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CNN "State of the Union with Candy Crowley" Transcript: Obama's Second Inaguration

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CROWLEY: We're looking at a live picture of the White House. Actually, the president and first family are not there right now. We are told they are at the Metropolitan AME Church in D.C., paying tribute in a special service to Martin Luther King Jr. As we know, the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday tomorrow. It coincides with the public inaugural festivities. Today here in Washington, we are having the official inaugural activities, and that is the swearing-in of both the vice president, which has already happened and the president, which will happen in the 11 am hour.

I am joined now by Republican Senator John Barrasso from Wyoming. He is the chairman of the Senate Republican Policy Committee and as they might stay in Wyoming, this is not your first rodeo this inaugural?

BARRASSO: No, Candy, this is actually the ninth time I'm seeing a different president come into office. My dad took me to John Kennedy's inauguration when I was 8. We come every time, Republican and Democrat, because of this great country. My dad, as a guy, had to quit school in the ninth grade, fought in the battle of the Bulge. And spent his life pushing wheel barrels of heavy wet cement. So we've gone from pushing cement to now in one generation pushing legislation. But we always want any president to succeed, to do well, that means America does well and Americans do well.

CROWLEY: You know, it's interesting that you mention that because there was a poll recently that CNN took and the question was do you hope that President Obama's policies will fail? Republicans, 52 percent said yes. Independents, 28 percent said yes. Democrats 4 percent.

So 52 percent of Republicans in this poll said they hope President Obama's policies will fail.

BARRASSO: Well, there is a difference between policies and the person. The president, to me, has -- really has a big problem with spending. He is addicted to spending. And those are policies that will hurt our country long term. We need to focus on getting people back to work, focus on jobs, the economy, the debt and the spending. That's what will improve the quality of life for American families and for hard-working taxpayers. People feel they want to get value for their tax dollars and they are not getting it now, Candy.

CROWLEY: It might be a distinction without much difference, though, if you have people saying I want him to fail. And you are saying, well, it is policies, we I don't like his policies. And if they go in place certainly you don't want those poll cities to fail.

BARRASSO: This is a time of divided government. We have re- elected majority leadership in the House and we have a re-elected president but it's time to divide a government you can actually do big things for the country.

CROWLEY: So, what big things? What big thing is going to get done?

BARRASSO: Specifically, have to deal with the debt, we're at $16 trillion. You want to continue with the social safety net: the good, the bad and the ugly parts of that, you have to have a vibrant economy. You have to have growth of the economy. But I need to see policies that will actually do that. We don't see them now.

CROWLEY: I spoke with David Plouffe in the segment before this. And he said that he is confident that there are enough votes in the House. And there are there requisite 60 votes in the Senate to pass universal background checks for gun owners and limiting the clips, those high- capacity magazine clips that I can fire of so many rounds to 10 and under. Do you think that's so? Do you think congress would pass a ban on those clips with ten or over and a universal background check is that going to happen?

BARRASSO: No, I don't think it will. And Candy, that gets beside the major issues this face American families which are jobs and the economy...

CROWLEY: But don't you think American families looking at...

BARRASSO: ...and the debt and spending, that's where people are focused, that's the big anxiety of this country.

CROWLEY: Sure, I agree with you, but as you know, you deal with a lot of things up there and at the White House, people and their families deal with a lot of things, and one of the things out there are is gun control of some sort, something that addresses Newtown, whether it's gun control or better access to mental health. And so you know the president is going to push that.

BARRASSO: As doctor, as a doctor I can tell you the president's essentially ignored the major issues of mental health and violence in society in the media and video games and he has focused so much on what may be happening at gun shows or on gun shelves at gun stores that I think that he is failing to try to really find a solution to the problem of the tragedy of Newtown.

No one wants that to happen, but the legislation that he is promoting, David Plouffe, may have said they have 60 votes, I would really welcome the opportunity to have a fair and open debate on that on the floor of the United States Senate, but I don't think Senator Harry Reid even brings it to the senate floor because he has six Democrats up for election in two years in states were the president received fewer than 42 percent of the votes. And he doesn't want his Democrats to have to choose between their own constituents and the president's positions.

CROWLEY: What about immigration? Seems too me that that is something in the interest of the Republican Party that you all would like to see get passed, some kind of immigration reform. Will that happen this year?

BARRASSO: You know, I mean, I'm child of immigrants. That is the history of this country. Immigration is good and important for our country. Legal immigration needs to really be modernized. Marco Rubio is working on that. We need to find ways. You know, we are educating so many people and then telling them to leave the country who are from other countries. You know, go back, we don't want you here. We have issues of labor that we need additional labor. We need to deal with immigration. And I think we will, Candy.

CROWLEY: And, quickly, you're on the committee that will listen to testimony from Secretary of State Clinton this week on Benghazi and what she knew about it. What else -- we know that there was a breakdown somehow in getting appropriate security to Benghazi. What else do you need to know?

BARRASSO: Well, the president promised right when this happened that people would be brought to justice. Where is the justice?

CROWLEY: Well, they did fire -- there were people punished in -- at the State Department, I mean, what else do you want?

BARRASSO: Well, I mean, I have seen the videos and the surveillance cameras and the things from the drones. There were people, terrorists who came into essentially U.S. territory, our embassy, our consulate, and murdered Americans. And that's who the president said was going to be brought to justice.

So far, as of today, there are no suspects being questioned, nothing is done and it's four months later.

CROWLEY: But is that a secretary of state thing?

BARRASSO: Well, let's ask her that. I want to know what lessons have been learned so that the new secretary of state will not put people in that position again. And I want to know what she was doing. Did she give any orders during this whole process? Take a look at it from before, during, and after the attacks.

CROWLEY: OK. And finally, what do you make of the tone of the president since the election when it comes to issues like the debt ceiling? He has said that Republicans were more interested flood throwing the country back into recession. Talking about gun control, saying, you know, ask -- you should call your congressman and ask why they are against us, is it because of the NRA, and they care more about them than they do about first graders.

What do you make of the tone of the president at this point?

BARRASSO: The president, Candy, seems so fixated. The president seems so fixated on demonizing Republicans that he is blinded to the opportunities as well as the obligations that he has to deal with the big problems of this country on debt and on the entitlements.

CROWLEY: And you have those same opportunities on the Republican side as well, correct?

BARRASSO: I continue to want to work together. The president, if he hits the reset button, like did he with Russia, it's time to hit the reset button with Republicans and really look for solutions to the major problems. And divided government is the perfect time do it, Candy.

CROWLEY: Senator John Barrasso, thanks for joining us this morning.

BARRASSO: Thanks for having me.


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