WASHINGTON – The following is a partial transcript of the Feb. 11, 2007, edition of "FOX News Sunday With Chris Wallace":
"FOX NEWS SUNDAY" HOST CHRIS WALLACE: With us now to talk about the congressional debate over what to do next in Iraq is the Republican leader in the senate, Mitch McConnell, who joins us from his home state of Kentucky.
Senator, first of all, your reaction to what we were discussing with Doug Feith just now — what do you think of the Pentagon inspector general's report that he acted inappropriately in disseminating information to top administration officials that was not fully supported by the intelligence?
SENATE MINORITY LEADER MITCH MCCONNELL, R-KY.: Well, I think he also indicated there was no wrongdoing there. And frankly, rehashing what happened four years ago, it seems to me, has limited usefulness at this point. We should be talking about where we're going from here in Iraq.
WALLACE: Let me move on, then. Earlier this week, Senate Republicans blocked a vote on a non-binding resolution against the president's troop surge unless — and this is the part of the story that doesn't get told all the time — unless you also got a vote on a resolution promising to keep funding the troops.
Here's how that was reported in the next day's newspapers. Take a look, sir. The New York Times, "In Senate, GOP Blocks a Debate Over Iraq Policy." USA today, "Vote on Iraq is Blocked by the GOP."
Senator McConnell, did you win on the Senate floor but lose the public relations battle?
MCCONNELL: Well, I'm amazed. Some journalists reported it exactly the way you suggest, that a vote to cut off debate was actually a vote to begin debate. I don't think that's ever happened in the history of the Senate.
The New York Times editorial page, ironically, got it right. They said that we shouldn't be limiting the number of proposals when it comes to debating Iraq to just proposals that the majority would like.
What we were insisting on, Chris, was that a vote to indicate whether or not the troops should be supported should also be part of the overall Iraq debate. In the Senate, the majority doesn't get to dictate to a robust minority the terms of the debate.
In fact, the debate went on last week. Fifty-two senators spoke on Iraq on the floor of the Senate. We know we'll go back to the Iraq debate in the near future.
And I would just say, again, at whatever point we go back to the Iraq debate the minority is going to insist on having at least one or two resolutions, as Senator Reed had indicated a week beforehand were entirely appropriate, and one of them will certainly be on supporting the troops.
WALLACE: So I just want to make that clear. You're saying that if Senator Reed decides to try to reintroduce the so-called Warner resolution disapproving of the troop surge, you're going to insist that there also be votes, for instance, on Republican resolutions like the one that would support funding for the troops.
MCCONNELL: Well, of course. As I said, The New York Times editorial page — not exactly a friend of Republicans — said that it's not unreasonable to have a full-fledged Iraq debate.
And you can't talk about the surge in Iraq without talking about the troops. And so we'll get back to this issue. In fact, we talked about it all this past week. And whenever we do, there will be alternate proposals, as there always are in the Senate, for the senators to consider.
WALLACE: Senator, I want to show you something that you said back in 2005 when you and the Republicans were in charge, and you were being sometimes stymied by Democratic efforts from the minority.
Let's put it up on the screen. This is you talking. "I don't think obstructionism sells very well to the American people. It's not a great political tactic, in my judgment."
Fair or not, Senator? Doesn't it hurt your party, and especially the candidates who are up for re-election in 2008, to be portrayed as blocking a vote on a resolution a lot of the American public cares about?
MCCONNELL: Well, the portrayal, of course, was totally inaccurate, as we've just been discussing. We were not trying to limit debate. We were trying to broaden the debate and have a number of different proposals for the Senate to consider.
The majority was trying to dictate the terms of the debate, which frequently happens in the Senate. It's almost never possible to do that to a robust minority — in our case, a robust minority of 49. So we were not trying to obstruct the debate.
There will be times, Chris, when obstructionism would be appropriate, but we don't think that's appropriate in debating what's clearly and unambiguously the most important issue in America today, the Iraq war.
WALLACE: But, Senator, forgive me. I think you're confusing the facts with the political perception of this here.
There are already a number of Republican senators who, after you won and the Democrats gave up and decided not to pursue their resolution and also not to make a deal — who now are saying they want to put the Warner resolution, the troop surge resolution, on every piece of legislation.
Whether it's fair or not, aren't there some members of your caucus who are very nervous about being put in this position?
MCCONNELL: Well, look. I'm in favor of having a vote on the Warner resolution. We were trying to craft an agreement under which that would be voted on and alternatives would be voted on. Nobody's afraid of this debate, certainly not Senate Republicans.
In fact, the vote that we cast Monday was to continue the debate. This is the only time I can recall in the history of the Senate when a vote to cut off debate was treated by some — not everyone; the New York Times editorial page, as I said, got it right — by some as an effort to shut down the debate. We're prepared to have the debate.
WALLACE: Let me just say I think that's a new record, three times today that you have approved of the New York Times editorial page.
MCCONNELL: It's a rare thing. I've almost never had that opportunity before.
WALLACE: Let me, if I may, switch subjects to Iran. U.S. officials, as we reported earlier, have released information that they say indicates that orders to arm our enemies in Iraq with some of the most deadly explosive devices are coming from the highest levels of the Iranian government.
Have you been briefed on this subject? And how strong is the case?
MCCONNELL: I've not been briefed fully on it, but if we're going to protect our forces in Iraq, and if there are Iranians in Iraq, inside Iraq, seeking to do harm to our soldiers, of course we'll take the appropriate action.
WALLACE: Well, you say "the appropriate action". If it's true, what should the U.S. do about it?
MCCONNELL: Well, we're going to protect our forces in Iraq. There's no indication that any of this has to do with going beyond Iraq. But inside Iraq, if there are foreigners in there seeking to harm American soldiers, certainly we're going to respond to that.
WALLACE: Let me ask you about that. Why should it involve only acting within the borders of Iraq? If there are Iranian forces just over the border who are involved in aiding and abetting our enemy that are killing American soldiers, why shouldn't we cross the border and go after them and take them out?
MCCONNELL: Look, I don't think we're going to announce on a Sunday show exactly what the tactics might be. But we're going to try to protect the U.S. forces in Iraq, and that requires — with that force protection, that requires going after those who are trying to harm Americans.
WALLACE: And would we go after them wherever they are?
MCCONNELL: I think we're going to try to protect the U.S. forces in Iraq.
WALLACE: But you're not willing at this point — I mean, forgive me, sir, but I do want to press the question. You don't want to say whether or not we should cross the border?
MCCONNELL: Well, yes, you can press the question. That's a question I'm not prepared to answer. We are going to try to protect our forces in Iraq.
WALLACE: Senator McConnell, we're going to have to leave it there. We want to thank you so much for coming in and sharing some time with us.