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Can the American Public Trust Congress?

This is a RUSH transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," December 14, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

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BILL O'REILLY, HOST: "Impact Segment" tonight new Gallup poll says 64 percent of Americans rate the honesty and ethical standards of Congress as low or very low; 64 percent. So are these folks correct? Is Congress corrupt?

Joining us from Washington; Republican Steve King from Iowa and Democrat Keith Ellison from Minnesota. So Congressman Ellison, are you surprised that most Americans think you guys aren't trustworthy?

REP. KEITH ELLISON (D), MINNESOTA CONGRESSMAN: No, Bill, I'm not surprised. As a matter of fact, it's been something that worries me quite a bit. I mean, I think that Americans should feel very proud of their government but the fact is they really don't. And they feel that, you know, that their interests are not being represented by the rich and the powerful, to get everything they want and the average citizen gets ignored. That is the reality.

O'REILLY: Do you think... do you think it's an ideologue... you know the rich and powerful get everything they want. I don't know if it's an ideological thing.

ELLISON: Right.

O'REILLY: Because this 64 percent cuts across both lines. I mean you've got a lot of Republican is saying we don't trust these guys. If we're all getting... the rich getting everything they want. All the Republican say... in your opinion say that would be swell. So it's disenchantment in all quarters. And I... I think it's because you guys don't get much done. You don't get much done.

ELLISON: Well, you know, Bill, there is a lot of Republican voters who feel that they are locked out of the process, too. I mean they have different solutions for the problems that I would propose but they still feel outside the system. I mean I think that's part of what explained the whole Tea Party movement that people kind of felt like that that they, the average American, regardless of party affiliation or ideology weren't given access to the political system.

O'REILLY: That's an excellent point. That's an excellent point.

How do you see it, Mr. King, why -- why do so many Americans not trust Congress.

REP. STEVE KING (R), IOWA: Well, I think it's because a lot of times we -- we Congress uses language that -- that uses and confuses the issue. For example, we have three different ways that we describe our budget and our spending. And if you want to declare baseline spending that says to me that's flat. But instead that's a projected increase in spending. Remember there's budget allocations and there's actual outlays.

And so how could anybody in the street figure out what Congress is doing? It's a nice utility if you want to make an argument on either Keith's side of the aisle or my side of the aisle.

O'REILLY: But -- but let me break it down to terms that even I can understand because as you both know I'm a simple man. When you have a $15 trillion debt and you've got to borrow money to pay the interest on that debt to the Chinese. People say well, whose fault is that? And it's right in your lap, both of you and all the other members of Congress because you guys allocate the funds. That's why they don't trust you. $15 trillion debt speaks for itself and Congress is the one that hoisted it on the nation.

Am I wrong, Congressman Ellison?

ELLISON: Well you know, in a way I do think Bill that there's some improvement we can do on your point of view. And that is see let's just say we want to cut the budget or let's say we want to get rid of loopholes. That's all fine. But I guarantee you that folks in your audience will say let's cut all the loopholes. Oh and let's not cut that loophole.

O'REILLY: Well, wait, wait but that's -- that's not the point. The point is that we have arrived at a juncture in history where we have a debt that's unsustainable that every American is in danger --

ELLISON: Right.

O'REILLY: -- because of this debt and you guys for the past 50 years have imposed it on the American people, Congressman King.

KING: Well Bill and I'll just speak to that and I think you have made an important point here. And that's this that -- one of the reason that the public doesn't distrust Congress as much as I think they should is because Congress has demonstrated that we don't collectively within us have the will to solve this budget problem.

And it doesn't exist in the White House. It doesn't exist in the Senate and it doesn't exist on the House, on either side of the aisle. We're looking at a $28 trillion national debt in 10 years. Now only $26 trillion with the debt ceiling deal. It was going to be $23 trillion under Ryan but that went out the window with the debt ceiling deal.

So now they are wondering there is no balanced budget in sight and they know that we cannot go 10 years without some kind of an economic crisis.

O'REILLY: That's right. And I think that's a very -- you put it very well Congressman King. The American people even those that don't pay attention very much know that this train is heading for the cliff. And that the guys in Washington from the President on down have not been able to get together and say, you know, we have a crisis. And we have to act to solve the crisis. It's still he said, she said, you're idiots. Those are pinheads, no, yes, this, that.

And people are saying you know enough, solve the problem Congressman Ellison. Solve the problem.

ELLISON: But Bill, you make a good point. But here is the real problem. How to solve the problem is a lot easier than just saying solve it because however we solve it, somebody will get what they want --

O'REILLY: They're all going to -- everybody is going to get hurt. Look, you solve the problem by going back to spending levels --

ELLISON: Well, but if we can do it easily --

O'REILLY: You solve the problem by going back to spending levels five years ago. That's number one. All right? You just go back five years because we were all living ok before this recession hit. Not all of us but most Americans were. And so you take those spending levels of 2007.

And you start there and then you start to cut and cut and refine the entitlement programs. Everybody is going to get hurt a little bit. But that's the price of saving the nation.

Let me give Congressman King the last word because --

ELLISON: But Bill don't you see, go right ahead, yes.

KING: Well, I think Bill that we have this polarity that exists in Congress too. And I agree substantially with what you say. This polarity exists this way is that if some of us want to cut this budget -- I want to cut it a lot deeper than my colleagues are willing to do. And the other side of the aisle has invested in the expanding the dependency class. Those two things are not compatible. We are not going to get to a compromise that resolves this.

There has to be a winner-take-all that comes down on the side of balancing the budget. And I think it takes the next leader of the United States to get it done. You are not going to find it in this Congress.

O'REILLY: Well we'll see, I mean, that's what's in play for the next election.

ELLISON: This is why we cannot agree.

O'REILLY: Well, that's right, that's exactly right. And the American people are going to have to solve the dilemma by their vote next time and that's why this election is vital.

ELLISON: That's right.

O'REILLY: Congressmen very good debate thank you.

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