Transcript: Tom DeLay on Airline Safety

Following is a transcript from Fox News Sunday, Oct. 28, 2001.

TONY SNOW, HOST, FOX NEWS SUNDAY: The Senate has voted unanimously to make federal employees of all airport baggage screeners. President Bush doesn't like that idea, and neither does our next guest, House Majority Whip Tom DeLay. He joins us from Houston. 

Mr. DeLay, you've just heard Senator John Kerry say that what you and the president are proposing is security on the cheap, that unionized workers cannot strike. And furthermore, you know, the president is using government employees for his protection, why shouldn't airline travelers have the same benefit? 

REP. TOM DELAY, R-TEXAS: Well, there's a lot of issues there. 

First of all, I think it's very frightening that the senator wants to design our security in the air by perception. I'd rather do it by experience and history. Europe tried nationalizing their airport security back in the '70s and '80s, and it didn't take them very long to get rid of it. 

By the way, it took over 10 years to fire all the government employees they had hired and institute a system that brings the flexibility of the private sector under the accountability of the government. And that's what the president wants; that's what the president has designed. 

The Senate says, no, you're going to hire federal employees. The House is saying, no, Mr. President, we trust you to design the system that will bring us security in the air and now on the ground. 

SNOW: What about a compromise? We'll let the attorney general handle the setting of standards and still place these people, the people who do the baggage screening, under Uncle Sam's large arm? 

DELAY: Well, first and foremost, the president doesn't want the attorney general to do it. 

And, you know, the Senate — I'd show you how flawed their legislation was. They brought an amendment to transfer all this to the Department of Justice, didn't debate it, and passed it by voice vote against the wishes of the president. 

The president doesn't want it under the Department of Justice. This is a transportation issue. We have shown, and Europe and Israel has shown, that you can bring it under the transportation departments and develop a security system that works. 

That the Senate is — it's amazing to me that the Senate passes a bill contrary to the president's wishes, and the House is being criticized by the national media for doing something different. 

SNOW: Well, a lot of people think you don't have the votes to get this passed. 

DELAY: Well, Tony, I don't know if we have the votes or not. We're trying to do what is right for the security of the flying public in America. And I think eventually their representatives will do the right thing. 

SNOW: Now, why did the Democratic senators, all 49 of them, vote against the president — I mean, the Republican senators, I'm sorry. Why did the Republican senators vote against their own president on this bill? 

DELAY: You've got me. Frankly, I think, if you went to a senator and asked him to describe the European system, they couldn't describe it to you. The Senate did this in such haste that the members didn't know what they were voting for, and no member of the Senate wanted to vote against airport security. 

SNOW: Your fellow Texan, Joe Barton, now wants to make it legal for airline pilots to carry arms, handguns aboard aircraft. Do you like the idea? 

DELAY: I like the idea, but I think it's more important to seal that cockpit and put well-armed sky marshals in the cabin. I think that works better than having armed pilots, but I think pilots ought to be able to defend themselves when and wherever they can. 

SNOW: We had an interesting conversation about baggage- screening. Are you happy with the system we have, or do we need a new system? 

DELAY: Well, I think it's really irresponsible for people like Senator Kerry and others to tell the American people that it's not safe to fly right now. It is safer to fly now than before September 11. I've been flying every week on commercial airlines. It is safe to fly. 

All we want to do is to institutionalize it. We want to federalize it, not nationalize it, and we to do the best job we can to bring security to the flying public. 

SNOW: What is your sense of the tax cut debate? You've got a tax cut bill that got out of the House of Representatives. Clearly the Senate's going to have a different view of things. What's the president going to do? 

DELAY: Well, this is — we're back into that age-old debate, Tony, of class warfare. You heard Senator Kerry talk about class warfare. 

He made some misstatements, by the way. He says no conservative economist thinks the House bill is a stimulus. Every conservative economist that I know of thinks it's a stimulus. 

It is stimulus to let people keep their money and create jobs. It is stimulus to cut taxes. It is not stimulus to keep spending. 

You know, if it were a stimulus to keep spending, Japan would have spent its way out of a recession 10 years ago. They've been trying to come out of recession for 10 years by government spending, and it doesn't work. 

SNOW: Senator Kerry did point out that the Treasury Secretary, Paul O'Neill, keeps talking about something that's short-term that involves spending. Do you think the treasury secretary doesn't understand what a stimulus is? 

DELAY: Well, you know, I have disagreements with the treasury secretary. I support the president. 

And the president, the day that we were debating the stimulus package on the floor, made a major speech in Maryland, calling for the kind of stimulus package that the House had developed. And he supported what the House did. 

DELAY: He understands that if you leave money in the pockets of people that create jobs, jobs won't go away and more jobs will be created. 

SNOW: South Carolina Republican Lindsay Graham is proposing something he calls the sales tax holiday act. It would go from the day after Thanksgiving to December 2. Gives states the options to suspend their sales taxes with some federal rebates. Good idea, bad idea? 

DELAY: I don't have any problem with that. That's a good idea. There's a lot of good ideas out there. 

But we have a bill that actually cuts the cost of capital and allows capital to move in an efficient way and seek its — the best place where it should be spent, and that's creating jobs. 

SNOW: Now, the president has decided, at least so far, not to do any political campaigning. There are gubernatorial elections coming up in New Jersey and Virginia. Would you like to see him out on the stump for those candidates? 

DELAY: Well, wherever the president goes right now, it'd be very helpful. I would like to see him out on the stump, but I also understand that he's got a war to run, that the demands on his time right now are overwhelming. And I want — you know, I want him to run this war, and I want him to win this war, and I hope — and I trust him to make the best decision. 

SNOW: After the House of Representatives decided to shut down last week a day early, the New York Post ran a big headline that called you wimps. Was it right? 

DELAY: I think it was unfortunate. All it did was fuel an overreaction, in my opinion, by the national media. We adjourned a day early, which we do all the time for other reasons, and we closed the office buildings that now has proven to have been infected by anthrax in certain spots of our office buildings. 

We have a responsibility to our employees, to those high school pages, to the interns, untold interns that we have, to keep them as safe as possible. And I think the decision made by the leadership of the House was a prudent one, and I think it was really unfortunate that the national media overreacted. 

SNOW: Your colleague, Dick Armey, has said that in the House of Representatives, there's going to be a vote on the two versions of the airline safety bill that we discussed earlier, your version and the Senate version. Is that how it's going to work? 

DELAY: As far as I know, that's how it's going to work. One way or another, we're going to bring the president's package to the floor and let the Democrats try to amend it. But we're going to be supporting the president's package, and that's the package that allows the president to make the decision as to how to best use employees to provide security, not tell the president, like the Senate did, you've got to have federal workers or nothing. 

SNOW: All right. Final question: Is the ideal of limited government dead? 

DELAY: Well, no. I'm still there, and I'm trying to limit government. So, no, it's not dead as long as I'm in Congress. 

SNOW: All right. Tom DeLay, thanks for joining us. 

DELAY: Thank you, Tony. 

SNOW: Up next, stories you won't find on any other Sunday show, and our panel on the war on terror at home and abroad.