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CBS "Face the Nation with with Bob Schieffer" - Transcript - Immigration, NSA Surveillance, and Sexual Assault in the Military

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SCHIEFFER: All right. Well, we thank both of you. I want to turn now to New Hampshire Republican Senator Kelly Ayotte who is with us this morning. And senator, I want to ask you about some of this, too, but I want to start with the news. I understand that you have decided to endorse the bipartisan immigration reform plan being sponsored by the so-called gang of eight in the Senate. This is a big deal. I don't want to get too far into inside baseball, but this is a big boost for those that are pushing that bill. Why did you do it? And I trust you are going to do that.

AYOTTE: I am, Bob. And I've looked that the very carefully. Our immigration system is completely broken. We've got 11 million people living in this country illegally, in the shadows. We have a legal immigration system that isn't meeting our needs to grow our economy. And so I looked at this carefully. This is a thoughtful bipartisan solution to a tough problem and so that's why I'm going to support it. I looked at the border security provisions, the e-verify to make sure we control who's getting job in this country, and also making sure that there's a better legal immigration system, bring the high- tech workers here to make sure that we can have the best and the brightest here in this country to grow our economy. And finally, with the 11 million bringing them out of the shadows, a tough but fair way for them to earn citizenship. Go to the back of the line, pay taxes, pass a criminal background check, learn English. So this is a good bipartisan solution and i look forward to supporting it.

SCHIEFFER: So there are now five Republicans who have expressed support for this plan. You make the sixth. And what that really means is it would be extremely difficult if all the Democrats stay on board, to filibuster -- for Republican to filibuster this bill down the line. So, this is not really inside baseball You may turn out to be the key vote.

AYOTTE: Well, Bob, and I don't think anyone wants to filibuster this. This is a debate we have to have for the nation. And the status quo is unacceptable. We need to solve this problem to make sure that we have the work force we need and that we don't have another wave of illegal immigration and that's what needs to happen.

SCHIEFFER: I want to also ask you about this whole NSA situation. You're on the armed services committee. Do you think the government overreached here?

AYOTTE: Well, Bob, we have a responsibility to protect people's constitutional rights, but let's not forget that we are still at war with terrorists. This program has stopped terrorist attacks against our country according to the intelligence officials. And this threat still remains. And so we have to step back. This is reviewed by the FISA court. I think there needs to be more rigorous congressional oversight over this. And this comes up for periodic re-authorization. We ought to make sure that we're not capturing records we don't need to protect America. But we cannot allow the terrorists to make -- we need to make sure that we keep going after them. And I don't think it's an accident that administrations from two very different philosophies have supported keeping this program in place.

SCHIEFFER: I want to also ask you about this whole situation on the famous talking points issue by Susan Rice after Benghazi. You were one of those who were very critical of Susan Rice for coming on television and saying what she said. Will you support her now that she's been named to the national security council? That does not require Senate confirmation, of course, but is she the right person?

AYOTTE: Well, I think that Ambassador Rice did a huge disservice to the nation in the representation she made about the attacks on our consulate on this show and on every major channel. You know, even what she said after following the Libyan president, really, contradicting him that this was a premeditated event even though Secretary Panetta, Chairman Dempsey knew right away this was a terrorist attack. So -- however, I will -- it's the president's call. And I will work with her where I can to make sure that we're focusing on the security of this country.

SCHIEFFER: And I also want to ask you about this extraordinary hearing when the members of the joint chiefs of staff were hauled before the senate last week and really read the Riot Act about sexual assaults in the military. Where do you see this going?

AYOTTE: Well, this is a huge problem, Bob. I'm married to an Iraq War veteran. We have the finest military in the world. But this is so wrong what's happening with sexual assaults in our military. We need to hold the commanders accountable. They need to be fired if they're not going to take this seriously. And we also need to make sure that we have the most supportive system for victims of sexual assault. I'm the co-sponsor of a bipartisan bill with Patti Murray to make sure that every victim gets a special victim's council to be supported within the military. I expect that we're going come up with tough bipartisan legislation to address this because zero tolerance has to be where it is within our military.

SCHIEFFER: Do you take the punishment out of the hands of the military commanders?

AYOTTE: Well, Bob, I'll tell you this, I appreciate what Senator Gillibrand and others have been doing on this. However, no problem gets solved in the military without the chain of command. And I don't want to let the chain of command off the hook. We need to make sure that they have additional responsibilities and checks to make sure that these cases are prosecuted. So whatever we do, I think we'll come up with a strong solution this week. They need to be held accountable. And they can't be let off the hook for what is done and what is happening within our military.

SCHIEFFER: Did you get the feeling that they got the message during that hearing?

AYOTTE: I think they got the message, but they're going to get the message even further after we're done with this issue in the senate arms services committee. We're not letting this go. We have got to solve this. Status quo is unacceptable.

SCHIEFFER: All right, senator thank you very much for coming this morning. We'll be back within one minute with more on this sexual assault in the military story. In a minute.

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