CBS's Schieffer Bashes Bunning: Blocking Bill 'Unconscionable,' Just 'Politics,' No 'Substance'

On Wednesday's CBS Early Show, Face the Nation host Bob Schieffer ranted against Republican Senator Jim Bunning's opposition to a spending bill: "it's unconscionable what has happened here....this is about politics. It is not – it was not about anything of substance." [Audio available here]

Co-host Maggie Rodriguez began the segment by explaining that Bunning had stopped blocking the legislation and asked Schieffer: "Isn't this just another example of why it takes so long to get things done in Congress?" Schieffer agreed, claiming: "it's another example...of why there is so much anger and disillusionment out in the country about Congress."

Schieffer went on to dismiss the Kentucky Senator's concerns over the rising deficit: "[He] claimed he was doing this because he was trying to get the Senate to go along with the Republican principle and that is pay things...before they approve them but this was emergency legislation." In reality, Democrats, not Republicans, just passed pay-as-you-go legislation last week, mandating that all new spending being paid for before passage. As for the "emergency" nature of the bill, on Tuesday's Early Show, CBS White House correspondent Chip Reid claimed it was simply "routine legislation."

Schieffer went on to suggest that the real reason for Bunning blocking the bill was the Senator's personal animosity toward fellow Republicans: "The back story here is Senator Bunning is in a feud with the Republican leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnell. He wanted McConnell and Republicans to support him in a bid for re-election. They did not do that and he's been seething."

Before moving on to the topic of health care reform, Rodriguez remarked on how "infuriating" Bunning's action was.

At the top of the show, Rodriguez touted President Obama's latest verison of health care reform and wondered: "will the GOP buy into it?" Moments later, co-host Harry Smith claimed that Obama was "seeming to move a little closer to the middle" by being open to incorporate a few token Republican ideas into the massive legislation.    

Rodriguez later asked Schieffer about the President's upcoming proposal: "It seems, Bob, by incorporating these four Republican ideas, that he's reaching out. But the Republicans say these are not real concessions. Who's right here?" Schieffer replied: "He's trying to set himself up in a position that if this fails, he can say 'it's the fault of the Republicans. I did everything I could.'" Rodriguez agreed with that assessment: "Right, they can't say anymore that he didn't try to reach out." An on-screen headline read: "Health Care Compromise; Obama to Unveil Final Reform Proposal."

Here is a full transcript of Rodriguez's discussion with Schieffer:
MAGGIE RODRIGUEZ: Now to politics. A big day ahead for President Obama as he gets ready to unveil his final proposal for health care reform today. In a letter to congressional leaders, the President said that he was open to several Republican ideas: Undercover investigations of health care providers who are getting federal money, expansion of health savings accounts, providing more grant money to study alternatives to medical malpractice lawsuits, and raising doctor reimbursement for Medicare.
In the meantime, The gridlock has been broken on another issue, a spending bill. The Senate finally passed it last night after it had been blocked for days by Kentucky Republican Jim Bunning and forced about 2,000 federal employees into furloughs. Joining us to talk more about this is Bob Schieffer, CBS chief Washington correspondent and, of course, host of Face the Nation. Good morning, Bob.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Good morning, Maggie.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Bunning Backs Down; GOP Senator Gives Up Fight Over Unemployment]
                    
RODRIGUEZ: Let's talk quickly about that development overnight. The Senate finally extending these jobless benefits after this one senator had held it up for days. Isn't this just another example of why it takes so long to get things done in Congress?

SCHIEFFER: Well, I think it's another example, Maggie, of why there is so much anger and disillusionment out in the country about Congress and the Senate and about it's inability to get anything done. What you have here is Senator Bunning, who claimed he was doing this because he was trying to get the Senate to go along with the Republican principle, and that is pay things before they happen – before they approve them but this was emergency legislation.
The back story here is Senator Bunning is in a feud with the Republican leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnell. He wanted McConnell and Republicans to support him in a bid for re-election. They did not do that and he's been seething. And so while the Republicans were trying to move on, Republicans were ready to vote for this, he puts a hold on it and it takes three or four days to get it done. I mean it's – it's unconscionable what has happened here. Now the Senate is finally, as everyone knew they finally would, they finally got this done and now they can go on to other things.

RODRIGUEZ: Like health care-

SCHIEFFER: But this is about politics. It is not – it was not about anything of substance.

RODRIGUEZ: That is infuriating. And now they can move on to things like health care. And President Obama is going to be unveiling his final plan later. It seems, Bob, by incorporating these four Republican ideas, that he's reaching out. But the Republicans say these are not real concessions. Who's right here?

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Health Care Compromise; Obama to Unveil Final Reform Proposal]

SCHIEFFER: What the President is trying to do here is to be able to say to the country, 'Listen, I reached out. I did everything I could possibly do to get Republican support and they just wouldn't go along with it.' And now he will try to pass health care on a straight party line vote. That's going to be very complicated. I think at this point he really doesn't have the votes to get that done. But he's trying to set himself up in a position that if this fails, he can say 'it's the fault of the Republicans. I did everything I could.'

RODRIGUEZ: Right, they can't say anymore that he didn't try to reach out. Bob Schieffer. Thank you so much, Bob.

SCHIEFFER: You bet.

RODRIGUEZ: And of course, you can always check out Bob, and you should, every Sunday on Face the Nation right here on CBS.
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC