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FOX "Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace" Transcript: Obama's Second Term

Interview

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Up next, a top Republican Senator Roy Blunt, on the president's second-term agenda.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WALLACE: Inaugural pageantry aside, the partisan brawl in Washington will continue. Joining me to discuss the president's agenda for the next four years is a key Republican, Senator Roy Blunt, vice chair of the Republican conference.

And, Senator, welcome back to Fox News Sunday."

SEN. ROY BLUNT, R-MO.: Good to be with you, Chris.

WALLACE: You just heard David Plouffe lay out the president's goals and approach for the next four years. How do you think his new combativeness is going to work?

BLUNT: Well, seems like to me it is a lot like the old combativeness. Remember the president said during the campaign that you can't solve problems from inside Washington. There is only one guy that can actually lead in Washington in a way that can find a solution to big problems and that's the president.

And, I was surprised this week to see him transition his campaign committee into an ongoing campaign-style effort to have an impact on the Washington debate because it doesn't seem to me that the lesson of the first term would be that that work out very well. And, you know, our problems are big but they're not necessarily all that complicated. Everybody has a pretty good sense of what has to happen. And, I'd like to see the president take advantage of the second term, and divided government, a good time to solve big problems to make --

(CROSSTALK)

WALLACE: What about the White House argument, Senator, that you, congressional Republicans, have done everything you can to block his agenda?

BLUNT: I just -- I think the greater historic argument would be that he has not really done much to advance a specific agenda. He speaks in general terms, he likes the executive order approach, a whole lot better than the legislative approach and you really can't get all that far with executive orders. You've got to get -- you've got to legislate and you've got to legislate realistically. You've got to realize you don't control the entire Congress.

It takes three entities to get a bill passed into law and, you've got to come up with something that a Democrat House -- a Democrat Senate and a Republican House, and the White House, can, at the end of the day, be for. Or you just continue to kind of patch things together, in ways that don't come up with real solutions.

WALLACE: Well, you talk about the transitioning -- his campaign machine to an advocacy group. What about the idea that -- of the outside game? He is going to reach out to voters, go over your heads and put pressure on you?

BLUNT: I just don't -- I don't think there's any reason to believe from looking at the last four years that that produces much of a result. It might produce a stalemate. It might get the president re-elected, but he's not running for a third term.

So, we need to forget about the politics of this, I think, and look at what we can do to move the economy forward, look at what we can do to help create private sector jobs, look at what the federal government can do, in the international sense, to protect Americans, at home and abroad. And, I think that takes a cooperative leadership effort with the Congress.

And the president is seen -- at least, I think a couple of times and members of the House and Senate have seen this movie on Lincoln, the recent movie on Lincoln. The lesson of that movie, I think was, when hard things get done, they get done because a president decided he was going to do what was necessary to get them done, and that means you have to realistically look at the world you live in and the Washington you have been given by the American voters to work with.

WALLACE: Well, let's talk about some of the specific items that are going to be on your agenda.

What do you think of the new House Republican plan to pass a short-term extension of the debt limit until April and in the meantime, insist that the Senate pass a budget or all of you lose your pay?

BLUNT: Well, I think all of us losing our pay if we don't pass a budget is the right thing to do. I'm for cutting spending, just passing the budget isn't quite enough, but at least it's a step in the right direction.

If you went to your credit counselor and said, I can't pay my bills, your credit counselor wouldn't say, "Well, that's just easy. We'll just extend your limit." Your credit counselor would say, what are you going to do to try to pay your bills in the future? And a budget is a big step toward doing that.

One of the frustrations I think of the last three years has been, no budget -- for a year, not a single appropriations bill on the Senate floor. And now, another tool comes along, the debt ceiling, which -- we don't use that tool, either. Apparently, we don't use any tool it takes to get our credit situation where it needs to be.

But, passing a budget would be a big moment and I'd like to see us do that.

WALLACE: Well, let's talk about a couple of the tools that you could conceivably use. And that raises the question, when should Republicans make their stand on spending cuts? Some people are saying, do it on March 1st, when the automatic sequestration cuts, $100 billion, for the next year, would kick in and that you use that as an opportunity to demand the spending cuts. Others would say, March 27th, when you run out of money and the government would shut down.

Is there a point, there, that you see, when you think congressional Republicans, House and Senate, could say here's what we're going to demand, serious spending cuts?

BLUNT: Well, I think all three of the points, the two you mentioned and later, either right now, at the end of February or if we kick it forward to the end of April, the debt ceiling itself, they all become moments to talk about spending sequestration, is -- we need to stop spending, we need to reduce spending, but, it would be better if we could figure out how to do that in a targeted way rather than across-the-board way.

The worst way to have spending cuts is just say, we can't -- we can't decide how to cut anything, so we're going to cut everything just a little bit. That's not the right thing to do and hopefully, we can find a better solution to sequestration, in the Armed Services Committee and other places.

WALLACE: Let's talk about another item on the agenda. You have an A-rating from the National Rifle Association. And this week, you accused the president of trying to -- wanting to try to take away our constitutional right when it comes to the right to bear arms.

And Mr. Obama says that he is protecting other rights. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: That most fundamental set of rights to life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness, fundamental rights that were denied to college students at Virginia Tech, and high school students at Columbine, and elementary school students in Newtown. Those rights are at stake. We're responsible.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: Question: can you support a measure that would limit the size of these high-capacity clips that hold 30 rounds or 100 rounds? Can you support a universal background check?

BLUNT: You know, let's see what they come up with in terms of specific proposals. Certainly, at Newtown, you know, what an incredible tragedy for every family involved, for that community. I've got a 2nd grade son. I've got grandchildren about that age. It was -- it was a terrible thing, those families, frankly, will never recover from.

But, let's talk about changes that would have done something about that. So far, I don't see that. You know, Connecticut is the hardest -- one of the hardest places in the country to get a weapon.

But this young man had weapons but what else did the young man have? He had mental problems and he had a history of problems with security officials, as all of the cases the president mentioned did have. But how do we share that information better?

And let's do things that will make a difference here, rather than take one more opportunity to go at an old agenda. We had bans on things for a decade, that didn't seem to make any difference at all, but, during that same decade, our willingness to share information about mental problems, our willingness to share information between security officials and police officials, all declined.

WALLACE: let me ask you about the question, of sharing information. Polls indicate, 90 percent of Americans, 90 percent of Americans don't agree the sun is going to come up tomorrow! Ninety percent agree of Americans agree with the idea of universal background checks. If you have this concern about who is buying the guns and it wouldn't have happened, because the mom bought the gun in Newtown, but what's wrong with the idea of a screen to find out whether or not someone trying to buy a gun under any circumstances has a criminal record, has a mental health problem?

BLUNT: I think we ought to talk about that.

And the one thing I don't think you want to prevent is two guys who live next door from each other and decide they want to trade shotguns while they're talking about going hunting next week. But, let's look at that and see.

We have had proposals before that I voted for in the Congress that didn't get a majority that would have tried to deal with some of the loopholes. I think gun owners are generally for that. But you have to have a proposal that works, that doesn't create the problem of people not able to have the firearms they'd like to have.

You know, the Second Amendment is there and it's part of the Constitution. And you can't just decide you want to avoid the Constitution because you've come up with some reason that the Constitution no longer works. You have to come up with a real proposal, present it to the Congress, and have it done in a realistic way.

You know, the majority leaders, the Democrat majority leader of the Senate, says he doesn't believe gun legislation will be on the Senate floor. So, this is not a Republican versus Democrat thing, this is a -- what can reasonably be done.

And I think we -- this is a moment we can do something about mental health, about information sharing.

BLUNT: Maybe about background checks and other things a well, but it has to be a plan that could possibly work or the president won't get it done.

WALLACE: Excuse me, but we've got about 30 seconds left. I want to ask you one last quick question. You are a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Is the opposition to the nomination of Chuck Hagel as secretary of defense, is that opposition beginning to fade?

BLUNT: Well, we saw at least one senator last week make a statement, Senator Schumer, but I notice not a lot of people rallied to join him and say well it's good enough for Schumer, it is good enough for me. I think Chuck Hagel has got questions to answer. One of those questions is going to be why is it the position you held in the past about Iranian sanctions, about our support for Israel, no longer appear to be your positions? I'm going to meet with him this week and, then the committee I'm sure in those hearings, I'll have some questions there, as well. And look forward to the chance to talk to him about what he would do.

He's going to have a lot to say about our national defense for a long time as the secretary of defense, at this time if he becomes the secretary of defense.

WALLACE: Senator Blunt, thank you so much for coming in, always a pleasure to talk to you, sir.

BLUNT: Good to be with you.


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