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CBS "Face the Nation" - Transcript

Interview

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Location: Washington, DC

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

BOB SCHIEFFER: All right. Well, we thank you very much for being with us this morning. Thank you so much, Congressman.

The top Senate Republican Mitch McConnell joins us now from Louisville, Kentucky. Well, Mister Leader, let me just ask you, how do you see this thing shaping down up? You just heard Ron Paul. He's not sure that every Republican could beat Barack Obama. Do you think Republicans can win this thing?

SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL (Republican Leader/R-Kentucky): Absolutely. And at some point, yeah, we're going to have a nominee. I don't think any of these caucus goers or primary voters needed any advice from me about who to pick. But we're going to end up with a very credible electable candidate in the not too distant future.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Do you think this campaign is divisive and is nasty as it's been, has it helped Barack Obama?

SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL: Oh, I don't think so. I mean, these-- these are always knock-down, drag-out fights. It takes four years for people to forget it, it was just like this four years ago.

BOB SCHIEFFER: All right, well let me-- let's shift to something that just happened here on Friday. The President called a news conference and basically backed away from the policy that he had announced that would make Catholic hospitals and schools pay for birth control methods for the people who work for them. Catholic Church just-- just erupted in a firestorm after that was announced. The President backed away from that on Friday. Do you think that's the end of it?

SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL: Look, here's the problem, Bob. The fact that the White House thinks this is about contraception is the whole problem. This is about freedom of religion. It's right there in the First Amendment. You can't miss it. Right there in the very First Amendment to our constitution. And the government doesn't get to decide for religious people what their religious beliefs are. They get to decide that. And so when the bishops spoke, I think that's pretty good evidence that they-- that they know what their own religious beliefs are. And this compromise obviously was unacceptable to them.

And by the way, this is not just a Catholic issue. The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary is in my hometown here in Louisville. The President wrote me Friday. He has the same view that this is all about the free exercise of religion. And so this underscores just one of the constitutional problems with Obama-care. Tomorrow Senate Republicans will be filing an amicus brief that is a friend of the court brief, in the Obama-care litigation that's before the Supreme Court. That will be heard in March. It's riddled with constitutional problems. And this is what happens when the government tries to take over health care and tries to interfere with your religious beliefs.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Well, we'll have the White House chief of staff Jack Lew will be with us after I talk to you to give their side of it. But let me just continue on on this. Now, some Catholic organizations after the President announced that he was backing off this and was going to make the insurance companies pay for birth control pills basically. Some said, well, that was a good step in the right direction and, so forth, but the bishops came back and said they want to push now for stronger legislation to-- to extend this ban on religious institutions having to buy these things. And Senator Blunt from Missouri, one of your Republican colleagues, he wants an amendment now that would allow any group that had a moral objection to this, to not have to pay for birth control pills. Are you willing to go as far as Senator Blunt wants to go on this?

SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL: Yeah, it's not a moral objection. This is about the free exercise of religion. And under our constitution, you don't take a poll to find out how people feel about a constitutional freedom. In fact the Bill of Rights are designed to protect minority views so what the-- what the overall view on the issue of contraception is has nothing to do with an issue about religious freedom. And in this country, the government doesn't get to tell you or your organization what your religious views are. And they could well be minority views. But Bill of Rights is designed to protect the minority from the will of the majority. So this issue will not go away until the administration simply backs down. They don't have the authority under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution to tell someone in this country or some organization in this country what their religious beliefs are. Therein lies the problem.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Well, I-- I guess what I'm asking you though is-- is are you willing to go as far as Senator Blunt now wants to go and just write in legislation that would ban any group that had just a, quote, "moral objection," not just a religious group but just any group that had a moral objection to that? Would-- would you be willing to push that in the Senate?

SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL: Yeah. You know if-- if we end up having to try to overcome the President's opposition by legislation, of course, I'd be happy to support it and intend to support it. It would be difficult as long as the President is rigid in his view that he gets to decide what somebody else's religion is. I assume he would veto it. But yeah, we will be voting on that in the Senate. And you can anticipate that that would happen as soon as possible.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Let me ask you one other question. The President sends his budget up there to you all Monday, tomorrow. What he says he can save four trillion dollars over the next ten years. Is that going to be good enough? Does his budget have any chance?

SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL: No. You know, last year I-- I had to offer his budget for him. Senate Democrats haven't passed a budget in a thousand days even though the law requires it. We only had two budget votes last year. I offered the House budget. They followed the law and had a vote on a budget. We voted on that in the Senate. I offered President Obama's budget since the Democrats didn't seem to want to develop their own budget and didn't want to vote for his. His budget was defeated ninety-seven to nothing. So probably the only budget votes we'll have in the Senate which refuses to follow the law and pass a budget of its own would be a House-passed budget and the President's budget.

BOB SCHIEFFER: All right.

SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL: So I intend to offer the President's budget for him so he'll have a chance to get a vote on it.

BOB SCHIEFFER: All right. Thank you very much, Senator.

SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL: Thank you.

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