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Special Report Roundtable - April 3

FOX News Special Report With Brit Hume

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In a time of war it's irresponsible for the Democrat leadership in Congress -- Democratic leadership in Congress to delay for months on end while our troops in combat are waiting for the funds.

HARRY REID (D-NV), SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: The troops aren't about to run out of money, the independent, non-partisan Congressional Reference Service says there's enough money to go until July.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HUME: Well, it's the Congressional Research Service, but we won't quibble over small things. A lively exchange there between those two at long distance. Some thoughts on it now from Fred Barnes, executive editor of the Weekly Standard; Mort Kondracke, executive editor of Roll Call; and Mara Liasson, national political correspondent of National Public Radio -- FOX NEWS contributors, all.

Well, this was a somewhat of an escalation out of -- sort of nowhere in this exchange between the president and Congress. It appears that -- I can't tell whether both sides are sort of doubling their bets here or both sides are confident of ultimate victory. What's going on, Mort, what are your thoughts?

MORT KONDRACKE, ROLL CALL: Well, the president called this a political dance in Washington, it's more like, you know, Kung Fu or "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon or something, with swords, you know, but the victims in this -- if this drags out and it could drag out. There is the -- the conference committee between the House and the Senate hasn't been yet, hasn't even been appointed yet. They've got to iron out real differences between the House and Senate. Then, if they produce a bill that's got some sort of deadline in it, the president's going to veto it, then they're going to have to negotiate and on and on and on. And all the while the troops need the money, now.

HUME: Now, let's talk about what we think is true about this. The Pentagon says there'll be some training exercises and some other issues that will be raised by this. It's not a matter of funding the actual events on the ground in Iraq, but it could effect rotations and so forth. The Congressional Research Service, perhaps not quibbling with that, says they got plenty of money into June and July.

KONDRACKE: I've read that report and what it says that it's either June or July and there's $28.4 billion bridge fund that Congress provided. However, I'm not sure that they accounted for the surge and what the cost of the surge will be. And anyway, the Pentagon should know better than the Congressional Research Service exactly when it's going to run at of money what the consequences are. And it's pretty unanimous on the part of General Pace and Secretary Gates and the Army chief of staff, that it's going to be draconian cuts in training budgets.

HUME: Well, if that's true Mara, what are the politics of this?

MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: Well, I think the politics -- I think right now, in answer to your earlier question, both sides are very confident of the politics. I think the Democrats feel there is absolutely no risk to this strategy. In other words, at the moment, they're not going to be seen as somehow depriving the troops of anything. I think that over time, that might change, because over time you're going to get to some point, whether it's in June or July when you have reports from the field or from generals saying: here, this is what we need and we don't have it. But, I think that the president is absolutely confident that he can win this battle, too. The big question is how fast are they going to get him this bill and start the negotiations?

HUME: Let's talk about how it's being framed so far. The president accuses, Harry Reid today was more or less defending, saying they have plenty of money. He wasn't counter-accusing the president of being the one who would be responsible for..

LIASSON: No, but he was saying he was going to push a bill to defend the war and he was going even further.

HUME: I know he said that. I know that. I know, but he knows he can't pass it.

FRED BARNES, WEEKLY STANDARD: He did say that hardy perennial of Democrats like Harry Reid that the administration, particularly Vice President Cheney, was imputing the patriotism of people who disagreed on the war. That's a hardy perennial. They've never been able to substantiate it, but they like to say it and lieu of another argument.

All I can say is, if Harry Reid wants to base his position with such confidence on the Congressional Research Service, I think he'd better be careful because they -- you know, I mean, what could happen is if they don't get this thing passed by April 15, is exactly what Mort was talking about, generals in the fields saying we're missing that, we haven't got these people trained up here, we want to send these people over, but they're not ready and so on. There's going to be a lot of things can be very embarrassing to Democrats.

I think they're making a mistake because they are riding so high, right now, the Democrats are, and they can continue to ride high if they don't overplay their hand on this. And I think they are overplaying their hand on this. They have the opposition to the war on their side, but to claim as Harry Reid did today, that President Bush is vetoing the will of the American people, is just not true. I mean...

HUME: Well, he got a question about this today -- the president, in the Rose Garden from David Gregory of NBC News who said, you know: aren't the Democrats doing what, in effect, they were elected to do? And the president didn't really answer that. That raises a question. When you think about the campaign. The Democrats certainly ran on opposition to the war. Did they run on a timeline for getting out or not?

LIASSON: They say, you know, over and over again, you hear Democrats saying: we were elected to stop this war. That's what they think.

HUME: I know, but did they run on it. Did they run on it.

LIASSON: No, they did not run on a date certain, they certainly ran on withdrawing in some vague sense, but they didn't run on this putting a deadline for getting our or cutting funding. But they feel very confident that this is what they were sent here to do. I think the real question is, after they send a bill to the president and he vetoes it, then what happens? We all know that those are the next couple of steps, what we don't know is what happens after that. What kind of negotiation happen?

BARNES: Look, look. saying that they have a mandate way overstates anything that they got from the election. Obviously, the public was upset about the course of the war in Iraq. No question about that. But were they mandating a withdrawal? It was part of the Democratic Six on '06 proposals -- you know, which were, you know, the average American -- do you think that the average American voters ever heard of those?

HUME: It wasn't like a contract of America where a lot of people did hear that.

BARNES: Yeah, we did hear about that -- some. And did a Democrat say, well they have a mandate for those 10 things. Of course they didn't. They said just the opposite and some Republicans said the same thing, ones who didn't like term limits or a balanced budget amendment, and very few of those things pass. But it was not a mandate for those anymore than there's mandate for getting out of the war starting in July or something.

KONDRACKE: Yeah, and they also think that they have the polls on their side. There's a Pew poll that indicates that 59 percent of people want a deadline set for withdrawal, and they think they've got -- they're in tune with history, here. That America is going to lose this war. They've been against it from the beginning; they're going to be vindicated. And they're impervious to any evidence to the contrary. And, you know, -- and Harry Reid in the lead, I mean, he won't even acknowledge that there's a new strategy. He's never acknowledged that there's a new strategy.

BARNES: No, he acknowledge today -- this was interesting, acknowledged today that there was a new strategy. He said the surge was a -- he said there was a surge, but it's not working.

KONDRACKE: You know, and he's -- but his office now says that he has -- he decided in December that he was going to start ratcheting up the pressure and go for eventual fund cut off.

HUME: It is, of course, a total flip-flop from what he said back in November, too.

KONDRACKE: Exactly. But, he had some sort of an epiphany in December, and decided on this course. And when the president come in with his surge strategy and David Petraeus said: I've got a new strategy called counter-insurgency, Harry Reid has not listened to a word of it.

HUME: When we come back with our panel, what does the new Supreme Court decision about federal regulation of auto emissions mean for the Bush administration? And what kind of an opinion was it anyway? That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID HAWKINS, NRDC CLIMATE CENTER DIRECTOR: This ruling is enormously important, it's -- it marks the end of the age of the denial on global warming.

BUSH: You know, this decision was focused on, ah, emissions that come from automobiles. My attitude is is that we, ah, we have laid out a plan that will affect greenhouse, ah, gases that come from automobiles.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HUME: Well, the president didn't resist, as you can see from that sound bite, the Supreme Court decision made yesterday that held for the first time that the carbon dioxide is pollution and that that which contributes to global warming is also pollution and that it must therefore be regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency, which is something the Environmental Protection Agency, up until now, has declined to do.

Some conservatives are up in arms about this decision saying that it is judicial activism and its worst or best, depending how you look at it. And the president, however, seems to be wanting everybody to believe that he's doing everything he can about global warming anyway. So, what about this decision yesterday? You heard the guy from the Natural Resources Defense Council saying that this is a landmark -- this is the day the denial ended on global warming. It doesn't sound like the president's been denying it to me, but anyway. What about it?

BARNES: Look, you knew when you read the opinion, the majority opinion; it was a 5-4 decision.

HUME: John Paul Stevens.

BARNES: John Paul Stevens wrote it, who's been there for years, and writes pretty good opinion, I'll have to say. I mean, it's very readable. And says, even before he gets into it, the question of whether they had a right to actually sue or not, to be in court, because these were just a bunch of environmental groups that said because the EPA hasn't declared greenhouse gases a pollutant, that means that we're having trouble in the beaches of Massachusetts and if you don't change that, well then it'll be harm to us. You know, that's really a stretch to get standing in the court. And right in the.

HUME: Eligibility to sue.

BARNES: Yes. It to decide something which, I think, to the rest of the world would seem like something that Congress does. I mean, they're the ones who.

HUME: Created the EPA.

BARNES: Enacted the EPA and the Clean Air Act and they've done revisions to the Clean Air Act. They've never said that greenhouses gases had to be considered a pollutant.

(CROSSTALK)

I know, but Congress has never said that. And here's what the Supreme Court said, just --before they got into the case, they said: Well, we know that there's a jurisdictional argument whether these people should get in or not, but the unusual importance of the underlying issue persuaded us to grant the red (ph). In other words, they wanted to say something about global warming. I mean, that's why they got into it. That's is appalling. That is judicial usurpation of Congressional authority, presidential authority, and practically everything else.

KONDRACKE: Look, the president himself says this is a serious problem and that he believes that mankind is contributing to greenhouse gas emissions. So, has he -- if he thinks is a serious problem, has he treated it as a serious problem? Suddenly.

HUME: (INAUDIBLE) the purpose of this discussion is not -- can we confine our comments to that because we only have a few minutes here.

KONDRACKE: OK. Look, I.

HUME: I know you care about global warming, I know you're worried about it, I know you wear sunscreen and do all the good things.

KONDRACKE: OK. But the -- I have to say that the dissenters in this case, the conservatives on the court, have a point that Congress did not specifically direct EPA to regulate greenhouse gases. It says that they could a judgment, is something a pollutant or not, and if it is a pollutant then they have to regulate. Well, the EPA did consider that and decided it wasn't a pollutant. So, you know, on the surface of the legal case, I guess I would have to side with the dissenters.

LIASSON: Look, the court did elevate this issue, by even -- you might argue with the kind of legal thinking behind...

HUME: But that's what courts do, though. I mean, legal thinking matters.

LIASSON: I mean, yes, but -- and I think what it did is it that a kind of pushed along this consensus that is forming, that global warming is a problem, that something has to be done about it. What it said basically is that the EPA has the authority to regulate this. It didn't force them to regulate it. But, it certainly said that it has the authority to do so. Which it had been claiming otherwise.

BARNES: It is fine for the political system to do this. It's fine for our elected officials to do this. This is not the job for the Supreme Court or any courts at all, to jump in and make decisions about that -- what the EPA did or did not do. I mean they are so out of bounds here, it's not even close.

HUME: Well, let's concede your point for a moment on the jurisdictional question. The damage to Massachusetts had to do with some sea levels rising that they said was imminent. I suspect that John Paul Stevens would be able to go swimming off the coast of Massachusetts for the next few years without any worry about that, but on the other question of whether -- whether we're dealing with a pollutant in carbon dioxide. Pollutants have traditionally meant things that were impurities in the air and water.

BARNES: Things around us, near the surface of the earth.

HUME: Yeah, things that are around the ambient surface of the earth or immediately above the surface of the earth. The carbon dioxide pollution that they're worried about for global warming, I believe is in the upper thermosphere an it isn't harmful to breath it, in fact we inhale it all the time and it's...

KONDRACKE: This gets into the parsing of a sentence, which Scalia .

HUME: Well it also -- what a word means.

KONDRACKE: Whether it's a chemical emission that could harm human welfare, if you're a liberal, you would find that this is a pollutant, it fits. Now, Scalia has a narrower definition, but nonetheless, this is a done deal. This is the law of the land and what's more important is that there are cases backing up that refer to power plants and to construction sites and stuff like that which are going to follow on this thing and the EPA is going to have to decide what to do about this and presumably it's going to regulate.

BARNES: No, the EPA doesn't get to decide. The Supreme Court gets to decide, Mort.

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