Sen. McConnell, Rep. Boehner Discuss Game Plan for Midterms

Written by Chris Wallace / Published August 01, 2010 / Fox News Sunday

Special Guests: Mitch McConnell, John Boehner

The following is a rush transcript of the August 1, 2010, edition of "Fox News Sunday With Chris Wallace." This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

CHRIS WALLACE, ANCHOR: With us now for their first joint interview ever are the Republican leaders of Congress -- from Cincinnati, House GOP leader John Boehner, and here in studio, Senate leader Mitch McConnell.

And, gentlemen, welcome back to "Fox News Sunday."

SENATE MINORITY LEADER MITCH MCCONNELL, R-KY.: Glad to be here.

HOUSE MINORITY LEADER BOEHNER, R-OHIO: Good morning.

WALLACE: Senator McConnell, the latest Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll now shows that Republicans have an 11-point lead when it comes to the generic ballot question, congressional ballot question, who are you going to vote for in your district, a Republican or a congressman (sic). It was 11 points. Just recently it's -- that's up from four points two weeks ago.

Aren't expectations for Republicans so high now that if you don't regain control of the House or Senate the Democrats are going to be able to spin this as a victory for them?

MCCONNELL: I'd love to have the election tomorrow, but obviously it's not tomorrow, and your point is well made. I think one of the things we need to do is remember that there's still three months to go. If the election were today, we'd certainly have a good day, but it's a long way until November.

They have a lot of money. They've outspent us for the last three cycles and I expect them to do it again. They're not going to go down easily.

WALLACE: Congressman Boehner, House Republicans have come up -- and I have it here -- with this big glossy pamphlet, 22 pages, pictures of Margaret Thatcher and Winston Churchill and Ronald Reagan, called "Tread Boldly," telling your members what to do during this long August recess you've just embarked on.

Question, Congressman: What's the central message that you're giving your members that they need to get across to voters during the August recess?

BOEHNER: Well, I think it's pretty clear that the American people are tired of the job-killing agenda in Washington, D.C. They want the spending spree to stop. They want to make sure that taxes are not increased.

And what I want Republicans to do in August is to go home and talk about the better solutions that Republicans have been offering over the last 18 months. We've been listening to the American people. It's pretty clear that they want change.

And our listening effort is going to continue through August as we get into this election season. I think we're having a good year, but we've got a lot of work to do before the election on November 2.

WALLACE: Congressman, even without going through a listening tour, you've got to know that the prime issue for all voters, or most voters, is the economy and jobs.

I want to put up some new figures that were out Friday. They show that GDP growth has slowed dramatically from 5 percent in late 2009 to 3.7 percent in the first quarter of this year, to now just 2.4 percent in this last quarter. A number, Congressman -- a number of top economists say what we need is more economic stimulus.

BOEHNER: Well, I don't need to see GDP numbers or to listen to economists. All I need to do is listen to the American people, because they've been asking the question now for 18 months, where are the jobs.

The fact is the president's policies are killing job creation in America, killing our economy. And the American people know it. That's why we're going to continue to offer what we think are better solutions.

Let's stop this stimulus spending that's -- all it's doing is running up debt on the backs of our kids and grandkids. Let's make sure that we're not going to increase taxes at a time when our economy is so weak -- all the things that my colleagues across the aisle want to do.

WALLACE: Senator McConnell, you know, though, that the Democrats are going to hit you as the -- the GOP as the party of obstruction. Let's look at what Republicans have done in your body, the Senate.

You have blocked lending assistance for small business. You have voted against extending unemployment benefits. You have voted against financial regulatory reform. Is that the way to boost the economy?

MCCONNELL: Well, let me tell you how not to boost the economy. They're on a path to double the national debt in five years and triple it in 10. The so-called financial regulation bill they call Wall Street reform was actually supported by Goldman Sachs and Citigroup and opposed by the community bankers.

The signature jobs accomplishment for these guys so far, the majority, is passing unemployment insurance and, by the way, doing it in a way that adds to the deficit. We wanted to extend unemployment. We didn't -- we thought we ought to pay for it, not add to the deficit. Everything they're doing is killing jobs.

WALLACE: Well...

MCCONNELL: The tax...

WALLACE: ... let's take this latest one. Blocking lending assistance for small business?

MCCONNELL: That is another TARP. You know, we tried that once under the previous administration and under this one. Basically, the lending facility portion of that bill is TARP III, or the Son of TARP.

WALLACE: So you're -- because there had been some question whether this was a procedural issue. You're now saying that Republicans are against boosting lending assistance to small business?

MCCONNELL: Yeah. This particular provision is another TARP. It puts the government in the position of taking equity positions in businesses.  Look. Look at what they've done. They're running banks, insurance companies, car companies. They've nationalized the student loan business, taken over health care.

We have don't need the government taking equity positions, ownership positions, in any more private-sector businesses. That's not the way out.  The way out is to kill this job-killing tax increase that's coming, that they advocate, that is going to affect 50 percent of small business income and 25 percent of our workforce. That's going to be their plan in September, to raise taxes in the middle of recession.

WALLACE: Let me talk with you, Congressman Boehner, about this. This is going to be one of the big issues. You say, and Congressman -- rather, Senator McConnell says, the answer is to extend the Bush tax cuts.

But let's take a look at the cost here. Extending just the tax cuts for the wealthy would cost $678 billion over 10 years. Extending all the tax cuts would cost $2.9 trillion. That will explode the deficit.

And President Obama says today that for all of the talk about you guys as deficit hawks, if you buck him when it comes to some of the ideas he has to reduce the deficit he, quote, "is going to call your bluff."

BOEHNER: Chris, you've been in Washington too long because that's all a bunch of Washington talk. The fact is you cannot...

WALLACE: I'm just asking a question, sir.

BOEHNER: ... raise taxes on -- you cannot raise taxes on the American people in the middle of a recession. This is the first time since the depression that unemployment has stayed above 9 percent for two consecutive years. And that's what we have seen.

And if you try to raise taxes you're going to kill revenue coming to the federal government because you're going to have less people working.  The way to get our economy moving again and the way to solve the deficit problem is to get more people working, to get more people taking care of their own families, more people paying taxes and controlling the spending spree in Washington, D.C.

WALLACE: But, Congressman, what are you going to do about that $3 trillion hole that you're blowing in the deficit by extending all...

BOEHNER: There is no...

WALLACE: Let me just -- let me just...

BOEHNER: ... $3 trillion hole.

WALLACE: Sir, let me just finish the question -- $3 trillion deficit that you're blowing in the deficit -- $3 trillion that you're blowing in the deficit by extending the tax cuts?

BOEHNER: Why can't we keep tax rates where they are today? This is the whole Washington mindset, all these CBO numbers. Listen. We've to get the economy going.

And the only way to get the economy going is to keep tax rates low, take away the uncertainty that's coming from this administration and this Democrat Congress, so that employers can reinvest in our economy. Until they begin to reinvest and begin to hire more people, you're not going to see much help on the revenue side.

What we can also do is to get rid of the wasteful Washington spending that's coming from the administration.

WALLACE: Do you agree with that, Senator McConnell? And let's get specific, because we're -- if we are talking $3 trillion over the next 10 years by extending all the tax cuts, you're going to have to cut an awful lot of government programs. What are you going to cut to get $3 trillion?

MCCONNELL: Chris, the only way to really reduce the deficit is to get the private sector going again. And I can tell you, there's no question about it. The president talked to a bunch of businessmen a couple of weeks ago and he said, "Why aren't you hiring?" And they listed the various problems. That's his agenda. That's why they aren't hiring.

One of the reasons they're not expanding right now is they see this job-killing tax cut coming.

Give you another example. In the health care bill -- in this health care bill, this massive health care bill we passed earlier this year -- requires every business to send out a 1099 form to the IRS every time they spend more than $600 -- a massive paperwork increase.

We're offering that in the Senate as amendment -- let's get rid of that. We need to revisit this health care bill, which is the second reason, in addition to this massive tax increase, that business is not expanding.

WALLACE: Congressman Boehner, let's switch to ethics, because you and other Republicans are really going after the Democrats now -- Charlie Rangel facing ethics violations, Congresswoman Maxine Waters facing alleged ethics violations and a possible trial.

And you have said what happened to the promises from Nancy Pelosi that she was going to drain the swamp. Democrats are firing back, though, Congressman, saying that you set up a Boehner for Speaker committee where people who raise $100,000 get special access for you and that you held a meeting with a bunch of Washington's top Republican lobbyists the other day. Is that draining the swamp?

BOEHNER: Well, Chris, Boehner for Speaker is an NRCC project, a House Campaign Committee project, trying to raise the resources necessary to help our candidates in this election.

And when I talk about draining the swamp, Chris -- you've heard me say this, that I expect, and the American people expect, the highest ethical standards from their members of Congress. Nancy Pelosi said four years ago that it was time to drain the swamp, and I cannot believe it's taken some two years to investigate the Charlie Rangel case.   But the fact is she's not kept her promise. The swamp is alive and well.

WALLACE: But I do have to follow up. Boehner for Speaker -- you say it's a party thing. I mean, I think some people might say that's Washington talk. You're giving special access to you, possibly, you know - - as you say, Boehner for Speaker, possibly the next speaker of the House, for people who raise or donate $100,000.

BOEHNER: Chris, as I said, this is an NRCC project. It's not unlike any other project, Democrat or Republican, when it comes to raising the kind of cash that needs to be raised. And I don't need -- people don't need to have special access to me. I was out in my district yesterday and met with hundreds of people who didn't pay a dime to see me.

I walk through airports. I go to restaurants. I stand out on the corner. People have plenty of access to me and they don't have to pay for it at all.

WALLACE: Senator McConnell, one of the things that Charlie Rangel's in trouble for is using his name to -- or rather, using his position, allegedly, to ask companies with legislative interest to contribute to an academic center bearing his name.

Now, his lawyers in their filing dragged you into this, as I'm sure you know, and they said that you did the same thing with the McConnell Center at the University of Louisville. And in fact, donors included Toyota, Ford, UPS, The Tobacco Institute and Humana. Question: Don't they all have business interests involving the Senate Republican leader?

MCCONNELL: Totally different situation. This is a scholarship program for kids. It's been around for 20 years. These are all donors who largely contributed to the university in any event. We've got 150 young people who've gone there on scholarship.

I don't see any comparability between -- to the Rangel matter or Rangel...

WALLACE: Well, explain. What's the difference?

MCCONNELL: I don't have an office there. I haven't used any facilities to raise money. It's a scholarship program for kids.

WALLACE: But I don't -- I think what people, the average person -- forget the Ethics Committee -- is concerned about is the idea you have a position of power, you're going to these donors, and they're giving money, and maybe that ingratiates them that to you.

MCCONNELL: I didn't benefit from it in any way. This is a scholarship program for young people in Kentucky. They benefited from it, not me.

WALLACE: But Charlie Rangel says he doesn't benefit in any way either.

MCCONNELL: Well, Charlie Rangel will have to speak for himself. I'm familiar with this program that I'm involved with, and it's simply a scholarship program for kids.

And I've brought in speakers. For example, this year we had Hillary Clinton and John McCain. We've had Ted Kennedy there, Robert Byrd, the chief justice. I don't benefit from it in any way. It's a pure charitable activity.

WALLACE: Let me ask you another aspect of this because, let's face it, there's some Republicans who have been in trouble, too -- Senator Ensign is being investigated right now for allegedly covering up an affair he had. Senator Vitter was involved with a prostitute. Congressman Shouter quit after having extramarital relations with a staffer.

Don't Republicans also live in a glass house when it comes to ethics?

MCCONNELL: I think it's important for members of Congress to have the highest possible ethical standards. And a number of members over the years have gotten in trouble. Some of them have had to leave the Senate as a result of it.

WALLACE: So do you think there's an ethics issue that the Democrats have to face this year...

MCCONNELL: I think the Democrats' biggest problem is they're spending too much, taxing too much, borrowing too much, and their job- killing programs are what's on the mind of the American people. And I think that's what will determine the outcome of the election this fall.

WALLACE: Finally, Senator, President Obama is speaking to a veterans' group on Monday and is expected to promote the fact that the U.S. is close to drawing down to 50,000 troops in Iraq and will be out of its combat role by the end of August. Isn't that one campaign promise that this president has kept?

MCCONNELL: Well, I have to commend the president for basically, once the election was over, ignoring my counterpart Senator Reid, who said the war was lost in 2007, and basically ignoring his own campaign rhetoric in 2008 and adopting the program of the Bush administration to wind down the war.

In fact, the agreement with the Iraqis to go down to 50,000 troops was made under the previous administration. So I commend the president for continuing the policies. He continued Secretary Gates, continued the policy in Iraq. And I think we've made progress, although it's still very difficult there because the bombings continue.

WALLACE: Senator McConnell, Congressman Boehner, we want to thank you both so much for coming in today, and please come back together, if you will.

MCCONNELL: Thank you.

BOEHNER: Thanks, Chris.

WALLACE: And we want to point out that we invite the Democratic leaders, Speaker Pelosi and Senator Reid, also to sit down with us anytime.

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