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Transcript: Senator Tim Kaine on "Face the Nation," January 16, 2022

Kaine defends Democratic voting rights strategy
Kaine defends Democratic strategy on voting rights despite Senate roadblocks 07:45

The following is a transcript of an interview with Virginia Senator Tim Kaine that aired Sunday, January 16, 2022, on "Face the Nation."

MARGARET BRENNAN: We go now to Sen Tim Kaine. He joins us from Richmond. Good morning to you, senator. 

SEN. TIM KAINE (D-VA): Good morning, MARGARET. So, you just heard that CBS poll, which shows 65% of the country, doesn't think the president is focused enough on inflation, which is that a 40 year high of 7%. Why do you think the White House appears so out of touch with the public?

SEN. KAINE: Well, look, I think it's a tough time right now, and MARGARET, as you know, the White House's focus, significant energy on the economy in the first year, record job growth in the first year of the White House, 3.9% unemployment rate and very strong growth in wages. But the inflation issue is real, we've got to tackle it. Some of the inflation is- is related to the continuing pandemic, which has disrupted supply chains. But President Biden and Congress are also working on initiatives in the Build Back Better legislation that will reduce cost health care, prescription drugs, education. People hear the title of the bill, and they don't know what it might do for them. But if we can get it passed, some of it deals with cost drivers that bedevil most families and we can show them we're paying attention.

MARGARET BRENNNA: Even the White House economist is using the past tense when referring to Build Back Better. It's dead. You don't have the votes in the Senate. 

SEN. KAINE: Yeah, I don't agree with you, MARGARET, you're right that it's dead, the- the most recent version of it is not going to happen, but if you look at the core of the bill, I think the core is education and workforce and things like reduced child care and education expenses, workforce training and then support for the workforce in areas like health care. There are other pieces of the bill that are more controversial. I still believe we're going to find a core of this bill, whatever we call it, we're going to find the core of the bill and pass it, and it will deal directly with some of these inflation concerns.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Democratic strategist James Carville was on another network this morning, and he said Democrats whine too much. He said- you're not talking- he said you're not talking enough about the infrastructure bill you just passed. You're talking about things that have failed, and you have a vote scheduled this week that will also fail on voting rights. Why do you think that is an effective strategy to have high profile failures rather than talk about the things that people are saying do matter to them on the economy and inflation?

SEN. KAINE: Well, MARGARET, I do think we- we are talking a lot about the infrastructure bill. Certainly, I am, in Virginia and whether it's broadband road, rail, bridges, ports, airports, electricity grid, it's going to mean a lot of good for every zip code in the country. With respect to voting rights, look, whatever the pundits say, you know, makes political sense. It is- it is such an existential issue. Those of us who survived the attack on the Capitol Jan. 6 and are witnessing wholesale efforts around the country to make it harder for people to vote and to undermine the integrity of elections, we have to do this. We all have to be recorded at this moment in time about where are we in protecting the right to vote. Right now, it doesn't look like it has the votes to pass, but we're going to cancel our Martin Luther King Day recess and be there this week because we think it's so important for the country. And we will be voting, both on the bills, but also on if we can't get Republican support for the bills- we have uniform Democratic support, could we find a path to make some rules, adjustments to pass them.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But you don't have the votes to suspend that 60-vote threshold. So, what- what kind of mechanism are you envisioning here that is somehow going to get this through?

SEN. KAINE: As of right now, MARGARET, we don't have all 50 Democrats on board with rules changes, but there are a couple of different paths. Some involve rules changes like a carve out to the filibuster. But there's other paths that we could take where we just- the 60-vote threshold is only if you want to limit debate, we could do longer debate and then in the debate and have a simple majority. But we will have a vote on the bills, and we will have a vote on a rules path to get there because it's so important for the country.

MARGARET BRENNAN: The- the president, as you know, gave this very high-profile speech this week- this past week in Georgia. He's called the local law there "Jim Crow 2.0." In that speech that he gave, he- he compared his opponents to Bull Connor, Jefferson Davis, which Republican leader Mitch McConnell said was akin to saying, "agree with me or you are a bigot." How does characterizing opponents like that actually win over any kind of Republican support? Isn't the president hobbling himself?

SEN. KAINE: You know, MARGARET, I read those comments differently. Joe Biden was tough in his words, but I think what he said is in the 1960s, say the Voting Rights Act of 1965, people, including people of goodwill, had to decide were they going to stand on the side of Bull Connor or stand on the side of John Lewis. It was the same point that Martin Luther King made in his famous letter from the Birmingham Jail and said, I'm writing to people of goodwill. You may not be bigots and you may not be pro discrimination, but this is a moment in time where you have to decide which side, you're going to stand with in these efforts to hobble minority votes and put up stunts and schemes and people's way, all people of goodwill have to decide where they're going to stand.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So, you disagree with Sen. Dick Durbin, who said the president may have gone too far there. I mean, is there any outreach to Republicans here who have- some have signaled some willingness on the Electoral Count Act or other measures?

SEN. KAINE: MARGARET, I've been engaged in outreach to Republicans on voting rights since July and have found zero support with the exception of Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who was a co-sponsor of the John Lewis bill. We can get no co-sponsors despite repeated efforts when we put the bill up on the floor to proceed to it, they vote against even debating the bill, knowing that they could block its passage. They don't even want to talk about it. So, I thank Sen. Murkowski for being a supporter of restoring the preclearance provisions in the John Lewis bill, but thus far she's been the only one who has been willing to put her name to support for any of these provisions.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yeah, you were with us back in Nov. when a Republican won the governorship in your home state. You blame that Democratic loss on congressional Democrats, who you said, "just blew the timing of infrastructure, workforce and education. Congressional Democrats have majorities in both houses, and the American public expects us to deliver." Clock is ticking here ahead of those midterm races. What do Democrats need to deliver on in order to hold on to any kind of majority?

SEN. KAINE: You're right, MARGARET, I think we could have won that race had we done infrastructure a month earlier. Now we have delivered on the far-reaching American Rescue Plan. We have delivered on a once in a generation infrastructure investment, although a month too late, I think we have to go into that Build Back Better bill and do the core provisions that reduce costs for Americans in these key areas. If we do that will speak to their inflation concern, we will help people out in every zip code in this country; I think we've got to do that. And it is my hope that we will find a path, although the Vegas odds may not be great. We need to find a path to protect democracy from an assault that is being led by President Trump and his followers all over this country.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Senator, thank you for your time this morning. 

SEN. KAINE: Absolutely. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: FACE THE NATION will be back in one minute with national security adviser Jake Sullivan.

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