Reps. Pence, Clyburn Survey Political Landscape

The following is a rush transcript of the July 18, 2010, edition of "Fox News Sunday With Chris Wallace." This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

CHRIS WALLACE, ANCHOR: Well, the midterm campaign is now in full swing, and joining us to talk about it are two House leaders -- from Columbia, South Carolina, Democratic Congressman James Clyburn, and here in studio, Republican Congressman Mike Pence of Indiana.

Congressmen, welcome back to "Fox News Sunday."

REP. MIKE PENCE, R-IND.: Thanks, Chris.

REP. JAMES CLYBURN, D-S.C.: Thank you.

WALLACE: Let's start with the big political story in Washington this week. And that, of course, was White House press secretary Robert Gibbs saying that House Democrats could -- repeat, "could" -- lose the House in November, and House Democrats from Nancy Pelosi on down reacting with fury.

Congressman Pence, you're not a Democrat, but let me start with you.  What do you think the White House is up to? And what do you make of this flap inside the Democratic Party?

PENCE: Well, let me say I'm optimistic about this year's, you know, elections -- maybe not as optimistic as Robert Gibbs, but I like our chances.

I mean, the reality is -- and you see this whether it's tea parties or town hall meetings all across this country -- the American people are tired of borrowing, and spending, and bailouts and takeovers, and I believe they're poised to express themselves in the midterm elections.

And House Republicans are determined to give voice to those millions of Americans that want to see our country turn back to limited government, personal responsibility, freedom and the -- and the fundamental principles of the American family.

WALLACE: Congressman Clyburn, you were in a meeting of House Democrats this week where your colleagues were blaming the president for not providing political cover and forcing a lot of tough votes.

Let me put something up on the screen. Here's what Congressman Bill Pascrell of New Jersey said to the Washington Post. He accused the White House of wanting to preemptively pin the blame on lawmakers running poor campaigns should the Democrats lose the majority, and not on Obama's own sagging approval ratings.

Question, Congressman Clyburn, how widespread is the feeling among House Democrats that this White House is all take and no give?

CLYBURN: Well, it's not widespread at all. In fact, Chris, as you know, we had a meeting at the White House three days ago. Gibbs was not even mentioned. There was no discussion of his comments.

We are very poised in carrying out our campaigns this year. We believe that we are going to have a very strong showing at the polls come November.

And I would say to the American people, and especially my friends on the other side of the aisle, you know, I heard the same thing in Pennsylvania 12 about how much they were going to win. In fact, they were all prepared to go out and have this big announcement of winning 100 seats.  What happened? The Democrat won by eight votes -- eight points. Now, that is what I call a strong showing.

That's what's going to happen as we go into these elections. This is a tough climate. But we are tough campaigners, and we are tough people. And we are going to take our contrast and comparisons to the American people.  And I'm very comfortable with the choice I think they are going to make.

WALLACE: All right. Let...


WALLACE: Wait, wait, wait. Wait. Let me try -- let me bring up a specific...

PENCE: Yeah.

WALLACE: ... issue that we -- you can actually talk about, and that's the big issue on voters' minds. That's the economy.

Congressman Pence, you have said that the Obama stimulus has -- your word -- failed. But let's put up some numbers. These are numbers from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. It estimates the stimulus has boosted growth between 1.7 and 4.2 percent, and it's increased the number of people employed by 1.2 to 2.8 million.

Congressman Pence, is that failure?

PENCE: Look, the reality is the Bureau of Labor Statistics -- that is, that part of government that tracks our economy, when people are hired and fired -- says that since the stimulus was passed we've lost 3 million jobs overall, about 2.5 million jobs net.

I mean, the reality is unemployment today -- over 14 million Americans are unemployed. That's exactly what it was a year ago. I mean, this -- the American people know we can't borrow and spend and bail our way back to a growing economy.

WALLACE: But what about this? You've got the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office in...

PENCE: Right.

WALLACE: Wait, just -- in effect saying it would have been worse...

PENCE: Right.

WALLACE: ... and the fact is that it has boosted growth...

PENCE: Right.

WALLACE: ... and it has gotten millions of people employed.

PENCE: Well, our economy is beginning to grow in a tepid way on the margins, I would argue, in spite of the prescriptions of the physicians in Washington, D.C.

The American people know what's necessary to get this economy moving again. It's fiscal discipline in Washington, D.C. and across- the-board tax relief for working families, small businesses and family farms.

All we're getting from the Democratic majority in Congress and from this White House is more bailouts, more spending, more planned stimulus, more deficits and debt, and the American people have had it.

WALLACE: All right.

Congressman Clyburn, let me bring you in, and let me put numbers up on the screen. Two million jobs have been lost since the stimulus was passed.  The White House said unemployment would top out at 8 percent with the stimulus. It's now 9.5 percent. Question: Is that success?

CLYBURN: I think we've had success. You know, if you -- if I might use just a medical analogy that Mike just used, the first thing you've got to do with a sick patient is stabilize. You have to stabilize the patient before you start making the patient well.

We have stabilized our economy. We took over a very sick economy, and we were hemorrhaging 750,000 jobs a month. We have stopped the hemorrhaging. In fact, we had 140,000 job growth last month. And that's what I call progress.

I'll tell you something else that I use. I just saw the headlines here in South Carolina yesterday -- 140 million more dollars last quarter than they expected to get in taxes. That means that people have gone back to work in South Carolina, and they are paying taxes, and we are now collecting those taxes. That is progress.

Now, we are no longer hemorrhaging this -- in this economy. We are -- and we think we can do better, if we could just get the Senate to stop filibustering, give us the unemployment insurance for the American people, so that they can begin to continue to spend...

WALLACE: Let me -- let me...

CLYBURN: ... and stimulate this economy.

WALLACE: Congressman Clyburn, let me jump in, because I want to ask exactly about that issue.

There is, Congressman Pence, a big vote perhaps this week coming up on whether to extend unemployment benefits. Republicans say it must be paid for. Here is the president's response.


OBAMA: They've got no problem spending money on tax breaks for folks at the top who don't need them and didn't even ask for them, but they object to helping folks laid off in this recession who really do need help.


WALLACE: Congressman Pence, why is it that extending unemployment benefits has to be paid for, according to Republicans, but extending the Bush tax cuts for wealthy, which would cost $678 billion -- that doesn't have to be paid for?

PENCE: Well, let me -- look, Republicans, me included, have supported numerous extensions of unemployment benefits, and we're anxious to do so again.

But look. The American -- or the deficit this year is a trillion dollars for the second year in a row, and more. The American people have had it with runaway federal spending, deficits and debt, and they want to begin to see men and women in Washington, D.C. begin to make the hard choices and...

WALLACE: But -- but -- but...

PENCE: ... prioritize spending.

WALLACE: But, Senator...

PENCE: And the other part of it, too, is...

WALLACE: ... you're not answering my question. I can understand the argument...

PENCE: Yeah.

WALLACE: ... pay for the unemployment benefits. Why then not pay for the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy?

PENCE: Well, I think the reality is that as you study -- when President Kennedy cut marginal tax rates, when Ronald Reagan cut marginal tax rates, when President Bush imposed those tax cuts, they actually generated economic growth. They expanded the economy. They expand tax revenues.

WALLACE: But the deficit still grew.

PENCE: And so the way -- well, the deficit grew under the Reagan administration and the Bush administration for different reasons, and it had a lot to do with spending.

The reality is that during the Reagan years, for instance, we doubled the amount of revenue that we were sending to Washington, D.C. after the tax cuts took effect.

The point is we've got to get this economy moving again, and we can't go back to either the tax-and-spend policies of the Democrats or the tax- cut-and-spend policies of the prior administration.

WALLACE: Let me bring in...

PENCE: Fiscal discipline and tax relief -- that's how we get America moving.

WALLACE: Congressman Clyburn?

CLYBURN: Yes. Let me tell you what we cannot go back to. We cannot go back to those policies that lost 8 million jobs in eight years.

We cannot go back to those policies that refuse to give 95 percent of the American people, as we have done, a tax cut.

Giving tax cuts to the upper 2 percent and not paying for them is the kind of prescription that got us in this difficulty in the first place, and the American people do not want to go back to that. The Democrats will not go back to that.

I'm going to say to my friend Mike Pence, I think you are misreading the tea leaves here, and I do mean that as an intended pun.

We are going to take our contrast between us and the Republicans to the American people this fall. We plan to win this election...


CLYBURN: ... and win it big.

WALLACE: OK. Let me -- let me bring in...

CLYBURN: And I think the American people are with us.

WALLACE: Let me bring in another big issue -- Congressman Clyburn, because we're running out of time, let me bring up another big issue.

The Obama administration has filed suit against Arizona for its new immigration law cracking down on illegal immigrants. While Hispanics back the lawsuit opposing the new law by a margin of 4 to 1, all the polls indicate that Americans overall oppose the lawsuit by a margin of about 2 to 1.   Question: Are you prepared -- are Democrats prepared to go to the American people and say, "This is what we stand for? We are going to oppose the Arizona law cracking down on illegals?"

CLYBURN: You know, Chris, we cannot have 50 different immigration laws in this country. We need to have one comprehensive immigration law, and it should be at the federal level.

I applaud President Bush for having gone forward with that. And I'm very sorry that Senator McCain walked off the field and will not help us do a comprehensive program for illegal immigrants.

WALLACE: So in your -- so -- and because we're running out of time, you're prepared to go -- all of your congressmen -- you're the House whip - - in your districts, their districts around the country, and say, "We're against that Arizona law?"

CLYBURN: We are against anything that could lead to racial profiling.  We are against anything that could cut off a path to citizenship for hard- working people in this country.

I'm talking about people that just -- don't just work hard, many of these people have served in the military. They have been injured. They have lost their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan. And we did not require this kind of citizenship before. Let's not punish these people when they have given so much so that you and I can enjoy the freedoms we currently have.

WALLACE: You have a minute left.

CLYBURN: Let's have a comprehensive plan.

WALLACE: Let me -- let me bring in Congressman Pence.

You have the final minute, sir.

PENCE: Yeah. Look, the American people are frustrated with the lack of leadership out of this administration, whether it's the people of Arizona seeing a lack of seriousness about border security or internal enforcement, have made a good faith to try and restore order to their communities, whether it be the people of the Gulf Coast, Governor Bobby Jindal, who's been clamoring now for months for energetic leadership, or whether it's -- or whether it's millions of Americans at the county fair I was at last Friday night that were saying, "When is this administration going to focus on getting spending under control and getting this economy moving with the time- honored principles of growth that previous Republican and Democrat administrations have embraced?"

You know, I really do believe that what we're seeing here is an absence of leadership by this administration. And as the elections approach this fall, the American people are looking for men and women who are committed to those timeless American principles to get this economy moving again -- fiscal discipline in Washington, D.C., fast- acting tax relief for working families, and policies...

WALLACE: All right.

PENCE: ... that are grounded in the Constitution and limited government.

WALLACE: And as I -- as I said at the beginning, the midterm campaigns are now in full swing.

Congressmen, we want to thank you both so much for coming in today.  Gentlemen, please come back.

PENCE: Thank you.

CLYBURN: Well, thank you so much for having me.