'This Week' Transcript 2-12-23: Sen. Chuck Schumer, Rep. James Comer & Rep. Pete Aguilar
This is a rush transcript of "This Week" airing Sunday, February 12.
A rush transcript of "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" airing on Sunday, February 12, 2023 on ABC News is below. This copy may not be in its final form, may be updated and may contain minor transcription errors. For previous show transcripts, visit the "This Week" transcript archive.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, HOST (voice-over): Gearing up.
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We've got to finish the job.
STEPHANOPOULOS: After a fiery State of the Union, President Biden baits the GOP and looks ahead to 2024.
BIDEN: A lot of Republicans, their dream is to cut Social Security and Medicare. If that's your dream, I'm your nightmare.
SEN. RICK SCOTT (R), FLORIDA: I don't know any republicans that want to cut Medicare or Social Security benefits.
STEPHANOPOULOS: As Republicans launch an investigation into the president's son.
REP. JAMES COMER (R-KY), CHAIRMAN, OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE: I can assure you this committee will succeed in holding the Bidens accountable.
STEPHANOPOULOS: We cover it all this morning with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, and House Oversight Committee Chair James Comer. Plus, our powerhouse “Roundtable.”
Earthquake aftermath. Desperate rescue efforts continue in Turkey and Syria.
Martin Griffiths: These mountains of rubble, still hold people. Some of them alive, many of them dead.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But as the death toll surpasses 28,000, critical aid lags behind. Marcus Moore on the scene this morning. Plus, the president of the International Rescue Committee, David Miliband.
REP. PETE AGUILAR (D-CA), CHAIR, HOUSE DEMOCRATIC CAUCUS: Being Latino is about, you know, the American dream. That's the story that's worth telling.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Maria Elena Salinas sits down with Democratic Caucus Chair Pete Aguilar, making history as the highest-ranking Latino in the House.
ANNOUNCER: From ABC News, it's “This Week.” Here now, George Stephanopoulos.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Good morning, and welcome to "This Week." Overnight, President Biden and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau confirmed that an F-22 fighter jet shot down a flying object, this time over Canadian air space. It was the third incident this week following the downing of craft over Alaska and the Chinese spy balloon off the coast of South Carolina last Saturday.
President Biden is dealing with the fallout as he challenged Republicans in Congress and set down some markers for his own re-election campaign with a feisty State of the Union to a raucous House chamber. Senior congressional correspondent Rachel Scott starts us off.
WILLIAM MCFARLAND, SERGEANT AT ARMS FOR THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: Mr. Speaker, the president of the United States.
RACHEL SCOTT, ABC SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: President Biden facing a divided Congress for the first time.
BIDEN: The State of the Union is strong.
SCOTT: Extending his hand to the new GOP speaker of the house.
BIDEN: I don't want to ruin your reputation, but I look forward to working with you.
SCOTT: But sharply challenging Republicans on the debt ceiling and spending talks, singling out one senator's plan to sunset key programs.
BIDEN: Some of my republican friends want to take the economy hostage. Instead of making the wealthy pay their fair share, some Republicans want Medicare and Social Security to sunset. I'm not saying it's a majority.
(BOOS AND HECKLING)
BIDEN: Anybody who doubts it, contact my office. I'll give you a copy. I'll give you a copy of the proposal.
SCOTT: Republicans firing back.
(BOOS AND HECKLING)
SCOTT: Biden using the exchange to turn the tables on the GOP.
BIDEN: So, folks, as we all apparently agree, Social Security and Medicare is off the books now, right? They're not to be (inaudible)?
BIDEN: We've got unanimity!
SCOTT: After the speech, Republicans disavowing the proposal targeted by the president.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: Well, it's clearly the Rick Scott plan. It is not the Republican plan. It's just a bad idea.
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA), SPEAKER: I've said it many times before. Social Security and Medicare are off the table.
SCOTT: The president hitting the road, keeping the pressure on in key swing states.
BIDEN: These benefits belong to you, and I will not allow anyone to cut them. Not today, not tomorrow, not ever.
SCOTT: Biden says he still hasn't decided on 2024.
Julio Vaqueiro: What's stopping you from making that decision?
BIDEN: I'm just not ready to make it.
SCOTT: But sounding more and more like a candidate...
BIDEN: Let's finish the job.
SCOTT: ... gearing up for the fights ahead.
For “This Week,” Rachel Scott, ABC News, Capitol Hill.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And we are joined now by the senate majority leader, Chuck Schumer.
Senator, thank you for coming in this morning.
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MAJORITY LEADER: Great to be here, George. First time in three years. STEPHANOPOULOS: Yes, it's been a while, since COVID. I want to start with this question of the Chinese spy planes and other aerial objects. Three incidents in a week. President Biden took some heat from your Democratic colleagues for not shooting down the spy balloon sooner. What can you tell us about these last two incidents Friday and Saturday night? And are you confident in the overall administration response?
SCHUMER: Yes. You know, I was briefed by Jake Sullivan last night so let me get right to it, and I'll give a little background and then get to your specific. The bottom line is for until a few months ago, we didn't know of these balloons. Our intelligence and our military did not know. This went as far back as President Trump, at least three times these...
STEPHANOPOULOS: It's wild we didn't know, isn't it?
SCHUMER: It is wild that we didn't know. Absolutely, and I'll get to that in a minute. Now they are learning a lot more. And the military and the intelligence are focused like a laser on, first, gathering and accumulating the information, then coming up with a comprehensive analysis of what went on before, what's going on now, and what could go on in the future. You can be sure that if any, any American interests or people are at risk, they'll take appropriate action.
Until they get that comprehensive analysis, however, we have to look at each balloon individually and see what...
STEPHANOPOULOS: Were these balloons Friday and Saturday night?
SCHUMER: They believe they were, yes, but much smaller than the -- than the one -- the first one. Both of those, one over Canada, one over ,Alaska were at 40,000 feet. Immediately it was determined that that's a danger to commercial aircraft which also fly at 40,000 feet. And so the second one, in cooperation with the Canadians, the first one with the Americans, took it down. And that's appropriate.
The first balloon, there was a much different rationale which I think was the appropriate rationale. We got enormous intelligence information from surveilling the balloon as it went over the United States.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Didn't get the Chinese get enormous intelligence as well?
SCHUMER: Well, they -- they could have been getting it anyway. But we have to know what they're doing, OK? And we don't know exactly, but we got a lot of that. And more importantly, by shooting it down over water, U.S. waters, only a six miles out from South Carolina, we're going to probably be able to piece together this whole, whole surveillance balloon, and know exactly what's going on. So that's a huge coup for the United States.
STEPHANOPOULOS: This program is going to have to be shut down now, hasn't it? The Chinese aren't going to be able to send balloons.
SCHUMER: Look, I think the Chinese were humiliated. I think the Chinese were caught lying. And I think it's a real -- it's a real step back for them, yes. I think they're going to have to -- I think they're probably going to have to get rid of it or do something, because they look really bad. And they're not just doing the United States. This is a crew of balloons, we saw one in South America, they've probably been all over the world.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So what do we do now to counter China overall if they're clearly taking more provocative actions?
SCHUMER: That's a great question. Yes. And one more point I would make on this, by the way. I do think Senator Tester is looking into why it took so long for us, our military, our intelligence to know about these balloons. That's something I support. Congress should look at that. That's the question we have to answer. I think our military, our intelligence are doing a great job, present and future. I feel a lot of confidence in what they're doing. But why -- why as far back as the Trump administration did no one know about this?
Now on China in general, look, China -- I have always been a China hawk, but China is the second biggest power in the -- in the world, economically and geopolitically. We can't just have a cold war with them. We have to have a relationship with them. But China has taken advantage of us over and over and over again. And this administration has been just about tougher than any other.
The bill I passed, the CHIPS and Science bill, is going to bring all of that semiconductor manufacturing back to the -- back to America. Just the other day I was in East Fishkill, the old IBM plant, a new company, American, Onsemi, is taking plants out of Korea, out of Japan, and putting them here to make semiconductors.
The administration did another thing on its own. It said, we're not going to send any of the materials used to make semiconductors, that is, the machinery, to China. That's a real blow. The Chinese are feeling that badly. We did a similar thing on a smaller basis just with these balloons. Six Chinese companies that probably make the balloons are sanctioned.
So I think this administration is strong and tough on China, but mindful of the fact that we just -- you know, we can't stop talking to them. We have to try to have some kind of relationship.
STEPHANOPOULOS: This won't make my daughters happy, but how about banning TikTok?
SCHUMER: Well, that's a great question. It's something that should be looked at. We do know there's Chinese ownership of the company that owns TikTok. And there are some people in the Commerce Committee that are looking into that right now. We'll see -- we'll see where they come out.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I want to get to the fallout from the State of the Union and the upcoming showdown over the debt ceiling. As you know, President Biden and your Democratic colleagues have ruled out negotiating with the GOP over the debt ceiling. That led your Republican counterpart Mitch McConnell to accuse you of hypocrisy for saying in 2017 that the debt limit gave you leverage in negotiations with the Trump White House. Here it was.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCONNELL: Said the debt ceiling, quote, “gives another ample opportunity for bipartisanship, not for one party jamming its choices down the throats of the other.” So I'll trust Democrats will be consistent with their past positions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: He's saying you should be consistent now with your past position where you said back in 2017 there is leverage...
SCHUMER: Yes, we were -- we're totally consistent. First, the bottom line is that we never did what McCarthy is doing. Brinkmanship, holding hostage, saying, I won't do the debt ceiling. I won't raise -- raise the debt ceiling and pay the debts that of course, we've incurred unless I get certain things that I want. I'll make two points to that.
Four times Democrats, even when Trump was in power, even two times when Trump and the Republicans had the House and Senate, we could have blocked it. We did not play brinksmanship.
We have never played brinksmanship on this issue. In one instance, did we do a budget proposal alongside a debt ceiling proposal? Yes, but there was no brinksmanship. There was no, we won't, if you don't do this, we’re not going to --
STEPHANOPOULOS: But your Democratic colleague, Senator Joe Manchin, says now you should be engaged in negotiations like that.
SCHUMER: Well, let me say this. We have a position. We have a clear position.
Do it clean. Do it without brinksmanship. Do it without this risk of hostage-taking where things could blow up because as you know, if we don't renew the debt ceiling, average American families will be clobbered.
Their interest rates would go up. Their pension savings would go down. The cost of a house would go up to $100,000. So, it's risky.
Now, McCarthy says he wants to attach certain spending cuts to do this. A, where is your plan, Mr. McCarthy? He says he wants cuts. We ask him which ones. He won't say any.
Is it Social Security and Medicare? That would hurt the American people.
STEPHANOPOULOS: He says it won't be.
SCHUMER: He says it won't, but a lot of other people in his caucus still say it will. Will it be police? Will it be the military?
His job -- we have a plan. Do it clean as we've done it four times -- three under Trump, once under Biden.
He will not even say what he wants to cut, and I’ll tell you why. He can't pass a plan with cuts. His hard right will demand the kind of deepest cuts that his more mainstream Republicans won't vote for.
And I’ll tell you, my experience in this, the party that holds out with brinksmanship and says, I won't renew it unless you do what I want loses. We're going to win this fight, and it's going to be a clean debt ceiling.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Finally, before you go, I want to ask you about President Biden. Certainly, it does seem to be like he's gearing up for re-election, but our latest poll showed a majority of Democrats think he shouldn't run again.
What do you say to them?
SCHUMER: Well, first, I always like the poll that 36 percent of Republicans thought Reagan should run again back in 1983 and he had a landslide.
Biden's in great shape. Look at the State of the Union. First, look at all the accomplishments that we did in the Senate with Joe Biden that really affected American people in terms of climate, in terms of jobs, in terms of veterans, in terms of guns, in terms of bringing things back from China.
Second, you have unemployment down. You have jobs up. You have wages up.
And third, and this is going to happen next year -- all these great things we did in the Senate are going to be implemented. You know, when people just read about it, they say, hmm, but when they actually feel it and see it in their communities, it matters.
So, for instance, in the bipartisan infrastructure bill, we -- I made sure there's money for Gateway, you know, the big tunnel under the Hudson River. That’s a dream of mine.
SCHUMER: People said, okay, okay.
Last week, President Biden came and the first part of Gateway started to be built. Wow. It's real.
That's going to happen in bridges and roads. Starting in -- starting in January, people are going to realize they're only going to pay $35 for insulin. Shingles shots, most people don't know it, starting January 1st, are free.
So, as these great things are implemented, I think the stature of Biden and what this Congress, this Democratic Congress, Senate and the House, have done is going to even rise better in American people's eyes.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Schumer, thanks for your time this morning.
SCHUMER: So, I’m optimistic.
STEPHANOPOULOS: OK, thank you for coming in today.
SCHUMER: Thank you.
STEPHANOPOULOS: We're joined now by the Republican chair of the House Oversight Committee, James Comer.
Congressman, thank you for joining us this morning.
Let me get you by starting up by responding to Senator Schumer. He said that it’s up to Republicans now to come forward with the kind of cuts you want if you’re going to demand negotiations over the debt limit.
REP. JAMES COMER (R-KY): Yeah, I agree with that. We're going to come forward with a plan. We're still debating that plan. We're having robust debate amongst our conference. That's what democracy is supposed to be about.
And thank goodness for the House Republicans. Thank goodness that somebody's willing to step up and say, we can't keep going down this unsustainable path of spending $1 trillion to $2 trillion a year more than the government takes in. Somebody has got to be the adult at the table, and House Republicans will hopefully be that person.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Hopefully or you will? Are you going to be coming forward with a plan?
COMER: Yeah. We're going to be coming forward with a plan. This doesn't have to come forward before July. Obviously, I’d like for the plan to come forward next week.
It's tough, George. As you know, you’ve been involved in government. It's easy to spend money. What unites the Democrats is spending money.
Now, when you get to the point to where we now where you've got to make cuts, it's a lot tougher. We're not going to cut Social Security or Medicare. We’ve been very clear about that.
It's very disappointing that the president and Chuck Schumer would continue to try to scare seniors.
These are important programs to everyone. There's bipartisan support for Social Security and Medicare. If anything, we need to shore those programs up. They're running out of money.
But at the end of the day, those programs are going to be off the table with respect to cuts. But everything else is on the table.
STEPHANOPOULOS: How about our relation with China? You heard Senator Schumer praise the administration's response so far, but call for new measures. What would you do?
COMER: Well, this is a problem that we have. You know, China continues to steal our intellectual property. They continue to steal our patents. They manipulate their currency. We believe they have a big footprint in academia with a massive spy ring within our research universities where they continue to steal our hard-earned research and development.
So China's a problem. And this administration thus far hasn't set a very good example of standing up to China. I think that, you know, shooting the balloon down in the Atlantic once it flew over all the military bases, including my own Fort Campbell, Kentucky, it's very disturbing. I'm glad this administration's taking it more seriously with respect to the balloons.
But we've got a whole lot bigger problem with China than the spy balloons. I mean, this -- this is a problem. Their military continues to grow and expand. They're continuing their -- their Belt and Road Initiative all over the world where they're trying to create a dominant world economy. This is a problem for the United States. And we need an administration to stand firm to China.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Do you agree with Senator Schumer we should be taking a look at TikTok?
COMER: Absolutely. We have said that in the House Oversight Committee. TikTok's parent company is ByteDance. They are based in China. TikTok executives testified in Congress a year or two ago that none of the data that TikTok collected ever left the United States. But what we've learned from -- from whistle-blowers and media accounts is some of that data did, in fact, go back to China and that's a concern.
It's a concern for high-level people in the government because with that data, ByteDance can -- can tell where you are if you are using TikTok. They know with your location is. So that would be a concern if we continue to see escalation among China and United States. We certainly don't want the -- the Chinese bad guys to know where our public officials are. And that's why you're seeing more state governments ban TikTok. And I think that's going to continue a trend.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me ask you about -- more about your oversight responsibilities. You made it clear you are going to be looking at Hunter Biden, and his financial entanglements with foreign countries, including China. I want to put up a front page from The Washington Post this morning detailing Jared Kushner's ties to the Saudis. “After helping prince's rise, Trump and Kushner benefit from Saudi funds.” A $2 billion investment in Kushner's funds from the Saudis. We know that President -- former President Trump has also received funds related to the Saudi golf tour. Senator Ron Wyden said these financial entanglements deserve investigation. Will you be investigating that as well?
COMER: I think everything's on the table. Look, we're investigating Joe Biden. We -- we know that Joe Biden said during the presidential campaign that he had no knowledge of his son's business interests. He wasn't involved. He didn't benefit from them. We have evidence that would suggest otherwise. And this is very concerning.
You know, Americans are outraged that China flew a balloon over the United States. Americans are outraged that China is trying to buy farmland. I think Americans would be outraged to know how much money the Biden family has taken in from China. And for what, we don't exactly know. So this is something we're concerned about. But we're also concerned about a legislative fix.
Now I don't disagree with the Democrats and their criticism of the previous administration. We have a problem here that needs a legislative solution. That's why this Biden investigation is so important. There's a legislative solution to this, and it can be bipartisan. The Democrats complained about Kushner's foreign dealings. Republicans are certainly complaining about the entire Biden family's foreign business dealings.
We need to know what is allowable and what isn't allowable. We need to have strict ethics laws. And we need to significantly increase the disclosure laws in America. So I think this investigation is going to be very important to fix a problem before it gets out of hand.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And so but to be clear, you believe that -- that this should apply to Kushner and Trump as well as the Bidens at this point?
COMER: I -- I believe that when we talk about passing legislation to set a line as to where you can be with relatives of high-ranking government officials with respect to doing business with adversaries overseas, then it would apply to everyone. We need to fix this before it gets worse in the next administration.
The Democrats complained about the Trump administration, but obviously we're complaining about the Biden administration. The difference between Jared Kushner and Hunter Biden is that Jared Kushner actually sat down with was interviewed. He was interviewed by investigators. So he's already been investigated.
Thus far Hunter Biden's attorneys, the president's attorneys, the president's White House, they're doing everything they can to block our investigation. Hopefully the Biden family will be as cooperative as Jared Kushner with our investigation as they were with the January 6th investigation and all the other investigations of the Trump administration.
So I think this is a problem. I think that there can be a bipartisan legislative solution. But we can't get to that point until we know the extent of what the Biden family influence peddling involved, especially with respect to Communist China.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Congressman, thank you. I think we only learned of the $2 billion Saudi investment from The Washington Post this morning, at least the details of it. But thanks for your time this morning.
The round table's coming up. We're live on Turkey also with the latest on the earthquake rescue efforts, plus the president of the International Rescue Committee, David Miliband.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARTIN GRIFFITHS, U.N. HUMANITARIAN AFFAIRS CHIEF: These mountains of rubble still hold people, some of them still alive, many of them dead. We haven't yet begun to really count the ultimate number who may have died. I think it's really difficult to -- to estimate, obviously, very precisely, because we need to get under the rubble. But I -- I'm sure it will double, or more, and that's -- that's terrifying.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: That death toll has now climbed to about 28,000. As you see, officials fear it could double, as freezing temperatures hamper relief efforts one week after the catastrophic earthquake in Syria and Turkey.
Marcus Moore is on the scene in Turkey. Good morning, Marcus.
MARCUS MOORE, ABC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: George, good morning. For days, we have watched the urgent effort to find people trapped in the rubble here in Turkey. And it's unimaginable to think that the death toll could climb even higher as crews continue to search for survivors amidst the rubble here in the region. And now teams from California and Virginia are on the ground aiding in what has been a massive rescue operation.
MOORE (voice over): One week after the earthquake, this is a region in crisis, cities and villages across southern Turkey and northern Syria in ruins. The scale of the disaster is enormous.
As chances for finding survivors amidst the rubble dwindles, there are still glimmers of hope, rescuers early Sunday morning saving 10-year-old Judy after being trapped for almost 150 hours, buried under the rubble of her home, responders calming her, rushing her to the hospital.
But for so many others, grief knows no end. In Kahramanmaras, Ali Erba (ph) waits for word on his son and elderly parents who lived in this now destroyed building. He says, "We are a faithful family. If God helps, then we will see them."
This process is painful, and it's happening way too slowly. One man told the soldiers here, "We know this building. Let us search."
Residents tell us, in the first few days after the quake, they were the only ones desperately digging through the debris for survivors, some criticizing the government's response to the disaster.
To date, Turkish officials say there are more than 140,000 responders on the ground working across the region, including teams from the U.S., members of USAID arriving Wednesday and setting up this command post at a sports complex in the hard-hit city of Adiyaman.
Inside their headquarters, Anthony Buzzerio dispatches teams to various sites across the city.
ANTHONY BUZZERIO, BATTALION CHIEF, LOS ANGELES FIRE DEPARTMENT: We've sectorized the town into -- into sections that are manageable.
MOORE: Aiding local first responders.
BUZZERIO: Out of 2,400 assessments, we have about 800 that are still viable.
MOORE: Wow. that's -- I mean, when you think about those numbers, it's -- it's mind-blowing to think that...
BUZZERIO: It is. It's staggering.
MOORE: The disaster zone spans hundreds of miles, affecting two countries, Turkey and Syria, and some rural areas have been hard for aid groups to reach. With each passing day, the crisis grows more dire, for those who may still be trapped, for their loved ones who are left to wait, and have lost everything with nowhere to go.
BUZZERIO: There's that space between cities, and the distance that these people, if they migrated to different cities is, you know, very heart-wrenching to know what they're going to have to go through.
MOORE (on camera): And, George, officials say that is the disaster yet to occur, that there are so many people who are homeless. It is extremely cold here, especially at night, and now you have people who do not have regular access to food or medicine.
And so the aid that comes in, both domestically and internationally, it'll be critical for these families in the days, weeks, and months ahead -- George.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Okay, Marcus. Thanks very much.
We're joined now by a man at the forefront of the aid effort, the president of the International Rescue Committee, David Miliband.
David, thank you for joining us this morning.
DAVID MILIBAND, PRESIDENT & CEO, INTERNATIONAL RESCUE COMMITTEE: Thanks, George.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You do have teams on the ground there. What can you tell us about the scale of the disaster right now? Where is the greatest need?
MILIBAND: Well, tens of thousands are dead, but hundreds of thousands are in danger.
On the Turkish side of the border, you’ve got a very strong government. You’ve got a massive aid effort underway.
On the Syrian side of the border, it’s people who’ve frankly been abandoned over the last 10 years. And a grave danger of a secondary crisis -- ill health, injuries not treated, economics just out of the window, because the aid is blocked across the Turkish-Syrian border. Only one humanitarian crossing point is open.
There are -- there is news from the United Nations that the Syrian government is going to allow aid to go into this rebel-held area from the government-controlled side. But, frankly, that’s an indirect route and it’s caught up in politics.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Does anyone have any leverage over the Syrian government at this point?
MILIBAND: Well, I think the Syrian government is working the court of public opinion, and they do have allies around the world.
The critical thing is that the U.N. has said that the most direct route to help people is across the Turkish-Syrian border, north to south, opening up more crossing points, some of which were closed by Russian veto at the U.N. Security Council two years.
Our teams on the ground are saying, look, the needs are absolutely evident. People haven’t gotten food. They haven’t gotten medicine. They haven’t gotten basic hygiene supplies. The water and sanitation is in ruins.
So, this is a community for whom the earthquake was one massive hit. But the grave danger they face now almost affects more people.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And it’s going to -- it could create another refugee crisis throughout Europe.
MILIBAND: Well, the borders are blocked because people can’t move into government controlled areas in Syria. They fear being prosecuted or recruited into the army of President Assad. Many of -- about one and a half million to 2 million of those trapped in northwest Syria have fled from other parts of the country because of the fighting. And the Turkish border is also blocked for them.
So, these people are caged in effectively and that’s why we recruit our teams locally. It’s Syrians working for us in northwest Syria, but they need help from the outside world.
STEPHANOPOULOS: What exactly can the United States do at this point?
MILIBAND: Well, the U.S. has got really critical leadership role.
First of all, it’s got a massive diplomatic and political presence. The U.N. Security Council needs to be meeting now to open up further border crossing points.
Secondly, the U.S. financial commitment and resource commitment can lead the world in this area.
It’s interesting, the British public, I’m based in New York, but my home country has delivered about $60 million or $70 million just from the public, of aid to support the aid effort. So, there’s a financial effort.
And, thirdly, there’s a critical role for the U.S. in saying, don’t forget these people again. The Syrian civil war has been going on for now a dozen years. The world has moved on.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Still --
MILIBAND: The world has moved on. But the crisis has not been resolved.
And a forgotten crisis is not a resolved crisis. What happens is that people on the edge, left on the edge where natural disasters strike that pushed over the precipice, and that’s what we’re seeing now.
STEPHANOPOULOS: David Miliband, thanks for your time and for your effort.
MILIBAND: Thank you.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And if you want to help, there is information about organizations that are providing relief on our website, ABCNews.com.
The roundtable is next. We’ll be right back.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Roundtable is ready to go. We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I would be completely, thoroughly honest with the American people if I thought there was any health problem, anything that would keep me from being able to do the job. And -- and so, well, we'll see. But, you know, I -- I just -- I think people have to just watch me.
WOODRUFF: It sounds like you're running.
BIDEN: I haven't made that decision. That's my intention, I think, but I haven't made that decision firmly yet.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: President Biden sure looked like a candidate this week. Let's talk about it on our “Roundtable,” joined by Chris Christie, Donna Brazile, the executive editor of the Associated Press, Julie Pace, and USA Today's Washington bureau chief, Susan Page.
And, Julie, let me begin with you. You saw President Biden right there. You heard Senator Schumer earlier in the program. Democrats certainly seem to be falling in behind President Biden at this moment.
JULIE PACE, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, ASSOCIATED PRESS: President Biden may say he hasn't made up that decision, but at this point there are no signs that he's not running. And certainly that State of the Union was really intended not to outline a legislative blueprint for the year. He knows that that's not really going to be possible given the House majority is now in the Republicans' hands. It was really to start setting out a re-election campaign.
And the centerpiece of that is both going to be looking back to his first two years, trying to make -- make clear that he feels like he has a list of accomplishment that he can run on. And then also trying to make clear that he feels like Republicans over these next two years will outline an agenda that's out of step with a lot of the country.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Susan Page, big ambitious agenda also designed to forestall any challenge from progressives in the party.
SUSAN PAGE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, USA TODAY: Yes, no sign of any challenge from progressives in the party. No sign of any credible challenge from any other Democrat, which takes the pressure off President Biden the announce formally that he's going to run again. There's no advantage to him doing that in February when we thought he might, or maybe in March. I would look for a later announcement and a clear path to renomination. And that is not the situation that Republicans are going to face.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And but, Donna, Democratic establishment seems to have fallen in line behind the president. The public not there yet, not at all.
DONNA BRAZILE, ABC CONTRIBUTOR: It takes time to -- to get the right groove and the right rhythm. Look, the president doesn't need to announce his re-election until late fall, before, you know, the deadlines to get on the ballot in some of those key, strategic states. This was an opportunity for the president once again to basically lay out his -- his vision and to remind the American people that he has his receipts. He has delivered.
Now for the next couple of months, you're going to see the president and the cabinet going all across the country, you know, basically expressing what they have accomplished. So I think the president did a good job the other night. In fact, I went home the other night, Chris, and guess what? I ate something.
BRAZILE: It was really -- it was a meaty speech. It was good. You know it. Come on, baby. Give it up to Joe Biden.
CHRIS CHRISTIE, ABC CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, I didn't eat anything. I was a little bit queasy from the speech. But that's our different points of view. Look, he's running. There's no doubt about it. That speech was obviously a campaign speech. I think the real question is, what does he do with the vice president?
What we see continuously in those polls, is if you think the public isn't enthusiastic about Joe Biden, they're even less enthusiastic about Kamala Harris. And with a guy who's 82 years old, one of the key questions of the '24 race is going to be, if you're voting for Joe Biden, you may be voting for President Kamala Harris too, and how do you feel about that?
STEPHANOPOULOS: You see this come up all the time with presidents. I remember George H.W. Bush, there were questions, will he -- will he dump Dan Quayle? In the end, a president cannot dump the person he picked.
CHRISTIE: I think this is a different situation, George. Not saying it's going to happen, but we've never had an 82-year-old run for re-election. This starkly puts the vice presidency in -- in focus for people because, you know, there is -- just look at the -- the tables, the longevity tables. At -- if 82 and 86 years old, he's in real risk of not...
PACE: The other consideration, of course, for -- for Biden and Democrats is, you know, to -- to Susan and -- and Donna's point, there's no real credible threat happening from within the Democratic Party right now. And who is the most powerful constituency within the Democratic Party?
STEPHANOPOULOS: Black women.
PACE: It's Black women. The idea that he would set Kamala Harris, the most powerful Black woman in the party, aside would really, I think, anger a lot of people within his own party...
CHRISTIE: That's the -- that's the assumption that she is the most powerful Black woman in the party. She has the highest position in the party. But when you look at the way the public views her, there are a number of other very qualified African American women who the vice -- who the president could pick. And all I'm saying is there's going to be that conversation. It's unlikely to happen, George, but because he's going to be 82 years old, that is going to be a much bigger focus than it has ever been.
BRAZILE: First of all, I'm so glad you brought up Kamala Harris, because she is probably one of the most undefined human beings. She is incredible. She's standing in her own power. She has been at every step helpful to this president in getting his agenda through the United States Congress. And so while her poll numbers may not reflect her true popularity, I can guarantee you Kamala Harris will not be replaced on the party's ticket. And I can also guarantee you, if Joe Biden decides not to run, Kamala Harris will become the next nominee of the Democratic Party.
And I -- I don't understand why every -- every time, you know, something goes down, people say, "Kamala, Kamala." She is standing in her power. She's been incredible. She's been indispensable. And she's going to continue to serve as vice president.
CHRISTIE: And she's been invisible. And she's been invisible.
BRAZILE: I know...
CHRISTIE: Look at her daily schedule every day. Every time I look at that daily schedule, "The vice president has no public schedule today."
BRAZILE: That's on weekends.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Susan Page, she did...
BRAZILE: That's on weekends.
STEPHANOPOULOS: The vice president does appear to be trying to turn that around, at least in the last couple of weeks.
PAGE: She's -- she's doing more events. She's obviously had some problems establishing herself. But Joe Biden does not address questions about his age by dumping Kamala Harris.
BRAZILE: Thank you.
PAGE: He addresses questions about his age by being vigorous and energetic and by looking forward, not backward, not just taking credit for what he's done already but talking about what he'll do in the future. Dumping Kamala Harris, which I think is not going to happen, would not address those issues.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Chris Christie, the Republican House members, at least some of them, certainly did seem to take the bait on Tuesday night. How big of a mistake was that?
CHRISTIE: Big mistake. Look, you know, you don't want to -- you don't want to rise to the bait, and they did, a number of them did, and it was a big mistake.
Look, the better response would have been to respond to that with laughter. If you really wanted to respond to the president saying something as ridiculous as the Republicans, because of what one Republican said, Rick Scott, which was immediately rejected by almost the entire rest of the party, what they should have done was just laughed at the president then, and moved on. The yelling and the screaming stuff, look, I think that's always bad. It doesn't get you anywhere. And it gave Joe Biden an opportunity to engage them back in a way that was spontaneous, that I think was probably the best part of his entire speech.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Julie, let me ask you about the Chinese spy balloon. The president did not mention the balloon in the speech. He only had an oblique reference to China near the end of the State of the Union. But this seems to have seized our politics over the last week.
JULIE PACE, ASSOCIATED PRESS EXECUTIVE EDITOR: It's really an unbelievable situation, and we're still, over the weekend, learning more and seeing more of these potential episodes unfolding in the U.S. and in -- and in Canada.
I think the -- the biggest concern here, broadly, aside from the individual incidents here, is what this says about the U.S.-China relationship. Because this is a relationship that is incredibly broken right now but also incredibly important. China is not some second-tier country. They are a major world power. Our economics are completely tied up with them. And you do get the sense right now that, because there is such a lack of direct communication happening here, that we could end up in a position where something happens and it escalates. And no one really wants to find themselves in that...
STEPHANOPOULOS: Susan, who knew balloons were advanced technology?
PAGE: Yeah, exactly, although -- and who knew that China was spying on us?
I mean, the fact is everybody knew China was spying on us. Everybody knows we're spying on China. But the brazenness of sending a balloon over nuclear silos? I mean, that is really quite remarkable. But our interests are not served, as Julie was saying, by a new Cold War with China. There are things we need to deal with them on, including climate change. And we need to avoid a trigger like Taiwan from really blowing up.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Congress seems to be spoiling for more of a fight?
BRAZILE: Well, I think that was the one time we saw applause from both sides of the aisle at the State of the Union. Look, 40 -- over 40 countries, supposedly, that China has flown these balloons, three times under President Trump that we didn't know about, and perhaps even more than the public, the State Department or the CIA -- I don't know which -- which of the small alphabets will tell us the truth, but these UFOs.
Are they UFOs, Chris, because I want to...
BRAZILE: ... make sure.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Now they're identified, right?
BRAZILE: Identified, whatever.
CHRISTIE: We -- we know what they are.
BRAZILE: I mean, well, yesterday we didn't know. We just shot it down. So we're shooting, and then we're going to figure it out.
But, look, I do think that they need to come -- come forward and tell us exactly what they know, because I think the American people want to know.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Chris, it is astonishing that we wouldn't be able to detect a balloon of that size.
CHRISTIE: Yeah, no, we detected it. They made a -- they made a conscious decision. And the president even said this, that they made a decision not to shoot it down over land.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But how -- but how about under President Trump as well? Did -- did we know then and they just didn't tell the president?
CHRISTIE: You know, we don't know the answers to that yet. And I think everyone's going to be interested to find out what the answer to that is, because you had a lot of back-and-forth on that, and nobody has come out with anything definitive yet.
But, on China, look, we've got to move towards decoupling with China, in my view. The fact of the matter is that they need us much more than we need them, at this moment, economically. President Xi's got a lot of problems over there because of his Zero COVID policy, a number of other things that happened, the CHIPS bill that's moving semiconductor and other production back here to the United States. The Chinese economy is still the second economy in the world. Ours is still the first.
And we need to use our economic leverage, George, to be able to start putting pressure on these guys. Because, obviously, they've become real big misbehaviors and they need to be put back in line, and we can use our economic power, and should use it, to do that.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Before we go, we talked about President Biden. Susan Page, we're about to see a challenger to President Trump on the Republican side this week, Nikki Haley.
PAGE: The first of many, right? Not even the last will he see from South Carolina, probably, with Tim Scott likely to follow her. This is going to be, I think, a big and crowded field. And that probably serves Donald Trump's interests.
PACE: Well, if you even just look at the rules for the Republican primaries, it does serve his interests. All he's going to need to do is pick off about 30 percent of the vote in a lot of these states to have a pathway to the nomination, not saying that that is necessarily the outcome, but that path definitely remains open for him.
STEPHANOPOULOS: It sounds -- if Julie and Susan are right, Chris, it sounds like the Republican Party has not learned the lessons of the last war.
CHRISTIE: Yeah, I don't think they're right. I don't think this is going to be a big, crowded field. I think it's probably going to be half of the field that I was in, in 2016. I think it will be seven or eight people. And that will be at the beginning. And that may winnow a little bit more before you get to, for us, Iowa and New Hampshire.
I think it's seven or eight people. And -- and you see the absence of almost anybody except for Tim Scott in the United States Senate. It seems like almost the entire Republican side of the United States Senate is saying, "We'll take a pass." And what it's going to be is a field of Donald Trump, I think, current and former governors, and maybe one senator.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And Ron DeSantis at the head of the pack?
BRAZILE: Well, I don't even want to talk about him this morning. That would spoil the rest of my day.
But, you know, the interesting thing about Nikki Haley is she's going to make a generational argument, similar to what Sarah Huckabee Sanders made in her rebuttal to Joe Biden. I don't know if Donald Trump is going to attack her the day before, which is Valentine's Day, or the day after, but clearly he benefits from a large field. And the one thing I've read over the last couple days that interests me is that the big donors in the -- in the Republican Party, they're now showing him the cold shoulder. So this may be Donald Trump's week to regret that he put his hat in the ring so soon.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Chris, you said in the past that it would be -- it was a mistake to be the first person out of the game against him.
CHRISTIE: Yeah, I still agree with that. Look, I don't think there's any rush to do anything here, and I think the reason you haven't seen this -- think about where we were in 2014.
CHRISTIE: Jeb Bush announced in December of 2014. And everything accelerated from there. I don't think you're going to see that. I don't think you'll see this field fully formed until June of this year. And then it will probably be fully formed. And I think most people will wait until April to June to make that ultimate announcement, even if, in their own mind, they may have made a decision.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Donna, Chris said, you know, Iowa and New Hampshire still up front for the Republican Party. Of course, President Biden wants to change the Democratic schedule. You're involved in all that. But this is not a foregone conclusion that he's going to get the calendar he wants, is it?
BRAZILE: Well, we gave New Hampshire and Georgia a few more months to put forward their -- their plan. But I think the schedule that we approve is a schedule that will stay in place. It may not include all of the states, but we're going -- South Carolina will be the first state.
PACE: Well, and that's a schedule that lines up very well for President Biden.
STEPHANOPOULOS: It's the one he wants, no question about it.
PAGE: That's just an accident.
BRAZILE: I support it.
CHRISTIE: He hasn't decided.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Thank you all very much.
Coming up, he's the highest-ranked Latino ever in the House. Democratic Caucus Chair Pete Aguilar speaks with Maria Elena Salinas, next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. PETE AGUILAR (D-CA): That's not lost on me what my election means for my community, for the Latino community. Being a kid from San Bernardino and having an opportunity to help guide this caucus is a great responsibility, and I don't take it lightly.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: California Congressman Pete Aguilar after his election as House Democratic Caucus chair last fall, making him the highest ranking Latino to ever serve in the House.
Our contributor Maria Elena Salinas met up with Aguilar in San Bernardino.
MARIA ELENA SALINAS, ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR (voice-over): Congressman Pete Aguilar's success story is the American Dream, a fourth generation Mexican-American who rose from city council to mayor, to congressman to House Democrats' third in command.
We sat down with Aguilar at Mitla Cafe, a staple of his youth.
AGUILAR: It’s like being -- being home. That's what this place means to me. It’s -- my family has been coming here for multiple generations. My dad grew up around the corner.
SALINAS: Aguilar is currently the highest ranking Latino in Congress. A distinction he does not take lightly.
AGUILAR: It's a sense of opportunity. You know, my story is not very different than so many other, you know, Latinos who grew up in communities where they had to work hard to get by.
SALINAS: As chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, it's Aguilar's job to unite congressional Democrats on legislation, party issues, and to reach across the aisle to find consensus.
What issues do you feel that you and Republicans can have common ground on?
AGUILAR: I think there has been common ground on the ability for Dreamers to become citizens. We have Republicans on board with that.
Then, I think you have farm worker modernization bills and a reform to that system, grounded in, you know, rural Republicans realizing that they need laborers.
Now, the Democratic Party believes that we need strong border security as well. We genuinely believe that, and we believe in the rule of law. But those to me seem like three strong pillars that we can look at that have strong bipartisan support.
SALINAS: In his nearly 10 years in Congress, Aguilar has sought common ground on immigration and has made protecting so-called dreamers one of his top priorities. But so far, efforts to do so have fallen flat.
The Senate introduced a bill to help guide dreamers toward legalization status. This has been happening for decades now, and it never comes to fruition.
You know, what can -- needs to happen to -- to make it a reality?
AGUILAR: Well, I think -- I think we need more friends and allies in the United States Senate. And I can respect that at certain times, you know, the House has been at fault and the Senate has been at fault, but in the last ten years, Democrats have continually put these bills on the floor, and Republicans have stood in the way on the House side to see any real reform happen.
SALINAS: But that gap is only one layer of the immigration issue. Another is the border.
How do you think President Biden is doing at the border?
AGUILAR: You know, I think -- I think the grade would be incomplete, right? There's plenty to do. We know that it's a humanitarian issue down at the southern border.
SALINAS: So how do you find the balance between a border that is overwhelmed, because it obviously is overwhelmed, and respecting the legal right of -- of migrants to seek asylum?
AGUILAR: I think they're -- I think the president is trying to do that now by -- by increasing the pathways that people have to declare asylum. So they can declare asylum in their home countries or while they are in transit. Less while they are, you know, at the border physically.
SALINAS (voice-over): As a Latino, Aguilar has been quick to point out that the demographic doesn't only care about immigration, and acknowledges his party has lost some ground with Latino voters.
AGUILAR: I think that how we -- how we talk to voters, how we meet them, you know, where they are, how we talk about the issues with them, you know, really is important. I mean, there's no cookie cutter way to talk about Latino issues. We need to realize that. We need to have a plan to talk to those voters and those individuals. And I think that we need to do a better job of that.
SALINAS: Back in the place that launched his political career, Aguilar is already thinking ahead.
AGUILAR: The biggest challenge is making sure that we communicate to the American public the legislative achievements that we've had. We understand it's going to be -- it's going to be a difficult time to pass a lot of big pieces of legislation. We can still get some things done, but over the next two years, implementing this agenda that the president has -- has accomplished with Congress is going to be the focus of what we do.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Thanks to Maria Elena for that. We'll be right back.
STEPHANOPOULOS: That is all for us today. Thanks for sharing part of your Sunday with us. Check out "World News Tonight." And I'll see you tomorrow on "GMA."