At a Conversations with Conservatives press event on Capitol Hill on Thursday, CNN reporter Erin McPike attempted to blame congressional Republicans for a potential government shutdown, even though the power to do that would rest solely with President Barack Obama and Senate Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV).
“Congressman Labrador, earlier today, you were saying you think some of these comments were made just out of frustration,” McPike (pictured) asked of Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID) at the event. “But there is a lot of frustration. Then if the government shuts down and polls show that Republicans would take more of that blame, let’s say then that Republicans would lose control of the House. Don’t you then think there would be a lot more frustration in your party?”
Labrador then started providing an answer to her question: “All I can tell you is that I heard for two years that if we shut down the government, if we don’t fight on all of these issues, that we are going to win the presidency and win the Senate,” Labrador said. “And we were wrong. So, I think what the American people want to know is what we stand for. They want to know, they want to see a clear vision. They want to know we actually want to fight for something and that we actually have an articulable [sic] position on the issues of the day.”
Labrador argued that the American people want Congress to focus on the economy and remove Obamacare from the equation. “And if we just wait around and we’re all just afraid of the polls, and we’re afraid of ‘what will happen if,’ then we’re not leading,” Labrador said. “All we’re doing is we’re actually governing through fear. I don’t think we should ever govern through fear. We should always govern through conviction. I think you will see the American people are going to stand with us because we are going to clearly articulate to the American people that we are not trying to shut down the government.
“If you want to write your story that we are trying to shut down the government, that’s your fault,” he continued. “We’re not trying to shut down the government. We want to keep the government open so the American people can have the government function for them. And if Harry Reid and the president want to shut down the government because all we’re asking for is a simple delay of Obamacare, then I hope you write the story that way and not the way that we’re the ones at fault.”
At that point, CNN’s McPike then interrupted Labrador as he was beginning his next sentence to say: “But just last week, the leadership did not want to hold this particular vote because they were saying they wanted to protect some of your members who are in tougher districts to win. And this idea continues that the government shutdown would fall on Republicans. You know, you’re saying that you don’t, but -“
“If you report your story that way, then it will continue,” Labrador cut McPike off. He then continued his answer to McPike’s original question. “This is not original to me, but somebody actually said this to me,” he said. “They said ‘this is a that Rep. Tom Reed (R-NY) and Rep. Tom Graves (R-GA) can agree on.’ This has a broad coalition of moderates, independents, New York, South Carolina, and Idaho Republicans. So I think this is actually the right play.
“When you can get people as diverse as are sponsoring this piece of legislation, when you can get them on the same page, I think this is terrific for the American people because we have listened to everyone on this issue.”
Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-KS) jumped in at that point to point out that most pollsters establishment politicians are citing “are often the same pollsters who said Republicans would have the presidency this year,” and he argued “they were wrong.”
“At the end of the day, for us to speculate what Prince Harry [Reid] might do?” Huelskamp added. “What is his plan? All they have said–Prince Harry and Mr. Obama–is ‘we’re not going to compromise. We’re not going to negotiate.’ That is a position that is untenable and most Americans would recognize that you can’t get everything you want, Mr. President.
“Even though you want to claim that. You say you’re absolutely not going to compromise. I’ve been here for two years and nine months and for the first time, we’re going to have a vote on must-pass legislation on what most of us were elected on.”
Rep. Tom Massie (R-KY) then added his take on how House Republicans are more unified than ever, while Democrats are divided and the media like McPike do not report on the divisions among the left. “I would just say that it’s sort of ironic that Republicans more unified than I’ve ever seen since I came to Congress,” Massie said. “And the Democrats are more divided than I’ve ever seen, especially in the House. This is the unwritten story. We had a vote in the House to delay the individual mandate. Twenty-two Democrats voted for that in the House of Representatives. This was just two months ago. Nobody reported on that.
“And then also on Syria, the president didn’t have the backing of the members here in Congress,” Massied charged. “If you went and did your little whip card with the Democrats, he didn’t have much support at all. So, I think it’s a little disingenuous to talk about Republicans being divided when we’re actually more unified than ever and Democrats are more divided. They’re in the minority. It should be easy [for them] to be united.”
McPike jumped back in later in the presser. After several other reporters and some conservative activists asked questions of the members, McPike fired off another question–this time at Massie–in response to his remarks. “Congressman Massie, you said just a little while earlier that you haven’t seen the Republican Party this unified in a while,” McPike said, before referencing the Tea Party Patriots “Exempt America” rally on Capitol Hill last week.
I just wanted to challenge you on that because just last week there was a Tea Party rally on the Capitol front and some of the members who are here behind this desk were at that rally and at that rally, speaker after speaker were saying that your leadership in your party–Speaker Boehner, Leader Cantor–needed to go because of the procedural tricks that they were pulling and that if they didn’t give you the vote that you wanted, that you needed to change leadership. So, I just wanted to ask you how can possibly say that the Republican Party is as unified as you’re trying to tell me it is?
Before Massie could answer, Rep. Labrador challenged McPike’s assumptions that she was making in her question. “You’re not saying that anyone sitting here was saying that, correct, right?” Labrador asked.
McPike answered: “You were all – the people behind that desk were part of that rally.”
Labrador fired back: “Well just because there are people who are reporters who ask stupid questions, do I blame it on you? I just wanted to confirm that you’re not saying that somebody here made that statement.”
McPike replied: “But there were people who were part of that rally who were joining in that sentiment.”
Massie then stepped in to answer McPike’s original question. “Just speaking to it, to your question, as more evidence that we’re unified, look at the FARM bill, the second vote on the FARM bill,” he said. “There were 216 Republicans that voted for it. It was very contentious. We were taking fire from organizations on the right, and we were taking fire from organizations on the left. In spite of that, we unified and got 216 votes on that particular issue.
“It really is coming together,” he continued. “And that’s another time when the leadership listened to us. Their first try failed. And they could have gone left or they could have gone right, and they came to the center of the conference which is sometimes to the right of where they are and we unified and I think that’s a good precedent. You’ll see it on this and I suspect we’ll get more than the 216 votes on this. I’m like Raul. I hope that we get all of them [the Republicans].”