'This Week' Transcript: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell

KARL: Look, there were only 12 Republicans who did not support him, right? But it was incredibly dramatic, because 17 was the number that would force it to go to another ballot, and then who knows what would happen? And there was a moment during that vote, as I was watching it on the floor, where there were more than 17 that were still, you know, still out there, so -- let their names go by without voting the first time, and you could see the speaker's staff on the floor, you could see the staffer for the whip, McCarthy on the floor, keeping -- keeping vote tallies and worried this was going to go the wrong way. This was -- this was a real shot across the bow for Boehner.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And those House Republicans who are worried about Speaker Boehner do -- did not vote for the deal, are doing exactly what they -- they believe their constituents elected them to do.

WILL: They are dissenting from the great American consensus. I, again, think the journalistic narrative about Washington today is 180 degrees wrong. The problem in the country is a consensus that is broad. Republicans subscribe to it, too, which is that we should have a large, generous welfare state and not pay for it. That's the point about extending all the Bush tax rates for all except 0.5 percent of the country, is that we have now put off-limits the source of money in this country, which is the middle class, so we're not going to pay for the welfare state.


KARL: They're coming back for more tax increases...


REICH: That narrative is fundamentally wrong. I think what the public does not fully grasp is that it's health care costs in the future combined with aging Baby Boomers that are driving these out-year deficits. It is not Social Security. It is not Medicare or Medicaid. It is the underlying dysfunctionality of our health care system. And the Affordable Care Act did not do enough to control long-term health care costs. That's what everybody in Washington ought to be focusing on right now.

WILL: But 10 years from now, 20 years from now, we're going to see two big changes in American life, much more reliance on private savings and means-testing of entitlement programs. I don't care who's president, I don't care who runs Congress. We're going to have both of these.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And as early as tomorrow, we're likely to see a new nominee -- I'm going to switch subjects right now -- for secretary of defense, Chuck Hagel. The White House saying the phone call has not been made to former Senator Hagel yet, but it is almost certain to happen. And one of the things we've seen, Gwen Ifill, right here is an extraordinary amount of politicking before an appointment is made, trying to force the president to change his mind.

IFILL: There are so many trial balloons floating around, it like blocks the sun at this point. We saw a trial balloon for secretary of state. We've seen trial balloons for chief of staff. We've seen trial balloons for treasury secretary, even though it looks like it's going to be the same people we hear all along.

And what I don't understand about the trial balloons is why you don't just pull the trigger and do something about it. In this case, that's -- that did not happen with Susan Rice. That has not happened with other nominees, partly because of the distraction of this debt -- I mean, this fiscal cliff debate.

But I think in the case of Senator Hagel, with everyone coming from different sides, the left and the right, and the pro-Israel caucus, and you name it, coming down on him, you know, gay rights supporters all coming down on him at once, the White House sounds like they're not prepared to actually do something about it and make people put their money where their mouth is. You saw Senator McConnell, who's praised Chuck Hagel in the past, suddenly saying, well, let's wait and see. We saw Chuck Schumer, who's praised him in the past, saying let's wait and see.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, Chuck Schumer, that's important...


STEPHANOPOULOS: ... because there's so much concern among these people who've raised the questions that they say that Chuck Hagel is not sufficiently pro-Israel. There's already been an ad against him -- look at this -- from the Emergency Committee for Israel.


(UNKNOWN): And while President Obama says all options are on the table for preventing a nuclear Iran, Hagel says military action is not a viable, feasible, responsible option. President Obama, for secretary of defense, Chuck Hagel is not a responsible option.


STEPHANOPOULOS: Jon Karl, that's caused some concern about Democrats, as well as Gwen mentioned Chuck Schumer, so I guess it gets to the question is, why is the president so determined to go forward with this?

KARL: Well, he thinks he's the right guy for the job. He thinks having an enlisted Vietnam veteran running the Pentagon who agreed with him when it came to Iraq and on Afghanistan, he's the right guy to do it.

But I've got to tell you, there's going to be a big problem in the Senate on this. I mean, I talked this morning to a top Democratic staffer in the Senate who said this is not a guarantee that he will get confirmed, that there are enough Democrats that are concerned about Hagel to put him well short of 50 until he makes the case. I mean, I think ultimately he gets confirmed, but this will be a real battle in the Senate.

REICH: There is a puzzle here. With all of the fights that the president has coming up, why is he doing this? I mean, there are a lot of other people he could be putting up, but why is he expending political capital in this way? I don't understand.

KARL: Well, one thing -- he didn't want to see his two top picks for national security jobs to go down...


KARL: He already gave up on Susan Rice. He wasn't going to give up on his second.

VAN SUSTEREN: He's also a Republican. Let's not forget that.

WILL: Well, up to a point.

VAN SUSTEREN: And that also is -- up to a point. I mean...

STEPHANOPOULOS: I think that was the original intention.

VAN SUSTEREN: Right, that was the original intention. But, you know, look, I mean, the guy -- he's going to -- the president gets to choose, and he's going to have a hearing. He's going to answer all the questions. And without all of us sort of, you know, poking at him and all of his critics coming out and running ads against him, you know, I'd sort of like to hear what he has to say.

IFILL: But he -- the fight doesn't begin until the nomination is actually made. All this pre-fight is fun to watch, but in the other -- in the end, these guys have to show up, take their questions, get his answers, and vote or not vote and decide whether it's worth it to them to expend the political capital to go against the president on his choice.

KARL: But there was a big difference with the Susan Rice case. That battle didn't make it to -- you didn't even get -- she didn't get nominated.

IFILL: No, that's my point.

KARL: But in this case, the White House has been much more aggressive in defending Hagel even before the pick was made.

WILL: It is an odd pick, first of all, because if you pick a Republican, a Democrat picks a Republican, he ought to be someone who thinks like Republicans and is liked by Republicans, and neither of those are true in this case. Furthermore, he doesn't think the way the president thinks or at least the way the president talks about Iran and sanctions and negotiating with Hamas and all the rest, and gays in the military, all that stuff. All that said...

STEPHANOPOULOS: But he's in line with the president on Iran. I mean, they both believe we should try negotiations, that the military route should be a last resort. He's saying it's not responsible to talk about a military option right now.

WILL: I think what he says is, is it's a last resort and fundamentally a disastrous resort. And the way he describes it is it's so disastrous it's not a realistic resort, which may be right. I disagree with him on a lot of stuff, but I think he should be confirmed and will be because vast deference is owed to presidents in cabinet members, for two reasons. Their job is to carry out the president's wishes and, B, they leave when the president leaves, which is why more deference is owed to that than, say, on Supreme Court nominees.


REICH: I think I would love to quote you on that, George. But he will -- at the end of the day, he'll get through. You know, I can't imagine a Republican Senate, the Republican senators rejecting a Republican -- a former Republican senator, but...


REICH: ... well, they may -- but there will be enough votes there, George.


STEPHANOPOULOS: No, I don't disagree.

REICH: There will be blood on the floor, and -- and that's the -- why do it? I mean, that's the -- that's the question.

IFILL: Because at some point, you have to put some blood on the floor if you say you believe in things.

REICH: But there's going to be so much blood on the floor with regard to the fiscal cliff and so many other issues that are coming up, the debt ceiling.


STEPHANOPOULOS: Meanwhile, another member of the president's cabinet is leaving this month, Senator Hillary -- Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. We saw this week a real health scare. She was hospitalized for a blood clot after so many questions -- and I'm going to bring this to you, Greta, after we show some of it -- on Fox News about whether or not she was really sick.


(UNKNOWN): When you don't want to go to a meeting or a conference or an event, you have a "diplomatic illness."

(UNKNOWN): You know, I'm not a doctor, but it seems as though that the secretary of state has come down with a case of Benghazi flu.

(UNKNOWN): Immaculate concussion, because it's like, if a tree falls in the forest, does it really fall if nobody hears it fall? Did she really have a concussion?


STEPHANOPOULOS: Greta, you were not part of this in any way. You do not question her illness. But can you help explain what's behind all of these questions?

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