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tv   Face the Nation  CBS  April 24, 2011 8:30am-9:00am PDT

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>> schieffer: today on "face the nation," syria is worse than ever. we'll have the latest. and from washington, where the new cbs news poll says people dislike congress more than ever, we'll ask some of the newest members what they think about the legislative branch they've just joined. we'll talk to republican senator mark kirk, who took barack obama's old seat in illinois; chris coons, who took joe biden's seat in delaware; richard blumenthal, the new senator from connecticut; and two tea party favorites: arkansas congressman tim griffin and illinois congressman joe walsh. it's all ahead on "face the nation." captioning sponsored by cbs "face the nation" with cbs news chief washington correspondent
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bob schieffer. and now washington, bob schieffer. >> schieffer: and good morning again. i hope your day is as beautiful as it is on this easter sunday in washington. we begin with senator coons and senator blumenthal in the studio. senator kirk is in chicago. welcome. gentlemen, the news from syria overnight is not good. government troops opened fire on tens of thousands of protestors. the estimates now are at around 120 people were killed over the last three days. that brings it to about 300 people who have been killed since the protest began five weeks ago. three members of the government have resigned. assad has promised more reforms, but the protestors say they will not be satisfied until he leaves. and so far, it looks like he's not. president obama issued another statement condemning the violence. he called on the government to change course now. senator kirk, you were one of
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those who advised barack obama to be aggressive about getting involved in libya. what do you think needs to be done about syria here? >> we should use the diplomatic weight and authority of the united states to undermine the syrian dictatorship. remember, the assad dictatorship was responsible for the murder of the lebanese prime minister, supports the hezbollah and hamas terrorist organizations, and even tried to build a north korean reactor in its northwest province. i think we're witnessing the slow end of the assad dictatorship. we should stand with the people of syria. >> schieffer: but we sent american warplanes into libya. should we be doing that in syria? >> no. i think the u.s. military is now over-stretched with four major missions in iraq, afghanistan, libya, and japan. but the u.s.'s diplomatic authority can be a great source of strength and political
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support for the syrian opposition, which is now apparently got its voice, and i think we are seeing the final stages of the assad dictatorship. first, his father and now him. >> schieffer: the two democratic senators here in the studio-- senator blumenthal, where do you see this thing going on? some have talked about that libya imploded, but syria could explode. and could have an effect far greater than what's happening in libya, because after all, this is the main enemy of israel amongst, other things. what do we need to be doing there? >> and a far greater threat to israel and to the middle east generally in syria. we should encourage the democratic movement in syria, but at the same time, avoid anything like an open-ended commitment. certainly, no troops on the ground. and no military involvement
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without the same kind of international consortium that we managed to do in libya. but generally encourage the forces of democracy, just as we did in egypt. a much better model than libya for the united states. >> schieffer: what about you, senator? >> america is safest and strongest when we lead with our values. the values we have that are compelling to folks around the world are when we stand up and support democracy and people who are seeking a greater role in their own countries. we've done that in a way that i think is moving the middle east not towards the 7th century caliphate view of al qaeda, but instead towards a view of wanting to participate in the 21st century. i agree with senator blumenthal. we need to form an international coalition. we need to be limited in our goals and aims in syria, but we need to be engaged. >> schieffer: senator mccain just came out of libya. he said we need to take qaddafi out. do you agree with that? >> i agree we need to support the multinational coalition that the arab league and the african union and the u.n. put in place. we need to give it a little bit of time. i think the squeeze play that we are applying more and more
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pressure to qaddafi with military action, with an embargo will eventually succeed. >> schieffer: do you think we should recognize the rebel government in libya, senator blumenthal? senator mccain seems to think that would be a wise thing to do. >> we need to be very cautious about who exactly the rebels are. and i think one of the contributions of senator mccain's trip is that we know more about them. he certainly has given his personal view that they are legitimate, that they are not al qaeda, and that would certainly blend support that we should recognize them, but at the same time the people of libya should decide who their government is. >> schieffer: what about you, senator kirk? do you think we ought to recognize that rebel government? >> i think we should follow the direction of our european allies that have already recognized the rebel government. white house staffers have called for a responsibility to protect which was the justification of that mission. but now that the u.s. military
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and our nato allies are involved, we have a responsibility to win. remember, qaddafi is responsible for the murder of over 180 americans aboard the pan am 103, killing american servicemen in germany. i think we should wrap this up. it would also help us, stabilize the middle east and the international economy if we make sure that we bring more u.s. ac-130 and a-110 combat power back online to quickly end this conflict. >> schieffer: i want to shift to things closer to home here. cbs news put out a poll last week that was an absolute stunner. it said that 75% of the american people now disapprove of this institution that you all are a member of, the congress. they just don't seem to like anything about it. furthermore, they said that 70%, 70% of the people we questioned believe the country is headed in the wrong direction. senator blumenthal, does that say to you that maybe somebody is doing something wrong here?
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maybe it's time to start listening, to think about finding ways to compromise? >> you know, bob, if you're out in america the way i am and my colleagues are, and i spend a - lot of time back in connecticut- - every weekend, every opportunity. you really hear how people are still hurting, struggling to stay in their homes, to find jobs, to make ends meet. they have a right to be angry at washington because washington hasn't been listening. on gasoline prices, for example. the price of gasoline in the state of connecticut has risen from $2.99 last year to $4.14 right now. >> schieffer: let me just tell you that president obama's appointed some kind of investigatory group to look into that. is that enough? do we need to do more? >> the problem is it is not investigating but more to
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monitor and... and i commend and applaud the president for focusing on this issue, but i think there really needs to be an investigation involving, for example, subpoenas and compulsory process, which i used as attorney general in similar investigations. there needs to be very possibly a grand jury to uncover the potential wrongdoing. >> schieffer: so you want the justice department.... >> the justice department should take the lead, seize this moment and send a message, a very strong deterrent message that this country will not tolerate the kind of illegal speculation and trading and hedge fund activity that may be driving prices up. just to give you one fact. the amount of trading and hedge fund activity the energy positions are at an all-time high in this country's history, up 64% from just a few years ago. and the indicia of potential illegal activity, whether civil or criminal, i think certainly justify the department of
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justice investigation immediately and comprehensively right now. >> schieffer: let me ask you something, senator kirk, because i'm going to shift a little bit the conversation here. people continue to say that congress doesn't hear what they're saying out there. i wonder, can you really blame them? when something like happened last week happened. while the congress is on vacation, ten senators from both parties led by the senate leader harry reid, showed up in the macao, the gambling capital of asia and they say they're there to visit constituent interests there. of course, the interests out in nevada are a big deal for nevada. but should taxpayers be paying for a trip like that? i know they're going on to china. but should taxpayers be paying for a trip like that, when we're in the mess we're in financially?
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>> ideally, the senate would have not taken a two-week break. it would be debating right now the bipartisan commission on deficit reduction, especially following standard and poors' saying we are headed towards losing our triple-a credit rating. i'm particularly worried about the senate. while the house of representatives has cast over 200 votes and sent major legislation directly on point to expand the gasoline supply and cut government spending, the senate is largely moribund. it's not voting very much. in fact, we've been on a very small, small business bill for weeks rather than dealing with the business of the country. >> schieffer: let me just ask you that, senator coons. why is the senate on vacation? you know, most of us-- if you're jewish, you get passover off, and if you're a christian, you get good friday off. but the congress is taking two weeks off. president's day, you took a week off.
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if i'm not mistaken, this is now five vacations since january that the senate and the congress have taken. why? >> to be clear about it, i don't think the senate is making as much progress as it needs to. as someone who worked in the private sector for a long time and then ran a local government before coming here, at times, i'm so frustrated i feel like i'm banging my head against the wall trying to encourage forward movement. i agree, i'm very hopeful that the gang of six-- republicans and democrats-- senators who have been working in private very hard to try and come up a responsible budget compromise will have something to put on the table. but to be clear, when we're on recess, as my daughter maggie says my recess is quite different from hers. i'm going up and down the state of delaware, visiting manufacturers, visiting schools. we don't just take vacation. >> schieffer: i'll take your point. but macao...? >> i can't explain why folks take some of the trips we do. the only trip i've taken as senator is to visit the troops in afghanistan. i think we need to focus on our
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spending every bit as much as every working family in america is focused on their spending. >> schieffer: the next big question is going to be, do we or do we not raise the debt ceiling, which if we don't do it i think there's general agreement, the government will have to start defaulting on its debts, which could set off worldwide recession in the minds of some people. are you going to find a way to raise the debt limit, senator coons? >> the answer is unequivocally yes. we will raise the debt ceiling, because the alternative, as every expert economist agrees, would be catastrophic for our economy, for our credibility around the world, for the bond markets, and for the world economy. so i think the only question is really whether raising that ceiling will be tied to spending reductions. i personally believe that we need to rein in government spending, cut debt and the deficit, but at the same time, make our priorities jobs and economic growth. >> schieffer: let's see what
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senator kick says about that. are you going to raise it? >> maybe or maybe not. i will vote no on raising the debt ceiling unless we have comprehensive, dramatic, effective, and broad-based cuts to federal spending, including the reform of entitlement spending. i think the best play here is to have the bipartisan deficit commission report of the gang of six attached to the debt limit extension. that would be huge cuts in the future spending of the united states that may be a good deal. without that, we should not send a blank check to the administration. we would risk repeating the mistakes of the governments of greece, portugal and ireland, all who said yes to everyone and no to their economic future. >> schieffer: gentlemen, you want to thank all three of you. a very interesting discussion this morning. we'll be back in a minute to get some feedback and see how they're thinking about it over on the house side, especially among the tea party folk.
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there you go. go national. go like a pro. >> schieffer: now some of the perspective from the house side of the capital. tim griffin of arkansas and joe walsh of illinois, two recently elected congressmen. both, i think it's fair to say, are favorites of the tea party. congressman griffin, you just heard the discussion here. you both... both of you voted for the ryan plan, which is the republican plan now to try to bring the deficit under control. as both of you are well aware and i think most people know, it calls for turning medicare into a private insurance program. is that going to happen? >> well, i certainly hope that what we've passed in the ryan or the house budget, i hope that
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that becomes law at some point. i'd like to just clarify a little bit. what the plan done with regard to medicare is, if you're 55 and over, there are no changes. if you're under 55, yes, there will be changes. but the fact is that medicare as we know it is on a path to bankruptcy in nine years. if we do not privatize it, and there is not a voucher system, i hear that a lot-- and it's not true. >> schieffer: let me just ask you about that. because, you know, in our cbs poll, it says 63% of people don't want to change medicare. i know you've been having a lot of town hall meetings out there. >> yes. >> schieffer: what have people been saying to you about this proposal? >> what i usually do is i couple my discussion of medicare in the house budget with a discussion of the debt problem. once i run through all of the numbers with regard to the debt
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and the deficits that we're running on a yearly basis, and what that impact will have on our economy, then folks understand that we have to do something. i would love to come on this show, look in the camera and say, "you can have anything, any time, no matter what the cost." but that would be a lie. and unfortunately, people, politicians for the last 10, 20 years have been saying exactly that. >> schieffer: let me go to congressman walsh here. i know you've been having town halls out there, too. the next big thing coming up here is this business about the debt ceiling. we keep hearing republicans say that they want to attach something to the legislation to raise the debt ceiling, some kind of cut. you just heard senator kirk say that he'd like to attach the... whatever the so-called gang of six comes up with. just attach that to it.
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what do you think ought to be attached to that in order to make it palatable for you to vote for it, congressman? >> hi, bob. look, we're borrowing... our federal government is borrowing $188 million every single hour of every single day. i wish that the administration, i wish that secretary geithner would get as excited and passionate and concerned about the debt we're placing on the backs of our kids and our grand kids as they seem to get so wound up about this raising the debt ceiling. there is no way we should raise the debt ceiling unless this city is really serious about cutting up the credit cards. >> schieffer: what do you want attached to that vote to raise the debt ceiling? what would it take to get you to vote for it? >> it would have to be something that fundamentally changes the way we do business here in washington when it comes to
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spending. i'm sponsoring a balanced budget amendment in the house that all 47 republican senators have signed on to. it's got to be something structural that says we are going to cut up this credit card, and we're going to quit spending money we don't have and placing all of this debt on the backs of our kids and our grandkids and, respectfully, the president just doesn't acknowledge that problem. he continues to play politics with this and with medicare and with entitlement reform. >> schieffer: let me ask you this, congressman. i mean, what do you think would happen if, in fact, congress voted not to raise the debt ceiling? what do you think the impact would be, not just in this country but around the world? is that being overstated? >> it is being overstated. it's being overstated. the administration is playing politics with this issue, just like playing politics with entitlement reform.
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all we have to do is look at the last 20 years. three or four times over the course of the last 20 years, congress has voted not to raise the debt ceiling and it's taken a few months, and then they've come together and they've raised it. but over the course of those few months when the debt ceiling wasn't raised, armageddon didn't hit. the government paid its bills. we've got enough government revenues to certainly pay... to service all of our debt. and the administration knows that. so we've got time here to deal with this program, this problem, and the administration's got to get serious and recognize that we're not going to just give them a vote to raise the debt ceiling unless they fundamentally change the way this city works. >> schieffer: you heard senator blumenthal just say that he thinks it might take the justice department and getting a grand jury to figure out what's causing these gas prices to go up. congressman griffin, what do you think about that? i know you'll agree that people
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are pretty upset about these gas prices, but how do you see bringing them down? >> well, they're really upset. certainly, if there's something illegal going on, we need to look into that and deal with it. but i don't need a grand jury to tell you why this country has continuing problems with energy. that's because we've been talking about energy independence for decades. the problem is a lot of the people who talk about energy independence then pursue policies that are counter to that. we can't talk about energy independence and then say, "but you can't drill here. you can't drill there. we shouldn't do this. you start excluding all of the different options. that's like me telling you to go fix my car but leave your tool box behind. i mean it just... that's the problem. natural gas is "clean" burning. we have a lot of it here in arkansas. and we ought to be pursuing natural gas options as well. there are a lot of things that we should have been doing over
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the years and there are different obstacles, whether it's drilling in the gulf or whether it's drilling in anwr. we have a lot of reserves. ultimately we need to be energy independence. >> schieffer: let me interrupt quickly. we're out of time. congressman walsh, i want to ask you-- you're a big favorite of the tea party. how are the republicans treating you? what kind of reception have you been getting? do you think they're treating you right? what needs to be done here, from your point of view? >> you know, they're treating me and a number of my fellow freshmen like they're treating the american people, because we represent the american people. this thing, bob, that we call the tea party movement, it's bigger than either political party. it's, you know, add up every american that is concerned, frustrated or scared about the financial burden that we're placing on backs of our kids and our grand kids about the fact that we're spending more money
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than we take in, people who are concerned about that represent the tea party. and the republican party recognizes that, which is why we've played such a great influence moving this debate along. >> schieffer: i'm very sorry i have to stop you there. the clock just ran out. we'll be back with some thoughts in just a minute. [ male announcer ] investing for yourself
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as people paying money to hear a lecture by charlie sheen. but people do. even so, i still enjoy a good wedding. i've actually paid for a couple myself. nothing like what we'll see in london, but fairly major productions. we actually had a director of transportation at one of ours. but it was money happily well spent. so, yes, i'll be watching. i'm convinced every wedding brings out the best and worst in all involved. i like to keep score on whether best or worst is winning. besides, they are always a learning experience. for example, "the washington post" passed on a report from splash news that candid photos of bride-to-be kate middleton are bringing a higher price than photos of lady gaga. now, who would have thought that? but never mind. i'm a softy for weddings. i usually shed a tear. but probably not this time. this time, i'll just be smiling because as it unfolds in all its
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glory, i will be reminded this is not our prince and princess; it's theirs, the brits. they are paying for the whole thing. thank you, thomas jefferson. i'm really fine with that. back in a minute. . ♪ clearing customs' a breeze ♪ ♪ that's logistics ♪ ♪ a-di-os, cheerio, au revoir ♪ ♪ off it goes, that's logistics ♪ ♪ over seas, over land, on the web, on demand ♪ ♪ that's logistics ♪ ♪ operations worldwide, ups on your side ♪ ♪ that's logistics ♪ somewhere in america, a city comes to life. it moves effortlessly, breathes easily. it flows with clean water. it makes its skyline greener and its population healthier. all to become the kind of city
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people want to live and work in. somewhere in america, we've already answered some of the nation's toughest questions. and the over sixty thousand people of siemens are ready to do it again. siemens. answers. >> schieffer: that's it for us today. we'll see you next week on "face the nation." captioning sponsored by cbs captioned by media access group at wgbh ,,,,,,,,
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