DNC Chair Wasserman Schultz: GOP candidates 'wrong on the issues,' have 'no new ideas'

DNC chair discusses the road to the White House on 'The Kelly File'


This is a rush transcript from "The Kelly File," April 14, 2015. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

MEGYN KELLY, HOST: First, the one group that will be critical to the Democrats' effort is the Democratic National Committee, an organization that spent close to $600 million reportedly between the 2012 and 2008 elections, and which will eventually be channeling for Hillary or whoever the Democratic nominee might be.

Joining me now, Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Florida Democrat and current chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee.  Thank you so much for being here madam chairwoman, congresswoman, it's a pleasure to have you on "The Kelly File."  


KELLY: All right. So, let's start with Marco Rubio who seems to be sort of vying, setting it up between himself and Hillary Clinton by saying, she's yesterday, and yesterday is over. How do you combat that?

SCHULTZ: Well, you know what, I find amusing is that the three candidates that have declared their candidacy for president on the Republican side, started out each of their campaigns by attacking Hillary Clinton. Hillary, when she announced her candidacy on Sunday, immediately started talking about being a champion for the middle class, that she wanted to be a voice to help make sure that people can climb the ladders of success in America, and that if you work hard and play by the rules, that everyone will have a chance to succeed. And that's going to be the contrast that we'll see throughout this campaign, no matter who ends up as the nominee on either side of the aisle.

But, you know, the Republicans unfortunately, simply have no new ideas. They each have, whether it's Rand Paul, Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio, have talked about the same failed trickle down economic policies that got us into the worst economic crisis since the great depression, and that we thankfully, thanks to President Obama, have been able to climb back out of 61 straight months in a row, with private sector job growth. So that's a pretty stark contrast that we look forward to talking about.  

KELLY: It's interesting. Because when I listen to these Republicans talk, they seem to be getting ready to say the same thing about Hillary, same failed policies, not new, old -- not in terms of age, but you know, yesterday. And so, it's going to be the same attack against her, you know. Are the Democrats at a disadvantage in not offering a new face?

SCHULTZ: Well, the funny thing is is that the policies that they're talking about are things like -- that they had repeatedly embraced, that have not been successful in getting our economy jump started. In fact, they actually hurt us and helped us spiral downward, cutting taxes for the wealthiest most fortunate Americans so that they can increase taxes on the middle class.

And, you know, each of the candidates for president on the Republican side embrace ending Medicare as we know it, and turning it into a voucher system, support taking health care away. And Ted Cruz as well as Marco Rubio and Rand Paul were all willing to shut the government down, cost our economy $24 billion in the name of denying people health care.  

KELLY: But if it's so bad, then, how do you explain the congressional elections we saw in 2012 and in 2010? I mean, they have been placed back in control of both Houses of Congress by an American electorate that seems ready to let them hold power.  

SCHULTZ: Well, look, when it comes to a national vision, when we talk more often about national vision for the direction of this country in a presidential election. You know, my counterpart Reince Priebus has repeatedly said that in order to win this presidential election, they'll have to be nearly perfect. And they certainly haven't been close to perfect, they've been so out of touch on the issues that matter the most to Americans, creating jobs, getting the economy turned around, focusing on making sure that if you work hard in this country you'll have a shot to succeed. Instead, they've focused exclusively on taking care of people who are already doing really well and making sure they can do even better.

Now, as far as the midterm elections, to answer your question more directly, you know, those races are run on the ground, they are more head to head candidate by candidate battlegrounds, and it's a very different environment than a presidential election.

And look, we have to improve our performance in midterm elections. And we're working on that, like Reince Priebus have said, they're working on improving their performance on presidential elections. The problem for the Republicans Megyn is that they just don't get that they're wrong on the issues that matter the most for Americans.

KELLY: Some have said that Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party would do better if she were challenged in a primary, because she would emerge if she emerged from that process, you know, more battle tested, and she seemed a little rusty during the roll out of her book and so on, she made some mistakes. Do you think she should be challenged?

SCHULTZ: I think she's going to be challenged. I mean, I think we're going to have a primary.  

KELLY: By somebody more than Lincoln Chafee? I mean more like Elizabeth Warren, somebody?

SCHULTZ: Now, come on. You know, we -- the only thing, Lincoln Chafee is a former governor, a former United States senator, I mean, this is someone who certainly is an accomplished individual. We have --

KELLY: Do you think he poses a serious challenge to Hillary Clinton?

SCHULTZ: What I will say is that for example the vice president -- now, now, come on.

KELLY: I'm just saying what everybody is thinking.

SCHULTZ: Well, let's be respectful. And I know you're not trying to be disrespectful, but we have a governor and a former senator, he's thinking about running for president. And I welcomed him to the race. But the Vice President Biden for example is saying that he will decide this summer.

KELLY: Martin O'Malley --

SCHULTZ: Yes, Martin O'Malley, the former governor of Maryland, Jim Webb, a former United States senator from Virginia.  

KELLY: Do you want to see that? Would you like to see that?

SCHULTZ: Well, I think that regardless of what I want or what anyone wants, we're going to have a primary, and we will have a discussion about those ideas.

KELLY: Let me -- I'm running out of time, but I want to get a couple of things.

SCHULTZ: Sure, sure.

KELLY: So, you and Rand Paul have had this dust up about abortion.

SCHULTZ: Baffling.

KELLY: I mean, I understand it's strange that Rand Paul is fighting with you a little bit, but it does bring up a serious issue as between the two parties in particular. And he keeps saying to the reporters who want him to say whether he supports rape and incest exceptions to abortion, and he hasn't been explicit on that to your point, he hasn't.


KELLY: He keeps saying, ask Debbie Wasserman Schultz when life begins. When does she believe life begins. Can you answer that question?

SCHULTZ: The question that he was asked and that he's trying to deflect from by pushing it on me is, does he support exceptions to his opposition to a woman's right to make her own choices.  

KELLY: I know. I gave you that point. I see the point. He has not been explicit on it. But I'm wondering about you, because I have you tonight.

SCHULTZ: So, from my perspective, from my party's perspective, we do not support rolling back the protection that the constitutional right to make your own reproductive choices established in Roe versus Wade has given to women. And Republicans like Rand Paul did.  

KELLY: Because this is such a dicey issue, and the American public, you know, is very divided on this, as you know, it's not like 90 percent of the public supports abortion, they do not.

SCHULTZ: But the majority support a woman's right to choose.

KELLY: But -- right. But 80 percent of the public is against an abortion in the third trimester. And almost 65 percent are against an abortion in the second trimester. So, people are divided on this. And that goes to his point of --

SCHULTZ: But Megyn, look at what we're talking about.  

KELLY: -- the state has the right to set limits. They have the right to set limits.

SCHULTZ: Right. Exactly.

KELLY: And so, he's trying to get to the Democrats' position on, at what point is it appropriate to say, it's no longer just between a woman and her doctor.  

SCHULTZ: What is appropriate from our perspective? I'll speak for myself, but I think I can speak for most in my party. And that is that, a woman's right to make her own decisions about her body should be between her and her doctor. And that in terms of personal liberty, we definitely have a different opinion, Rand Paul and I do. And there is a Supreme Court decision though that answers those questions for us and subsequent Supreme Court decisions that put limitations --  

KELLY: But that Supreme Court decision, Casey says the state has a say, and the state can set limits.

SCHULTZ: That's right. And those states have done so.


KELLY: But what is recognized is that it's not just between a woman and her doctor, that the state has a right to step in on behalf of the fetus and say at some point that fetus does obtain rights. You know, you would admit that you can't have women aborting third trimester babies just on a whim. Right? I mean, so you agreed on certain limits.

SCHULTZ: Certainly not on a whim. But when a doctor --  

KELLY: That's what he's trying to get at. You know, where do the Democrats stand on, you know, should --

SCHULTZ: We've been very clear. There's no ambivalence here, we've been very clear. We believe that that decision is best left not to government but between a woman and her doctor.

So, there isn't -- I can't tell you a specific date and time past which we on all -- in all cases are certain that that choice shouldn't be made. Because that decision is very unique and individual to the woman, and should be in consultation with her conscience and her God and her doctor, that is a decision left to her.  

Now, there are -- there's an overlay of restrictions that the Supreme Court has imposed through Roe versus Wade and subsequent decisions and states have gone and implemented their own laws to put their restrictions in place. That's how the law -- now I don't agree with all of those restrictions, but the law should be followed and that's our view.

KELLY: And we will hear much more about --

SCHULTZ: I want to hear from Rand Paul what his view is.

KELLY: All right. I want to call him up but I'm going to tell him that I asked you, and see what he says.  

SCHULTZ: And stop deflecting and answer the darn question.

KELLY: I got it.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz, thank you so much for being here.  

SCHULTZ: Thanks, Megyn.

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