McConnell: Bill Clinton Was More Willing to Move to Center, Make Progress Than Obama

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," October 6, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Now to the battle over jobs. It is really heating up, just hours ago, President Obama getting combative about Republicans. And GOP lawmakers are not being shy because they are fighting back, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell calling the president's jobs bill a jobs killer. Now, we spoke with Senator McConnell earlier tonight.


VAN SUSTEREN: Senator, nice to see you, sir.


VAN SUSTEREN: OK, earlier this week, you wanted to get a vote on the president's jobs bill. What happened?

MCCONNELL: Well, first of all, let me say it's not a jobs bill, in our view, it's another stimulus bill. One of my favorite old rural Kentucky sayings is there's no education in the second kick of a mule. And so the president's recommending we do once again what we did in 2009, almost -- in that case, almost a trillion-dollar stimulus bill, after which we lost 1.7 million jobs and we have 9.1 percent unemployment.

He wants to take the same approach here, with a spending package including a tax increase which, as modified, would raise taxes on about 311 employers representing about 311,000 employees in this country. Four out of five of the people who make more than a million dollars a year are actually businesses that employ over 300,000 people.

We don't think raising taxes on small business in the middle of a recession is a jobs bill. It may be a good political statement. He may be trying to play class warfare for the campaign. But it's not about creating jobs.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, so the -- so when you asked to have the bill -- as I understand it, you wanted a vote on the bill and...


VAN SUSTEREN: And the majority -- and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid did not.

MCCONNELL: Yes, he...

VAN SUSTEREN: Which is a -- usually sort of an odd twist since it...

MCCONNELL: Well, it is. You know...


VAN SUSTEREN: ... he'd want it.

MCCONNELL: Oh, the president has said on 12 different occasions out on the campaign trail he wanted a vote on his bill without any changes, exactly as he wanted it. Now -- and I offered that opportunity the other day, and the majority leader of the Democratic Party, the same party as the president, denied that opportunity.

And the reason he did, Greta, was because there's bipartisan opposition to it. Now, they've modified it a little bit since the first of the week, but I predict there will still be bipartisan opposition to it when we vote to go to it next week.

VAN SUSTEREN: What did Senator Reid say -- I mean, you would -- you would think, if it's the president's bill and they're the same parties, that -- that he would want it voted on. Obviously, he doesn't have the votes. But what is the -- what is Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid saying to you about the bill off the floor -- or isn't he?

MCCONNELL: Well, I mean, you'd have to ask him what his view is. But I think he felt some obligation to the president to deal with it at some point. But the president was asking for it to be dealt with now. And frankly, I didn't think what the president was asking for was unreasonable. He said, Give me a vote on my proposal, without any changes, now. And I offered that opportunity, and it was denied by the majority leader. I think the reason he didn't want to do it was because a lot of his members don't like it.

VAN SUSTEREN: So where does it stand now?

MCCONNELL: I don't think it'll pass and I don't think it should pass and...

VAN SUSTEREN: When will it be voted on?

MCCONNELL: Well, the modification of it, including the surtax on millionaires, four out of five of whom are small businesses, he will try to proceed to next week. And I anticipate that we will not vote to proceed to it.

VAN SUSTEREN: Do you think that there is Democratic support for that surtax for millionaires, or is Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid having trouble getting the Democrats to support that?

MCCONNELL: Well, we'll find out. They modified the tax portion of it in the hopes of getting more of their Democrats on board. There isn't going to be enough to pass the bill. And it shouldn't pass because it's not about creating jobs. This is about playing class warfare and launching a political campaign, not about creating jobs.

If we wanted to create jobs, we'd do things like passing the trade agreements which we finally have gotten him to submit this week. They've been sitting on his desk since the day he was sworn in. They would be things like rolling back excessive regulation. We'd, in fact, quit borrowing, quit over-regulating and quit threatening to raise taxes if we really wanted to get the private sector economy going. That's what you would do, not these government spending bills and taxes.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, he said earlier today in his press conference that he essentially has an open door to the Republicans and that the Republicans -- and he's expended a lot of political capital within his Democratic Party reaching out to the Republicans, and basically, the Republicans just say no and won't deal with him and won't meet him halfway.

MCCONNELL: Well, we've passed an FAA bill. We've passed a highway bill. We're going to ratify trade agreements. Hopefully, we'll be able to do something important on debt and deficits coming out of the joint committee later this year.

We're not going to pass bad legislation in order to make him feel better. And we're certainly not going to pass legislation called a jobs bill that actually is a job killer simply because he's asking us to.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, you got a shoutout today at the press conference. I'll read to you what the president said about you. He said, "And if Mr. McConnell chooses to vote against it" -- meaning the jobs bill -- "or if members of his caucus choose to vote against it, I promise you we're going to keep on going and we will put forward maybe piece by piece each component of the bill. and each time, they're going to have to explain why it is that they'd be opposed to putting teachers back in the classroom or rebuilding our schools or giving tax cuts to middle-class folks and giving tax cuts to small businesses."

MCCONNELL: Well, as I said, we're happy to explain our opposition to tax increases that kill jobs in the middle of an economy in which we have 9.1 percent unemployment. We're certainly not embarrassed to say that this is not a jobs bill.

Now, we may be able to do some business on some of the things the president would like to do. Let's see what the joint committee came up with. I've already listed things that we've done on a bipartisan basis just over the last few months. But we're not going to, just because he's trying to get us to raise taxes in the middle of a recession, agree that that's a good idea when we know it's going to kill jobs.

VAN SUSTEREN: How is dealing with President Obama the same or different from dealing with President Clinton when he was the Democratic president?

MCCONNELL: Well, I think President Clinton was more interested in moving to the political center and making progress. President Obama, at least so far, has pretty much clung to the political left, as if he needed to motivate his own very liberal supporters, who strikes me are already pretty enthusiastic about him.

I would have, had I been in his shoes, moved to the center, done more business with Republicans and tried to make progress on a bipartisan basis. Instead, he's advocating bills that have no chance of gaining Republican support. And many of them, Greta, don't even have united Democratic support. So he's advocating things that are bipartisan all right, they're bipartisanly opposed up here.

VAN SUSTEREN: Is it his conviction -- do you have a sense it's his political conviction, or is he playing politics? Your view of that?

MCCONNELL: Well, you know, I'm not his psychoanalyst, but I do think that he is taking a hard left position and then complaining because he doesn't have bipartisan support. And when he takes a hard left position, in fact, all it generates is bipartisan opposition. There are both Democrats and Republicans that oppose the way in which he's trying to go about this and understand that this is not a job-creating bill.

VAN SUSTEREN: He asked what the Republicans' bill is. So what's the Republican -- I mean, when he asks, you know, for the Republicans to -- you know, you make the suggestion.

MCCONNELL: Yes. Well, let me -- two things.


MCCONNELL: Number one, quit doing what we're doing. You know, Einstein said the definition of insanity was doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. Quit borrowing. Quit spending. Quit over-regulating. Quit (INAUDIBLE) revenue to raise taxes. And then specifically, in order to incentivize the private sector, Senator McCain and Senator Rand Paul will launch next week what we think are the kinds of things that ought to be done to get the private sector going again.

And they will not include government borrowing and spending. We have tried that. That does not work. The only way we're going to get the economy going is to incentivize the private sector, and the John McCain- Rand Paul bill, which you'll learn more about next week, will be our prescription.

VAN SUSTEREN: How do you convince the American people? Because the American people are pretty desperate right now, and probably a little bit confused. I mean, a lot of people are grossly disappointed in the stimulus bill, although the Democrats will say that it saved jobs, but it's sort of hard to quantify that. It didn't create the jobs they wanted and it's sort of uncertain what the saving element is.

But how do you tell the American people, OK, our ideas -- this will work?

MCCONNELL: Well, look, we know what doesn't work. I think we can rule out spending and borrowing and raising taxes. I don't think anybody truly believes that's going to get the economy going again.

And if you look at the only time in which government gains revenue is when you have a healthy economy, and the only way you get a healthy economy is with a vibrant private sector -- right now, the private sector is sitting on between $2 trillion and 2.5 trillion in uninvested cash because of all of this government overreach. They're frozen up.

We need to send them a message that we're through spending, through borrowing, through over-regulating and through threatening to raise taxes. That is the way you incentivize the private sector to get going again, which means they will grow and create jobs and opportunity, and the government will get more revenue as a result of that.

VAN SUSTEREN: What if you had that conversation with President Obama?

MCCONNELL: We've had...

VAN SUSTEREN: Just the two of you.

MCCONNELL: Look, we've had plenty of conversations. The president is a very, very liberal guy. He believes that -- in sort of a Western European approach for our country, in which you have very large government. My colleague, Rand Paul, likes to call it a government full of busybodies trying to tell everybody what to do.

Their view is that if you're in the private sector and you're making a profit, you must be up to no good. And so the government is here to modify your behavior and tell you how to run your business. That kind of meddling, which is going on all across the American private sector, is what has gotten this economy frozen up and it's the reason we haven't come out of this recession. Look, the president inherited a tough situation, but he has made it worse.