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Transcript: House Speaker Kevin McCarthy on "Face the Nation," Oct. 1, 2023

McCarthy says his "I'll survive" as speaker
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy says "I'll survive" after Rep. Matt Gaetz threatens ouster 08:55

The following is a transcript of an interview with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, Republican of California, that aired on "Face the Nation" on Oct. 1, 2023

MARGARET BRENNAN: Good morning and welcome to Face The Nation. Congress has done it once again. They've kicked the proverbial can down the road passing a 45 day funding bill to keep the government running. Now the deadline for getting spending bills passed is November 17th. Joining us this morning, the Speaker of the House, Kevin McCarthy. Good morning, you've had a heck of a week. 


MARGARET BRENNAN: There is a lot to get to with you. I want to start though, on the news this morning from Congressman Matt Gatez, who says he's going to seek a motion to vacate. He's going to try to oust you as Speaker of the House. 

SPEAKER MCCARTHY: That's nothing new. He's tried to do that. From the moment I ran for the office. Look--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --Well this time he says he's going to keep going, may not get there before the 15th ballot but it took 15 for Kevin McCarthy. He says he's coming for you, can you survive? 

SPEAKER MCCARTHY: Yes, I'll survive. You know this is personal with Matt. Matt voted against the most conservative ability to protect our border, secure our border. He's more interested in securing TV interviews than doing something, he wanted to push us into a shutdown, even threatening his own district with all the military people there who would not be paid only because he wants to take this motion. So be it, bring it on. Let's get over with it and let's start governing. If he's upset because he tried to push us in a shutdown and I made sure government didn't shut down, then let's have that fight. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: You need 218 votes to vacate. Has Hakeem Jeffries, the Democratic leader said that he will--

SPEAKER MCCARTHY: --No, he hasn't said--


SPEAKER MCCARTHY: He hasn't said anything about what he's going to do, look--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Will Democrats-Democrats could cross over and follow Gaetz's lead on this--

SPEAKER MCCARTHY: --Yeah, he he--


SPEAKER MCCARTHY: --Look, Gaetz is trying to work with Democrats. He's reached out to Swalwell, to AOC and others. But if that's the way we're going to govern, I don't think America is going to be successful. Look, at the end of the day, think of everything we've been able to accomplish so far. Parents Bill of Rights, we passed the most conservative bill to protect our border, make America energy independent. We've been able to cut $2 trillion, and the debt ceiling, work requirements back in. The hard part we have right now--


SPEAKER MCCARTHY: --is the Senate has not passed one appropriation bill. Each body is supposed to pass 12. We've passed more than 70% of the discretionary spending already.


SPEAKER MCCARTHY: --I thought it was appropriate--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --Surviving in the Senate and making it into law. 

SPEAKER MCCARTHY: --Well, you said that-- 

MARGARET BRENNAN: --and we have 45 days to--

SPEAKER MCCARTHY: --you said that  same thing when we, when we stopped the DC from decriminalizing everything. You said the same thing when we said we're going to

MARGARET BRENNAN:  --I don't think I ever talked about those things--


MARGARET BRENNAN: --to be honest with you--

SPEAKER MCCARTHY: you and, maybe the press would do think, why pass it because the Senate won't take it up and won't sign it. Most in the press probably thought we would have shut down yesterday too. But no, we did not. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Were you confident we wouldn't shut down? 

SPEAKER MCCARTHY: I was confident I could get something on the floor to make sure the option that we would not-- 

MARGARET BRENNAN: --But you weren't--

SPEAKER MCCARTHY: --but our military--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --sure it was going to pass.

SPEAKER MCCARTHY: Well, well I wasn't sure it was gonna pass. You want to know why? Because the Democrats tried to do everything they can, not to let it pass. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Democrats were the ones who voted for the--

SPEAKER MCCARTHY: --Did you, did you watch--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --and a large number of Republicans to keep the continuing resolution alive

SPEAKER MCCARTHY: --Did you watch the floor yesterday? 



MARGARET BRENNAN: --90 Republicans voted against it. 

SPEAKER MCCARTHY: Okay, so let's walk. Let's walk through what actually happened. First of all, the Democrats stood up and did dilatory actions asked to adjourn. So it was that supporting to adjourn? Then they used the Magic Minute. They went as far as pulling the fire alarm not to try to get the bill to come up. Look Democrats stick together, but they did not want the bill. They did not, they were willing to let government shutdown for our military not to be paid. No, I wasn't. We're going to make sure we keep it open while we finish the job we're supposed to do. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: You got 45 days? 

SPEAKER MCCARTHY: That's right. 


SPEAKER MCCARTHY:  --Well, technically 47. But– 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Okay, Senator Cornyn said of you last night, you pulled a rabbit out of the hat a couple of times. I mean, he's acknowledging this was tough. Are we going to be staring down another shutdown?

SPEAKER MCCARTHY: Well it all comes down to the Senate, the Senate hasn't done one thing.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But in the House, are we going to be facing another shutdown November 17?

SPEAKER MCCARTHY: No, because the House is doing their work. We've already done more than 70% of it. So compare this to the Senate. The Senate hasn't passed one bill. The Senate didn't pass anything about the shutdown. The Senate hasn't passed anything about securing the border. The Senate hasn't passed anything about $100 a barrel– 

MARGARET BRENNAN: --The House hasn't passed anything about the border that could actually could become law–

SPEAKER MCCARTHY: --Yes we have--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --not that could become law. 

SPEAKER MCCARTHY: That's your opinion. The House is its own body. The Senate is his own body. We're not going to surrender to the Senate. We passed what the American people want. I will tell you each and every day- and don't take my word for it. You're going to have the governor of New York on it, who told people to go somewhere else. The New York City Mayor literally says destroying the city--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --Will you have--

SPEAKER MCCARTHY: No, let me answer your question since you said we wouldn't do something. Do you know the governor of Massachusetts has declared a state of emergency? This is one of the number one crises


SPEAKER MCCARTHY:--as far from the border as you can see. This is killing Americans every single day–

MARGARET BRENNAN: There was no border funding in the continuing resolution that passed last night, but let me ask you–

SPEAKER MCCARTHY: --No no no, But that's not fair to just say that–

MARGARET BRENNAN: --Well there wasn't.

SPEAKER MCCARTHY: Okay, well, let's- let's educate the viewers why there wasn't because the day before there was, but Matt Gaetz and others


SPEAKER MCCARTHY: --denied that and voted no. So we could have had border security. 


SPEAKER MCCARTHY: --I went all the way through everything we could to the last moment--


SPEAKER MCCARTHY:  And you know what? We're going to be able to win that. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: When will you be able to bring a vote on Ukraine aid? The White House says that you have-are going to do this quickly. 

SPEAKER MCCARTHY: Look, the priority for me is America and our borders. Now, I support being able to make sure Ukraine has the weapons that they need. But I firmly support the border first. So we've got to find a way that we can do this together.

MARGARET BRENNAN: What do you mean the border first, because the White House briefed Congress that 45 days, they don't have enough money–

SPEAKER MCCARTHY: They have more--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --Allow them to get--

SPEAKER MCCARTHY: They have more than three, they have more than three billion dollars right now, to be able to help them get through it. If they have some challenge, we can sit down, and we can talk about that. But the American border matters and more--


SPEAKER MCCARTHY: --more Americans are dying on our border than Americans are dying in Ukraine. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: So you are explicitly right now linking any Ukraine aid vote to a border bill--

SPEAKER MCCARTHY:--I'm telling--

MARGARET BRENNAN:--it won't be a stand alone Ukraine bill?

SPEAKER MCCARTHY:  I'm telling you that the American border matters. And that is our priority to make sure we secure that–

MARGARET BRENNAN: --So that has to move first?--

SPEAKER MCCARTHY: --I'm going to make sure that the weapons are provided for Ukraine, but they're not going to get some big package if the border is not secure. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: But you haven't figured out yet the vehicle through which to move that Ukraine aid or a date by which to do it?

SPEAKER MCCARTHY: We will work with people in need. But the one thing the White House has to understand, they better be prepared to secure American border. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: What does that mean, specifically? What are you looking for there? 

SPEAKER MCCARTHY: Well, the- the bill you think that won't go anywhere could easily do it, H.R. 2. Remain in Mexico, finish the wall. You've got to change asylum to be able to secure this border. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: That is the bill, the border bill, that you want passed--


MARGARET BRENNAN: --and you are now--


MARGARET BRENNAN: --it sounds like attaching it to Ukraine aid--

SPEAKER MCCARTHY: Not that I- Not that I want it passed. It is passed and the Senate has done nothing. So let's see where the Senate–

MARGARET BRENNAN: --You just said you wanted border first. So you're not talking about holding a new vote in the House on the border. I'm trying to clarify what you're talking about here.

SPEAKER MCCARTHY: Okay, not to be- but how it works is the House passes a bill, the Senate passes a bill, and you go to conference. The House has already done their job


SPEAKER MCCARTHY: the Senate-and we've done this in Approps. The Senate has done nothing. So what I am saying is when you saw government funding, there is a need for Ukraine. I support being able to provide the weapons to Ukraine


SPEAKER MCCARTHY: --but America comes first. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Okay, so you're not sequencing the bills or was- weren't meaning to suggest that in your comments earlier. 


MARGARET BRENNAN: Right. Okay. I want to make sure I understood that. How much harder did your job get when Donald Trump came out and said that Republicans should shut down if they don't get everything they need? And are you going to endorse him explicitly? 

SPEAKER MCCARTHY: Look, I think- I think President Trump's going to be our nominee and President Trump's going to win because President Trump's policies made America stronger. We didn't have inflation. We had a secure border–

MARGARET BRENNAN: Are you endorsing him now?

SPEAKER MCCARTHY: We didn't have $100 barrel oil. So what I totally find is the president is going to be our nominee, the president is going to win reelection, President Trump, for the basis that we want to make America stronger. And the other thing too is look what's happening in foreign policy today. You've got five American embassies that had to be evacuated. You've got this new axis of power growing against- you've got a challenge when you- our own allies are now turning towards China. It's a lack of leadership, not just in foreign policy within our border and everywhere else. This president has been in elected office for 50 years. Do you know he has spent more dinners with Hunter Biden's business associates than he has visiting the border? Yeah, don't you think that's important though? One time in 50 years. Do you know how many people will die today from fentanyl coming across our border? 

MARGARET BRENNAN: It's a scourge. 

SPEAKER MCCARTHY: It's the equivalent of an airliner crashing every single day in America and they refuse to even visit it or do something about it so we are going to make sure this border becomes secure. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: We will watch for what that means legislatively. Speaker, thank you very much for your time today.

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