This is a partial transcript of "Special Report With Brit Hume," Nov. 19, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.
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BRIAN WILSON, GUEST HOST: Well, this morning freshmen members of the House wrapped up their orientation with a Capitol Hill (search ) ritual, the office lottery. Up for grabs — 39 office suites doled out by lot. Representative-elect Emanuel Cleaver of the 2nd Congressional District of Missouri, was clearly not pleased in pulling number 36, which means he’ll get one of the worst offices in Congress.
However, take a look at this next guy. He is a Representative-elect Patrick McHenry of North Carolina, rubbing his hands for good luck, reaches in. He said it was the luck of the Irish as he pulls out number 1. He says he already has his eyes on a particular spot on the first floor of the Cannon House Office Building.
Well, every session of Congress is different. The human dynamics subtly changes with shifts in the balance of power, and new people coming in to replace the old member, who either retire or in some cases are defeated.
This week I had the honor of meeting some of the new crop of House members. I’ve asked two of them to join me here today — from Florida’s 20th Congressional District, Representative-elect Debbie Wassermann Schultz and from Louisiana’s 1st Congressional District, Representative-elect Bobby Jindal.
Thank you very much for joining us here. We appreciate it.
REP. BOBBY JINDAL (R), LOUISIANA: Thank you.
WILSON: It’s got to be exciting. I mean you told me earlier this week about the excitement of looking at that Capital dome, that is just over your shoulder, with a bit of awe. As you said, "My gosh, I work there." Has it sunk in yet?
REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN-SCHULTZ (D), FLORIDA: You know, it’s still sinking in. You really get struck by the significance of this when you get here. I mean all year during the campaign, you end up saying the same things over and over and over again, and it becomes a little bit rote. When you get here, it really hits you.
WILSON: Now, you’re a Democrat.
WILSON: And represent a district in Florida that has long been represented by Democrats.
SCHULTZ: Yes. Yes. Yes.
WILSON: So what are your big priorities?
SCHULTZ: Well, I really think we need to come up here and focus on expanding access to health care, dealing with the ever-increasing deficit and focusing on homeland security (search ).
WILSON: Bobby Jindal, you’re not a stranger to Washington. You’ve been around here for a while. But you worked for a different branch of government.
JINDAL: That’s right. I worked for the administration. I also worked with the bipartisan Medicare commission. So I’m also hoping to come up here and work on health care policies.
WILSON: Yes. What are the big issues though, as you come in besides that?
JINDAL: Well, within health care we have to put it in control of the patients not the bureaucrats. I think there are other big issues. I was glad to hear the president say the day after the elections, "I’ve got political capital (search). I want to use it." I think that’s the only chance we have to look at Social Security, fundamental tax reform and it’s the only chance my district has to make sure we have got a sane energy policy.
We are one of the few states that is a producing state, that allows production. And yet even in our state, the high price of gas is killing our manufacturing sector. So the top of my wish list is health care. I think there is a lot that the Republicans can offer on making it more affordable, putting health care back in the hands of the patients. After that let’s get on to tax reform and Social Security.
WILSON: One other point. You’ve been elected by your fellow freshmen Republican as the, what is it, the class president?
JINDAL: That’s right. We had an election. And what that means is we’re going to try to unify our class, speak with one voice, increase our impact. You know, a lot of times you come in here, but we have a large enough class where we can have an impact on policy as long as we stick together.
WILSON: And you are also going to take a — at least it looks like you’re going to take a leadership role. They haven’t quite held their elections on the Democratic side yet.
SCHULTZ: Right. I’m going to be working towards being the freshman whip. I’ve been selected freshman whip on an interim bases. So I to am going to be trying to help pull my class together and make sure we stay unified, and focus on some very important issues.
WILSON: Freshmen Democrats are going to wait until January to make those decisions final. I just want to point that out.
WILSON: Well look, you know, come here, I know it’s exciting. And it’s got to be like, you know, boy, I can’t wait to get started here. But realistically in a body that has 435 members, the freshmen class makes up about 8.5 percent. That’s how much — how little, really turnover there is in Congress. How do you make an impact?
SCHULTZ: Well, none of us are shrinking violets. You know, we came here to make an impact. I plan to come up and stand up and be a strong voice for my constituents. Make sure issues like Social Security don’t get so divisive that we don’t focus on making sure that we preserve Social Security; that it’s there for senior citizens, and for the generation that both Bobby and I are from. And we’ve got make sure that remains on the table and we keep a focus on that.
WILSON: And is there something that you can do to stand out from the rest of the crowd, to have maybe a larger voice than a freshman would ordinarily have with the leadership?
JINDAL: I think so. You know, look. I’m not interested in titles or office spaces or the inauguration parties. It’s also great. I’m a policy person. I spent two years working the administration, forming relationships with the chairman and other members. I think we come here on focused on making a difference, saying let’s crackdown on the frivolous lawsuits. Let’s give individuals more control through things like health savings accounts. Let’s give our parents more choices in Medicare (search) or private plans. Change Medicaid so working families can afford private insurance, not just government run health care.
I think if you stay focused on the policies, it is possible to make a great difference from the very first day, as long as you look beyond — as long as you — you know, Ronald Reagan said if you don’t worry about who takes credit, it’s amazing how much you can get done.
SCHULTZ: We’ve got to make sure we’re not pulling the rug out from under people when we start talking about those issues though. In health savings accounts and some of those issues, there’s going to be places where we part company. We’re going to try to reach across the aisle and work together as much as we can.
WILSON: And I want to get to that point exactly. Because when I read the bios of the 37 new members, each one of them seemed to say in one way or the other, I’m here not to fight with the other side, but to see if we can find common ground. You know, we always hear that. But it so rarely happens in Washington. I think that people get kind of tired of that. I know you heard this during the campaign.
How do you do that? How do you reach across the aisle when it’s such a partisan town?
SCHULTZ: Well, for me it was 12 years in the legislature and eight of those years in the minority. You know, in order to make an impact you have to reach across the aisle. And I think that’s what Americans want. They don’t want to see us constantly fighting. But you know, we’re not going to compromise my principles. I mean my constituents expect me to come up here and fight for what they believe in. And I’m going to do that.
WILSON: Your thoughts.
JINDAL: You know, I represent parts of six — we call them parishes in our county. All of which are majority Democratic areas. And so I had to reach out to Democrats and Republicans to get elected. I think there are specific ideas where we can find agreement. I’ve been talking to many freshmen Democratic members who have said association health plans are something we can support. Let’s small businesses pull their purchasing power.
I agree. There are areas where we’re going to disagree on principle. I don’t think we should compromise. I think a healthy debate is part of what we were elected to do, as long as we don’t make it personal. As long as the agreements are on the issues, we don’t have to demonize our opponents.
SCHULTZ: That’s right.
JINDAL: I’ve never believed in saying something negative about my opponent to win an election. My goal is to tell you why you should support me, not why you shouldn’t support them.
SCHULTZ: We don’t have to tear each other down.
WILSON: I want to take you back to that moment on election night, where all of a sudden, you know, you see the numbers start to come in, and the computers are clicking. And all of a sudden you realize oh, my gosh, I’ve just won this election, this fight that I’ve been fighting for so many months. Now it becomes clear in your mind that you’re going to go to Washington. I can’t imagine how exciting that must be.
SCHULTZ: It was incredible. And for me, my predecessor actually introduced me on election night to the crowd at our victory party, as the next congresswoman from the 20th District in Florida. And it was pretty unbelievable. He has been my mentor for 15 years. So it was really, really special.
WILSON: What about you? When did that moment finally sink in?
JINDAL: Oh, it was a great moment when the polls closed and we saw the results. You know, I lost a very close election last year for governor. And I know the difference. It is a lot more to actually win an election.
JINDAL: But what was nice about it is I have a 2 1/2-year-old girl as well as a 7-month-old son. Hopefully, my daughter is watching this. She really brought it to perspective, because the moment that it was announced — we had a room filled with hundreds of well-wishers. Her only focus was on daddy; can I have my candy now?
JINDAL: And so, you know, there is always a reminder we’re parents first and members of Congress second.
WILSON: And you basically have got to go back now and kind of get prepared to come back to Washington. And there’s an old saying in Washington about freshmen members. It’s like, you know, the old saying about small children, some people believe they should be seen and not heard. I get the impression from talking to members of your freshman class that it’s not going to be the way it works.
SCHULTZ: Well, there’s no shrinking violets in this class. That’s one thing that I think we all noticed. And we all came up, we were elected just like every other one of the 435 members were, and I think we’re all going to come here and get ready to hit the ground running.
WILSON: Last word very quickly?
JINDAL: We have great talents in our class: judges, legislators, doctors; we’ll make an impact pretty quickly.
WILSON: Good luck, have fun.
SCHULTZ: Thank you.
JINDAL: Thank you.
WILSON: Politics ought to be fun sometimes.
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