Brooks and Capehart on debt ceiling negotiations and Republicans joining the 2024 race (2023)

New York Times columnist David Brooks and Washington Post associate editor Jonathan Capehart join Geoff Bennett to discuss the week in politics, including the latest on the debt ceiling negotiations between the White House and GOP leaders in Congress and more Republicans join the 2024 presidential race.

  • Geoff Bennett:

    It's Friday. And that means it's time for the analysis of Brooks and Capehart.

    That's New York Times columnist David Brooks and Jonathan Capehart, associate editor for The Washington Post.

    It's good to see you both, as always.

    And, look, here we are another Friday of late-breaking news, this time on the debt ceiling. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy said on FOX Business earlier this evening that House Republican negotiators will continue the talks with the White House. This was after those talks fell apart today.

    The negotiators tasked by him to deal with the White House said that they were going to put those talks on hold because they weren't productive.

    Jonathan, what's your read on what's happening here?

  • Jonathan Capehart:

    Well, we're getting down to the wire, what we think is the wire, with June 1 as the X-date, as identified by the Treasury secretary, but also because both the House and Senate will be out of session next week for the Memorial Day recess until May 29, which is the Monday leading up to June 1.

    Look, the talks didn't fall apart. There indeed was a short pause. We heard about it this morning — or late this morning, early this afternoon, and now they're going to be back together in the — negotiating.

    Part of me wonders if this is all posturing on the part of Speaker McCarthy, but we will see. I'm trying not to hyperventilate over every dot and tittle of what's happening until we get closer to June 1, but there are big things that they need to work out and they need to negotiate. And let's just hope that they make some progress.

  • Geoff Bennett:

    Deadlines have a way of focusing the minds of members of Congress.

    And, look, we don't know what we don't know, but this did sort of have the hallmarks of a Republican pressure play. The Senate Republican Leader, Mitch McConnell, who was not a part of these talks, tweeted earlier today: "It's past time for the White House to get serious. Time is of the essence."

    How do you see what's happening here?

  • David Brooks:

    (Video) Brooks and Capehart on debt ceiling negotiations and Republicans joining the 2024 race

    Well, I'm sure they both thought the other was not coming through. I'm glad they're back together. It's like they just can't quit each other, like — it's like a Taylor Swift album, getting back together.

    But I — it's dangerous to put even a pause, because while I do think both sides are negotiating hard, but probably in good faith, there are elements of both parties who will take advantage of a pause to say, no, let's not do this deal. And the Freedom Caucus on the Republican side is saying, you know, we passed our bill. Take it or leave it.

    And that's like, we're going to govern by ourselves, as if the Democrats don't exist. And then there are a bunch of senators on the Democratic side who say, just use the 14th Amendment to ram through our version. And that sounds OK legally, but it would be, in my view, disastrous economically, because if we pay — if Biden tries to use the 14th Amendment to run roughshod, it's going to go through the court system.

    Every little decision will create economic uncertainty in a crisis. It'll probably get to this Supreme Court, which will probably overrule it, and then we will be back to where we started.

    So they just have to deal with each other.

  • Geoff Bennett:

    And President Biden said as much, that it's impractical because it would be litigated, and that would take a lot of time.

    Jonathan, let's talk more about the Democrats, because progressives say they are concerned that President Biden might give away too much.

    And this follows his comments about toughening standards for social safety net programs like food stamps. How can he do a deal with House Republicans without alienating the far left of his party, whose votes Democrats will need?

  • Jonathan Capehart:

    Well, sure.

    But, again, what we're talking about are things — the president said nice things about something he did 30 years ago. I understand progressives being concerned about what that will — comments about things he did in the 1990s, what impact that might have on negotiations in 2023, but we just don't know.

    And so I take progressives as trying to fill the void and sending a message to the president, think real hard about what you're doing in that negotiating room.

    But, again, it is good that they're getting together and they're talking. No — neither side is going to get everything that they want. And so, when it comes to work requirements, we just have to see.

    But I just need to make one larger point here. Speaker McCarthy is trying to do budgetary matters by holding the economy hostage with the debt ceiling, when the president submitted his own budget on March 9. House Republicans have yet to submit their own budget. That is where these conversations about spending cuts and caps and requirements and everything.

    If Speaker McCarthy had any confidence, he could pass a budget on — by regular order, through regular order, he would have submitted his own budget right now. But, instead, he's using the debt ceiling as a way to ram through his own priorities, things he couldn't get through the House and certain really couldn't get through the Senate on his own.

  • Geoff Bennett:

    How do you see it?

    (Video) Brooks and Capehart on the chances of reaching a debt ceiling deal before default

  • David Brooks:


    Well, first of all, this happened dozens and dozens of times over the last many decades. Of the last 43 times we had a debt ceiling crisis, I think it's something like 28 percent — 28 of those times, a clear majority, it was attached to some sort of spending bill. So we probably shouldn't do budgeting this way. But the fact is, we have been doing it. Democrats have been doing it. Republicans have been doing it.

    Republicans have doing it more. It's just — it focuses the mind. And if — and both parties in the normal budgetary process tend to just blow through deficits. And this is the only mechanism we seem to have, as crazy as it is, to bring down spending.

    And we really do — our average deficits historically, recently, have been about 3 — just over 3 percent. Now they're over 6 percent. We just can't run that much debt year upon year.

  • Geoff Bennett:

    Well, let's shift our focus to 2024, shall we?

    Because there are two major announcements expected next week in the GOP presidential primary, Ron DeSantis and Tim Scott. Senator Scott filed paperwork today to run for president.

    Jonathan, let's start with Ron DeSantis first. And I think we can be forgiven for not remembering that he isn't already a candidate. In many ways, it feels like he already is.

    How do you think he can shape this race once he makes it official?

  • Jonathan Capehart:

    Well, I'm going to quote something that my Washington Post colleague George Will said this morning on First Look. And I believe he was quoting someone else in talking about Governor DeSantis, in that it seems as though the governor is trying to be a different version of Donald Trump, say, a competent version of Donald Trump, ramming through all of these culture war laws, signing things into law.

    But, as he said, it's like holding up — asking people to choose between Coke and New Coke. And when we went through that way back when, people made it clear, when given the choice, they went for Coke.

    And so the lane that Ron DeSantis is trying to occupy is not going to be successful, because, if people have to choose between Trump and Governor DeSantis, they're going to go for Trump. And so that's why I — the moment he decides — the moment he makes it official and becomes a candidate, I think the scrutiny will be on, how well will he do under the spotlight of a national presidential campaign and with Donald Trump gnawing on his leg 24 hours a day, seven days a week, until Governor DeSantis cries uncle?

  • Geoff Bennett:

    Well, on that point, Ron DeSantis, for many Republicans, seemed like someone who could carry the mantle of Trumpism without the baggage that Donald Trump has himself.

    But his poll numbers have cratered. There are questions about his electability should he make it to the general election. Can he bounce back from that? And, if so, how?

    (Video) Brooks and Capehart on U.S. border policy and debt ceiling negotiations

  • David Brooks:

    He can. There's a reason we have campaign, so he can surely do it.

    But, right now, his campaign is a bit of a mess. And so, even this week, he had a whole bunch of social conservative culture war-type issues. Then he goes up to New Hampshire and poses as a very different kind of candidate, sort of a moderate, business-type Republican. That's — those are two different messages. You got to pick one.

    Second, it was clearly a terrible mistake not to announce months ago and really begin campaigning and, frankly, hit back at Donald Trump. I can't think of a time in all the years covering politics where one candidate was just beating the daylights out of one — the other candidate, and the other guy didn't hit back.

    It's just not a way to win. And so there are just fundamental structural issues in his campaign he has to figure out.

  • Geoff Bennett:

    Now, this week, DeSantis told donors and supporters on a conference call that there were only three credible candidates in the race, Joe Biden, Donald Trump, and himself. And he said that Donald Trump could not beat Joe Biden again.

    Is that an effective argument for him to make, Jonathan, given where he is in the polls right now against Donald Trump?

  • Jonathan Capehart:

    I mean, it sounds like wishful thinking. And if you're trying to shake people — separate people from their money, in terms of donors, you got to give them a reason to believe.

    And so the governor can believe that there are only three people in the race, and he's the only Republican who could beat President Biden. But, sure, he — maybe he can win the Republican nomination, but he has signed a number of things into law in Florida that will make him unpalatable to the general — a general electorate.

    And just his signing, for example, the six-week abortion ban in Florida is not going to play well on the national stage. And so I don't see how his happy talk to donors is going to become reality.

  • Geoff Bennett:

    What about Tim Scott? Is there room for him in this race?

  • David Brooks:

    I think he's underestimated right now.

    (Video) News Wrap: Debt limit negotiations at standstill with time running out

    He's a good person, a nice person, which sets him apart from his two major competitors. And there may be a lane for a guy like: People are just exhausted. That guy's a good man. Let's go for that guy.

    He's actually got a fair bit of money already, unlike some of the other candidates. So I think there's a real chance. And he's an effective legislator who's done things across the line. They haven't always worked out, but he's been active in the U.S. Senate. So I think there's a lane for him.

  • Geoff Bennett:

    What do you think, Jonathan, to go back to your Coke versus New Coke analogy? Is there room for a Tim Scott, who doesn't appear anywhere on that shelf, to draw that — to draw that analogy out?

  • Jonathan Capehart:

    Well, sure, because he would be Pepsi.


  • Jonathan Capehart:

    He would be an alternative to Coke and New Coke.

    The only thing, though, is if you have got Coke, New Coke and Pepsi, how many other brands of Republicans are going to be in the race? Donald Trump was able to eke his way to the 2016 nomination because there were, as we say, 50-11 people on the stage, and he was able to split all the votes.

    If it's just Governor DeSantis, Donald Trump, Asa Hutchinson, Nikki Haley, Tim Scott, and one other person, maybe he has a shot. But the more people who jump into the race, the less likely it is that any of them, any of those folks on the stage who isn't named Donald Trump will win the nomination.

  • Geoff Bennett:

    Jonathan Capehart and David Brooks, it's great to see you both, as always. Have a great weekend.

  • David Brooks:


  • Jonathan Capehart:


    (Video) GOP debt ceiling plan would cost 800k jobs, economist testifies #shorts
  • Videos

    1. Brooks and Capehart on the possible Biden-Trump rematch and Tucker Carlson's ouster
    (PBS NewsHour)
    2. Debt ceiling talks on pause: GOP negotiator
    (ABC News)
    3. Debt ceiling negotiations stall: James Carville says 'it's an expensive game that they are playing'
    (Yahoo Finance)
    4. The problem with the debt limit crisis #shorts
    (Yahoo Finance)
    5. High-stakes debt ceiling negotiations at a standstill
    (CBS Mornings)
    6. WATCH LIVE: White House briefing may address ongoing debt ceiling negotiations
    (PBS NewsHour)
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