Face the Nation transcripts February 17, 2013: McDonough, Barbour, Booker, Wuerl

CBS News

(CBS News) Below is a transcript of "Face the Nation" on February 17, 2013, hosted by CBS News' Bob Schieffer. Guests include White House chief of staff Denis McDonough, Newark Democratic Mayor Cory Booker, former Gov. Haley Barbour, R-Miss., Washington Cardinal Donald Wuerl, and Time Magazine senior science editor Jeffrey Kluger. Plus, a foreign policy panel featuring David Ignatius of the Washington Post, Tom Ricks of Foreign Policy Magazine, and CBS State Department correspondent Margaret Brennan, and a political roundtable featuring the Cook Political Report's Amy Walter, Michael Gerson of the Washington Post, and CBS Political Director John Dickerson.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Today on FACE THE NATION, what a week it was. Lightning struck the Vatican. A meteorite struck the Earth. And, oh, yeah, Congress and the President left town. We'll talk about it with the President's new chief of staff, Denis McDonough. Then we'll hear from two political heavyweights, Newark Mayor Cory Booker, and former Republican Party Chairman Haley Barbour. In the wake of the Pope's resignation, we'll talk about what's ahead for the Catholic Church with Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington. We'll get the latest on that meteorite from Jeffrey Kluger, senior science editor of TIME magazine. We'll get analysis from David Ignatius of the Washington Post, Tom Ricks of Foreign Policy magazine, and State Department correspondent Margaret Brennan. We'll round it out with Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report, Michael Gerson of the Washington Post, and our political director John Dickerson. From out in space to here on Earth, this is FACE THE NATION.

ANNOUNCER: From CBS News in Washington, FACE THE NATION with Bob Schieffer.

BOB SCHIEFFER: And good morning again on a day when there is no shortage of questions. We welcome Denis McDonough, President Obama's new chief of staff, who I presume has brought many answers with him--

DENIS MCDONOUGH (White House Chief of Staff): Let's hope.

BOB SCHIEFFER: --this morning. Nice to have you, Mister McDonough.

DENIS MCDONOUGH: Thanks for having me, Bob. I'm really looking forward to it.

BOB SCHIEFFER: The sequester, these draconian across-the-- across-the-board spending cuts that are supposed to go into effect March the first. It appears to me that this is going to happen. It looks to me as if both the President and-- and the congressional leaders have given up on each other. Can this possibly happen?

DENIS MCDONOUGH: Well, we've not given up on this, Bob, and the reason we've not given up on it is because it's going to have a real impact, on middle-class families. And the kinds of investments--

BOB SCHIEFFER: It's going to have an impact on everybody.

DENIS MCDONOUGH: Across the board. And-- but the focus for the President, the lens through which he's going to see this fight is the same lens he's seen on all-- each of these fights, which is, what is the impact on middle-class families and the kinds of investments that we expect for the economy to grow from the middle out. So our hope is that this does not happen, that we choose-- rather than make this an ideological fight as it appears to be right now among some--


DENIS MCDONOUGH: --on the Republican caucus that we just do it a balanced approach to fix this problem.

BOB SCHIEFFER: I-- I agree with all that but when you have the speaker of the House saying, look, I can't work with the President any more. Every time I work with him I get burned. When he says, you know, he won't take on the liberals in his own party on reforming the social programs, and then you see the President, he's not talking to anybody; he's out making speeches around the country.

DENIS MCDONOUGH: Oh, I think that the president--


DENIS MCDONOUGH: --is but he laid out it in very complete detail, I thought.

BOB SCHIEFFER: But what is he doing? I mean what are the two sides doing to keep this from happening?

DENIS MCDONOUGH: Well, you saw what he did on Tuesday night in the State of the Union where he laid out in very clear detail exactly what he is prepared to do, Bob, as it relates to fixing this problem. Over the course of the last several months we've got agreement on 2.5 trillion dollars in deficit reduction over the next ten years. We're ready to do another trillion and a half to get to the four-trillion-dollar mark that every economist in the country says we need to do-- to do to stabilize the debt problem.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Would you say this morning that the President of the United States will not let this happen?

DENIS MCDONOUGH: The President of the United States is doing everything he can to not let this happen. We need to work with our friends on the Hill. When you look at the Senate Democratic Plan and the President's plan, both very balanced plans that gets some savings in this deficit fight from spending cuts and some savings from increased revenues. What our friends in the House have told us is that they will not even consider anything that includes increased revenues, not even closing loopholes for corporate jets, closing loopholes for oil and gas companies. That seems to me to be a position that we ought to have them reexamine and come to the table and let's have a real discussion about it.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Oh, USA Today is reporting that the White House has been circulating its own immigration plan which provides some path to citizenship for some of the people who are already here. Speaker Boehner said his great fear was that the President would get in the way, that he thought there were already bipartisan efforts under way on the Hill. Has the White House, in fact, circulated its own plan behind the scenes or-- or where is all that?

DENIS MCDONOUGH: The President's great fear is we don't take this opportunity to-- to meet immigration reform comprehensively in four ways. Resolve-- continue with the great progress we've made on border security. Continue to crack down on businesses that game the system and hire illegal workers. Three, have a path to earned citizenship for people that they earn their citizenship if they pay back taxes, pass background check, pass national security background check and learn English. And lastly, so we reform the legal immigration system so that people who play by the rules have reasonable opportunity to get to this country. All of us are descendants of immigrants. We want to make sure the whole system works.