Anti-tax advocate Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, said in an interview on Bloomberg Television’s “Political Capital with Al Hunt,” airing this weekend, that President Barack Obama will agree to delay implementation of the bulk of his health-care law set to take effect on Oct. 1 and avoid a government shutdown.
(This is not a legal transcript. Bloomberg LP cannot guarantee its accuracy.)
AL HUNT: We begin the show with Grover Norquist, the anti-tax activist and powerhouse in the Republican Party. Grover, as you know, the big fiscal showdowns are coming this fall. You’ve proposed delaying Obamacare, not counting for a year.
I talked to the White House. I talked to Democrats. They say no way, they will never accept that. If they stick to that position, what should the Republican strategy be? And should it include a possible government shutdown?
GROVER NORQUIST: Well, of course, some people have said that we should insist that the president sign the abolition defunding of Obamacare. I think he’d rather give you his liver than do that. So I don’t think that’s an option.
HUNT: They also said they won’t take a one-year delay.
NORQUIST: Except they’ve been delaying whole sections of it again and again and again -
NORQUIST: - for particular friends. I think that it’s going to be increasingly difficult for the White House to say we’ve delayed it for our big business friends, for our insurance friends, for our labor union friends -
HUNT: So you think they would capitulate on that?
NORQUIST: I don’t think it would be a complete capitulation.
HUNT: Well, no, but they say it would be. They say - I mean, I’m just saying what they say.
HUNT: They say they will not delay, you know - you know, all of Obamacare. Do you think they’ll ultimately cave on that?
NORQUIST: At the end of the day, yes, because he’s had to delay so much of it. It wouldn’t be a complete embarrassment to say, “We’re going to let everybody have a year delay.”
HUNT: If they don’t cave, should the Republicans consider a government shutdown?
NORQUIST: The Republicans should pass a C.R. debt ceiling that includes it, and then the president decides whether he wants to shut the government down.
HUNT: And therefore, if he then vetoes that, there ought to be a government - there will be a government shutdown?
NORQUIST: Look, we always get into that argument on both sides. I tend to think there won’t be a government shutdown, just as there wasn’t on the sequester, which was a much bigger deal.
HUNT: And how about the debt ceiling? Same thing?
NORQUIST: Well, people could decide either with a continuing resolution or the debt ceiling. There are sort of only two pieces of legislation that I can think of that need to pass, must pass. Everything else could sort of not happen. Those are the two things that have to have a House, Senate and president to agree. The House, the Senate and the president will each try and stick stuff into the must-pass bill.
HUNT: Let me ask you about the sequester. Some defense hawks, John McCain and Lindsey Graham, charge that sequestration is literally - they say literally affecting the ability to defend our nation and it ought to be replaced by a combination of other spending cuts and revenue increases, if necessary.
NORQUIST: And the reason why the president of the United States, Obama, was willing to have sequestration as part of the budget deal in 2011 was that he sees John McCain and Lindsey Graham on all the TV shows and think they represent the modern Republican Party. There are, in fact, maybe three people in the House and the Senate who take that position, that you cannot ever reduce government defense spending from -
HUNT: So you don’t agree - you think McCain and Graham are just wrong when they say it literally affects our ability to defend the country?
NORQUIST: Well, first of all, this is a 10-year project, sequestration.
NORQUIST: And, no, we can always move money around. We should do that. But we’re not going to undo the only budget restraint this country - the only budget restraint this country has is sequestration. To poke a hole in that is - would be a mistake and won’t happen. The House isn’t going to do it. The Senate isn’t going to do it. I understand that some people like to say, I care about defense, I’ll spend more money. Democrats like to say, I care about welfare, I’ll spend more money. Spending more money on welfare, more money on education doesn’t always buy you welfare or education.
HUNT: And McCain and Graham you believe are out of step with their party?
NORQUIST: Oh, yes, absolutely.
HUNT: Let’s turn to immigration. You are a supporter of a comprehensive immigration bill and have been for a long time. Let me get a prediction. Put on that really good Norquist prediction hat. Will the House pass - different from the Senate, but pass a bill that includes a pathway to citizenship?
NORQUIST: Within the next 9 to 12 months, I believe, yes, that you’ll get a bill that has serious border security, more serious and less expensive than the Senate’s version, and that also has future flows. One of the problems we had in ’86 when we had legislation was we didn’t make - there was no way for the high-tech people to come here, no way for farm workers to come here on a guest worker program. We need that. I think we’ll have an expansion of what the Senate agreed to and that we’ll have some legal status and a pathway to citizenship for the 10 million or 11 million who’ve come in over the years.
HUNT: Do you think a majority of House Republicans will support something like you’ve just described?
NORQUIST: At the end of the day, yes, because there are going to be many moving parts in this legislation, a lot of which conservatives can be very, very happy with. And I think at the end of the day that the pathway to citizenship that we’re talking about for people who came here without papers is 10 to 15 years from now. This is not tomorrow.
HUNT: But you say 9 to 12 months, so we’re really talking about well into next year when it passes, but this Congress?
NORQUIST: This Congress, yeah.
HUNT: OK. What would be the consequences for the Republican Party if they were to kill an immigration bill in the House?
NORQUIST: Well, I think there are several challenges. One is, the business community very much needs more high-tech workers. The academic community, universities would like people able to come here, study engineering, and then get a green card to stay. It brings more of the talent in the world to study in American universities.
HUNT: Right, that’s who wants it, but will there be political implications if they kill - you don’t think they’re going to kill the bill, but if they did, would there be political implications?
NORQUIST: I think it would be unwise for the modern Republican Party to come across as hostile to immigration. That has been the losing position in American history for 200 years. America being built by immigrants, it’s not just something we say. It’s true. It’s who the country is -
HUNT: Let me turn - let me turn to 2016, because that’s what you do in the summer of 2013.
NORQUIST: Of course.
HUNT: Would you also include New Jersey Governor Chris Christie?
NORQUIST: Absolutely. I think Chris Christie is a Northeastern Republican who has taken on the teachers’ unions and made it clear, I’m not against education, I’m angry with the teachers’ unions that are not delivering education.
HUNT: He has not signed your tax pledge.
NORQUIST: He has not, but he also hasn’t signed - he hasn’t supported a tax increase.
HUNT: No, but would you - would you think he needs to sign your tax pledge? Is that a requisite before -
NORQUIST: I think anybody who wants to run as a Republican running for president would make it clear to the American people one way or the other - the pledge is the obvious way - that they want to rein in spending, not raise taxes.
HUNT: So he wouldn’t have to sign the pledge. He’d just have to say he’s not going to raise taxes? Is that -
NORQUIST: You’d - in order to win the nomination, I believe you’d have to make an incredible commitment - you can do it any number of ways - the pledge has just been the obvious way to do it, since everybody -
HUNT: So for Christie to win the nomination, he has to pledge no - no tax increase?
NORQUIST: I think that’s probably the case.
HUNT: As you look at this whole field right now - it’s way out, we know that - who looks like the most formidable to you?
NORQUIST: Well, for the first time in a long time, you have five or six Republicans looking to run who have the credibility because they have the track record and could raise the money to run nationally for many, many months. It’s not one of those things as - where if I don’t win in New Hampshire, I’m finished.
HUNT: But right now, when you wake up in the morning, one name that pops in your head, who would it be?
NORQUIST: There’s not one, but Scott Walker, Scott Walker, who’s done incredible things in turning a blue state red in Wisconsin, has taken on the labor union bosses, has cut spending, has been pro-growth. You have Paul Ryan in a similar category.
HUNT: But you don’t - you don’t think Paul Ryan’s going to run, do you?
NORQUIST: I think Paul Ryan is more likely to stay in the House and pass the Ryan budget. He’s young enough, he can run for president any time over the next 20 years.
HUNT: OK. Grover Norquist, you are young enough and you’re always interesting. Thank you so much for being with us.
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