Transcript: Incoming House Chairmen on 'FNS'

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The following is a partial transcript of the Nov. 26, 2006, edition of "FOX News Sunday With Chris Wallace":

"FOX NEWS SUNDAY" HOST CHRIS WALLACE: Well, with Democrats taking over control of Congress, we've assembled three people about to become chairmen of some of the most powerful committees on Capitol Hill.

Charles Rangel from House Ways and Means, which writes all tax laws. John Dingell from Energy and Commerce. And Barney Frank from Financial Services. On this holiday weekend, all three join us from their home states.

Gentlemen, we hear a lot of talk from the left wing of your party that after 12 years out of power, they want to see House Democrats push a strong liberal agenda for the next two years. Congressman Frank, do you view that as part of your job, to resist that pressure and to govern from the center?

FRANK: No, it depends on how you define it. For instance, raising minimum wage has become an issue identified with liberals. I think it's very popular. I think a lot of issues that people are talking about are indeed quite popular. Giving the federal government the mandate to negotiate drug prices as part of the prescription drug program I think has great majority support.

In my own committee, the biggest difference you're going to see is we're going to return to try to help deal with the housing crisis that blights so many parts of our country socially and economically. And again, I think reversing these attacks on housing for the elderly and other forms of affordabe housing I think it will really be quite popular. So I don't see that conflict.

WALLACE: Congressman Dingell, how do you respond, though, to liberals who say, look, we stayed with the party when a lot of other people left. Now when it comes to raising taxes on the wealthy or abortion and gay rights, it's our time?

DINGELL: Well, I think what we really need to do is understand, Democrats like winning elections. We want to win elections, and we're going to do our best to do so. This doesn't mean to get into any extreme positions on any matter. We'll do what makes good sense on Iraq, what makes good sense on tax policy, what makes good sense on the environment and on energy, and we'll come up with a package that the people will like and that will make good sense in the middle.

WALLACE: Congressman Rangel, you caused quite a stir this week when you said that you're going to introduce a bill to reinstate the draft. Here's what you said this week in a newspaper article. Let's take a look. "The great majority of people bearing arms in this country, for this country in Iraq, are from the poorer communities in our inner cities and rural areas."

But a recent and very detailed study by the Heritage Foundation, Congressman, found the following and I'm going to put that up: 13 percent of recruits are from the poorest neighborhoods. That's less than the national average of people living in those neighborhoods. Ninety-seven percent of recruits have high school diplomas. Among all Americans, the graduation rate is under 80 percent. And blacks make up 14.5 percent of recruits for the military; the national average is 12 percent.

Congressman, in fact, contrary to what you've been saying, isn't the volunteer army better educated and more well-to-do than the general population?

RANGEL: Of course not. I want to make it abundantly clear that I have been advocating a draft ever since the president has been talking about war, and none of this comes within the jurisdiction of the Ways and Means Committee.

But I want to make it abundantly clear, if there's anyone who believes that these youngsters want to fight, as the Pentagon and some generals have said, you can just forget about it. No young, bright individual wants to fight just because of a bonus and just because of educational benefits. And most all of them come from communities of very, very high unemployment.

If a young fellow has an option of having a decent career or joining the Army to fight in Iraq, you can bet your life that he would not be in Iraq.

So anyone who supports the war and is against everyone sharing in the sacrifice is being hypocritical about the whole thing. The record is clear, and once we are able to get hearings on this, everyone will see what they already know, and that is that those who have the least opportunities at this age find themselves in the military, as I did when I was 18 years old.

WALLACE: Congressman Frank, you said recently that you would like to repeal the "don't ask, don't tell" policy on gays in the military. Isn't that exactly the kind of inflammatory fight the Democrats want to avoid at this point?

FRANK: Well, it's not something that would happen at first. But no, I don't think it's inflammatory to say that the young men and women ought to be able to join the military. I think, Chris, that you're looking to pick fights where there aren't. As I said, our first efforts are going to be to do those things that I think the mainstream of America wants.

In fact, what's happened is some things have become liberal because the right wingers who control the Republican Party have abandoned them to us. You know, housing for the elderly didn't used to be a left wing cause. Raising the minimum wage, negotiating lower drug prices, which the Veterans Administration does. Recognizing global warming. That's very important to a lot of liberals. This administration has pretended it's not there.

One of the things I do want to address, yes, is discrimination based on sexual orientation. In fact, what we have is a shortfall in the military. And I think when you have people being fired who can read Arabic and understand Arabic because of what they do when they're off-duty, that that's a grave error.

But that's not what we're going to begin with. And people listening to you might get the wrong idea. We're going to begin with making it easier for middle class and working class people to go to college. These are, again, things that we — they have become liberal because the right wing has in its extremism abandoned them, and those are the things we plan to begin first.

WALLACE: Well, Congressman Dingell, let's talk about one of the things that you definitely are going to begin with, and that is the question of who's going to be the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. That's one of the first big decisions that Speaker Pelosi must make. And the question is whether or not she's going to name Alcee Hastings to be chairman of that committee.

Back in 1988, Congressman Dingell, not only you but in fact all three of you voted to impeach Hastings as a judge for official corruption. For someone who has promised the most ethical Congress ever, wouldn't it be a very serious mistake for Nancy Pelosi to name Alcee Hastings as chairman of this very important committee?

DINGELL: First of all, Nancy has not decided she's going to nominate anybody for that job, according to what she has said in public.

Now, having said that, Alcee Hastings was impeached. But there's something else to be known. He was tried later and was acquitted. So — and the people of his district have elected him to serve in the Congress.

I don't know what's going to come on this, and I don't even know what I'm going to do, but I think that this is something that should be permitted to play out. Let's see what happens. And I don't have any real fears about the correct and proper conclusion being reached under the leadership of Nancy Pelosi.

WALLACE: Congressman Rangel, the Congressional Black Caucus says it's 100 percent behind Alcee Hastings. Are you behind Alcee Hastings to be chairman of the House Intel Committee?

RANGEL: I haven't heard that statement. The Congressional Black Caucus has not formally met on this issue, nor have we met on any of the chairmen that are eligible. All of this is in the hands of Nancy Pelosi. She is the speaker, and this has not really been debated in the Democratic caucus.

WALLACE: Congressman Frank, you were quite honest. You said that Pelosi's effort to put Murtha in as her No. 2, John Murtha, over Steny Hoyer, was, as you put it, an error in judgment. Would it be an error in judgment to name Alcee Hastings to the House Intel Committee?

FRANK: No, I don't think so, although, Chris, I've got to say, Chris, you have an odd view of balance. I've just been listening, and every single question you asked, none — you said it's to see what the Democrats are going to be like. We were all prepared to talk about a very positive agenda we have in tax fairness, in environmental concerns, in housing, and, of course, all of your questions have been aimed at trying to find points of controversy, which are not going to be high on our agenda.

Now, having said that, I would say this. Alcee Hastings has served in the Congress for a long time, since the events that were the cause of the impeachment. I think he's entitled to be judged on how those have worked.

People do make mistakes. I see Newt Gingrich listed as a Republican presidential candidate. He was twice reprimanded by the House of Representatives Ethics Committee for misbehavior, so when things have happened far in the past and people have had a different record, I think we can look at it.

But again, I am struck by the tenor of your questions. You advertise this as giving us a chance to talk about what we're going to do, but everything is aimed at trying to put us in a kind of a bad light and look at the most controversial and not very representative things that we plan to do.

WALLACE: Well, let me see if I can do better, Congressman Frank. Let's do a series of questions about various issues that will come up before your committee.

Congressman Rangel, secretary — Treasury Secretary Paulson says he wants negotiations on Social Security without any preconditions. Are you willing to accept that, or do private accounts, the president's private account idea, does that have to be taken off the table first?

RANGEL: Nothing has to be taken off the table. I met several times with Secretary Paulson, and he agrees the first thing we have to do is bring the committee together with some degree of non- partisanship — bipartisanship, rather.

And I don't think that the first thing that we should deal with would be tax reform or Social Security or health care. It has to be something that — probably some what I call low-hanging fruit, some things that the White House would want that we could work together. I intend to take the committee on retreat, because in the last 10 or 12 years, we have not legislated.

So the treasury secretary and I have agreed, the first thing we're going to do is try to work together on things that we know we can accomplish, and the controversial things, rather than have the committee against the president, it's not going to happen.

First, we can't do anything Democratically. We need Republicans working together. And, second, the president has a veto. We don't want really a fight with the president. What we want to do is to prove that we can govern for the next two years. And the second thing, we don't want the president to be a lame duck.

WALLACE: Congressman Dingell, you say you want more oversight of the Bush administration. Do you have any specific investigations in mind?

DINGELL: Well, investigating things and happenings, not people.

All right, let's take a look. Medicare Part D. There are lots and lots and lots of scandals. Investigation of the situations over in Iraq and wastages of public moneys, Halliburton and things of that kind. The Cheney task force on energy, which was carefully cooked to provide only participation by oil companies and energy companies, as opposed to the general public at large, and which information was not made available to the people.

There are questions relative to food and drug safety. Generics and licensing. But also food supplements, where people are being killed.

There also needs to be a careful look at clean air, air pollution and the functioning of EPA.

So we have lots and lots and lots of work to do. And I'm sure my friend Barney Frank and our good friend Chairman Rangel will be looking at questions of concern to them.

WALLACE: Congressman Frank, what's this about a grand bargain with corporate America, where you would agree to cut regulations and pass free trade deals if corporations, if businesses, would agree to raise wages and increase job benefits?

FRANK: We're in a gridlock economic position right now. All the things that you listen to the financial community tell us are important for economic growth are kind of stalled. In some cases, I think the stalling is appropriate, because they weren't the things that were wise. In other cases, I agree with them.

The president tried to do something on immigration and it was stopped by the right wing of his own party, but also a lot of general unhappiness about the economy. We can't get a good bill through to reorganize how we deal with foreign investment, again because of these concerns.

What we've had is this: The economy has shown some growth in the last few years, but according to both Alan Greenspan and Ben Bernanke and virtually everybody else, the growth has been more uneven and more unequally distributed than in any time in recent American memory.

And so what you've got is the average American saying, look, don't tell me that I should implement productivity and I should go into trade deals, because those may have a short-term negative effect on me. You say they'll be good for the economy as a whole, but I'm not the economy as a whole. I'm me.

What we've got is at the same time, they're blocking unionization, they've got a very anti-labor National Labor Relations Board, they won't accept a minimum wage increase, health care has become a great burden for working people. And what I say is let's put it all on the table, let's get together, and let's do some things that will help growth, but in a way that does not promote more inequality. And I'm hoping that the business community will be responsive to that.

WALLACE: Congressmen, I am going to have to leave it there. We want to thank you all for coming in today and talking about the two years ahead. Enjoy the rest of your holiday weekend.

RANGEL: Thank you.

DINGELL: Thank you, Christopher.