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CBS "Face the Nation" - Transcript

Interview

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Location: Washington, DC

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BOB SCHIEFFER: Because now we're going to go to the Republican leader in the Senate Mitch McConnell, who's down at his hometown of Louisville today. Senator, I do want to ask you about what Senator Kerry just talked about. But first, I've got to ask you about Libya and this whole idea of maybe setting up a no-fly zone in Libya. What-- what is your take on that?

SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL (R-Kentucky/Republican Leader): Well, I think it's worth considering. The other option that-- that John Kerry alluded to in passing that I think we used frequently during the Cold War period is simply aiding and arming the insurgents. We're not quite sure who these insurgents are. There was one report that a group of insurgents actually arrested some British soldiers. So I think we need to make sure who we're-- who we're dealing with here. But Qaddafi going, I think everybody in the United States and hopefully ultimately everybody in Libya will finally conclude that's the best outcome.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Well, do you believe then, it is in our vital national interest for him to go?

SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL: I'm not sure if it's in our vital interest for him to go. But I think we certainly ought to look for ways to be helpful to those who are seeking to overthrow dictators certainly short of sending in our own military personnel.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Let me just ask you and I'll just ask you to respond to what Senator Kerry just said. He said that this budget battle that's going on up on the Hill up there, that the House bill that is passed, sixty-one billion dollars in cuts, he call it dangerous. What--

SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL (overlapping): Bob, I think, I heard him call it the reckless. Well, it's-- well, what's reckless, Bob, is the 1.6-trillion-dollar deficit we're running this year. What's reckless is the three trillion dollars we've added to our national debt. Our national debt is now the size of our economy. We begin to look a lot like Greece. Look and this doesn't even deal with our long-term unfunded liabilities in Medicare, Social Security, Medicaid. Add up to over fifty trillion dollars of promises we've made to future generations that we cannot meet. Look, this is the time to get serious. The administration with regard of this year's negotiation that we're talking about, that Senator Kerry called reckless, has only come about one sixth of the way to where House Republicans are and where I and majority and-- and hopefully all Senate Republicans are. Look, this is a good place to start. But it's just a pebble in the ocean to what we need to do. This is the perfect time to tackle entitlement reform. We have divided government. That is, one party doesn't control the entire government. That's the time, Bob, to do big things. Remember when Reagan and Tip O'Neill fixed Social Security. Remember when Clinton and Republican Congress did welfare reform. This is the time to do important and difficult stuff. And I agree with the Washington Post. Where-- where's the President? Yeah. Where is the leadership? We're prepared to do difficult things but he must be a part of it because--

BOB SCHIEFFER (overlapping): Well--

SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL: --we're not looking at making an issue here. We're looking at making a law. And that requires the signature of the President of the United States.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Well, all we know, of course, is about what is being said in public.

SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL: Mm-Hm.

BOB SCHIEFFER: We hear the back and forth that's being-- being going on in-- in public. But you and the other leaders have been meeting behind closed doors with Vice President Biden. I--I guess, I would ask you this question. What is your take on the administration right now? Do you believe that-- that President Obama is, in fact, serious about trying to get something done here?

SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL: No, I don't.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Really?

SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL: I have-- I have now had a number of private conversations with the President and the vice president. I was hopeful that we would step up to the plate here, if you will, and use this divided government opportunity to do something big about our long-term problems. I don't have any more complaints about no-- no the conversations with them. I've had plenty of conversations with them. What I don't see now is any willingness to do anything that's difficult. Look, this-- this is the perfect time to do it. We-- we control part of the government. They control part of the government. It could be done in a very, very effective way. And for those who are concerned about the 2012 elections survived politically because both sides will have embraced it. I haven't given up hope but frankly I m not optimistic.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Well-- well, you know, that really is a pretty serious charge at this stage to say that you don't even think the President is serious. What is it that makes you say that?

SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL: Well, look, I've a number of conversations with-- with people who-- who count at the White House. And I think that so far I don't see the level of seriousness that-- that we need. For example, they're in denial about Social Security. They-- they are saying Social Security is not-- not a problem. The Congressional Budget Office said it's running a fiftybillion-dollar deficit this very year. Medicare, Social Security are unsustainable. Medicare--Medicaid is unsustainable. You step back and look at what this administration has done--they've sort of pumped up the government. Bob, you would be interested to know that unemployment among government workers is half what it is among private sector workers. And most of those unemployed workers are state and local workers who have been laid off. The federal governments, in fact, added a hundred thousand jobs in the course of this administration while the American people have shed millions of jobs. Our-- our priorities are out of whack. When my friend John Kerry says cutting government spending is reckless, I'm wondering, what planet is he living on?

BOB SCHIEFFER: All right. Okay, I asked you for a response and-- and you certainly gave me one. Senator McConnell, it's always good to have you here. I thank you. We'll have some context and analysis on all of this from New York Times columnist Tom Friedman who is just back from the Middle East. That's in sixty seconds. Thank you, senator.

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