Face the Nation transcripts February 24, 2013: Duncan, Kaine, Ayotte & governors

Sunday on Face the Nation: Countdown to sequester with Sec. Arne Duncan, Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., Gov. Martin O'Malley, D-Md., Gov. Bob McDonnell, R-Va., Gov. John Hickenlooper, D-Colo., and Gov. Jan Brewer, R-Ariz. Plus: what's the connection between gun violence, video games and mental illness?

(CBS News) Below is a transcript of "Face the Nation" on February 24, 2013, hosted by CBS News' Major Garrett, filling in for Bob Schieffer. Guests include Education Sec. Arne Duncan, Sens. Tim Kaine, D-Va., and Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., and Govs. Martin O'Malley, D-Md., Bob McDonnell, R-Va., John Hickenlooper, D-Colo., and Jan Brewer, R-Ariz. Plus, a panel on the connection between video games and gun violence, with Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Penn., National Mental Health Alliance executive director Michael Fitzpatrick, Parents Television Council head Tim Winters, former FBI profiler Mary Ellen O'Toole and Texas A&M International psychology professor Chris Ferguson.

MAJOR GARRETT: Today on FACE THE NATION the countdown to sequester continues.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GARRETT (voice-over): With just days before draconian spending cuts are scheduled to kick in, Washington is preparing for furloughs, cutbacks and delays. Can anything stop them?

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: These cuts are not smart. They are not fair. They will hurt our economy. They will add hundreds of thousands of Americans to the unemployment rolls.

GARRETT (voice-over): We will get the latest from Education Secretary Arne Duncan and we'll hear from two key members of the Senate Budget Committee, New Hampshire Republican Kelly Ayotte and Virginia Democrat Tim Kaine. And then we'll talk to some of the governors whose states will be hardest hit and ask them what they think of proposed new gun control and immigration laws, Republicans Bob McDonnell of Virginia and Jan Brewer of Arizona plus Democrats Martin O'Malley of Maryland and Colorado's John Hickenlooper. And we'll also continue our conversation on gun control after the Newtown shooting. What is the impact of violent video games on kids? And what kind of mental health laws do we need to help keep things like this from ever happening again? It's all ahead on FACE THE NATION.

ANNOUNCER: And now from CBS News in Washington, FACE THE NATION with Bob Schieffer. Substituting for Bob Schieffer, CBS News chief White House correspondent, Major Garrett.

GARRETT: Good morning, again. Bob is off today. On Friday, $85 billion in across-the-board spending cuts are scheduled to begin taking effect, part of $1 trillion in spending cuts over the next 10 years. Nearly half the cuts will be to Defense. The Pentagon says that $800,000 civilian employees could face furloughs. Cuts to airport security funding could cause flight delays of up to 90 minutes. And everyone in the federal government from, FBI agents to meat inspectors to emergency responders could face furloughs. Education funding and Head Start could also be especially hard hit, and we start off this morning with Education Secretary Arne Duncan. Mr. Secretary, thank you for joining us this morning.

DUNCAN: Good morning, Major. Thanks for having me.

GARRETT: I know you're going to get to some of the implications of these across-the-board spending cuts, but Mr. Secretary, I must ask you, in the Recovery Act, the Education Department received $98 billion. And there were discretionary budget increases the president won when Democrats controlled Congress. Isn't there room in your budget, Mr. Secretary, to absorb some of these spending cuts and not have some of the negative effects that have been advertised so far?

DUNCAN: Well, our money all goes out to school districts. And as you know, the vast majority of federal money goes to help vulnerable children, so whether it's children with special needs, whether it's poor children, whether it's adults in college who are doing work study programs, whether it's our babies we talk about in Head Start, we don't have any ability with dumb cuts like this to figure out what the right thing to do is. It just means a lot more children will not get the kinds of services and opportunities they need and as many as 40,000 teachers could lose their jobs.

GARRETT: How soon could that happen, the 40,000? Because I read differing accounts. It could be immediate; it could be until the fall. Is there a sky-is-falling aspect to any of the things you're talking about?

DUNCAN: Well, some of this stuff happens earlier; some of this stuff happens this fall. But what it does, it creates tremendous instability. And there are literally teachers now who are getting pink slips, who are getting notices that they can't come back this fall. We need to invest in education; we need to educate our way to a better economy. Any time we have fewer children in Head Start, fewer poor children, fewer children with special needs getting the services they need, none of that's good for children or families or ultimately for the country.

GARRETT: And there is nothing you can do within your own budget, Mr. Secretary, to prioritize, to shield or buffer these programs that you deem essential from these cuts?

DUNCAN: Sequester gives us no ability. I mean, it's just across-the-boards dumb cuts. And we're willing to make tough calls and make tough decisions --

GARRETT: Such as?

DUNCAN: -- such as we cut out $68 billion in taxpayer money that was going to subsidize bankers with our student loan program. We took that $68 billion, put about $28 billion to reduce the deficit, $40 billion to increase -- $40 billion to increase Pell Grants. We've gone from 6 million Pell recipients to 9 million Pell recipients without going back to taxpayers for a nickel. That's a smart cut. That's us trying to show some creativity. And it's interesting that folks on the other side fought that decision.

GARRETT: You mentioned pink slips a moment ago. Who is sending them out, the states, because they're hearing from you? Or you're --

DUNCAN: No, this is local school districts trying to manage, and obviously I was a superintendent, a CEO in Chicago for seven and a half years. And this is the spring. You're trying to plan your budget for the fall. And with this much instability, this much chaos coming from Washington -- again, fact that this is so easily avoidable is why I'm so angry. If folks would just work together, compromise, find a middle ground, we wouldn't put districts and families and children through this much trauma. It doesn't make any sense whatsoever.

GARRETT: But the White House did concede earlier this week-- and I know this is a debate the White House doesn't like to get into -- but the idea for these across-the-board spending cuts did originate with the White House. Do you think that the administration now regrets that idea in the very first place?

DUNCAN: No, I think the sequester was set up to be so painful for everybody, recognizing the dysfunction of Congress to be so painful it would force people to come to the table. And the fact that people in Congress are so tone-deaf to what is really going on in their districts and what would really happen, that, to me, is just like -- it's unimaginable. We don't have to be in this situation. This is not rocket science. We could solve this tomorrow if folks had the will to compromise, to come to the table and do the right thing for children and to try and keep growing the middle class. That's what I think we all want to do.

GARRETT: You know, there is a countdown phenomenon building up around this story, but do you think there's any possibility -- and there was some discussion of this in the morning papers -- that come March 2nd, if the sequester, the across-the-board spending cuts actually happen, nothing really terrible will occur, and voters will say, "Wait a minute. This seems like it was all exaggerated."

DUNCAN: In education, again, it's not just March 2nd and what happens in March and April and May and June and going back to school this fall. And if we have 70,000 less children in Head Start, if we have tens of thousands of poor children and children with disabilities not getting the services they need, the children of military families get disproportionately impacted, because we fund a lot of impact aid. So families where the parents are serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, all of a sudden, those children get a worse education? That's not right, Major. That's not fair. It doesn't make sense.

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