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Democrats Need to Play Hardball with Crazy House Republicans (with Rep. Jake Auchincloss)

January 26, 2024
Notes
Transcript
Tim Miller speaks with Democratic Rep. Jake Auchincloss on the status of the Ukraine/border deal negotiations, as well as the prospect of Donald Trump sinking it for political purposes.
This transcript was generated automatically and may contain errors and omissions. Ironically, the transcription service has particular problems with the word “bulwark,” so you may see it mangled as “Bullard,” “Boulart,” or even “bull word.” Enjoy!
  • Speaker 1
    0:00:00

    Hey guys. Usually in this feed, we give you a preview of the Secret Podcast on Fridays. For those of you who don’t know JBL and Sarah do a longer pod, just the two of them that it’s awesome. It’s where they hash out their feelings, they work through Hey guys. This is Tim.
  • Speaker 1
    0:00:17

    Usually you get a secret podcast preview in this feed on Fridays. For those who don’t know JBL and Sarah do a longer pod, and it’s awesome. And we call it the secret pod because that’s where they hash out their feelings, where they work through unformed ideas and and strategies, and, you know, you kind of get to see a little bit behind the scenes about what, what they’re mulling in a given week. And so I, I highly recommend this podcast, but it’s only for Bulwark plus subscribers. So if you haven’t been getting that, I’d recommend checking it out and I and I wanna give you a free offer right now.
  • Speaker 1
    0:00:48

    If you go to the Bulwark dot com slash free trial, you’ll get thirty days of free access to the Secret Podcast and the rest of our members only offerings as well. Like JBL’s triad newsletter, which is sometimes members only. So do check it out. Go sign up now. Get your free trial, and you can listen to JBL and Sarah’s Secret Podcast.
  • Speaker 1
    0:01:08

    The whole thing today. Over on the Secret Podcast Feed. What I’ve got for you is something a little bit different. I have an interview with congressman Jake Auchincloss of Massachusetts, a democrat out of Massachusetts. The the backstory of the on this is is, that I’ve been wanting to talk more about the budget negotiations on the hill And, I’ve been getting my eye up a little bit about how this Ukraine funding, seems to be totally dying on the vine.
  • Speaker 1
    0:01:38

    A, a sensible deal with, on immigration seems to be dying because Mitch McConnell and the Republican cowards are backing out. In this statement caught my eye, when Congress was voting in new November on a continuing resolution key to the government open, as usual, a minority of Republicans joined with basically all the Democrats to pass it and keep the government open. Why? Well, because Democrats actually care about government services and good government, and so they want to go along and and make sure the government stays open. And so they’ll work with Republicans, even if they’re bad faith actors like Mike Johnson to get it done.
  • Speaker 1
    0:02:15

    I totally respect that and I get it. But you know, eventually, I think maybe it’s time for the Democrats to play hardball in the same way that the Mack Eats is the world and the Freedom caucus do, not not in a bad faith way, not in a nihilistic way like those guys are, but in an aggressive way about of trying to get concessions from from Mike Johnson and from the speaker if they’re going to go along with anything. And so I see this statement from Congressman Auchin Closs. He says, My position remains the same. I’m not bailing Republicans out of their appropriations mess unless they commit to Ukraine, and he went on with a much longer state then he ended up being one of two Democrats to vote against the continuing resolution.
  • Speaker 1
    0:02:59

    And to me, as we are now six weeks away from the continuing resolution. Well, while there are reports out of Ukraine that that the military is running out of Bulwark, I’d like this strategy. I would like to see Democrats go to Mike Johnson and say, Hey, buddy. If you can’t get this thing passed, then then you’re going to need to give us something. Alright.
  • Speaker 1
    0:03:22

    It’s always the Republicans that are doing this. You know, they’re like, we won’t pass your budget unless you close the border and put alligators in moats and put razor wire on the fence. And it’s like, well, how about the Democrats play the same game and try to get some concessions out of Republicans? And and get them to the negotiating table and put a little bit of pressure on Mike Johnson so he knows that he’s not gonna have his binkey if he can’t get Republicans on board that, you know, on the brink of every government shutdown, the Democrats are gonna bail him out. So I like that strategic approach and, I wanted to talk to Jake about it.
  • Speaker 1
    0:03:56

    And so, we had a, we had a nice little conversation. We’ll get into that. And we get into the latest outrageous statements from Mitch McConnell. I think you’re going to enjoy it. So, make sure sign up for the to for Bulwark plus at the Bulwark dot com slash free trial to get the secret pod with a JBL and Sarah Longwell otherwise stick it out right here.
  • Speaker 1
    0:04:17

    And up next, it’s me with congressman Jake Auchincloss Democrat of Massachusetts. Peace. Alright. I’m here with congressman Jake Auchincloss Democrat at of Massachusetts. Congressman, thanks so much for doing this.
  • Speaker 2
    0:04:31

    Thanks for having me on, Tim.
  • Speaker 1
    0:04:34

    As I mentioned, I was, I was really intrigued and excited to do this. I I don’t often get excited by statements, that are put out by by congressman. A lot of boring statements get put on, like, out by congressman. I don’t know if you noticed that, but, when you voted against the continuing resolution, which was, you know, speaker Johnson’s effort just gonna kick the can on keeping the government open, for a few more months, recently. You basically said you’re tired of bailing out Republicans, if they’re not willing to deal with Ukraine.
  • Speaker 1
    0:05:08

    Talk to us about, like, why you decide to do that, and, and then we can get into the the strategy a little bit of dealing with this Republican conference.
  • Speaker 2
    0:05:16

    The party of Ronald Reagan who helped break up the Soviet Union is now trying to help Vladimir Putin recreate it. It’s shameful. And we need to strengthen the hand of those Reagan Republicans who still exist in both the House Republican and Senate Republican conferences in ensuring that we unlock continued Ukrainian aid because the Ukrainians are fighting on the front lines of the free world. And it has been the highest and best national security return on investment in my entire lifetime for less money than American spend on soft drinks every year, we have cratered Russia’s conventional military capacity. We have doubled its border with NATO.
  • Speaker 2
    0:06:04

    We have, induced more defense spending from our allies, not just in Europe, but also in East Asia. And we have sent a strong message not just to the Kremlin, but also to Beijing that the United States is gonna stand with freedom and democracy the world over. Now under pressure from Donald Trump and his mega fanatics, even Mitch McConnell is talking about throwing in the towel, on Ukraine. We cannot allow that to happen.
  • Speaker 1
    0:06:34

    Yeah. I wanna get to that. So it’s just earlier today, we’re taping this Thursday afternoon. A leak from a private senate Republicans meeting. To punch bowl, indicated that McConnell told GOP senators about this deal, that is being discussed between with, between that would combine border security and Ukraine aid and and some other things, including support for Israel and Taiwan.
  • Speaker 1
    0:06:56

    He said the politics of this have changed, referring to Trump having won the first Iowa caucus in the New Hampshire primary, and said that we’re in a quandary. And essentially essentially saying that Trump, does not want a deal. Because he wants to be able to campaign on on border chaos and that means that, you know, at this point, they should just kind of let this wither. I I a pretty shocking and appalling, like, level of cynicism from like the king of cynicism. You know, when Mitch McConnell surprised you of this cynicism, it’s a bad time.
  • Speaker 1
    0:07:28

    Well, I what is your sense? What are you hearing from colleagues about the state of play on that as it stands right now?
  • Speaker 2
    0:07:35

    It’s devastating to hear because Mitch McConnell until that statement had really been one of the last remaining bulwarks, in Congress on the Republican side of the aisle for making not just the strategic case, but the moral case for defending Ukraine. And to hear him say that Donald Trump’s election, and we all know that Mitch McConnell was no fan of Donald Trump. To hear him say that Donald Trump’s election now is prioritized over defending the rules based international order that has spread peace and prosperity the world over since World War two that has been the foundation of American hegemony that it that Donald Trump’s election is now prioritized over border security, which I strongly support in which Democrats do want to compromise on in order to get to a solution that works even in an election year. It just it indicates how fundamentally broken the GOP now is. And unless people like Mitch McConnell, Jonathan Last speaker Johnson, unless that crew is willing to demonstrate political courage, nothing is gonna get done in twenty twenty four in Congress.
  • Speaker 1
    0:08:50

    The fact that you struggle to come up with names of Republicans that are willing to get things done, it is pretty telling. I think, is like reaching for who has tune. Maybe Barassa. Hi. Who can I come up with?
  • Speaker 1
    0:09:00

    Someone else? Can I come up with a name, Corn? Okay, I wanna, I wanna get into the strategy at the end here, but just on the merits of both these issues, briefly. I mean, the the abdication of Ukraine is already having consequences, right? Like the fact that that we did not re up this funding last year and there’s been reports from Ukraine about, like, running out of ammunition and bullets and, and, you know, and it would seem that even for Republicans that have objections to certain cash support for Ukraine funding, like the military equipment and services, should be a no brainer, and and and the the aid to Russia and the consequences for our ally are already palpable.
  • Speaker 1
    0:09:42

    And what’s your sense for kind of that, you know, like, what’s practically happening right now in Ukraine because of what the Republicans are doing here? Absolutely.
  • Speaker 2
    0:09:51

    So there’s no doubt that Republican intransigence and Donald Trump’s de facto securing the nomination is bad for Ukrainian morale and a boost for Vladimir Putin, and indeed Vladimir Putin was bragging about that on his end of year, propaganda. I, however, do not share in the prevailing pessimism about Ukraine’s chances. I think if if you conceive of Ukrainian victory in this war as sustained and secure access to the Bulwark Sea of sovereignty and self determination in its ability to to join the West, which is really its core aspiration. And of, the inability of Russia through both security guarantees and Ukraine’s own strength. To credibly threaten them again, in the near term.
  • Speaker 2
    0:10:44

    I believe that those aims are achievable by Ukraine. I I do not share in the pessimism that somehow this destined to become a a frozen conflict, in perpetuity or even that Russia is is gonna have a a stronger twenty twenty four. Ukraine can win. But it’s gonna need material. And the material that we have been sending, has been working, and we should send more.
  • Speaker 2
    0:11:07

    So number one, Ukraine can win, and given the arms, I think they will win. Number two, I think we have to do a better job in Congress and and in the administration of conveying to the American public that we’re actually not sending that much money to Ukraine. We’re sending money to American industry that is then producing material that we are sending over to Ukraine. This is a twofer not only are we helping an ally fight on the front lines of the free world for our values, we are also boosting the US military industrial complex and creating jobs almost a billion dollars just to my home state of Massachusetts alone from these Ukraine packages. That’s really important when you think that we are shifting in our military readiness from a precision guided missile regime towards more of an AI plus autonomous, regime.
  • Speaker 2
    0:11:58

    We need this opportunity to learn how drone swarms are gonna operate on battlefields, and Ukraine is a living laboratory to do that in. So it’s a tremendous opportunity for the US military complex to shift off of, old fashioned tactics and ensure that should we be in combat again? We’re not fighting the last war. And then the final point I’ll make Tim is just the message it sends to allies. You know, I I met with a Taiwanese ambassador a couple days ago.
  • Speaker 2
    0:12:24

    He was quite clear that the Chinese during the latest Taiwanese election were pumping in disinformation to the tie Taiwanese’s electorate that the United States was a fair weather friend that we’re not gonna honor our commitments in the Indo Pacific. And do not doubt for a second that Xi Jinping as well as the Taiwanese are watching very closely what happens in Ukraine. And any Republicans who wanna claim that they’re tough on China, but soft on Russia, are living in contradiction.
  • Speaker 1
    0:12:51

    Yeah. What? So speaking speaking of, maybe one of those congressmen, there are a handful of old line national security members on the Republican side. And are you talking to any of them? Like, what are the galligars of the world say, when you say to them, like, you know, we can get this material over to Ukraine if you guys will work with us.
  • Speaker 2
    0:13:11

    It doesn’t matter what they say to me on the house floor. I I have plenty of thoughtful conversations with house Republicans, with senate Republicans who who get it. Right? They’re they’re in their in their fiber. They’re functionally Reagan Republicans.
  • Speaker 2
    0:13:24

    Doesn’t matter what they say to me We’ve been through this for seven years now. It matters what they do when faced with the threat of a Maga primary challenge. That’s you know this ten better than anybody else. At the end of the day, the courage to stand up to a mega primary challenge is what defines, the modern Republican Party, and they have demonstrated a complete absence of that courage. And until and unless they do, things are not gonna change in twenty twenty four.
  • Speaker 1
    0:13:48

    K. Well, I hope in those private conversations, you’re shaming them and making them think about, you know, how their how their mothers are shaking their fingers at them, especially the Catholic ones. Okay. Final thing on the final thing on the policy. What the immigration side of this?
  • Speaker 1
    0:14:02

    I mean, that is the big news today. I, you know, that did, there have been some discussions that maybe some in the democratic side didn’t wanna deal on this, and But you’ve got to feel like now, like, this is a major political football. Like, where do you think the the the party should be on this and what’s your sense for what’s needed on the immigration side of this?
  • Speaker 2
    0:14:21

    Immigration is the hardest issue in Washington. Full stop. And doing it in an election year with Donald Trump, only makes it harder. But I’m not willing to throw out my hands and say, well, it’s hard and it can’t be done because the brokenness of our immigration system is a major liability for our nation, and it needs to be resolved. I’m one of the very few Democrats who’s a cosponsor of bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform.
  • Speaker 2
    0:14:45

    It’s called the dignity act. And it’s a compromise. I wouldn’t have drafted every single word myself, but it’s the kind of bill that could pass Congress. It was done through collaboration between a Republican congresswoman from Florida and a Texas congresswoman, who’s a Democrat. And both Latinos both well versed, on the issue, both directly affected by it in their districts.
  • Speaker 2
    0:15:08

    And and they came together in good faith and came out with a product that think represents a lot of important compromises. It has a rationalization of our asylum and visa system. It improves border security creates an upscaling fund for American workers. It creates pre clearance centers in countries of origin. It allows for documentation and dignity for dreamers.
  • Speaker 2
    0:15:29

    That’s the kind of legislation that we need to see, ultimately in Congress. And in the immediate term, I’ve been clear for months now that Democrats absolutely should negotiate on a more tightly scoped border security package. But if we are now hearing from Republicans that they’d rather campaign on the border than govern on It’s it unfortunately will be torpedoed.
  • Speaker 1
    0:15:52

    Yeah. So that takes us to the strategic side of this and what I liked. I mean, you were I guess maybe not alone. I think there maybe there were two of you that on the democratic side, voted against the CR. You know, without Some of the viewers here probably don’t don’t care about the the machinations of, you know, a house about how exactly house budgets get passed etcetera, but I’m the the basic gist of this is that in order to fund the government, you know, the Republicans have been unable to do it within their own conference.
  • Speaker 1
    0:16:21

    And, this was what brought down McCarthy and what Johnson is dealing with now. And so they’ve been funding the government based on continuing resolutions at the Nancy Pelosi budget level. Right? Haven’t even actually achieved any of their objectives. And in order to to do that, they’ve needed democratic votes, right?
  • Speaker 1
    0:16:39

    Cause there’s a hint, there’s a significant percentage of Republicans and the freedom caucus and otherwise that aren’t gonna vote for these continuing resolutions. And so the government has kept open, kept open on the backs of know, this minority of the Republican conference and the Democrats going along with these continuing resolutions. Your, you know, statement on this was it was essentially, or here it is. I’m not bailing out Republicans of their appropriations mess unless they, commit to Ukraine. So as we stare this down now from a strategic approach, Ukraine, it’s it’s hard to see how Ukraine gets funded.
  • Speaker 1
    0:17:13

    Even Mitch is starting to get wet feet on the border. You know, what is the Democrats move, you know, in as we head to March, should more of them be, you know, kind of having the same posture that you have, which is playing hardball on this and kind of daring the Republicans to shut the government down if they don’t agree to these common sense policies in Ukraine and at the border?
  • Speaker 2
    0:17:37

    I’m certainly not gonna vote for another continuing resolution that does not have a clear credible and concrete plan for supporting Ukraine. And what’s doubly frustrating about the situation is that we had a deal on funding levels back in in May. Speaker McCarthy and president Biden negotiated it. It was a compromise deal. It modestly reduced federal spending in a way that both parties could, accept and it was House Republicans who walked away from it.
  • Speaker 2
    0:18:09

    So House Republicans agreed to something, reneged upon it, created a mess, deposed their speaker, and now are unable to claw their way out of the mess without democratic support. And I worry that we we face a situation where this could continue continuing resolution after continuing resolution all the way until the election. In November. And that doesn’t serve the American people well, and it certainly doesn’t serve our allies well, Israel, Ukraine, Taiwan.
  • Speaker 1
    0:18:39

    Yeah. I mean, what is is there a sense? Do you get a sense that others, share that view? Or you kind of you you a man on an island on that one?
  • Speaker 2
    0:18:50

    I I think I am, differentiated in the ferocity of my passion for supporting and defending Ukraine. I I really continually try to put this in the bigger picture of
  • Speaker 1
    0:19:03

    Yeah.
  • Speaker 2
    0:19:04

    The entire packs of Maricana, is under siege right now through a a the access of China, Iran, and Russia. And these conflicts, everywhere from the Red Sea and the Houthis, through, Hamas, through the Kremlin, through the the South China Sea, they are linked. They are they are linked through these revanchist powers that are trying to let the past bury the future. In the United States, even in the midst of our own divisions, needs to help the world defend the rules based order that has done so much good for people.
  • Speaker 1
    0:19:44

    Well, congressman. I hope that other folks back you up on this and as, the reality this comes through in March that, that that pressure can be put on. You know, because I think that a lot of there there were some people, you know, in the pundit class, not here. That criticized you guys for not bailing out Republicans on the McCarthy thing, you know, on the McCarthy’s t speakership. I always thought that was postress.
  • Speaker 1
    0:20:05

    Like the Republicans won this house. They have their own if if they can’t govern, then they then they need to figure out something else and come to the table and and work and and Bulwark with Democrats to govern. And if they refuse to do that, then then maybe they should be forced to walk the plank. At least that’s my my view on all this.
  • Speaker 2
    0:20:22

    Speaker McCarthy’s only legacy will be that in the weeks following January sixth, he helped resuscitate Donald Trump in a narrow window of opportunity that this country had to finally put him behind us. And that is a grievous legacy to bear the idea that Democrats suddenly somehow had an obligation to bail him out of his own mess when he wouldn’t even deign to negotiate with his counterparts is ludicrous.
  • Speaker 1
    0:20:48

    Yeah. And then he walks out without doing it, you know, wants credit for being the adults in charge, but they walk out and left this mess in in Johnson’s lap. Right? And you made the point. They could have come the the deal immigration funding, Ukraine funding, it was on the table, Biden offered it.
  • Speaker 1
    0:21:04

    You guys agreed to it. It’s been on the table for months now, and and and McCarthy walked away from it to protect himself, and he ended up getting nothing. So now he’s home at Bakersfield, And, I don’t know. Maybe maybe Mr. Trump will make him to commerce secretary or something in, in god forbid.
  • Speaker 2
    0:21:20

    Oh, I doubt that Donald Trump will ever return his phone calls again.
  • Speaker 1
    0:21:25

    Congressman, Jake Oggin class. Thank you so much. I appreciate how stalwart you’ve been on this. Do keep in touch and keep us posted, and, we’ll hope to be talking to you again soon.
  • Speaker 2
    0:21:35

    Thanks for having me on, Tim. Be well. Of course.
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