Karl Rove On The Revolt Of The Unions Over Obamacare, The Filibuster, and the Senate Races of 2014, Including Cheney-Enzi
I interviewed Karl Rove on today’s show. Here’s the transcript:
HH: Is Obamacare killing the unions? Apparently, that is the case if you listen to Jimmy Hoffa or other key union officials who are complaining to the president via letter this week. A letter that is the subject of Karl Rove’s op-ed in today’s Wall Street Journal and “the Architect” joins me now. Karl, welcome back and always a pleasure to speak with you.
KR: Thank you, sir. Thanks for having me on.
HH: Are the unions looking for a special deal or are they looking to get rid of Obamacare?
KR: No, they are looking for a special deal. There are a couple of provisions in this bill which have a huge impact on unions. One of them is that many unions work with their employers to provide health insurance to a “non-profit insurance company” that is essentially a captive, controlled by the union so it’s a way for them to get some extra cash. Under Obamacare which of course nobody knew about or very few people knew about when it was being written and passed, there’s a provision that does not allow participants in non-profit insurance plans to get the same kind of generous subsidies that are provided to for-profit insurance programs through the so-called exchanges. So union health insurance programs like those given to, say the culinary workers in Las Vegas, won’t provide as generous a set of benefits as people who are in the normal exchanges and they’ll have to be paid for by union funds and employer funds as opposed to taxpayers, so it makes it less attractive for companies to unionize their workforces and do these kind of joint insurance programs with the unions that are basically a way to pay—put some more money of the coffers of the unions.
HH: Now this is just one aspect of a giant nightmare that is Obamacare. Does this define the 2014 cycle, Karl Rove?
KR: I think it does, in part not just because this—that’s an inside deal. The big deal that’s going to effect working people who are in unions is, and particularly these three unions: the Teamsters, the food workers and the culinary people, is that Obamacare says that if you are a business and you have part-time employees, hourly employees who work less than 30 hours a week, you don’t have to provide them insurance and you can’t be fined. If they are full-time you have to pay a $2,000 fine if you don’t provide insurance for them. So all these people who work in hotels and man cash registers and wash dishes and wait tables, they can all be put on 30-hour or smaller hour work weeks and then their employer doesn’t have to provide insurance or pay the fine. Now, that’s all ready happening. Lots of people are already being put in this and as people find out that the reason that they don’t get the 35 or 40 hours a week in order to make their nut is because of Obamacare, I think it’s going to be a real problem for Democarts.
HH: I think so too. Now three big events in Washington this week, Karl. I like you to comment on each. First, Mark Leibovich’s This Town book dropped. Secondly, the filibuster debate exploded and went away, and then Liz Cheney declared for Senate. In the order I discussed them, have you read Leibovich’s book yet?
KR: I’ve read the articles. I haven’t read the book, but it’s going to be towards the bottom of my stack. This is the kind of naval gazing that Washington loves. I do want to read the pages on Valerie Jarrett because only a gigantic ego like that could do things like get some White House staffer to write a 33 page memo about how great she is because she was concerned about getting bad press so she wanted talking points for all her White House colleagues to go out and defend her. That’s just sad and pathetic. That’s just the kind of stuff that passes for journalism in Washington.
HH: I spent three hours with Leibovich yesterday because the book is appalling on many levels. It is very well written and very well reported, but its appalling. One of the things is that there is hardly any mention of war at all. I asked him, so I ask you, can you image of any book about Washington written from 1939-1945 not having the war on every page, and it seems as though the whole City has moved on, Karl. That was not true in the White House in which you worked, but it does seem that this Washington, D.C. does not know that we are still in a war.
KR: That’s right. Next Thursday look for my column in the Wall Street Journal as this is the subject that I’m writing on. I am deeply disturbed by this. I think that the President of the United States is doing our country and our future and the world an incredible disservice by failing to recognize that he has a responsibility to rally the American people, to confront the evil of our time just as Democrat and Republican presidents from Harry Truman to Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush rallied the country to confront Soviet communism so must Presidents Republican and Democrat rally the country to overcome the challenge of radical Islam, and this man seems to have no deep concern about where America is going to be in five or ten years and as a result is not paying attention to our critical security interests.
HH: We’ll look for that piece next Thursday. The second issue: the filibuster wars are back. Now you lived through these in early 2000s. I argued them at length with Tim Russert once about how no one ever took the side of the people named McConnell and Roberts and Miguel Estrada during the 2000s and then we get this critical exercise this week. Basically, I think the filibuster is dead but it hasn’t been put out of its misery yet. What do you think Karl?
KR: Well, I think some damage was done to it this week. I’m of two minds on a filibuster. I do think that the description of–I think it was George Washington of the Senate– as the saucer that cools the passions is important. On the other hand, the filibuster ought to be done in a manly, straight forward fashion. That is to say that if you’re going to try bust somebody do it above ground and for good reason. Clearly what we had when the Democrats were trying to bust the five, or excuse me should be at one point eleven got down to five appellate judges, they are trying to do it beneath the surface and for no good reason. On the other hand, I do think that there ought to be a right for the minority to on a reasonable basis object to a president’s nominee and require a higher threshold for them. But look, this deal kept the rules from being changed. I think if the Democrats changed rules would have regretted in deeply in years to come but we got snookered largely. All we got out of it was two names for the National Labor Relations Board. They got this guy on the Consumer Protection Finance Agency as the director of it who, look the President is entitled to appointees but what the Republicans were doing by objecting to Codray, what they were saying this agency does not receive an appropriation from the Congress in the normal manner. It violates we think the constitutional spirit of giving the power of the purse to the Congress. It gets an automatic appropriation from the Federal Reserve by its own demand. They send a letter over and say here’s how much money we want and they get it and they wanted to subject this agency to the normal appropriations scrutiny of Congress and I think that’s an appropriate thing. I think it was inappropriate that President Obama and Barney Frank got Dodd Frank to provide such an open draw on the treasury to this consumer agency.
HH: Now Liz Cheney declared for Senate this week. Your reaction and will you be with her as she campaigns against a reliable. . .
KR: That’s up to the people of Wyoming. Liz is a friend of mine. I also respect Senator Enzi. This is going to be up to the people of Wyoming. They don’t need a Texan coming in there, and I grew up in the mountain west and you and I both now particularly in the Rocky Mountain states and small states like Wyoming they know everybody and want to make up their own minds about it.
HH: Well then to the other Senate races where there are open. No declaration from Karl Rove on the Cheney/Enzi showdown, but it looks like Republicans are in good shape in South Dakota, West Virginia and Montana. That means they’ve got to pick up three out of Alaska, Arkansas, Louisiana and North Carolina, Karl Rove. Which three are those gong to be from those four to get the Senate in responsible, Mitch McConnell hands.
KR: Well, I think all four of them are good targets for us but I think your list is too small. We have the potential for a very interesting race to develop in Michigan if Congressman Dave Camp enters the race as he is being talked about. We have a number of candidates in Iowa, none of them particularly well known, but all of them energetic in a relatively small state where who you are and how you conduct yourself matters a lot and there’s every potential for the possibility of a candidate to emerge there. And then Minnesota where we have an interesting business leader who has got a great record of philanthropy and charity and community work and is going to be taking on Al Franken. I’d like to see the board bigger rather than smaller, and so I feel good about Alaska. We haven’t settled on a candidate yet but we have a couple of good candidates there. The potential of Tom Cotton in Arkansas is terrific. Bill Cassidy, Congressman Bill Cassidy, a heart surgeon, who is running in Louisiana is terrific particularly on healthcare, and then there are a couple of potential candidates in North Carolina and one of them already in the race, the Speaker of the House Tom Tillis, is a terrific individual and so I feel good that we’ve good shots there, but I like to keep broadening that board.
HH: Two more questions. Is Scott Brown really and truly thinking about it in New Hampshire?
KR: I think he is. I mean the word came out today that he’s going to go up and give another speech in the state. You know he was born in the state. He’s like a 7th generation New Hampshirite and he was sort of the outcast sent to live in Massachusetts, but he’s . . .
HH: That would stretch the map. It would be a lot of fun.
KR: That would stretch the map. That would be very interesting.
HH: Last question. Governor Jeb Bush. If, if he runs for President, will Karl Rove be helping him.
KR: Look, he’s got his own team and I’m not—I’m focused on 2014. I think he is the smartest thinker in our party today. If he wants to run, he would be a big, huge player. My hope is that he gives it every solid look. I know one consideration is going to be, sort of the legacy of his brother, but as we saw recently the polls showed the President George W. Bush is today more popular than President Barrack Obama, which says something about how quick things change in a couple of years.
HH: Karl Rove, always a pleasure. Thank you.