ABC "This Week" - Transcript


By:  Barney Frank Marsha Blackburn
Date: May 13, 2012
Location: Unknown


STEPHANOPOULOS: Let's dig into that debate now with Congressman Barney Frank, the first openly gay member of Congress, and Representative Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee. Welcome to you both.

BLACKBURN: Thank you.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And, Congresswoman Blackburn, happy Mother's Day to you.

BLACKBURN: Thank you so much.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You're welcome. And, Congressman, congratulations to you, as well. You will be marrying your partner in July. Did you expect, Congressman Frank, to have President Obama's endorsement by then? And what do you say to Democrats who worry this is going to cost him votes in a very close presidential race?

FRANK: I expected the president to be supporting same-sex marriage, because, frankly, of the absence of any good reason against it, once you believe that people ought to be treated fairly. The big step forward was when the president said, correctly, earlier this year that the Defense of Marriage Act provision that said, when a state recognizes marriages, the federal government will discriminate and -- and refuse benefits to some of the married people that the state recognizes and not others. That was the major federal policy. Once he said that was unconstitutional, I think the -- the next step followed logically.

As to the votes, no. Here's -- here's the point, George. As you know, people have opinions, but only some of their opinions are politically relevant. That is, only some of their opinions are strongly held enough and are central enough to them that they're going to affect your voting behavior.

Now, if you were someone who was going to have your vote affected by a presidential candidate's position on same-sex marriage, given that Barack Obama helped us get rid of "don't ask/don't tell," given that he had already said that the Defense of Marriage Act, denying equal benefits to people who a state recognized as married was unconstitutional, given George Romney's alignment with -- with-- with the very conservative elements of this country, if you were going to cast your vote based on a candidate's position regarding same-sex marriage, you were already going to vote for Obama-Romney based on that.

I -- I can't think there are many people who said, OK, well, I'm going to vote for Obama even though he said that the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional and he said gay people can serve in the military. But if he says marriage, that goes too far. I literally don't think anybody's vote was changed by this one way or the other.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Is that analysis right, Congresswoman Blackburn?

BLACKBURN: Well, I -- I would have to say, first of all, I think that when you hear Congressman Frank go through saying that he thinks that this was unexpected by the president, most people have thought the president was for gay marriage. I think that the way they have handled this, with the bumbling, and Vice President Biden, and then -- it's like an Abbott and Costello hit, "Who's On First?" And I don't think it was unexpected. I think what we're waiting to see is if the Democrat Party is going to make this a part of their platform.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You know, I want to ask you that question -- put that question to the congressman, but, first, let me bring that to you, as well, because some top Republicans seem reluctant to talk about this too much, but Rick Santorum just the other day said he wanted Mitt Romney to push it very hard. Listen.


SANTORUM: This is a very potent weapon, if you will, for Governor Romney, if he's willing to step up and -- and take advantage of a president who is very much out of touch with the values of -- of America.


STEPHANOPOULOS: Representative Blackburn, should Mitt Romney follow Rick Santorum's advice?

BLACKBURN: I think that what you're going to see Mitt Romney do is put the focus on jobs and the economy. And, George, you're talking about this is Mother's Day. We've got nearly 858,000 women that have lost their jobs under this president. And you have women that are concerned about the loss in household income under this president, nearly $4,000 per household. Those are the issues that are first and foremost in front of people, is making certain that jobs and the economy is the focus.

With that said, I think that you can go back and look at Supreme Court cases, you can look at the institution of marriage, and you know that Mitt Romney, who has always fought for traditional marriage, is going to continue to do this.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Congressman Frank, the president said in that interview with Robin Roberts that he didn't want to nationalize this issue. He says it's a mistake to turn what has traditionally been -- this is a quote -- "a state issue into a national issue." And I want to show you a little bit more of that exchange with Robin.


OBAMA: Different communities are arriving at different conclusions at different times. And I think that's a healthy process and a healthy debate. And I continue to believe that this is an issue that is going to be worked out at the local level, because historically this has not been a federal issue.


STEPHANOPOULOS: As you know, Congressman, more than 30 states have voted to ban same-sex marriage, so is this a viable strategy, to leave it to the states?

BLACKBURN: I think...

FRANK: It's not a strategy, George. It's reality. In America, marriage has always been a state-by-state issue. Now, the Republicans have tried to change that. First George Bush and then Mitt Romney have supported a constitutional amendment, which contrary to any notion of letting the states do what they want, would not only prevent the state in the future from deciding to be for same-sex marriage if it wanted to...


FRANK: ... but would have canceled the existing same-sex marriages.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me -- let me -- let me interrupt you there, though, because you say it's always been a state-by-state issue, but in 1967, the Supreme Court did prohibit, you know, a ban on mixed-race marriages.

FRANK: But not based on the state's right to decide marriages, George. The case you're talking, the Loving case, was a 14th Amendment case based on race. What the federal government said then was, a state may not -- and, by the way, it wasn't the executive branch or the legislative branch. It was a Supreme Court decision, which said not that one state had to recognize what another state did, but that states could not discriminate based on race in anything. That followed up after the education decision.

But in any case, that was a Supreme Court decision. It wasn't anything by the executive or the legislative. The first effort by the executive or the legislative to deal with this, as I said, was a Republican effort to ban it altogether.

I do know -- George, I have to say -- and I -- you know, this is a good political science lesson for people about what a political party's talking points are. My colleague, Ms. Blackburn, has been instructed to talk about the economics first.

And while I would prefer to answer your questions, I do have to note that this Republican talking point, that women have lost jobs, the job losses came about because of the terrible recession that non-regulation in the economy brought about under George Bush. We have been gaining jobs since then. And it's true, by the way, that jobs for women have lagged...

BLACKBURN: Oh, I have to correct that.

FRANK: ... because the Republicans...


FRANK: I'm sorry. May I continue, George?

BLACKBURN: That's incorrect information.

FRANK: George, George, what are the rules here?

STEPHANOPOULOS: Finish the point, and then I want Congresswoman Blackburn to respond.

FRANK: Well, I'm responding to her point about the economy.

BLACKBURN: George...

FRANK: I'm sorry. George, what are...


BLACKBURN: Barney, here -- here is the thing -- you had...

FRANK: Excuse me. George?

STEPHANOPOULOS: Hold on. Hold on. Congressman...

FRANK: George, would you tell me what the rules are, please?

STEPHANOPOULOS: You were responding to her point. I want you to finish your response to her point and then have Congresswoman Blackburn respond.

FRANK: Well, I was trying to do that. She's the one who introduced economics for their political talking point position. The fact is that if you look at the charts that the Federal Reserve has put out, George Bush's appointee, Ben Bernanke, reappointed by President Obama, job losses peaked right about the time Obama took office. They have been climbing back up.

And in terms of jobs lost by women, part of the problem is that, thanks to Republican objections to our efforts to provide help for states and cities, a lot of teachers have been fired, a lot of social workers, a lot of municipal employees, and, in fact, private-sector jobs have gone up by about 4 million under President Obama.


FRANK: Public-sector jobs have dropped by over 600,000.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Let's get Congresswoman Blackburn to respond to that.

FRANK: That's a large part of the reason women have lost jobs.

BLACKBURN: George, unemployment among women was 7 percent when this president took office, and it's 8.1 percent today. And you have seen women in the last year lose jobs. And that is something you can go look at the bureau of labor stats. It is there.

I have great empathy for those women who are fighting, struggling, supporting their families. You know, the price of gas has gone up at the pump; they're concerned about that. The price of groceries, every time they go fill the cart -- when I'm in the grocery store, I will talk to women about these issues.

And I've got to tell you, the number-one thing they talk about is jobs, the economy. They're concerned about what is happening with the debt in this nation. They're concerned about how the burden of debt we are putting on our children and grandchildren is capping their future and trading it to the people that hold that debt.

FRANK: George, I've got to respond to that.

BLACKBURN: I have a 4-year-old that just turned 4 yesterday...

FRANK: George, George...

BLACKBURN: ... a grandson that turned 4 yesterday. And the fact that he now has $50,000 worth of debt on his head, these poor, precious children that we're burdening with this, because we will not -- the Senate will not take up a budget.


BLACKBURN: And you're not addressing the issues of debt and...


STEPHANOPOULOS: I want to get to another -- I want to get to another economic issue, Congressman, because there was another big economic issue this week...

FRANK: Well, George, I'd like to respond to that. You...


STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, you had your chance to make your point.


FRANK: ... question -- well, let me -- let me respond to that. In the first place, on the debt, these are the people who want increased military spending unendingly, who are critical of the president for trying to get out of Afghanistan. Yes, we are spending too much money. We are spending too much money especially...

BLACKBURN: You're right. We're spending...


FRANK: ... on these international -- I'm sorry. Can I finish a sentence? I don't -- Ms. Blackburn, I don't know what the strategy is that -- don't let him talk, bring up new subjects when George asks a question, but I would hope we have a civil debate here.

The fact is that the debt is being driven by the Bush administration's decision to go to war twice, with five big tax cuts for the wealthiest. I am trying very hard -- and many of us are -- to cut this.

Look, the Wall Street Journal said that the Republican budget Ms. Blackburn voted for was a good budget because it protected the military against any cuts and made that up by cutting Medicare and Medicaid.

STEPHANOPOULOS: I want to get...

FRANK: So we're not just talking about whether you reduce spending, but how you spend, and the deficit is being driven to some extent by their tax cuts for wealthy people and excessive military expenditures, which I'm trying to stop.

STEPHANOPOULOS: OK, I want to get to one more economic issue. This is JPMorgan this week posted a massive $2 billion loss from a bet on the kind of derivatives that helped precipitate the financial crisis. Here's what the CEO, Jamie Dimon, had to say about that.


DIMON: In hindsight, the new strategy was flawed, complex, poorly reviewed, poorly executed, and poorly monitored. The portfolio has proven to be riskier, more volatile, and less effective as an economic hedge than we thought. But it's obvious at this point that we've -- there are many errors, sloppiness, and bad judgment.


STEPHANOPOULOS: Congressman Frank, he also said that the regulations you helped author, the Dodd-Frank rules, which were supposed to stop banks who get federal help from betting their own funds in this way, he says that it wouldn't have violated the Volcker rule, which is not finalized yet. Is he right about that?

FRANK: I hope he won't be. That is, the Volcker rule is still being formulated. It's a complicated thing. Part of the problem, frankly, is that the Republicans, while they have plenty of money to spend on international military adventures that haven't worked out well, have reduced the funding that we've asked for, for the agency that's supposed to regulate derivatives, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, and we're talking about an additional $100 million, where they'll spend billions in Afghanistan and Iraqi police effort that they now want to get rid of. So the fact is that the CFTC has been slowed down to do that.

I hope that the final rule will prevent this. There were other factors in the rule that are going forward. Years ago, what happened was, agencies, entities like JPMorgan Chase, made bets on derivatives and then couldn't pay for it. We now have rules that say, no, you can't get yourself in that position.

Let me give you one specific example. This was done by JPMorgan's London affiliate. The Republicans in the House are trying to get a bill through, which we're trying to stop, which incredibly to me would say that if an American institution's foreign subsidiary engages in derivative transactions, it will be subject to no American regulation. Now, that's an effort to weaken the financial reform bill we passed. The Republicans passed out of committee, they tried to get it through the House under a quickie. We said no.

So we are very much still in the process of trying to decide whether or not we will have the rules in place that will -- and, by the way, we're not trying to stop banks from losing money. We have stopped trying them -- stopping them from losing money in ways that would cause damage to the rest of the system.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Your response?

FRANK: And those are the rules the Republicans are fighting.

BLACKBURN: Do you have a response, Congresswoman Blackburn?

BLACKBURN: George -- well, yeah. You know, there's going to be a lot more to come out, I think, on what happened with JPMorgan. I'm one of those members that is looking forward to getting some of that information. I -- I think the Volcker rule issue -- as you rightly said -- is one that they're going to pinpoint and say, was it violated or was it not?

Bear in mind, the Dodd-Frank bill, 2,300 pages, they've already had 400 rulemaking sessions, and this is where you have so much government regulation coming in that you can't see the forest for the trees. And I -- I think that...

FRANK: That's just nonsense.

BLACKBURN: ... what we want to do is -- it is not nonsense, Barney. And you know that what we want to do is make certain that, as we look at this, that we don't enshrine this too big to fail, that we get to the root of the problem.

STEPHANOPOULOS: I'm afraid -- I'm afraid we're out of time this morning.

FRANK: George, let me be very clear.


FRANK: What she wants to do -- and what all the Republicans want to do -- is no regulation at all. Ms. Blackburn voted...


BLACKBURN: No, no, Barney. I didn't speak for you. You don't speak for me.

FRANK: Please let me...

BLACKBURN: No, you're trying to speak for me. I will not allow you to do that.

FRANK: This pattern of interruption...

BLACKBURN: Good to be with you, George.

FRANK: George, you know, the pattern of...

STEPHANOPOULOS: You know what? I'm afraid -- I'm afraid we're out of time, Congressman. I'm afraid we really have run over...

FRANK: Well, I'm sorry, but she voted against this. This pattern of interruption and filibuster is really not a good way to discuss important issues. She voted for no regulation at all in 2010. They all did.

BLACKBURN: No. No, Barney. You can't speak for me. I didn't speak for you.

FRANK: That was the vote that you took! You voted...

STEPHANOPOULOS: Thank you. I -- I got to go. I got to go.

FRANK: I'm -- I'm quoting your vote. I'm not speaking for you.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Thank you both for your time this morning.

FRANK: I'm quoting your vote.

BLACKBURN: Thank you. Good to be with you. Thanks.


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