WASHINGTON – WALLACE: And we're back to discuss the possible auto bailout and how Congress will work with the incoming Obama administration.
Joining us, two men who will have a big say in all that, House majority leader Steny Hoyer, and the Republican leader John Boehner.
And, Congressmen, welcome back to "FOX News Sunday."
BOEHNER: Good to be with you, Chris.
WALLACE: Let's start with the question of the economy. President-elect Obama said yesterday his first order of business once he becomes president is going to be a big economic stimulus package to get the country working again.
Congressman Hoyer, given the current problems, how big?
HOYER: We don't know how big that will be. We've — we offered a 61 billion — which passed the House in late September. The Senate considered that and rejected it.
There was discussion about a $100 billion package this past week. But it needs to be large enough so that we can give some help to those who need it badly.
WALLACE: I mean, there's talk now about 300 billion, 500 billion.
HOYER: Well, we're not going to — I'm not talking about numbers right now, Chris. We're going to have to determine that.
But clearly, we need to have stimulus and help for those — not the big corporations, but those who are struggling with losing their jobs, losing their ability to put food on their tables and losing health care coverage.
WALLACE: Now, President-elect Obama said yesterday he would like a package to sign shortly after he takes office. That would mean that he would have to be working with you over the next couple of months before he's sworn in.
HOYER: Chris, we're working right now. As David Axelrod said, we're working right now to address that. We've been working on it...
WALLACE: With the Obama team?
HOYER: With the Obama team, which is not fully in place, but we're working with the Obama team, and we expect to have during the first couple of weeks of January a package for the president's consideration when he takes office.
WALLACE: Does this give you just tremendous heartburn, Congressman Boehner?
BOEHNER: No, I think American families and small businesses are struggling. I put an economic stimulus plan out some six or eight weeks ago that basically says if we're really serious about creating jobs, what we ought to do is we ought to eliminate the capital gains tax for the next two years on any equities that are purchased.
Why not lower capital gains taxes for — and corporate income taxes for corporations in America to help keep jobs here?
And if we're really serious about creating jobs in America, why wouldn't we do the American Energy Act, our "all of the above" plan that will create a million new jobs over the next five years and keep more of our energy money here in the United States?
WALLACE: So what about ideas that — you heard President-elect Obama talk about infrastructure projects, billions of dollars to get people working, aid to states for their various expenses.
BOEHNER: I don't think we want to empower government here and keep bureaucrats employed. I think what we want to do is to help all Americans.
I think infrastructure may have a place in this package, but we're doing a big highway bill this coming year. Why not reserve that infrastructure money for the highway bill and do it in the right way?
But if we want to create jobs now, and we want to create certainty now, why wouldn't we lower taxes? And if we really want to help the economy, why wouldn't we have the president-elect say, "I am not going to raise taxes on any American in my first two years in office?"
WALLACE: Well, that's a very interesting question. And I have to say, since I asked it, that David Axelrod left it wide open.
Would you agree that maybe you should delay for a couple of years the tax increases?
HOYER: President Obama has said, and we agree, that we're going to lower taxes on 95 percent of Americans who are hurting, who are struggling, who are having a tough time.
Very frankly, John's answer to almost every problem has been lower taxes. That was the program in '01, in '03. And we're — frankly, we've had one of the worst economies, worst job production economies, since Herbert Hoover.
What we think we need to do is invest in our people now. As I said, we need to help those who are unemployed. We passed unemployment insurance. The Senate passed it this time — the extension.
We need to put food on people's table, make sure they have the availability of health care, and invest in infrastructure now. The states need that. Local governments need that. And what it does is it creates jobs now. Where? In America. That's why we think substantial infrastructure...
BOEHNER: If we were to lower taxes...
HOYER: John, let me finish, please.
BOEHNER: You lower taxes...
HOYER: You said this...
BOEHNER: Once the — once it's signed into law...
HOYER: ... in '01 and '03.
BOEHNER: Once it's — and — and, frankly, it helped our economy a great deal.
HOYER: The worst job production we've had since...
BOEHNER: And the fact is — is if you lower — if you lower taxes, you don't have to wait for the money to get to the states, the money to get out in contracts. You send a signal immediately, and so businesses start making decisions.
WALLACE: All right. We have heard this, and it's going to...
HOYER: You get the message.
WALLACE: ... it's going to be a debate that we're going to have, but I want to move on because there's a lot of subjects to discuss here.
WALLACE: The auto bailout — the Democratic congressional leaders, Mr. Hoyer, sent the Big Three executives back to Detroit after their performance this last week, basically sent them back packing and said, "You've got to come up with a much more specific plan as to how you'd use the $25 billion."
What do you need to see — on December 2nd to see from the car companies to convince you they've got a plan to use the money?
HOYER: Essentially, what we need is to, A, show how they're going to be accountable. This is a large sum of money they want and need.
Secondly, to show how they're going to be viable in the long term. Those are the two key questions they're going to have to answer.
And I talked, as a matter of fact, to all three of the auto executives on Friday and specifically gave them that message.
Senator Reid, Speaker Pelosi, sent them a letter, outlined clearly what we need to have as a response, to give the American people the confidence that investing in these companies is going to make a difference not only in the short run but in the long run.
WALLACE: If you don't see something that satisfies you, that they're really serious about restructuring, is it possible you would not even call Congress back into session?
HOYER: Well, we're going to be back here, but my expectation is that we are going to see something, that the auto companies are going to respond in a way that I think will give confidence to the Congress and to the American public that we need to assist these companies, vital to our national security, vital to our economic security, to not only be viable in the short run...
WALLACE: So you think you'll pass a bailout in December.
HOYER: I'm hopeful that we will come up with the information that will justify doing so, yes.
WALLACE: Congressman Boehner, is there anything the Big Three could come back to you with that would convince you to vote for a bailout?
BOEHNER: I think that the Detroit auto industry is important to the United States. It's important for hundreds of thousands of Americans who have their jobs as a result.
But I talked to one of the CEOs about — over a week ago, when it was clear that they need the money and they need it now, but I asked the CEO — I said, "Well, what's the plan?" And I didn't get an answer. I said, "You at least have to come in here with a plan."
And the fact is — is that I'm not sure that they will have a plan by early December, a real plan. And on behalf of the American taxpayers, they're not interested in investing money that — it's going to be really thrown away.
And I think that Detroit has to come back with a plan to — in terms of how they're going to pursue talks with their employees, their creditors, their shareholders, the other stakeholders.
And if at some point there's a role for the federal government to play, to help bring about a restructuring of these companies so they are viable, then we might consider on behalf of American taxpayers whether it's a good investment or not.
But I think it's important that they go out and have these meetings with their stakeholders, they have these negotiations. And at the end of the day, it's not about convincing me. It's about convincing the American taxpayer that they're making an investment in a viable corporation.
WALLACE: Congressman Hoyer, the Democratic Caucus chose its leaders this past week by secret ballot, and yet you want to pass the union card check which would deprive workers of the ability to cast a secret ballot when they're asked whether or not to unionize their workplace.
Why is a secret ballot OK and desirable for Congress, but you want to take it away from workers?
HOYER: Chris, very frankly, what we want is to make sure that workers can get the opportunity to be represented and to bargain collectively for pay and benefits and working conditions. We think that's a basic American right protected by law.
The problem has been that getting an election has been extraordinarily difficult for American workers. Organizing and getting that ability to be represented has been extraordinarily difficult. That's why the card check bill came about.
When you have over 50 percent sign up and say, "We want to be represented," and then they are prohibited from getting an election by all sorts of maneuvers, we don't think that's fair. We don't think that's the intent of the law. And that's why the card check bill has been proposed.
We're going to look at that. We're going to see if there are modifications to it that can be effective. We'll bring compromise. But we think, absolutely, American workers have the right to organize and be recognized.
WALLACE: Congressman Boehner, is that the problem, that once you get a majority of people — excuse me — going for union organization, that then the businesses won't agree to the election?
BOEHNER: If you get more than half of your employees to sign a card, there's almost an automatic election. But even then...
WALLACE: It does sometimes get delayed, though, sir.
BOEHNER: Oh, it may get delayed, but it's pretty hard to stop an election. But even there, only about 30 percent of the elections held do they want a union.
This is nothing more than a payback to the big labor bosses who spent four or $500 million dollars of their members' money helping the Democrats earn their majority in the Congress and buy the White House.
And to take away the secret ballot election from workers is not supported by union workers, by potential union members. This is, I think, an affront to the American people, and we will do everything we can to stop this.
WALLACE: Congressman Hoyer, I mean, it just on the face of it seems — the idea of the secret ballot seems like something that's very American and...
HOYER: I agree with that.
WALLACE: ... and — and — well, and the sense that you would take away the secret ballot would seem to lend itself to intimidation.
HOYER: I think the problem is intimidation has led to prohibiting the elections that John says is automatic. You talk to organizing efforts, they will tell you not only is it not automatic, but it is delayed ad infinitum, until such time as the employees are dissipated in terms of the numbers of people who have supported...
WALLACE: Is this high on your agenda? Is this something you're going to pass early on?
HOYER: Well, we passed it early on — last year, and this is going to be certainly something that we give attention to early on.
WALLACE: Congressman Boehner, finally, House Republicans — and I don't mean to be unkind on a Sunday — have lost more than 50 seats in the last two elections with you as a leader, and now the leader.
Why are you the man to bring them back from the political wilderness?
BOEHNER: Well, if I thought that I was to blame for those losses, I wouldn't have run for this job. And I can tell you my colleagues would not have re-elected me.
We've got a long way to go. The American people have issues. They've got concerns. We need solutions, solutions to the issues that the American people care about that are built on our principles.
And I believe that re-energizing our party, re-energizing the idea machine that we used to be, is a step in the right direction.
I think our fight last year on energy that lasted three or four months was a very good fight and showed us how to win, how we could grab an issue, grab the attention of the American people and succeed.
And so you'll see a lot of effort on our part to be the party of new ideas. I don't think we can be the party of no. There are going to be times when we do have disagreements and we do have to say no and be the loyal opposition.
But at the end of the day, I think that we have to be the party of new ideas, new solutions, and attract more Americans to our party.
WALLACE: Gentlemen, we're going to have — real quick.
HOYER: Just say — the people voted for change. They saw the last eight years of the policies that were being pursued didn't work. They want change, and we're going to bring it.
WALLACE: Gentlemen, we're going to have to leave it there. Congressman Hoyer, Congressman Boehner, thank you both so much for coming in today. Please come back.
HOYER: Thank you, Chris.
WALLACE: Lots to talk about in the coming year.
BOEHNER: Oh, yeah.