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Transcript: Sen. J.D. Vance on "Face the Nation," May 19, 2024

U.S. "could learn" from Orbán on some issues, Vance says
Hungary's far-right PM Viktor Orbán has made "some smart decisions," Sen. J.D. Vance says 09:58

The following is a transcript of an interview with Sen. J.D. Vance, Republican of Ohio, that aired on May 19, 2024.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And we're joined now in studio by Ohio Republican Senator J.D. Vance. Good to have you here.

SEN. J.D. VANCE (R-OH): Morning.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Good morning to you. So you were at Mar-a-Lago recently, you were in New York at the Manhattan courtroom, you were in Ohio alongside Donald Trump at a fundraiser. I know you keep getting asked whether or not you're gonna be vice president or not. And you said you haven't spoken to him about it.


MARGARET BRENNAN: But we're also looking at a pretty tight race in the Senate. So I wonder, do you think you're more helpful to him in the Senate or in the White House?

SEN. VANCE: Well, I'll let him make that decision, ultimately. I think he knows how to best run his presidential campaign. And what I've said is I'm happy to be an advocate for the agenda in the United States Senate. I think that's the best way for me to help the people of Ohio. I'm certainly interested in helping him in other ways, if that's what- what matters. Because, look, Margaret, we have to reelect Donald Trump as president. The contrast is so extraordinary between higher inflation at home and war overseas. That's the Biden record. And the Trump record of peace at home and prosperity. That is an incredible thing to run on and importantly, it's an incredible thing to deliver for our country. So I think we need to help Donald Trump get across the finish line. That's why I've spent a fair amount of time with him the past couple of weeks, helping him raise some resources, showing up in support in New York. But it's all about getting him elected president. I actually don't care that much who the vice president is because Trump's ultimately going to govern.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, you call yourself one of the most pro-labor Republicans in Congress. You're out there with automakers who were striking a few months back and you've been very broadly supportive of tariffs. Why are you opposed to President Biden then, putting tariffs on batteries and electric vehicles and other technology from China? It seems inconsistent.

SEN. VANCE: Well, I think there are two things here. First of all, many of the tariffs that Joe Biden has endorsed in the last couple of weeks are tariffs that he ran against in 2020. But now that he sees that Donald Trump is--


SEN. VANCE: --leading him in polls, he's adopting the Donald Trump agenda. That's not actually being a good policy president. That's shifting on politics because you know you're about to lose. This is also important, there's another--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, he's targeted these pretty directly.

SEN. VANCE: --There's a second thing, Margaret, that's really important here is, Biden's entire agenda, such that it exists, has been about protecting green energy jobs at the expense of the industrial heartland. If you are in Wisconsin, Michigan, or Pennsylvania, you are not being empowered or enriched by Joe Biden's green energy agenda. So him applying tariffs on the green agenda stuff, does it help steel makers? Does it help natural gas workers? Does it help the heart of the American economy? The answer is no, which is another reason why Donald Trump would make a much better president.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, you know, it's, what, Chinese electric vehicles are like, less than 2% of the market. But the point here is--

SEN. VANCE: --Well, but it's a lot of the supply--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --All tariffs, though on- on- but to your point. All tariffs- which you're- you seem to be in favor of. They're inflationary. So how is the Trump-Vance idea here going to help make things more affordable for people, if you're putting taxes on goods they're purchasing from overseas?

SEN. VANCE: Well, I- I don't necessarily buy the premise there, Margaret. If you apply tariffs, really what it is is you're saying that we're gonna penalize you for using slave labor in China and importing that stuff in the United States. What you end up doing is you end up making more stuff in America, in Pennsylvania, in Ohio and in Michigan--

MARGARET BRENNAN: That did not happen in the Trump administration, though.

SEN. VANCE: --And I think that- well, it- it actually did happen in the Trump administration, Margaret--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Manufacturing jobs came back?

SEN. VANCE: --You did- you did have significant onshoring, you had significant increases in people investing in factory construction. But it takes time, Margaret. And that's one of the things, one of the reasons why I think that we need a second term of President Trump is this stuff is not gonna happen overnight. The American heartland wasn't destroyed in- in- in four years, it's not gonna be rebuilt in four years. But you really need to double down on this policy of bringing good jobs back to the heartland and more importantly, making stuff in America. We have to be self-reliant as a country.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yeah. We haven't heard a lot of specifics. I mean, there's been ranges of a 10% to 60% tariffs. Do you know what the plan is?

SEN. VANCE: Well, look, I'm not gonna speak for Donald Trump, but I certainly agree that we need to apply some broad based tariffs, especially on goods coming in from China and not just solar panels and EV stuff. We need to protect American industries from all of the competition. Because here- here's the thing, Margaret, the reason China beats us, it's not because they have better workers, it's because they're willing to use slaves--


SEN. VANCE: --to make things there. We want--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --with state funding.

SEN. VANCE: --American- we want American workers to make this stuff at good wages.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I wanna ask you about some of the things you've said about American universities. I know you've been very critical of them. You gave an interview in February. You said "the closest conservatives have ever gotten to successfully dealing with the left wing domination of universities is Viktor Orban's approach in Hungary. I think his way has to be the model for us, not to eliminate universities, but to give the choice between survival or taking a much less biased approach to teaching." He seized control of state universities and put them in foundations that were then run by his allies. Is that what you're advocating be done in the United States?

SEN. VANCE: Well, Margaret, what you're seeing in the United States actually is that universities are controlled by left wing foundations. They're not controlled by the American taxpayer and yet the American taxpayer is sending hundreds of billions of dollars to these universities every single year.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I don't want taxpayers controlling education necessarily. Is that what you're advocating for federal government control?

SEN. VANCE: Margaret, what I'm advocating for is for taxpayers to have a say in how their money is spent. Universities are part of a social contract in this country. They educate our children, they produce important intellectual property, they get a lot of money because of it. But if they're not educating our children well, and they're layering the next generation down in mountains of student debt, then they're not meeting their end of the bargain. I think it's totally reasonable to say there needs to be a political solution to that problem.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, America's universities still attract talent from around the world, as you've went to one of America's very top schools.

SEN. VANCE: Look, there's still good things about American universities, but it's going in the wrong direction, Margaret.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But so- but Viktor Orban in particular, as you know, I mean he- he rewrote the constitution, he neutered the courts, he has tried to control the media. These are not necessarily conservative principles. So why would you want to mimic him?

SEN. VANCE: Well, look, I'm not endorsing every single thing that Viktor Orban has ever done. I don't know everything he's ever done. What I do think is on the university- on the university principle, the idea that taxpayers should have some influence in how their money is spent on these universities, it's a totally reasonable thing. And I do think that he's made some smart decisions there that we could- we could learn from the United States.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, he was just welcomed at Mar-a-Lago and- and, as you know, Leader McConnell just spoke out on the floor of the Senate this past week after Xi Jinping visited Hungary. He's trying to broker trade deals. They're brokering trade deals, not just with Russia, but with Iran. Orban- because of this- McConnell said it should be a red flag for anyone seriously concerned about competition with China. So why take any policy cues from a man and a country and a strategy cozying up to America's adversaries?

SEN. VANCE: Well, look, Margaret, Hungary is a nation of 10 million people. America is a nation of 330 million people and the most important economy in the world. I don't think that we should take every cue. But I actually have to reject the premise here because why is Viktor Orban getting closer to China? In part because American leadership is not making smart decisions. We are pushing other nations into the arms of Chinese- the Chinese, because we don't make enough stuff, because we pursue a ridiculous foreign policy very often. We have to be more self-reliant. I don't like China. I don't like that China has stolen a lot of American jobs. The reason they've done it is because American leadership has made bad decisions. But that's our fault and that's something we can fix as Americans.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You- you've talked a lot about the- the need for the United States to pivot to Asia and let the Europeans focus on Europe. But Xi Jinping is focusing on Europe. Why would you cede influence? Because you've really been opposed to helping Ukraine in its fight. You've said a lot of things that are suggested--

SEN. VANCE: --Well--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --That you just wanna pull back--

SEN. VANCE: --Let me- let me- let me address that point, Margaret. First of all, I think the reason that we have to be smart in Ukraine is we don't have a strategy. What is Joe Biden trying to do? What is another $60 billion accomplishing that $120 billion hasn't? We have to have a smart strategy to spend American taxpayer dollars. But- but on this--

MARGARET BRENNAN: 80% of it funds the US defense industrial base from the supplemental that just passed.

SEN. VANCE: -- Margaret, but on this question- Europe and China and the intertwinement between those two. Look, the reason Europe has become weaker is because they've de-industrialized. And why have they de-industrialized? Because they've pursued a green energy agenda following the lead of the Biden administration and that necessarily empowers China and Russia. We need to acknowledge that it's our decisions that are making these countries stronger. We need to fix that, not whine at countries that have 10 million people--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Or- or people just like cheap stuff, no matter where they live, right? So they look for cheaper providers.

SEN. VANCE: They'd love to have cheap energy in Europe and they don't have it because of the policies of the green energy lobby.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I wanna ask you about abortion because we see it in our polling is so motivating. But President Trump has adopted this position that it should be states that control abortion access. You said back in 2022, that a proposal to limit abortion access after 15 weeks of preg- pregnancy was something you would support and some minimal national standard. What is the minimum national standard that you want the federal government to have on abortion?

SEN. VANCE: Well, look, Margaret, I think that first of all, we have to acknowledge that political reality is, I think, really motivating a lot of these considerations. What Donald Trump has said, which is very consistent with what I said during my own campaign, is that the gross majority of abortion policy is gonna be made at the state level. And I actually think if you compare his view of saying, look, this is a tough issue, we need to let people debate and decide this very tough issue in this new environment where it's been kicked back to democratic--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --But you want--

SEN. VANCE: --Legislators--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --A minimum federal standard--

SEN. VANCE: --But- but Margaret, compare this to the Biden administration approach is, we want Christians to perform abortions and we want American taxpayers to fund late term abortions. I think--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --That's not true--

SEN. VANCE: --The Trump approach that is absolutely--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --Prohibited under that Hyde Amendment. But so you don't have a- a minimum national standard?

SEN. VANCE: Margaret, what I've said consistently is the gross majority of policy here is gonna be set by the states. I am pro-life. I wanna save as many babies as possible. And sure, I think it's totally reasonable to say that late term abortions should not happen with reasonable exceptions. But I think Trump's approach here is trying to settle a very tough issue and actually empower the American people to decide it for themselves.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Senator Vance, thank you for joining us today.

SEN. VANCE: Thanks Margaret.

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