Politics Roundup: A Balancing Act For 2016

Mar 16, 2015
Originally published on March 16, 2015 7:50 am
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Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And now some pregame analysis from Cokie Roberts, who joins us most Mondays. And, Cokie, tempted as I am to talk about baseball with you, I guess we should focus on the politics (laughter) if you want, unless you disagree with that.

COKIE ROBERTS, BYLINE: I'll just say, go Nats (laughter).

GREENE: There you - OK. Well, you have shown your allegiance. You know, let me ask you - we just heard about in Don's piece the questions for Secretary Clinton about these emails and now House Speaker John Boehner talking about launching an investigation into that matter. How is that going to play out?

ROBERTS: I don't think that's likely to go very far. The AP has also filed suit against the State Department looking for the emails, so it's not going to go away.

But, you know, the most important thing there, David, is the only Democrat you just heard in Don's piece was Hillary Clinton, whereas you heard a lot of Republicans, and that's both an advantage and a disadvantage. Advantage, of course, is there's no fight. You can get organized. You can raise money. The disadvantage is that everything's focused on her. And when you have Congress in the hands of the opposition, the Congress can use that power to go after the candidate of the other party, especially in a case like this. And if it were a broad Democratic field, that wouldn't be true, but here, all the Republican firepower is after one person.

Now, that would be true eventually anyway. The question for the Democrats is whether it's helpful or hurtful to have it go on for so long and whether they think that Secretary Clinton is more a strength than a liability, and obviously you can get a debate going inside the party on that question, even as she is seen as the inevitable nominee.

GREENE: Well, Congress is, as you say, in the hands of Republicans. They can control the agenda. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announcing that he's going to postpone a vote on the president's nominee for attorney general until after a vote on a human trafficking bill. Can you explain that?

ROBERTS: Well, this is kind of a sad story about how Congress can't get its act together even if it wants to. This is a bill to try to stop human trafficking. The funds paid to victims - now there is language in the bill that says you can't use those funds for abortions, the way many bills have said in Congress over the years, and that's the way it was when it came out of committee. But then the Democratic base got mad. And groups like Planned Parenthood have said you can't vote for this bill, so the Democrats are objecting, but they don't have the votes to strip out the language.

So what was a bipartisan bill is no longer so. And McConnell has said we have to get this bill done first, and then we'll do the Loretta Lynch nomination. He has to show some sort of backbone to his base after the Homeland Security voting, where he had to cave to the Democrats. But it really shows that even if the Senate wants to come together, they can't in large part because they're beholden to outside groups who pressure them.

GREENE: Well, speaking of not coming together. I want to ask you about that fight over the letter sent by 47 senators to the leaders of Iran, basically saying that any agreement they make with President Obama, if there is one, could be undone by the next president - harsh reaction from Secretary of State John Kerry yesterday.

ROBERTS: Well, he was asked if he'd apologize for the letters to the people he's negotiating with. And he said, not on your life. I'm not going to apologize for an unconstitutional and unthought-out action by somebody who's been in the United States Senate for 60-some days - this from an older senator. And the senator he referenced, Arkansas freshman Tom Cotton, replied, well, what we did was send a clear message to a dictatorial regime.

Look, David, you know, there's been a lot of talk about, is this unprecedented. And this letter is basically unprecedented, but Congress objecting to a president's foreign policy is hardly unprecedented. And the most recent example that was obvious was the Congress and that the President Reagan couldn't fund the Nicaraguan rebels. The administration famously went behind Congress's back, made a deal to trade arms for those rebels for hostages in what country? Iran. So if any country knows about the separation of powers in the United States government it is Iran, and the senators do have to explain that.

GREENE: All right. Cokie Roberts joins us most Mondays. Cokie, good to talk to you as always.

ROBERTS: Thanks, David. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.