Transcript: New members of Congress on "Face the Nation," Nov. 18, 2018

4 newly elected reps speak out
4 newly elected reps speak out 16:38

The following is a transcript of the interview with Reps.-elect Dan Crenshaw, R-Texas; Chrissy Houlahan, D-Penn.; Deb Haaland, D-N.M.; and Joe Neguse, D-Colo., airing Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018, on "Face the Nation." 

 MARGARET BRENNAN: There will be dozens of new faces on Capitol Hill next year when Congress convenes including our next four guests, all incoming members of the House of Representatives, who each bring a unique perspective here to Washington. Democrat Joe Neguse is Colorado's first black congressman. His parents came to this country from Eritrea as refugees more than 35 years ago. He's also a new father of a baby girl. Congrats on that. Democrat Deb Holland of New Mexico is one of the first two Native American women elected to Congress. She's also a single mother. Republican Dan Crenshaw of Texas is a retired Navy SEAL who fought in Afghanistan. He may also be the first representative elect to appear on Saturday Night Live- at least that I remember. And Democrat Chrissy Houlahan of Pennsylvania is a former captain in the Air Force, a former chemistry teacher and she is also a mother of two. So you ladies know something about multitasking here. A lot of Americans, when you talk to them, seem to have lost faith in Congress. In fact, the approval rating CBS News just took was at 19 percent. What made you run?

REPRESENTATIVE-ELECT JOE NEGUSE: You know look, I was very concerned about the direction that our country was taking. As you mentioned my parents were Eritrean immigrants to this country and we've been able to live the American dream and the freedoms and the opportunities that have enabled us to live the American dream in every sense of that phrase, I felt like were slipping away for a lot of Americans in our country. And so I decided that I would try to do something about it and threw my hat in the ring.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Congresswoman.


MARGARET BRENNAN: Congresswoman-elect.

REP-ELECT HAALAND: Thank you, thank you. Well of course this is an important job, it's an important job for my district in New Mexico. I wanted to feel like I could help more people. The constituent services program that we're all responsible for I think is extremely important for our districts. And that's absolutely one of the reasons that I decided to run.

MARGARET BRENNAN: What about you, Congressman-elect.

REPRESENTATIVE-ELECT DAN CRENSHAW: Well you know, I was in the military for 10 years, I took an oath to the Constitution 12 years ago. And you know that oath has not ended. So it's really about service, it's about service and it's about impact. You know, how can I impact the issues that matter to my constituents. You know, we're still reeling from Hurricane Harvey. We want more individual freedom. We want less government in our lives. We want to live that American dream. And those are things we can actually agree on. And that's what I'll be fighting for.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So when you hear that there's an approval rating of just 19 percent, you think you can do better than that?

REP-ELECT CRENSHAW: Well I hope so. Is that an improvement or- or, it might be an improvement, I thought it was lower at one point.


REP-ELECT CRENSHAW: I understand that's the case, and the military has- has long brought a lot of credibility to American institutions. I hope to bring some of that credibility to Congress. And you know, the way we do that is we talk to each other like we're actually people, let's not attack each other's intent, let's not attack each other as a person, let's attack ideas. All right we can debate ideas we can disagree and ideas all day long. Let's find the things that we actually agree upon and work on those.

MARGARET BRENNAN:  Are you equally as optimistic, Congresswoman-elect?

REPRESENTATIVE-ELECT CHRISSY HOULAHAN: Well so I- I share a lot of commonalities with my fellow colleagues in terms of why I'm running. I am third generation military, my dad and grandfather served careers and I did as well, served as a captain in the air force. And as a third generation military member I am deeply concerned about the democracy right now. I'm worried about the direction that we're heading as a people. I'm similarly interested in making sure that we maintain civility and decency with one another in the way that we treat each other and the way that our government works. And personally my motivation for running is-is one of service. I want to continue the service that I've done, both in the military and also growing good and strong businesses and most recently in education, as a- as a teacher and also as a nonprofit leader in early childhood literacy.

MARGARET BRENNAN: The district that you were elected in, you flipped it.


MARGARET BRENNAN: --Red to blue.


MARGARET BRENNAN: But you've described it as more purple.




MARGARET BRENNAN: --of people of different convictions here. How do you balance those forces. And does that mean that as a Democrat, you're willing to work with President Trump?

REP-ELECT HOULAHAN: Absolutely. We are a district that's 40 percent Democrat, 40 percent Republican and 20 percent Independent. And I call us purple people because I believe that we are, I believe largely that we sit in the middle and what we're looking for is head and heart issues.

MARGARET BRENNAN: One of the more divisive issues is immigration. It's also what President Trump says he wants to tackle. Obviously there are different views on how to do that. But Congresswoman-elect, you're in a very unique position, as one of only--


MARGARET BRENNAN: --two Native American women elected to Congress. How do you think that affects your approach on things like immigration?

REP-ELECT HAALAND: Sure-sure. Well, New Mexico is a border state. So we-we actually feel confident about the security of our borders and New Mexico. We- New Mexico as a whole was appalled when the policy to separate children from their parents happened on the border. It made me immediately think about governmental policies. Back when my grandmother was a child and she was separated from her family and taken to Indian boarding school. So it seems like at some point we need to look at our history and stop doing the things that are harmful to our children and work toward finding solutions that are absolutely humane.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You would work with President Trump?

REP-ELECT HAALAND: Well I think we all have to do it together. The Democrats won back the House. We didn't win back the Senate or the presidency yet. So we do have to work across the aisle to make sure that we can get things passed. Yes.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Congressman-elect you-you are a vet. You mentioned your service. How do you feel about the deployment of U.S. troops, U.S. personnel to the border? Is that the right way to be using the U.S. military?

REP-ELECT CRENSHAW: Well what they're using them for is-is logistical support. You know, they're not there-they're not down there as-as combat troops stopping people from crossing the border--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --they're not actually at the border--

REP-ELECT CRENSHAW: That-that-that's not what's actually happening--


REP-ELECT CRENSHAW: What's actually happening is they're-they're-they're reinforcing the law enforcement that is there to do their job. You know the reality is-is I- what I want to- the question I always have the Democrats is, do we agree that our borders should be secure, yes or no. I understand you don't like the wall. I understand that. But can we agree that the border should be secured and if you have other ideas to-to-to secure that border, especially in Texas we're willing to listen because you know we have a river along the border. We can't always put a wall there. We get that. You know we've got other options as well. So will you work with us on--

MARGARET BRENNAN: But in terms of using the U.S. military in that role. Essentially you know we have--

REP-ELECT CRENSHAW: Right, well-well-well, when you have-when you have--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --a border patrol that has the job that you just laid out that the military is now there to back them up on.

REP-ELECT CRENSHAW: Well yeah, but there was also thousands of thousands of people coming up to the border in a caravan. And so you have to take different measures to do that. So--

MARGARET BRENNAN: -You do see that as a threat even though they're on foot and not at the border yet?

REP-ELECT CRENSHAW: Well-well what's the other option? To just let them cross? Because we don't have enough law enforcement officials to deal with that possibly. So you know again we're not putting combat troops on the border. That's not what's happening. We are dealing with this in a very humane way and as I think we should and we can all agree on that for sure. None of us really like seeing families separated. I've said that all along. That's-that's the last thing we want to see. Republicans tried to put legislation forward that would stop that. Okay. And we will continue to do that. But-but yes, if- if- if it's between letting people across and not letting people cross, we have to secure our border. And I- and I hear that we agree on that a lot. I do. And I-and I understand that Democrats don't like the rhetoric and they don't like the wall. I absolutely get that. But I want to see other options on the table then on what we can do to actually secure it.

MARGARET BRENNAN: He's comfortable in using U.S. troops in that way. Are you?

REP-ELECT NEGUSE: No-no. I think it's the wrong approach. I think it's imprudent. I disagree with it and I think the other option is to follow existing law and-and let folks go through the asylum process and to the extent that they are able to successfully claim asylum. I-I say this as the son of refugees. I mean I-I think immigrants to this country have so much to give and it's important we get this right.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Will the Democrats at the table vote for any kind of immigration reform that includes funding for a border wall?


REP-ELECT NEGUSE: No, I don't support a wall.

REP-ELECT HOULAHAN: I wouldn't as well. And I'm also the daughter of a refugee. My dad was a survivor of the Holocaust and came here with his mom as a very small child, as a 5-year-old and this is a very personal issue to me.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Let me take a break here and come back. We talked about finding agreement. We've already found a disagreement. Let's see what- what else we--

REP-ELECT CRENSHAW: --that was easy--

MARGARET BRENNAN: -- we can get to. Got there pretty quick. After this short break we will be back in a moment with more from our panel.

Part 2

MARGARET BRENNAN: We're back with our new member panel. And let's pick up the conversation. I know the two of you, both vets, have made a vow to try to find at least one point of agreement that you can legislate around. Do you know what that's going to be?

REP-ELECT CRENSHAW: There's multiple points--


REP-ELECT CRENSHAW: So I mean opioids--


REP-ELECT CRENSHAW: --infrastructure issues. You know, different infrastructure issues around the country. But for us its flood mitigation, opioid epidemic is- is terrible. You know, more-more people died of opioids last year than the entire Vietnam War. That's just the reality. And--

MARGARET BRENNAN: But is there anything that you particularly want to shepherd here?

REP-ELECT HOULAHAN: Well I-I agree, infrastructure --and-and a big infrastructure bill--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Is that number one for you?

REP-ELECT HOULAHAN: --absolutely. Opioids is an enormous problem in our community as well. Pharmaceutical prescription prices I think is something that we need to look at, we have to look at.

REP-ELECT CRENSHAW: And another thing I would bring up is workforce training issues. You know there are 7 million job openings, which is a great problem to have. We've got a great economy. But we need middle skill labor to fill those jobs.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to ask the Democrats at the table about your own leadership, your own party identity. I know you, Congresswoman-elect have said you will support Nancy Pelosi to be speaker.


MARGARET BRENNAN: The two of you. Did you learn anything this week? Did she earn your votes and your support?

REP-ELECT NEGUSE: Well so I'd say, I just want to, one quick tangent, criminal justice reform--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Oh, you're deflecting. You are a politician.

REP-ELECT NEGUSE: --no, I will answer it. I will answer the question but it's a really important issue where there's some emerging bipartisan consensus for Republicans and Democrats--

REP-ELECT CRENSHAW: I think that's great.

REP-ELECT NEGUSE: --I'm passionate about that. No. Look I- it's fascinating to me that it's the question that we got most often, at least the Democrats did, here during orientation, which is particularly interesting since there's no other candidate that I'm aware of--


REP-ELECT NEGUSE: --that's running against Leader Pelosi. I intend to support her. You know I think that it's important that we have steady leadership right now. And I found it pretty heartening over the course of the last week some of the developments around it becoming clear that this leadership team is going to work to try to make sure that everyone has a seat at the table. You saw a message from Leader Pelosi's office by way of example around making sure that there is progressive representation on key committees in the Congress and the Congressional Progressive Caucus leaders endorsing her shortly thereafter. So- so yeah, that's where I am.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Is that what changed your mind? The pledge to diversity council?

REP-ELECT NEGUSE: That among many other things. I wanted to have conversations with existing leadership and also with my fellow freshmen, fellow classmates to talk to them about their vision for the caucus their vision for the future. And- and ultimately that's where I landed.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you know how you'll vote yet?

REP-ELECT HOULAHAN: Right now she's the only person who's running so it would appear as though that's where my vote would go. And right now I believe that she's an effective person in that job. And so--

MARGARET BRENNAN: But you're open to being swayed?

REP-ELECT HOULAHAN: --I-I believe right now it looks as though it's heading in the direction that she will be our speaker. And I think she's a pretty powerful person and a capable person.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Congressman-elect, you during your run were backed by Bernie Sanders. Do you think he represents the future of your party?

REP-ELECT NEGUSE: I think we're a big tent party. I mean if-if--

MARGARET BRENNAN: But he is a more progressive voice within it.

REP-ELECT NEGUSE: --Of course. And you know there are also many other voices and many of our freshmen that we've spent this week with come from different areas of the country, different regions of the country. Obviously I you know am a progressive Democrat and- and believe that we should be bold in pushing for some really comprehensive solutions around some of the pressing public policy challenges that we face: climate change and the planetary crisis being the best example perhaps. But look again we are a big tent party. We are inclusive. We are diverse. I think that's a good thing. So I- I appreciate his voice just as I do the voice of many many of leaders in the party who are all stepping up to the plate at a really critical time for our democracy.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You know, but Republicans learned this when they had sort of an insurgent group the Tea Party right. That it can, while being part of a bigger tent, cause problems for leadership or at least, you know, try to create some issues around finding consensus. Do you see that happening for Democrats? Do- do progressives now become the problem for Nancy Pelosi rather than part of the caucus really on the same page?

REP-ELECT NEGUSE: No, I don't think that's the case. I've only been in Washington for five days. So- but you know my experience thus far and- and I think can touch on this as well as a member of the Progressive Caucus. But no, I don't think that's the case. I think we are all working together rowing in the same direction trying to save our democracy, to be frank and so--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Why do you say save our democracy?

REP-ELECT NEGUSE: Well look, I think that right now it's important for this majority in the House to engage in some really critical oversight of an administration that is undermining a lot of critical freedoms for folks in our country. And so when I say save our democracy, I mean precisely that. That-I think some of our democratic freedoms and the principles that we live by have been under attack for the better part of the last two years.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Congressman-elect, do you want to respond to that since the president has-is the leader of your party?

REP-ELECT CRENSHAW: Well I-I always ask the question like-like what? You know, like what is he undermining exactly? You know what- what democratic freedoms have been undermined? We just has an election where we switched-switched power in the House. Democracy is at work. People are voting in-in record numbers. I-I always ask for examples, and then we can hit those examples one-by-one and-and if it's- if it's worth criticizing, it's worth criticizing, but just kind of this broad brush criticism that the president is somehow undermining our democracy. I always wonder like, what exactly we're talking about--

REP-ELECT HOULAHAN: I'll be happy to- I'll be happy to add all of the things that he's--

REP-ELECT NEGUSE: --I'm- I'm happy to give you the example as well. I mean the undermining of the free press--

REP-ELECT HOULAHAN: The free press. Judiciary--

REP-ELECT CRENSHAW: Well how has he done that?

REP-ELECT HOULAHAN:  --CIA. FBI. The voting process--

REP-ELECT CRENSHAW: How-how has he undermined the free press?--

REP-ELECT NEGUSE: Well, by way of example--

REP-ELECT CRENSHAW: Obama indicted--


REP-ELECT CRENSHAW: --had many press members under investigation. Trump has not.


REP-ELECT NEGUSE: Just this last week--

REP-ELECT CRENSHAW:  So- so what is-what is-what is the difference here?

REP-ELECT NEGUSE: Just this last week, one of the largest media publications in the United States, right, had to go to a federal court in order to essentially regain access to the press room--

REP-ELECT CRENSHAW: No that was for one reporter. One reporter. Not the-not the whole organization--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Other media organizations including CBS did file amicus briefs in support--

REP-ELECT NEGUSE: That's right. Yeah. So I-I mean again--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --to disclose that.

REP-ELECT CRENSHAW: It was just one reporter.

REP-ELECT NEGUSE: I think we obviously would be- it's part of a much larger conversation--

REP-ELECT CRENSHAW: Because he was disruptive.

REP-ELECT NEGUSE: But- well, again--

REP-ELECT CRENSHAW: Highly disruptive.

REP-ELECT NEGUSE: A federal judge disagreed.

REP-ELECT HOULAHAN: I-I-I would argue that our President is consistently disruptive in those very same press conferences. And I would argue that he treats them with disrespect--

REP-ELECT CRENSHAW: But-but how is that-how is that an attack on the press?

REP-ELECT HOULAHAN: Be-because it's literally an attack on the press--

REP-ELECT CRENSHAW: Oh, I've literally been attacked. So I-I don't- let's choose our words carefully.

REP-ELECT HOULAHAN: His- his- his- his- his language is an attack in these spaces.

REP-ELECT CRENSHAW: Okay so why can't he speak- why-why is he not allowed to use his own language and freedom of speech?

REP-ELECT HOULAHAN: Because you- and you talked about this actually, it's important that we lead from example, that we lead from the top. And the way that our president is currently leading--

REP-ELECT CRENSHAW: --you. I-I agree with you there. I agree with you there. Style is one thing, if you want to criticize style I-I'm with you. Right? But to say it's an attack on the freedom of the press, that is a very bold statement.

REP-ELECT HOULAHAN: By calling the press the enemy of the people.

REP-ELECT CRENSHAW: Yeah I don't like that language

REP-ELECT HOULAHAN: That is literally--

REP-ELECT CRENSHAW: Okay so the style, I-I-I agree I don't like that language.

REP-ELECT HAALAND: And fake news of course. Yes. And I'll give you another example. His rhetoric about erasing trans people in our country, that to me-

REP-ELECT CRENSHAW: And he has never said that.

REP-ELECT HAALAND: Well it-it-it appears that he is discriminating against the LGBTQ community. And I think that's troublesome. I think it's worrisome. We all have communities in- I mean across this country and I mean and we mentioned it at the beginning ripping children away from their parents' arms. Those are all things that worry me that I absolutely feel that we have to have oversight on.

REP-ELECT HOULAHAN: Or how about just you know malign--

REP-ELECT CRENSHAW: --so they're policy differences--

REP-ELECT HOULAHAN: --the CIA and the FBI and the State Department and all those important institutions that are fundamental to how our democracy works and functions--

REP-ELECT CRENSHAW: So what-what I hear a lot is you don't like what he says sometimes. Okay-but-and you don't like the-- you know we have policy disagreements--


REP-ELECT CRENSHAW: but you're saying undermining democracy--


REP-ELECT CRENSHAW: --and I-and I want to caution us because those are very bold words. If we have policy disagreements, let's focus on those policy disagreements and I'll be happy to discuss those at any point. But this is what I've been getting at kind of all week which is we tend to-we tend to go right at the jugular, right. We say you're undermining democracy, you're a bad person fundamentally, that's not always true. We have policy disagreements on a lot of these things.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I think it's interesting that we talked about some of the most divisive issues including immigration, but the thing that set all of you off was the president. We have to leave the conversation there. Thank you so much. Good luck to you and your new work and your new jobs and we'll be right back.