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Transcript: Bob Schieffer's interview with Texas Senator Ted Cruz


BOB SCHIEFFER: We want to turn now to the President's State of the Union speech on Tuesday and we're going to Houston and the Tea Party Republican, Ted Cruz who led the shutdown of the government last fall because the president wouldn't agree to shut down Obamacare.

Senator, thank you for coming.  You have already released a list of issues you want the president to address in his State of the Union speech including you want a new investigation into the Benghazi controversy and into the IRS.  You want him to admit that his economic program has failed, that it was a mistake to pass Obamacare on a party line vote.  Senator, that sounds like you want a confession, not a speech.


SEN. TED CRUZ: Well, what I've put out are the questions that I'm hearing from Texans all over the state.  I've spent a lot of time traveling the state of Texas, listening to Texans.  And the questions they raise over and over again, they say, "Why are jobs are economic growth so dismal?"

We've got the lowest labor force participation in over three decades, since 1978.  And if President Obama wants to give an honest, candid State of the Union address this week, he'll address the fact that his economic policies are not working and that they're exacerbating income inequality.  They're hurting the people who are struggling the most.

See, each of the questions I've put up are questions that the people are asking.  Now, I think the odds that the president will answer them are not high, but it's what he should if he was listening to the concerns the people are raising.


BOB SCHIEFFER: Well, of course what he would say is that he is creating more jobs, that unemployment is going down and on and on.  But we'll leave that for the Democrats to talk about.  Lemme ask you this.  You became a celebrity when you led the drive to shut down the government over Obamacare.  But afterwards, your fellow Republicans said you'd led them over a cliff.  Can you conceive of any situation in which you would do that again, try to shut down the government in exchange or in demand for some action by the president?


SEN. TED CRUZ: Well, Bob, with all due respect, I don't agree with the premise of your question.  Throughout the government shutdown, I opposed a government shutdown.  I said we shouldn't shut down the government.  I think it was a mistake that President Obama and the Democrats shut the government down this fall.

The reason they did so is that President Obama dug in and said he wouldn't compromise and he wouldn't negotiate.  In fact, I went to one of the most surreal meetings I've ever been at, where President Obama invited all the senate Republicans to go up to the White House.  He sat us in a room.  This is in the middle of the shutdown.

And he said, "I invited you here to tell you I will not negotiate.  I will not compromise on anything."  That's why we had a shutdown.  That was a mistake.  But, you know, in terms of whether we should've stood and fought on Obamacare, I think the proof is in the pudding.  Millions of people across the country have seen now why we were standing and fighting, because Obamacare's a disaster.

And, you know, for the State of the Union, one of the things President Obama really oughta do is look in the TV camera and say to the over five million Americans all across this country who've had their health insurance canceled because of Obamacare, to look in the camera and say, "I'm sorry.  I told you if you like your health insurance plan, you can keep it.

"I told you if you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor.  And that wasn't true.  I'm sorry."  But then, Bob, here's the real kicker.  If you're really sorry, you don't just say you're sorry.  You actually do something to fix the problem.  The pattern we've seen over and over again with this president is he says--




SEN. TED CRUZ: --he's sorry and he expresses outrage but then he doesn't fix the problem.  He keeps doing it over and over again.


BOB SCHIEFFER: All right, lemme-- lemme go back to one thing and-- the question I asked you was, "Would you ever conceive of threatening to shut down the government again?"


SEN. TED CRUZ: Well, as I said, I didn't threaten to shut down the government the last time.  I don't think we should ever shut down the government.  I repeatedly voted--




SEN. TED CRUZ: --to fund the federal government.





BOB SCHIEFFER: --if you didn't threaten to shut down the government, who was it that did?  I mean, but we'll go on--


SEN. TED CRUZ: It was Harry Reid and President Obama.


BOB SCHIEFFER: --to something else.


SEN. TED CRUZ: Bob, look, I understand that the White House said over and over again the shutdown is the Republican's fault and I understand that's what you're repeating.  But the reality is, I voted over and over again to fund the federal government.  And the reason we had a shutdown-- look--




SEN. TED CRUZ: --the Democrats were very candid.  I know they told you, they said, "We think the shutdown benefits us politically."  Right now the Democrats are telling you that they want another shutdown because they think it benefits them politically.




SEN. TED CRUZ: So why is it hard to understand that they forced a shutdown when they think it benefits them politically.


BOB SCHIEFFER: Senator, I know what Republicans were telling me, like John Boehner, who said this was a disaster and never again.  But, lemme ask you one more question here.  The government is approaching another--


SEN. TED CRUZ: Let me ask you (UNINTEL)--


BOB SCHIEFFER: Well, now, just a minute.  Just a minute.  The government is approaching another deadline February 7, when it will run out of money unless Congress agrees to raise the debt ceiling.  Will you agree to raise the debt ceiling, or will you demand something in return.


SEN. TED CRUZ: Look, of course, we should do something.  We shouldn't just write a blank check.  Five years ago, the national debt was ten trillion dollars.  That took 43 presidents over 200 years to build up ten trillion dollars in debt.  Today, it's over 17 trillion dollars.  It's grown nearly 70% with one president in five years.

And if you ask any American outside of Washington, "Should we just keep raising the debt ceiling while doing nothing, to have fundamental structural controls on spending to get Washington's spending problem under control," it doesn't matter if you're talking to a Republican, a Democrat, an independent, a libertarian.

Anyone outside of Washington says, "Of course."  And it's worth noting in the past, the debt ceiling has been the most effective lever point for real structural reforms, whether it was Gramm-Rudman, which did a great job of restricting government spending, getting it under control or whether it was the Budget Control Act.

Both of those came through the debt ceiling.  And what the president is saying is he just wants a blank credit card to keep growing and growing the debt, and I think that's irresponsible.  I think it's irresponsible to our kids and grandkids to stick that debt on them because we can't live within our means.


BOB SCHIEFFER: Let me ask you something on a different subject.  Do you think Chris Christie is still a viable candidate for the Republican nomination?


SEN. TED CRUZ: You know, Bob, I like Chris Christie.  I think he is brash and outspoken, and I think it's terrific that he's been able to get elected twice as a Republican in a very blue state.  I think it's unfortunate he's found himself in this mess, and I hope he can extricate himself.  I'm certainly rooting for him to do so, because I think he's an effective leader and I'd like to see him move on to governing New Jersey and not being mired in this scandal.


BOB SCHIEFFER: Will you run for president?


SEN. TED CRUZ: Well, look, my focus is on the challenges facing this country right now (UNINTEL) senate.  My focus, for example, is on the abuse of power from the president.  Let's take something like the IRS scandal--


BOB SCHIEFFER: So, I'll take that as a yes or a no.


SEN. TED CRUZ: Eight months ago--


BOB SCHIEFFER: Or still thinking about it.


SEN. TED CRUZ: Well, what you can take that as, is that my focus is standing and fighting right now in the senate to bring back jobs and economic growth.  Economic growth is my number one priority…


BOB SCHIEFFER: Thank you, so much, for joining us and we'll talk to you again. 


TED CRUZ: Thank you Bob.

BOB SCHIEFFER: We’ll be back in a minute.


Jackie Berkowitz, Director of Communications

CBS News, Washington, D.C.

P. (202) 457-1574 C. (202) 600-6407

@JacBerkowitz on Twitter; Jaberkie on Instagram

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