This Week: Chris sits down for an exclusive interview with White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus.
Transcript: GOP Lawmakers Promote Bush's Agenda
Written by Chris Wallace / Published January 30, 2006 / Fox News Sunday
The following is a partial transcript of the Jan. 29, 2006 edition of "FOX News Sunday":
CHRIS WALLACE, HOST: Among those listening to every word the president says Tuesday night are congressional Republicans who will have to run on his agenda. We turn now to two young guns of the GOP, Senator John Thune, who joins us from his home state of South Dakota, and here in studio, Indiana Congressman Mike Pence.
Gentlemen, welcome to both of you. Thanks for coming in today.
SEN. JOHN THUNE, R-S.D.: Thanks, Chris.
REP. MIKE PENCE, R-IND.: Thanks, Chris.
WALLACE: White House officials say the president is going to offer a more modest domestic agenda in the State of the Union speech this week because this is an election year and also because he's learned from last year that it's tough proposing dramatic proposals while you've got a war going on.
Let me start with you, Congressman Pence. Are you disappointed that the president is not going to propose major Social Security reform again, or tax reform, or apparently any other bold initiative?
PENCE: Well, what I'm excited about, Chris, is that it does appear that in a time where there's really a crisis of confidence in Republican governance in Washington, D.C., we have indications that the president is going to go back to the basics, essentially, back to the roots of the Republican revolution in '94 and the roots that Ronald Reagan brought to Washington, D.C. 25 years ago this month.
It's limited government, fiscal discipline, a strong defense, and a commitment to traditional values. As someone who opposed No Child Left Behind, one of the conservatives in the House to do that, as someone who thought the creation of the first new entitlement in 40 years was the wrong policy for our majority, it is refreshing to hear the president signaling a commitment of fiscal discipline for the State of the Union address.
WALLACE: Let's talk about that.
Let me pick up on that if I can with you, Senator Thune. The president, we hear, will talk about spending restraint. But when spending has increased so dramatically while the Republicans have been in control of Congress, when this president has not vetoed a single spending bill during his five-plus years in office, do the Republicans — the president and the congressional leadership — have any credibility on spending restraint?
THUNE: Well, we did, before Congress adjourned, Chris, pass the first-ever since 1997 deficit reduction bill that reduces entitlement spending by $40 billion. The discretionary appropriation bills that were passed last year — actually, some of them came in not only below the baseline but below the previous year's levels.
Congress and the administration, the president, are committed to fiscal discipline. The big problem that we've got are the entitlement programs that are exploding and over the course of the next 10 years have to be addressed. The president tried to address one of those last year with Social Security but got no cooperation from the Democrats.
We will continue to lead on fiscal discipline. As Mike said, that is what the Republican Party is about. That is what the American people look for us to do. And we will deliver.
WALLACE: You talk about, Congressman Pence, a commitment to fiscal discipline, entitlements. In fact, it was the Republicans and the president who created a huge new entitlement with the Medicare prescription drug benefit.
I want to put up something you said recently. Here it is. "I believe George Bush is conservative, but I don't believe he is a conservative." What do you mean by that?
PENCE: Well, I believe President Bush has been an extraordinary commander in chief. I believe he's demonstrated what it is to practice honor in your personal life, in Congress. And in his heart, I believe he is a conservative man.
But when you look at the domestic initiatives of the last five years, a 50 percent increase in the federal Department of Education, national testing in the fourth and eighth grade, and, candidly, Chris, when you look at the creation of the first new entitlement in 40 years, it is hard to argue that on the domestic level, up to this point, this president has practiced a conservative agenda at home.
But I really believe that now is the time to renew the confidence of the American people in Republican governance in Washington, D.C., and we will do that by renewing our commitment to limited government, and fiscal discipline and traditional values.
WALLACE: And I want to bring in Senator Thune in just a moment.
Congressman Pence, you talk about big government republicanism. The Republicans have been in charge now in the House for 12 years. I mean, isn't the dirty little secret that conservative Republicans like to spend money as much as liberal Democrats?
PENCE: Well, you know, what I think the dirty little secret, Chris, is that — that budget act that we haven't changed since 1974. A budget act that was designed to make it harder to cut taxes and easier to increase spending even over time worked its will on a Republican majority in Congress.
I believe we ought to repeal the Budget Act of 1974. We ought to bring back a line item veto for the president of the United States. And make no mistake about it. As Senator Thune just said, it's going to be Republicans in the White House and in Congress that do that.
In five years in Washington, I've never seen the Democrats bring a spending bill to the floor that wasn't significantly bigger than what the Republicans were proposing.
WALLACE: But, Senator Thune, just this week, the House speaker, Dennis Hastert, defended the idea of earmarks. He said he thinks that they shouldn't be snuck in, that there should be an open vote on them. But he also said who knows better about what a district deserves than the congressman from that district.
It doesn't sound like Republicans are getting serious about spending.
THUNE: I think, though, you'll see is the House and the Senate have a very spirited debate about the whole issue of earmarks, Chris. And frankly, the big issue, at least in my view, in the Senate is making sure that the rules we have are enforced.
What bothers people is when earmarks are brought in in the dead of night in a conference committee that haven't been considered by the House or the Senate, where there's no accountability, where there's no transparency, where people don't have to stand up and defend those earmarks.
Yes, we need to get that process under control. And we will. And I think what you've heard Mike Pence say and the same thing I'm saying this morning is we understand the roots of the Republican Party, that we are the party of fiscal discipline, and that we have to follow through with that.
And I think that you will see, I think you have seen, steps in that direction with the deficit reduction bill last year, and I think you will see additional steps taken in that direction, because the president and the Congress understand that what makes America stronger is to make America safer and more prosperous. And the way that we do that is to allow the American people to keep more of what they earn, continue to grow the economy and create jobs.
WALLACE: Senator Thune, let's talk about lobbying reform. Why shouldn't the White House release all records of any contacts with lobbyist Jack Abramoff?
THUNE: Well, I think that the White House — what the Democrats want the president to do is release any photos he has. Well, the president does grip and grin sessions where he...
WALLACE: No, no, no, they're also talking about records.
THUNE: Well, look. If there are records out there where he has been involved in lobbying, those I believe have to be disclosed. Anybody who lobbies the federal government, either the executive branch or the Congress, does have to fill out paperwork disclosing that.
WALLACE: But would you like to see the White House release records of all contacts — correspondence, phone calls, meetings — that Jack Abramoff had with people in the White House?
THUNE: Well, I'm one who believes that more is better, Chris, when it comes to disclosure and transparency, and so I'd be a big advocate for making records that out there available. I don't think it's useful to have pictures released, because, clearly, all the Democrats want to do is use those for political purposes.
But I do think it's important that everybody understand what this guy's level of involvement was. I think we know now it's all coming to light in the Congress, and I think it points out that we have some work to do when it comes to tightening up, stiffening up, strengthening the lobbyist ethics rules that we currently use as they apply to Congress and lobbying the executive branch of the government.
WALLACE: Senator Thune, let me talk to you about your history with lobbying. And let's put this up. In 2002, you received $2,000 in direct contributions from Jack Abramoff and his wife. You announced this month, more than three years later, that you're giving the money to charity. And after you lost in a Senate race in 2002, you started your own lobbying firm here in Washington.
I guess the question I would have is — you should know better than anyone, isn't there a problem with lobbyists, and aren't they part of the reason that Washington spends so much money and gives it to special interests?
THUNE: I think that that's coming under — all that's coming under review right now. And part of it comes back — the whole issue you talked about earlier of earmarks. But the point is, Chris, most, I think, lobbyists follow the rules, and there are rules. There are rules of disclosure. There is transparency.
We have the most transparent government in the world, which is why the people who committed these acts have been caught. Now, can we do a better job? Can those laws be improved? Absolutely. And that's what we're going to be discussing here in the next few weeks.
WALLACE: Congressman Pence, the same question I asked Senator Thune. Do you think that the White House should release all records? You talked about a crisis of confidence in Republican leadership. Should the White House release all records of contacts with Jack Abramoff?
PENCE: Absolutely. I think this president is a man of unimpeachable integrity. The American people have profound confidence in him. And as Abraham Lincoln said, give the people the facts and republican governance, perhaps, will be saved.
But let me speak to this reform issue, if I can. On the House side, at least, we've got a great opportunity to put feet on our commitment to reform, by electing John Shadegg as the new majority leader. You had him on the program. I and other conservatives in the House are supporting John Shadegg for our new majority leader.
He's a guy who came in in '94 and never lost his zeal for reform. And as we look at restoring public confidence in the fiscal and ethical integrity of the Republican majority in Congress, John Shadegg's the man to lead the charge.
WALLACE: We're not going to charge you for that campaign commercial, Congressman. But let me ask you one final question. We've got about 30 seconds left.
Last year we saw congressional Republicans beginning to take more of an independent line from the president, whether it came to Social Security reform, or some of the budget spending proposals, or the treatment of detainees. Are we going to see more of that, do you think, in 2006 where the Republicans in Congress, take their own line sometimes separate and apart from the president?
PENCE: I hope so. Many of us — a few dozen of us, rather, broke from this White House on No Child Left Behind when all the Democrats and the rest of our colleagues voted for that expansion of the government's role in our local schools.
Another two dozen of us broke from the president on Medicare. And many of our colleagues now understand that this president has seen his last election in his career, but we're looking at one down the road.
And the course of Republican governance on which turns our policies in Iraq, our posture in the world, our commitment to national defense, the sanctity of life — all of that turns on our ability to return to our roots, which are limited government, fiscal discipline, and traditional moral values. I believe you'll see the Congress do that, Chris.
WALLACE: Congressman Pence, Senator Thune, we're going to have to leave it there. We want to thank you both so much for joining us today.
PENCE: Thank you.
THUNE: Thanks, Chris.
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