FULL EPISODE: 4/25/21 Sen. Tammy Duckworth & Sen. Dan Sullivan on Pres. Biden’s first formal address to Congress

Updated: Apr. 24, 2021 at 11:55 PM EDT
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Washington, D.C. – Greta Van Susteren interviewed Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) and Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), both members of the Senate Armed Services and Transportation and Infrastructure Committees, for Gray Television’s “Full Court Press with Greta Van Susteren” airing Sunday, April 25, 2021.

On President Joe Biden’s upcoming speech to a joint session of Congress, Sen. Duckworth said she’d like to hear the President tell the American people “why it is important for us to make significant investments in our nation’s infrastructure, and how we’re going to deliver those investments to their hometowns.”

On raising taxes to pay for the infrastructure bill, Duckworth said: “I do think that protecting those who make $400,000 or less is critically important.”

Duckworth, the author of the new memoir, “Every Day is a Gift,” told Van Susteren the book was “a love letter to my nation to say that America was worth me losing my legs.”

GOP Sen. Dan Sullivan said he wants to not only hear President Biden echo his inaugural speech about working on a bipartisan basis when he addresses Congress next week, but to see him “actually doing it.” Sullivan criticized the president for issuing nine executive orders he called “job killing” to residents of his home state. “The war on Alaska working families from the Biden administration, it’s got to stop,” said Sullivan.

Sullivan also expressed frustration with CDC Director Rochelle Walensky for not yet issuing guidance on the cruise industry reopening. “This isn’t just about cruise ships, this is about hundreds, if not thousands of small businesses in my great state that are at risk of going under again if we miss another tourism season.”

Interview highlights are below.

Sen. Tammy Duckworth Highlights

On President Biden’s joint session speech next week

Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.)

I’d like to have him [Biden] go into greater detail and really tell the American people why it is important for us to make significant investments in our nation’s infrastructure, and how we’re going to deliver those investments to their hometowns.

Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.)

I am the chairwoman of the water subcommittee. And so, water infrastructure, getting lead out of our drinking water supply is a big deal. Also, I would hope that he will talk also about human infrastructure so that we have places, things put into place that will help American families and working families, childcare support, paid family leave, all of those items, as well as how we’re going to move us towards a greener future with a carbon neutral date set for the future.

On infrastructure and raising taxes

Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.)

My water bill just passed out of committee unanimously. So, it’s got a fairly high price tag in order to replace the entire nation’s lead piping system, which is a goal that we need to achieve immediately for our children’s health. That passed unanimously. So I know that the Republicans are willing to talk about what we need to do. I don’t think we can afford to not spend the money on infrastructure. Janet Yellen has said that if we don’t make this investment in our infrastructure, our economy will enter into a period of stagnation for years, and that this bill will actually get money back into the local economy, will actually grow the economy. And so, it’s more than just an infrastructure bill.

Greta Van Susteren

Do you worry about the amount of money that President Biden wants to raise? For instance, in corporate tax rate, he wants to raise it to 28. Of course, it was much harder before when President Trump lowered it. He wants to raise personal income tax, not on the 400,000 and below earners, but on people above. But he wants to also almost double the capital gains tax, which is important to so many Americans, not just the wealthy Americans.

Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.)

Well, I’m willing to look at all of those options. I will tell you that the Republicans who say that, who are balking at this did not balk when President Trump did those tax cuts for the wealthiest corporations and Americans. And so I think we can find our way forward. I do think that protecting those who make $400,000 or less is critically important.

Greta Van Susteren

Do you see that there’s give and take in your party? Do you expect that your party will come down in the numbers? I guess that both parties put their extreme numbers up, and then hopefully, we find something in between.

Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.)

There is always give and take, and I’m always willing to negotiate, but I will tell you, I want to have some real negotiations. So often lately, we don’t see the Republicans coming together with a real effort to negotiate, and that’s really been disappointing. And the fact that not a single Republican voted for the American Rescue Plan is really sad to me because how do you vote against sending money for vaccinations? How do you vote against sending money to get our schools open again? And not a single one of them voted for that.

On Afghanistan troop withdrawal

Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.)

I think that the decision to pull out is a good one, but I also think that if we decide that we need to keep some sort of a force there in the future, then there needs to be a new debate on a new use of authorization for use of military force. I’ve had a lot of people who have criticized this decision by President Biden. And my answer is, well, then, let’s have that debate on the floor and vote on a new AUMF. Because if we want our troops to return, if we want there to be a new mission, safeguarding the wellbeing of women and girls in Afghanistan, for example, then let’s have that debate and let’s authorize a new AUMF. But until then, the mission that they were sent there on in the 2001 AUMF has been accomplished.

On the anti-Asian hate crimes bill

Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.)

It does stiffen some penalties. But it also addresses the issue of data collection. Right now, what has happened is that oftentimes, crimes against Asian-Americans are just listed as robbery or muggings or vandalism, but not as hate crimes because they’re not properly identified as hate crimes. People don’t often identify hate speech against Asian-Americans as hate speech.

Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.)

It’s also looking at past data to see what the true numbers of crimes against Asian-Americans are truly hate crimes, versus how they’ve been misclassified as just simple criminal activity.

On police reform

Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.)

I actually have my police training and independent review act, which is part of that larger bill that’s been pooled into the bill that Cory Booker is working with Tim Scott on. So I’m very pleased that my portion is in there as well.

Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.)

My bill actually has additional funding for police training, to identify instances of racism that can occur against AAPIs, for example, but then it also provides for independent review of police involved shootings and killings and violence. So that, for example, the George Floyd instance, that incident should not be investigated by the local attorney’s office. It should be investigated by an independent panel that comes in.

Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.)

If you have an independent third party come in to look at it, you are much more likely to have a true analysis of what the situation was, where the police involved shooting occurred.

On her memoir, “Every Day is a Gift”

Greta Van Susteren

You have now written a book, Every Day is a Gift. And when I first saw that title, naturally, I think of your catastrophic injuries. Where do you reach in yourself to say every day is a gift, when you’ve gone through that?

Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.)

Because that day when I was shot down was a gift.

Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.)

It’s really every day in my life, I wake up now and I say a thank you to the heroic men who saved my life, and they’re my north star. And I have two girls that I’ve had since that shoot down. I became a United States Senator since that shoot down. I finished my PhD since that shoot down. Every day in my life since that day has been a gift.

Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.)

And really, the book is a thank you to them, but also a love letter to my nation to say that America was worth me losing my legs. And I talk in the book about social service programs that saved me as a child when I was hungry, and there were food stamps, and a high school English teacher who bought me dinner three nights a week because he knew I would go hungry. And it’s really a love letter to this country, but a real, just an appreciation for American.

Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.)

We’re in a tough time in this country. A lot of divisions, a lot of us feel left out, left behind, but America is worth the fight. It’s worth fighting for because it’s still the best thing out there.

Sen. Dan Sullivan Highlights

On President Biden’s joint session speech next week

Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska)

I want to hear what he said in his inaugural, which is bringing the country together, but then actually doing it. Here’s the thing that’s really been frustrating for me. I’ve been trying to work with this administration. As of last week, there have been nine executive orders from the Biden administration, nine that are focused solely on Alaska and they are job killing, they are hurting the opportunities for our workers in my state.

Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska)

There is no state in the country that has gotten that kind of attention from this administration, with all due respect to the Biden administration, Alaskans don’t want that attention. We want the opportunity to grow our economy, whether it’s in the tourism sector, the oil and gas sector, the commercial fishing sector. So I need the war on Alaska working families to cease from the Biden administration.

Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska)

The war on Alaska working families from the Biden administration, it’s got to stop.

Greta Van Susteren

Well, are they talking to you? Do they call you up and discuss things with you?

Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska)

It depends on the issue, but on a lot of these issues relating to energy workers in Alaska, to relating to access to our federal lands, I’m just hearing about them. I read about them in the press and that’s a frustration.

On Alaska, the cruise industry, and tourism

Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska)

We can’t get guidance from the CDC on how and when to open the tourism season for the great state of Alaska. And this isn’t just about a cruise ships, this is about hundreds, if not thousands of small businesses in my great state that are at risk of going under again if we miss another tourism season.

Greta Van Susteren

If you call the CDC, because it’s not just your state that has problems with trying to figure out what’s going on with cruise ships, what should be a safe way to do this? Can you call them? And can you get some guidance from them?

Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska)

Well, look, I’ve talked to the CDC director twice in the last three weeks.

Greta Van Susteren

And?

Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska)

What she told me and Senator Murkowski, quite frankly, just wasn’t true. She said they were going to issue guidance the day she talked to us, for all five phases of reopening. That wasn’t true. They said they’re going to issue guidance that-

Greta Van Susteren

She isn’t true? Or that she just hadn’t made a formula issued-

Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska)

It didn’t happen. Look, she’s new. I’ve been saying she needs to look at her staff and say, “Hey, when you’re giving me instructions to say to certain senators, you want to be accurate.” So far, it hasn’t been accurate.

On infrastructure and taxes

Greta Van Susteren

In terms of the president’s speech this coming week, I assume he’s going to talk about his American family plan. So [the] American jobs plan was paid for by a rise in [the] corporate tax rate. Is that going to happen, do you think? The corporate tax rate going up?

Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska)

I think there are other ways to look at paying for an infrastructure bill and we’re in negotiations with the Democrats and the White House on that now.

Greta Van Susteren

All right. I’ll have you turn to the other, the sort of soft infrastructure the President’s been talking about, the American family plan which would be things like childcare, universal pre-K, things like that. And the President, in order to finance that program, he wants to raise personal income tax on the very wealthy. Not people who have $400,000 and lower, but the wealthy. Is that going to go up? Is the personal income tax going to go up on the wealthy?

Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska)

I think raising taxes on Americans when we’re in a recession right now is not generally the way-

Greta Van Susteren

Even on the very wealthy?

Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska)

Well, again, they always talk about the very wealthy, but then you look at the details of their plans and they start to come down, I believe, on middle-class families. So, the devils are in the details.

Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska)

Raising taxes on Americans, on small businesses, on employment generators in terms of businesses during a recession, I don’t think is a good idea.

On bipartisanship and the environment

Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska)

There is a lot of bipartisanship. I just think on certain issues, I’ll give you one right now, energy. I believe that we should be continuing all of the above energy, renewables, oil, gas, and this administration unfortunately is targeting American workers in the oil and gas sector. I totally disagree with-

Greta Van Susteren

They would say that they’re trying to preserve the environment for the next generation. I assume that would be the argument. The Republicans look at it one way, the Democrats look at it another way.

Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska)

We have the highest standards in the world on the development of our natural resources.

Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska)

There’s no country on the planet that has higher standards than we do. So if you need energy, which you do, why do you not want to produce it in the place with the highest environmental standards, which we have, by American workers who are the best in the world? So to me, that argument on the environment really doesn’t hold water.

Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska)

Our country reduced greenhouse gas emissions by almost 15%, from 2005 to 2017. That’s more than any other major economy in the world, by far. And we did that because we produced a lot of natural gas.

Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska)

But I think there can be a lot of bipartisan support around the idea of continuing to produce our own resources in a very high standard environmental way. And when we do that, when we’ve done that, especially the revolution in natural gas production in America, we have lowered greenhouse gas emissions more than any other major economy in the world. That’s progress. My view is we need to keep that going.

On an Iran nuclear deal

Greta Van Susteren

Is there going to be a new deal with Iran?

Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska)

I hope not. I was strongly opposed to the last JCPOA. I read it in all kinds of detail. I think it incentivized Iranians’ additional terrorist behavior. They’re the largest terrorist state in the world. And as someone who’s now 27 years in the Marine Corps, I have not forgotten what the Iranians did to so many of our soldiers, particularly in Iraq, where they were sending very sophisticated IEDs to Shia militias and killed and wounded over 2,000 of our best and brightest American soldiers. So, I am not a supporter of the Iran deal at all.

Greta Van Susteren

Is there any deal that could satisfy you?

Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska)

There could be a deal if it was much more broad, particularly focused on Iranian terrorist activities. They’re the largest state-sponsored terrorism in the world.

Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska)

There is a realignment of our strategic allies in the region. Israel, many of the Gulf Arab states, with these Abraham Accords, and a lot of that realignment, which is very positive for us, for Israel, is because I think the countries in the region saw that the biggest threat from the region wasn’t each other, it was Iran. And we need to continue that strategic realignment with Israel and some of our Arab allies and I think that’s an important area of progress. And I think the Biden administration is committed to that.

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About Greta Van Susteren:

Greta Van Susteren is the Chief Political Analyst for Gray Media and host of Full Court Press. Ms. Van Susteren is a veteran of Fox News Channel, MSNBC, and CNN. Her prime-time Fox News Channel Show, “On the Record,” was number 1 in its time slot for 14 1⁄2 years. Before joining Fox News, she hosted CNN’s prime-time news and analysis program, “The Point with Greta Van Susteren,” and co-hosted the network’s daily legal analysis show, “Burden of Proof.” Her legal analysis for CNN’s coverage of Election 2000 earned her the American Bar Association’s Presidential Award for Excellence in Journalism. She continues to host the weekly 30-minute program “Plugged In with Greta Van Susteren” on Voice of America, which broadcasts exclusively outside of the United States.

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