tv Face the Nation CBS January 23, 2011 10:30am-11:00am EST
what's your story? citi can help you write it. >> schieffer: today on face the nation, what is the state of the union? and can we make it better? >> my number one focus is going to be making sure that we are competitive, that we are growing and we are creating jobs. >> schieffer: it is a new and more centrist focus on the economy and national unity to be sure. but can he carry it off? will liberal democrats go along? are republicans ready to compromise? is there really a new mood in washington? we'll hear from the president's opponent in the 2008 campaign, john mccain of arizona. and key senate democrat chuck schumer of new york. and then i'll have a final thought on why we seem to ask the wrong questions whenever a president speaks to the nation. but first senators mccain and
schumer on "face nation." captioning sponsored by cbs "face the nation" with cbs news chief washington correspondent bob schieffer. and now from cbs news in washington, bob schieffer. >> schieffer: and good morning again. and we begin this morning welcoming back to "face the nation" for the first time in exactly one year senator john mccain of arizona. the person who by the way has been on this broadcast more than any other politician now in office. senator, you haven't been here in a year. what were you doing? were you busy back in arizona. >> busy and thanks for having me back on. it's probably the longest absence in all these years too. i'm glad to be back. thanks for having me. >> schieffer: we're very pleased to have you. where are you going to sit tuesday night when the president makes his state of the union? are you going to join those sitting with members of the
opposite party or will you sit with the democrats? >> i'm going to sit with tom udall and hopefully mark udall will be sitting where i usually sit. but this whole thing is a good idea. i think it's been a bit overblown, but the fact is it's a good thing to do. why not? the udalls, for example, have been close friends to me and their family for many many years. let's sit together. finally could i just mention it might be nice to cut back a little bit on all the jumping up and down which i think frankly distracts from any president's speech when it's interrupted every 0 seconds by people jumping up and down because the president isn't speaking to congress. he's speaking to the american people. >> schieffer: that's interesting that you should bring that up. because one house republican, paul brown of georgia, says this whole thing is a trap. he said what president obama is trying to do is just to keep the republicans from leaping up and making noise. >> well, in all due respect, i
kind of thought we were there to get a message from the president. i frankly think the cheerleading side of it has detracted from the ability of any president, republican or democrat, to speak continuously to the american people without so many interpretations. i think there will be plenty of interruptions. it doesn't matter where you sit. it might be nice to have a few less. >> schieffer: do you really believe that this could be a beginning of a change in atmosphere in washington? >> i do because i think the president has already changed a great deal. tomorrow night he's going to be talking about cutting spending. that's what the message of the november election was. he'll be saying some things that we don't agree with, but obviously with the new appointments, with an ji... agenda where he wants free trade agreements passed. by the way we need to have columbia free trade agreement and panama free trade
agreement along with the south korea free trade agreement if you really want to create jobs so i think there's going to be a number of areas that we can at least find common ground on. >> schieffer: you know, you were a very complimentary of the speech that the president made after the tucson tragedy. you wrote in an op-ed in the "washington post," you called it a terrific speech. i just want to put up on the screen some of the things that you said. you said, "i disagree with many of the president's policies. but i believe he is a patriot, seriously intent on using his time in office to advance our country's cause. i reject accusations that his policies and beliefs make him unworthy to lead america or opposed to its founding ideals." who were you talking to when you wrote that piece, senator? >> i hope the majority of americans. there is a lack of respect in our dialogue. as i mentioned i've been guilty of it from time to time myself. although from time to time ted
kennedy and i used to really go at it on the floor and maintain a close friendship. so we shouldn't mistake passion for advocacy. in other words, passion is necessary in this debate that we're having. but we've got to make sure it doesn't spill over into personal attacks and impugning people's character. patriotism. so the president gave i think exactly the right speech in tucson. by the way it was important to the people in my state as well that he came and gave that message in tucson. we grieve for those who were lost and our prayers continue to be with gabby giffords whom you know is making a remarkable recovery so far. >> schieffer: have you talked to the president since the shooting. >> yes, i did. i talked to him. we had a pleasant conversation. i did advance to him the idea that we should work together on enhanced rescissions. the line-item veto power that i think is going to be
necessary for this and other presidents to be able to really curb the excessive spending and earmarking that unfortunately still might go on and may have a resurgence over time. >> schieffer: did you call him or did he call you? >> he called me. as i said, it was a pleasant conversation. again, i was very grateful that he came to tucson and at this time of profound grief in our state. >> schieffer: do you feel... i mean, you made a very gracious concession statement. after you lost the race for the presidency. but it's fair to say that you and the president had a fairly frosty relationship as it were since then. i wouldn't say you'd been, you know, cozy. >> it was frosty.... >> schieffer: but is that changing? do you feel that that has now changed? >> i don't think it was so much frosty personally. i just strongly disagreed with the spending. i strongly disagreed with the stimulus package. we have 23% unemployment. nearly half the homes in arizona are underwater.
they're not worth less than the value of their mortgage. the people are hurting. we're... passed the stimulus package, unemployment will be 8% maximum. we know it's still at 9.4. and not only didn't i like what obama care or health care reform was about, but i really didn't like the way they did it. the back room dealing that they said would not happen anymore. look, the president and i think... the president i think has learned a lot in the last two years as any president does. he is a very intelligent man. i think he's doing a lot of right things. this emphasis on cutting spending that we'll be talking about tonight was something that obviously was not talked about in the last two years. so i think there's common ground because i think the president realized, as a result of the november elections, that the american people have a different set of priorities afternoon so we should seize that opportunity for the good of the country. >> schieffer: i'm going to go back to that in just a second. first this morning on meet the press republican leader mitch
mcconnell said he is definitely going to try to force a vote on repealing health care reform. even though as most people and i'm sure you would agree there is no chance that that's going to pass in the senate. do you think senator mccain that that's a waste of time, that the time in the senate could be better spent working on something it has a chance of passing? >> one thing about the senate, it is not the most efficient organization. i don't think we would be wasting... we need to have a vote on it because we promised the people we would. look, the message we campaigned in november, in the last november elections that we would repeal and replace. we have to have a vote on repeal so that everybody is on record whether they want to repeal. and then i think piece by piece we go through, quote, replacing. i'm told already that the democrats may agree with us. on some changes. but there needs to be a lot more changes than what they're willing to agree to. it has to be the subject of a national debate. >> schieffer: let's get back to spending cuts.
you've never been shy about spending cuts especially when it comes to earmarks and those pet projects that members have. but the house republicans are talking about draconian cuts. that according to some liberal groups would mean a 40% cut this year in such things as the national institutes of health and the f.b.i. afternoon federal prosecutors. eric cantor said this morning on "meet the press" that even cancer research is on the table. now you and i are cancer survivors. do you think that's something where we can cut back? >> i think there may be efficiencies there. frankly cancer research i think is one of the last things that i would go after. but we've got to take on some of the sacred cows, bob. agriculture subsidies are outrageous today. ethanol is a joke. and it's a multibillion dollar spending... all ag sub des have to be examined. the post office, a model of inefficiency. horse and buggies and the days
when internets and communications basically are replacing it more and more. we have to go after the sacred cows. and then we have to go after entitlements. entitlements have to be on the table sooner rather than later. you and i could write the solution to social security problems on the back of an envelope. but we have to do is sit down together and go through those remedies. medicare is going to be much more difficult. but we have to go after the sacred cows and we have to go after entitlements. the longer we wait, the worse the problem is going to be. we have saddled our kids and grand kids with a debt that is unconscionable and unsustainable and outrageous. >> schieffer: the obama administration says it's going to increase the use of military commissions now to try to prosecute some of those gitmo detainees. >> in gitmo. >> schieffer: you were one of the few who said we ought to close gitmo. is this a sign that you can't close gitmo right now.
>> right now they've badly mishandled this entire issue from the beginning. but lindsey graham and i and joe lieberman will be coming forward with another package to try to solve this whole issue of what we do with detainees. to try them in new york city khalid sheik mohammed in new york city of course was the nutyiest. so it's good to have these trials convened. a military commissions in guantanamo. we'll be proposing a package that hopefully will work with the administration on that will give us clear path as to how to address these people. bob, don't forget that nearly 30% of the detainees who have been returned to the country they came from have reentered the fight. that's unacceptable. >> schieffer: john mccain, welcome back. glad to have you. hope we'll have you more frequently than over the past year. >> thank you, my friend. >> schieffer: when we come back, we'll be talking to chuck schumer one of the key democrats in the senator about
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senator from new york who is in new york this morning. i should point out wearing his green tie which i assume is support for the new york jets. >> go, jets. >> schieffer: all right. welcome, senator. well let's start where sort of where senator mccain left off. he agreed, you heard him, with what mitch mcconnell said also this morning. there needs to be a vote on repealing health care. if the republicans do force a vote-- and i would guess that about the only way they can get this done is just to add it on as an amendment to some other legislation-- that seems most likely to me. if they do that, senator schumer, what will be the democratic response? >> well, let me say harry reid has wisely said we should not...
he would not offer repeal on the floor because the american people want us to focus on jobs and the economy and stretching the middle class paycheck. but mitch mcconnell has the right to offer an amendment. if he does, if the republicans offer an amendment on the floor, then we will require them to vote on the individual protections in the bill that are very popular. and that even some of the new republican house members have said they support. so in the end, their repeal bill is going to be so full of holes it looks like swiss cheese. let me give you some examples chlz are republicans going to vote no on a provision to maintain the donut hole benefits so that seniors pay less for prescription drugs? are they going to vote against the ability of 21- to 26-year-olds to stay on their parents' health care, they're in the job market and often can't get it themselvess? are they going to vote to repeal the mandatory... not
the mandatory but the free check-ups that seniors on medicare get which save billions of dollars in prevention. we all know early check-ups work. so i think at the end of the day their effort to repeal is not going to work at all. it shows something, bob. there are places we can work together. senators nelson and others wrote a letter to speaker boehner saying we'll repeal the 1099 provisions that put burdens on small business. we certainly i agree with senator mccain there's still a lot of waste in the inefficiencies in the medicare program. you can keep people's good benefits and still get rid of those. we should work together to improve the bill but this idea of repeal is not going to work. i think if they try it, they're going to learn that. >> schieffer: in other words, you will vote on specifics. you will bring up votes on specific things in the bill. >> right. >> schieffer: let me ask you
about one of those specifics which i know you brought with you this morning. we have a copy of it. a letter that you plan to send to eric cantor who is part of the republican leadership in the house. in that letter you say the following. "repeal could force three million seniors to repay the government the $250 they received as a rebate last year." that of course refers to seniors in the so-called donut hole. that is their medicine costs too much to be paid through medicare but it doesn't koflt enough that they can qualify for catastrophic coverage. but senator, you also go on to say in the letter they would have to return the funds, quote, in theory. so would they or wouldn't they? >> well we're not sure. the actuary for cms has said in a published report that they'd have to return them in theory. obviously this is something that would bother a whole lot of citizens. so we, senator menendez and i,
sent a letter to eric cantor asking him to commit now unequivocally that if it should be found that they have to return, that seniors have to return the $250 to help fill the donut hole that they got last year that he will recall his repeal bill. again, it shows this, you know, rush to recall the entire bill which almost all americans believe have good parts, even those who are for repeal. only 20% are for full repeal. the rest say keep the good parts of it. so this rush to do it doesn't make sense. we hope that majority leader cantor will say today that if the $250 has to be returned, he will ask to bring back the bill that they passed, to recall it. >> schieffer: all right. in his preview of the state of the union message at that the white house released last night of a video press release here's one of the things that president obama said.
take a listen. >> we're also going to have to deal with our deficits and our debt in a responsible way. and we've got to reform government. so that it's leaner and smarter the 21st century. >> schieffer: you know, if i didn't know better and had my eyes closed i might have thought that was president reagan talking. it sounded very much like a speech that a republican would make. are democrats really going to be serious about this, senator schumer? and how is the left in your party going to take this idea of this new focus on cutting spending? >> let me say this. first, we are serious. we'll continue to be. we passed last year in our appropriations measures something called mccaskill- sessions, claire mccaskill democrat and jeff sessions republican that cut back on spending. we know that has to happen but it has to be done in a smart way. another thing the president is going to talk about is not cutting back on investments that will help us grow in the
future. things like education and infrastructure in scientific research. in fact i think the president's message is going to be one of hope, of the future, and of growth. he is going to focus like a laser on the middle class and helping them grow there... their paycheck s if they have a job. growing jobs, growing the economy both in the short term and the long term. yes, we have to cut. there's a lot of waste in the government. we will join with our colleagues and with the president to do it but certain key investments we will keep. the bottom line is this. the american people want an optimistic future-oriented pro- growth platform. this dour, sour everything is wrong, no one can do anything right, that's not going to work. that's not what the american people want. i think the president's speech will be well received by democrats in the congress, in the country but by all americans more importantly. >> schieffer: eric cantor said this morning under hard
questioning i should add that yes indeed cancer research would also be on the table when you talk about cutting spending. can you
envision cuts in cancer research? >> well, you know, the proposal that the republican study committee made focuses on only one part of the budget. because they have to get all their reductions out of that one part, they do things that most americans wouldn't want. such as cut cancer research. but, for instance, they leave the military totally out. i'm for a strong military. i've always supported it. but everyone knows there's waste and inefficiency in the military budget. defense secretary gates has proposed cutting $150 billion out of it. and if you want to be fair, if you want to be con... convince people that you're really for cutting you have to cut the waste across the board. waste in the military is no better than waste domestic programs.
it seems it's a little political. just focus on one area, areas that republicans don't like. we should try to eliminate the waste and inefficiency across the board. >> schieffer: about 30 seconds left. where are you going to sit at the president's state of the union? will you be with the republicans or sit with democrats? >> yes. i've already asked tom coburn who is a very conservative republican-- we don't agree on that many things, but we're friends-- to sit next to me. he's graciously agreed. i think if coburn and schumer can sit next to each other, then probably just about everybody can. i would urge others to do it. mark udall had this idea. it spread like wild fire. it's true it's symbolic but let's not forget. often times in history symbols influenceryality. ... influence reality. the lame duck session which was bipartisan. the president's gracious address. john mccain's grarb ups response means that maybe we can come together to solve america's problems. i
hope that will happen.
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about tucson not because i don't wish him well. i do. i wish the best for all our presidents. what bothers me is every time something like this happens washington's first question is wonder how this will play in the polls? the president went up in the polls and that was news. but the right question still should have been, what impact will the president's words have on the country? not what impact will they have on him? the important thing was that the president saw the tucson tragedy threatening to drive us further apart, not bring us together as such things usually do. so he told us what we needed to hear, that we needed to dial back on the rhetoric and tone down our hatefulness to one another. mainly he told us we could be better. we may see the beginning of a change for the better tuesday night when the president delivers his state of the union speech. for the first time in years many of the elected officials there to hear him will sit with those of the opposite party. rather than divide along party lines. it's a small thing to be sure. but in a town where partisanship
has become so fierce, many politicians are uncomfortable just being in the same room with members of the other party, it is a start. how long can it last? we'll see. but we can be better. as the president reminded us. lately i wonder sometimes if we have somehow forgotten that. back in a moment. what are you looking at? logistics. ben? the ups guy? no, you see ben, i see logistics. logistics? think--ben is new markets. ben is global access-- china and beyond. ben is a smarter supply chain. ben is higher margins. happier customers... everybody wins. logistics. exactly. see you guys tomorrow. >> woman: good night, gluttony-- a farewell long awaited. good night, stuffy. >> ( yawning ) >> good night, outdated. >> ( click ) >> good night, old luxury
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