Face the Nation Transcripts February 9, 2014: King, Durbin, Ayotte


SCHIEFFER: And joining us now, the number two Democrat in the Senate, Richard Durbin. He's in Springfield, Illinois this morning. And New Hampshire Republican Kelly Ayotte. She is in Nashua this morning.

Senator Durbin, I'm going to pick up on just what Peter King was saying. Do you think that, in somehow, some way, that the president's State of the Union speech backfired, as he suggested? In other words, when the president said we want the -- "If the Republicans want to help, OK, but if they don't, we're just going to go it alone" -- do you think that has caused Republicans to step back and say, "OK, if he wants to go it alone, let him go"?

DURBIN: Well, Bob, today the excuse is the State of the Union address, but when it comes to their opposition to the president, any excuse will do. Look at the immigration issue. The president stepped back and said, "I'm not going to involve myself; I'm not going to chide or push the House Republicans; I want them to come to the agreement to support the bipartisan Senate immigration reform bill." And we were teased over and over again. The Tea Party tease kept coming out of the House, "Maybe we'll do this. Maybe we won't." And then last Friday, as you mentioned, they decided -- Speaker Boehner said "We're not going to go forward on this because we just don't trust President Obama." Let me tell you, any excuse will do. The bottom line is this. We have a strong, bipartisan, fair and balanced bill that came out of the United States Senate. it was sent over to the House of Representatives. If they made a good-faith effort, we can find an agreement on this important issue.

SCHIEFFER: Senator Ayotte, what do you think? Why do you think that John Boehner suddenly stepped back? Was this in response to the president's speech or was it that he just can't get his caucus together over there in the House?

AYOTTE: Well, I have to say, Bob, I think there is a real trust deficit right now that the speaker is facing, and it's related to Obamacare and the disastrous rollout. Because, let's think about it, immigration means doing a lot of complex things well. And in addition to that, the administration keeps issuing executive orders to change the law very frequently. So I think there's a trust deficit that's related. And then when the president came out in his State of the Union talked about more executive orders, that certainly, I think, didn't help the situation. You know, I supported the bill in the Senate. I think we should solve this. I hope the speaker can find a way forward. You know, certainly the bill that came out of the Senate was not perfect, but it was a good solution to a hard problem. I think this is an important issue to solve, not only for the country but for the Republican Party.

SCHIEFFER: Do you think, Senator, that Republicans can win a presidential election if they don't find some way to appeal to Hispanics, who are such a growing part of the voting public right now? Because they just almost -- Mitt Romney got fewer Republican (sic) votes than any -- even any Republican in recent years. Aren't you going to have to do something on that line?

AYOTTE: Well, I hope, Bob, that we will take this issue up because this is an issue of national security and an issue for our economy. And I think, for Republicans, there are many ideas that we have that Hispanic voters, on the economic front, certainly on values, that we share with them. So I think we need to solve it. And here's -- here's the deal. The status quo is totally unacceptable, both on the illegal immigration front and legal immigration with regard to our economy. That said, there is a big trust deficit, right now, which you can understand. I mean, when you do big things poorly like this administration has done with Obamacare, you can understand, with a complex issue like immigration reform, that there's a lot of lack of trust among House Republicans and other Republicans.

SCHIEFFER: Well, what is it that they don't trust on the immigration front? Are they afraid he's going to pull...


... the Border Patrol back or something, or what?

AYOTTE: Well, I mean, what he's done is issued multiple executive orders where the law said this and we're going to do this because it's not working out. So I think that's what it comes from. And the issue relates to securing the border, wanting to avoid a third wave of illegal immigration. Now, that said, I think the administration, if they ignored securing the border, they'd do so at their own political peril. So I hope that the House Republicans will take this up and will solve this problem because, again, status quo is not acceptable for the country.

SCHIEFFER: Senator Durbin, last night the attorney general announced basically another executive action. He said that he plans to extend the rights to gay people involved in federal court suits, in bankruptcies, things of that nature, the same rights to gay couples that married couples now enjoy. I mean, the one thing I can think of, I guess, is if somebody's charged with a crime in a federal court, this means that their partner could not testify against them, as is the case with people who are married, men to women, and so forth. But having said that, it also seems to be something that doesn't impact on very many people. Do you think this was significant, what the attorney general said last night? And what's going to be the reaction up there on Capitol Hill?

DURBIN: Well, I can tell you it's logical; it's consistent; it's compassionate. We have basically said that we -- I mean, the courts have led us in this conclusion that, at the federal level, we are recognizing the legal rights of same-sex couples. And what the attorney general has said is that is how we are going to administer justice in this administration, consistent with that Supreme Court decision. There are those who do not recognize this politically, who oppose it politically. But if you really accept the premise that there should be marriage equality at the federal level, when it comes to recognizing the right to benefits, for example, the attorney general is saying we're going to apply the same rules as we do for other married couples for same-sex couples when it comes to our courts.

SCHIEFFER: Senator Ayotte, would Republicans have any -- will there be a pushback against this? Is there anything that, if they do not like it, that they can do about it?

AYOTTE: Well, the memo comes out on Monday, so I haven't seen all the facts yet. But it appears to be another example of the Obama administration imposing its will on the states. For a state like New Hampshire, it's not going to be an issue because our legislature has decided to recognize same-sex marriage. It could be an issue for other states that are having this debate or have made different policy decisions.

SCHIEFFER: Let me also ask both of you, more confusion, apparently, now, on -- on health care. We now learn that the administration has told people, although they haven't announced it publicly or hadn't at the time, Senator Durbin, that if you don't like your health care plan, in some cases, you can now switch and get another one. I mean, this thing just seems, every day, in every way, seems to me more confused. Is there any hope of getting it straightened out?

DURBIN: Bob, let's look at the bottom line. The bottom line is this. Ten million Americans have health insurance today who would not have had it without the Affordable Care Act -- 10 million. And we can also say this. It is going to reduce the deficit more than we thought it would. We were seeing a decline in the growth of the cost of health care, exactly our goal in passing this original legislation. I'm finding people, as I go across Illinois, who, for the first time in their lives, have an opportunity for affordable health insurance for their families. Now, there are many republicans who are wishing that this fails, hoping they can find any shred of evidence against it. But we had a bad rollout. Let's concede that point. Since then, we are gaining steam. And I think, ultimately, we're going to find you can't go back. You have to extend the health insurance protection to the 25 million, 30 million Americans who will ultimately have it, and we'll be a better nation for it.

SCHIEFFER: Senator Ayotte, I'll let you have the last word here on this subject. What happens now on Obamacare, as they call it?

AYOTTE: Well, I can tell you that Senator Durbin can spin this all he wants, but I hear it from my constituents. They've been writing me concerned about higher health care costs, losing their plans or their doctor, and also just concerns about a disastrous rollout, gross incompetence. And now we have 22,000 people seeking an appeal and no process by the administration for them to do that. So what happens to those people? The law is deeply unpopular. And I think, at this point, the administration is trying to come up with ways to spin it, but people are really seeing the effect of this and they're deeply concerned about it, I can tell you, in my state.

SCHIEFFER: Twenty seconds to you, Senator Ayotte. What should the president do right now about this?

AYOTTE: The -- the president -- right now, he needs to stop changing the law based on executive order. He needs to work with Congress. And, frankly, I think we need to start over, Bob. I mean, this has been a mess. You've got a situation where people, I know, are going to pay more -- in New Hampshire, we only have one insurer who got on the exchange and 10 of our 26 hospitals have been excluded from the exchange.

SCHIEFFER: All right.

AYOTTE: So less choice for people. So he needs to work across the aisle at this point.

SCHIEFFER: All right. Well, we'll stop it there and we'll be back in one minute to talk about the Beatles.