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Transcript: Rep. Tony Gonzales on "Face the Nation," May 26, 2024

The following is a transcript of an interview with Rep. Tony Gonzales, Republican of Texas, on "Face the Nation" that aired on May 26, 2024.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We're joined now by Republican Congressman Tony Gonzales. Good morning to you.

REP. TONY GONZALES: Good morning. Thank you for having me.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to start on the border, that is your district. How do the agents that you represent explain the drop off in crossings?

REP. GONZALES: I think a large part of it- well, first off, it doesn't have to do with what Joe Biden has done. We're on pace for 1.3 million people to come over illegally. The numbers are down. The explanation is Mexico. A lot of people don't realize Mexico has an election next month for its presidency, nine governorships and its Congress. So in many cases, the- those that are running on security platforms are keeping the numbers down, but the cartels are like comp- companies. So they're taking a loss in Q1 and Q2 in order to increase the volume in Q3 and Q4. So if any- in many- many ways this is just Mexico carrying Biden a couple rounds. Now Joe Biden wants to secure this thing long term, I think he needs to stop looking at the Senate for a solution and look to the House.

MARGARET BRENNAN: What do you mean by that? What are you proposing?

REP. GONZALES: I think there's opportunities. Look, H.R. 2 is a good start, but just a conversation--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --That's a nonstarter--

REP. GONZALES: --Let's just say a conversation. The President has not had any real conversations with anyone on the- anyone in the House. The Senate, yes. They've sat down, they've had these conversations. But on the House, they've given no oxygen to it. This is a different Congress than in years past. The House is where I believe you start if you truly wanted to solve it. Now, if you want to make it about politics and just blame someone else, then you hold it in the Senate and you say we're trying, we're doing the best we can. But meanwhile, Americans are dying of fentanyl, the numbers were on pace for 1.3 million. Insane.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, there's a lot of policy to get into with you on this and other topics. We're gonna have to take a break here, so stay with me, and we'll do that on the other side of it. We'll be back in a moment.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Welcome back to Face The Nation. We return now to our conversation with Texas Republican Tony Gonzales. Good to have you here in person. You know, Uvalde, Texas, that is your district. Nineteen kids and two adults killed at Robb Elementary some two years ago and that horrible anniversary was this past week. How is your community doing now?

REP. GONZALES: It's still healing. It's still very raw, two years later, in many cases, you're constantly re-victimized over and over again. The other part of it, too, is a lot has changed, a lot hasn't changed. Everyone talks about Robb, you know what happened at Robb, everyone talks about the new elementary school, Uvalde elementary school. But there's nine other schools in Uvalde that in many cases are still in the same situation. Yeah, yeah they put some fencing up. But how do we protect our kids long term? And one of the things that I did, I mean, I'm in the middle of a runoff, fighting for my life politically on there, I held a bipartisan safety- Bipartisan School Safety Caucus, where we brought all these different partners together to have discussions on how we fix things. I have the superintendent of Uvalde, I have the new police chief of Uvalde. There's a lot of changes happening in Uvalde. One of the things that came out of that was $10 million for school safety, not just for Robb and Uvalde elementary school, but all the other elementary schools as well.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So you mentioned that runoff election in this primary challenger you have faced, that's the 28th. In the initial you receive 45% of the primary vote just short of that 50% threshold. I want to ask because last March, you were censured by the Texas Republican Party and you connected that to the votes that you took to help get the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act through the Congress. Do you feel that some of the challenges you're facing now because of the work you did after those school kids were killed?

REP. GONZALES: You know, Margaret, you cannot be afraid to do what you think is right. You're never gonna get it perfect. But you have to fight for the things that are important to us, keeping our kids safe from being murdered from crazy people, that should be important to all of us. It shouldn't just be talking points. We couldn't- we shouldn't just blame someone else. We shouldn't just talk about mental health. We should actually do something about it to keep us safe. The Safer Community Act has prevented over 500 school shootings from happening. But that is only the start, we have to do much, much more. Part of that is why isn't there a national standard for school safety? Why are every- all the schools in a silo when it comes to fighting some of these things? And we have to give them the resources. We passed this bill, but a lot of the money has not made it back to the schools. I'm not afraid of that vote. I'm not afraid of this runoff. I ran very hard in order to win this election. And I'll keep delivering for my district.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, it sounds like you're saying yes, that- that vote hurt your prospects in your district?

REP. GONZALES: I'm in a runoff for a reason. Part of that was that vote and you know what I knew it at the time. When somebody comes in, but I- I like to call them the devil. When the devil comes in and visits you and says, hey, Tony, you're going to do this or else. And you tell the devil to go pack sand, you better be ready for a fight.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Who is the devil?

REP. GONZALES: The devil is a- has many faces and many names.


REP. GONZALES: And so what ends up happening is people- there- there are no more debates in Washington. Everybody is defending positions that are already defined for them. We got to get back to having debates, real conversations that help real people. It can't just be these, you know, this cosplay. It has to be real people doing real things. You started the segment with the For Country Caucus. It's a great segment of bipartisanship--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --You're part of it.

REP. GONZALES: I'm part of it. I'm- I'm the co-chair for For Country Caucus. That almost did not happen. And the reason it didn't happen is because everybody is at each other's throats. And nobody wants to be seen with one another, more or less doing things together. It took a member of Congress by the name of Jim Baird. He's one of the last surviving Vietnam veterans serving in Congress. I don't like to share private conversations of members. But he basically told everybody in the caucus, he goes, here's a deal, someday, somebody is going to be there to honor your memorial. And I hope you take the time to show up. And I tell you what, that hit everyone pretty hard. And everyone set aside and set aside our differences and put it together. But this is a bigger thing that's happening. You know, the- they're working together is almost a bad thing in Washington. We got to push back against it. Let's have debates. Let's fix things. Let's solve real problems for real people.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I- I think a lot of Americans would like to see that. We just showed video there of Jim Baird. On your point, though, you know, Donald Trump is campaigning saying he's going to peel back all of Joe Biden's restrictions on guns. There weren't a lot of restrictions on guns in this community- Safer Community Act. But you're telling Republicans "don't repeal this." You're telling Donald Trump "don't repeal the work he did."

REP. GONZALES: I'd argue there weren't any restrictions on guns in this bill. This was a mental health bill that got spun as a gun control bill for the different, you know, advocacies so they could campaign against it or campaign for it. What it was- what it did do is it provided mental health resources, and it gave background checks to minors. I'm okay with background checks. Americans should be okay with background checks. We have to do more to keep our kids safe in school. My kids go to school with a bulletproof backpack. You should think about sending your kids to school with bulletproof backpacks. It's not fair. It's not the world that we grew up in. But something has to change. And it can't just be words, and it can't just be pointing blame. We have to solve real problems. We have to debate the issue. And we have to solve real problems by bringing money back. One of my community projects, I brought $5 million back to the North East Independent School District in San Antonio for a quick reaction force, essentially a SWAT team for the local ISD.

MARGARET BRENNAN: A lot to unpack there. But thank you. We'll be right back and thank you for your service.

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