OTR Interviews

RNC Chairman Priebus: Wis. Governor Being a Leader for His State and the Entire Country

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," February 21, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Reince Priebus is the new elected chairman of the Republican Party. He's also the former chairman of the Wisconsin Republican Party. Earlier today we went to the RNC headquarters here in Washington and asked him about his new job and also about what is going on back home in Wisconsin.


VAN SUSTEREN: What about the battle Governor Walker is having with the 14 Democrats.

REINCE PRIEBUS, RNC CHAIRMAN: Scott Walker is being a leader, not just for Wisconsin, but for this entire country. I believe that we're in a battle for freedom in this country. That same battle is taking place in Madison. We are in a country and we have a state in Wisconsin that is about to walk off a fiscal cliff. And if we don't get serious about spending, debt, and deficits in this country and Madison we are going to have an America we don't want to pass on to our kids and grandkids.

VAN SUSTEREN: Is this an effort to fix the budget the deficit or is this union busting?

PRIEBUS: It is a permanent solution to a particular problem which is out of control spending, out of control benefits and packages, collective bargaining agreements that don't work at the local level, the school board level, and within the state budget. So Scott Walker promised these specific solutions to these problems when he ran for governor.

VAN SUSTEREN: Are these things he said when he ran so voters are not particularly surprised?

PRIEBUS: Greta, not only did he not say these things during the campaign, but he specifically talked about the exact percentages in the cuts and what he was going to be asking the state employees to provide if he became governor. He ran on that platform. Now he's delivering on it and he' doing it responsibly.

We need to get serious in Madison and this country about spending, and Scott Walker is doing it.

VAN SUSTEREN: A Republican senator suggested a compromise program that the state do away with collective bargaining for only a two or three year period and then bring back collective bargaining, sort of a compromise. The governor doesn't like that compromise. What about compromise?

PRIEBUS: First of all, it is one state senator. The Republicans have a majority. They have the votes already. What Scott Walker is proposing is a permanent solution to the problem.

If you take the two year vacation solutions or one time fixes like Wisconsin has done many times in the past, two years from now we will be talking the problem again. Scott Walker wants to provide long term solutions to these budget problems, and that's what he's doing. And I think he should and I think the people in Wisconsin are in favor of finally getting these public employee unions under control.

VAN SUSTEREN: Speaking of budget problem, we are here at the RNC and you have budget problems here.


VAN SUSTEREN: You did I think $3.5 million for the first two weeks you became chairman. But how serious are your financial problems.

PRIEBUS: Being $23 million in the hole is not a good place to start, I'll give you that.

VAN SUSTEREN: Where do you get the credit for that? How do you get millions in credit?

PRIEBUS: We have to talk to the bank about that. We have the $15 million in the hole on the line of credit. We have about $7 million to $8 million to vendors that we owe.

But we are starting off the bat with reaching out to donors, talking about a new RNC. We're trying to lead in humility, a little less of self and a little bit more of everybody else. We brought in major donors from around the country on five days notice. We had 20 former finance chairman, we raised $2,5 million in four hours here last week.

So we are taking the steps necessary to help rebuild this party. It is going to take time. We didn't get into this problem overnight. We are not going to get out overnight. We are going to try to get this train back on the rails.

VAN SUSTEREN: Is the job what you expected?

PRIEBUS: It is about what I expected. I'm not new to the RNC or understanding what the job entails. Like I said in the beginning, I think when we are facing a country that is about to spend 42 cents on every dollar made in America to run the federal government, we've come a long way from the first Boston tea party.

And that's an America worth fighting for. I think our activists are ready to fight for that America. Independents, and even Democrats and Republicans and Tea Party folks are ready to fight for that America. That brings me here every day to work as hard as I can to steer this ship straight that's what I'm trying to do.

VAN SUSTEREN: How do you herd the cats? The Republican Party seems to have a strong element of Tea Party, Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, leader of the Tea Party Caucus in the House. How do you intend to herd the cats?

PRIEBUS: I don't think we need to herd the cats. I've always said our party is not in competition with the conservative movement. We are part of the conservative movement. We are a party that believes in those same things, getting our spending under control, getting these crushing deficits under control. That is what our party is about.

And if we remember we are part of that movement and we work with the movement, which is what I envision us to do, I think we are going to have great things in 2012, and that's what I expect to do as chairman of this party.

VAN SUSTEREN: Chairman, thank you, and I hope you let me come back and talk to you.

PRIEBUS: Anytime. Come back for a Packer game, any time you can visit you are a fellow cheeseheads, and you are welcome here any time.

VAN SUSTEREN: Thank you very much.

PRIEBUS: Thank you, Greta.