Interview with White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley

Interview with White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley

By The Situation Room - July 28, 2011

BLITZER: And there's 51 Democrats, two Independents who caucus with the -- with the Democrats. That's 53 right there.

All right, thanks very much, Kate.

Don't go too far away.

With the political tensions spilling over on Capitol Hill in the wake of this upcoming critical vote, many are wondering what's happening inside the White House right now. We just got an exclusive look.


BLITZER: William Daley, thanks very much for joining us.


BLITZER: What is the president doing right now, even as we speak, to get this deal done?

DALEY: The president has been meeting with his advisers and talking to people on the Hill today. He has a lot of other things he does on any given day. He has a security briefing, terrorism briefings, as he does. He'll meet with the secretary of Treasury later on today.

So he's fully engaged and his staff is fully engaged.

But there's -- there's many other things the president has to do every day in addition to trying to make sure that the economy improves and the debate in Washington doesn't dominate and fear the American people.

BLITZER: Is -- when you say the president speaking to people on the Hill, is he speaking to the speaker of the House?

DALEY: He has not spoken to the speaker in a few days. The truth is that it looks as though the speaker is rather engaged in -- in putting together his bill and getting the votes for his bill. So when that's put aside this evening, after it's, I assume, passed in the House, and then defeated in the Senate, then I think there will be a whole new stage of the Senate and House having to come together to avoid August 2nd as being a day that has never happened in the U.S. And that is a day where we wouldn't back up the full faith and credit of the United States.

BLITZER: So after the -- the House does its thing today and the Senate does its thing today and tomorrow, at that point, the president then brings everyone together --


BLITZER: Again? DALEY: -- I think we're -- we're -- we will consult with the leaders at that point as to what their plans are and how they -- they plan. And remember, it is Congress' obligation, under the statutes, to extend the debt ceiling if we're in this situation. So they have to put together, in a bipartisan way, bicameral, not one house can jam the other house. That's the beauty of our system. Unless there's a desire for compromise and bipartisanship, then Congress will not act. And that would be the first time in the history of the United States.

BLITZER: Because everybody seems to be -- a lot of people are looking to the president to get this done. Let me read to you a line that jumped out at me from "The New York Times" today from a story they wrote: "Having already deployed the heavy weapons from the presidential arsenal, including a national address on Monday night and a veto threat, Mr. Obama is in danger of seeming a spectator at one of the most critical moments of his presidency."

DALEY: I -- I think that's totally unwarranted. The fact is, the president has been not only fully engaged for months on the issue of the need to lower the debt, the debt ceiling is -- is a vote that happens periodically. And all of the leadership of both Houses have passed -- voted for this under Republican presidents and Democratic presidents.

The president has put a plan out there. He's tried twice with Speaker Boehner, who is the leader of the House and the leader of the Republican Caucus, to get a deal. That didn't work.

He's met with all the leaders repeatedly, discussions. Senator Reid has a plan that the president has endorsed. It's a plan that meets the obligations that Congress has.

So to -- to say that is just not accurate. And it's unfortunate that whoever the writer was felt that way.

BLITZER: And so we -- you would expect, between now and next Tuesday, we will see the president --

DALEY: Right.

BLITZER: -- more actively involved in this?

DALEY: Well, I don't know how you could get more actively involved. The president spoke to the nation to get the American people to understand exactly what's at stake. He called on the American people to reach out to the members of Congress and say, in a bipartisanship, compromising way, solve the problem. Again, it is the Congress' obligation to do this. It is not the president's. Obviously, the president can encourage and if a bill comes through -- to him, then he has to act. But the fact is this is about the Congress. And we see an inability right now of one of the houses of the two to move to the center and present something that's going to be accepted.

Already -- already, 53 Democrats, 51 Democrats, two Independents and five Republicans, have said they will not vote for the plan that the House is going to pass tonight.

BLITZER: Well, I want to get to that, because usually when the House passes something, the Senate passes something, they then get together in a conference and they -- they come up with some sort of compromise.

But I want to get -- I'll get to that in a moment.

But what are you, the chief of staff, what are you doing directly to try to get this crisis resolved?

DALEY: Well, we're -- we're in -- I'm in constant conversation, as -- as are many of our staff, with people on the Hill.

BLITZER: Republicans?

DALEY: Senators, Republican and Democrats --

BLITZER: Because you have --

DALEY: -- Republicans --

BLITZER: -- a good relationship with a lot of those Republicans.

DALEY: And so do many of the people on our staff, our legislative staff --

BLITZER: So what are doing --

DALEY: -- our economic staff.

BLITZER: -- talking (INAUDIBLE)?

DALEY: I'm not going to go through who I'm talking to and what we're saying. But there does seem to be a growing awareness, obviously, and fear that unless there is a compromise -- and that has become a dirty word in this town over the last couple of years -- then we could face something that the American people will suffer as a cause of Congress' inability to -- to deal with a problem that we've all known has been coming for a very long time.

BLITZER: You say the president has put forward a plan.

DALEY: Um-hmm.

BLITZER: But the Congressional Budget Office says there is no plan that they can score because it's just a framework, it's just a speech. They haven't seen a document (INAUDIBLE) --

DALEY: Well, Speaker Boehner knows -- and Congressman Cantor knows the plan that they both worked on to bring the debt down and get past this debt ceiling. He does not have a legislative fix right now to this, because there's a bill in the House and there's a bill in the Senate and they will deal with those two bills. He's endorsed Senator Reid's bill. He feels very strongly that the bill that the House may pass tonight does not help the economy.

And what all of this should be about is trying to not only lower the debt, but at the same time, get this cloud of uncertainty off our economy. And the thought we'd be right back in the -- this same thing in four-and-a-half months, with an economy that's in a difficult shape, with or without Washington's craziness that goes on, is just unfathomable.

BLITZER: So what you're saying is the president did present a plan to the speaker, John Boehner?


BLITZER: But -- but he didn't --

DALEY: Right.

BLITZER: -- make it public.

DALEY: No, because there's --

BLITZER: He's -- there's no documents to go over.

DALEY: -- both the speaker and -- and the president had agreed and -- that these sort of negotiations do not happen in public. There's not a plan out there in the public realm, whether it's the fiscal commission, whether it's the Gang of Six, whether it's Congressman Ryan's plan -- Congressman Ryan's plan lost in the Senate overwhelmingly.

So there's no plan that's out there, by any of these people who are saying this, that has any sort of chance of passing both Houses and getting signed by the president.

BLITZER: If it were -- it seems that the biggest difference between the Reid plan, that's going to come in -- in the Senate -- and the Boehner plan, that's in the House, is this vote, another vote coming up in six months or whatever.

DALEY: Right.

BLITZER: As opposed to after the 2012 elections, going into 2013.

Is that the biggest difference you see right now --


BLITZER: -- just one vote?

DALEY: I would say right now, the time of -- of action is the most important. That is the length of action, as you've said it. There's a -- there's a -- there's a strong sense from the business community, that I've spoken to, that one of the things that's holding back -- I talked to a CEO last night who said he really believes that his business is being hurt just by this uncertainty. To keep this going and have to deal with this again in four-and-a-half months, before the -- the end of the year and possibly even before this committee acts that's going to try to make it in a bipartisan commission, going to try to make a serious dent in the deficit, is just crazy.

BLITZER: So what formula do they have to avoid that?

How do you -- how do you overcome (INAUDIBLE) --

DALEY: Well, I think Senator Reid --

BLITZER: -- because that sounds like the most significant difference.

DALEY: I think Senator Reid's plan, which would allow the Senate to -- to vote on this again, but not have a debt ceiling vote, but have a vote of -- of disapproval -- that was Senator McConnell's, pardon me, plan, that was a reasonable plan that Senator McConnell, the Republican leader of the United States Senate, put out.

BLITZER: Do you have any reason to believe that the Republicans in the House will accept --

DALEY: Well --

BLITZER: -- that proposal?

DALEY: I -- it seems to me that after their plan gets voted down by the Senate tonight, in a bipartisan way, then I think, at that point, everybody has got to take a step back in the Congress and look at where is a point of compromise. There are some things in -- in Speaker Boehner's plan and Senator Reid's plan that are similar. And -- and because of that similarity and some of that, that may be the grounds for a -- a deal that, hopefully, both parties will pass.

BLITZER: Well, if it comes down -- and I don't know if it will -- but if it comes down to this one issue, another vote in four to six or eight months or default, you would obviously go with another vote.

DALEY: It -- it -- it depends how that is framed. As I said, Senator McConnell's plan, which is not part of either legislation right now, gives the Congress the ability -- the Senate -- the -- the Congress the ability to vote on a plan that the president would put out. But it would not hold over the nation the debt ceiling vote once again.

BLITZER: The president would then veto that --


BLITZER: -- assuming it would pass.

DALEY: He would veto it --

BLITZER: And then they would have to have a --

DALEY: It would be a vote of disapproval.

BLITZER: Is that --

DALEY: Assuming the -- the Congress would disapprove his plan, he would veto it and then there would be no override of his veto and the debt ceiling would be extended.

BLITZER: What --

DALEY: Again, taking the cloud off of the economy.


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