention in the media, than these ringing endorsements? Did I hear somebody say media bias?

(APPLAUSE)

CARVILLE: No, it's definitely this. Colin Powell is a single most popular Republican in the United States today. This is a fact.

NOVAK: What about the other five Republican secretaries of state?

(CROSSTALK)

CARVILLE: You think James Baker's (ph) more popular than General Colin Powell. Do you think anyone know whose Larry Egelbert (ph) is? No.

NOVAK: Well, you don't because you're a know-nothing Democrat.

(CROSSTALK)

CARVILLE: Colin Powell is the most respected and popular Republican in the United States today.

NOVAK: And you -- and you -- you love him -- you love him because he -- is that your idea of politics? To stab a guy in the back?

CARVILLE: I don't love him or hate him, I'm just saying, here's a -- Senator Hagel called him and he called for his opinion and gave it. I guess the man is telling the truth.

Remember back when they captured and killed Uday and Qusay Hussein, and the Bush administration claimed that it was the turning point in Iraq, and the sycophants and the idiots in the media agreed with them. But, of course, the violence continued. And then, they captured Saddam and they said, surely, this is a turning point in Iraq, and the media agreed and said things were about to get better, and they got worse. And then, remember when they had the famed hand- over of the administration (INAUDIBLE), it was a turning point, the "New York Times" cheered, and it got worse. And then they had the elections and, again the administration claimed, it's a turning point, and FOX News couldn't contain its glee.

Now we found out the insurgent violence is on the rise. "The Wall Street Journal" revealed an internal Army report that says it is only getting worse and turning into an escalating situation that was surely going to happen with an ill-thought out, ill-planned occupation of a foreign country. It's a turning point!

(APPLAUSE)

NOVAK: What you didn't reveal is that the very first paragraph of that story says that the attacks appear to have shifted away from U.S. troops...

CARVILLE: Thank God.

NOVAK: ...to more vulnerable Iraqis, and that the information appears to be a bit dated. What I would like to know...

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: I have a question for you: why is it that you cheer on any success by the insurgents in Iraq? You are so happy about it. You can't stand any good news. You can't stand any good news. Why is that?

(DING)

CARVILLE: I'm not cheering it on. I'm merely pointing out -- I'm merely pointing out that this administration never planned for this.

NOVAK: You sound like you're (INAUDIBLE) to me.

CARVILLE: They didn't plan for this. There was no...

NOVAK: That's a -- I'd be embarrassed if I were you, James, as an ex-Marine to cheer on the other side.

CARVILLE: I'm not cheering on the other side. I'm going to wipe out the facts. You were never for this war, either.

Where's the justice in "Justice Sunday"? Well, to date, what-if means (ph) politicians go to church and fight over judges.

And then we'll tell you why Bill Clinton was live from New York this weekend.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NOVAK: Welcome back. An organization that is designed for debate, the filibuster not only stops debating it also stops decision making. Why not let the full Senate have a chance to vote by majority rule about all the president's nominees to the bench.

In the CROSSFIRE today Ralph Neas from People for the American Way and Ken Conner, chairman for the Center For a Just Society.

CARVILLE: Ken, as I appreciate it, these Democrats have been attacking the judges because of their religion. Now, I got the Senate number in here, 1-2-0-2-2-2-4-3-1-2-1. You give me the names of three Democratic senators that attack people's religion and I'm going to get them on the phone and tell them to cease and desist.

KEN CONNOR, CHMN. CENTER FOR A JUST SOCIETY: Well, I wouldn't suggest necessarily because of their religious beliefs.

CARVILLE: Well, (INAUDIBLE) had this big rally last night.

CONNOR: Well, I wasn't a part of the rally. But I would say that a common thread of a number of those nominees has been a deep religious faith. And That a number of Democratic senators have alluded to deeply held personal values which are inspired by religious faith, as a basis to opposition for their confirmation.

CARVILLE: Anybody I can call? Who can I get on the hook here.

NOVAK: What about William Pryor there. See I tell you who you can call -- you can call Pat Leahy about William Pryor.

CONNOR: William Pryor, Janice Rogers Brown.

CARVILLE: What he'd say. Tell me what he said.

NOVAK: He criticized him because he was for overturning a law, banning sex between homosexuals.

CARVILLE: What did he criticize. What did he say about his religion?

NOVAK: He said his religion...

CARVILLE: What part...

NOVAK: He said his -- he said his...

CARVILLE: You've got it. Read it -- read what he said.

NOVAK: He said his religion was -- we have guests here. He said his religion had caused him -- had caused him to do it.

CARVILLE: Where? Well, tell me. You've got a sheet of paper. Read from it.

NOVAK: You were pulling, you won't call him. Call him.

CARVILLE: Senator Leahy, Novak's lying again.

NOVAK: All right. All right.

CARVILLE: Can you believe that? He makes up something.

NOVAK: Bad show. Mister -- Mr. Neas I want you to listen for once to what Senator Frist actually said yesterday. Just try to pay attention, too, please, Ralph, will you?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FRIST: Never in 214 years, never in the history of the United States Senate have a judicial nominee with majority support been denied an up or down vote until two years ago.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NOVAK: Can you name one who has been denied an up or down vote.

RALPH NEAS, PEOPLE FOR THE AMERICAN WAY: The most important filibuster of a judicial nomination in the history of the United States (INAUDIBLE)

NOVAK: He didn't have majority support.

NEAS: You are wrong, Bob.

NOVAK: Oh, come on. He didn't have majority support, you know that.

NEAS: The problem is you never -- you never...

(CROSSTALK)

NEAS: It was a four-day filibuster. Twice as long as any of the filibusters over the last four years. There were 51 votes. The problem is, you never went to the Senate Judiciary Committee report, where three of the unannounced senators voted for him, and the Senate Judiciary Committee voted him out. You didn't count the government and you didn't count how -- 51 votes.

NOVAK: Why -- They didn't have the votes. That is making up history, Ralph. I'm embarrassed and ashamed of you.

NEAS: They didn't have 60 votes, that's why they withdrew it. But there have been more than 30 nominations, 30 nominations in the last 25 years. Eighty percent of the filibusters have been by Republicans against judicial and executive branches.

NOVAK: They didn't have majority support. They didn't have majority support.

CARVILLE: You're having a bad day you got caught on this. You got caught on this Justice Pryor. Let me -- you know a fellow named Tony Perkins?

CONNER: Sure.

CARVILLE: Is he the head of the Family Research Council?

CONNER: He is indeed.

CARVILLE: Are you familiar that organization, sir?

CONNER: I'm a past president.

CARVILLE: Let me say what was quoted about Frank Rich, and I confirmed that this quote was true. Tony Perkins told a gal in Washington this month the judiciary (INAUDIBLE) is quote, "A greater threat to representative government" than "terrorist groups." Now, you think there's a chance maybe bin Laden is on some federal bench somewhere, and we ought to be looking for him.

CONNOR: I think that's a classic example of overheated rhetoric. And it's coming not only from the right, it's coming from the left as well. We heard Dr. Dobson referred to as the Ayatollah bin Dobson. We heard about Frist jihadist. We heard about the American Taliban. I think it's fair to say... CARVILLE: (INAUDIBLE) Mr. Perkins.

CONNOR: No, I think, Mr. Perkins rhetoric in that regard is overheated. As it is with both sides.

NOVAK: Ralph Neas, Senator Biden, who is trying to make a compromise, says let's -- let's take seven judges. Five should be confirmed that are being filibuster. They won't confirm -- two we'll keep out. Kill two, keep five.

Now the Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid was asked about that by Judy Woodruff on "INSIDE POLITICS" just a short time ago. And lets listen to his answers. And I want you to interpret what the hell this means. So, listen carefully, and tell me what he means.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MINORITY LEADER: Senator Biden, I talked to him at some length yesterday, his numbers are a little -- not quite right. But I'm happy to look at some of these numbers. We're doing that. We're looking at a number of different things that can be done to change the procedures. But this is a negotiation I'm going to do privately, not publicly.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NOVAK: What does that mean? That was senator speak, wasn't it -- classic.

CONNOR: It means he can count (ph) votes.

NOVAK: What did he mean, what did he say.

NEAS: I understood him very well, Bob. I understood him very well, because he knows that the filibuster, curbs the abuse of power. Protects the rights of the minority party and promotes bipartisan.

NOVAK: I didn't ask you for a speech. I want you -- I want you to tell me...

NEAS: Bob, please let me speak.

NOVAK: ... just a minute. I asked about Joe Biden's compromise.

And what is he saying about Joe Biden's compromise?

NEAS: And what he's saying the filibuster is, hopefully, doing what it's supposed to do. Hopefully, it's forcing people, as People of the American Ways has asked for four years, bipartisan consultation, compromise, negotiations, and concessions. We've encouraged bipartisan compromise.

NOVAK: Are you for compromise or against?

NEAS: I don't know what the compromise is.

NOVAK: I told you what it is -- a minute ago.

NEAS: No, no, no. What Senator Reid said there were negotiations going on. Lets watch, and see what happens, Bob.

NOVAK: We've got to take a break. I'm so disappointed in you, Ralph.

When we come back more on President Bush's battle with the Democrats over his judicial nominees. And right after the break, federal authorities say the arrest of this man may be an important victory in the war on terrorism.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: I'm John King, reporting from Washington. Coming up at the top of the hour, President Bush meets with Saudi Arabia's crown prince and asks him to do something about oil prices.

U.S. officials say they have one of the world's top heroin traffickers in custody, an Afghan drug lord with ties to the Taliban.

And if Martha Stewart is under house arrest, what was she doing at a celebrity gala? All those stories and much, much more, just minutes away on "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS." Now, back to CROSSFIRE.

CARVILLE: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE.

One of the leaders at last night's "Justice Sunday" rally, actually said the Supreme Court was out of control. Is it going to get to the point where nominees are going to have to pass a religious review to be on the bench? Still with, us Ken Connor, past president of the Family Research Council, the group that's sponsored last night's rally, and Ralph Neas from People for the American Way.

NOVAK: Ralph, in the old days, the Democrats -- liberal Democrats -- used to want to say, let's have majority vote rule in the Senate. Senator Leahy, Senator Kennedy, all these people all said that. What -- isn't it hypocritical now that they have said majority rule doesn't count?

NEAS: Bob, I was back there in the old days, the chief council to two Republican senators, Edward W. Brook (ph) and Dave Duremburger (ph), and Republicans and Democrats alike were in favor of checks and balances. It's -- our founding fathers were right. Majority will, that does characterize the House of Representatives, but the Senate has checks and balances like the filibuster. I do think the filibuster serves three purposes: to protect the rights of the minority, to curb abuses of power and to promote bipartisanship.

(APPLAUSE)

NOVAKE: Oh, that's really bipartisan. That's really bipartisan.

NEAS: It is, it is. It's worked well. It's worked well on legislation. It's worked well on nominations, and it's what the founders wanted. It's the way that we keep democracy -- representative democracy. My goodness, we wouldn't have a president named George W. Bush if it was just majority will. He lost by 500,000 votes.

(APPLAUSE)

NOVAK: We got a majority of the electoral college.

(CROSSTALK)

CARVILLE: There's a new poll coming out tonight. All of the polls show that the country sides with the Democrats on this. What is it that you guys -- why are you losing this fight? I mean, if it's so -- such a matter of high principle, then why is the country not with you?

CONNOR: I think the country is with us. I think the American people want an up or down vote on their judges, plain and simple.

(APPLAUSE)

CONNOR: They made it clear in the election, the 2004 election, during which President Bush campaigned dramatically on these issues. If you recall, President Bush won that election.

(APPLAUSE)

CONNOR: And I think his position -- his position affirming up or down vote resonated with the American people...

CARVILLE: (INAUDIBLE) Are the polls all wrong?

CONNOR: Well, the best poll we had was the one in November.

NOVAK: Ralph Neas, isn't it a fact -- I am just so appalled at liberals like you supporting the filibuster -- isn't it true that the filibuster, as an institution in the Senate, kept -- was a racist device that kept civil rights legislation from being enacted for a century?

NEAS: The filibuster was used against some of my interests over the years and Republicans and Democrats all would agree with that.

NOVAK: That was a main purpose of it, wasn't it?

NEAS: It is interesting that those who supported the filibuster to make sure we did have civil rights laws, now are opposed to the filibuster to protect the same civil rights laws. Again, it's all about checks and balances.

(APPLAUSE)

CARVILLE: There's a dispute here. Mr. Novak said on "Capital Gain," and on here, that Robert Byrd actually favored getting rid of the filibuster. I called Mr. Neas this morning and he said no such thing happened. Can we get a ruling on this?

CONNOR: A number of Democrats have voted to eliminate...

NOVAK: You deny that he broke a filibuster against oil decontrol?

NEAS: After the cloture vote was in vote -- after the filibuster had been broken.

CONNOR: Bob Novak is exactly right.

NEAS: It was supported by Howard Baker, the Republican leader. They were closing up loopholes after the filibuster had been broken.

NOVAK: OK. Can...

CONNOR: Bob Novak is exactly right that the filibuster has a long and sad history of being used to deprive minorities of their rights by minority members of the Senate.

(CROSSTALK)

CARVILLE: Wrong about priorities, wrong about Byrd (ph) -- Bob, you having a bad show here.

NOVAK: No, I'm (INAUDIBLE). Just because you yell doesn't mean it's right.

CARVILLE: I'm yelling, I'm just pointing a fact out.

NOVAK: Bill -- OK, thank you very much.

NEAS: As always, Bob. Thank you.

NOVAK: Neas, Connor.

Bill Clinton is back on the campaign trail. We'll tell you why, right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NOVAK: Live from New York, it's Bill Clinton. The former president did not appear on "Saturday Night Live," but he was on television this weekend. Clinton was beamed into London's Old Vic Theater Sunday, live from New York, to endorse British Prime Minister Tony Blair. May elections are scheduled in Britain, and Blair has seen his support slip because of his ties to President Bush and his support of the liberation of Iraq. The Labor Party faithful cheered President Clinton, but it isn't known as the rest of the country will respond to this extra edition of "Saturday Night Live."

CARVILLE: God, isn't that nice to think we have a president of the United States that's so popular that people abroad want him to actually campaign for him? Wonderful. Wonderful.

From the left, I'm James Carville. That's it for CROSSFIRE.

I'm Robert Novak. Join us again next time for another edition of CROSSFIRE. "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS" starts right now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Happening now, a community learns the fate of two toddlers missing since Saturday. Two-year-old Nicole Payne (ph), and her 3- year-old brother, Jonah. We'll go live to Georgia. Stand by for WOLF BLIZTER REPORTS.

END

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