Newly Elected GOP Lawmakers Participate in Freshmen Focus Group

This is a rush transcript from "Hannity," January 4, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

SEAN HANNITY, HOST: The 112th Congress will be officially sworn in tomorrow. And at that time, the Democrats will hand over the reins to the GOP. On the next two years, we'll give Republicans the opportunity they have been waiting for, the chance to tackle major issues on the GOP agenda.

From the repeal of Obamacare to the reduction of government spending -- but will the new members of Congress who rode to power in large part, thanks to the Tea Party Movement, will they stay true to the principles that got them elected?

Now, Frank Luntz is standing by in our nation's capital with the focus group that may just have the answer, he is joined by a group of newly elected GOP members of Congress. Frank, take it away.

FRANK LUNTZ, POLLSTER: Sean, this is what makes it worthwhile to be able to do events like this. I have to admit how proud I am to be able to talk to these new members right now just before they get sworn in. Sean asked the question, he made the comment in the introduction, how do we know that we are going to stay true to your principles? You were elected not just about what you are, but also what you were against. How do they know that they should trust you, Vicky?

CONGRESSWOMAN-ELECT VICKY HARTZLER, R-MO.: Because I'm one of them. And that's why I'm running is because Washington, D.C. is broken and it needs to be fixed. And Nancy Pelosi and crew were taken our country to ruin and they needed to be stopped. And my voice -- the voice of the people of the forth was not being heard. And they deserved better. And so, that's why we ran. And the forth team with me, and as I think people across this country teamed with the good people who stood up to run. And we are going make a difference.

LUNTZ: You only 32-years-old.


LUNTZ: You've barely been alive long enough to be -- Congress.

KINZINGER: You know, Frank. I've been an Air Force pilot for about eight years. And it's a job I love. I've been overseas a number of times. The thing I've learned in all of that is, we have an amazing country that's worth defending. Now, we have a lot of brave men and women defending on the outside, now we need some brave men and women defending on the inside. And I think that's the call to arms right there.

LUNTZ: You like that?


LUNTZ: Now, the American are trying to judge, they're going to look you straight in the eye to try to figure out whether you got what it takes.

CONGRESSWOMAN-ELECT JAMIE HERRERA BEUTLER, R-WASH.: Absolutely. And I expect them to. That's what we run on. I served here as a staff member actually before I went on to get elected.

LUNTZ: And you wanted to come back?

BEUTLER: No, actually I didn't. My husband and I, we actually made a cross country trek. We drove out here. On the way, we were reminiscing, when we made the decision to run, it wasn't because we wanted to live here in Washington, D.C. I'm from the West Coast, I like the West Coast. But we decided our country needed a course direction. We either change direction now or the future generations of Americans, my children's children wouldn't have the same America I had. And it was worth it to us.

LUNTZ: You are from Arizona?


LUNTZ: It's a long way away. Why would you want to come to Washington, D.C., the most unpopular city in America to an institution that right now has about a 13 percent approval rating? Why do you want to be part of this?

QUAYLE: Well, I wan to know who the 13 percent is, because I didn't know who they were in Arizona. But, you know, I think that it comes down to this, if you have an opportunity to actually do something to make a positive change for your country and make that sacrifice, then later down the line when I would have kids and see them and look at them in the eye, and said, look, you know, I took that opportunity, I took that chance to make our country better. And that's why I decided to run.

LUNTZ: You got six grandkids, right?


LUNTZ: They are going to be watching you tonight.

BLACK: I'm angry about what has happened here in Washington. I'm really angry, I want my grandchildren to know the same kind of America, have the same kind of opportunities that I have had. And that's my reason for running and that's my reason for sacrificing the time that I could be with them to be right here in Washington, so I can make a difference.

LUNTZ: You served in the military for what, two decades, more than that?


LUNTZ: You know discipline, you know accountability. The last time I checked, there wasn't either here in Washington.

CRAVAACK: Yes. The majority of my colleagues here have never been politicians. And we are here because we got skin in the game. We have a future that we are fighting for and that's why we're here today.

CONGRESSWOMAN-ELECT ANN MARIE BUERKLE, R-N.Y.: And I think it is safe to say that most of us who are here, we don't want a career in politics. We want to come down here now and change the course the country is on. So, with that in mind, it is easier to stick to your principles.

CONGRESSMAN-ELECT TIM SCOTT, R-S.C.: As a small business owner, I was consistently forced to make a decision between hiring more people or paying higher taxes, we can't do both.

LUNTZ: Go ahead.

CONGRESSMAN-ELECT SCOTT RIGELL, R-VA.: I've been reading financial statements for 30 years.

LUNTZ: He's got the nicest suit of anyone here.


RIGELL: And listen, I got into this because I realized our country is at serious risk. Democrat, independent, Republican, we are all in this.


CONGRESSMAN-ELECT TODD ROKITA, R-IND.: -- Sean's question, in a free Republic, it's not for citizenry to trust, it is for citizenry to number one, be involved and number two, hold us accountable. And we are all up for that mission.

CONGRESSMAN-ELECT MICHAEL GRIMM, R-N.Y.: And Frank, you mention the military, yes, it is not an easy thing to leave your hometown to come to Washington. But it is not easy for these young man and women to go overseas, to Afghanistan, Iraq and places that they don't really want to be. But they go to defend the greatest country in the world. And it's an absolute disgrace that we can't do here onshore what they are doing over there. So, it is incumbent upon us to be held accountable for what we said what we're going to do.

LUNTZ: Sean, I know you got a question. What can I relay to them?

HANNITY: You know, Frank, I'm listening here. And I bet a pretty big percentage of our audience is agreeing with me. I like everything that I heard these new congressmen and women are saying. I know they are going to caucus with the Republicans, but did they consider themselves, maybe we can ask to show their hands, more conservative or more Republican?

LUNTZ: Oh, great question.

It's easy? How many of you consider yourselves Republicans first, raise your hands, not all at once please. How many of you consider yourselves conservatives first? So, for you, it's the policy, and the ideology, not the party.

GRIMM: Well, you know what, Frank? I think it's extremely important to note something, I consider myself, and I've been a public speaker for (INAUDIBLE), I'm an American first. We are Americans. It -- we have become way too polarized. And we have to get past that.

KINZINGER: What the Republican Party stands for, less government, cut spending, get people back to work and that belief in the private sector, if we follow through on that, that's a great platform. If we don't that's the problem.

LUNTZ: What about cooperation? What about cooperation?

CONGRESSMAN-ELECT MIKE POMPEO, R-KAN.: We were all talking to voters. We're going to be back talking to voters, real soon. We'll get the Reagan in two years, and I will tell you that the voters are mostly conservative too, they want freedom and liberty and they want government just to go away. I was a small business president before I came to this and they just want government to go away and leave them alone and thank you very much, they will do just fine.

LUNTZ: Sean, hold on. Sean, another question.

HANNITY: You know, Frank, I agree with the comment, we are all Americans. But there are radically different views that we have about the vision of the country. Some of the members there have mentioned those differences. Where can you get the common ground? Either you believe in lower taxes, limited government or like the president, you want more government intervention, higher taxes, et cetera? I don't know how we reconcile those things.

LUNTZ: Can they achieve common ground?

CONGRESSMAN-ELECT TREY GOWDY, R-S.C.: Bipartisanship and compromise are not inherently virtuous. I prefer the phrase "common ground," if the president or this administration wants to come towards us, then I'm happy with civility to talk to him. But we are not going to sacrifice our core beliefs with respect to Obamacare. If you do not believe that the federal government can mandate you to purchase health insurance, where would you like us to compromise?

LUNTZ: You're nodding your head. For the civility or for the compromise?

GOWDY: No, for the civility in trying to work with the administration if they are willing to come us to. I come from the coal fields of Virginia. And if the idea is to put Apalachicola out of business, then we can't compromise on that. And we have to defend --

SCOTT: The question becomes common ground with whom. What we want is common ground with the American people. We have to find a way to build a consensus around the American people's vision of the future, and not a political vision.

LUNTZ: At the back, one last comment.

CONGRESSMAN-ELECT AUSTIN SCOTT, R-GA.: I'll tell you, you know, one of the things that still hangs in my mind is it is not so much that we won as they lost. And if we don't do right by the American public, then two years from now, we are going to lose.

LUNTZ: OK. That's a great way to end this. I want you to hand me this painting. This was done frankly Sean, by my favorite artist, Steve Penley. And it is Abraham Lincoln. And he ran this country at a time of great division. We are not facing a war right now. People aren't talking to each other. And when we come back, I want to know from them, exactly how they plan to run this dialogue.

You guys like this? Like what it represents? How they plan to communicate and how they plan to deal with these tough issues going forward. Back to you.

HANNITY: All right. Fascinating stuff. We're going to have more with Frank Luntz and our freshmen focus group right after the break.


HANNITY: And on the eve of the 112th Congress, we are joined by Frank Luntz and a group of newly elected GOP members of Congress, and we continue now with our freshmen focus group, Frank.

LUNTZ: Sean, while we were in the break, a couple members talked to me about what's going on in terms of bipartisanship and cooperation. And I want to go because, you don't come from a Republican district. And you are also one of the most -- you're one of the youngest members of this new conference.

BEUTLER: Yes. Absolutely. One of the things I think is important to remember, when Republicans had their chance, not too many years ago, they had the White House, they had House and Senate, Republicans spent big. And they made a lot of poor decisions. So, when we had the chance to repeal or to put in free market solutions for health care, Republicans passed on it.

So, yes, I mean, I'm not one that says, we need to cut loose and do everything that the other side says. But we have to recognize, it is not Republican or Democrat here. We need to be fighting for real solutions.

LUNTZ: You guys agree with this?

BUERKLE: I think, we talked about sticking to our principles, Sean brought that up. And I think, if you look at the size of this class, it is historic. And we can have a lot of clout and as long as we are cohesive and we agree in the times like we do agree in principle, we will be a successful 112th Congress.

ROKITA: Unity and organization is the key. I'm one vote from Indiana but there are 87 of us here coming and we can be very powerful block.

CONGRESSMAN-ELECT PAT MEEHAN, R-PA.: There are common sense things to do as well. I mean, an issue that's important to me is repatriating profits that we are making to come back and invest in America. I mean, this is the kind of a thing, it is not controversy.

LUNTZ: You're calling for an end to corporate welfare?

MEEHAN: It's not corporate welfare, it's taking those dollars and giving ability to come back and invest and creating jobs here rather than creating jobs overseas.

QUAYLE: I think the one thing we ought to look at it, this isn't a Republican issue, it's not a Democrat issue, this is a math issue when we are talking about our debt, and our unfunded liabilities. We're $14 trillion in debt, and we have 50, 70, 80 trillion dollars of unfunded liabilities due to entitlement programs. So, this is not a Republican or Democrat issue, it's just the numbers don't work.

LUNTZ: We have to understand, I flunked calculus.

RIGELL: It's just simple, Frank, you know, at orientation they gave us a laptop computer. And as a businessman, they handed it to me, it's probably a $1,000 computer. And all I could think of was, $600 was paid for, $400 was put on a credit card. And I thought about that every point at orientation. We can't stay on this path that's going to put all of us here at risk.

LUNTZ: Sean, they are talking about accountability, they're talking about spending. What would you like to know from them?

HANNITY: You know, as I'm listening Frank, I love the talk about spending on limited government constitutional first principles, because I too identify myself as a conservative first. The ways of Washington are often corrupting. Even with people with the best of intentions, and as they begin their new careers tomorrow, I wanted to ask them, one of the first tests they're going to have on the issue of raising the debt ceiling. And it is going to be talk and fear that the full faith and trust of the federal government is going to be in jeopardy. They're going to be talk about, are you willing to shut down the government? And I wanted to find out where they stand on that issue?

LUNTZ: OK. Who wants to start?

AUSTIN SCOTT: I'll tell you what I'll say about that. My grandfather used to tell me, measure twice and cut once. And I think the thing we have to do there is make sure that we have all the facts and that we're completely honest with the general public about where we are and what the result is of voting, the reason and what the result is of not voting the reason.

LUNTZ: Have they been honest, up to this point?

AUSTIN SCOTT: I don't think we have the facts, no. I don't trust what I've been told yet.

BEUTLER: I mean, we get sworn in tomorrow. We haven't been serving. We are starting to get the facts now.

CONGRESSMAN-ELECT CORY GARDNER, R-COLO.: We have to stop spending in this country. You don't start a diet by going to the drive-thru window. We have to stop spending.


LUNTZ: Tim, you and I saw each other there.

TIM SCOTT: I'll tell you, what Cory is talking about so important though. That if we start looking at spending cuts first and not talking about increasing the debt ceiling. Let's talk about the spending cuts that are necessary to avoid it. If we can make some systematic changes in a way that we do government in D.C., maybe we'll see an opportunity not to raise a cap. It should not start there.

GOWDY: Tim is correct and that's going to necessitate a debate, on the size and scope of government. Federal government juxtaposed with state government, juxtaposed with individual personal responsibility and that is a debate that I think all of the freshmen welcome.

LUNTZ: Here's the deal, Sean, I'm hoping that we can come back and talk to them after 100 days.

HANNITY: I would love to do that.

LUNTZ: Let's see what the vote is. Go ahead.

HANNITY: Yes, but I don't want to belabor a point, but I've really think this is going to be important. Because of their talk of principle which I'm excited and inspired about. And if I was another host that I would have a tingly feeling running up and down my leg right now. But in all seriousness, when it comes down to this vote, are they willing to say, we'll shutdown the government? Are they willing to say, unless we get spending cuts, there will be no increase in the debt ceiling?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Easy answer, yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Easy answer, yes.

POMPEO: Yes, and I think too. I think the calamity that reaching that credit card cap that debt -- that the administration is going to tell us that the world will end, I'm not convinced.


GRIMM: You still have to be cognizant of the fact that this is a massive problem that has happened over a long period of time. And if we are expecting to come in and in a month or in a few days, make everything better then were setting ourselves up for failure. We have to be honest and open, I think the American people realize the gravity and magnitude of this issue. And it is not going to be as easy as just saying yes and no because I'm not going to make a decision that imprudent and it's going to be responsible.



BUERKLE: It's a good opportunity to embrace the debate here. That what we're doing here. About debt and deficit and spending.

LUNTZ: You can have the last word.

BLACK: The federal government has just grown out of control. And I think that's the overarching question is, how big does the federal government or the central government need to be?

LUNTZ: Let me be clear, you are going to be asked to answer that question. People are going to be watching what happens over the next 100 days. Sean you have made television history here. The first time that we've gathered this many people on live television, newly elected members of Congress to talk about where they stand, where they sit. This is very special. Back to you.

HANNITY: I agree. Frank, it's been a very fascinating night. And thanks to everybody for participating.

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