MSNBC INTERVIEW WITH REP. PETER KING (R-NY)
SUBJECTS: THE REPUBLICANS' BUDGET PROPOSAL; THE PRESIDENT'S HONORARY DOCTORATE FROM NOTRE DAME INTERVIEWER: NORAH O'DONNELL
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MS. O'DONNELL: Joining us live is Republican Congressman Pete King of New York, who serves on the House Financial Services Committee.
Congressman, good to see you. Thanks so much for joining us.
REP. KING: Good to be here, Norah.
MS. O'DONNELL: I was just talking with one of your colleagues, Congressman Mike Pence.
REP. KING: Yeah.
MS. O'DONNELL: Now that the Republicans have put out a budget proposal, do you think that you've sort of just given the Democrats a big, fat target to attack?
REP. KING: No. I think -- it was our plan all along. I know Paul Ryan, who is the ranking member on the Budget Committee and who really is an expert on the budget, he has been planning all along to have a budget come out.
I know we had a meeting on Wednesday. At that time, he said that budget would be ready to be voted on next week, our budget alternative. I think he's going to file it on Monday.
So no. Listen, I think if we're going to have a real debate with the president and an honest debate, we owe it to put our -- you know, to the country to put our cards on the table and have that debate.
MS. O'DONNELL: President Obama is going to deliver the commencement speech at Notre Dame, of course a Catholic university. Why are you opposed to Notre Dame giving him an honorary degree?
REP. KING: Yeah. Well, I'm a graduate of the law school at Notre Dame. My son and daughter went to Notre Dame. My wife's entire family went to Notre Dame and Saint Mary's. And I have a great respect for Notre Dame. I have a great respect for Father Jenkins, you know, the president of the university.
But President Obama's positions are so opposed to one of the key moral principles of the Catholic faith regarding pro-life, regarding the sanctity of life, that to give him an honorary degree is in effect a tacit acceptance of his positions which are entirely opposed to Catholic Church teaching.
MS. O'DONNELL: You respect Cardinal Edward Egan of New York, right?
REP. KING: Yes, I do.
MS. O'DONNELL: Well, he invited President Obama, before he became president, to speak at the Al Smith Dinner --
REP. KING: Yes.
MS. O'DONNELL: -- in October of 2008. So why is it okay for someone like Archbishop Egan to invite him to speak and not Notre Dame to invite President Obama to speak?
REP. KING: Yeah. Well, Cardinal Egan has done -- the Al Smith Dinner has been held for at least at 40, 50 years, and both presidential candidates are always invited to speak. So they're not getting any special prominence or the -- and the church is not giving them any special credibility by having them. They are there as the nominee of their parties.
But when you're giving an honorary degree to someone, you are singling that person out, and you are saying that they are performing in a distinguished way.
MS. O'DONNELL: So --
REP. KING: And his views are totally antithetical to Catholic teaching. So to me, it just gives a false impression.
MS. O'DONNELL: Well, former New York mayor and presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani has received an honorary degree when he spoke at Loyola College in Maryland, a Catholic university -- an honorary degree from them. Should Loyola have not given Rudy Giuliani an honorary degree?
REP. KING: Yeah, and actually I was a big supporter of Rudy Giuliani for president.
MS. O'DONNELL: I know.
REP. KING: No, I don't believe Catholic schools should be giving honorary degrees to people in elective office or in public life who are pro-choice or pursue policies regarding abortion.
Having said that, Rudy Giuliani's position is far more moderate and far more nuanced than President Obama's. For instance, Rudy Giuliani was opposed to partial-birth abortion.
MS. O'DONNELL: I just -- I mean, I went to Georgetown University --
REP. KING: Right.
MS. O'DONNELL: -- which, as you know, is a Jesuit university. Why can't you have people who have different views come speak at a university? Isn't that the whole point of a university -- I mean, to let people have a rich diversity of debates and issues and people that come in there?
REP. KING: Yeah --
MS. O'DONNELL: I mean, if not --
REP. KING: Right --
MS. O'DONNELL: -- why not just have Catholic universities only have Catholics come and speak?
REP. KING: Right. No, I have no problem having somebody come in and speak. In fact, I agree with you. I think that universities, Catholic and non-Catholic, should be the source of intellectual debate and ferment.
But a commencement speech and an honorary degree is actually bestowing the honor of the university on that person, is putting them in an exalted position, a special place of privilege. And to me, it sends entirely the wrong message, which is why the bishop of Fort Wayne-South Bend is actually boycotting the commencement and has said that Notre Dame has made a serious mistake.
MS. O'DONNELL: Well, I have a feeling this is going to continue to be a big issue.
REP. KING: Yeah, I think so.
MS. O'DONNELL: Congressman, thanks so much for joining us.
REP. KING: Thank you, Norah.