Face the Nation Transcripts February 2, 2014: Giuliani, Wisniewski, McDonough, Cantor


GARRETT: Which is?

MCDONOUGH: ... in the talks later this -- later this month.

GARRETT: I guess what I would like to try to figure out then is, is the American position that, once a final deal is reached, or in pursuit of a final deal, Iran cannot have any centrifuge purification processes of its own, that if it has nuclear fuel for civilian nuclear power production capability, it must come from the outside? Or can it have nuclear power it produces its own?

MCDONOUGH: I'm not going to conduct a negotiation here on your set or with you, Major. Here's what the president's position...

GARRETT: Is that the key question?

MCDONOUGH: Here's what the president's position is. The key question is that the president is committed to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. That's what he has made clear to the American people over the course of these last many years. A nuclear weapon in the hands of the Iranians would be a risk to that region, to our friends like Israel but also would set off a nuclear arms race in that region, which would be in nobody's interest. That's why we're focused on precisely that. We'll also continue to press them on things like their support for Hezbollah, their support for international terrorism. But, in the first instance, I'm not going to get into that debate with you or the negotiation with you here.

GARRETT: Last question: the president talked about trade promotion authority in the State of the Union address. The very next day, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said "I'm against fast-track. Everyone would be well-advised just to not push this right now." Everyone -- does that include the president? Is he going to back off?

MCDONOUGH: Well, the president's been very clear about the trade agreement with our Asian counterparts, the TTP, as well as the trade agreement with our European friends. Think about what trade means for the United States economy. Each billion dollars in additional trade means 4,000 to 5,000 additional jobs in this country, jobs that are paid at somewhere between 15 percent and 18 percent more than the average wage. If you just take the agreement with Asia, when we're able to solidify that agreement, that means as much as $130 billion in additional exports a year to those countries. So we think this is really important. Senator Reid has been a great friend of the president's. We'll continue to work on this. His position on trade has been clear from the beginning. So we'll continue to work on it.

GARRETT: Will the president get on the phone and try to persuade the Senate majority leader otherwise?

MCDONOUGH: The president will continue to work on this. He'll use the phone and use other means, as he has over the course of this week, to do things like create additional opportunity for working- class Americans. He'll do it again later this week with creating increased access to wireless education opportunities for U.S. students.

GARRETT: Denis McDonough, White House chief of staff, thank you very much.

MCDONOUGH: Thank you, Major.

GARRETT: And we'll be right back.


GARRETT: And we're joined by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. Mr. Leader, great to see you. Thanks for joining us.

CANTOR: Major, it's a pleasure to be here.

GARRETT: We're going to get to the specifics and the politics of immigration reform, but I want to give you like 30 seconds to tell me what House Republicans have done, what do they intend to do this year, what are the larger optics in this issue.

CANTOR: Well, we just came off only annual retreat this week and we had a very robust discussion about very difficult situation which is our broken immigration system. And I think the take away was, Major, there's a lot of distrust of this administration and implementing the law. And we just heard the president in his State of Union Address say you know what, if he can't work with congress, he's going to do it his own way. And that sort of breeds this kind of distrust. And I think we're going to have to do something about that in order to see a way forward on immigration. GARRETT: All right, we'll get to that. What are the principles, if you can enumerate them, one, two and three that House Republicans will demand for any comprehensive immigration reform bill this year.

CANTOR: Well, first of all I know that you know that we are not going to take up the Senate bill.


CANTOR: And so, one of the first things is we believe it is serious that we -- and with some seriousness that control our borders. And this goes back to the distrust. There's not been a determined sense that we are going to secure the borders and make sure the laws on the books are being implemented now. I would say that is a precursor and has to happen first.

GARRETT: The term of art in Washington is a trigger mechanism written into the legislation that requires that to be established before any other progress is made on these other issues. Is that the marker you're laying down.

CANTOR: Well, what we're trying to say is there's a prerequisite here. Part of the reason why people are beating down the doors to get in this country is because the laws we have is create the opportunity we're about. And so we want to make sure before anything else, that there's border security implementation of the laws.

GARRETT: But you know the word is trigger, is that what House Republicans will require?

CANTOR: Well, no one is satisfied with the use of that term if it is defining what is in the Senate bill. And so we would like to see a clear, certain determined ability to get the situation on the border straight and implement the laws on the interior so that people can have faith across the country that laws are being upheld and that has got to happen first.

GARRETT: The principles enumerate a legal status for the 11-12 million illegal immigrants here in this country now. What do you mean by that? And does that by definition mean no citizenship for them ever.

CANTOR: Major, let me tell you something, I mean, there's a lot of focus on the immigration issue. But you know, in reality, we not only want to help the situation there. A lot of the discussion that we had with our members at the retreat was that we want to help the problems right now of job growth and the lack of a job growth. We know that 75 percent of Americans are living from paycheck to paycheck. We've come up with some real solutions to help America work for those people too. And so I believe we're going to see us in congress not only continue this discussion of immigration, but we want to try and get to the heart of the issues that are affecting most Americans. GARRETT: But Mr. Leader you know as well as I do this is a central dividing line issue, definitionally and optically for many in your constituency, not only members who have votes, but the voters who sent them here. Legal status yes, citizenship never or possibly.

CANTOR: Listen. Where I think we ought to start, again, this is an issue among many that in fact most of the country is focusing on the question of a squeeze of the working middle class, the way the president spoke about the State of the Union, the lack of opportunity that so many people are experiencing now. We want to try and deal with that as well. But so far as immigration is concerned, we've said all along we don't believe in a comprehensive fix. We want to go in a step by step approach to try address the problems. Yes, there's a problem of the board of implementation of the laws. I've always said we ought to be dealing with the things that we can address on which are the kids. Most people say this country has never held kids liable for the misdeeds of their parents. And I think that in many instances, kids have been brought here and some unbeknownst to themselves and brought here illegally but yet they know no other place as home. Certainly we ought to take care of that problem. That should come first because it just makes sense to start where we can find agreement.

GARRETT: But you know as well as I do, to get this all put together, the president said this week that there has to be some meeting of the minds for all not just the DREAMers, the so-called kids that you just referred to. And twice now you've avoided the opportunity to say what the principles that were handed out to your members said here on camera. Are you running away from this even at the start, the idea that there will be a legal status and possibly a path to citizenship. Can you just define that for me.

CANTOR: I'm not really running away from this. I know this is something that a lot of people want to report on and talk, but most of the American people are worried about what's going on in their households. The fact that wages have not gone up in this country in ten years. And yes we're going to continue the discussion on immigration. We have said yes, we came out of there saying there are some principles, these standards that are being released are draft standards. We had a very positive discussion, and as I said before, some things have got to happen which is the president got to demonstrate frankly to the country and the congress can trust him in implementing the laws. Look what he's done with Obamacare. He has selectively enforced that law, and some have raised constitutional questions whether he can even do some things like that. So there's some real question of trust here and the white house continues to really thumb its nose up if you will at the congress. The president in his State of the Union Address did it flat out. He said when congress doesn't work with me, I'll just go do it myself. And again that's part of the problem in this town and why there's been such a difficult time in getting things done.

GARRETT: We're going to take a break right now. We'll have more of our interview with House Majority Leader Eric Cantor coming up.


GARRETT: Some of our stations are leaving us now, for most of you we'll be right back with a lot more Face the Nation, including more of our interview with House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and our political panel.

Please stay with us.


GARRETT: Welcome back to Face the Nation. I'm Major Garrett filling in for Bob Schieffer. I want to continue our conversation with House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. You mentioned the Affordable Care Act. Let's merge that with the debt ceiling. There have been some in the conservative movement who said that there should be an effort to tie to the increase in the debt ceiling a removal of the reinsurance corridors in ObamaCare; that's essentially a fee placed on insurance companies to essentially help them through at the risk pool is inadequately arranged for them, meaning they sort of shield themselves from the economic effects of the health care law. Is that something House Republicans are going to do? Or will you present a clean debt ceiling increase to move this issue off the table?

CANTOR: Well, let's talk about the Affordable Care Act first, and then in juxtaposition with the debt ceiling. First of all, the Affordable Care Act, I think most of the public has now seen what we've been talking about. This law is a disaster. In my opinion ObamaCare is on borrowed time. Policies are being canceled; prices are going up. Access to hospitals and doctors are being limited --

GARRETT: Not for everybody. You would concede that.

CANTOR: -- for many folks, especially those in the individual market. And as we begin to see the further growth in terms of implementation of this law, you will see, I believe, more and more people negatively affected. And there's going to be a real problem, a real need for an alternative. And I'd --

GARRETT: Where is that going to come from and when are you going to draft it?

CANTOR: Well, that's what we talked about today, this weekend -- I mean this week at our retreat. I believe firmly that we will have a vote on an alternative for a health care system that works.


CANTOR: Well, I believe that we'll have it this year. We will have it this year. And you know what the reason is, Major, is ObamaCare, I believe, is on borrowed time.

GARRETT: So no more repeal votes; an alternative vote?

CANTOR: We will -- certainly ObamaCare, I think, again, is on borrowed time; it's not working and we want a health care system that works for all Americans. And in fact, we had a proposal -- and the president continues to say that we didn't have solutions. We put a solution forward in 2009 when ObamaCare was passed. Many of the provisions in that proposal will be in our proposal going forward. You know, we're going to --

GARRETT: You're leading up that effort. And when will we see it?

CANTOR: Well, listen, well, first of all, let me talk about what's in it because we are going to deal with those preexisting conditions. We don't want them to go without coverage. We just deal with it in a way and provide high-risk pools so that we can limit the increase in cost for everybody else and do it in much more cost- effective manner. We say folks ought to have choice of their insurance companies, let them purchase across state lines, help bring down prices. Then we say, you know, we ought to have patient-centered care, not care dictated by Washington, which is why we want to promote health savings accounts. These are the kinds of things that are in our proposals.

GARRETT: Who will lead it up and when will we see it?

CANTOR: Well, you know, there's a lot of discussion and we've got --


CANTOR: -- we've got -- there is a consensus about Republican solutions for a health care system that works for everybody, which includes those without a job, which includes those who are sick. And I believe that our committee chairman, the Ways and Means chairman, Dave Camp; the Energy and Commerce committee chairman, Fred Upton, as well as the Education Workforce chairman, John Klein, are all working on different elements of this that I believe will turn into an alternative for Obama.

GARRETT: Timeline?

CANTOR: Well, look, it is obviously very important for us to get this done because a lot of people are hurting because of ObamaCare.

GARRETT: What about debt ceiling? Will that be clean or will you attach things such as the insurance bailout, as it's called by some in your conservative movement?

CANTOR: Here's what I'm thinking now. I think that the last month has seen Washington actually make some progress in getting along and getting things done. You know that the Paul Ryan-Patty Murray budget deal manifested into the budget vote, the spending bill that was passed a couple weeks ago. I think that it reflects the reality. We've got two very different views of how to go forward fiscally, but yet small steps forward toward reducing spending. I'm hopeful that that, added to --

GARRETT: (INAUDIBLE) added spending in the short term?

CANTOR: Well, over the 10-year budget when it reduced deficit, and what it did, it replaced some of the discretionary cuts, the kinds of across-the-board cuts that don't make sense --

GARRETT: What does that tell us about the debt ceiling?

CANTOR: Well, what I'm saying is that I think that that attitude, we should be able to work together yet again to try and do something to move the needle towards fiscal reform, to move the needle towards reduction in spending while we continue to incur more debt.

GARRETT: Yes, but what -- the question is, will that be a clean debt ceiling or not?

CANTOR: What I believe is we can work something out and I'm hopeful that the president and the Senate will work with us in the House to actually do what has typically been done with debt ceilings, which is making some progress towards addressing the spending problem in Washington, making some progress toward trying to grow the economy around a debt ceiling. That's the way it's been done for the last three decades. And this president has just consistently said he doesn't want to even engage and he's like ignoring the problem. So I'm hopeful that those days are gone and we can actually work together around this debt ceiling --

GARRETT: There will be no default, in other words?

CANTOR: I'm confident there will be no default.

GARRETT: All right.

Before I get on to a Super Bowl question, "The Weekly Standard," about this issue, (INAUDIBLE) with immigration and ObamaCare" Bringing immigration to the floor ensures a circular GOP firing squad instead of a nicely lined-up one shooting together in unison at ObamaCare and other horror of big government liberalism."

Your reaction?

CANTOR: I don't think there's any question that ObamaCare is going to play prominently this year. It will -- obviously I think in order to the Republicans' benefits, at the end of the year at election time. So, yes, we will be discussing people's health care because people are hurting. We're going to discuss a lot of issues, Major. We'll be discussing immigration, we're going to be dealing with the big issues of the squeeze the middle class is feeling, the opportunity gap and I'm hopeful this president can come forward and finally sit down and work with us to effect some results.

GARRETT: Before I let you go, it's Super Bowl Sunday, Russell Wilson and you attended the same high school in Richmond, Virginia, Collegiate High School. What's your pick? And who are you rooting for?

CANTOR: All Seahawks, all the time. No question, I think, outside of Seattle, Richmond, Virginia, has the largest fan base for Seahawks than any one town in the country, not only Russell Wilson, but Michael Robinson is from Richmond. He went to Verana (ph) High School. We're looking for a good game and a big win.

GARRETT: Final score?

CANTOR: Oh, don't even go there with me.


GARRETT: All right. Majority leader Eric Cantor, thank you so very much. And we'll be back in just one minute.




GARRETT: Joining us now for some analysis, "The Wall Street Journal" columnist and editorial board member, Kimberly Strassel, plus "Washington Post" columnist Michael Gerson, who was a speechwriter for President George W. Bush. David Gergen worked for both Presidents Reagan and Clinton and is now at Harvard University. Bob Shrum is a Democratic strategist and a significant one at that.


GARRETT: I want to go around the table.

Kimberly, I'm going to start with you. Give me your 30-40 second take on the latest Christie developments and whether or not this intensifies his political turmoil.

KIMBERLY STRASSEL, "THE WALL STREET JOURNAL": I mean, have we learned anything new? We have not. We've had an accusation that there may be evidence, no evidence actually put out there yet, that he knew. But again, the central question has not been answered. I do think what is significant here though is that you're beginning to get a sense of the political risks here on a bigger scale. For Christie, it's the idea that this could go on for months and months, and that's what it's beginning to look like. Although I think for the other side, too, the Democratic side, the risk that there's beginning to be a sense of a bit of a pile-on and that this might be more politically driven than it is substance driven.

GARRETT: Michael, what does it say to you about what came out of the Christie camp this weekend? And it's sort of pushed back, not just on the facts but on the allegation from Dave Wildstein, who has known the governor for a good long while?

MICHAEL GERSON ,"THE WASHINGTON POST": Well, you have to admit that these are vague, unsubstantiated charges. But there are traditional questions here about whether the governor is a bully, which he completely denies. But he used his press conference to attack his opponent in this case as a high school loser. And now his staff is really seeing memos attacking when he's 16 years old as unstable. You can't undo a bad image, a bad public image by confirming it with your tactics. And I think they have to be very careful the way they conduct themselves in this very difficult fight.