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CBS "Face the Nation" - Transcript - Guns and Immigration

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BOB SCHIEFFER: All right. Well, thank you very much, Margaret.

And joining us now two key senators both of whom appear regularly on this broadcast, but never together. Well, this morning they are here as allies trying to broker a deal on immigration reform. Arizona Senator John McCain and New York Democrat Chuck Schumer.

But before we get to immigration, Senator McCain, you are, of course, the senior Republican on the Armed Services Committee, resumption is that if North Korea is going to fire this missile, they would call it a test, but nobody is really sure, and that is why people are taking this so seriously. What-- what do you think is going on here? And what do we need to be doing?

SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN (R-Arizona/Armed Services Committee): Well, first of all, it's obvious as it was reported that this is a more serious situation and have no doubt about it. South-- South Korea would win. We would win if there was a-- an all-out conflict, but the fact is that North Korea could set Seoul on fire, and that, obviously, would be a-- a catastrophe of enormous proportions. I don't know what kind of game this young man is playing. It's obviously of brinksmanship. We are-- but in the past we have seen this-- this repetitious confrontation, negotiation, incentives to North Korea to better behave, hopes that they will abandon their nuclear quest--which they never will, otherwise they'd be totally irrelevant, and so we've seen the cycle over and over and over again for the last twenty or thirty years. They confront. There's crisis. Then we offer them incentives, food, money. While meanwhile, the most repressive and oppressive regime on Earth continues to function. Finally, China does hold the key to this problem. China can cut off their economy if they want to. Chinese behavior has been very disappointing, whether it'd be on cyber security, whether it'd be on confrontation in the South China Sea, or whether their failure to rein in what could be a-- a-- a catastrophic situation which more than once wars have started by accident. And this is-- this is a very serious situation.

BOB SCHIEFFER: I-- I think that's probably what the thing that people fear most, that somehow or another this rhetoric would get to the point that they do something, and, accidentally, they trigger something that no one knows where it goes, Senator Schumer.

SENATOR CHUCK SCHUMER (D-New York): Especially with such an erratic leader. And I agree with John, you know, the Chinese hold a lot of the cards here. They are by nature cautious, but they're carrying it to an extreme. It's about time they stepped up to the plate and put a little pressure on this North Korean regime.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Let's switch to the reason that you all are here, and I don't want to call this historic, but--

SENATOR CHUCK SCHUMER: I guess.

BOB SCHIEFFER: --but John McCain and Chuck Schumer on the same side of the table, working together. You're part of this bipartisan group in the Senate trying to cobble together some kind of a plan for immigration reform. How close are you, Senator?

SENATOR CHUCK SCHUMER: Yeah, I think we're doing very well. I think that we hope that we can have a bipartisan agreement among the eight of us on comprehensive immigration reform by the end of this week. Over the last two weeks we've made great progress. There have been kerfuffles all along the way, but each one of those thus far has been settled. And what's happening, actually, Bob, is the staffs of the eight of us are in a room working twelve hours a day taking all the agreements that we've come to over the last three months and turning them into legislative language, specific legislative language. That's a tedious, arduous process. Every so often, one or more of the aides says, well, that language isn't quite what we agreed to, you have to go back. But thus far, we're on track. All of us have said that there will be no agreement until the eight of us agree to a big, specific bill but, hopefully, we can get that done by the end of the week.

BOB SCHIEFFER: By the end of week.

SENATOR CHUCK SCHUMER: Hopefully.

BOB SCHIEFFER: That seems to be the news here.

SENATOR CHUCK SCHUMER: That's are-- that's what we're on track to do.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Well, let me ask you, Senator McCain, Marco Rubio, senator--

SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN: Mm-Hm.

BOB SCHIEFFER: --from Florida, has not signed on yet. He is part of your group. You think he'll-- you'll-- he'll be part of this?

SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN: Oh, he's been very helpful and important in this whole effort that we've been making. He's reached out to conservative sides, including talk show hosts and others, and Marco has been very important. May I just say, Chuck and I, it's not the first time we worked together. I thought we really achieved something when we averted basically doing away with the sixty votes in the United States Senate and we worked hard with other senators on that. Chuck Schumer is a man of his word, and that's what-- why I think we've been able to, the eight of us, work together and I appreciate everybody's involvement. We need to have a path to citizenship and we need to have secure borders, and we also have to address the issue of forty percent of the people who came here illegally. They didn't cross our borders. They came on a visa--

BOB SCHIEFFER: Mm-Hm.

SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN: --and overstayed their visa. And that means we have to have a robust guest worker program so that people will not hire someone who here-- is here illegally. And, finally, could I just say that we need to have a secure border because back in 1986, and our beloved Ronald Reagan, we gave amnesty to three million people and we promised that we would secure the border. We now have eleven. I've got to assure the people of this country and Arizona that we're not going to have a third wave ten or fifteen or twenty years from now. And most Americans agree that if you pay back taxes, if you pay a fine, if you learn English, if you go to the back of the line, then you can and should be eligible to-- for a path to citizenship.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Where are you right now? What do you think is the main sticking point right now, Senator Schumer?

SENATOR CHUCK SCHUMER: Well, I don't think there's any one main sticking point. There are lots of little issues on different parts of the bill that we have to resolve but I just want to say this. First, John has been a great leader on this. I don't think it could have happened without him, and he's really stepped up to the plate and many others have followed. We have, you know, there-- there are always disagreements on each one, but-- but the desire of all eight to meet in the middle and come to an agreement, which is so much more important than each little thing that we might prefer one way or the other, has carried us through this far. And I am very hopeful and optimistic it will carry us through the whole way.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Let me ask you about--

SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN: Could I-- could I just add also?

BOB SCHIEFFER: Yeah.

SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN: There will be a great deal of unhappiness about this proposal because everybody didn't get what they wanted. There are entrenched positions on both sides of this issue, as far as business and labor. But I'm also got to give some credit to both business and labor.

SENATOR CHUCK SCHUMER: Yes.

SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN: They have engaged in some fairly good-faith negotiations and I'd like to give them a-- a little credit here as well.

SENATOR CHUCK SCHUMER: I agree. I think each, particularly Donohue and Trumka rose to the occasion and they told some of their constituencies, you can't get every single thing you want but for the good of the country and the good of their own specific people they represent, we have to do this. And that's one of the keys having business and labor to agree.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Let-- let me just ask you this. Let's say you do get this agreement. There will be eight of you, four Democrats, four Republicans. Then how close are you to getting this through the Senate?

SENATOR CHUCK SCHUMER: Well, there is a long road. We first have to go through committee and Senator Leahy has agreed and we have promised that we will go through a full mark-up. There are people on both sides who are against this bill, and they will be able to shoot at it in the committee, but John was there in 2007. That's sort of a good thing because in 2007 we didn't go through the committee and then it collapsed on the floor. This will be a test, a crucible. Then hopefully, by some point in May, we'll be through the mark-up, and we can go to the floor and I am hopeful that we get a good vote on both sides of the aisle. We don't want this bill to be, you know, fifty-three Democrats and just a handful of Republicans because we need broad bipartisan support, particularly, to get a bill done in the House.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Let me ask you-- let me--

SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN: Some are saying that-- some are saying, wow, we're not having enough hearings, we're not having enough-- first of all, we know the issue. But second of all, the Judiciary Committee will act. There will be amendments. There will be debate. Then it will go to the floor of the Senate. There will be plenty of time for discussion and debate so I reject this notion that something is being railroaded through. This is-- this is the beginning of the process, not the end of it.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Yeah. This is the order--

SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN: Exactly.

BOB SCHIEFFER: --that John Boehner talks about. I got to ask you about guns.

SENATOR CHUCK SCHUMER: Sure.

BOB SCHIEFFER: It-- it look likes that all the major reforms that people like you, Senator Schumer, thought that would-- had a chance of passage after Newtown. It looks like most of that is fading away. Do you think it's going to be any significant gun control legislation?

SENATOR CHUCK SCHUMER: Well, I'm still hopeful, yes, that there is.

SENATOR CHUCK SCHUMER: First I would say there are a handful of senators, led by Senator Cruz, who have said they want to filibuster and not even allow us to debate this bill.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Mm-Hm.

SENATOR CHUCK SCHUMER: That would be very wrong. This is a big issue. There are deeply felt convictions on both sides. John and I clearly would not agree, but we certainly should at least be allowed to get on the floor and have debate. And oftentimes-- and this is the rule changes that John and I worked on earlier this year--Republicans said we're blocking you from going on the bill because you won't allow amendments. But on this one Leader Reid has said, he would allow a full-throated debate with amendments. So please let us go to the floor. If we go to the floor, I'm still hopeful that what I call the sweet spot--background checks can succeed. We're working hard, they are Senator Manchin and Senator Kirk, have a few ideas that might modify the proposal that we put in there. As long as they don't impair the effectiveness, I'm entertaining those, and, hopefully, people will rise to the occasion.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Let's see what Senator McCain, how-- what's your thought on a filibuster on this. Would you be against that?

SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN: I don't understand it. The purpose of the United States senate is to debate and to vote and to let the people know where we stand--

BOB SCHIEFFER: So you'd encourage Republicans not to filibuster.

SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN: I would not only encourage it. I don't understand it. What are we afraid of? Why would we not want, if this issue is as important as all of us think it is, why not take it on the world's greatest deliberative--that's the greatest exaggeration in history, by the way--but, you know, why not take it up an amendment and debate. The American people will profit from it. I do not understand why United States senators want to block debate when the leader has said that we can have amendments.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Let me just ask you quickly, Senator, would you favor background checks on gun sales at gun shows? That's been a real tough one for some of--

SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN: It really depends on how they're carried out, how long, what the depth of it is. This is another reason why we need to go to the floor. Maybe we could-- everybody wants the same goal, and that is to keep the guns out of-- out of the hands of criminals and people who are mentally disabled. And background checks are being conducted. Are they sufficient? Are there ways we can improve those? Then I think that that's again, a subject that I think the American people, and certainly, the Congress, could be helped by if we have a vigorous debate and discussion.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Do you think Mayor Bloomberg's actions, putting a lot of money into ads in states outside New York, do you think that's helped or hurt, Senator McCain?

SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN: I think it may have hurt him a little bit in states like mine, you know, the outside-- outsider coming in. But I respect his right. There's some special interests are playing in all of these things. I respect their rights to invest money, and I'm sure the television and radio stations in my state are appreciative.

SENATOR CHUCK SCHUMER: You know the NRA is investing a lot of money. Why shouldn't Mayor Bloomberg be allowed at least to give his point of view and the viewpoint of at least on something like background checks, supposedly ninety percent of Americans?

BOB SCHIEFFER: You know I want to thank both of you. This reminds me of how Washington used to be when I first came to Washington. I'm sure it will never be the same and I'm sure it looks better in the rearview mirror than it really was, but it was really nice to see two senior members of the Senate sitting at the same table having a discussion like we just had. I think you may want to take this on the road.

SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN: We will. Thanks.

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