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tv   U.S. House of Representatives Legislative Business  CSPAN  February 24, 2016 6:00pm-7:01pm EST

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president should restrain himself when issuing them. are ie president should restrain himself when issuing them. i also agree that the president should not close guantánamo by eo say as a moderate democrat, the cost savings over time are very clear to me. roughly millions of prisoners going forward with a $250 million cost for 91 prisoners, $2.2 million per year. domestically, weekend house moneypeople without that and it would be astronomical but when you think about the savings over time -- and i didn't hear you mention the cost of the transition, but over time, and they would be there for years
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conceivably, we spend a lot of money. how any defense spending that much money on housing these folks? thank you. guest: i appreciate your comment and the question. , we talkook at this about the money because comes into the focus, but the reality is is that most of us do not think that is the primary driver. what we care about is the individuals being housed right now and not allowing them to get back to someplace else. most of us believe that we do not want them not only on the battlefield but in the continental united states. the system we have got right now does work and it does keep them off the battlefield and outside of the continental united states and all their repercussions that could come up we had them in the united states. we know there is a cost. we think is well worth keeping these individuals out of the battle. to the next coming year anyway. it doesn't mean in the future we
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will not take a look at other alternatives. for right now, we have not been convinced of the proposals that have been suggested about putting it in one of the 13 different locations in the united states and if it is worth the money that would be saved versus what we know right now is working for us by keeping him in one location and off the continental united states. it is a fair question and i think it can be continued to be debated in the future. is there a better alternative? most of us in the senate, republicans and democrats, do not believe the alternatives being offered are as good as the one we have right now. host: jim is next in ohio, republican. caller: i have got a few comments i would like to make. first, i think president obama is the first president i can remember who wants to be a dictator. i think you should be impeached. i don't care what the cost of guantanamo bay, that is where we
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need to keep those people. we do not need them on u.s. soil and that is my comment. guest: thank you, jim. host: you agree, senator? guest: i will agree that we should not have them on u.s. soil and i understand the frustration he expresses, but the president has prerogatives. i will not defend with the president is doing, but i would suggest that he believes he is doing what is right and we simply disagree and that is the place where we start. we negotiate from there, but in this case, we have not yet seen any alternative just better than one we have right now in terms of keeping these individuals in guantanamo bay. host: secretary of state john kerry was up on capitol hill before the senate foreign relations, talking about this proposed to steal. i want to show you and our viewers what he had to say about it this also a part in what happens next. [video clip] john kerry: i appreciate your comments but it would be a to calculatenybody
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the present obama that if that doesn't work, there is not another set of options. i do not buy that. anybody who presumes that is the stretching this president. making toughd at decisions and doing what is necessary. the president's first choice is to try to see if this can be resolved diplomatically. my first choice, the first choice of the security team, that there are plenty of people who were thinking about, if it does not work, then what? of theng the president united states who has the responsibility to make that choice. anybody who thinks that there is impunity for just violating this going forward is making a great mistake in my judgment. rounds, your reaction? diplomacy should work, but there is a question of all
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the sides are a green in the first place. second of all, the real question is to whether or not russia will honor the agreement. and what are the discussions if they do not? we have watched this play out they have bombed individual civilian sites and so forth. we have looked the other way. all of a sudden, now that they have gone objectives that, i slow this downd a little bit carried there was a question of who is playing who? in this case and whether this is a surrender agreement or this is a peace agreement. we are going to ask hard questions about that. do we want peace in the middle east? absolutely. do we want the place where people can go to be safe? a lot of us have talked about this and we sent letters suggesting, let's get in some areas where refugees can get we can provide day to them. so thateed to police it the russians can be assured we will not be housing those
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individuals that they are after, supposedly, they are the same people we are after, members of isis and so forth, but let's try diplomacy if we can. the way that it has been established after russian was able to take over some of their objectives they were able to, it reeks along the lines of they got what they needed out of this thing and if they see that they have to move in again, we suspect they probably will. host: if you have questions or , syrian about these peace deal, other national security issues, (202)-748-8001 for republicans. (202)-748-8000 for democrats. independents, (202)-748-8002 . the wall street journal says that the cabinet is split.
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host: what is the cia operation happening in syria? can you tell us about it? guest: i really cannot tell you about it. the information i have is limited. i would say the chances are pretty good that you have that information as well. i can tell you that i agree with the assessment. if russia decides they will not do it, they won't do it. right now, they have no respect for our ability to come back in and likely challenge them because we have not so far. vladimir putin figures things out, he is a chess player and he is looking at how far he can push. he has pushed buttons in the past and he is doing it in europe right now. he is looking to find out how far we will go and how far we can be pushed. to pushhe is continuing
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the buttons. he will come in, tell us he wants peace, but it does not fit -- but if it does not fit his style, that is the end of the game and he will move back in. we will find out whether or not this peace agreement works. i have no doubts. i do not think all the groups have assigned on to, but nonetheless, this particular piece agreement i think will be short-lived. host: the papers are noting that the current presiden of syria, has agreed to on paper what the cease-fire is and it could be happening in the next couple of days. guest: once again, we have a case where we have individuals theirve obtained objectives, they are on the move. the allies, who had -- who we had been supposedly backing are taking a pounding. now, after it is almost complete, now we will begin to cease-fire and maybe a little too late. host: and the deal does not include isis forces or the al
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qaeda linked groups in syria. interestingly, the foreign republican ofman, tennessee, said russia is using the refugees as a weapon of war against europe. guest: well, let's take a look at the facts. right now, you have syrian refugees who are entering europe and putting a huge burden him financial burden, social burden on a number of countries in europe. those particular countries are not necessarily allies of prussia. have individuals moving across, creating problems and you have them pushing them. if they are pushing them out and they're not doing anything to keep them there, and certainly, these refugees, they don't necessarily want to leave but they are in a position where they have to, and air going to places right now that they do not necessarily want them. his vladimir putin playing the right game? probably, but it is hurting our allies. host: the new york times says
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that vladimir putin is hoping to break the 28 nation consensus behind economic sanctions imposed on russia over its annexation of crimea in 2014. host: let's go back to calls. ryan in michigan, independent. question or comment for the senator. caller: good morning. it is funny that the president is talking about closing guantanamo as former president bush did but nobody clarified to meet or the american people if we are closing the whole base, that is a strategic base used for shakedown cruises for the navy. i have been there. it is a great place for training. we have no other facility like that. we also closed the egg is island
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-- the bombing range island years ago or not years but decades ago. russia has a presence on the other side of cuba and a port that we never talked about. , 90 is a strategic location miles off our coast. it is not just about the prison. of course we should have the prison there. it is logical. i do not believe the figures that have been touted about how much it would cost, maybe we should get into that a little bit, but it is amazing after all these years, we do not have the basic trademark of what are we doing? we don't want to give up that land. we have to have that land. host: all right, senator? guest: the plan right now as we to pointd is not guantanamo bay but to remove the individuals from the secure facility within the naval base. and move them to other locations
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in the united states. that is the challenge that has been prohibited or the rule or proposal from the president that has been prohibited by law. to the best of our knowledge, there is no plan to close guantanamo bay area as the caller indicated, this is an important facility, one of the locations that we use in south comm. host: chris in dallas, texas, democrat. caller: the last caller stole some of my thunder. i was just wondering, how is it that republicans can get too upset now with president obama went all the has done in his administration is something that happen whenoing to he was inaugurated but he was blocked and obstructed. they had a secret meeting. it was detailed in the book called "dark money." they were going to block with the president wanted to do.
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president bush, president obama is following the same line of argument that president bush had planned to do a guantanamo bay and the prison. he has tried prisoners in federal court with prisoners in federal prison. republicans are not opposed to that. the only reason people like rounds from south dakota, and it is a shame that the sender retired and give that seat to him, they just hate being -- they just hate having a black man in the oval office. otherwise, you cannot explain. host: we would get the senator a chance to respond. guest: first of all, i would disagree with you. there are members of the united states senate and the house that we work with on a regular basis that are black. i don't think this has anything to do with race. we do have an honest disagreement with policy. we can talk about whether or not people disagree or agree with the president's policy.
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i have yet to be in any conversation with the house or senate where race has come up with president obama. i would say that in the times i had the opportunity to socialize with them when i was governor, and since then, he has been a gracious host and the kind of you you would not mind sitting down to have a beer with. the simple issue is we do not agree on policy, national, tax policy, we have different points of view with regard to the president. if you sat down and visited with them about things, he will try you his point of view and we will talk about our point of view, and in a lot of cases, they are different at nothing to do with race. host: senator mike rounds served his first term and before that, he was governor of south dakota from 2003-2000 11 and served in the state senate as well. he was involved in an insurance
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firm before that. taking your questions and calls on national security issues. we will hear from bill next in pennsylvania. independent. caller: good morning. president obama is a great president. i voted for him the first time. the second time, i had to drop out because the economy just did not come back the way i thought it was going to come back under his policies. having been in the vietnam war 100 years ago or so, i can tell you that one of our objectives on the battlefield was to capture enemies and to get information out of the enemies which would help us to go toward victory. but ourate to say it, military has been handcuffed in this respect because over the last six years or seven years, they keep sending drones here, drones there, and i remember when bush and cheney were using drones and everybody in the
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media said collateral damage. this president i think is 500% more drones than bush and cheney . instead of capture people to get information out of and that will save american lives and it will take us to victory, the policy from the last six years or seven years has just a bit to drone everybody out there. host: ok. guest: bill, thank you for your service. did a dedication back in 2006 to the nonveterans in south dakota and 40,000 people showed up. i will tell you that there is a need to say thank you on a regular basis to veterans and that is critical. we appreciate your service and we should continue to say that every chance we get. we understand that the face of war has changed with technology, and i do not disagree with bill when he says that interrogating prisoners appropriately can be effort.eficial to the
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it is an area where we have fewer opportunities now than we did in the past. that is the reality of the modern-day war we are fighting right now in the middle east. we are using drones, it is safer with regards to sending our men versus a drone, and it is an efficient way to take care of problems in areas that we otherwise would not have access to. it does leave us with fewer individuals to visit with, talk with and find out and get information on the battlefield. the caller is correct. host: mary is on the air, democrat. caller: hi, greta. i am glad he wants to close gitmo bay. he is always trying to protect the people of america. , theyy want to open cuba have got to get those people out of there and put them in american prisons. it is just an invitation for the terrorists to come to cuba and
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re-catholic on that country -- and re-catholic -- wreak havoc on that country. i heard about the environmental situation there is almost pristine. once you send in those -- all those business people, they are going to tear that land up. i would just assume to keep it with taurus -- tourists. host: your thoughts? i think barry suggested that wherever they are housed, it may be a draw for other terrorist to come. that is one of the reasons why the suggestion is made that they would not be appropriate to bring them to the united states. one of the reasons they are left in guantanamo bay. i think most americans would say they would rather have them getting to the guantanamo bay been the continental united states. a discussion over whether
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the president should nominate someone to fill the seat for the late justice antonin scalia carried front-page page of the new york times, gop says that obama's pick will be shunned. in a closed-door meeting, it appears the request was made with republicans that they will not consider any sort of nominee from this president. can you tell us about that? guest: i was at the meeting they are talking about and we had a closed conference on tuesday, wednesday and thursday of each week, so it is not unique to have a closed-door meeting, republican or democrat, but one of the discussions was the announcement from a letter from the republicans on the judiciary committee, where the advised senator mcconnell that they did not intend to take up the nominations from the president for the supreme court, and during our discussion, it is a private discussion, but it was not so much a pledge as a consensus that republicans do
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not believe that this is the right time to take up a nomination for consideration to the united states supreme court. i think there are some very strong feelings about that. discussionry robust that i think would be fair to say there is a strong consensus that we believe the next president of the united states should make that determination after the people of the united states vote for the next president. and there is precedent for that. depending on whether your party is the party with her without the president, there is an ongoing discussion about whether or not there is a history suggesting that the president's nominations are approved. history does not support that in an election year. in fact, -- and you will see lots of film clip age of vice president joe biden and senator harry reid and chuck schumer all identifying during a presidential year or earlier that there be a delay with
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regard to when the senate considers a nomination for the highest court in the land. in this case, you are talking about replacing or finding another person stepping onto the bench for justice scalia, and he clearly is the gold standard. this is not one that any of us will take lightly. host: there has also been precedents that they have moved forward and has not been a vacancy on the court for an entire year. you have any concerns with eight justices? guest: really not. having an even number of justice is is not new in united states. when we had 36 states in the union, there were six justices, at all.were not unusual in fact, when we had the last couple of judges appointed to the supreme court, there were delays before we could actually allow them to participate in court hearings. the way that we understand right
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now, arrested this year, regardless of what happens, there would not be time for a justice to sit in on hearings during this year. most of the hearings will take close to six months from the time a nomination is made until an approval or consent is provided. that is in the best of times, so if you take six months from now, you are talking about september and close to a presidential election to begin with. even after that, let's just say that the nomination occurs with the next president. once that occurs, there is a time delay, but the supreme court can adjust their schedule for the most difficult cases to wait for nominee to be approved. we do not think that there was going to be a huge change in terms of the number of cases that cannot be decided, and most certainly, this is not the case where we are in uncharted waters because we are not. this has occurred host: on multiple occasions in the past. host:rick in --
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on multiple occasions in the past. host: rick in georgia, a republican. go ahead. yes, ma'am. president obama, when he goes to cuba for his visit, he is going to be at guantanamo bay. then, he is going to tell the senate, you will find something to do with the prisoners. rick'sou think that is prediction that when the president goes to cuba, that will happen. heard thatve not before. that is a new one. guantanamo bay is a valuable piece of real estate for the united states. we have a pretty good-sized naval base there. it is important. i would be pretty surprised that the president would actually bay,n to return guantanamo the naval base, to cuba as part
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of many deal. i would be surprised if congress would have allowed that to happen. nonetheless, it is interesting and thought-provoking. uran, indiana, good morning. caller: this is a qualified mess republicans have done over and over in america. i am ashamed of their leadership. you can understand that these guys are ready to shut down the government every single day. they are really working against the constitutional discretion and they should be ashamed. even their leadership when they are trying to elect new presidents, most everyone is calling them liars. keep america brave. let proud americans be very proud americans, and this is not the way to lead the word. host: to think that is the tender of the nomination process en the republican side -- tenur
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of the nomination process on the republican side? guest: we don't like it. i don't think anyone likes it. it is bringing people into vote. each one of the candidates is doing what they think is right to get attention and in a lot of cases, it is working. if you take a look at the approaches they have taken, each has a plan. even though we may not like the process, it is one that plays out with the winner in the end. we will then reanalyze what worked for them and what did not. look, mr. trump, as an example, has become the face of people who are very angry about washington, d.c. thataller has suggested there is a desire to shut down washington, d.c. yet, most republicans have taken back the senate this year. not only do we pass a budget, but we made the deals necessary in the major appropriation plan that keeps government running,
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and reestablished the timeframe what they would not be a shutdown of the national debt until after the next president has been elected. i think we have done the best we can to point out that we do not want to have those types of divisive battles and we went to move forward and face the challenges that our country has in front of us right now. if we can get to the bottom line on this and say, this -- here is the reality, with tax codes, which have got to be revised, we have regulatory problems that are stopping the growth of our economy, and you have entitlements which we cannot afford anymore. in fact, government operation released a report about three weeks ago. if you look at the report, within 10 years, by the time our country turns 250 years old, in 10 years, 99% of all revenues collected by the federal government, all, will go into two categories -- interest on the federal debt and mandatory
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payments for entitlements and so forth. it does not include money for defense, education, research, roads and bridges. some people say, we will have a crisis that we have the crisis now. when these folks run on the campaign trail, they have their own opinion on how to move forward, but you have to have the vision and get people fired up. right now, each of them has their own approach. it is not fun necessarily, except a lot of people enjoy it like a reality tv show. host: your candidate was governor mike huckabee. you have not decided on your second choice. let me ask you, what makes a brother president -- what makes a better president? a senator or governor. you were both. guest: you are accountable for what you are getting done. here is what i think he needs -- a vision, be able to share with
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people what you want to see in america 10 years from now, share with them how you will get there, you have to have a tactic lay down and bring other people with you. you cannot be the only person saying that, so it is a matter of sharing a passion that other people want to join and believe. that goes for republicans and the crowds alike. all those individuals have to have that but they have to be able to execute it and get the job done. in a crisis situation in this country and the american people understand that and that is one of the reasons white mr. trump has been as -- one of the reasons why donald trump has been as successful as he has been. he is mad at washington and folks are saying, g, i wish of the people would say that. for those of us to get one year ago, a lot of us ran on the same platform. what we are looking for is a vision for what we want to have, how we will make that vision a reality, and how we will bring other people with us. host: if you support him? guest: the republican nominee,
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regardless of who they are, i think we'll have a better plan moving forward then any democrat nominee. i can tell you that these people once to do it is right, but i think their philosophy on how we get there is not as good as the republican point of view, which is you have to address the tax situation, regulatory reform, and he will have to face the facts that the sooner we start thinking of changes in the entitlement process is out there, we will not save social security if we do not start now and we will not save medicare if we do not start now. time is running out. each of these presidential nominees has got to have a plan laid out in the vision that other people can believe in as well. i think any one of the republicans out there understands it and will work added in a way that will bring more people on board then what are democrat nominees would do. host: we need to share this story related to 2016 campaign. e-mail testimony could rattle -- it is on the first page of
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washington post and washington times -- hillary clinton should be questioned under oath about her use of a private e-mail server as secretary of state. host: we will go back to calls. brian, democrat, louisiana. caller: good morning. are that i think republicans are obstructionist and i think there is a lot to
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what they have to say about undertones of races. i think it is consciously and effort that republicans make to prey on people's fears. they wave the constitution all the time, yet, when it comes to selecting the next supreme court justice, they are ignoring the constitution. host: let's get the response to that charge. guest: first of all, i do not believe it is correct to say we are ignoring the constitution when we talk about how we handled the supreme court nomination. supreme court nominations in the united states are set up in a fashion where the person who was nominated, but you go to the senate for advice and consent. they can nominate but not the point. the senate, by simply saying it is up to them to make a decision, right or wrong as to whether not the agree with the presidential appointee, does not give them the timeframe in which to do it. advice andre is consent and nominee cannot
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become a member of the united states supreme court unless the united states senate is convinced they are the right person for the job. i think that is where a lot of folks are saying, isn't that amount of when the president? sent somebody up and you just approve the and -- you just approve? no. is there is a vetting process in here as well, and in a lot of cases, the vetting process determined to the president might nominate and who he might not nominee. that is not something you take lightly to begin with if you are the chief executive officer. as a governor, i know that when i would nominate individuals for positions that had to be approved, you do a vetting process beforehand. once you have done that, the next step is to literally go in and show the members of the senate that the choice you made, the correct choice, and it is one for a lifetime appointment the right person. remember, we are replacing justice scalia. i truly believe he is the gold
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standard when we talk about individuals that understood about how the sickly interpret the constitution of the united states. the balance of the united states supreme court is in this decision. one weight or another. or another and that is not a decision and one should take lightly. washington,, republican. good morning. caller: happy rainy day. [laughter] i believe congress is ignoring the constitution and you explained yourself, i think you should be enrolled in obamacare just like every other american out there. you to, i would like for clear something up for me. i believe that guantanamo is american soil because isn't every naval base on american soil, including embassies, with the exclusion of benghazi, that was not american soil. i just wanted to clear that up. guest: thank you.
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number one, with regard to obamacare, members of the house and senate are included in obamacare today. our staff members are not happy about it, but in my particular case, i am on obamacare and my obamacare. -- and my staff is on obamacare. there has been a proposal, as a matter of fact, democrats made it, that there is an interpretation that says each separate congressional office is by itself and not subject to those rules that would require them to become obamacare members, but republicans have basically said, we do not like it, but if we force this on americans, we will live with it as well. in my case, unfortunately, my employees have had to put up with obamacare and i'm in the same process. second of all, the constitution is different with regards to how it applies to foreign bases versus continental united states
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soil. there is a difference and that is one of those areas that some folks have said, well, if you bring people from guantanamo bay into the united states, there is a question as to constitutionally what rights they have versus if they are kept in guantanamo bay bay. i don't think there are any questions that the right to more limited in guantanamo bay than the continental united states. that is one of the reasons they have been pushed to keep them where they are at an guantanamo bay and not allow them onto american soil. host: i want to get in one last benny in missouri. independent. caller: good morning. my question is on sovereignty. and i respect for sovereignty. it cuba is a sovereign government -- is cuba is a sovereign government and they do not recognize america on guantanamo and they have not accepted any payments that america has sent to them in guantanamo, are illegally occupying cuba?
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guest: my understanding is that there was an original agreement that allows the american ands -- that allows the united states axis to guantanamo bay. if you make a change out of it, it would have to be a bilateral change, so if one country decides they do not want to live up to an agreement that had been made earlier, that does not necessarily meet the agreement is no longer in effect. if cuba decided today that they want it all back, they still have to respect the binding agreement or the agreements in place before. host: thank you, senator [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2016]
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>> c-span's "washington journal" live every day with news and policy issues that impact you. coming up tomorrow morning, republican representative from ohio, jim renacci, and democratic representative from delaware, john carney. both congressmen are co-chairs of the bipartisan working group. they'll join us to discuss efforts to bring unity back to congress. be sure to watch c-span's "washington journal" live beginning at 7:00 a.m. eastern tomorrow morning. join the discussion. now today's us who briefing with press secretary josh ernest. he was asked about president obama's supreme court justice nomination. the syrian ceasefire agreement. and the closinging of guantanamo bay. it's an hour and 20 minutes.
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afternoon, good everybody. as many of you have heard me say many times before, the united states is on the brink of finalizing the trans-pacific partnership agreement and we're hopeful that the congress will work to approve the highest standard trade agreement in history. particularly when it comes to protecting labor and environmental rights, intellectual property and a variety of other areas. this is an agreement that will cut 18,000 taxes that various countries impose on products that are made in america. part of this discussion has been the administration's commitment to enforcing our trade laws. our track record when it comes the forcement actions at
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w.t.o. is quite good. to date the united states has brought 20 enforcement actions to the w.t.o., that's more than any other member of the w.t.o. and in fact where every one of those disputes has been decided, the united states has won. we're undefeated. i mention that because that winning streak continued today. the w.t.o. made an announcement today that the united states has won a challenge to rules in india that discriminate against imported solar products. this represents a significant victory for the rapid deployment of solar energy across the world, but also for clean jobs right here in america. it also represents as i mentioned the administration's continue pping emphasis on using all the tools at our disposal to hold our trading partners accountable. in order to further expand our robust trade enforcement efforts, the president will sign into law today h.r. 644,
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this is the trade facilitation and trade enforcement act of 2015. among other things, this bill will create a trade enforcement trust fund, to provide new resources, currently authorized at $15 million per year, for trade enforcement efforts. it also will bolster the enforcement tools that we can use to protect intellectual property rights, and it will also give the united states new and unprecedented measures to address unfair currency practices. i know this is a sticking point with many members of congress who are considering their support for the trans-pacific partnership. the conference report for h.r. 644 that the president will sign into law today creates a new binding mechanism to confront countries that engage in unfair currency practices, and requires the administration to impose penalties on countries that fail to work with us. so the president is serious, both about having access to these tools, but also in using
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them in a way that we can protect the american economy, american businesses and, most importantly, american workers. with all that, with all that out of the way, do you want to kick us off? reporter: thank you. i have a couple different topics to poke you on today. mr. earnest: ok. reporter: first, what is the response from here to speaker ryan saying that republicans are taking legal steps to stop the president from taking unilateral action to close the prison at guantanamo bay? mr. earnest: i did observe that republicans certainly seem to be in a pretty litigious mood these days. [laughter] and i guess this is just the latest installment in that. look, if they spent just a portion of the time that they do in hiring lawyers at taxpayer expense to sue the president to actually work with the president, to make progress on behalf of the american people, they'd have a lot more to show for their work. and whether that is closing the
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prison at guantanamo bay, prove the trans-pacific partnership -- approving the trans-pacific partnership, or filling a vacancy at the supreme court, this is the basic work that the constitution and the american people expect of the united states senate. that applies at least in some of those cases to the house of representatives as well. but look, when it comes to our plan to close the prison at guantanamo bay, that's something we laid out yesterday and it's a plan that we believe merits serious consideration by the united states congress. reporter: question on the meetings -- the president's meetings with the king of jordan. jordan has been talking a lot about needing more aid to deal with syrian refugees. did the president offer any additional -- specifically to jordan to deal with the refugee issue? mr. earnest: the president did discuss some additional military assistance the united states will be providing jordan. obviously the united states and
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jordan have an important security relationship that enhances the national security of both our countries. the president talked about why that relationship is particularly important and it will be enhanced with these additional resources that were announced today. the united states is the largest bilateral donor of humanitarian assistance to the humanitarian crisis caused by syria. and that means that we've offered significant assistance to the jordanians who themselves have demonstrated tremendous generosity in meeting the basic humanitarian needs of hundreds of thousands of, if not more than a million, people who have fled to jordan from syria, trying to escape violence. this is just one particularly troubling consequence of the chaos inside of syria right now. and the united states will continue to stand with jordan
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as they certainly are doing more than their fair share here to address that situation. there was -- there were not any new announcements as it relates to humanitarian assistance today, but i would certainly not rule out additional humanitarian assistance being provided by the united states of america. reporter: do you know what percentage of the assistance the u.s. has already given to help syrian refugees in jordan? mr. earnest: i don't have that statistic but i can certainly look to see if that's something we can make available to you. reporter: then on the supreme court, the announcement yesterday about senator mcconnell is there would be no hearing, no vote, not even any meetings -- [inaudible] -- does that not complicate the process for him choosing someone? because you then have to find someone who's going to be willing to put themselves in the middle of this. not a regular situation. mr. earnest: i certainly would agree with that description. i think we have seen an unprecedented attempt to inject
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politics into this situation. and that's rather unfortunate. it's inconsistent with the expectations of the united states constitution. i think it's also inconsistent with the expectations of the american people. the american people expect that the united states senate will do their job. and right now you have members of the united states senate suggesting that they're not going to do their job for the next 11 months. and i think that's a position that's rather difficult to justice -- justify. but that's something that they'll have to determine. they'll have to determine for themselves whether or not this is a position that they can maintain. the president certainly is intent on following through on his constitutional responsibilities. the president will do his job. and in fact his team is already hard at work preparing materials for him so he can eventually choose the best person to fill the vacancy at the supreme court. the kinds of people who would be considered for a position like this i think are well
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are that every debate that takes place -- well, let me say it this way. certainly in the modern era, anybody that's been nominated to the supreme court has gone through a rigorous vetting process. it's not supposed to be an easy process. and i don't think the expectation is -- it's certainly not the expectation of the president that it's going to be easy. but it is the expectation of the president, and again i think it's the expectation of the american people, that it's process that will be carried out seriously. and that places constitutional responsibilities ahead of narrow political considerations. so that's -- that is why both the president is committed to following through on his responsibility, and also think it's why -- that when the president has decided on the right person to fill this
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cancy, that person will be enthusiastic about what is a weighty responsibility, but also a tremendous opportunity. reporter: you don't think it will make the search process harder or more difficult? mr. earnest: i'll tell you, i obviously can't speak for someone who has not been asked yet. but i can tell you that when it comes to our search process, we are going to set aside politics and we're going to be focused on helping the president make a decision about who the best person in america is to fill the vacancy on the supreme court. that's what he will be focused on and that's how he'll make his decision. reporter: moving on to syria. i know the president said today that he didn't want to raise expectations or was cautious about raising expectations about the cessation of hostilities agreement there. secretary kerry has said that if parties don't live up to the
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agreement or if peace talks fail, that there have been a lot of discussions about a plan b. and that there are other options. can you talk a bit about what would be the plan b if these peace talk don't go ahead? if people don't comply with this agreement, what are the other options for the administration? mr. earnest: look, i know that when people refer to a plan b, it assumes that diplomacy will fail. and i think that in some cases people using that terminology assume that that means a consideration of military options. and at this point i'm unwilling to discuss potential military options at a time when we're hoping that diplomacy can succeed. we're clear-eyed about the situation. and i think you heard me acknowledge earlier this week that we anticipate that there will be some obstacles to the implementation of this cessation of hostilities. i would anticipate that in the early days it will be difficult
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to implement, that there will be some violations, and it will be unclear after a few days or maybe even after a few weeks about whether or not this understanding will stick. but right now that's where our attention is focused. it doesn't mean that we don't have important military objectives inside of syria. of course we do. the cessation of hostilities does not apply in any way and does not have any impact on our ability to continue to press the case against isil. in fact, the reason that we are trying to put in place this cessation of hostilities is in part to get the parties to focus on the need to degrade and ultimately destroy isil and begin to make additional progress on the political track and begin to negotiate the kind of long overdue political solution that everyone acknowledges is required. reporter: but these discussions of a plan b, do they include military options?
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mr. earnest: i'm not going to speculate at this point about what a plan b would include because our focus right now is so squarely on trying to ensure the successful implementation of the cessation of hostilities. and i want to be clear, it's not going to be obvious after a few days or even a few weeks about whether or not the implementation has succeeded. in fact, we anticipate that there will be some obstacles that are encountered basically right away. i should point out that the responsibility is not just resting with the united states. the russians and the syrian a significant burden to bear here in making sure that this understanding about a cessation of hostilities can be effectively implemented. and based on the understanding that's been reached, the world can see exactly what the
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expectations are of the russians and the syrians and it puts them on the hook for making sure that this can succeed. reporter: the president's going to be meeting with the v.f.w. commander. there's been some scandal with the v.a. hospital in cincinnati . they were talking about cuts of medical services, there's been an investigation. surgical equipment dirty and hospital rooms and things of that nature. has the white house looked into this at all? has the president raised any concerns with the v.a. secretary about this? are there concerns about this scandal in cincinnati? mr. earnest: most importantly, the v.a. secretary has looked into this. this is a situation that the white house is aware of. but secretary mcdonald has worked acid white housely in the couple of years he's been this that role to implement some overdue reforms in making
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sure that we are keeping faith with our veterans. and there's important work that needed to be done to make sure that those health care services were being provided in a timely fashion and that they were getting the kind of high-quality attention that they deserve. it's been pain staking work. but secretary mcdonald has been serious about implementing these reforms and improving the performance of the v.a. we certainly are pleased with the progress that has been made under his leadership. but i think everybody around here acknowledges that there's more important work that needs to be done in this regard and i think when yurne you're talking about something that's -- when you're talking about something that's as high a priority as this, trying to meet the health care needs of millions of our bravest citizens, i don't think that work is ever going to be finished. and making sure that we are serving them in a manner that they deserve. certainly secretary mcdonald takes that seriously, i can
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assure you that the commander in chief takes that seriously. and we're going to continue to watch these situations moving forward. reporter: back on the supreme court. the president said today multiple times that the american people should decide on his nominee. i'm wondering, that seems to signal kind of a shift from what you guys have been talking which is engaging with senators directly. 'm wondering if this sort of previews you guys gearing up for kind of a public fight or a political fight over your supreme court nominee. mr. earnest: i would not -- i would urge you not to read that as a shift. primarily because i don't think the president intended to send a signal of any kind about a shift. our focus right now is on nominating the best person for the job. that's the president's responsibility right now. and he's hard at work on that.
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when asked what's going to change the senate's mind about this nominee, and convince the senate that they should fulfill their responsibility to give the nominee the courtesy of a meeting, and do what every supreme court nominee since 1875 has done, which is appear at a hearing before the united states senate to discuss their potential nomination, that's true of every nominee who wasn't withdrawn before the hearing was convened, so there's a longstanding precedent here and i do think that the president believes that we're certainly going to continue to make our case to the united states senate that they should do their job. the president has called up a significant number of members of the judiciary committee, both democrats and republicans, and the president's hoping he'll have an opportunity to
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actually meet with the chair and ranking member of that important committee, who would host those hearings and consider the nominee. the last i heard, senator leahy, who's the ranking member, has said that he's eager to meet this week. we've not yet heard back from chairman grassley but we're hopeful we'll be able to schedule that meeting quite soon. and that's what the president has done the two previous times he's had to fill vacancies. he's had meetings in the oval office with chair and ranking member of the senate judiciary committee, both in 2009 and 2010. and that's what he wants to do this time. because he takes seriously his responsibility to consult with congress. so we're certainly going to continue to be making our case. but i think the president is alluding to the fact that i think most americans agree that senators weren't elected to a term of five years and one month, but rather they were elected to six-year terms. they should spend that six years doing what the constitution describes.
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that's the case that we'll make and i think there's broad public agreement about that. reporter: -- [inaudible] -- "the washington post" reported earlier today that senator reid asked the president to look at the governor of nevada as one of the candidates for supreme court and that the white house was vetting governor sandoval. i'm wonderering if you could talk about whether that request if made by senator reid and governor sandoval is one of those names on the list? mr. earnest: we have reported that the president has spoken to senator reid about the supreme court vacancy. he did that at the end of last week. and i don't have any details about their conversation to share with you. i suspect -- i haven't read "the washington post" story but i was told about it before i walked out here. i suspect it is only the first many stories that speculate
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on potential supreme court nominees. and i don't think it will be helpful for me to get into a rhythm of responding to each one as it appears. so we're going to let the process play out, the president's going to conduct this work rigorously and once he has -- has chosen on the best person to fill this vacancy, then we can have a conversation about that individual's credentials. reporter: i asked last week about work in the senate on an encryption bill that would would allow law enforcement access to encrypted technology, if they were able to get a warrant. some senators said they're drafting this legislation, they hope to introduce it in march. has the white house been involved or do you plan to be involved in the crafting of that legislation? mr. earnest: i don't know the extent of the conversations on this issue. obviously this is an issue that
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our policymakers here at the white house and across the administration have spent a lot of time considering and so i certainly wouldn't rule out some consultation between the administration and capitol hill . as members of the senate who are interested in this issue try to develop heff helpful legislation. he'll want to play a construct of role in that process. but i don't know at this point to what extent administration officials have been consulted about that bill. reporter: -- [inaudible] -- supportive of that type of legislation? you've talked about sweet spot between apple and the administration not deciding and congress and the courts would be deciding. it's been iffy before on support of encryption legislation. i'm wondering if this in general is -- [inaudible] mr. earnest: as you point out, we have previously been quite
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skeptical of legislative handling of this particular matter. but i'm confident that we'll engage constructively with those members of the senate who are interested in this issue. i don't know at this point whether or not this will result in a piece of legislation that we will embrace. but i feel confident in telling you that there will be consultations between senior administration officials and the senators who are writing this bill. reporter: in the blog post from the president this morning, he said, we are -- in the weeks ahead we will see a decision on his nominee. does that mean to suggest that we are weeks away from a decision? mr. earnest: yeah. i don't know that that necessarily provided a whole lot of insight, though, into the president's timeline. we've previously noted that the president nominated justice sotomayor and kagen about a
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month or so after the previous vacancies occurred in 2009 and 2010 respectively. i don't have a new timeline to lay out here but certainly a -- in the weeks ahead language would be consistent with previous timelines. but it could foreshadow a shorter timeline or a somewhat longer timeline. we'll just have to see. >> that's helpful. porter: you know it's just going to get worse. but two weeks into this, what you're signaling is the president is not in a place, information wise and perhaps given his conversations today with the press, maybe he needs to lay more groundwork politically. it seems like the strategy is to take your time, go

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