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GOP agenda for 2015: cooperation or confrontation? Plus, Republican wave comes to Washington
Written by Chris Wallace / Published January 04, 2015 / Fox News Sunday
Special Guests: Sen. Bob Corker, Sen. John Thune, Martha McSally, Lee Zeldin
This is a rush transcript from "Fox News Sunday," January 4, 2015. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
CHRIS WALLACE, ANCHOR: I'm Chris Wallace.
The new Congress with its Republican majority convenes this week. But will they cooperate with President Obama or confront him?
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm absolutely sincere when I say I want to work with this new Congress to get things done.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: We'll see whether we can work with the president. I hope so. That's what he says. We'll find out.
WALLACE: We'll discuss the GOP agenda with two senators set to take over key panels, Bob Corker, the likely chair of the Foreign Relations Committee, and John Thune, who is expected to head the Senate Commerce Committee.
Then, former Governor Mike Huckabee ends his show on Fox News, as he considers another try for the White House.
MIKE HUCKABEE (R), FORMER ARKANSAS GOVERNOR: There's been a great deal of speculation as to whether I would run for president. And if I were willing to absolutely rule that out, I could keep doing this show, but I can't make such a declaration.
WALLACE: Our Sunday panel handicaps the field from the front- runners to their favorite long shots.
Plus, a wave of new Republicans hits Washington. We'll ask two stars of the GOP's freshman class in the House what they hope to accomplish. Martha McSally of Arizona, and Lee Zeldin of New York.
And our Power Player of the Week: The nation's chief technology officer, trying to change how government operates.
MEGAN SMITH, US CTO: Somewhere in our future is a "Jetsons" future, but we're not there yet.
WALLACE: All, right now, on "Fox News Sunday."
WALLACE: And hello again from Fox News in Washington.
The New Year brings a new Republican-controlled Congress to Capitol Hill. The GOP promises to tackle issues from the Keystone pipeline to Iran, and try to find some way to push back against the president's executive actions.
Joining us now, two senators expected to be named this week to chair key panels: From Tennessee, Bob Corker of the Foreign Relations Committee, and from South Dakota, John Thune of Senate Commerce.
Gentlemen, before we get to your committees, let's take a look at the big picture, relations between the new Republican Congress and the president.
Here's how Mr. Obama sees 2015.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Where I see a big problem and the opportunity to help the American people, and it is within my lawful authority to provide that help, I'm going to do it. I will then, side by side reach out to members of Congress, reach out to Republicans and say, let's work together. I would rather do it with you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Senator Corker, can you do business with President Obama on some issues, like tax reform and trade authority, when he's off taking executive action on his own in other areas?
SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: Absolutely. Look, obviously we have not liked the executive actions that especially were taken after lame duck, but we understand with humility, we've got a lot of serious issues that need to be addressed. The bigger issues absolutely require the president to be involved. And I think with anticipation, we look forward to that opportunity.
WALLACE: Senator Thune, how do you draw the balance between on the one hand, trying to work with the president in areas where there is some bipartisan agreement, but also passing measures such as repealing Obamacare and trying to undo his executive action on immigration reform, which you know he'll veto?
SEN. JOHN THUNE (R), SOUTH DAKOTA: Well, Chris, I think there are a lot of areas where we can work together, you know, right out of the gate, we're going to act in the Senate on the Keystone pipeline. We think the president ought to sign that into the law. His administration has done five environmental impact statements, all of which have said minimal impact on the environment, and his own State Department said it would support 42,000 jobs. So, it's good for jobs and the economy.
We're going to find out very early I think whether or not the president wants to play ball. Based on our past experience, it would be a triumph hope over experience. But you always enter a new session of Congress with high hopes. And I know that Republicans in the Senate are looking forward to and willing to work with the president on areas where we can create jobs and grow the economy and strengthen America's middle class. And I hope the president will meet us there.
WALLACE: Let me ask you about this, Senator Thune, because hearing both you and Senator Corker, I get a distinct sense from both of you that you're more interested in compromise than confrontation.
THUNE: I think, Chris, what we want to see are solutions. We want to see solutions for the American people. And we hope the president will meet us there. It takes presidential leadership to do big things in Washington, D.C. And, obviously, there are a number of things where there's bipartisan support, bills that have passed the House of Representatives that have been stalled out in the Senate. We want to start there, move those bills, put them on the president's desk. And we'll find out whether or not he wants to be a willing partner.
And I certainly hope he does, because we have some big things that we need to do for the American people when it comes to growing the economy and creating jobs and creating a smaller middle class for our country.
WALLACE: One more question for you, Senator Thune, and then I'm going to bring in Senator Corker to talk about the Foreign Relations Committee. A potential flash point and that is immigration. You and the Republican Congress has only funded the Department of Homeland Security to the end of February, while you try to find some way to undo his executive action, deferring to deportations for up to 5 million people in this country illegally.
A couple questions, can you presume that the Republican Congress will not shut down funding for the department that protects our homeland? And how will Senate Republicans handle someone like Ted Cruz who may take a harder line and in the past has been willing to stand on principle and shut down the government over that?
THUNE: Right. We're not going to shut down the government --
WALLACE: Including the Department of Homeland Security?
THUNE: Well, including that. That funding bill expires at the end of February. We recognize it's important that we fund the government. Now that we're in the majority, we have the responsibility to do that.
But we're also going to use the power of the purse, which is what the Constitution gives the congress, as a mechanism by which to challenge the president on issues where we think he overstepped the authority. And what he did on immigration is clearly an example. On 22 different occasions that he didn't have the legal or the constitutional authority to do this, and he did it anyway. That needs to be challenged.
We will look for every opportunity to that, but it's also going to be important for us to recognize it is a majority in the House and the Senate, we now have the responsibility to get things done for the country and to make sure that our government is funded, but funded in a way that's consistent with what I think the American people said in the November election, and that is they want the Congress more involved in these issues and not have the president overreaching consistently as he has in the past with executive power.
WALLACE: Let me bring you, Senator Corker. You're going to be the chair -- we have to say you're likely to be, because the committee has to actually vote on it this week, but you're going to be the chair of the Foreign Relations Committee, and there is so much on your place that our colleague George Will has a column in today's paper in which he calls you the senator to watch in 2015.
So, let's do a lightning round of quick questions/quick answers. The president's order to renew relations with Cuba, will you block any nominee to be a new ambassador to Cuba? And will you fight the president's effort to relax the trade embargo?
CORKER: Well, Chris, I said when the announcement was made, the first thing we want to do is understand what behavioral change Cuba is willing to make. So, you'll see some rigorous hearings. I don't fully understand what the telecom -- U.S. telecom companies being open to going into Cuba, what that really means. No one has seen a list of the political folks that are being released from jail.
So, there's a lot to know. And you'll see us having hearings before decisions are made as to what to do relative to this action.
WALLACE: All right. Let's turn to another subject. That is Iran. Do you have a veto proof majority in the Senate to pass a new bill in the next few weeks or months that would -- if Iran walks away from the current talks, or if it violates the interim agreement, would impose new sanctions on them?
CORKER: Well, Chris, there's no question if this deal falls apart, there's going to be additional sanctions. So, the banking committee actually deals with sanctions. That's their jurisdiction. I actually serve on that.
The Foreign Relations Committee may take up this bill that calls on Congress to weigh in on any deal that happens. This is one of the biggest issues we'll be dealing with. And for Congress not to have a role is totally inappropriate.
So, we're going to move through the committee process. The banking committee will take up one aspect of this, the Foreign Relations Committee will take up another. And through regular order, we'll see what will happen.
I don't think there's any question for those in Iran or around the world, that if this falls apart, certainly, there's going to be additional sanctions. The question is, when do you do that? When do you signal that?
And we're paying a lot of attention to what's happening in the negotiations. We're talking to people all around the world. And we'll see as we move ahead.
WALLACE: All right. We're in a lightning round here, so quick answers/quick answers.
Guantanamo, and I know you have shared authority on this as well. But the president transferred 28 detainees out of Gitmo this last year. If -- can you block him if he decides to try to close Gitmo on his own? CORKER: Well, again, the '01 authorization for the use of military force is an issue that's still open. We have meetings with the White House over that. Part of that relates to what you can do with Gitmo.
You know, the fact is all of us have been open to major changes at Gitmo, but we're waiting for the administration to lay out a plan. What he's doing right now is not as sensible as laying out a plan for the future as to how we're going to deal with all of the detainees at Gitmo.
WALLACE: But if he tries to close it on his own, will you block him?
CORKER: Well, you know, we'll see. I mean, we'll see where they're going -- if he tries to close it on his own, we'll see. I mean, is there a plan of some kind that he has laid out? That's what all of us have been seeking since for the last six years, and that is a plan, ever since he's been in office to deal with an issue that he campaigned on while running, and yet has never been forthcoming with.
WALLACE: And let me ask you one last question under the lightning round of quick questions quick answer is, and that is ISIS. Will your panel pass an authorization for the use of military force specifically to deal with ISIS? And what will you say about the use of U.S. ground troops?
CORKER: Well, on ISIS, I think what we are all hoping to happen is getting the White House to lay out a plan that has a plausible -- shows a plausible way to the outcome that they rhetorically have outlined. So, it depends. Certainly, we're going to have hearings in January and February.
Hopefully, they will finally come forth and lay out to us how they will achieve that outcome. But to me, that's an important part of any authorization that we might put forth with Syria.
WALLACE: All right. Senator Thune, let me turn to you and the commerce committee. One of the big items on your agenda is the fact that you have to find a way to finance the transportation bill which would pay for upkeep of our highways and the public transit system.
With gas prices now under $2.50 a gallon, would you favor increasing the gas tax?
SEN. JOHN THUNE (R), SOUTH DAKOTA: Well, I don't favor increasing any tax, Chris, but I think we have to look at all the option. We obviously have a big delta (ph) we have to meet. The highway bill expires at the end of May and there's about a hundred billion shortfall of what it would take to fund the highway trust fund at the current level of operation.
So, obviously, we've got to deal with it here. And I think there's a number of ways you could deal with that, and those discussions continue. I think we'll get to a resolution on that, but it is important we fund infrastructure, and we deal with that, as well as planes, trains and automobiles, all those issues.
WALLACE: Let me just interrupt because we're running out of the time here.
Now, Senator Corker and others have suggested a 12 cent per gallon increase in the gas tax over the next two years. You certainly sound like you're not ruling that out?
THUNE: Well, Bob Corker has got a proposal out there. There are others who have suggestions as well. We appreciate the fact that we've got solutions that are being future forward.
I don't think we take anything off the table at this point. I think it's important to recognize that we have a problem, an issue that we need a solution for, and we need to look at all the possible ways out there in which we can address the challenge and address the problem. But that's one proposal that's out there and Bob Corkers has been, you know, taken a strong stand on that issue.
WALLACE: Final question for you --
CORKER: Chris, if I could, that was -- Chris, if I could --
CORKER: I just want to point out yes, we have proposed raising the gasoline tax -- user fee by 12 cents, but also by off-setting other taxes that Americans would pay. So, it's revenue neutral, but at least it would put our infrastructure on strong footing. And that second component seems to get left out of the conversation most of the time. But, yes, I believe that's what we should do.
WALLACE: Well, thank you for that clarification.
Final question for you, Senator Thune, less than a minute left. Keystone, we talked about it at the very beginning, that's not going to be handled by your committee. It's -- the Energy Committee will take the lead on that, but it does run through your state.
Do you have a veto-proof majority in the Senate to force the president to approve the Keystone pipeline?
THUNE: I think the question is, Chris, whether or not there are -- we're going to find out whether or not there are moderate Democrats in the Senate. This will -- this is something that has broad bipartisan support in the House of Representatives. It has a number of Democrats supporting it in the Senate.
The question is, can we get to 67 if the president decides to veto it? And I think that's a good question. It's going to be up to a lot of those Democrats who have expressed support in this in the past as to whether or not, now that it really matters, it's more than just a symbolic vote whether or not they're going to be there.
WALLACE: But you intend to push that -- let me ask briefly in about 30 seconds, if you may. If the president decides to veto it, what will that say about him?
THUNE: Well, I think the -- what it will say about him for one is that he's listening again to his sort of left-wing base on this issue rather than where the American people are, who are overwhelmingly supportive of the project, and where there's a fairly big bipartisan support of the Congress. So, we'll see.
I mean, I think we're going to get indication of how this president wants to govern in the last two years and how he wants to work with Republicans in Congress? But this will be -- this will certainly be a way in which we can measure where he's going to come down.
WALLACE: Senator Thune, Senator Corker, thank you both so much for coming in today. Thanks for joining us. And we'll be following you during the New Year.
THUNE: Sounds good. Thanks, Chris.
WALLACE: Up next, 2015 has just begun, but some people are already talking about 2016, as the presidential field starts to take shape. Our Sunday group joins that conversation.
Plus, what would you like to ask the panel about the run for the White House. Just go to Facebook or Twitter @FoxNewsSunday, and we may use your question on the air.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE HUCKABEE (R), FORMER ARKANSAS GOVERNOR: The honorable thing to do at this point is to end my tenure here at Fox. Now, as much as I've loved doing the show, I cannot bring myself to rule out another presidential run.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Former Governor Mike Huckabee announcing last night he is ending his show on Fox News Channel as he decides by this spring about another possible run for president.
And it's time now for our Sunday group. Co-host of "The Five", Dana Perino, Ron Fournier of "The National Journal", radio talk show host, Laura Ingraham, and Neera Tanden, president of the liberal think tank, the Center for American Progress.
Dana, the "Real Clear Politics" average of recent polls, let's put it up on the screen, shows Jeb Bush now in the lead, as you can see there, a little bit of a lead over Chris Christie and Paul Ryan. Mike Huckabee is close behind in a third tier, as you can see here with Rand Paul and Ben Carson and Scott Walker.
Dana, if he runs, how serious a contender is Mike Huckabee?
DANA PERINO, "THE FIVE" CO-HOST: Well, I think at this point, we're in the let 1,000 flowers bloom part of the primary. And thankfully, as we turn the corner this year, we are going from wild to slightly more informed speculation about who might run.
I mean, I think that Huckabee will have a strong stand in the few of the states in particular. He'll start strong in Iowa, and that's going to be important for him.
I think that what they're all needing to do is to figure out some personnel. So, we'll be watching for that. Who's going to be joining up with these guys, and also, what sort of big ideas might they have. I think that the polling showing Jeb Bush in the front might be a name ID issue at this point. I don't think the polls are accurate yet.
WALLACE: Well, It's interesting, Huckabee didn't say he is running. What he basically said he can't be on Fox and actively explore, and one of the big issues for him is always money. So, he's going to spend the next few months trying to explore whether or not he has the financial support to actually run.
We asked you questions for questions for the panel, and we got this from Steve on Twitter. He writes, "Who will pick the GOP nominee? The media/GOP establishment or the base?"
Ron, how do you answer Steve? What are the chances for an insurgent/more conservative candidate knocking off is the putative front-runner Jeb Bush? And could Mike Huckabee fill that role?
RON FOURNIER, NATIONAL JOURNAL: First question, I think anything can happen in this election. Elections are a lot more unpredictable than we like to admit, when we were siting around a table like this, especially this one at a time when the country is changing dramatically, and the voting populace is so upset with both parties, and with the establishment.
So, I look at some dark horses out there, give a more serious consideration than I normally would, somebody like a Rick Snyder in Michigan or Mike Pence in Indiana. I think we should have a big surprise this election.
Mike Huckabee, I covered him in Arkansas, along with Bill Clinton. Interesting guy, has a lot of attributes, but he has a lot of baggage from Arkansas, like the Clintons did, starting with his decision to release Wayne Dumond who went on it kill after that, including a wedding registry he had in Arkansas, which was basically a form of almost graft, which I think was unethical thing to do, the Clintons did it later in 2000.
So, it would be interesting, but I won't rule anybody out right now.
WALLACE: Laura, big picture. How do you handicap the race? How strong is Jeb Bush? Who do you see as the Republican potential candidates out there most likely to knock them off? And lastly, as we tee it up to go to Neera, can any of them beat Hillary Clinton?
LAURA INGRAHAM, Fox NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Well, first of all, I disagree slightly with Dana, who is great to see. I think money is a huge part of this. Jeb has been actively courting the top donors of the Republican Party, billionaires, multimillionaires, trying to lock them down. And he's been doing that -- he's been doing that quite well.
I think there is one opportunity to knock off the establishment candidate, and if that is one conservative alternative to whoever that establishment candidate is.
Mike Huckabee would -- I like Mike a lot. I think he's really strong, but he would probably do better serving conservatism if he had run for one of the two open Senate seats in Arkansas over the last several years. He decided not to do that, he had a great show on Fox, but the idea that Mike Huckabee is going to be president of the United States? I mean, I'll predict that that's not going to happen.
WALLACE: So, who is the likely conservative person to run against the establishment?
INGRAHAM: Jeb. Well, I think there's an interesting play. People are going to bristle at this when I said this, but what if Chris Christie decides to be the anti-establishment candidate? And Chris Christie actually decides to take on the Bush establishment, what Bush represented to Republican, not as a person, we all love the Bushes, but his policies, his popularity, what he did on foreign policy and economic policy. I'm not saying that's going to happen.
FOURNIER: Yes, I'm bristling.
INGRAHAM: That's interesting. But that's an interesting thought.
But the idea that there's going to be 15 conservatives and one of them is going to beat whoever that establishment candidate is -- maybe Christie, maybe Bush -- I think it's just ludicrous. It's not going to happen.
WALLACE: All right. Neera, the conventional wisdom on Hillary Clinton is that she had a bad 2014. Let me just make the case. Dead broke before when they left the White House, corporations don't create jobs, you've got to empathize with your enemy.
Can she raise the level of her game?
NEERA TANDEN, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: I would say Hillary had a very good year. And if you look at the end of your polls where she had a really bad year and is still beating Republicans by double- digits, that's going to be a brutal year for the next year for the Republican. She had a book tour. She had -- she admitted she had some inartful statements on that tour, but I think you saw at the end of the year that she has still very strong support amongst all corners of the Democratic Party and most importantly, with the American public.
And people see her as a strong leader for these tough times. I don't think anything happened that year that took away those fundamentals.
INGRAHAM: Hillary will get covered by the press, and they will cover for her. The idea that, you know, Hillary --
TANDEN: They cover for --
INGRAHAM: Hillary will get an easy ride. I mean, look, Hillary will get an easy ride. I think Jeb will probably get a fairly easy ride until he's the nominee, if he's the nominee. He's the nominee, then the press, well, what about his stand in health care? What about all these Barclays connections? What about the money he made off at --
WALLACE: Let me contradict you, though, about her getting an easy ride. She certainly didn't get an easy ride on dead broke.
INGRAHAM: That's not the campaign yet. Campaign is about to start, I think --
TANDEN: Everything back in 2007 was easy.
INGRAHAM: Well, that's different. You had a charismatic, young African-American historic figure, who by comparison with Hillary was anti-war and connected with that anti-war sentiment at the time in the public.
I think this is going to be an entirely different game. I think the Republicans are going to have to bring up the game to defeat the Clinton twosome of Bill and Hillary, who are very adept at politics, I think.
FOURNIER: A pushback on both my colleagues. First, having covered her since the 1980s, Hillary Clinton has never got an easy ride from the media. It won't this time.
Secondly, her biggest challenge is that she is the establishment. She is politics as usual. She is the 1990s. And this is an election where people crave change, they want transformational change in politics. And unless she can show she can not only run a campaign much differently than it's ever been run before --
INGRAHAM: But if it's Bush versus Hillary, that takes that away.
WALLACE: I mean, she -- that is the one -- well, there is a bunch of knocks here about Hillary. One of them is she's tired.
TANDEN: Yes, no, no. I think if Hillary is going to have to show, she runs for president, that she has new ideas for new times. I think these are very different times from the '90s. They call for new solutions. She's going to have to do that. Just like any candidate who wants to be president is doing to do that.
I think she will be able to do that because she's had -- she's always been a substantive candidate with jurisdiction about what the country needs. People thought she was a strong leader as secretary of state.
WALLACE: Dana, good or bad for Clinton if she doesn't face a serious primary challenge. On the one hand, she wouldn't be forced to move further to the left to cover her liberal plank. On the other hand, she wouldn't have that test that makes someone a better candidate when they face the other party in the general election.
DANA PERINO, "THE FIVE" CO-HOST: That's what I was thinking. So, a primary allows you to make some mistakes, get your sea legs worked up, some of the Kings come up with your big ideas. Jeb Bush has something called big hairy audacious goals. Those are things he's going to lay out.
She has less of a clean slate to start with. And she's in a tough spot between a rock and hard space. So, ideologically to win a primary, if she were to get a challenge, she needs to align more with someone like President Obama. But then to win the general, she would have to align and govern with like somebody like Bill Clinton.
Both of these candidates, if they were to run, Jeb and Hillary, will be constantly tied to other people. I want to see, can they break out of that -- can they break out and become independent, not independent as a party, but independent on their own? Who are they as people?
They might be the first presidential elect where we actually refer to the candidates by their first names, Jeb and Hillary.
PERINO: Just to avoid confusion.
TANDEN: I think, for sure, she's her own person.
WALLACE: That's my resolution for 2015. I'm not referring to Jeb and Hillary. It's Clinton and Bush.
WALLACE: All right, panel, we have to take a break here. We'll see you a little later in the program. So, what do you think? How do you see the race for president shaping up? Let me know on Facebook or Twitter @FoxNewsSunday and use the fns.
Up next, the Republican wave finally hits Washington. We'll sit down with two new House members to find out how they want to change things here.
WALLACE: On Tuesday, the new Republican-led Congress will be sworn in, and that will be the first official day on the job for the incoming freshman class. Joining us here to talk about their goals, New York congressman-elect Lee Zeldin, and Arizona Congresswoman-elect Martha McSally. Congratulations, welcome to "Fox News Sunday." And I'm going to do away with the "elect." And we'll just you are a congressman and congresswoman. Because that's a mouthful. You both beat Democratic incumbents. Congresswoman McSally, you won the closest House election, you won by just 167 votes. I'm sure you're going to get jokes if you haven't already about landslide McSally.
MARTHA MCSALLY (R-AZ) U.S. REPRESENTATIVE-ELECT: Yes, my new call sign.
WALLACE: What do you think the voters who supported you in Arizona and your district want you to do? Do they want you to work with President Obama or to confront?
MCSALLY: Well, my district is very diverse. And I think it does represent America, but 50 percent of the people didn't vote for me. And what I was hearing through the course of the almost three years campaigning was people want Congress to work for them. And their focus areas right now from southern Arizona are the economy and security. Those are really the two main issues. Democrats, business owners can agree that they want to grow their small business. Kids graduating from college want to have job opportunities. So, those are not politically charged issues, and they want me to focus on the things that unite us and as a country and the things that divide us. So you can expect me to be focusing on growing the economy and getting people back to work, but also the areas of security, border security in one of nine border districts. I have two big military bases. One Army, one air force, 85,000 veterans. So those would be the focus areas.
WALLACE: All right, we are going to get into immigration with you in a little more detail in a moment. Congressman Zeldin, you say that President Obama's decision to his executive action on immigration to defer deportations is unconstitutional, but you also say that we shouldn't shut down the government. Where do you put yourself on the spectrum, between on the one hand Ted Cruz and the Tea Party, but stand up and confront the president, stand on principles, even if it means things like shutting down the government, and on the other hand the establishment leaders like Speaker Boehner who were saying, let's look for compromise?
LEE ZELDIN, (R-NY), U.S. REPRESENTATIVE-ELECT: Well, the president's action is unconstitutional. I have a lot of respect for the office of president of the United States. He is not also Congress in many ways it seems like he thinks that he is a monarch. Over the course of our nation's history we've always been sensitive to presidents who view the executive branch in that fashion. I think that it's very important going forward, as we move into January, February, whether it's through legislation or the funding of part of the budget at the end of February, that we use the power of the purse, that Congress uses this message sent in November, this expanded ...
WALLACE: Are you saying that you would let funding for the Department of Homeland Security, which runs out at the end of February run out to make a point to the president about immigration?
ZELDIN: All options need to be on the table. And we need to utilize the power of the purse. And if we show no willingness at all to use that power to our advantage, that leverage is immediately off of the table.
WALLACE: All right, you both -- I don't think a lot of people are going to know this, you both served in the military. Congresswoman McSally, you were in fact the first woman, and we have a picture of you here, to command an Air Force squadron in combat. How will that experience in the military shape you in your work in Congress?
MCSALLY: Well, I spend 26 years in uniform. And, you know, those of us who serve, we took an oath of office that is the same exact oath that we're about to take on Tuesday. So I mean we're very much about serving the country, but we need more veterans, especially at a time right now when the world is more dangerous. We have only got about 20 percent veterans, so that experience is going to be absolutely vital on the issues of national security, making sure our military is strong and capable to deal with the various press that we are facing, but also in the military we're very solution oriented, we are very pragmatic. You know, you can't be in the war you want to be in, you got to be in the war you're in, and you've got to just get the job done. And so, I think that's what the people in southern Arizona were looking for, from my military background, is the very solution oriented to get things done instead of being ideologically focused.
WALLACE: Congressman Zeldin, you served in Iraq in 2006 and 2007. How does your time in the military shape your view of your role now as a congressman?
ZELDIN: I learned so much about leadership. We wear around our dog tags, Army values, the (INAUDIBLE) leadership, loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service honor, integrity, and personal courage. And I think so much all across the country, people are watching this show, they're turned off when we have people who are elected to represent us in Washington lacking those values. Lacking that core. Remembering where they come from. So that certainly helped. I was in the Army, you know, no knock on the Air Force branch, it was the best possible branch to Massachusetts.
MCSALLY: Hey, come on, for the war hug, right? You guys want close air support, you need to call in the A-10.
ZELDIN: That's true. You know, 40 years ago over 75 percent of Congress were military veterans. That number is now less than one in five. So, a lot of the soldiers, sailors, airmen are returning home, Marines are returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan, and many are running for office, fortunately, and that's a good thing for us. WALLACE: Congresswoman McSally, as we said, you served from Arizona, you represent a district in Tucson, obviously immigration a big issue there. In the wake of President Obama's executive order, how do you think Republicans should handle the immigration issue? Should it be all about tougher enforcement? Or should there be an effort to find some path towards legalization?
MCSALLY: I think we need to address the root causes and do first things first. And in my district that includes border security as a main focus. So, we've got a secure border, we've got transnational criminal organizations that are trafficking drugs and people, weapons and money, in and out of our neighborhoods. We need intelligence- based operations and a better strategy to address this issue, because it is a public safety threat and a national security threat. And the people that I'm talking in my district they want to revamp and modernize the legal immigration system so that if somebody wants to come here to work or they graduate from the University of Arizona with the Ph.D., they don't go back to one of our competitors we actually give them an opportunity to come here, work, pay taxes, and all into that spectrum. And so, my district is looking for common-sense solutions to address root causes. These political maneuvering by the Obama administration is addressing some of the hotbed issues that are really more symptoms. And we need bipartisan solutions to address some of those, but we have got to focus on the root causes, which is border security and modernizing the legal immigration system. So, it's responsive to our economic needs.
WALLACE: Congressman Zeldin, you are now the only Jewish Republican member in the House with Eric Cantor having been defeated. Are you concerned by the reports that came out this past week about the House Majority Whip Steve Scalise that a dozen years ago he spoke to a group that was founded by former Ku Klux Klan, later David Duke?
ZELDIN: We know, it's important. As you just mentioned, it was a dozen years ago. And the speech was not about what -- some of what's been reported. The speech is about making the state government, where he was serving at the time, a more efficient, to reduce wasteful spending. It's unfortunate that so many news reports don't even mention the fact that this was a dozen years ago and don't mention the fact that this was about a very specific issue to reduce wasteful spending. I think that there are many in the mainstream media who look for any opportunity to try to tear down Republicans to help back up the president of the United States and the Democrats in Congress. The fact of the matter is there's been so much progress, we saw it with the election of Mia Love, (INAUDIBLE) and the youngest woman ever to be elected to Congress.
WALLACE: Mia Love, an African-American woman in Utah.
ZELDIN: That's right. And Carlos Curbelo down in Florida, who is a Hispanic, and the list goes on. If women in minority is elected, there is progress that is undeniable, it will continue through the 2016 elections. I think the media is just trying to get a head start tearing down the Republican Party.
WALLACE: Well, let me ask you about that, Congresswoman McSally. This doesn't come at a particularly good time, the Scalise controversy. Do you worry that it will hurt Republicans' efforts to reach out to minorities? To show that it is a more diverse party?
MCSALLY: No, I don't. Again, if you look at the type of people that have been elected, we still have a lot of work to do, don't get me wrong. I mean we still have just a little over 100 women. We don't totally reflect America in the whole Congress, regardless of both parties. So we need to make sure that we are focusing on things that are not a distraction like this, but actually getting the job done. The American people clearly spoke that they want Washington to work for them. And so we need to be focusing on getting the job done, and not sideshows.
WALLACE: We've got about a minute left. I'd like you each to take about 30 seconds. We'll see how well you can play with others, as they say in the kindergarten.
As you both get sworn in this week, how optimistic are you -- that everybody talks about how unproductive Congress is, how gridlocked Washington is, that you're going to be able to do it better and be more productive? Congressman Zeldin?
ZELDIN: Very optimistic and confident. We are going to see tax reform, the Keystone pipeline legislation passing, improving our foreign affairs and our veteran affairs. Pasting budgets again. We've only had one federal budget since 2007. Now where we've had this Democratic-led Senate and the president in the past, we have a Republican Senate to work with, and we're going to put good solutions on this president's desk.
MCSALLY: We're still in a divided government, but a, you know, this has been a long 1049 days that I've wanted to step up and serve in this way. And so, I do feel confident that, you know, with colleagues and like-minded solution-oriented people that we can get some things done. And show the hard working Americans that we have solutions that are going to help them. I hope the president realizes that it's time for him to get on board and lead and be a part of those solutions, and I look forward to helping address the issues that are related to the economy and security, which are the things I was sent to fight for.
WALLACE: Congresswoman McSally, Congressman Zeldin, thank you both. Thanks for joining us today. Please come back.
MCSALLY: Yes, thank you.
ZELDIN: Looking forward to it.
WALLACE: So, what happens when the 114th Congress convenes this week? Will they get anything done? Or will that be as dysfunctional as ever? We bring back our panel, next.
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(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITCH MCCONNELL (R) KENTUCKY SENATOR: A good example Keystone pipeline. A good example. 40-hour work week, repealing a medical device tax, voting on the individual mandate in Obamacare, the kinds of things that we know the American people don't like and would like to see us address.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: New Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell laying out his agenda for the opening week for the Republican-controlled Senate. And we're back now with the panel. So, Laura, you heard McConnell's initial plans there. Is he drawing the right balance between compromise and confrontation?
LAURA INGRAHAM, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: An interesting poll came out. I think Pat Caddell, our friend yesterday or the day before, 64 percent of Republicans think Boehner doesn't do enough to oppose Obama, which is contrary to what the media meme is that you have to work with Obama, you have to show that you can work together. I don't think it's all that smart for Republicans to fall into that. I think they have to have a pathway for progress, pathway to prosperity. I think he ticked off a couple of great agenda items. But people around the country watching today, I don't think they are obsessed with, can Republicans wok with Obama? They are obsessed with what they see as a country in decline. We have some economic progress, that's great, but the middle class feel stuck, they want to feel like Republicans are fighting for them. And that means oppose the president meaningfully, not just with the silly so-called border security bills on immigration, on the issue of enforcement, on Obamacare, real repeal and replace. Not just in words, but we want to see real action. But the idea of you have to work with Obama? Yeah, when it works for the Republican Party and the middle class, yes, but as an approach, I think they should get rid of the process concern and focus on the policy.
WALLACE: Neera, there's another aspect to all of this, which is how aggressive do you think President Obama will be in continuing to go off on his own? With this executive action? For instance, would he dare and the administration is not ruling it out, would he dare to close Guantanamo on his own? And if he does continue on that path, does he risk the opportunity to have compromises between the Republican Congress and the Democratic White House?
TANDEN: You know, I don't know what he's going to do on Guantanamo. It's been an issue that we've been talking about for a long time. He has -- he has actually had that position for a long time and got reelected. So, you know, I think the president wants to work ...
WALLACE: He has the position that he could do it on his own without Congress.
TANDEN: Yes, so, I think the president -- should want to work with Congress on things that they can work together on. I don't think this election means he should ignore everything that he was elected on just a few years ago, but I think that we can find -- there should be areas where he can find meaningful -- meaningful, you know, where they can sit together and get some decisions down. I think the issue here is, you know, on immigration, on infrastructure, there are areas where the Republican Party in the past that had a position very close to Obama. Perhaps they could come back together on some of these issues. Comprehensive immigration reform, infrastructure, infrastructure investment -- that ...
WALLACE: Well, part of the Republican Party was for comprehensive immigration reform. That's why there's been a lot of the Republican Party that has been against it.
TANDEN: That's true. We did get a lot of Republicans who are in the Senate now vote for a bill just a few years ago.
WALLACE: And it died in the House.
TANDEN: Yes. But now we're in an era of bipartisan feeling, so I'm hoping that they ...
WALLACE: So, does that mean -- does that mean that the president is going to go over to the Republican side?
TANDEN: We can see what we can get together. But it can't just be that one side gives, Republicans just ask for things and the president takes. This should be a part of takes the deal that they offer.
FOURNIER: I think there's nothing substantial is going to happen. We all agree that the country is really hurting, but we all say around this table that we have to fight for what we believe in. Well, the American public, most American public doesn't want the fight. They want the progress. And I can guarantee you what's going to happen as the best -- the president is going to get out of his agenda is through executive action, and the vest that Republicans are going to get out on their agenda, it's from the courts. That shows you how dysfunctional we are, that we are turning to the courts and executive action instead of having the two branches are supposed to be solving the problem ...
WALLACE: The big court case on Obamacare.
FOURNIER: Yeah, that's the only chance the Republicans ever really change Obamacare.
(CROSSTALK) WALLACE: Wait a minute, Ron. I mean you've heard -- you've heard Republicans, you heard Mitch McConnell talk about tax reform, about giving the president trade authority, some deal on infrastructure, you're saying none of that is going to happen?
FOURNIER: He's saying it. I've heard a lot of great things from the president and from Boehner, from McConnell, and none of it ever happens. Words are really cheap in this town. I've seen no indication that either one of these parties or any of the leaders in this parties have the ability or the will to work together and solve big problems. If I'm wrong, I'd love to be wrong. I would love to write a column at the end of this year, look, these guys solved some big problems.
PERINO: I'm seeing -- you think -- am I living in an alternative universe?
WALLACE: But you do live in New York. So ...
PERINO: You had two new members on right before our panel. They have got energy, they have enthusiasm, they were elected with a lot of goals in mind. You also have the fact that a lot of divisions within the Democrats, so on two of those things that Mitch McConnell just said he wants to put forward, Keystone and on infrastructure you could get bipartisan majorities on those. For the first time in several years President Obama will finally have to actually make decisions, because Harry Reid has been his virtual veto pen for so many of the congresses. You think about all the bill that the House passed on jobs, jobs, jobs. Relentless on jobs, those will come over to the Senate, they will pass the Senate and then the president will have to decide am I going to do this ...
FOURNIER: You have a great fight.
WALLACE: Dana, you still have got the question of the filibuster. Are you going to get 60 votes in the Senate?
PERINO: On some of those ...
WALLACE: You only have 54 Republicans.
PERINO: On some of those things, I think that they will, but also you have to watch that President Obama has a new legislative affairs team in place to work with the Congress. I think that they will all start to make some decisions of you can get things done in the last two years in a divided government, things didn't fall apart, but here's the difference. When President Bush lost majorities, going into '07 and '08, no one in the media said, oh, well, now that Democrats come to work with President Bush? No, it was can President Bush go and work with the Democrats? So, a lot of it is a media ...
FOURNIER: And you're making my point. You are right. We are going to have ...
PERINO: But doesn't ...
PERINO: To get things done?
FOURNIER: Let's take energy reform, for example, we really need a comprehensive energy policy in this country. Everybody would agree with that, right? What are we fighting over? Keystone, which is not going to be the environmental catastrophe that the liberals will tell you and it's not the big job producer that conservatives will tell you. And say red herring.
INGRAHAM: One of the most interesting things, I think, happening is that in defeat, Obama looks like he's setting the agenda. I mean his poll numbers are up, he has a bounce in his step. I mean some of this is, you know, perception, of course it is, but he is rising in the polls as he comes off this near-historic defeat across the board.
WALLACE: So, what should the Republicans do?
INGRAHAM: The Republicans shouldn't fall into the media trap of you have to work with Obama. You have to work with Obama! Obama is going off on his own. He's going to sign executive orders, he's going to close Gitmo. He's draining Gitmo down. There's 127 detainees today. He's going to keep proceeding at pace. Republicans have been successful and the economy has been improving with two things -- gridlock and opposing Obama. The economy has been getting better.
FOURNIER: You are arguing gridlock?
INGRAHAM: Gridlock in certain cases, you'll see movement on trade, frankly which I oppose --
WALLACE: Let me let Neera in here.
TANDEN: Look, I would disagree, Laura. I don't think gridlock is the solution to all our (INAUDIBLE). The country is still ailing on the economy. In the sunset, we need to get wages up for everyone. We have good economic growth numbers. I would say on Obama he's up in the polls, because he's doing things that are popular. The last couple of years we really have stagnation in Congress --
WALLACE: But do you agree that he lost and the Democrats lost the November election?
TANDEN: Yeah, I would ...
WALLACE: And what do you think the message was from the voters?
TANDEN: I think the message was doing nothing is a failure. And so ...
WALLACE: So, why did they reward the Republicans?
TANDEN: Doing nothing over the last two years was a failure for Democrats. I agree with Laura, he is rising in the polls. He's at a high, he's at a one, two-year high in the polls now, because people are responding to good economic news and the fact that the president is taking action on issues that are important to the country.
WALLACE: You know, let me just say something to you, Ron. Because you're the really negative person on this, though I must say as I hear this conversation, I'm beginning to agree with you. I mean look at Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich. You had a divided government there, and they were able, some would say that President Clinton was kind of forced, to go and -- go do things like welfare reform. Can we get that kind of agreement here?
FOURNIER: We should, there's plenty of (INAUDIBLE), but I don't see any evidence that either side is capable of it. Gingrich and Clinton were able to find ways to get win wins. They both lost a little bit, but they both won a little bit politically and the country won.
WALLACE: All right. I'm going to take the hopeful note on this. I'm going to be with Dana.
WALLACE: Thank you, panel. See you next Sunday.
Up next, our power player of the week, the nation's chief technology officer, on the possibility of a Jetson future for the government.
WALLACE: When the White House rolled out the Obamacare website, we saw how badly things can go when the government isn't up to speed on technology. Now the government is getting some help in that area straight from Silicon Valley. Here is our "Power Player of the Week."
MEGAN SMITH, U.S. CHIEF TECHNOLOGY OFFICER: You know, you hear of I.Q. and E.Q. I think of P.Q. -- technical caution
More people who have technical skills and knowledge in use those tools to join other talented colleagues here.
WALLACE: Megan Smith is the nation's chief technology officer, appointed by President Obama last fall to apply cutting-edge tech ideas to government programs. For instance, her team helped develop a new Ebola suit that's easier to remove with a zipper in the back.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When -- take this over and have like (INAUDIBLE).
WALLACE (on camera): How different is the culture of Washington from Silicon Valley?
SMITH: It's almost a little more academic versus corporate. There's not a CEO type style of being in charge.
WALLACE (voice over): Smith comes from Google-X, that company's lab for next-generation projects, which has developed ideas like those drone delivery systems.
SMITH: And we call them moon shots, just like -- like Kennedy, we choose to go to the moon.
WALLACE: She says she wants to transfer that approach to government.
(on camera): What is Sandboxen.
SMITH: So it sounded -- It's like it sounds.
WALLACE (voice over): Smith says tech people can help policy officials play with ideas, like new uses for unmanned aerial vehicles.
SMITH: Somewhere in our future is the Jetson future. But we're not there yet. We're just beginning to play with this idea of maybe delivering critical medical devices through a UAV or being able to look at crops from the air for a farm.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: OK, you've got to slow down. Because I'm an old man.
WALLACE: One thing Smith is pushing is teaching every kid to write computer code, making it a basic part at school.
SMITH: And we would never teach them not to write when we teach them to read, but we often teach them math and science and other things and history of that without teaching them to make and to create.
WALLACE: She says an absence of technical skills was responsible for one of the president's biggest setbacks.
(on camera): Why was the Obamacare website so messed up?
SMITH: We need people who have TQ in the room when we are making decisions. And -- and so, we had contracted a lot of technology out to other people, and weren't really having some of the architects in the core room.
WALLACE (voice over): Megan Smith says she got an early start from mandatory science fares at her Buffalo school.
SMITH: They taught me two things, one, that that's actually fun, and it also taught me that I can do it. It gave me the confidence. WALLACE: At MIT, she was part of a team that raced a solar car across Australia that they had designed in a school lab.
SMITH: At night, we would sneak in, and go in and build our car at night, and then go to sleep for a little while and then go to class.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And it will be fine in D.C.?
SMITH: Well, people (INAUDIBLE) this idea of tech skills upgrade
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah, they are super excited for it.
WALLACE: Now, she faces her toughest challenge, trying to turn government agencies more into tech startups.
SMITH: And so, you set a goal way out there, but you start with the problem in the world worth solving, with the technology that sounds a lot like science fiction, but it just might work?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Megan Smith says American women are actually going backwards in technology. More women got computer science degrees 30 years ago than do today. She's determined to get more girls involved in math and science.
Now, this program note. Next week we'll have an exclusive interview with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey. And that's it for today. Have a great week. And we'll see you next "Fox News Sunday."
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On the Show
Sunday: in the wake of the deadly Egypt Air crash, Egyptian officials now say they believe terror is likely to blame. As the crash highlights the security challenges we’re facing at home, we’ll speak to the Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, Rep Michael McCaul (R-TX), about keeping America safe even as frustrated travels already face long lines at the country’s airports.
We’ll talk to the Chairman of Donald Trump’s National Security Advisory Committee, Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL), Trump’s plans to fight terror, his suggestion he’d be willing to speak with North Korea’s Kim Jong-un, and his Supreme Court picks. It’s a Fox News Sunday exclusive.