Representative Peter King, a New York Republican who opposed the partial U.S. government shutdown from the start, said in an interview on Bloomberg Television’s “Political Capital with Al Hunt,” airing this weekend, that House Republicans aligned with the Tea Party have lost their fight with the president, and that Congress soon will open the government and raise the debt ceiling.
(This is not a legal transcript. Bloomberg LP cannot guarantee its accuracy.)
AL HUNT: Welcome back. Congressman Peter King of New York is with me.
Congressman, it is a mess right now. How - how do you think we should get out of this government shutdown, C.R., and debt ceiling? What should be done right now?
PETER KING: By getting out of it as quickly as possible. First of all, I think it was the right thing to do as far as the debt ceiling, to put it over until, I guess, Nov. 22. That seems to me the tentative agreement.
HUNT: Is that long enough?
KING: I think it’s long - yeah, sure, it is.
KING: I mean, ideally, it should be a few months, but we’re too far gone on that. Now, I would say it’s long enough. And the president should make - should sit down and negotiate in good faith with the Republicans.
As far as the opening up the government, we should just do that right away, just clean continuing resolution, get that over with, which is what we should have done a month ago. We should have come back right after Labor Day, should have passed the continuing resolution, and gone right to a debate on the debt ceiling.
HUNT: If that bill came to the floor now for a clean C.R., a clean debt ceiling, until Nov. 22, would it pass the House?
KING: I think it would have passed earlier in the week after the poll numbers have come out. It’s going to pass overwhelmingly, yeah.
HUNT: It’ll pass overwhelmingly. OK. If - if the leadership can’t force it because of that - the right-wing caucus, the Tea Party caucus, why not force it? Why not do a discharge petition? You’ve opposed that.
KING: Yeah, because I think it is - first of all, if we have to do a discharge petition, ultimately, we will, but this is going to come. I think John Boehner has wanted this moment all along. He never wanted to close the government. He was backed into it by this group of 30 or 40 people. Now he has the leverage he needs, and I think it’s going to come to the House floor, no matter what. If not, then we’ll have to seek some other actions -
KING: Very soon. I think - hopefully, it’s going to be resolved by the weekend or by Monday or Tuesday.
HUNT: Yeah. You know, he - I know you admire him a lot, and - but you worry whether he’s a free agent. I interviewed Jim Jordan of Ohio last week, and I asked him seven different ways if he would take the vow that you’ve called on Republicans to take, that they weren’t - they wouldn’t move on John Boehner, no matter what happened. He wouldn’t answer that question. He said it’s not relevant.
John Boehner, the speaker, is trapped by his own Tea Party caucus still, isn’t he?
KING: Yeah, he really is. That’s why I think John - again, he’s the speaker, but somehow we have to draw this line. We can’t allow 30 or 40 people to hijack the Republican Party. I mean, John told us first week in September, second week in September, the worst thing we could do is shut down the government because of Obamacare. And what did we end up doing? Ten days later, 20 days later, shutting the government down because of Obamacare, because these 30 or 40 people basically threatened to bring the party down.
I think we’ve got to call them on it. We can’t allow a small minority of a party to hijack it and, again, cause catastrophic problems, not just for our party - that’s our problem - but for the country. It’s 800,000 people out of work because of 30 or 40 people.
HUNT: So this is the time to break them? This is the time?
KING: I think so. And I think this may have worked. As bad as it was and as - as brutal as it’s been, the fact that this worked so badly, the fact that the strategy of the Tea Party, of the Cruz Republicans, Ted Cruz Republicans, worked so badly, that we are now down to 24 percent in the polls, 28 percent, depending on which one you look at, that by almost 2 to 1 people blame us, that could have been one way to weaken the Cruz Republicans so now John can move forward.
HUNT: Cruz’s raison d’etre, of course, was to end Obamacare.
HUNT: Is that now dead? I mean, do we know, whether you like - I know you didn’t like Obamacare, but is it going to be a reality for the next three years, whether Ted Cruz likes it or not?
KING: I think it’s going to be a reality until we have another presidential election, yeah. I mean, it really is. And Ted Cruz - I mean, here’s a guy - you look at him, you step back, how did a guy eight months in the Senate be able to dominate the House Republicans, Senate Republicans, tie up the country, and bring the government to a halt with no end game, no strategy, and then now just sort of walk away, as if he’s done his job?
HUNT: Let me just say on Obamacare for a second.
HUNT: Would you - you say it’s going to be a reality until the next presidential election. Could there be some small changes, for instance, to the medical device tax?
KING: Oh, yeah, absolutely. When I say reality, Obamacare itself is not going to be defunded. That’s what I meant the reality.
HUNT: Right. And the mandate’s going to continue?
KING: Yeah. But as far as the medical device tax, that’s certainly something - I think that could be part of the negotiations even on the debt ceiling, as we go forward. And obviously, there can be changes.
Now, interestingly, some of the Cruz Republicans don’t want us to make any modifications to Obamacare, because they want it to collapse. And to me, that’s really - you know, that goes against the country. I mean, I’m against Obamacare; I want to repeal. But in the meantime, if we can eliminate some of the parts of it that don’t work or could work better, let’s do it.
HUNT: Pete King, we talk about, though, the - once we get through this starting negotiations, why are - why is the environment - why is the atmosphere any better than it was in 2011, when that supercommittee failed? It seems to me, if anything, the right and left may have dug in their heels more.
KING: I think that the president and John Boehner - especially now after the Cruz Republicans have suffered this massive defeat, which they really have - I think John is in a better position to - to move a bit. I think the president sees the opportunity. His election is behind him now. He’s going for a legacy. And I think everyone realizes behind the scenes, there does have to be some entitlement reform. There does have to be some tax reform.
Now, we can debate how much there should be, but the president realizes that - and this may be an opportunity to get it done, because once you’re in next year, it’s congressional elections. And as bad as Republicans can be, I mean, the Democratic caucus, they don’t want to make any concessions, either. The president could be in a stronger position right now to impose it on his party; John can impose it on the Cruz Republicans.
HUNT: So to get a detail, we’re talking about genuine entitlement reform, which means things like chained CPI and means-testing, and when we talk about tax reform, we’re talking about not higher tax rates, but more revenue?
KING: That’s basically as I see it, yeah. And I think Paul Ryan has pretty much laid out what the Republicans position is. And I think the Democrats can - the president can work off that.
HUNT: Can Paul Ryan agree to higher revenues?
KING: I don’t want to speak for Paul Ryan.
KING: But even - again, higher revenues, if they come in because of different deductions, whatever - again, I don’t want to speak for Paul Ryan. I can speak for myself.
HUNT: Speak for Peter King on that.
KING: Yeah, I think, yes, we can. We can certainly make some concessions. We can call - call it whatever we want. I mean, Ronald Reagan actually agreed to outright tax increases any number of times. To me -
HUNT: Called it revenue enhancements.
KING: Right. There you go. Like in the last presidential campaign, when they asked everyone in the debates, if you got $10 in cuts for every $1 in tax increase, would you take that and every Republican candidate said no? That’s crazy.
KING: If you go into negotiations and you get 10 to 1, you take it and you run.
HUNT: Let me turn to intelligence. And you raised the possibility a week or so ago that the - that the al-Shabaab in Somalia may have had advance warning on the raid that took place. From what you have learned since then, do you now think they did have advance warning?
KING: You know, to me, clearly something went wrong. We’ve not found out yet what it was. But either the intelligence was poor or someone was tipped off.
HUNT: You have flirted, maybe even more than that, with the idea of running for president in 2016. What are the probabilities? And what would make Peter King stand out?
KING: Well, as far as - again, I am looking at it. I mean, my name’s been mentioned. I’ve been to New Hampshire a number of times, have been invited to speak at a number of events, obviously, made no decision. I think people are looking for leadership.
And even, for instance, on this whole thing with the Ted Cruz and the shutdown, I don’t know if any other Republican in the country that out and out came out and condemned Ted Cruz and said this is wrong. Nobody in Congress did. And other leaders around the country seemed like they wanted to wait until it was over and then come in or say we have to -
HUNT: Including Chris Christie.
KING: Well, again, look, I’m not going to target Chris Christie. But the fact is that nobody else spoke. And I think people want leadership. I was there. I took a chance when Ted Cruz was the darling of the Republicans. It was only two weeks ago, but he was the darling of Republicans. I was the only guy taking him on nationwide.
So I think people want leadership. They want a pragmatic conservative, a guy who can work, like Ronald Reagan, building trade unions, cops, firefighters, tough on the - on national security, on homeland security, and is going to fight for the great Jack Kemp-type economic plan.
HUNT: All right. Give me the odds right now that Pete King runs.
KING: Oh, I don’t know. I would say, if I get a good response, I’ll run. I’m going all out - all out as far as taking advantage of opportunities to go up and speak, speak for other candidates, and if I pick up good vibes, I’ll take it from there.
HUNT: Peter King, you’d be fun to cover. Thank you so much for being with us today.
KING: Thank you.
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