Transcript: Rep. Tony Gonzales on

The following is a transcript of an interview with Rep. Tony Gonzales, Republican of Texas, that aired on Dec. 17, 2023.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And we have to turn now to the crisis at the border and Texas Republican Congressman Tony Gonzales, who’s with us from San Antonio. Welcome back to Face the Nation.

REP. TONY GONZALES: Good morning. Thank you for having me.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So, I want to go into one of the big issues that we know is on the minds for voters and is a crisis right now. You’ve been pressing for a border deal and we know senators are still trying to craft one but it doesn’t look good for the near term. What is the real-world impact in your district, if there is no deal in 2023?

REP. GONZALES: Yeah, I give a lot of credit to Senator Lankford and Sinema and Tillis and Murphy, certainly nothing happens without John Cornyn making his inputs on there. And I appreciate their- their- their efforts on that. But the time is now- the time for a national security package is now. In my district, it is pure chaos and people are upset. They’re upset because their lives have been turned upside down. My district is predominantly Hispanic, many people are first and second generation Americans, but they’re tired. They’re tired of the high-speed chases. They’re tired of their schools going into lockdown. And I would argue, yes, we’ve been talking about the amount of people coming over that we don’t know who’s entering our country and the terrorist threat from external, but I talk- I’d also talk about a terrorist threat internal. I think to 9/11, and what happened there, but I also think back to the Oklahoma City bombing, and what is happening is people in this country are furious at this open border crisis. It’s why it’s so imperative that the Senate and the House work with the- work with the President to come up with a national security package that puts the country above everything else. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Okay. Well, we know from some of the negotiators who’ve been out this morning that they don’t think one is within reach right now. But CBS is reporting the White House says that it’s willing to accept drastic limits on asylum that’s raising the credible fear standard, as you know, and a vast expansion of detention and deportation efforts as part of this deal. Are you supportive of what you’ve heard is in this proposal?

REP. GONZALES: I think it’s a good start. I think the devil’s in the details. When you start talking about deportation flights, I think, you know, are you talking about one flight? Are you talking about 20 flights? Are you talking about deporting only from along the border? Are we talking in the interior as well? The credible fear standard, I think that’s an area that- that most people agree that we need to raise. And I think that’s one. But are we going to add Border Patrol agents? If so, how many Border Patrol agents? And then- it’s- the Senate is much different than the House. The Senate is going to have its battle getting to 60 votes, the house is going to have its battle getting to 218. And we can do that, but I think there’s going to have to- we have to sweeten the deal. And part of that is we have to get to the root of the issue. The root of the issue is labeling cartels as terrorist organizations. And the other piece is holding these smugglers accountable that cause damage and kill Americans. Those are all a couple of things that I can help that I- that I believe can help get the House to 218 votes.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, of the deal that we know is being negotiated right now, I haven’t heard that a terrorist designation of cartels is in it. Are you saying it is being talked about right now?

REP. GONZALES: I’m saying- I’m saying the deal between the Senate and the White House is going to be much different than the House and the overall package–

MARGARET BRENNAN: –That’s what you would want to add to it? 

REP. GONZALES: –And part of that is coming to the realization that- that- part of that is coming to the realization that there’s going to be to have- there’s going to have to be some different things in there. And part of that is labeling cartels as terrorist organizations, it will help get the House to 218 votes. I’d also say, too, if the White House is serious about this, the White House- they shouldn’t be sending a secretary, Secretary Mayorkas, to the negotiating table. Where’s the President? Or where’s the Vice President? These are some areas that I think could increase the level of getting to a real deal.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Okay. Well, if this is crisis, when the House comes back in January, we’re going headlong into another showdown over government funding. If this is an emergency, you would in theory want this to move quickly. Has the Speaker given you any indication of a timeline if the Senate can get this deal?

REP. GONZALES: He hasn’t, and I don’t think many people have even on the Senate side. I mean, the easiest thing to do in politics is just to wait, you know, wait for somebody else to pop their head out and build a framework and- and put it all together. But time is running out. We’re at a national security crisis point now. I mean, think back to FBI director testifying and saying every- every red light I’m looking at is blinking red, something similar before 9/11 occurred. So, we have to push now, part of that is- is House Republicans. We can’t just wait- we have to find two 218 votes, however we can, and push things over the finish line. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to bring up something that we discussed with our last guest, which was a remark from Donald Trump yesterday, and I want to play it here because I know you have endorsed Mr. Trump for president.

DONALD TRUMP SOUNDBITE: They’re poisoning the blood of our country, that’s what they’ve done. They poison mental institutions and prisons all over the world, not just in South America, not just the three or four countries that we think about. But all over the world they’re coming into our country, from Africa, from Asia, all over the world.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you endorse the sentiment that immigrants are poisoning the blood of our country?

REP. GONZALES: I think immigrants are the lifeblood of our country and it’s important that we have immigrants. I’ve been a proponent of legal immigration and what this open border crisis has done, it’s put legal immigrants to the back of the line. And it’s- it’s encouraged illegal immigration, and it’s created this rhetoric, and it’s created this anger. And it’s not just former President Trump. I mean, in my district, people are angry, Margaret. All throughout the country, people are angry and seeing all this chaos. It’s why it’s so important that the House, the Senate and the President come together and find a real solution, a national security- a national security package that takes care of our allies, also protects us at home, not only from foreign threats, but also internal threats, because the anger is very real.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I realize that and we need to acknowledge it. But that phrasing, “poisoning the blood,” is reminiscent of language the White House says Hitler used, which is why I wanted to get you to specifically respond to that. The Biden campaign, excuse me. There’s- I have to leave it there. I’m told by my producer, we are out of time, Congressman, but we will come back to you as I know you’re very much tracking these ongoing negotiations. Face the Nation will be back in a minute. Stay with us.

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