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NBC "Meet the Press" - Transcript - Immigration Legislation, Guns, Same-Sex Marriage,

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CHUCK TODD:
All right, now for the Republican perspective, another member of the so-called "Gang of Eight," Senator Jeff Flake from Arizona, Senator, welcome. Senator, let me start with--
(OVERTALK)

SENATOR JEFF FLAKE:
--have me on.

CHUCK TODD:
Senator, let me start with the same question-- that I started some Senator Schumer at the beginning, is-- how close are we to a deal? Are you guys there? Is it just dotting an I and crossing a T?

SENATOR JEFF FLAKE:
Well, we're much closer with-- labor and-- business, agreeing on this guest worker plan. That doesn't mean we've crossed every I or dotted every T, or-- or vice versa. We're-- we've still got a ways to go-- in terms of looking at the language and making sure that-- it's everything we thought it would be. But we're closer, certainly.

CHUCK TODD:
If there is a deal that you s-- agree to with this-- with-- with this "Group of Eight," but you can't recruit more Republicans on your side, would you walk away?

SENATOR JEFF FLAKE:
You know-- , we're-- we're committed to this if we can-- get the language right. And-- and I-- I think that-- we'll stick together-- as a gang, and I hope that we can-- pull some Republicans our way. I think a number of them are with us already. So I-- I don't-- I don't want to talk about walking away. I don't intend to do that.

CHUCK TODD:
How important is Senator Rubio to this cause? He sort of is seen as the bridge to some of the more conservative members of the Senator conference. If he wasn't in this coalition--

SENATOR JEFF FLAKE:
He--

CHUCK TODD:
--would it hurt your-- would it hurt your cause to get a large vote?

SENATOR JEFF FLAKE:
You bet. He's extremely important. As Senator Schumer said, he's had great input, a lot of input-- into the language already. He's making the point now that we need to go through regular order-- which I certainly support. So he's extremely important to this effort.

CHUCK TODD:
When you say, "regular order," and I heard Senator Schumer say that Senator Leahy, the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee was going to have expansive hearings. This has been a criticisms of some other Republicans that are not involved in these negotiations. The fact is, we just had-- two special interest groups negotiate part of this deal. No elected officials were involved in it. Is that healthy for this process?

SENATOR JEFF FLAKE:
Well, all I can say, our elected officials were involved in this, we're involved every step of the way. But-- the-- the point is that-- every senator has its own-- his own or her own franchise here and we want to see this bill move through regular order. It will be amended in the Judiciary Committee-- it will be amended certainly on the floor. So there will be input, there should be input, it'll make it a better product. And-- certainly, if people are going to buy into it-- there has to be further input from the Senate and obviously the House will move its own bill.

CHUCK TODD:
Senator Schumer would not tell us what this metrics and border security. This is your home state of Arizona. You've talked about-- you've said that there are two sort of border sectors-- in Arizona. One is the Yuma sector, one is the Tucson sector. And you say that Yuma has got it right. Well, what does that mean? That there is operational control. Can you explain what that means in layman's terms to the viewers out there?

SENATOR JEFF FLAKE:
Yes, I was in both the Yuma sector last week and the Tucson sector and there is a difference. In the Yuma sector-- people still get through. But-- our border patrol and other agents have a reasonable expectation of catching them. That's probably-- the best explanation of what operational control means. You'll never stop everyone from coming through.

And you have a lot of commerce, legal commerce that happens at the border as well. So when people talk about having a sealed border, we don't need a sealed border, we need a secure border. That's what we have in Yuma. We're just-- quite a ways from that in the Tucson sector.

CHUCK TODD:
And when that is done, that's when-- would trigger the pathway to citizenship?

SENATOR JEFF FLAKE:
Yes. First, we've got to get to-- as you mentioned, some kind of metrics-- from the Department of Homeland Security. In a recent report that they had-- increased apprehensions was used in one part of the report-- to indicate that we had a better situation, in another part of the report, increased apprehensions-- are-- decreased apprehensions was used to demonstrate the same. So we've had trouble getting-- good metrics out of the-- Department of Homeland Security. We're going to have to have that before we move further.

CHUCK TODD:
Let me ask you about-- guns, background check bill. Is there any part of extended background checks that you would support?

SENATOR JEFF FLAKE:
Sure. I-- I've actually introduced legislation with Senator Graham, Senator Begich, and-- Senator Pryor-- with regard to-- mental health issues. There-- we do need to strengthen the background check system. But universal background checks-- I think is a bridge too far for most of us.

CHUCK TODD:
Why-- why is that? Why shouldn't-- you know, why shouldn't law, you know, we have to go through T.S.A. checkpoints, law-abiding citizens have to do that. What's wrong with law-abiding gun owners-- what do they have to hide? What's wrong with going through an extended background check?

SENATOR JEFF FLAKE:
Oh, the paperwork requirements alone-- would be significant. And-- even if there are exemptions for a father passing on a gun to his son or daughter-- you'd still have issues with-- with people-- in-- in a private setting-- transferring or loaning a gun for somebody-- loaning a shotgun to go-- to go on a duck hunt, for example, I think in this-- universal background check system, there would be issues with. So I-- I think-- universal background checks, we can scale back and still make significant progress-- by-- by strengthening our background check system without going too far.

CHUCK TODD:
Let me ask you on gay marriage. Could you support a Republican presidential candidate someday who supported same-sex marriage.

SENATOR JEFF FLAKE:
Oh, I-- I think that's inevitable. There will be one, and that I think he'll receive Republican support, or she will. So-- I-- I-- I-- I think that-- that yes, that the answer is yes.

CHUCK TODD:
And where are you in this issue? You say it's inevitable, are you-- Lisa Murkowski, a col-- Republican colleague of yours called it evolving on the issue. Are you evolving, to use her words, on this issue?

SENATOR JEFF FLAKE:
I believe-- I-- I believe-- that-- marriage should be between a man and a woman. I-- I still hold to the traditional-- definition of marriage.

CHUCK TODD:
Is there-- is this something that you've thought-- are you think-- thinking about? You-- could you imagine changing your position-- b--

SENATOR JEFF FLAKE:
I--

CHUCK TODD:
--before you left the U.S. Senate?

SENATOR JEFF FLAKE:
I can't. I-- I-- I-- I'll tell you, in the past-- I-- I supported repealing Don't Ask Don't Tell, I supported the-- non im-- Nondiscrimination Act as well. So-- I-- but I-- I-- I-- I hold to the traditional-- definition of marriage.

CHUCK TODD:
All right, Senator Jeff Flake, I will leave it there. Thank you Senator, for coming on. Coming up, we will have reaction to what you just heard from the two senators on immigration and guns in particular, plus sorting out the politics of all of these social issues on guns. Is time running out for the president? Could he see his Democratic majority, by the way, in the Senate slip away in 2014, meaning he can't get anything done after that. And later, a special discussion on the historic week at the Supreme Court and what it all means. All of it right after this.

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