Transcript: Sen. Tim Kaine on “Face the Nation,” Jan. 22, 2023

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The following is a transcript of an interview with Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia that aired Sunday, Jan. 22, 2023, on “Face the Nation.”


MARGARET BRENNAN: We’re back with Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia. I know you have dealt with a number of mass shootings as governor and senator in the state of Virginia. I wonder your thoughts on Monterey Park this morning?

SEN. TIM KAINE: Margaret, it’s- it’s just like scar tissue that keeps getting reopened every time these things happen. We’re reminded in Virginia of the shooting at Virginia Tech in April of 2007. My heart goes out to this community. I’m worried that the perpetrators are still at large. So let’s first make sure that the law enforcement has the support to catch up. And then we need to support those survivors and all who’ve been affected.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Alright, Senator, we have to take a quick break and I want to talk to you more on the other side of it. We’ll be right back.

*COMMERCIAL*

MARGARET BRENNAN: Welcome back to Face the Nation. And we continue our conversation with Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia. Senator, yesterday for the fifth time, we learned about this other tranche of classified information being kept at the president’s personal residence. How does a senator accidentally take classified material home?

SEN. KAINE: Margaret, I don’t really know the answer to that question because I reviewed classified material as senator on the Armed Services and Foreign Relations committees. But when I do it, it’s always in a classified facility where I don’t have access to the materials other than to sit there and read them. So that’s why there needs to be this independent investigation and independent prosecutor. How many documents are we talking about? Dozens? A handful or hundreds. How serious are they? Why were they taken? Did anyone have access to them? And then is the president being cooperative? And I think by all accounts, it suggests that, yes, of course, he’s being cooperative as as anyone should be. But these are the reasons why this independent prosecutor and an investigation is necessary.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You’re one of the few Senate Democrats who’ve said that you have concern about this issue. I wonder how concerned you are. And politically, doesn’t this damage the White House and the president in terms of trust and credibility?

SEN. KAINE: Well, again, those questions do depend on the answer to the- that we’ll get in this investigation. I mean, Margaret, you- you know, this government has a tendency to over classify if they are looking at a document and they have to analyze it to decide whether to classify, sometimes they just market classified. I’ll read it in the SCIF and say Margaret was reporting on that a month ago or The Washington Post has been telling me this for the last six months. So you do have to see what’s the scope, how serious did anyone have access? And those questions have to be answered before we decide. Is this how significant an issue is this?

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right. And that may take some time. I want to ask you about some of the business that Congress will have to get to soon. As you know, the White House wants a clean lift to the debt limit with no strings attached. Senator Manchin said it’s a mistake for the White House to refuse to negotiate with Republicans. Do you think that position is changing? Is it a mistake?

SEN. KAINE: Well, first, we should- we should have a clean lift of the debt ceiling because the 14th Amendment to the Constitution says nobody should question the credit worthiness of the United States. This is about whether the U.S. pays our credit card or not. And I don’t think anyone should flirt with not paying for the US credit card, which is what Republicans are doing. So the White House position is correct. We should raise the debt ceiling. But if Republicans are saying they won’t do it and they’re threatening our credit worthiness because they want cuts, let them put cuts on the table. Is it the cutting Social Security and Medicare that Rick Scott wanted to do is a cutting aid to Ukraine in the middle of a war between a democracy and an illegally invading dictator? Let them put on the table what they want to cut so that the American public can see what their priorities are.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Speaker McCarthy has said the president has invited him to speak, have a conversation and discuss a responsible lift to the debt ceiling. So what does that mean? How does this politically get dressed up so we avoid the cliff?

SEN. KAINE: Well, first, that’s a good thing. I’m very, very happy that the president and Speaker McCarthy are talking. That’s really positive. How do we fix this? Jeff Merkley and I have a bill that’s based upon an earlier fix that Senator McConnell led during the Obama administration when there was a similar brinksmanship around the debt ceiling. And Senator McConnell said, look, we will allow the president to raise it subject to a congressional disapproval. And that was done. And we think that should be the norm anyway. So we have a bill called the Protect Our Credit Act that would basically say the president has got to cover the debts of the United States. And if that includes raising the debt ceiling, the president can do that. But if Congress disapproves, then you can have an expedited up or down vote in Congress. And I think that’s the right solution to this.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Before I let you go, you’re on Armed Services. How concerned are you that Secretary of Defense Austin left Germany with no agreement among Western allies to provide tanks to Ukraine?

SEN. KAINE: Margaret, there are- there are some differences about exactly what- and what’s the timing in terms of providing equipment. But we have assembled a global coalition to support Ukraine. The unity has been very strong and the support, bipartisan, bicameral in Congress has been very strong. And I think that will continue.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Senator Kaine, thank you for your time today. 

SEN. KAINE: Absolutely. Thanks, Margaret. 

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