Transcript: House Minority Leader John Boehner on 'FNS'
WASHINGTON – The following is a partial transcript of the Oct. 14, 2007, edition of "FOX News Sunday With Chri Wallace":
"FOX NEWS SUNDAY" GUEST HOST BRIT HUME: Good morning again from Fox News in Washington. With us now, the Republican's top man in the House, minority leader John Boehner.
Congressman, welcome back to "FOX News Sunday."
HOUSE MINORITY LEADER JOHN BOEHNER: Brit, it's good to be with you.
HUME: SCHIP, State Children's Health Insurance Program, if I have that right — it's been around for some years. Republicans have supported it. The president is willing to expand it some. The Democrats think that the funding needs to be much larger, $35 billion. Republicans, or at least — the president says he'd go for $5 billion.
The president has vetoed their $35 billion expansion. Where do the votes stand on the Democrats' effort to override the veto?
BOEHNER: We will have the votes to sustain the president's veto. Listen, Republicans and Democrats came together about 10 years ago to create the Children's Health Insurance Program because if you're poor and you have children, you're on Medicaid.
But the working poor and their children didn't have access to high quality health insurance. And so Republicans and Democrats came together. We created this program. And now we have to reauthorize the program.
Over the 10 years we've had the program, here's what's happened. We have 500,000 eligible children who have not been signed up for the Children's Health Insurance Program, and yet there are 700,000 adults on the program.
As an example, in Minnesota, 87 percent of the people enrolled in the Children's Health Insurance Program are adults; 66 percent in Wisconsin.
And what Republicans are saying is, "Let's work together. Let's reauthorize the program. But let's make sure that poor kids come first."
What we don't want is what usually happens here in Washington. You create a new program, and all of a sudden it becomes something far different than what it started out to be.
HUME: OK. So the Democrats want to expand it to the tune of $35 billion. The Republican figure is $5 billion.
BOEHNER: I don't think the issue is really over money.
HUME: Well, OK. But if it's not over money, then how far are you willing to go to enlarge it in terms of the amount you're going to spend?
BOEHNER: Well, what we believe is that we ought to be insuring poor children first.
BOEHNER: If states want to expand this program, let them expand the program, but let's — this is a children's health insurance program. Let's make sure we do poor kids first.
HUME: So you're saying...
BOEHNER: But the second problem in this bill is that if you look what the Democrats are trying to do, they're trying to create a much larger share of health coverage in America run by the government.
Most people don't want government-run health insurance. Republicans are working on a plan that will provide access to all Americans to high quality health insurance, make sure that we increase the quality of health insurance that we have in America.
And we want to continue to foster a spirit of innovation when it comes to health care in America. This is a plan that we'll see over the next coming months where we put the patients back in charge of their own health care.
HUME: All right. The Democrats believe with a couple of weeks to work on it and to publicize the issue and with the title of the program, Children's Health Insurance, as you pointed out, that this will be, even if the Republicans succeed in sustaining the president's veto, a painful and politically burdensome vote. What do you say to that?
BOEHNER: This bill was designed not to pass. This bill was designed to play political games, exactly what the American people are tired of.
When they designed the bill, they knew it was going to be vetoed, and the president did veto it. The veto message came from the White House back to Congress.
We could have had the veto override vote right then and there, and we could have sat down and began to resolve the differences here. But oh, no, that's not what happened.
They decide we're going to wait for two weeks, we're going to turn up the political pressure and play more political games while this program continues to sit out there.
HUME: You won't dispute, though, that it is a painful vote for Republicans to vote to sustain this veto.
BOEHNER: It probably isn't the fight that we'd want to pick, but it's a fight they decided to pick.
But remember when we had welfare reform back in the mid '90s? We were called heartless, and mean, and awful. And yet since then, some 60 percent of the people who were on welfare are off.
Two million American families now are in the mainstream of American society.
HUME: That bill, though...
BOEHNER: That's a program that worked.
HUME: Yes, but that bill was popular. This bill is...
BOEHNER: No, no. That bill — we were being demonized the same way. How about when we went to expand health care coverage for Medicaid recipients — or Medicare recipients, seniors, when we were providing the prescription drug penalty — or prescription drug program?
And remember all the noise that we got? We were making an empty promise to the American people. They vilified us. But the program has been wildly successful among seniors.
And so when Republicans stand on principle, it's like what I told my kids growing up — I tell my staff, I tell me colleagues — if you do the right thing every day for the right reasons, good things will happen.
HUME: All right. You've suggested that a compromise is within reach. Are there any discussions? Have you reached out to Steny Hoyer, who will be here with us shortly, and said, "Let's reason together? Let's have a conference?"
BOEHNER: The Democrats have spoken to no House Republicans about working out this bill before or since, even though 28 Republicans who actually voted for this bill sent a letter to the leadership, Democrat leadership, last week saying, "Hey, let's sit down and resolve this."
And I think the differences are resolvable, but we're standing on our principle that poor kids ought to come first.
HUME: There's a Democratic-introduced measure to reauthorize this Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act which was a temporary continuation which was passed, I guess, last August.
This reauthorization of the measure is somewhat different. Some very strong claims have been made against it, including by you. Specifically — specifically — why do you find fault with this bill that the Democrats have introduced?
BOEHNER: Well, let's go back to earlier this year when there was a decision made by the FISA court that our...
HUME: That's the court that rules on...
BOEHNER: On foreign intelligence surveillance activities.
HUME: All right.
BOEHNER: And they ruled that certain types of communications were off-limits to this program. And over the summer the Democrats were trying to pass a bill in the House that didn't close this loophole, what we call the terrorist loophole.
HUME: What's that?
BOEHNER: It would prohibit us from listening to known terrorists or suspected terrorists — their phone calls...
BOEHNER: ... overseas if the communication happened to come through the United States.
HUME: In other words, if it was a call into the United States or the phone or e-mail communications was routed through the United States.
BOEHNER: Yes. You could have had two people sitting in Pakistan, but a call could be routed or the e-mail could be routed through the United States.
HUME: Well, I'm given to understand that the bill has within it — this Democratic bill has within it a provision for blanket warrants that will last up to a year on foreign terrorist suspects overseas.
BOEHNER: We have never, never required our intelligence people to get a warrant on foreign-to-foreign communications of any sort.
HUME: But what's so burdensome about it if you can get a warrant that lasts up to a year?
BOEHNER: Well, how big is the blanket? Is it for one individual or is it for all individuals?
We were in a position earlier this year where we were having to pull analysts off of their jobs to write these FISA court warrants. And what we're trying to do here is protect the American people. It's no accident that we've not been attacked since 9/11.
BOEHNER: And this bill and this issue is very important to protecting the American people. And why our friends across the aisle won't sit down and work with us to try to resolve the differences are beyond me.
Now, there are a number of Democrats who want to sit down and work this out with us, and I think Steny may be one of them.
But he and others in the Democrat Party are being yanked by the left, by the ACLU and others. And at the end of the day, the goal has to be what do we need to do to protect the American people.
HUME: The other issue that has risen in connection with this bill has to do with granting an immunity from legal action, from lawsuits, to companies which, in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, cooperated with very aggressive government surveillance activities undertaken in the fear that another attack might have been right then on the way.
Democrats say that they're open to that, but they want to know more about who got listened to at the time and what actually happened before they grant the immunity. That sounds reasonable. Is it?
BOEHNER: I'm not sure that we need to get into all the paperwork and all the background details of what went on after 9/11.
But after 9/11, our country and our intelligence officials went to telecommunication firms and other third parties and asked them to participate in a program to help secure and bring safety to the American people, and they did.
And because they did voluntarily, I believe that they deserve immunity from lawsuits out there from typical trial lawyers trying to find a way to get into the pockets of the American companies.
HUME: Where are the votes on this bill now? If this bill came to a vote in the House in its present form, what do you think would happen?
BOEHNER: It's going to be a close vote. I think there are a lot of — almost all Republicans — and there are a number of Democrats who want to work together and resolve these differences.
HUME: Let's go now to this question of the Foreign Affairs Committee which approved this legislation that would describe the mass killings during the conflict way — what, 90 years ago or longer, between the Turks and the Armenians in World War I as genocide.
Now, the U.S. government says yes, it was a mass killing, even indeed a massacre, but the word genocide is extremely sensitive to the Turks who, in the aftermath of the action by that committee, recalled their ambassador.
Is there any real thought this measure will ever pass the House, in your view?
BOEHNER: Listen, there's no question that the suffering of the Armenian people some 90 years ago was extreme.
But what happened 90 years ago ought to be a subject for historians to sort out, not politicians here in Washington. And I think bringing this bill to the floor may be the most irresponsible thing I've seen this new Congress do this year.
Turkey is a very important ally in our war against the terrorists. They are in a very strategic location in the world. They've been a great ally of ours.
They are very upset about this resolution, and the speaker should not bring this issue to the floor.
HUME: What do you think will happen?
BOEHNER: It should not be brought to the floor, and the speaker ought to make sure it isn't brought to the floor.
HUME: All right.
BOEHNER: And at this point in time, I'm not sure it will pass.
HUME: OK. One last thing. You've been in the minority now long enough, I'm sure, to find it disagreeable. You were in the minority before. What is your plan to restore your party to the majority quickly?
BOEHNER: Two things. I think that Republicans need to get back to the principles of being Republicans. I think when it comes to the issue of fiscal responsibility, to some extent over the last three or four years, we lost our way.
And so when it comes to holding the line on spending, getting rid of wasteful Washington spending, we've got to show the American people that we learned our lesson.
And secondly, I think we've got to be the party of solutions. The American people don't care who's in charge of Congress. I think they're tired of all the partisan bickering and all the noise here, and they want solutions.
And I think that you'll see our party come forward with solutions on health care and how we get high quality health insurance to all Americans.
How do we ensure that we've got good access to health care? What's our answer to global climate change? How do we get to energy independence? I think we as a political party need to provide solutions to those concerns that Americans have, but those solutions...
HUME: A new contract with America?
BOEHNER: No, but solutions built on Republican principles.
BOEHNER: How we promote our new ideas and our solutions — we'll get to decide that over the course of the next year.
HUME: All right. Minority leader John Boehner. Always good to see you, sir. Thanks for sharing part of your day with us.