Transcript: House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy on "Face the Nation," January 13, 2019

McCarthy: "Action will be taken" against Steve King

The following is a transcript of the interview with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy that aired Sunday, Jan. 13, 2019, on "Face the Nation."


MARGARET BRENNAN: We turn now to House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy. Congressman, you're usually in your home state in California when we talk to you so we like having you here in person in snowy D.C..

MINORITY LEADER KEVIN McCARTHY: Thanks for having me.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to get to this Washington Post report before we talk about the shutdown. It- it says that the president has tried to conceal the substance of his conversations with Vladimir Putin, even taking away the notes from his translator who sat in- the interpreter in the room during their talks. Does it concern you that there's no public record of what the president discussed with Vladimir Putin, the leader of the country that interfered in the 2016 elections?

LEADER McCARTHY: Well Margret, what I do know is what this administration, this Congress has done. We've been very tough on Russia. Look at the sanctions that we have taken. With this administration: one, on the election meddling that Russia has done, the movement of Russia with inside Ukraine as well. And I just listened to the president last night. He's more than willing to have an open to what that discussion was about he said on a news show last night. But I know what the president likes to do. He likes to create a personal relationship, build that relationship, even rebuild that relationship like he does with other world leaders around--

MARGARET BRENNAN: But this was keeping the record of the conversation from the national security adviser. The person who is supposed to be the top adviser to the president.

LEADER McCARTHY: Well in hearing the president last night on the show, he says he was more than willing to let that information go out. So that's what I know right now.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Does congress want to see any of this? Or speak to the interpreter?

LEADER McCARTHY: I'd like to the president to be able to build these relationships. I know this administration. I know this Congress is very tough on Russia. And we will continue to be so. But I want this president to be able to build a relationship, even on a personal level with all the world leaders as well.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I know you speak to the President, have you ever asked him about this?

LEADER McCARTHY: I haven't asked about this situation yet because it just came out. But I did talk to the president yesterday about the shutdown. I know this president is focused on giving this government open. That's why the president is here. That's why I'm here in Washington. The challenge has been from the very beginning. The president has made numerous offers about this shutdown. Reasonable too, moving further to the Democratic side. And there has not been one offer coming back from the Democrats. It is unacceptable that 800,000 U.S. employees are not being paid. You know what we're arguing over? One-tenth of one percent of the federal budget. And it's not as though we're asking Democrats to do something they haven't done before. They voted for border wall and fencing. We have Democrats, even the new progressives from California. Katie Hill, said she would vote for a wall. You had the chairman--

MARGARET BRENNAN: I think the barrier- defining the barrier is the point that you're kind of stuck on right now.

LEADER McCARTHY: I would take the language we had voted on before. The president even said he would add in no concrete--

MARGARET BRENNAN: The Fencing Act from 2006?

LEADER McCARTHY: No. Just the appropriations bills that we've taken prior. That would allow us to do the job that needs to be done. You know the chairman of Armed Services, he actually says, "Walls work" and he was supportive of it. We had our own former president, President Obama in 2014 said there was a crisis on the border.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.

LEADER McCARTHY: The new governor of California Gavin Newsom used it in his - in his inaugural address said there is a crisis along the border. The only people who believe there is not is Nancy- Speaker Pelosi--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well they agree--

LEADER McCARTHY: --and Senator Schumer.

MARGARET BRENNAN: --in- in border security funding and offered one point three billion for that. It's the how it's spent that it seems to be you're disagreeing on--

LEADER McCARTHY: Well who--

MARGARET BRENNAN: But-- Let me--

LEADER McCARTHY: Well who in America believes in border security, doesn't have some form of a barrier? Because I've heard Democrats say they want a form of a barrier. The president has moved from a concrete to a steel barrier. So I've watched this president look for compromise. There just has been no compromise on the other side.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But should you reopen the government while you have this argument?

LEADER McCARTHY: We can have this government reopened. The president is correct. Less than 45 minutes--

MARGARET BRENNAN: So you would have--

LEADER McCARTHY: You know what.

MARGARET BRENNAN: some sort of C.R. to open the government--

LEADER McCARTHY: I've been in-

MARGARET BRENNAN: and then continue the immigration argument?

LEADER McCARTHY: I've been in every single one of those meetings. I watched the president turn to Nancy Pelosi and say, "OK if I reopen the government right now, in 30 days, could we have border security?" She said, "No. Not at all."

MARGARET BRENNAN: You have--

LEADER McCARTHY: So that is the real challenge. Who is holding this government up? It's Senator Schumer and Speaker Pelosi.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well the- the federal government workers are the people paying the price right now.

LEADER McCARTHY: They are.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And you have about 10,000 of them in your district--

LEADER McCARTHY: And that is--

MARGARET BRENNAN: What do you tell them?

LEADER McCARTHY: And that is--

MARGARET BRENNAN: When are they going to get paid?

LEADER McCARTHY: That is unacceptable. That's why I'm here right now. I'm- I'm not in Puerto Rico. I'm here because I want to solve this problem.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you--

LEADER McCARTHY: And you know what--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you--

LEADER McCARTHY: Do you know what is happening-

MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you have a way to pay those workers while you continue--

LEADER McCARTHY: We have-

MARGARET BRENNAN: --arguing over immigration?

LEADER McCARTHY: We just voted- We just voted on Friday and sent it to the president. A law to make sure they are being paid when this is done. What we need to happen--

MARGARET BRENNAN: For those living paycheck to paycheck now matters.

LEADER McCARTHY: Yeah, that's unacceptable. And where has the president been this whole time? What- what those constituents and what your viewers need to understand, before we ever got to this point when the Republicans had the House, they moved a bill to the Senate. In the Senate, it takes sixty votes. Senator Schumer would not come to a compromise. He would not even come for a vote. He left. When we sat during that break--

MARGARET BRENNAN: So should the president--

LEADER McCARTHY: --before the new swearing in--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you oppose the president declaring a national emergency? Since what you're describing sounds like you're not going anywhere.

LEADER McCARTHY: You know what?

MARGARET BRENNAN: Because he- he's--

LEADER McCARTHY: The Emergency Act exists--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --talked about possibly using money that would be allocated to California for disaster relief.

LEADER McCARTHY: The--

MARGARET BRENNAN: That's your home state.

LEADER McCARTHY: The Emergency Act exists for these type of circumstances. But one thing I will tell you, we should solve this legislatively. I- I agree with what the president said on Friday, we need to solve this legislatively.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So, it sounds like--

LEADER McCARTHY: Because--  

MARGARET BRENNAN: --you don't want--

LEADER McCARTHY: Listen, it's--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --him to declare an emergency?

LEADER McCARTHY: It's one tenth of one percent of the federal budget. If we cannot do this together, what else can we not do in the future? This is not that big of a problem. Democrats in the past have voted for fencing and for wall. Why, now, do they disagree? Because it's President Trump? I think the American public understands this. We can solve this in minutes and these- these workers should be able to be paid. It only takes a few minutes inside the meetings, but when the Democrats will not even make a counteroffer, it's unacceptable.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to ask you about Iowa Republican Congressman Steve King. You called some of his language reckless when he, in an interview with the New York Times, said the term, "white nationalists" and "white supremacists," he didn't know when they became offensive. Some Republicans have come out very strongly here. Jeb Bush--

LEADER McCARTHY: As have- as have I.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, Jeb Bush said it's not enough to condemn him, that party leaders actually have to do something. Either support a primary opponent to challenge him, others have said he should be at least censured. Should there be action against Congressman King?

LEADER McCARTHY: First, and foremost, I came out at the very moment- that language has no place in America. That is not the America I know and it's most definitely not the party of Lincoln.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Should he be--

LEADER McCARTHY: I have--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --punished for it?

LEADER McCARTHY: I have a scheduled meeting with him on Monday, and I will tell you this: I've watched on the other side that they do not take action when their members say something like this. Action will be taken. I'm having a serious conversation with Congressman Steve King on his future and role in this Republican Party, because--

MARGARET BRENNAN: What does that mean?

LEADER McCARTHY: As a leader. There is a number of things you'll see that is taking place, but I will not stand back as a leader of this party, believing in this nation that all are created equal, that that stands or continues to stand and have any role with us.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Thank you very much, congressman.