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Transcript: Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick and Josh Gottheimer on "Face the Nation," Oct. 1, 2023

Gottheimer says shutdown deal is "bipartisan governing"
Shutdown deal is "bipartisan governing" that is "good for the country," Rep. Josh Gottheimer says 07:52

The following is a transcript of an interview with Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick, Republican of Pennsylvania, and Josh Gottheimer, Democrat of New Jersey, that aired on "Face the Nation" on Oct. 1, 2023.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We're joined now by the co-chairs of the Problem Solvers Caucus. Pennsylvania Republican Brian Fitzpatrick and New Jersey Democrat Josh Gottheimer. Good to have you both with us and we have a lot of problems that you do need to solve. I want to start on what we just learned in the course of this program, which was Speaker McCarthy coming out and seeming to link some movement on the border to his willingness to move a Ukraine funding bill. Then you heard Lindsey Graham say how that would go down or he wants it to go down in the Senate. He called it a three legged stool. Would you get on board with what Graham proposed?

REPRESENTATIVE BRIAN FITZPATRICK: I would. I think we have a lot of challenges. I think we need to address all of them. It's actually consistent with the Problem Solver framework that we introduced last week. It addressed keeping our government open. It addressed Ukraine. It addressed our border and expiring authorities. We dealt with several of them in the continuing resolution that passed, thankfully yesterday. But there are remaining items that are unaddressed, the border and Ukraine being two of them.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But the border proposal that has passed, H.R. 2, that Speaker McCarthy talked about would not go anywhere in the Democratic Senate.

REPRESENTATIVE JOSH GOTTHEIMER: That's not going anywhere. I mean- but I think to Brian's point we have to address both and I think it's a false choice to say we're gonna do one or the other. But clearly, we know that we've- we can make it the next 45 days to support Ukraine to make sure we stand up to Putin and to China and Iran, which is critical to our national security and to our allies. But also, we need to make sure that we deal with and deal with the challenges at the border and border security and live up to our values there. Right?

MARGARET BRENNAN: What Graham laid out, though, was not just funding for Ukraine, it was- I mean almost a year's worth of funding for Ukraine. Can you get that done in 45 days? 

REP. GOTTHEIMER: Well, I think we can't keep- we know that we can get through the next 45 days but it's a matter of days and weeks and not months and years in terms of what we have available to make sure that we- that Ukraine has what they need to stand up to Putin in his dictatorial march. So I think we have to make sure that we get some legislation to the floor quickly. I know the Speaker is open to that. He signaled that he's open to that. I think that's key and- but we also have other challenges and we can do more than one thing at once.

REP. FITZPATRICK: And I do think the Ukraine funding should be for a longer period of time. It should be for a year. It sends the right message to Ukraine. It sends the right message to Russia. And it's- it's perhaps, I think, the best solution inside our chamber to get that done. And the border security language, just so you know, in our framework was a bipartisan bill. It was Kyrsten Sinema's and Thom Tillis' bill in the Senate. Myself, Jared Golden in the House. It's a two party solution of the border. It's- it represents the intersection of where the two parties agree.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And you think you can get the speaker on board to consider that?

REP. FITZPATRICK: I'm going to work hard. Yep.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You also heard today the call, a motion to vacate, to oust Speaker McCarthy from leadership. He says he can survive. Can he?

REP. FITZPATRICK: Yes. To me this- what was going to be put on the floor was a choice. Are we going to reward bipartisan bills being put on the floor or we're going to punish them? That is a choice. Substitute out Kevin McCarthy's name for Hakeem Jeffries' or anyone else. If the situation were reversed and the Squad tried to do the same to Hakeem Jeffries, should he be Speaker at some point I can tell you what I would do on the first and 100th vote. I would vote to table it. Because I don't think that sends the right message. I think- I think what we need to do is encourage bipartisanship and encourage two party solutions to be brought to the floor. That's what we need. And to do the opposite would really be rewarding this Hatfield versus McCoy brand- brand of politics that's destroying our nation.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Gaetz says he's gonna keep coming, and he can right? He needs- only one vote needed for motion to vacate.

REP. FITZPATRICK: And that may require a change in the rules package. I mean, that this cannot be the trajectory for the remainder of the Congress.

MARGARET BRENNAN: To stop one person from--

REP. FITZPATRICK: -- Correct. That was so- keep in mind --

MARGARET BRENNAN: That was how Speaker McCarthy got to leadership. That was one of the promises he made--

REP. FITZPATRICK: That was- that was well- that was one of the changes that was made, but we were given assurances that- that was never going to be used. It was a matter of principle that it would be remained at one. So you can't have it both ways. And I can- 90% plus of the American public does not want us to be voting on a motion to vacate every day for the rest of the term.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Is he gonna get Democrats--

REP. GOTTHEIMER: It sounded like Brian was open to Hakeem there, I don't know.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But are Democrats going to join Gaetz? You know, he needs to get 218 votes.

REP. GOTTHEIMER: The way I look at this you've got a civil war raging in the Republican caucus. And as it has been since the beginning, right? With extremists trying to take out common sense, and they keep doing it time and again. And so I'll leave that to Brian, you know, that's their caucus and I'm from Jersey, we don't mess with other people's families. And so I'll leave it to them. But- but I'll tell you what we're very open to from a policy front. We continue to do this as you saw yesterday, as we saw with the debt ceiling, when- if there's bipartisan ideas brought to the table, we're always going to be at that table negotiating in good faith. That's what the Problem Solvers caucus does. It's how we got yesterday done. Right? If you remember, that's how yesterday happened. You had every Democrat plus one help cover for the 91 Republicans they lost. We all came together for the good of the country to stop the government shutdown and make sure we help people and help families. That's the kind of stuff we shouldn't be sitting at a table and negotiating in good faith. And we'll continue to do that.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Republicans have shown they can't govern on their own. Fair?

REP. GOTTHEIMER: I've seen the only way these things are getting done with the Democrats. Right? And so- and bipartisan governing, and that's good for the country. People want us to put the country over party.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So can you say we won't be back in the same place November 17 talking about a possible government shutdown?

REP. FITZPATRICK: Well, we're two out of 435, so we're not in a position to make that prediction. What we can say, like we said last Sunday, on a show that Josh and I appeared together. We will do whatever it takes to keep the government open. We made that pledge. We were prepared to take drastic action yesterday had that not passed the floor. We will do–

MARGARET BRENNAN: What do you mean?

REP. FITZPATRICK: Well, there are a number of mechanisms where we could force a floor vote on our two-party solution. There are options for us to do it. We are prepared to do it. Thankfully- that's one of many. Thankfully, we didn't have to go there, but we will do what it takes to make- make sure the lights are on in the United States government, for sure.

REP. GOTTHEIMER: We're going to work around- I think the point is we're gonna work around the clock these next 45 days, but this cycle of insanity has to stop and that's what Brian and I believe. Right? We need long term solutions. We can't keep doing this and wasting our time. We have real challenges in the country.

REP. FITZPATRICK: And this includes the debt ceiling, as well. This- we cannot be constantly on the- on the- on the eleventh hour of brinksmanship–

REP. GOTTHEIMER: That's why we were behind that deal. You know?

MARGARET BRENNAN: It's not even the debt ceiling. The FAA wasn't gonna be authorized. You haven't passed into law a defense bill. These are the most basic things–

REP. GOTTHEIMER: But the extremists- you saw how we got here. These ultra right-wing extremists keep fighting against reasonableness and common sense. They refuse to vote for the debt- for the defense bill, right? Multiple times. They kept trying to take it down. And that's the point. That's why you need bipartisan solutions right now in this Congress. That's the only way we're gonna be able to govern.

REP. FITZPATRICK: The extremists are the problem in this country. It's the bipartisan moderates that are the solution. That's what we believe in.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And you have a proposal to get all of this done–

REP. FITZPATRICK: One hundred percent.

MARGARET BRENNAN: –in 45 days?

REP. FITZPATRICK: We introduced- we introduced our bill last Friday. It's the only bipartisan bill. It's equal, co-sponsors Democrat, Republican, represents where the intersection of the United States of America is, and that's what our country wants. They want us to approach government the same way we approach our personal relationships.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But then you heard, I mean, as we were talking about with- with Senator Graham, I mean, I asked him about Donald Trump, he- he still won't come out and support Ukraine aid. You have other presidential candidates wavering on–

REP. GOTTHEIMER: He called for the government to shut down. President Trump.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes. So, if people are governing by popularity polls, and not by the mandate that you say you feel you have, how do you solve that? I mean, these 21 Republicans are not leaving Congress.


REP. FITZPATRICK: I can tell you, the overwhelming-  I can tell you, the overwhelming majority of Americans support the approach that Josh and I take. You approach government the same way you approach your personal relationships, you don't allow the perfect to be the enemy of the good. You take 80% of something rather than 100% of nothing. You come to the center, you build consensus, you move forward. That's how all of us operate our lives. It's this loud, noisy fringe, the Hatfield versus McCoy saber rattlers, that get all the attention, but that's not where most of the American people are. That's why Josh get attacked from the left and the right every day.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you think Speaker McCarthy learned the lesson that you took away?

REP. FITZPATRICK: One hundred percent, I think yes, I mean, yesterday was Exhibit A and I hope- I hope that's the breaking point.

REP. GOTTHEIMER: When you have a five-seat majority, that's all they have. The only way we're gonna get stuff done for the country is by us working together. That's the only way, as we're seeing.

MARGARET BRENNAN: All right, gentlemen, thank you. We'll be back in a moment.

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