Sens. Johnny Isakson and Amy Klobuchar

Two senators discuss fiscal cliff negotiations and the gun violence debate.
9:27 | 12/23/12

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Transcript for Sens. Johnny Isakson and Amy Klobuchar
Let's turn now to our senate democrat with democrat amy klobuchar of minnesota and johnny isakson of georgia. Senator klobuchar, let me begin with you. You just heard congressman hutchinson. What's your response to the gun debate there? I'm a former prosecutor and 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 in 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 and every classroom. So you have to take a look at these mass shootings taking place in houses of worship and movie theaters. Looking at this and other senators supported by the nra in the past, point out and 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 and we talked about 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 with severe mental illnesses getting hold of guns and at some points assault weapons, guns that literally can shoot 3 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 our 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 no 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 opportunity to do something. Senator isakson, are you willing to put those ideas on the table? Miss klobuchar made a good remark about mental health. That's the common thread that's run through all of them. When I was in the georgia state senate in 1995 i part of the conference committee that wrote the background check law available in georgia today but she's right, very few of these work so we have to improve that to make sure that common thread no longer exists. And but are you willing to consider the other proposals that she just discussed, broader background checks, federal background checks, some restrictions on high-capacity magazines? 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. Senator 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 came from the uncle of a little girl 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. Let me turn now to the fiscal cliff discussion. We saw those talks between the house speaker and president obama collapse this week. All eyes now on the senate. I want to show what the president called for before he left for his christmas holiday on friday afternoon. Here's the president. All of us, every single one of us, agrees that tax rates shouldn't go up for the other 98% of americans, so there is absolutely no reason, none, not to protect these americans from a tax hike. Senator isakson, he said every republican, every democrat in washington said everyone earning under $250,000 shouldn't 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 that's going to HIT JANUARY 1st. Any chance you could support that, senator isakson? I feel the house should have passed speaker boehner's bill 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 the this year, and the only choice 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, entitlements and taxes altogether. That's really what we ought to do. Is that still realistic with time running short now? It's not realistic, but It's time for us to get down to work and do the people's business. Senator klobuchar, you heard senator isakson support a bill like that. Is that what you expect your leader, senator reid, to bring to the floor? 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. 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 $2,000 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." Could have a miracle on pennsylvania avenue. That might take a miracle, but senator isakson, you've been pretty confident that we wouldn't go off the cliff and taxes would not go up on everyone. Do you still have that confidence, or do you think it's a greater possibility right now? I sold houses for 33 years, I'm an eternal optimist but time is running out. The truth is, if we do fall off the cliff after the president is inaugurated, he'll come back and 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 don't we go ahead and act now. Sounds like both senators want some action there. Finally on the president's national security team, and i want to start with you, senator isakson, because you are on the senate foreign relations committee. Senator kerry, the president's pick for secretary of state. But several of your colleagues have raised questions about the possibility of chuck hagel, your former colleague from nebraska, being secretary of defense. John cornyn said he would oppose that nomination because of his views on israel and other issues. Would you have any problem with that nomination of senator hagel or for that matter senator kerry? Well, I have no problem at all with john kerry. I've served with him for four years on the senate foreign relations committee. He's done outstanding work particularly in the middle east, has been a great envoy and diplomat to the united states and I think he would do great as secretary of state. As far as mr. Hagel is concerned, I served with him on the senate, but he hasn't been nominated yet and I'll reserve any judgment until after the hearings we have on confirmation if, in fact, he is nominated. Senator klobuchar, on senator hagel, even the top democrat on the foreign affairs committee eliot engel said he has severe issues with secretary -- the possibility of secretary hagel because of what he called his endemic hostility towards israel. Do you share those concerns? Well, again, I want to see what happens to these hearings. I intersected a brief period of time with senator hagel and have a lot of respect for who the president nominates and i want to say that john kerry was awarded the purple heart in vietnam, led the foreign relations committee and shown the ability to get tough things done like the nuclear arms treaty a few years back really will follow in the footsteps of a superb secretary of state hillary clinton and the president has put together in the past a good national security team. I'm sure he'll do so again. Senators, thanks for your time. Good luck solving this problem on thursday. Merry christmas economy, we'll be right back with our powerhouse roundtable. ]

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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