WASHINGTON WATCH ROUNDTABLE: Where Is Congress? Supreme Court Considers Healthcare Mandate & Democratic Messaging Problems

Has Congress gone fishing? Where in the world is Congress? In these tough economic times Congress should be doing everything in their power to help get Americans back to work. Plus, the Supreme Court is currently considering the Healthcare law and Democratic messaging problems.

Roland Martin and the Washington Watch roundtable discuss this and more.

This week’s Washington Watch roundtable features Congresswoman Karen Bass of California; Dr. Chris Metzler, political scientist at Georgetown University; Obama 2012 pollster Cornell Belcher; and political commentator Lenny McAllister.

MR. MARTIN:  All right, folks.  Welcome back.

Back to our panel, and I want to pick up on that.  Seriously, where in the world is Congress?  You would think that when you have a difficult time, the President comes out, says, “Look.  Pass my construction jobs bill” – Congress is kickin’ back, chillin’ at the crib!

REP. BASS:  Well, you know, the Democratic leaders both at the beginning of this week called on the Republican leadership to cancel our recess.  We’re going on recess for the next 12 days.  The Republican leadership has not responded.

MR. MARTIN:  How many days y’all work this month?  I mean the month of May?

REP. BASS:  [Chuckles.]  In the month of May, we were in session nine days.

MR. MARTIN:  Nine days?

REP. BASS:  Yes.  Yes, yes.  But look at it from the Republicans’ point of view.

MR. MARTIN:  That sound like Cornell[‘s] work schedule!

MR. BELCHER:  [Laughs.]


MR. MARTIN:  [Laughs.]

MR. BELCHER:  She – she’s got better healthcare.

REP. BASS:  But wait.

MR. BELCHER:  [Laughs.]


REP. BASS:  I don’t know about that!

MR. BELCHER:  [Chuckles.]

REP. BASS:  But think about it from their point of view.  Eighty-seven new Republicans were elected in January of last year.  They want those folks to continue to be reelected, so they want them to go home and campaign.


REP. BASS:  That’s the reason.

MR. MARTIN:  I think the Democrats should st- — y’all should occupy Congress.

REP. BASS:  [Chuckles.]  There ya go.  I think that’s a great idea.

MR. MARTIN:  Yeah, y’all should just come to – [crosstalk] –

REP. BASS:  You d- — [chuckles] –

MR. MARTIN:  — and say, “All right.  We’re here.  Where y’all at?”


REP. BASS:  Now, you – now, you know that that was tried in December on the extension of unemployment, and they wouldn’t turn the microphones on.

MR. MARTIN:  Naw, you don’t need –

REP. BASS:  — So, when the –

MR. MARTIN:  — the microphones.

REP. BASS:  — Republicans – [chuckles] –

MR. MARTIN:  Get –

REP. BASS:  — control –

MR. MARTIN:  — look.  Y’all need to go old-school Black –

DR. METZLER:  Get a bull- —

MR. MARTIN:  — activist.

DR. METZLER:  — -horn!

MR. MARTIN:  Get a bullhorn!

REP. BASS:  [Chuckles.]  Oh, okay.  [Chuckles.]


MR. MARTIN:  See?  See?  Y’all forgot y’all roots!  Get to Congress.  “Naw, we ain’t gettin’ a bullhorn!”


MR. MARTIN:  “Let’s[?] not get the bullhorn!”


MR. MARTIN:  All right.  Okay.

REP. BASS:  You know – [chuckles] –

MR. MARTIN:  Understand, understand.  No sweat.

One of the other things that has jumped out this week is this whole issue of the Supreme Court and healthcare –

REP. BASS:  — right.

MR. MARTIN:  — and here’s what’s interesting.  The CNN poll said that most people want healthcare repeal, but the interesting part is a significant number of people want the healthcare law repealed because they felt it didn’t go far enough.

REP. BASS:  Enough.

MR. MARTIN:  It’s amazing how that never really gets told.

REP. BASS:  Right.

MR. BELCHER:  [Chuckles.]  Well, it’s problem- — it’s problematic; and – and, quite frankly, Democrats should take some – some heat on this because, quite frankly, we did not do a ver- — a very –


MR. BELCHER:  — good –

REP. BASS:  — agree.

MR. BELCHER:  — job of messaging around this.



MR. MARTIN:  Really?

MR. BELCHER:  — and the – and the Co- — and the –

MR. MARTIN:  Really!

MR. BELCHER:  — Congress- —

MR. MARTIN:  Shocker!

MR. BELCHER:  — [chuckles] – and – and the Congresswoman wor- — I mean they worked very hard to sort of move this historic – historic measure, but it’s lost.  And when you talk to voters – and particularly in African-Americans, no more – no voter is more anxious about healthcare than African-Americans, and – and they’re still anxious about it.  They have no idea what this healthcare law has d- — has done.  They’re hopeful, but they have no clue about what this healthcare law –

REP. BASS:  Right.  And –

MR. BELCHER:  — does.

REP. BASS:  — you know, it was actually before my time.  I was sitting in California, watching this.  But if you think about some of the provisions, such as preexisting conditions – I mean those provisions saved people’s lives.  The fact that today, a 26-year-old can continue on their parent’s plan, you know, this is things that absolutely save people’s lives.

I don’t think that the Democrats did a great job in marketing.

MR. BELCHER:  [Chuckles.]

MR. MARTIN:  And they still aren’t doing –

REP. BASS:  Should’ve been –

MR. MARTIN:  — a great job –


MR. MARTIN:  — communicating.


MR. MARTIN:  I mean my goodness!

MR. MCALLISTER:  Those are great things, but two things came out of it.  Number one, tone and messaging.  The Democrats made it seem as though it was going to be a rushed process, and people felt uncomfortable with that – first and foremost.


MR. MCALLISTER:  The other –

MR. MARTIN:  — “rushed process” that took a whole year.

MR. MCALLISTER:  — well –


MR. MCALLISTER:  — look at –

MR. MARTIN:  [Laughs.]

MR. MCALLISTER:  — look at how they had to –


DR. METZLER:  [Crosstalk] – time –

MR. MCALLISTER:  — look at how –

DR. METZLER:  — that – that’s –

MR. MCALLISTER:  — they had to –

DR. METZLER:  — yeah.

MR. MCALLISTER:  — win over the Blue Dogs, and they had to do this.  And there [were] special type[s] of votes in Congress, and that was something that the average American – whether they were conservative or progressive – felt a little uneasy about.

The other thing about this is the focus has not been on those 26-year-olds.  It’s not been on preexisting conditions. Those –

REP. BASS:  I know.

MR. MCALLISTER:  — are things –

REP. BASS:  It’s been –

MR. MCALLISTER:  — that people –

REP. BASS:  — on the 30 million –

MR. MCALLISTER:  — it’s ba- —

REP. BASS:  — people that – right – that –

MR. MCALLISTER:  — it’s been on –

REP. BASS:  — are not –

MR. MCALLISTER:  — the –

REP. BASS:  — covered.

MR. MCALLISTER:  — individual mandate.  And when you don’t –

MR. MARTIN:  That[?] thing[?] –

MR. MCALLISTER:  — message –

MR. MARTIN:  — Mitt Romney loved –

MR. MCALLISTER:  — properly –

MR. MARTIN:  — in Massachusetts.

REP. BASS:  Right.


REP. BASS:  Exactly.


REP. BASS:  [Chuckles.]

MR. MCALLISTER:  — the Tea Party never did.  And –


MR. MCALLISTER:  — so that’s the group that, if we look at how politics have played out 2009, 2010, those are the folks that dominated that cycle.


MR. MCALLISTER:   And therefore, they dominated the –

MR. MARTIN:  I – I –

MR. MCALLISTER:  — message, and that’s where you got to –

MR. MARTIN:  — I – I[’ve] –

MR. MCALLISTER:  — where we are –

MR. MARTIN:  — got to ask –

MR. MCALLISTER:  — right now.

MR. MARTIN:  — the question.  We heard all – we saw all of these stories, and people were talking about how the President’s such a great communicator.  How in the world, Chris, have the Democrats consistently fumbled messaging?  I mean they have gotten beat[en] to the punch nearly – on nearly every issue, and I’m sitting here going, “Could y’all find somebody who knows how to communicate?”

DR. METZLER:  Well, a couple of things.

MR. BELCHER:  [Chuckles.]

DR. METZLER:  Well, they always want to ha- —

MR. MARTIN:  You know I’m not lyin’, Cornell!

DR. METZLER:  — [chuckles] –


MR. MARTIN:  It’s been pretty bad!

MR. BELCHER:  That’s not fair.

MR. MARTIN:  The messaging –

MR. BELCHER:  That’s –

MR. MARTIN:  — has been weak.

DR. METZLER:  — yeah.

MR. BELCHER:  That’s not –

DR. METZLER:  Well, one –

MR. BELCHER:  — fair.

MR. MARTIN:  Okay.

DR. METZLER:  — they –

MR. MARTIN:  All right.

DR. METZLER:  — they always –

MR. MARTIN:  All right.

DR. METZLER:  — want to have the President out front as if he is the only person in the White House who can say anything, so that’s number one.

Number two, in terms of the – of – in terms of conservatives and in terms of Republicans, look, you can agree or disagree with us; but we’re very clear that we have an ideology.  We’re going to make that ideology clear.  We’re going to stick to that, and we’re not going to get caught up in all of these other distractions.  And for me, that’s the issue with – with the Democrats –

REP. BASS:  That’s easy –

DR. METZLER:  — particularly –

REP. BASS:  — when your ideology is “no” – “no” –

DR. METZLER:  — to everything –

MR. BELCHER:  [Chuckles.]

DR. METZLER:  Well – well, no.  That’s not –

REP. BASS:  — “no” to raising taxes –

DR. METZLER:  — no.  No, no.

REP. BASS:  — “no” to –

DR. METZLER:  That – that’s –

REP. BASS:  — government.

DR. METZLER:  — not the ideology –

REP. BASS:  [Chuckles.]

DR. METZLER:  — but at least it’s an ideology.  Re- — regardless of whether you agree with it or not –

REP. BASS:  Um-hum?

DR. METZLER:  — it is clear, and we are going to consistently stick to that message.

With the Democrats, it’s – and particularly as it relate[s] to tha- — to that whole healthcare thing.  I was like, “What are y’all talkin’ about?”  Absolutely nothing!

MR. BELCHER:  Well – well, here’s – but, well, yeah, you do.  You do stick to messaging, and here’s part of the problem, and – and it’s really interesting.  The guy who I think you should have nominated this year, who probably couldn’t have been it, Jeb Bush, was – was out sort of talking about your messaging today, talking about sort of a surrogate being off-message.  And what Jeb Bush was basically saying is the extremism of the – of the Republican Party is being short-sighted, and he sees it in their policies and in the whole conversation that’s going on in the Republican Party.  And this is a Bush.  This is Jeb Bush of Florida talking about the extremism o- — of what – he’s seeing in the Republican Party right –

MR. MCALLISTER:  But that –

MR. BELCHER:  — now – being short-sighted.

MR. MCALLISTER:  — that’s not off-message.  That’s prophesy.

DR. METZLER:  Exactly.

MR. MCALLISTER:  The Republicans –

MR. BELCHER:  [Laughs.]

MR. MARTIN:  [Laughs.]

DR. METZLER:  There –

MR. MCALLISTER:  — can’t win –

DR. METZLER:  — there ya go!


MR. MCALLISTER:  — they –

DR. METZLER:  There ya go!

MR. MCALLISTER:  — can’t win –

DR. METZLER:  That’s ri- — there ya go.

MR. MCALLISTER:  — they can’t win in ten years, if we continue to do what we do.

DR. METZLER:  There ya go.

MR. MCALLISTER:  So, that’s what that boiled down to.

MR. MARTIN:  That’s “prophesy.”

MR. MCALLISTER:  He’s trying to give –


MR. MCALLISTER:  — no, he’s trying to give us[?] some good advice.


MR. MARTIN:  That’s “prophecy.”

REP. BASS:  And we – and we –

DR. METZLER:  That’s absolutely right.

MR. MARTIN:  So, I – I guess –

REP. BASS:  — want him[?] to continue.


MR. MARTIN:  — so, I guess, Lenny, your name is “Knee-grow-damus.”

MR. MARTIN:  All right –

DR. METZLER:  [Claps, laughs.]