Today on CNN’s State of the Union, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), joined anchor, Jake Tapper.
For more information, see http://cnnpressroom.blogs.cnn.com/. Also, text highlights and a transcript of the discussion are below.
MANDATORY CREDIT: CNN’s “State of the Union”
McConnell on Clinton’s ISIS remarks during the debate: “Well, it’s pretty clear from what Hillary Clinton said last night that she thinks things are just fine. I — this illustrates that the election of Hillary Clinton would be a third term for Barack Obama’s foreign policy. We know what the American people think of the president’s foreign policy. Let me quote Jimmy Carter early this summer. When asked about the president’s foreign policy, he said he couldn’t think of a single place in the world where we were better off now than we were when President Obama came to office.”
McConnell on Trump’s proposed Muslim ban: “Obviously I hope it’s a Republican and a Republican to get elected to the White House is going to have to carry purple states. States that can go either way.
We’re not going to follow that suggestion that this particular candidate made. It would prevent the president of Afghanistan from coming to the United States. The king of Jordan couldn’t come to the United States. Obviously we’re not going to do that.”
THIS IS A RUSH FDCH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: If he becomes the Republican nominee, life inside the Senate chamber could get a little bit awkward.
Joining me now from Kentucky is the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, who has endorsed his fellow Kentuckian in the race for president, Rand Paul.
Leader McConnell, thanks so much for joining us.
I want to get to the accomplishments of the Senate in a second. But I do have to ask you. Senator Cruz has been campaigning against you and what he calls the Washington cartel, very critical of your leadership. What do you think of his leadership?
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: Well, look, I have made it a point to stay out of the presidential race. It’s pretty much dominating the news, as we have noticed by the program this morning.
What I want to do is concentrate on what we have done for the American people. The Senate is back to work. We’re voting again and passing budgets again, major education, highways, cyber-security, trade promotion authority.
This has been an extraordinarily accomplished first year of the new Senate majority. And what I have tried to do, Jake, is just kind of tune out the presidential race and do the job that the American people elected the new majority to do.
TAPPER: Well, that’s fair enough. And I certainly understand that, but there are so many outsiders winning and doing well in the Republican contest campaigning against Republicans like yourself.
Does that bother you? Is there a message you would like to tell those Republican voters who are excited to vote against you in some ways?
MCCONNELL: Look, we were elected to try to do the job for the American people. We know we have divided government. There are plenty of things we disagree with the president on.
But I just issued a few moments ago a litany of things that we have done this year where there were enough bipartisan support to make some progress for the American people.
Look, we have had an election every two years right on schedule since 1788. You can always say we can’t do anything. It’s either an election next year or an election this year. We would never make any progress if we took that approach.
So, I look for things to schedule in the Senate that had bipartisan support, that were not terribly contentious from a Republicans-vs.-Democrats point of view, and that make some progress for the country.
Now, we do have some pretty darn big differences with the president. We’re in the process of putting Obamacare repeal on his desk. We have already put on his desk through the Congressional Review Act efforts to repeal some of his onerous regulations on existing power plants and new power plants, and this ridiculous regulation called Waters of the U.S. that would declare virtually every puddle in America subject to EPA regulation.
MCCONNELL: So, the things that we differ on, we will talk about, but we want to make some progress in the meantime.
TAPPER: Let’s talk about one of your differences with President Obama. You have been very critical of his handling of the war against ISIS.
What should be done? Do you support sending in combat U.S. ground troops into Iraq and Syria?
MCCONNELL: Well, it’s pretty clear from what Hillary Clinton said last night that she thinks things are just fine.
I — this illustrates that the election of Hillary Clinton would be a third term for Barack Obama’s foreign policy. We know what the American people think of the president’s foreign policy.
Let me quote Jimmy Carter early this summer. When asked about the president’s foreign policy, he said he couldn’t think of a single place in the world where we were better off now than we were when President Obama came to office.
TAPPER: Sure. But what should we do against ISIS?
MCCONNELL: That’s Jimmy Carter.
MCCONNELL: Well, I think you — yes. OK.
What I’m telling you is, his foreign policy has been a disaster.
TAPPER: But what would you do?
MCCONNELL: What needs to happen — I’m about to tell you.
TAPPER: OK. Sorry about that.
MCCONNELL: What needs to happen is, you have to have some safe zones inside Syria to stop the refugee flow. Refugees are going to keep on coming if they think they’re going to get killed in their own country. That obviously is going to take a stronger military component than currently has been made available.
Secondly, without American leadership nothing is going to happen. The president of the United States needs to step up and say, OK, here is the plan. We would like for the British to supply so many troops. The French to supply so many troops. And our (INAUDIBLE) Arab allies like the Saudis, the Jordanians, the Emiratis, the Egyptians rally together and provide the bulk of the ground forces to defeat ISIS.
It will never ever happen from the air only. And so it is going to take a more robust effort on the ground. Not necessarily with huge compliment to American troops. I don’t know anybody advocating that but American leadership, Jake, is the indispensable component part of making this work.
TAPPER: One of the Republican frontrunner recently proposed on the subject of ISIS a temporary shutdown of all Muslims entering the United States. Now you called barring visitors based on religion — quote — completely inconsistent with American values.
If Trump wins the nomination and the presidency and then proposed this measure, would you block it in the Senate?
MCCONNELL: Well, look, I’m not going speculate about who is going to get elected president. Obviously I hope it’s a Republican and a Republican to get elected to the White House is going to have to carry purple states. States that can go either way.
We’re not going to follow that suggestion that this particular candidate made. It would prevent the president of Afghanistan from coming to the United States. The king of Jordan couldn’t come to the United States. Obviously we’re not going to do that.
TAPPER: House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said this week that the Republicans — quote — gave away the store on the spending bill that cleared Congress Friday.
Rush Limbaugh said — quote — it seems though Pelosi is still running the House and Harry Reid is still running the Senate. I’m guessing you disagree with the assessments?
MCCONNELL: Well, Republicans felt like we need in response to the foreign policy threat that we’ve just been talking about to spend more on defense. And so in order to achieve that we had to work with a Democratic president who wanted to spend more on the domestic side. If it had been left up to me, we wouldn’t have added that much back but nobody is a dictator here. We can’t do things one party only in a time of divided government.
But there were other important things done in the context of the overall bill. For example, we got rid of a 40-year-old relic of the past oil export ban. We were in an absurd position as a result of the president’s deal with the Iranians. The Iranians could export oil but we couldn’t. It makes no sense at all.
So, it was a big comprise. That’s what you have to do when you have guided government.
TAPPER: All right. Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, Merry Christmas to you and your family. Thanks so much for joining us.
MCCONNELL: Merry Christmas to you, too, Jake. Thank you.