OTR Interviews

The Quest for Jobs: 'We Can't Wait' for Bipartisan Cooperation

House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy explains his small business jobs plan and the Congressional impasse over a jobs bill


This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," November 1, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Now to the crisis that's gripping our nation, probably scaring you to death -- no jobs. Now, we spoke with House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy earlier tonight.


VAN SUSTEREN: Congressman, nice to see you, sir.


VAN SUSTEREN: OK, where are we on the Republican bills related to jobs?

MCCARTHY: Well, we've got our whole American job creators. And the interesting part of this ticket is these are all the bills that have passed the House but are sitting in the Senate. Currently, there's 18. They continue to grow. We'll pass three more this week. One of them will actually be a Democrat bipartisan bill, as well. But the Senate continues to just sit there, which is very frustrating from the standpoint when you listen to what the president is talking about, as well.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, it almost makes it look like you're, like, practice voting. If you're not -- I mean, if there's no movement, I mean, the bill should -- I would assume would be either -- either passed or not passed in the Senate. But they just stall?

MCCARTHY: They just stall. But you know, there are 915 days not even passing a budget with a $1.5 trillion deficit. This is their style of work over there.

VAN SUSTEREN: Why do you think they're doing it? Why is Senator Reid doing that? Why doesn't he just put it on the floor and let it get voted down?

MCCARTHY: I don't quite understand why. Let the power of the idea win at the end of the day. If you don't like it, you have the votes, just let it be brought up. A lot of -- some of our stuff, bills that have passed -- the president talked about it in the scope of things he wanted to do. We just passed the 3 percent withholding. The president even said he would sign that bill. It was part of his plan. They haven't brought it up.

VAN SUSTEREN: Did the Republicans do that to the Democrats when the Republicans had that opportunity to hold things up?

MCCARTHY: You know, I'm sure there's enough blame on everybody's side. I'm only in my third term. I haven't seen it done by us on this side. So you know, I'm not into going it going from past anger. I'm just into current today because people are hurting at home.

VAN SUSTEREN: Are there any Democratic bills sitting here from the Senate, anything from the Senate sitting here that's unfinished business?

MCCARTHY: I haven't seen from the standpoint of something sitting that they want. I mean, the Senate hasn't passed much. We're bringing up a Senate bill today on the floor in suspension. We've got a Democrat bill from the House and bipartisan on suspension this week. We like the ideas that get brought up.

The things that have changed since Republicans have taken over is that people haven't quite looked at is the transparency. We're going to the conference for the first time in, I think, in, like, three years (INAUDIBLE) We had an open process where anybody can offer an amendment, much more open than you've ever had in the past.

VAN SUSTEREN: What's the problem? I mean, it's -- you know, there's such a logjam here. And you know, even the president, he's critical of Congress and Congress is critical of him. What seems to be the problem? Because you all work within about 16 blocks of each other.

MCCARTHY: That's probably the part that upsets me the most because normally, in divided government, we've accomplished big things. I mean, think, when Ronald Reagan was president, he had Tip O'Neill as the speaker and Rostenkowski as the Ways and Means chairman, and they reformed the tax code. When Clinton was president, he had Newt Gingrich as the Speaker and Bob Dole as the leader on the other side, and they balanced the budget. They had a surplus. And they reformed Welfare.

VAN SUSTEREN: So what happened?

MCCARTHY: I have found since the day we came -- I got a picture on the wall here of the president (INAUDIBLE) inviting him to our conference when we were in the minority. I just haven't found the engagement. I mean, when we first got elected to the majority, Speaker Boehner, Leader Cantor and I went down and had lunch with the president. We laid out, Let's not demonize each other. Let's have ideas up. Let's try to move forward.

We produced a budget that talked about entitlement reform, energy policy, tax policy, and the president -- That's all good. Let's do that together. And the next thing we know, he invites Paul Ryan down and criticizes, try to demonize -- I think -- I think the politics of it has gotten caught up into his mind, instead of trying to find the policy answer.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, we see a lot of politics over in the public domain because that's sort of the nature of the beast, where politicians will talk about each other in the public domain. But when you -- when you sit privately with the president, what's the conversation like? Are you able to come to any sort of agreement on things and any sort of common ground?

MCCARTHY: The toughest part, you never get to an agreement with him, which we would like to get to because you've got to be able to move forward. And we find that when you start him into the talks, he never finishes in the process. He'll talk about, yes, let's talk about that. Yes, we need to do something about that, but never comes to conclusion.

VAN SUSTEREN: Why not? I mean, what do you mean? Give an example.

MCCARTHY: I'll give you an example when we talked about our budget entitlement reform. We said to the president, Let's do this. Let's go around the country together, just talking about what the problem is. What's the amount of debt America has? What are the different options? (INAUDIBLE) that's very interesting. We should look at that. And the minute we produce something, he criticized it.

You know, you can produce another idea. When you go into the debt limit, we sat down as a conference and we went and sat in the White House with the president. And I laid out to the president, I said, Look, let's just pick principles. Let's pick principles to start the negotiation, OK, that if we're in a big problem, that we won't spend more than we're willing to cut, we'll look at from that, that we'll create a jobs plan that's actually going to work. We'll look at ways that we can reform entitlements.

He wouldn't even agree to the process where we go in principle. So it gets very tough.


MCCARTHY: I think only one person can answer that question.

VAN SUSTEREN: But what's -- I mean, if he were sitting here (INAUDIBLE) what would he be saying about you?

MCCARTHY: Well, I've listened to a lot, what he said about Congress, and sometimes I don't think it's quite true. But I think there's enough pain and angst to go around that, yes, things don't get produced as much, so come down and find the answer.

VAN SUSTEREN: But how come you can't all, like, just call each other and like, you know, just get in the same room? I mean, it's a little sort of baffling, like, because there is common ground, right?


VAN SUSTEREN: There are some places common ground.

MCCARTHY: There's a lot of common ground.

VAN SUSTEREN: So it seems like at least we should identify the common ground and move quickly forward on that, right?


VAN SUSTEREN: OK. So why doesn't that happen?

MCCARTHY: Well, we found that a number of bills are moving off the House, but it gets stopped in the Senate. I think sometimes politics get put in the way.

VAN SUSTEREN: Can't you call the president and say, Look, your guy, a Democrat, is holding this up. It's a common ground. You agree, we agree. Can't we get him on board and let's get a vote on it?

MCCARTHY: I would like to get a vote any day we can.

VAN SUSTEREN: Why can't you...

MCCARTHY: We don't control the -- we don't control the Senate.

VAN SUSTEREN: No, I know, but can you make a call to get the president do that? Because it's his party.

MCCARTHY: I would love to call the president and have him answer the call.

VAN SUSTEREN: So if you call him, he's not going to answer?

MCCARTHY: He hasn't answered that many, and I haven't called that often. But when I see him, we talk about it.

VAN SUSTEREN: When was the last time you saw him?

MCCARTHY: Last time he came to give a speech, his jobs speech.

VAN SUSTEREN: Which was September?

MCCARTHY: Yes, a month ago? A month ago.

VAN SUSTEREN: Almost two months ago.


VAN SUSTEREN: That's a long time. I mean, the American people are sitting there thinking, like, OK, that's two months ago since you guys have spoken, and you only work 16 blocks apart. You have common ground. You all agree on certain things and that it might really matter to the American people it gets done, and it doesn't. So it's quite perplexing.

MCCARTHY: Yes, but it's not just a phone call. I mean, the first thing -- remember, when he came out with his jobs plan, the speaker and the leader went and analyzed -- one we did from a whole group. What are the things in his plan that are similar to our plan? Wouldn't that be a good starting point? And we said, Let's start and work from there.

VAN SUSTEREN: What happened there?

MCCARTHY: We never quite got an answer. The next thing I heard that...

VAN SUSTEREN: You mean it goes into a black hole?

MCCARTHY: Well, I never received a letter back. And from the standpoint that we started moving items -- we moved the 3 percent. We did work together when it came to the free trade agreements. We passed all three of those, waiting five years. That was part of his plan, part of our plan.

This week, we will move a number of small business bills that are in the scope of what he talked about. We moved a vets jobs plan that's sitting over in the Senate. There's part of the responsibility that we have, and we're doing that work. You've got to carry it on to finish it out, though.

VAN SUSTEREN: I guess I suspect -- I hate to speak on behalf of the American people -- I guess they'd rather see something with some finality, whether, you know, denied or granted, but it seems instead, things just sort of linger. They seem to be just swirling around and around in a circle. That -- you know, things don't get denied or granted. Things don't get passed or shot down.

MCCARTHY: First place I ever learned about politics is early morning, as a young kid, I'm just a bill on Capitol Hill, shoolhouse rock. Remember those? Conjunction junction, what's your function? All right. A bill goes through one house. A bill goes through another house, and then you go to conference. That has not taken place in a long time, and that's -- that's a breakdown of the system.

VAN SUSTEREN: Does it drive you nuts?

MCCARTHY: It's frustrating. It's one of the reasons why we ran even (INAUDIBLE) the majority and the reason why when we wrote the "Pledge to America" that we would not participate in that. So we opened up the process. We made it where everybody can offer amendments. So there is some correction and some change.

The frustration that I see is that you get within the politics of it, that people want to demonize the other person instead of just argue about the idea. If your idea's better than mine, then put it up. If your idea wins the end of the day, then let's move forward.

VAN SUSTEREN: So how did we get to the point where it's not argument over -- a debate over a point but a demonization? What happened?

MCCARTHY: I don't know when that day happened. There's nothing wrong with debating one another, but making it personal to me is not where you want to go. Look, I am tired -- when you sit and talk about a budget -- we all know we have a deficit. I'm tired of the tricks we make with it, the gimmicks that go forward, the false lies they make in it.

Let's just put it straight out there and let -- make people make a decision. That is a process. We have a responsibility as a majority party in the House. We produced a budget in less than five months of being in the majority. Our counterparts have not produced one in 915 days. And you say, Why does that happen? Well, our system is created that one side has to produce something and somebody else. Well, if the other side does not produce it, it breaks the system down.

Now, you can put blame on all houses, but that's not really the case. If one side is producing it, that's the way the system is designed to work. Then you're supposed to come together and go to the other side. If that is breaking down, the focus has to be there. What's the correction needed on the Senate side?

VAN SUSTEREN: Congressman, thank you, sir.

MCCARTHY: Thanks for having me.