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Fox News "Fox News Sunday" - Transcript

Interview

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Location: Washington, DC

BRIT HUME, GUEST HOST: With us now to discuss a number of issues is the minority leader of the Senate, Mitch McConnell.

Senator, welcome back to "Fox News Sunday."

SENATE MINORITY LEADER MITCH MCCONNELL, R-KY.: Glad to be here.

HUME: What are you hearing from Massachusetts in the special election coming up in two days?

MCCONNELL: Well, what we know for sure is that it's extremely close. In the most liberal, the bluest state in America, there is a very, very close special election for United States Senate.

To give you a sense of how it's electrified the country, I was flying back from Kentucky yesterday. A number of people brought up the health care issue. But one in particular was worthy of note.

I got off the plane. A lady came up to me, said, "I'm one of your constituents, but my husband here is a Massachusetts resident, so we're on the way to Massachusetts so he can vote for Scott Brown on Tuesday." I mean, this has electrified the country.

I think people have been -- looked at this health care bill and think it's a terrible proposal, that it's going to cut Medicare and raise taxes and raise insurance premiums. They want us to stop it.

And all of a sudden they realize there's an election somewhere in the country where you can affect -- where you can have an impact on it. And so it's quite a -- quite a phenomenon.

HUME: Let's assume that the election is held and Brown is the apparent winner, Republican Brown. What does that mean for the term in office of Paul Kirk, who is the interim senator, the Democrat who is serving out the balance of Senator Kennedy's -- the late Senator Kennedy's term?

Does his term end on the day of the election, so that -- whether the new senator is seated or not? Do you know?

MCCONNELL: Well, it's an interesting academic question. What we have to do is wait until the election is held and then focus on that.

I think the first step is to see what the people of Massachusetts say on Tuesday, and then everybody will be looking at the process for swearing in the new senator after that.

HUME: Is there any doubt in your mind that the winner, if it's -- if it's Brown, would be sworn in promptly, in time to vote on the next -- in the next round of votes on health care?

MCCONNELL: Well, the winner, whoever it is, should be sworn in promptly.

HUME: But are there ways that the Democrats could interrupt that process?

MCCONNELL: Well, you know, I'm sure all the lawyers will be looking at this. The important thing to remember, though, is that this is, in effect, a referendum on the national health care bill which the Democrats, in secret, are trying to work out now.

They have arrogantly ignored American public opinion all the way to this point. And they're trying to get their members to continue to ignore public opinion one more time. Regardless of the outcome Tuesday, we know that in the most liberal state in America you're going to have a close election for the United States Senate because people in Massachusetts don't want this health care bill to pass.

HUME: All right. In political terms, just raw political -- I understand that you, Senator McConnell, and most of your Republican colleagues oppose this bill on substantive grounds. You think it would be bad for the country.

So let's just -- let's assume that for the purpose of this question, which is in raw political terms is it better for the Democrats and worse for the Republicans if the bill passes or if it fails?

MCCONNELL: What's important is it would be good for the country if it failed.

HUME: I understand you think that.

MCCONNELL: Yeah.

HUME: But what about the politics of it?

MCCONNELL: I think the politics are toxic for the Democrats either way. This arrogant attempt to have the government take over one-sixth of the economy, on the heels of running banks, insurance companies, car companies, taking over the student loan business, doubling the national debt in five, tripling it in 10 -- you've got, Brit, sort of widespread public revulsion to this program.

HUME: We see that. What I'm trying to get at, though, is a question that goes back to 1994. Democrats believe that if the health care reforms that the Clinton administration sought to get through had, in fact, passed instead of failed, that they would have been better off in the...

MCCONNELL: Yeah.

HUME: ... 1994 midterms when they lost control of the Congress. And they all believe that the same holds today. Do you agree with that?

MCCONNELL: No one seriously believes that. I mean...

HUME: Well, then you must believe that if this fails...

MCCONNELL: Either way...

HUME: ... if this fails now, they're better off.

MCCONNELL: Either way, whether it passes or whether it fails, it will be a huge issue not just in 2010 but 2012. This is a unique issue. Everybody's interested in health care, all 300 million Americans. This issue isn't going away, whether they pass it or whether they don't. The American people are telling us, "Please don't pass this bill."

HUME: All right. Now, the Democrats made a deal with organized labor the other day which would postpone by, what, five years the tax on the so- called Cadillac health plans that many labor union members enjoy by virtue of their contracts, while leaving non-union workers with the need to start paying the tax right away. It looks pretty blatant in some respects.

First of all, will that fly in the Senate, even with Democrats, in your judgment?

MCCONNELL: Well, the whole proposal is ridded with special deals. The "Cornhusker Kickback," the "Louisiana Purchase."

HUME: Well, what about this one?

MCCONNELL: This is just another special deal for a favored constituent.

HUME: And what do you...

MCCONNELL: ... and it encourages people, actually, to join unions, presumably, because they would get better treatment from the government on their health care proposal.

HUME: Well, there was a -- those other special deals that you referenced here, quickly in passing, caused a kind of a backlash to the point where Senator Nelson, for example, is saying that the special deal that Nebraska got -- everybody got -- and it turned out to be an embarrassment, unpopular even at home.

Do you see any sign that there would be such a reaction against this deal for labor?

MCCONNELL: Absolutely. I mean, most American workers are not members of unions. In fact, I think organized labor in the private sector has about 7 or 8 percent of the workforce.

What about all the workers who are not in labor unions? Why don't they get a special deal?

HUME: What's your sense of what will happen here? If Martha Coakley wins, Democrats hold the seat, is this bill stoppable?

MCCONNELL: Well, I think it's stoppable because the American people are literally screaming at us, "Please don't pass it."

HUME: They've been screaming for a while. But what about whether you can stop it in the Senate?

MCCONNELL: Well, we're going to do everything we can to defeat this bill. The American people are asking us to defeat the bill. They're hollering at us, "Please defeat this bill." I'm still hoping that at some point some Democrat is going to say, "I don't buy any longer this arrogant notion that we ought to ignore our constituents and pass it no matter what they think." It is perfectly clear if it's unpopular in Massachusetts, it's unpopular everywhere. The American people don't want us to pass this bill.

HUME: Let me turn, if I can, quickly to the proposal that the president made this week in which the banks that received TARP funds, rescue funds, whether they paid them back with interest or not, and some banks that didn't receive TARP funds, would pay a new fee called -- which is being labeled a bank tax by some.

MCCONNELL: Yeah.

HUME: This is clearly a measure designed to close the revenue gap that the government faces. What about that? Is that -- is that going to fly in the Senate, in your judgment?

MCCONNELL: Well, it's interesting that the president brought up the bank tax. He wants to change the subject away from the health care. It's clear that they are trying to -- not all TARP recipients would have to pay the tax. Only some TARP recipients would have to pay the tax.

HUME: The auto companies are exempted.

MCCONNELL: Yeah, the auto companies who are unionized would be exempt from it. I think the important thing here is that TARP be ended. We're going to insist that TARP funds be paid back with interest. Many of these people who are being taxed, the institutions that are being taxed, have done that.

In addition to that, we need to end TARP, because what's going to happen here is the government is going to use it as sort of a revolving fund to continue to spend.

And Senator Thune from South Dakota is going to offer an amendment this very week to end TARP. I'm going to support it, and I think that's what most of my members think ought to be done.

HUME: Can the bank -- is there -- in your judgment, if the leadership presses for it, can that bank tax be stopped?

MCCONNELL: Well, I don't know. We're going to take a look at it. But what we ought to do is end TARP, get the money back with interest and end TARP.

HUME: All right. What's your prediction in Massachusetts?

MCCONNELL: Massachusetts is going to be a very, very close Senate race. Regardless of who wins -- regardless of who wins -- we have here, in effect, a referendum on this national health care bill. The American people are telling us, "Please don't pass it."

HUME: Senator McConnell, good to see you, sir.

MCCONNELL: Thank you.


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