Interview with Rep. Aaron Schock

Interview with Rep. Aaron Schock

By The Situation Room - November 17, 2010

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Republicans may be flexing their muscles after forcing postponement of a bipartisan gathering over at the White House. But that delayed so-called slurpee summit may also be the first clear sign that gridlock looms in Washington. Joining us now Republican congressman, Aaron Schock of Illinois, along with our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley, host of CNN's "State of the Union" and our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger.

Thanks to all of you for coming in. Congressman, let me start with you and then I'm going to bring in Gloria and Candy. We're going to have a little serious discussion about what's going on right now. The Republicans keep saying that the leadership, Democratic leadership and Republican leadership have to listen to the people and decide what the people want.

In our brand new poll, we asked about the tax cuts, the Bush tax cut, should they continue at the current rate for all Americans 35 percent? For families making less than $250,000, 49 percent. For no one, 15 percent. So, only one-third, according to this poll, want all the tax cuts -- all the tax rates to continue as is. You're not listening to the American people, right?

REP. AARON SCHOCK, (R) ILLINOIS: Well, I can only speak about the district that I represent in the center part of the country in Midwestern Illinois. And I'll tell you the message I heard this last election cycle was we don't want anybody's taxes going up right now in a down economy. BLITZER: And when you said -- do you want millionaires and billionaires to continue to get the same tax rate, they said yes. Please make sure they only get 36 percent federal income tax as opposed to 39.6 percent?

SCHOCK: Well, that's certainly the argument that the president was making, but unfortunately for him, he didn't win that argument, because not only did the American people reject it, but Republican members of Congress and Democrat members of Congress overwhelmingly agree in a bipartisan way that that top bracket of income earners, a large percentage of nearly 80 percent of them are actually subchapter- S small business owners.

They're precisely the people that have hired in the last year. Seven out of the 10 new jobs created last year were done by small business owners, many of whom pay their taxes on that top bracket. So, we don't think their taxes should be going up.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: So, if you were to have some kind of compromise, because there may need to be a compromise on this, and you've just come from a Republican caucus, do you think Republicans would go for a temporary extension of all of these tax cuts, the middle-class as well as the wealthy?

SCHOCK: Well, I think if the president offers that to us, and with Speaker Pelosi currently chairing the House, if she offers that as a vote to us, I think at the end of the day, the Republicans and Democrats will vote for that, and it could become law. The question really isn't whether or not the tax rates can stay the same. It's a matter of when.

And I hope that for the sake of our country and for the sake of stability and certainty in the private sector, that we can do it now as opposed to having to wait until January.

BLITZER: So, you don't care about the $700 billion that keeping the tax cuts for the richest people will add to the deficit?

SCHOCK: Well, I don't think that the president has made a good argument when he say says he wants to keep the tax cuts for those under $250,000 which costs between $300 and $400 billion. The argument is keeping these tax rates at the current level are the quickest way to get our economy growing, and the economic growth, quite frankly, is the quickest way to pay off the debts.

BLITZER: I want everybody to hold their thought for a second because we just are getting in some breaking news.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: There's been a verdict just reached their landmark federal terror trial at the case of Ahmed Ghailani, Guantanamo detainee, tried for conspiracy and murder in the 1998 attacks on U.S. embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Let's bring in our own Deborah Feyerick. She was just in the courtroom listening to what's going on. What's the verdict, Deb? DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we can tell you this could be a major blow to the Obama administration. Ahmed Ghailani found not guilty on all but one of the 285 counts against him. He was found not guilty of attempting to murder U.S. nationals, not guilty of attempting to use weapons of mass destructions, the only count that the jury found him guilty of was conspiracy to destroy buildings and property belonging to the U.S., all of the other counts, though, not guilty.

They did not allow during this trial evidence from what could have been a key witness for them, the man who actually sold Ahmed Ghailani the bomb components, and the reason they did not introduce that evidence is because it was obtained while Ghailani was at Guantanamo. He's the first Guantanamo detainee to be tried in the United States, but there was evidence that was collected during this enhanced interrogations, and some of that evidence including the man who sold him the bomb components that was not allowed to be used.

Remember, this was not about war crimes, this was about the U.S. embassy bombing back in 1998. Now, that courtroom, Wolf, was packed, packed with the U.S. attorneys from the southern district, and many others who were involved in this case. The tension before the verdict was read was palpable, the disappointment after even greater. There was just a sense that they had put on a very tight case. The judge thanked the jury, said that what this shows is that the constitution does work.

It was the judge who said that the evidence of that key witness could not be brought in during this trial. He said this verdict shows that the constitution is supposed to works the way it's supposed to -- Wolf.

BLITZER: What kind of prison sentence is he facing with the conviction on that one count, the lesser count, of conspiracy as opposed to the formal terror and murder charges?

FEYERICK: Well, we're not 100 percent sure what it means specifically. We know that he was facing life in prison on all those other counts. The sentence is likely going to be less than life, but the judge did stipulate at the very start of this trial that even if Ahmed Ghailani is acquitted, he is not going to be released into the general public until hostilities between the United States and al Qaeda are resolved. So, technically, he will still be held as an enemy combatant -- Wolf.

BLITZER: So, he's not going anywhere, Ghailani. All right. Thanks very much for that. Let's get back. I don't know, congressman, if you want to react to that, but if you do, go ahead.

SCHOCK: You know, I didn't witness the trial, and, you know, I hope that based on what I've heard, he stays behind bars for a little while longer. It's disappointing.

BLITZER: Well, he's obviously not going anywhere at least for the time being. All right. Candy, let's pick up our conversation get back to politics. This is a pivotal moment right now, this lame duck session really gets going.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It is. There's lots that you all have on the table, but the biggest one, I think, has to be the tax cuts. So, I just want to make sure I'm clear about this. You would go for a temporary extension of tax cuts remaining for the wealthy? Is that correct?

SCHOCK: Correct.

CROWLEY: And you believe the House would go for that?



BLITZER: For two years?

SCHOCK: Yes, I mean, look, at the end of the day, we don't control the chamber. We won't control the chamber until January, and even then, we control the House and not the Senate. Now, I do believe in January, we stand a much better chance of keeping the current rate indefinitely. In other words, a permanent extension of the current rates even though we don't control the Senate --

BORGER: So, why not postpone it and do it in January?

SCHOCK: Because I think -- that is the debate, and I think it will be a debate that Republicans have amongst ourselves, but I am one who believes, in all honesty, as I travel the district, the small business guys are saying you're killing us. What are you going to do with the estate tax? What's happened with capital gain rates? What's happened with my marginal rates? And they want us to make a decision.

And so, I'm willing to put the perfect bill aside and compromise on the good bill to get something done, so that we can establish some certainty in the private sector, and we don't waste two months, and hopefully, the economy can be in recovery.

CROWLEY: The other thing I want to ask you is about this meeting today between John Boehner, soon to be Republican Speaker of the House and Harry Reid who will stay as the Democratic leader on the Senate side, and then the decision not to meet with President Obama. Now, we're too busy. We've got a lot of things going on. He set that timetable. We weren't really consulted on that.

Don't you all risk the appearance of not, of still wanting to remain what they've retied to tag you with which is party of no? Why not just go up and talk to the president and look as though you're open to things?

SCHOCK: Well, I think, we will have that meeting, and I wasn't again involved with the date setting, if you will --

CROWLEY: But does it worry you that they delayed it for appearance? SCHOCK: Well, literally, before I walked on your show here tonight, we just voted for John Boehner to be speaker-elect. So, I think they wanted to be mindful not putting the cart before the horse. Obviously, one quarter of our conferees are new, and they're being very mindful of what our leadership is doing.

And so before the leadership goes out and speak for the conference, they want to make sure that they are the elected leadership, and they get a good sense for not only the current members but the incoming freshmen members stand.

BORGER: Do you think they were, to pop on Candy, do you think they were getting any pushback inside the conference from the new members saying don't meet with the president yet?

SCHOCK: No, I didn't sense that at all.

BLITZER: Do you think this TSA pat downs at the airport are good or bad?

SCHOCK: Well, when I'm getting one --


SCHOCK: No. I take four planes a week, honestly. You know, I am for intelligence screening. In other words, I think we get a lot further when we're smart about why we're screening people. In other words, I'm --


SCHOCK: Well, I'm disappointed when someone who buys a one-way ticket from Yemen and then the bomber who got through the TSA lines quite frankly was able to get there --

BLITZER: The underwear bomber?

SCHOCK: The underwear bomber should have been (INAUDIBLE) fits the profile of what we know to be terrorists. When I travel overseas on many occasions, I get pulled out because I maybe buying a one-way ticket, I maybe traveling with my sister and we have different last names. That's smart profiling. Just pulling people out one at a time when we have millions of passengers in random screenings I'm not sure is the best way to do it.

BLITZER: Congressman, we're out of time, but one quick final question, are you still the youngest member of Congress?

SCHOCK: Unfortunately, with 90 new freshman, I still be the youngest one.

BLITZER: You're what, 29 years old?

SCHOCK: Twenty-nine, yes.

BORGER: But he's growing older every day. CROWLEY: In dog years, you're really old at this point, right?

SCHOCK: I tell my constituents, they say don't change now that you're in Washington. Yes, I will get older.

BLITZER: Another year, we'll start seeing the gray hair. Congressman, thanks very much for coming in.

SCHOCK: Good to be with you.

BLITZER: And of course, thanks to Candy and Gloria as well.


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