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Public Statements

NBC "Meet the Press" - Transcript

Interview

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MR. GREGORY: Joining me now, the chair of the Democratic National Committee, Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

Welcome back to the program.

REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D-FL): Thanks, David, it's great to be with you.

MR. GREGORY: Nice to have you here in studio. So let me ask you about this issue of contraception and this fight over social issues. Just as I've asked your--the two other guests I've had this morning, can you appreciate where they're coming from, which is--this is not a war on women, which they say is a vast overstatement, or about access to contraception, but this is about religious liberty that started with the president's new regulation about faith institutions and access and who pays for contraception.

REP. SCHULTZ: Well, if it's not a war on women, then let's just look at what happened this week in contraception. First, you had the Blunt-Rubio bill that was on the floor in the United States Senate that wouldn't just deal with making sure that women couldn't have access to contraception, it would actually say that any boss could use their own moral conviction to decide what access to health care their employees could have, making sure that women would have to have their own access to health care, whether it's to mammograms or contraception or to amniocenteses or any other type of health care access, decided by their boss. And that was defeated in the Senate. So the Republicans actually want to go much further than just saying women shouldn't have access to, to contraception. They want to say that bosses should be able to decide what kind of access to health care women can have.

MR. GREGORY: But to raise Speaker Gingrich's point, who is saying that access to contraception will be cut off in any fashion?

REP. SCHULTZ: Well, because...

MR. GREGORY: Even the president's rule on the compromise allows--it's just that the insurers would have to pay for it directly, but there would still be all the access that you fought for.

REP. SCHULTZ: Because the president's policy has made sure that contraception, which is expensive...

MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.

REP. SCHULTZ: ...is going to be available under the Affordable Care Act without a co-pay and without a deductible. And so if you say that that can't happen and if you say that a boss can replace their own moral conviction with this policy, then that is how Republicans are proposing to restrict women's access to contraception. Then the other news in contraception this week was Rush Limbaugh criticizing a young law student who stood up and said, look, at Georgetown Law School, not only am I required to pay for my own health insurance because Georgetown Law requires all students to pay for health insurance, but contraception's not covered. And what did he do? He called her a slut. A slut. And now I'm sorry, I know he apologized, but forgive me if I doubt his sincerity given that he lost at least six advertisers. And the bottom line is that the leading candidate on the Republican side for president couldn't even bring himself to call Rush Limbaugh's comments outrageous and call him out and ask him to apologize.

MR. GREGORY: You're talking about Mitt Romney.

REP. SCHULTZ: Yes. Mitt Romney. What, what woman in America--and Rush Limbaugh, in that apology, said that he was trying to be humorous. I don't know any woman in America, David, that thinks that being called a slut is funny.

MR. GREGORY: This is a major campaign issue for Democrats, is that fair to say? Over a million dollars has been raised on a quote unquote "war on women" campaign the national Democrats are running. This is what the Democratic Party wants to run on?

REP. SCHULTZ: There is a dramatic contrast between President Obama and his view that women should have access to affordable health care, including contraception; and Mitt Romney and the Republicans who believe that women should not.

MR. GREGORY: But again, you're presenting as the binary choice and there is another aspect to it.

REP. SCHULTZ: There is.

MR. GREGORY: Cardinal Dolan in the New York Post covered this morning. He says, "We live in an era that seems to discover new rights every day and then expects government and culture and society to pay for it. The church emphasizes responsibility more than rights." I mean, you heard Gingrich, you heard Leader Cantor saying that this is about infringement of liberty. Can't you at least appreciate that this is a deeply held view of your critics?

REP. SCHULTZ: Oh, absolutely. And so could President Obama, which is why he balanced religious liberty and making sure that no matter what employer a woman worked for, she had access to contraception when he made an accommodation in his policy and said that religious employers, religiously affiliated employers, would not have to pay for contraception, but the insurance companies would. And so that way he struck that balance, recognizing that there is an important need to protect religious liberty while making sure that we are not forcing women to choose not to work for an employer that is religiously affiliated and objects to providing that coverage.

MR. GREGORY: I asked Leader Cantor about gas prices. Let me ask you as well.

REP. SCHULTZ: Sure.

MR. GREGORY: Obviously, the president is in a mode here where he wants to defend himself and try to deflect because it's never good politics for an incumbent when gas prices go up. And both sides have failed to provide a long-term answer to this issue, Republicans and Democrats. Bill Clinton, the former president, said hey, that Keystone Pipeline, the president ought to get behind that. Do you think the president makes himself vulnerable by not doing everything possible to protect America against the kind of instability in the Middle East that can make gas prices spike up?

REP. SCHULTZ: Well, first of all, the Republicans are the ones that made it much more difficult for us to move forward on the Keystone Pipeline when they clearly limited the decision-making process to two months. The State Department indicated that they would need a year, they shortened and, and the payroll tax extension, that time frame to two months, and so forcing the--President Obama to reject it at this point, particularly because the Republican governor of Nebraska said that the, that the Keystone Pipeline proposal was problematic. But let's look at what would--what the Keystone Pipeline would actually produce. It would take 45 years if the Keystone Pipeline were in place, to produce as much oil as President Obama's policy to--on fuel efficiency standards for American automobiles would in increasing those over the next few years. So let's realistically look at...

MR. GREGORY: So President Clinton had it wrong when he encouraged President Obama to get behind this?

REP. SCHULTZ: What, what is important to note is that we need to make sure that we strike the right balance in looking at the timetable for approval on Keystone, acknowledging that the Republican governor of Nebraska expressed concern and said we needed to slow down, and also realistically not looking at Keystone as the be all and end all. It would take 45 years to produce out of oil shale from the Keystone Pipeline as much oil as we save in the increase in fuel efficiency standards from President Obama's policy that would be implemented by the middle of the next decade.

MR. GREGORY: All right. We're going to leave it there. The debate continues on the campaign trail.

REP. SCHULTZ: Thanks, David.

MR. GREGORY: Chairwoman, thank you very much. Appreciate it.

REP. SCHULTZ: Sure.

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