ABC "This Week With George Stephanopoulos"-Transcript
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MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: And we are back now with the Republican leader of the Senate, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. Good morning, Senator.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY) (Minority Leader): Good morning, George.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, you heard Speaker Pelosi there. She says that they're already compromised, she already has a bipartisan bill and there's not going to be any compromise on the funding, funding for 10 million children. Does that mean no deal?
SEN. MCCONNELL: No. There will have to be a deal. We're not going to leave children -- uninsured children uncovered. You know, George, this was a plan passed by the Republican Congress about 10 years ago and I don't know any members of Congress, Republican or Democrat, who are not in favor of this plan to provide insurance for low-income children. The issue is how do you do it, and this particular proposal which the president, in my view, correctly vetoed is a bad deal. I'll just give you an example. Down here in Kentucky, it would create for us $600 million more in taxes than it would get benefits for us. In a state like New York, they'd get $1.2 billion more in taxes and they would get benefits. There are some adjustments that need to be made, and we need to try to confine it to covering low-income children.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, here's one of the deals -- proposed deals that I've heard discussed. The Democrats would agree in part with what you just said. They would agree to cap the insurance program for families making up to 300 percent of the poverty line -- $60,000, $65,000 a year in the high-income states -- and they would make it clear that no illegal immigrants are covered by the program. In return, the Republicans would accept the current funding levels in the bill. Does that sound like as possible deal?
SEN. MCCONNELL: Well, I don't think we can negotiate it here this morning, but there's clearly is going to be a deal. Neither side is going to leave these kids uninsured. It's become kind of a political football, which is really unfortunate, but the coverage is going to be provided in some way. I hope in a way better for my state. The bill that I'm supporting, which I hope will be part of the mix on the compromise, actually provides greater benefits for Kentucky next year than the plan the president vetoed. So there are some adjustments that need to be made. I don't think there's any chance at the end of the day that we're not going to approve an S-CHIP program for America.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: You and a lot of your colleagues are feeling some political heat on this. Here's an ad that's actually being run in Kentucky on this program.
ADVERTISEMENT: (From videotape.) Most of the Senate, Republicans and Democrats recently voted to help thousands of uninsured children in Kentucky to get the healthcare they need, yet Senator Mitch McConnell sided with the big insurance companies and voted no.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Don't you have to get this monkey off your back? I'm reading here Stu Rothenberg's column in "Roll Call." He's talking to other Republicans. They're saying things like it's stupid politics. The Democrats have some Republicans bleeding like stuck pigs, says one Republican House member.
SEN. MCCONNELL: Well, look, down in my state I've been subjected to ads from one left wing group or another all year long, so I'm sort of used to it. Look, this is going to be a short-term controversy over trying to get this program right, and getting it right means providing health insurance for low-income children. There's no chance the Republicans and Democrats are not going to reach a compromise on this in the very near future.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: But you heard Speaker Pelosi saying no compromise on the funding. Can you accept that?
SEN. MCCONNELL: She is going to compromise. There's no choice. We're not going to walk away and leave these young people from low- income families uninsured. It's simply not going to happen, so this is going to be like a pebble in the ocean -- a short-term controversy, a big partisan struggle and it's going to be over.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Okay. Well, let me ask you about another issue that I spoke with the speaker about, this resolution on the Armenian Genocide that passed the House International Relations Committee last week. She seems determined to put it to a floor vote in the House. Will you block that kind of a resolution in the Senate?
SEN. MCCONNELL: Well, I think it's a bad idea. I have a lot of Armenian friends, by the way, and I've been to Armenia. I'm very knowledgeable about the country and its concerns. There's no question that this mass killing of Armenians did occur almost 100 years ago. Having said that, I think it's a really bad idea for the Congress to be condemning what happened 100 years ago. We all know it happened.
There's a genocide museum actually in Armenia to commemorate what happened, but I don't think the Congress passing this resolution is a good idea at any point, but particularly not a good idea when Turkey is cooperating with us in many ways, which ensures greater safety for our soldiers.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me ask you another question about Iraq. Yesterday, a former commanding general in Iraq -- or Friday, excuse me -- General Ricardo Sanchez gave a speech where he was just blistering on the strategy and our current situation in Iraq. He called it a living nightmare with no end in sight, and said that neither the surge nor any other adjustment in strategy could produce a victory. He went on to say this.
LT. GEN. RICARDO SANCHEZ, FORMER U.S. COMMANDER IN IRAQ: (From videotape.) The best we can do with this flawed approach is stave of defeat. The administration, Congress, and the entire interagency, especially the State Department must shoulder the responsibility for this catastrophic failure and the American people must hold them accountable.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Do you accept responsibility for what he calls a catastrophic failure?
SEN. MCCONNELL: I admire General Sanchez. I met him on one of my trips to Iraq and we appreciate his service to our country. Another point of view, however, was expressed by the "Washington Post" editorial page just this morning, which pointed out that by any objective standard the surge is working. Violence is dramatically down, there's simply overwhelming evidence to that effect, and most of us have not given up. We believe we can win. And my definition of winning is a stable country and an ally on the war on terror. I think we're making significant progress toward that end. And with regard to public opinion, you know, George, I think the vast majority of people who are unhappy about the war are unhappy about it because they don't think it's been handled very well and they now look at it and see that we're actually making progress toward having an acceptable conclusion.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: But how do you respond to Speaker Pelosi's point that there may be some military progress and the violence may be down, but no movement at all politically on the part of the Iraqi government?
SEN. MCCONNELL: I'd have to say that I agree with her. I think the central government in Iraq has been an embarrassment. They've not been able to produce any of the kind of political compromises that we had hoped for. Having said that, you can't ignore the dramatic success at the local level, particularly in Anbar province where the local tribes have basically switched sides, they're now with us against al Qaeda, the south is relatively secure, so is Kurdistan. Baghdad is improving. I don't have anything good to say about the central government in Baghdad, but I think the security situation has dramatically improved and reconciliation is occurring in a variety of different places inside the country.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Larry Craig was inducted into the Idaho Hall of Fame last night. He is going to be speaking out to the media this week. Have you resigned yourself to the idea that he is going to finish out his term?
SEN. MCCONNELL: Well, Senator Craig's matter, as you know, is before the Senate's Ethics Committee and that's the way we handle it in the Senate.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: But they can't expel him, can they?
SEN. MCCONNELL: The Senate Ethics Committee will be dealing with these allegations surrounding Senator Craig. That's the way we handle it procedurally in the Senate.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Okay. Senator McConnell, thank you very much for your time this morning.
SEN. MCCONNELL: Thank you.