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Transcript: Sens. Schumer, Graham on 'FOX News Sunday'
Written by Chris Wallace / Published May 20, 2007 / Fox News Sunday
The following is a partial transcript of the May 20, 2007, edition of "FOX News Sunday With Chris Wallace":
"FOX NEWS SUNDAY" HOST CHRIS WALLACE: With Congress now facing a full plate of tough issues, we've invited two key senators to discuss them: Democrat Charles Schumer, who's in New York, and Republican Lindsey Graham, who comes to us from South Carolina.
Gentlemen, let's start with immigration and that comprehensive package that was announced this week.
Senator Schumer, you've been quiet about this compromise. Do you support it or not?
SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER, D-N.Y.: Well, first, we haven't even seen the written language. But let me just say this. First, we do have to do something about immigration.
If we do nothing — there are now 12 million illegal aliens in the country. It will go to 20 million. Many companies and individuals who need specific people to create jobs from overseas won't be able to get them. So we have to do something.
And look. The bill is a fair starting point. It has two very good provisions in there that I like. One is really tough employer sanctions.
Most Americans would accept changes to immigration, even a path to citizenship, if they knew there wouldn't be wave after wave of illegal aliens coming into the country.
And the way to stop that is make employers — go hard on employers when they hire someone illegally, make sure there's a non- forgable I.D. The bill does that.
The second good thing is the path to citizenship. It's not amnesty by any means. Amnesty means, "Oh, you can all become citizens right now." This is a long, hard path.
You have to learn English, pay a fine, go behind everybody else who's been in line. It would probably take about 15 years. So those two are good things, and I think that's a good balance in the bill.
I have two problems with it. One, while I certainly believe that immigration — we need to bring in people who have skills, who the economy needs, we also need to take care of families so they can be unified. I think the bill is a little stinting on that. I'd like to see some changes there.
But the biggest objection I and many Democrats have, which could be a stumbling block to the whole bill, is this guest worker program. It's an additional program. Hundreds of thousands of people come in. There's virtually no protections.
They're going to bring wage rates down, and after their time is up, they're probably going to stay in the country and become a new group of illegal immigrants.
WALLACE: Let me bring in Senator Graham here.
And particularly, I want to ask you, Senator, about the criticism from the right. You are one of the key players in putting together this bill, but yesterday down at your home state, South Carolina, Republican convention, you were booed by people down there who still think this is amnesty.
GRAHAM: What I tried to do at the convention was be honest with my constituents and let them know that there will never be immigration reform without bipartisanship and let them know the role the White House played in drafting this bill.
I've been very proud to work with the White House, Secretary Chertoff, Gutierrez, Senator Schumer, Democrats and Republicans to fix this problem.
You know, before 9/11, this was a social economic problem. After 9/11, this is a national security problem. I think we all have an obligation to fix this problem.
The guest worker program is an important aspect of it. You cannot hire a guest worker until you advertise that no American will take the job and you have to advertise at a competitive wage.
I think we have struck the right balance here. We're securing our borders. We're controlling who gets a job on our terms. As Chuck says, this is by no means forgiveness. This is a probationary sentence for the 12 million.
If they ever want to become a citizen, they've got to wait till everybody ahead of them goes through the line and they have to go back to their home country to apply.
And to my colleagues who want to make the bill better, you're welcome to come on the floor and let's work together.
To my colleagues who come on the floor to tear this bill down with no alternative, you're not doing this country a service, and I will push back.
If you've got a better idea, you can lead us to a better solution. I'm all for it. But if all you're going to do is say no and embrace the status quo, I'm going to be your biggest critic.
WALLACE: Before we move on to other subjects, let me ask you, though, Senator Graham, when you first announced this bill, you said it's going to pass with 75 votes in the Senate.
We're hearing an awful lot of fire from both the right and the left. Are you in trouble?
GRAHAM: Oh, no, I felt really good. President Bush has led us to a very good solution that should have been done years ago.
When is the Republican party going to solve this problem, when we lose every aspect of the government? This is the best deal the Republican Party will get. This is the best deal the Democratic Party will get.
If we can make it better, fine. But this is our chance. This is our moment, and I look forward to taking this bill to the floor, and I believe it will be overwhelmingly supported by the American people. I really do believe that, because it's a good solution to a hard problem.
WALLACE: Senator Schumer, you plan to hold a vote of no confidence on Attorney General Gonzales perhaps as early as this week. The White House is already calling this a political stunt. Do they have a point?
SCHUMER: No, they don't. Look. The bottom line is the only person who thinks that the attorney general should remain attorney general is the president.
He's gotten virtually no support from even Republicans in the Senate. Just a handful have supported him. Six have called for him to step down. A dozen more have said very negative things about him.
And so the president can keep him. He has the constitutional power to do it. But we have the constitutional power to try to pressure the president to understand that Gonzales is no good.
And let me just say two quick other things, Chris. We need a new deputy attorney general. Of course, the old one, McNulty, resigned. And we need someone quickly who puts rule of law first. No one is running the department.
And second, I think the testimony of Jim Comey was riveting but it also asked some serious questions. We know Attorney General Gonzales did not go to John Ashcroft's...
WALLACE: Let me just briefly — because people may not know what you're talking about. It came out Jim Comey, who was the deputy attorney general — John Ashcroft, the attorney general, was very sick in the hospital, and Comey was acting attorney general.
And there was a question about renewing the warrantless wiretap program, and so Gonzales, who was then White House chief of staff, went to the hospital to try to get Comey overruled by Ashcroft who, as we say, was in a hospital bed. Go ahead.
SCHUMER: Right. And you know, Gonzales did not do this on his own. The question is who ordered him to do it. The president was asked. He didn't say yes or no.
Mr. Comey mentioned Vice President Cheney and David Addington, the chief of staff for the vice president as on the other side.
I'm sending letters today to the president, to Vice President Cheney, to Mr. Addington, asking them if they sent Gonzales there or if they know who it is who did it, because the Justice Department's own Office of Legal Counsel said that this program was being done illegally.
To try and go around the established law and go to a sick man in his hospital bed and try to get him to sign something he might not even be aware of that his own department said was not consonant with the law — that's really, really a terrible thing to do, and we want to find out who did it.
WALLACE: Let me just clear up a couple of things. First of all, of course, at that time, Gonzales was the White House counsel, but the chief of staff, Andy Card, also went on the meeting.
WALLACE: And I should also point out that James Comey, under questioning from Senator Specter, said there was nothing illegal in what the White House did here.
But let me move on, if I can, to Senator Graham.
Do you still have confidence in Alberto Gonzales running the Justice Department?
GRAHAM: Here's what I would like to see the Senate do. Find out the facts about the firing of the U.S. attorneys, make sure that — I don't believe there's any evidence of illegal behavior on the part of the attorney general.
If the president wants to keep him in his job, I will work with him. The Congress is at 29 percent. The Congress is at 29 percent because we're playing all of these "gotcha" games.
We've got a chance as Republicans and Democrats to do something good for this country: Solve illegal immigration, the biggest national security problem facing this country.
There are millions of people here. We don't know who they are and what they're up to. I want to focus on that, rather than pass a resolution, that's never been done in the history of the Congress, to play "gotcha" politics with the attorney general. So I hope we'll understand why we're at 29 percent.
WALLACE: Gentlemen, finally, I...
SCHUMER: I have to disagree with Lindsey on this.
WALLACE: Well, real quickly, because I want to talk about Iraq as well, Senator.
SCHUMER: This is not "gotcha". This is serious stuff. The rule of law, putting law above whether you're a Democrat or Republican, is at stake. The attorney general has violated it. We ought to be doing everything we can to get a new attorney general.
WALLACE: Okay. Let's talk about Iraq, because that is certainly a serious subject, the war in Iraq.
Senator Schumer, Speaker Pelosi and Senator Reid have both now promised that they're going to get a bill to the president by next weekend, before Memorial Day, they say.
Are you willing to drop the time lines, the deadlines for troop withdrawals, in order to get money to the troops?
SCHUMER: Well, look. We have two goals, Chris. One is to fund the troops while they're there, but the second is to change the mission. There are different ways to do it. But we're going to keep fighting for that second part as well.
One bit of good news. The Republicans and the president have been moving in our direction. A few months ago, they said no benchmarks. Now they're willing to accept benchmarks. So there are serious negotiations here.
It will not just be on this bill. We're going to continue to move for time lines on the DOD bill which will come up. But right now, the president wants nothing on the bill. We want timetables with specific change of mission.
You'll have to come out somewhere in between to get an agreement, and that's where we're headed, but then we will move on and try to push the timetables on the deauthorization bill in the next few weeks.
WALLACE: Senator Graham, let me end with you on this. What seems to be the possible compromise this week is the idea — no time lines, but benchmarks for performance by the Iraqi government and cutting off foreign aid if the Iraqi government fails to meet those benchmarks. Could you accept that?
GRAHAM: What I hope we can do is find benchmarks that will not undermine the mission. We've got to win in Iraq.
And this whole idea of a new mission of where our troops can just fight Al Qaida and no one else — I've been a military lawyer for 25 years. What you're trying to do is impossible to implement.
We have to fight extremists who are trying to topple this infant democracy. Benchmarks, holding the Iraqi government accountable, but not by empowering our money — they need the money. They're running out of the money.
We need to give the troops the money without ensuring their defeat. We're at 29 percent because we can't fund troops at war, and we're trying to do something in the back door which we won't do in the front door, which is cut off funding, bring them home. That's an honorable path.
This idea of trying to have benchmarks and time lines that ensure their defeat is unacceptable to me. And this is a war we can't lose.
So I hope we'll be smart enough and wise enough as a Congress to give our troops what they need without ensuring their defeat and empowering their enemy.
WALLACE: Gentlemen, we're going to have to leave it there. Senator Graham, Senator Schumer, we want to thank you both. Thanks for sharing part of your Sunday with us.
This week: We'll have an exclusive interview with Sen James Lankford (R-OK), member of the Appropriations, Homeland Security and Intelligence Committees.