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NBC's Curry: Do Tea Party Members of Congress 'Know How to Govern'?

In a discussion with Meet the Press host David Gregory and Tom Brokaw on Monday's NBC Today about the debt ceiling deal, co-host Ann Curry contemptuously wondered: "...do you think that members of the Tea Party Caucus know how to govern or are they – do they understand that standing up for a cause is not the same as governing?" [Audio available here]

Interestingly, Brokaw rejected Curry's argument: "Well, I don't think that you can separate the two. The fact is that they were elected to pursue the goals that they took before their constituents and said, 'This is what we believe in, this is why we're going to Washington.' And they have changed the tenor of the debate there and the details of it." He further added: "...this has been a big morning for them so far..."

Undeterred, Curry fretted to Gregory: "Well, what's to stop this same caucus, the Tea Party Caucus, from blocking the work of this new subcommittee, without the threat of the debt – of a default, David?"

Curry went on to blame the weak economy on the debt ceiling debate: "What about an emotional impact on the recovery? In other words, is there potentially, even with what we think is now a deal, is there – has there already been a negative impact on the economy, Tom?"

Brokaw warned that any cut in government spending could do further damage:

A lot of people, both in the private sector and the public sector, do worry that these cuts will take out what is an imperfect stimulus, we know that. A lot of the money that is helping to prop up the economy right now is public money, it's government money. These cuts will pull that out or reduce a lot of those. The impact of that on what we know is a very fragile economy remains to be seen.

Here is a full transcript of Curry's August 1 discussion with Gregory and Brokaw:

7:10AM ET

ANN CURRY: Now let's bring in David Gregory, moderator of Meet the Press, and NBC's Tom Brokaw, who also had a long weekend this weekend. Good morning to both of you.

DAVID GREGORY: Good morning.

TOM BROKAW: Good morning.

CURRY: First of all, David, very quickly, does this deal have the votes to pass the House?

DAVID GREGORY: I think it does. I think there's problems on the Left and the Right. You heard from Emanuel Cleaver that liberals are not happy with this deal. There are going to be some hardcore Republicans, Tea Party folks, who aren't happy either. Michele Bachmann, who is running for President, said she won't vote for it. But I think with Boehner saying he's for it, it should get through.

CURRY: You talk about the Tea Party, there's been – it's been no secret that the conservative elements, especially the Tea Party elements, freshmen, have had an indication – have had an impact on the – on this struggle. So the question, I think, some people might be asking is, do you think that members of the Tea Party Caucus know how to govern or are they – do they understand that standing up for a cause is not the same as governing?

TOM BROKAW: Well, I don't think that you can separate the two. The fact is that they were elected to pursue the goals that they took before their constituents and said, 'This is what we believe in, this is why we're going to Washington.' And they have changed the tenor of the debate there and the details of it. I don't believe anyone woke up this morning and said, 'This is a peachy deal.'

We've dodged a bullet. But we still have a long way to go. And anyone who is out there with a mortgage that's in trouble or doesn't have a job, this doesn't solve their problem. We still have systemic issues within the American economy. The Tea Party members came here under their terms. They said, 'This is what we want to do,' this has been a big morning for them so far, but we have miles to go before we sleep.

CURRY: Well, what's to stop this same caucus, the Tea Party Caucus, from blocking the work of this new subcommittee, without the threat of the debt – of a default, David?

GREGORY: It's actually a good question. Without getting too technical about it, the point is this happens in two phases. The second phase could be pretty tricky because that's where you heard David Plouffe just say, 'Well, we might get some tax increases there, we're going to get tax reform there.' Well, they don't have to do all of that in that committee. The bottom line is, in this package, they still didn't make the really hard decisions. Washington failed to make the hard decisions.

Now, the President has an option. He could veto the extension of the Bush-era tax cuts at that point. So we could be headed for another showdown. And by the way, another showdown this fall, actually going into the Republican primaries and into the election year. So they left in place the major fights about the role of government, about taxes, about the deficit, for the 2012 campaign.

CURRY: Well, that said, I mean we heard Matt talk about the emotion. Whether this had an emotional impact. What about an emotional impact on the recovery? In other words, is there potentially, even with what we think is now a deal, is there – has there already been a negative impact on the economy, Tom?

BROKAW: Well, that's what we don't know yet. But a lot of people, both in the private sector and the public sector, do worry that these cuts will take out what is an imperfect stimulus, we know that. A lot of the money that is helping to prop up the economy right now is public money, it's government money. These cuts will pull that out or reduce a lot of those. The impact of that on what we know is a very fragile economy remains to be seen.

And two years ago, I was with a group of very high-level CEOs. They thought the stimulus program would work. They thought by '10 mid-term, late term, the economy would be back on the road to recovery. We learned last Friday that we're under 2% in terms of growth in this country. We have a very fragile situation. And how all of this will play out, no one can say with any clarity because so many of the projections that we've made in the past have proved to be dead wrong.

CURRY: How this will all play out politically is also a matter of debate. The pundits are already second guessing who won, who lost. Can we even talk about those definitions? After this, after what we've seen this weekend?

GREGORY: It's – I think as Tom alludes to, it's early to do that at this stage because this is not over. But there's no question. First all, this was a failure to govern by both sides, so nobody comes out of this looking very good.

CURRY: So who lost the least?

GREGORY: Well, I mean, look, Republicans came out, they drove the conversation about cutting the deficit. There are no tax increases in this. The President did not get what he wanted. He's got a very unhappy liberal base. So I think overall, as Tom was alluding to, you know, Tea Party Republicans had a huge impact on this at the end of the day.

BROKAW: This is a new passage, Ann. I mean, in fact, they have changed the tone and the tenor of the debate in Washington and the economic reality of where we go from here if this continues to play out in the manner that it played out over the weekend.

CURRY: Really terrific to hear from both of you, great perspective. Thank you so much, Tom Brokaw and David Gregory.

- Kyle Drennen is a news analyst at the Media Research Center. Click here to follow Kyle Drennen on Twitter.