Let's turn now to our Senate debate, with Democrat Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Republican Johnny Isakson of Georgia. And Senator Klobuchar, let me begin with you. You just heard Congressman Hutchinson. What's your response to the gun debate right now?
KLOBUCHAR: Well, you know, George, I'm a former prosecutor, and I oversaw efforts with our school safety with 25 major high schools, and I have to say that this was part of the equation that we have to look at this just as we look at all issues and see if there's other things we can do to help local schools with school safety.
But we have to go beyond that, because we know we can't have an armed guard at every doorway, at every classroom. And so you have to look at the fact that a lot of these mass shootings have taken place in houses of worship, they've taken place in movie theaters.
And so looking into the larger debate that Senator Manchin and other more conservative senators who have been supported by the NRA in the past have pointed out, look at things like high capacity magazines. Putting some limits on that could be part of the solution, but not the only solution.
The background checks, my Republican sheriff was in to see me, we talked the fact that 19 states have only submitted less than a hundred records on mental illness, on criminal backgrounds. That's what we're talking about here is looking at making sure we go after what seems to be the common thread through these mass shootings, which is people, the severe mental illnesses getting hold of guns and at some points assault weapons, guns that literally can shoot three to 11 bullets into one child which is what we saw in Newtown.
And I will say in what we saw in Newtown is one thing. But I also understand in my state, which is a state that loves our hunting and fishing, that we have to do this in a way that isn't going to take the guns out of the hands of our hunters, out of the hands of my uncle and his deer stand. And I don't think that's going to happen if we look at these commonsense solutions but we have an opportunity now to move forward and get all these ideas on the table.
And as long as we move quickly, get the ideas together, we're going to have hearings in the judiciary committee I think we have an community.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Isakson, are you willing to put those ideas on the table?
ISAKSON: Well, Miss Klobuchar just made a very good remark about mental health. That is the common thread that's run through all of these school shootings. When I was in the Georgia state senate in 1995 I was part of the congress committee that wrote the background check law that's available in Georgia today, but she's right very few of these mental health registries actually work so we have got to improve that to make sure that common thread no longer exists.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And -- but are you willing to consider the other proposals that she just discussed: broader background check, a federal background check, some restrictions on high-capacity magazines?
ISAKSON: I'm happy for a commission to look into every aspect. I want to remind you, George, in fact, I think you were in the White House in '94 when the assault weapon ban passed and Columbine took place in 1999, five years into that ban which is now expired. So bans alone don't solve the problem.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Klobuchar?
KLOBUCHAR: Well, when you look at what happened in Colorado where we had their high-capacity magazine and you look at what happened in Newtown, both of those situations -- and, of course, it's not going to be the same in every situation in every tragedy, but both of those involved those types of guns. And if we can do something to limit them and if we can get some bipartisan agreement I think we can move forward on that.
We had a shooting in Minnesota, a small business, you know, six people gunned down with an employee that clearly had a mental illness, should not have had access to those guns. Every situation is different but when you look at some of the last few shootings they did involve those kinds of high-capacity magazines and I think that has to be part of the equation in addition to looking at the background checks.
The staff that I always remember is -- came from the uncle of a little girl that was killed in Newtown. And that uncle who lives in Minnesota said that there were once ten girls in the Girl Scout troop of his niece and now there's only five.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me turn now to the fiscal cliff discussion. We saw those talks between the House Speaker and the President Obama collapse this week. All eyes now on the senate.
And I want to show what the president called for before he left for his Christmas holiday on Friday afternoon. Here's the President.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: All of us, every single one of us, agrees that tax rates shouldn't go up or the other 98 percent of Americans. So there is absolutely no reason, none, not to protect these Americans from a tax hike.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Isakson, he says that every Republican, every Democrat in Washington says everyone earning under $250,000 should not get a tax hike. So he wants to put that on the floor along with an extension of unemployment benefits and some relief from this sequester that's supposed to hit January 1. Any chance you could support that, Senator Isakson?
ISAKSON: Well, I felt like the House should have gone ahead and passed Speaker Boehner's bill because it addressed the subject and we'd still be in negotiation. And the president's statement is right, no one wants taxes to go up on the middle class. I don't want them to go up on anybody, but I'm not in the majority in the United States Senate and he's the president of the United States.
If we get down to the end of this year and the only choice we have is to save taxes going up on the middle class, then I would support that, but I wish we would have a comprehensive bill that dealt with spending, dealt with entitlements and dealt with taxes altogether. That's really what we ought to do.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But is that still realistic with time so short right now?
ISAKSON: It's not realistic, but it was realistic December 1 when we had a lot of time. Unfortunately we killed a lot of time politically while the clock was ticking. It's time for us to get down to work and do the people's business.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, Senator Klobuchar, you just heard Senator Isakson say he would support a bill like that if it came to the floor even though it's not his first preference. Is that what you expect your leader, Senator Reid, to bring to the floor?
KLOBUCHAR: Well, we have already passed that in the senate, as you know, George, for keeping the tax cuts in place for the middle class, people making under $250,000 a year. And as you know, if we go back to the Clinton levels for people making over $250,000 we literally save a trillion dollars in ten years.
But I will say, Johnny Isakson is a guy I like a lot. And you can see his willingness to talk about things in the middle is what we need in Washington. And the main thing that needs to happen here is that Speaker Boehner and the House of Representatives have to come back to Washington. The Senate is coming back on December 27th. I think, you know, most members are used to spending that Christmas to New Year's at home in their home states. It is time to get back to the table. And I hope if anyone sees these representatives from the House in line shopping or getting their Christmas turkey they wish them a Merry Christmas, they're civil, and then say go back to the table, not your own table, the table in Washington, because middle class people shouldn't have their taxes go up an average of $2000 a year and we also should start making some meaningful reform on the debt.
And I would love to see a bigger deal. I'd like nothing more and there's always miracles. It's Christmas, "Miracle on 34th Street."
STEPHANOPOULOS: It might take a miracle to get that...
KLOBUCHAR: ...miracle on Pennsylvania Avenue.
STEPHANOPOULOS: That might take a miracle.
But Senator Isakson, you've been pretty confident all year long this fiscal cliff would not -- we wouldn't go off the cliff, that taxes would not go up on everyone, the sequester would not kick in.
Do you still have that confidence? Do you think it's a greater possibility right now?
ISAKSON: I sold houses for 33 years, George, I'm an eternal optimist. But time is running out. And the truth of the matter is if we do fall off the cliff after the president is inaugurated he'll come back propose just what he proposed yesterday in leaving Washington and we'll end up adopting it, but why should we put the markets in such turmoil and the people in such misunderstanding or lack of confidence. Why not go ahead and act now?
STEPHANOPOULOS: OK, that sounds like both senators want some action there.