MSNBC INTERVIEW WITH REP. PETER KING (R-NY)
SUBJECT: VIOLENCE ON THE U.S.-MEXICO BORDER; THE 90-PERCENT TAX ON EXECUTIVE BONUSES INTERVIEWER: ANDREA MITCHELL
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MS. MITCHELL: Exactly, and thanks so much, Savannah, because we're going to take that up right now with Peter King, who is the ranking Republican on the Homeland Security Committee on the House Side.
Thanks so much for joining us.
One of the big issues is not just guns, but the assault weapons. Congressman, the assault weapon ban, which the Bush administration let lapse -- the Obama administration is so far reluctant to take that on. Janet Napolitano's been asked about it, and they know what a political nightmare it is to go up agains the gun lobby.
Do you think they need to be or are there other ways that you and the administration can work together to try to stop these guns from going south?
REP. KING: Well, it wasn't just the Bush administration letting it lapse. You know, the Democrats controlled Congress for the last two years -- excuse me -- and made no attempt to bring it back up. So it was sort of a bipartisan agreement, I think, to step aside.
I actually supported the assault weapon ban when it first came up back in 1994. But I think it --
MS. MITCHELL: I know you did.
REP. KING: -- but it could create too much of a firestorm, and I think we should probably try to find other ways because we do have to stop those weapons from going down there.
There's no doubt that there are too many weapons crossing the border. One weapon is too many, but there's just far too many weapons crossing the border to the drug cartels. And it's important we find ways to stop them.
I think that going for the assault weapon ban -- to reinstitute that would just create a side issue and it will prevent us from getting the job done. So I hope we can do it in a bipartisan way. Certainly, I look forward to working with Bennie Thompson, the chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, to see if we can find a way that'll get results and not just get headlines.
MS. MITCHELL: What about Rick Perry, the governor -- the Republican governor of Texas, wanting the National Guard and, so far, resistance from the Obama administration? Where do you stand on that?
REP. KING: I would have no problem sending troops to the border provided we know exactly what they're going to do. And this is a real decision. If we -- if they're going to go down there, if they're unarmed, then they just become targets.
If they are armed, then we have to know exactly what the guidelines are as to when they can use deadly force, if they can fire across the border and, you know, what their rights are.
I don't want any soldier to go down there and end up being court- martialed later on, you know, for using a weapon improperly or taking an action that was not authorized. Also, it's possible that they'll just be used away from the border, for instance, perhaps checking vehicles coming down for identification, for weapons.
But I have no philosophical problem in using the National Guard, provided that they will be working in conjunction with the Border Patrol and other officials along the -- and we know exactly what their mission is. Just to use them for show to send them there -- for instance, I was down there in 2006 when the National Guard was involved in constructing the wall. They were unarmed. That was a different purpose.
But to have them there as a military, and if they're not armed, then that just leaves them as targets. If they are armed, then we have issues of Posse Comitatus and exactly what the rights of American soldiers are to use weapons on American soil, and also will those weapons be used across the border.
So these are things which really have to be looked into, so it has to be looked at very, very carefully. I would support it in theory and in principle. But it's important that we know exactly what they're doing before we send them there.
MS. MITCHELL: Now, you're a member of House Financial Services -- to switch to the economy for second -- and you were one of the Republicans who voted against the 90 percent tax --
REP. KING: Right.
MS. MITCHELL: -- on the bonuses.
What is the next step for your committee? You've had the -- you know, the hearing with Edward Liddy. What do you now want to find out about AIG and about where the administration's plan, the Geithner plan, is going?
REP. KING: Well, we had a hearing yesterday with Secretary Geithner and Ben Bernanke on the whole AIG issue. I think it's important for Secretary Geithner to just resolve this once and for all, just to have the language that was given to Senator Dodd and why he put it in.
More importantly, though, I think it's -- that we go forward to find a way to make Secretary Geithner's plan work. I'm not saying I fully support it, but it is a step in the right direction. He is using the private sector. But we have to -- we have to get the private sector engaged.
And I can tell you from talking to people in my district who work on Wall Street, they are very gun-shy right now that if they get involved in this project, they end up making money and then later on, they're accused of making windfall profits and somebody coming after them with a retroactive tax similar to what we saw with AIG.
I think AIG bonuses were wrong, but the fact is what they did was at that time in compliance with the law. And to go after someone the way we did, I think, was a dangerous precedent. And we're starting to feel it now from Wall Street, which is reluctant to get involved so far in Secretary Geithner's plan.
MS. MITCHELL: How do you deal with the fact that Congress is just angry? There's a lot of rage. Whether it's real or feigned, it is politically popular right now. And the president's trying to walk a tightrope between acknowledging the anger. He was pressed on that point at the news conference last night. How do you and your colleagues up there not get into a dog-and-pony show and more, you know, outrage that really isn't targeted towards making the situation better?
REP. KING: I think it's important to show some adult supervision, to be responsible and not just to give in to what, you know, people may want at a particular time. The people have the right to be angry, but part of our job as elected representatives is to channel that anger in a appropriate way and an intelligent way and not do it in a way that's going to have after-effects, uninteded effects which are going to damage the economy more overall.
Listen, those people at AIG did a terrible thing, but we -- so the Congress overreacted in going after them. And it's really -- our job is to show some sense of responsibility and not just to give in to the zeitgiest, not just to give in to what, you know, the fervor or the fury of the moment is.
MS. MITCHELL: All right. Peter King, thank you so much. Thanks for joining us.
REP. KING: Thank you, Andrea.
MS. MITCHELL: You've got a hearing at 2:15?
REP. KING: Yes, we do. Yeah. A mark-up today. Yes.
MS. MITCHELL: Back in Financial Services on the -- so you're marking up legislation? What kind of legislation?
REP. KING: My understanding is it's going to be executive compensation. That's also going to be a very tricky issue as to how we define what compensation is for companies that are getting TARP money, especially companies who may not have even wanted to take the TARP money in the first place but were pressured to do so by the Treasury Department to get money back into the system.
MS. MITCHELL: All right. Thank you very much, Peter King.
REP. KING: Thank you, Andrea.
MS. MITCHELL: Thanks for joining us.
REP. KING: Thank you.