'This Week' Transcript: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell

VAN SUSTEREN: I mean, I don't get behind any -- I mean, I'm responsible for what I say, number one. Those were all very dated, before she was hospitalized, and there was not much information coming out of the State Department. And very early on, with those quotes.

Look, you know, not for one second did I doubt it. Once that these people heard that she was seriously ill, that all changed. The secretary of state will have to -- I think should answer questions about Benghazi. There's a lot of mystery, and four people were murdered. If there were four people murdered in Washington that were unsolved, we'd still be asking questions to this day.

But, look, she was very sick. And when the State Department came out with more information, you saw all that stop. So I have nothing beyond to say that.

REICH: Look, I've known Hillary for decades. She is a workhorse. She works harder than anybody I know.

VAN SUSTEREN: And I've traveled with her. I've seen it. I've traveled with her. I've actually seen -- and anybody who's traveled with her has seen that.

REICH: And that's -- you know, she's traveled to more countries than any former secretary of state.

VAN SUSTEREN: And she's not shied away from a fight, either.

REICH: And she hasn't. I mean, I think that...

IFILL: Which is why she has said she's going to come back and testify on Benghazi for the Senate. So...

STEPHANOPOULOS: And that will probably be the last thing. She will not travel, and that will be one of the last things she has to do.

Meanwhile, the other big thing coming up this year, gun control coming out of Sandy Hook. We heard Senator McConnell right there saying, George Will, that this must follow all of the debates, the fiscal cliff debates we're going to be having over the next three months.

WILL: Well, if the president can -- through his allies -- control what comes before Congress, so I don't think Mitch McConnell can stop this. There are two questions. First of all, the president ought to look, first of all, at his home city of Chicago and talk to his former friend -- and still friend, I guess -- Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel...

STEPHANOPOULOS: Former chief of staff, still friend, yeah.

WILL: Right, where they've had more than 500 murders in Chicago last year, most of them gun violence, and see if gun control has anything to do with that.

George, my feeling about gun control policy is a little like climate control policy. It's been well said that the only policy question about climate change is how much money do you want to spend on climate change to have no effect, discernible effect on the climate? And the same is true with gun control. I do not see how you can write a law that will have much effect on what they're experiencing, for example, in Chicago.

VAN SUSTEREN: You know what -- really, we should take a look a little bit more at ourselves, from top to bottom. I mean, we have so much violence surrounding us that we think is OK. When we go to the movies, we see it, it's OK. Obviously, you can't legislate against things like that. Even the president of the United States sends rappers to the White House who say horrible things. Nobody's scandalized. I mean, there's no sort of effort for us to sort of looking at ourselves and how we're so -- we're so -- we're numb to violence in our culture.

IFILL: I'm trying to figure out whether any rappers have resulted in the deaths of schoolchildren. I don't think so.

VAN SUSTEREN: No, I don't think it's all schoolchildren. There were two firefighters that were murdered on December 24th. They weren't schoolchildren. It's a -- this -- this has put a highlight on the problem.

IFILL: But as George points out, every weekend there are people killed on street corners in Chicago. And if you look back over the president's statements about gun violence in the wake of Newtown and you look at what people like Secretary Arne Duncan have had to say, they always talk about the broader idea of violence, not just about guns...

VAN SUSTEREN: Talk about...

(CROSSTALK)

IFILL: ... and so that what's on the table right now for Vice President Biden and the people who are trying to figure out what to do is a wide range of issues, some of it having to do with gun control, some of it has to do with speaking to gun violence. That's the only way you're going to get...

(CROSSTALK)

IFILL: But what happens most of the time in Washington...

VAN SUSTEREN: Gwen, I don't think it's just...

IFILL: ... is these things come up and then they fade after the shock.

VAN SUSTEREN: Gwen, I don't think Washington can necessarily answer the question for the nation. What I -- what I'm trying to point out is that we all have to look at ourselves, as well, and look at how well we do -- even like that PSA that Hollywood artists put out for gun control the other day, and then side by side, some group put all the violent movies they're in. I mean, this is a big discussion, a big national narrative that we all have to look at ourselves in terms of how our culture has now become to accept violence as an answer to problems, as a solution to problems. We see that on TV and movies all over.

(CROSSTALK)

REICH: ... is undoubtedly correct, but the fact remains that the murder of 20 first-graders has touched the nation in ways that I don't remember the nation being touched. I don't think this is going to go away.

(CROSSTALK)

REICH: The NRA's -- the NRA's technique in the past has been to really rely on the attention deficit disorder of America, basically lay low until attention is no longer placed on this. But we are having now a national discussion of a sort that we have had to have, and that...

(CROSSTALK)

STEPHANOPOULOS: And, Jon, I think Bob's right about how there was an initial spike in attention and concern right after Sandy Hook, but it does seem to have subsided just a bit, according to the most -- most recent polls, and that's why the White House knows that speed matters here. They're going to have to move quickly.

KARL: Speed matters. I mean, I think -- I think that there was a moment right after Sandy Hook where you could see some movement for the first real gun control legislation to pass in some 20 years.

IFILL: Among Democrats.

KARL: Among Democrats were strong supporters of the NRA. And -- but I've -- but I've got to say...

STEPHANOPOULOS: But you just heard Senator Heitkamp didn't seem all too enthusiastic about moving forward on gun control.

KARL: Yeah, and -- and it's not going to happen soon, right, because there's no way Congress is going to think about anything along those lines until we're done with the fiscal cliff mess, the debt ceiling, the funding of the government, where at least two or three months away before this can even be considered, and that's a lot of time. I mean, we do have attention deficit disorder, and I think that it's going to be a real challenge to get any gun control legislation passed.

VAN SUSTEREN: But, see, that's the real tragedy. I mean -- I mean, the children -- it was unbelievable, it drew all of our attention, but two firefighters trying to save -- probably save lives on Christmas Eve, I did criminal defense work for years. I've been to murder scenes. I've seen this stuff, this violence. You talk about the Chicago schools? It is horrible -- I mean, the Chicago violence. Most of it was -- a lot of it was in schools, and we've got...

WILL: It's 25 Sandy Hooks in one year.

VAN SUSTEREN: And -- and so when -- you know, when are we going to have this national narrative? Not just -- I mean, we've got to look at all communities and see what's going on in all communities, and we've got to stop being so numb to the violence that surrounds -- and we just say, "OK."

STEPHANOPOULOS: Real quickly, how many of you think that there's going to be a serious package of reforms passed by Congress this year?

IFILL: On guns? I think it's as likely as a serious package on immigration reform and energy and climate change and all the other things the president has said are high on his list.

REICH: I think it will happen, George, if the president gets behind it, gets chiefs of police, mayors, mobilizes the public and the people who are likely to be supportive of it.

STEPHANOPOULOS: George, you're shaking your head.

WILL: Well, define serious. If by serious you mean makes a difference in gun violence, no. But some laws will be passed.

STEPHANOPOULOS: OK, we're going to have to take a quick break. We'll be back with all of your picks for who to watch in 2013.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

STEPHANOPOULOS: What a day for Senator Mark Kirk right there. A year ago, he suffered a stroke, walked back up the steps of the Capitol this year to the applause of his colleagues. A big triumph for him. He is coming back to the Senate.

As we look ahead to 2013, I want to get all the roundtable to weigh in now on who they think in the political world is really going to make a splash next year.

WILL: Jeb Hensarling is a splendidly conservative Republican from Dallas who's now new chairman of the Financial Services Committee. Sherrod Brown is a dismayingly liberal senator from Ohio. The two of them could get together, because Sherrod Brown is absolutely right on the need to break up the large banks, to reduce the too-big-to-fail threat to our society. Those two could get together and solve an actual problem.

STEPHANOPOULOS: That would be quite an alliance. OK?

IFILL: I have small bore, big bore. Small bore is pure politics, and that's Deval Patrick, the governor of Massachusetts, who gets to decide who the next senator from Massachusetts might be. And right now, he's up against a hard -- rock and a hard place with Barney Frank, saying, hey, I wouldn't mind being a temporary guy...

STEPHANOPOULOS: And Vicki Kennedy, right?

IFILL: And Vicki Kennedy, and then, of course, Ed Markey is thinking about running for the seat. So that's an interesting thing to see the balance of the Senate and what -- what Deval Patrick has to do with that.

The other large bore is -- is Bashar Assad -- al-Assad, who gave a speech today in Syria in which he said I'm not negotiating with terrorists, take that, U.N. envoy. I'm -- yeah, it sounds familiar. He is -- we keep waiting for him to fall, 60,000 Syrians killed in this violence, and no sign that he's going anywhere.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Amazing he's lasted this long. Jon Karl?

IFILL: Exactly.

KARL: All right. So mine is not exactly a new face, Joe Biden, who on New Year's Day showed that he is the one in the White House that can still work with Congress. I think this is going to be a big year for Biden, because if the president's going to get anything accomplished with Congress, it's clear that he's going to need Biden to work directly with them. So I look for Biden and I wonder if it's either going to make or break his prospects for 2016.

STEPHANOPOULOS: They call him the McConnell whisperer. Greta?

VAN SUSTEREN: And I go out to the states -- and I've said it before here -- I spent a day with Governor Susana Martinez, who is a Republican Hispanic governor of New Mexico. When she took office a year ago, she had a deficit. She came in, worked with the Democratic legislature, balanced the budget. They no longer have a deficit.

And right now, the president is considering signing Katie's Law, which has to do with taking DNA from people who are arrested, and some people may not -- may challenge the constitutionality of it, but she was the underlying D.A. in this law, and she's a big crime-fighter. So...

(CROSSTALK)

STEPHANOPOULOS: Bob, quickly?

REICH: Two rising Senate stars. One is Elizabeth Warren. I think that she will be helpful in George's and my campaign to limit the size of the big banks. And also Angus King, an independent from Maine, tremendous integrity and very popular.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Two New Englanders there. I say also Senator Joe Manchin of -- senator of West Virginia, keep an eye on him.

And now we pause to honor our fellow Americans who serve and sacrifice.

This week, the Pentagon released the name of one soldier killed in Afghanistan.

And finally, "Your Voice This Week." Diana Biederman has today's question. "Why do we have inaugural ceremonies for re-elected presidents? It seems redundant, no?"

Well, yes. But the Constitution says that all presidents have to be sworn in, and that's always been an excuse for some kind of party. This year's has been scaled way back from 10 balls to 2, but second inaugurations have also been a time for some firsts. African-Americans joined the parade for the first time at Abraham Lincoln's second inaugural. At Woodrow Wilson's second inaugural, 52 years later, the first women were included. Harry Truman's 1949 inaugural was the first on television. And in 1997, Americans could watch the swearing-in online for the first time, that was Bill Clinton.

Tweet me your political questions to @georgestephanopoulos. Plus, Greta's going to answer your questions for this week's web extra.

That's all for us today. Thanks for sharing part of your Sunday with us. Check out "World News" with David Muir tonight, and don't forget "Nightline" has a new time starting Tuesday, 12:35 a.m. I'll see you tomorrow on "GMA."

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