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Transcript: Sen. Cornyn, Rep. Van Hollen on 'FNS'
Written by Chris Wallace / Published February 08, 2009 / Fox News Sunday
The following is a partial transcript of the Feb. 8, 2009, edition of "FOX News Sunday With Chris Wallace":
"FOX NEWS SUNDAY" HOST CHRIS WALLACE: After Senate Democrats passed their stimulus plan, they will still have to work out big differences with House Democrats.
Joining us now to discuss where the debate in Congress goes next, Congressman Chris van Hollen of Maryland, head of the Democrats' Campaign Committee in the House, and Senator John Cornyn from Texas, head of the Republican Campaign Committee in the Senate.
And, gentlemen, welcome back to "FOX News Sunday."
SEN. JOHN CORNYN, R-TEXAS: Good to be with you.
WALLACE: Senator Cornyn, let's start with you. The Senate version of the plan cuts $83 billion in spending. It has billions more in tax cuts. Those both seem to be Republican priorities. Why can't you support it?
CORNYN: Well, first of all, it's important to understand, Chris, this is not an economic document. This is a political document drawn up by Speaker Pelosi and Democrats in the House. Didn't have a single Republican vote.
And it still represents 1.1 or so trillion dollars of spending, including the interest on the debt and, of course, these — this is a debt our children and grandchildren are going to have to pay. I don't think we have any confidence it will actually work, either, other than to create a deficit, actually crowd out private investment, as the Congressional Budget Office has said, in the longer term.
And so I think having three Republicans, potentially, support it in the Senate out of 535 members of Congress is hardly a bipartisan effort. I think it's a disappointment — surely must be for President Obama.
WALLACE: President Obama said this week that failure to pass a package will turn crisis into a catastrophe.
If Congress doesn't pass any plan, if the Republicans have their way, won't that, in fact, be very damaging for the economy? And wouldn't it be a terrible setback for a president a month into office?
CORNYN: Well, I fully expect this bill to pass with almost exclusively Democratic support. But as the Congressional Budget Office has said, in the longer term, actually this could crowd out private investment. It could hurt the economy.
And I just have to say that in — in the New Deal with — Secretary Morgenthau was famously quoted as saying, "We tried spending, and it didn't work," in the New Deal. And I don't know that we have any confidence — I certainly don't — that this will actually work now, to spend a lot of money we don't have for things we don't need in a stimulus package.
WALLACE: Congressman Van Hollen, as we discussed with Larry Summers a moment ago, there are big differences between the House and Senate version. He was trying to minimize them, but there are sizable differences — billions less for education and health care, billions more for tax cuts.
Will House Democrats accept the Senate version?
REP. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN, D-MD.: Well, there are big differences between the two bills in the areas of education and some other areas. But what unites the House and Senate bills is much greater than what divides them.
There are about $800 billion-plus, both pieces of legislation, combination of tax relief and investment in the economy.
One of the problems right now is the private — there is no private investment in the economy. Credit lines are frozen. People can't get those loans. The government needs to take action now. It needs to make these investments.
And while there are differences that will be worked out, this is not the time to draw any lines in the sand. I don't think anyone's going to say, "If I don't get my way with this provision in the House bill, I'm not going to accept the package."
The priority has to be getting something done and getting it done now. We just saw 600,000 Americans lose their jobs in January. This is not the time for delay.
WALLACE: But one of the points that Larry Summers made — it was one of the few areas he specifically talked about — was construction or renovation of classrooms as something that creates jobs and also upgrades education. It creates a different atmosphere in a classroom.
Are there specific things that the Senate took out that you want to see restored?
VAN HOLLEN: Well, sure. I mean, there are provisions relating to classroom construction. I mean, that not is only good for schools, but it puts people back to work.
There are a number of provisions with regard to energy efficiency and renewable energy investments, trying to upgrade the federal fleet, trying to upgrade federal buildings, make them more fuel efficient with respect — and energy efficient.
So there's a lot we think in the House bill we should have in the final package. Having said that, we are not in the business of drawing lines in the sand, because we believe the overriding priority right now is to get something done.
WALLACE: But let me ask you about one issue in terms of what's going to happen in the conference committee this week. You passed it in the House by 56 votes. It looks like in the Senate they're going to pass it by one or two votes — very little cushion.
Just as a matter of practical politics, don't you have to meet Senate Democrats more than halfway?
VAN HOLLEN: Well, I think as Larry Summers said, we're going to be looking for the balance between the two bills and we're going to try and take the best ideas in both, listen to what the economists have to say and make the best decisions as to what will boost the economy.
But for the reasons you've said, we are not going to be, you know, in a position where it's take it or leave it, it's our way or the highway, because the priority, as President Obama has said, is to get something done.
And while there are differences between the House proposal and the Senate proposals, those differences pale in comparison to the fact that we want to get something done.
And unfortunately, in the House and the Senate, the Republican leadership apparently doesn't want to move quickly to get something done.
WALLACE: Senator Cornyn, let's turn to TARP II, the second half of the financial bailout. You voted against releasing the second half, the $350 billion.
We're now hearing how the Obama administration plans to spend that money. They're going to inject billions more into new banks. They're going to give private investors incentive to buy up some of these toxic assets. There's going to be more strings attached.
Are you more supportive when you hear the ideas they have?
CORNYN: Well, I voted for the original economic rescue package because on a bipartisan basis we were told the economy was going to melt down unless we did so, but I was disappointed at the lack of transparency and accountability.
And frankly, even the prior administration used those funds for purposes that Congress did not authorize. For example, the Big Three auto manufacturers were bailed out when the Senate expressly declined to authorize that.
But you know, here we go spending more money again after we are going to vote, I assume, to pass, on a partisan basis largely, a $1.1 trillion spending package.
There's also the omnibus appropriation bill from last year that remains in the — in the — in the pipeline. And it's just spending as far as the eye can see.
What I really think we ought to focus on initially is housing. Let's fix housing first. While this bill has a very important tax credit that Senator Johnny Isakson and others have championed, it does virtually nothing else to fix the very — what's caused the problem in the first place, which is the decline in housing.
And I think that should be our focus on this so-called stimulus bill, not just spending on social programs and racking up more debt.
WALLACE: Staying, Congressman Van Hollen, though, on TARP II, the second half of this financial bailout money, I think Senator Cornyn is right. There was a widespread feeling in the country that an awful lot of this — the first half, the first 350 billion, was wasted, that it didn't do what it would — you all voted for it to do, to free up the credit market.
Do you see anything in what you're hearing out of the Obama White House that's going to fix that?
VAN HOLLEN: Well, I do. You're going to see a lot more transparency. You're going to see a lot more accountability.
The president just announced the other day limitations on bonuses so that CEOs of financial institutions that are getting this taxpayer money can't be, you know, rewarding themselves with these big, huge bonuses.
There's going to be a lot more transparency throughout the process. And I think you're going to hear Secretary Geithner tomorrow unveil a plan that addresses the housing issue.
One of the most neglected parts of the TARP approach under the Bush administration was that they neglected the housing component. So I'm looking forward to what Secretary Geithner has to say on that issue going forward tomorrow.
WALLACE: As I said, you are the chairmen of the House Democratic and Senate Republican Campaign Committees. And I want you to look at a poll that's out this week.
It shows that the public approves of President Obama by a wide margin. It supports Democrats in Congress much more narrowly, and it disapproves of congressional Republicans almost 2-1.
Senator Cornyn, isn't there considerable risk to Republicans to be seen as voting almost unanimously against the president's economic stimulus plan when he is seen by the public as making such a big effort to be bipartisan?
CORNYN: Well, the president has done a good job reaching out to Republicans, and he has said he wants to approach this crisis, like other problems the country has, on a bipartisan basis. That's good, and we're willing to work with him on that.
But this bill is not the president's bipartisan plan. It's Nancy Pelosi's plan, and she said, "We won the election. We're writing the bill." And that's what happened in the — in the House.
And I think every Republican suggestion that's been offered during the course, almost without exception, has been defeated along a party-line vote.
So this is — I don't think Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi actually got the memo from the president when it comes to bipartisan cooperation. That's why you're seeing this outcome.
WALLACE: Congressman Van Hollen, as head of the Democratic Campaign Committee in the House, are you going to go after Republicans for voting almost unanimously — in the case of the House, unanimously — against the president's economic stimulus?
VAN HOLLEN: Well, we're certainly going to hold people accountable for their votes and explain to the American people what the consequences are.
When you've got millions of Americans losing their jobs, it's hard to defend the position that you don't want to get the economy moving again. I think the American people see a huge disconnect.
When President Bush came before the Congress and asked for $700 billion for big Wall Street firms, you saw the Republican leadership salute and turn on a dime and provide that money — $700 billion for Wall Street.
But when President Obama has come up and said, "We want $800 billion for the American people and turn the economy around," you've got them dragging their feet. And I think that's why you see the numbers that you do.
WALLACE: We've got about a minute left, and I'd like you to share it equally.
Senator Cornyn, we now learn that the Obama administration is going to have the director of the Census Bureau report not only to the commerce secretary but also to the White House.
What's wrong with that?
CORNYN: Well, ordinarily, this has been something that the commerce secretary has done, and I think it ought to be done on a competent, as much as possible, nonpartisan basis.
And to shift it to the White House to me just politicizes the census, which is not something we should be doing.
WALLACE: And what's the danger, briefly, of politicizing the census?
CORNYN: Well, because, of course, that determines who gets what congressional districts. States like Texas were going to get probably at least three new congressional districts based on the reapportionment — and then, of course, in drawing those lines, redistricting within states.
It's all based on those census figures. So if you cook the figures up front, I think it distorts that process going forward and undermines the concept of one person, one vote.
WALLACE: And very briefly, Congressman Van Hollen, I mean, why not leave it in the Commerce Department?
VAN HOLLEN: Look, I think the issue at the end of the day we should all agree is that we want the facts and accuracy in the count. And it seems to me that the more eyes taking a look at this, the better.
It's going to be all on the Internet in terms of how the process is done. This administration has a huge commitment to transparency. So I think at the end of the day, it matters less exactly what the reporting mechanism is than that we get the facts and the count right.
WALLACE: Congressman Van Hollen, Senator Cornyn, thank you both. Thanks for coming in, and we'll see how things go this week.
Sunday—we’ll get the latest on the battle over Trump’s cabinet picks and a preview the first orders of business for the 115th Congress from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. It’s a Fox News Sunday exclusive.