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CNN "State of the Union with Candy Crowley" - Transcript


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CROWLEY: Joining me from his home state of Kentucky, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell.

Senator, thank you so much for joining this Sunday.

I wanted to talk to you about what's gone on so far with the jobs with the jobs bill and what's to come, because Republicans helped in, not break a filibuster, if you will, in a procedural vote. You basically got rid of that jobs bill, which would have given money to the states, designed to hire or retain firemen and policemen, and teachers.

When we look at the polling, 75 percent of Americans supported that, and yet the Republicans were against it. So how do you justify that in your mind?

MCCONNELL: Well, Candy, I'm sure that Americans do, I certainly do approve of firefighters and police. The question is whether the federal government ought to be raising taxes on 300,000 small businesses in order to send money down to bail out states for whom firefighters and police work. They are local and state employees.

Look, we have a debt the size of our economy. That alone makes us look a lot like Greece. The question is whether the federal government can afford to be bailing out states. I think the answer is no.

Second, it's important to note that the only thing bipartisan about these proposals has been the opposition to them, that the reasonable number of Democrats opposed each of these measures as well for the same reason.

Look, we are not going to get this economy going by continuing to shower money on the public sector. Unemployment, among public sector workers in America, is one-half what it is the private sector. We are not going to get this economy growing again by continuing to borrow and tax and spend and pump up the private -- I mean the public sector.

Washington is a boom town, Candy. You know, it's a one town in America. You know, it's the one town in America that's doing great.

CROWLEY: But the fact is that when you do ask people about this surtax on millionaires, and small businesses as you put it, but millionaires in general, people support that, when it comes to not just firemen, policemen and teachers but also the infrastructure bill that's coming up, which you're also opposed to, as I understand it, which would help put people back to work on roads and bridges and rebuilding and that sort of thing. And it seems to me that politicians are always talking about doing the will of the American people, and that the Republican Party can be seen at least politically as going against that.

MCCONNELL: Yeah, these bills are designed on purpose not to pass. I mean, the president is deliberately trying to create an issue here.

Look, the American people don't think, I'm sure, that it's a good idea, four out of five of the so-called millionaires are business owners, it's over 300,000 small businesses in our country that hire people. I don't think the American people think that raising taxes on business, small business in the middle of this economic situation we find ourselves in is a particularly good idea.

I think they'd like to see us begin to get our house in order, which with regard to the private sector, what it needs is for us to quit spending, quit borrowing, quit over-regulating and quit threatening to raise taxes. That's the reason the private sector is all clogged up.

One final point, during the month of August, when congress was out of session, I spent about half the month in my state and the rest as Republican leader. I was around the country, unprompted, everyone I asked who was in the private sector, whether it was a small business, a medium sized business or a large business, whether they were doing well and only a few of them are doing well, they all said over-regulation was the single biggest problem.

We have reached the point now...


MCCONNELL: ...We have reached the point now, Candy, where this economic situation is being prolonged by the government itself.

CROWLEY: Let me show you, because I know that Republicans have always said and continue to say that regulation is stifling business, stifling jobs growth. But there are a couple of figures out there that we found from the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, one of them is on the reasons for initial unemployment claims, this is for the first and the second quarter.

Government regulation a little over 2,000 claims for unemployment were blamed on government regulation. Insufficient demand, 55,000. The National Federation of Independent Businesses did a survey. They asked small business owners, the very people you're talking to, what is the single most important problem, they said poor sales. Government regulation was at 18 percent, taxes was at 18 percent, poor sales, 28 percent of people said that's what the problem is.

So are you focusing on the wrong problem?

MCCONNELL: Well, you know why people aren't buying. They're unemployed. I mean, the private sector is not going to get going here until the government gets its foot off the throat and lets people who know how to create jobs and grow businesses do that.

Look, Candy, all of these people are not making this up. I don't think people who are running companies are making it up. They realize what is making it difficult for them to grow and expand.

New health care mandates, the financial, the lenders, the new Dodd-Frank bill, crawling all over everybody, not big banks but small banks, all over my state, making it more and more difficult for them to lend.

CROWLEY: Senator, let me...

MCCONNELL: This is to government prolonged recession.

CROWLEY: Let me pick up where we left off right after a quick break. We'll be right back with you.


CROWLEY: Senator, I want to move us on to some politics here. I had a discussion with Senator Joe Biden earlier in the week, and he had something to say about Republicans I want you to listen to.


BIDEN: This is not your normal Republican Party. It doesn't mean it's good or bad, it's a different Republican Party in the House of Representatives. It's different, with a very different view than mainstream Republicans have had going into this. (END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: Now, Senator Biden has nice things to say about you, about Speaker Boehner, about Majority Leader Cantor, but he's talking here about the Tea Party. Has the Tea Party made your job more difficult?

MCCONNELL: No. You know, what the vice president ought to be talking about is the things that we could do together. You know, Candy, they had the signing of the trade agreements that passed by an overwhelming bipartisan agreement, that the signing of the bill basically in a room without any cameras.

They're ashamed to -- to -- to mention any of the things that they do with Republicans because it steps on their storyline. Their storyline is that there must be some villain out there who's keeping this administration from succeeding.

Look, he's -- the president's been in office now almost three years. We've had a chance to -- to look at his performance. The vice president said this election was going to be a choice. It will be a referendum, a referendum on the president and his performance. And I think they have concluded that the economy's not going to look a whole lot better a year from now, Candy, and so they're looking around for anybody else to blame other than themselves for the place that they find them.

And they got everything they wanted from Congress the first two years. Their policies are in place. And they are demonstrably not working.

CROWLEY: Polls that we keep looking at show that most people, 69 percent say that Congress is not addressing the people's problems. And those same polls show that they mostly blame Republicans. Can Republicans in 2012 withstand this kind of blowback from the public, if it holds?

MCCONNELL: Well, the president's trying to convince everybody that somebody else, anybody else is responsible for the fact that he hasn't done a very good job. It must be those millionaires. It must be those people in Congress. By the way, he owned the Congress for most of the time he's been in office. It must be people on Wall Street. It must be anybody but him.

Look, he's the president. This election will be a referendum on his performance. There are 1.5 million fewer jobs today than when he took office. The national debt has been increased 35 percent. Federal regulators are crawling all over the private sector, keeping us from coming out of this recession. This will be a referendum on his performance as president of the United States.

CROWLEY: Part of what is being said out on a campaign trail by the Democrats is using a quote from you that you said two years ago about, "The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president." Are you sorry you said that? You've explained it many, many times. It's a two-year-old quote. But nonetheless, the idea is, look, the Republicans' main aim here is not to help you get jobs. It's to defeat this president. Are you worried that that is catching hold?

MCCONNELL: I'm amused by that, because, obviously, as a Republican leader of the Senate, I would like a new president, but that won't happen until next year. The question is, what could we do together now? We passed trade agreements. Last week, I offered part of the president's stimulus bill, what he calls a job bill, part of it that we agree with, and the Democrats in the Senate voted it down.

They are picking unnecessary fights. There are plenty of things we can do together. The trade agreements are a good example of it. They don't want to talk about trade agreements because it steps on their storyline that Republicans won't cooperate with them to pass legislation. We will.

CROWLEY: Senator, I need a one-word answer to this, if I could get it. Will Republicans take control of the Senate in the 2012 election?

MCCONNELL: I hope so.


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