Hagel, the Debt Ceiling, and More

8:00 a.m. E.T.

My “Today” colloquy with Lester Holt on post-Cliff America:

LESTER HOLT: Before we talk about where Congress is, let me get your thoughts on Chuck Hagel, former Republican senator. If the President picks him, is he in for a confirmation fight in the Senate?

MARK HALPERIN: He’s going to be in for some sort of fight. There’s some senators already on record opposing him. The President wants Chuck Hagel, according to all these reports. Chuck Hagel is a former senator. He’s got credentials. It’s not a guy who’s out of left field. He worked on national security but a lot of people on the right, some on the left, don’t want him confirmed. It’s a weird time to pick a fight because the President, as we’ll talk about with the fiscal cliff, has got a lot on his plate. But if he wants Chuck Hagel, he’s going to have to fight at least a little bit for him.

LESTER HOLT: Yeah, let’s talk about those fights now. Big sigh of relief, the fiscal cliff avoided, and then, as Kristen just laid it out, game not over. I mean, we’ve seen this movie and it doesn’t end well.

MARK HALPERIN: We have all that fight to get the one deal and what do we have still? The United States still faces huge debt and the need to raise the debt ceiling so more money can be borrowed.

LESTER HOLT: But the last time they couldn’t get the debt ceiling. That’s how we got to the fiscal cliff, right?

MARK HALPERIN: That’s right. That big fight over raising the debt ceiling. Remember, the big danger, and this is one reason the President wanted the first deal, the thing he’s thinking about when he says, “I’m not negotiating. I’m not letting this into negotiations — raising the debt ceiling,” is he doesn’t want world markets destabilized. He doesn’t want a credit downgrade. He wants to get the United States’ fiscal house in order. He doesn’t want to fight over this. He’s right. Historically, this has not been a big political fight. If the Republicans hold their ground and the President holds his ground, the fight we just had over that fiscal cliff is going to look like child’s play compared to this battle.

LESTER HOLT: John Boehner, reelected Speaker of the House this week but not without some Republican defections. If there are winners and losers — and I hate using that term because it seems like everything is about winning and losing right now — but if there are winners and losers here, did Boehner come out a little roughed up from all of this?

MARK HALPERIN: He is a little roughed up. Look, there was token opposition to him. His problem now is: one of the lessons he says he’s learned is no more negotiations with the President. No more one-on-one, John Boehner and the President trying to work it out. Boehner has now basically cast his lot, saying, we’re going to fight the next battle. They gave ground on the first battle that we just saw. Boehner is not destroyed, by any means. He’s weakened but he can come back. if he leads his troops successfully in this round, I think they will rally around him. He still has a lot of loyalty amongst Republicans.

LESTER HOLT: But to the extent we saw this fiscal cliff thing hammered out by the Vice President and Mitch McConnell, does that represent a new way of getting things done?

MARK HALPERIN: Not necessarily the Vice President taking a lead. But, I think the model going forward, on issues like the next round of fiscal negotiations, gun control, immigration, I think the model we did see is the Senate makes a deal with the White House in a bipartisan way and then, basically, throws it over to the House where Republicans are in control and says to House Republicans, “You guys stand in the way. If you vote this down, we start over. The problem doesn’t get addressed. You basically have to take what the Senate and the White House come up with.” That worked once. It could work again. As messy and as high stakes as that is, that’s probably the best model we can see right now if we’re going to deal with unemployment, high deficits, immigration, crime control, all the other issues the country needs to deal with now.

Watch the video above.

Related Topics: Chuck Hagel, debt-ceiling, Lester Holt, Mark Halperin, NBC, TODAY Show, Analysis, The Page, Video

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