Sen. Mitch McConnell: NSA Programs 'Very Important' to Combat Terror Threats

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., on NSA oversight, the battle over trade, and the 2016 race.
7:26 | 05/17/15

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Transcript for Sen. Mitch McConnell: NSA Programs 'Very Important' to Combat Terror Threats
I'd like to thank the president, too -- no, you're not hearing things. President Obama has done his country a service by taking on his base and pushing back on some of the more ridiculous rhetoric we have heard. And there's the senate majority leader this Thursday, Mitch Mcconnell, he joins us live right now. Mr. Leader, thank you for joining us this morning. This is president's top legislation, this trade policy. You appear to be his pointman in the senate, what is it going to take to get it pass? We'll pass it later this week. The president has done an excellent job on this. I point out to my members who are somewhat squeamish by giving the president a power on any issue, given his expansive view, on his powers on so many other issues, that is a trade promotion authority not just for president Obama but for the next president as well, this is a six-year trade promotion authority bill that will give the next president an opportunity to enter into additional trade agreements with other countries around the world. We know America is a big winner when we lower barriers to our products abroad, it also has a foreign policy and defense component. A lot of the counties in Asia are a little apprehensive about not only Chinese economic domination but potential Chinese military domination. They would like to get closer to us and this is a great opportunity to do that as well as to benefit America and create more jobs here in this country. I saw your smile when you discussed president Obama. You describe your relationship with the president right now, an out of body experience, how do intend to build on that? Do you want to build on it? Well, we got a new senate now. We're actually voting again, we voted more than a hundred times in the first quarter this year, last year only 15 roll call votes the entire year. We passed a budget four of the last five years. The senate didn't pass a budget which is required by the law. The senate is getting back to work and what I'm doing is focusing on things upon which there is bipartisan agreement. We passed an excellent Iran nuclear review. The president is going to sign it. We have a cybersecurity bill that's coming forward. Elementary and secondary education came out of that committee overwhelmingly. Now, we're trying to focus on things that we can agree on that will make progress for the country, George. All of those will probably come to the fore on spending bills. We want to spend more on defense and they want to spend more on everything. We don't have a personality problem, we just had differences on issues. But there are some things that we agree on and I try to focus on things that we do agree on. One area where you still appear to be at odds is this NSA telephone surveillance program, the white house backs a bill passed by the house which would help telephone companies keep the records and the government collection. 196 republicans if the house voted for that bill, why are you worried about it? Actually the bill passed the house does not require the telephone companies to keep the records. I figure the house-passed bill will end the program. I want to assure the people that there are plenty of safeguards in this program. No one is routinely listening into your telephone conversations, in order to intercept any actual discussion, they have to go to the court, get a court order, this has been a very important part of our effort to defend the homeland since 9/11. We know that terrorists overseas are trying to recruit people in our country, to commit atrocities in our country, like the Boston marathon massacre, I don't want us to go dark in effect. I'm afraid that the house-passed bill will basically be the end of the program. We won't have a tool to combat this terrorist threat from overseas. Your own senate colleague from Kentucky Rand Paul wants to end the program. He said, I will fight tooth and nail to stop a blanket reauthorization of this attack on our freedoms. How do you respond to that? That the NSA surveillance program is an attack on our freed freedoms. Well, Rand Paul and I agree with most things, we don't agree with this. He doesn't like the house-passed bill, either. Reasonable people can differ. I think it's an important tool if we're going to have the maximum opportunity to defend our people here at home. And I don't think the house bill does that, I think it basically leads us to the end of the program. What I would rather see, George, is a couple a month extension of the program, that this new bill that passed can work. That could face a filibuster? We'll see what happens. This is the security of the country that we're talking about here, this is no small matter. We see it on display on almost a weekly basis. Earlier in your program, we talked about the raid that was carried out in Syria, that was over there, what I'm worried about is what happens over here, this program has been an important tool in helping to protect the homeland. Are you confident that raid was a success? Are we now on offense against Isis? The president has done a good job with these special operations-type missions. Where I think the administration has fallen down, they tend not to favor generally speaking capture and interrogation, although it's good that the wife of this terrorist was captured and will be interrogated. I have been just stressed about the willingness to release prisoners at guantanamo. Look, you know, this is not a Crimin criminal-type matter, this is a defense matter. What you want to do is you want to capture people, you want to interrogate them and try to prevent the next atrocity. I wished we had more emphasis on capturing, detaining and interrogation, then on strikes, although these strikes are important. Finally, sir, you mentioned that you and Rand Paul agree on most things. He's one of three senators running. He's your candidate for president. 30-second case for him being president? One of the great things that Rand Paul has done is reach out to different con studentsies. He's very appealing to young people. We all know that, in order to be competitive in presidential elections, we have to carry more voters than we have in recent years. Which is not enough to win the white house. Rand has brought kind of a new brand of republicanism. I wish him well. Senator Mcconnell, thank you. Thank you. Let's turn now to seni

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