CBS News Republican Presidential Debate Transcript
Rushed Partial Transcript
FEBRUARY 13, 2016
09:00:43:00 Tonight, live from the Peace Center in Greenville, South Carolina, CBS News brings you the Republican presidential debate. (APPLAUSE) (CHEERING)
09:00:55:00 Good evening. I’m John Dickerson. This holiday weekend as America honors our first president, we’re about to hear from six men who hope to be the 45th. Candidates for the Republican nomination are here in South Carolina for their ninth debate, one week before this state holds the first-in-the-South primary.
09:01:14:00 George Washington wrote that the truth will ultimately prevail, where there is pains taken to bring it to light. We hope to shed some light on the candidates’ positions tonight to help voters make up their mind. So gentlemen, please join us on stage. (APPLAUSE) (CHEERING)
09:01:54:00 With us tonight– with us tonight, a retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson of Florida, (APPLAUSE) (CHEERING) Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, businessman Donald Trump of New York, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, Former Governor Jeb Bush of Florida, and Governor John Kasich of Ohio. Now as most of you have heard by now, Supreme Court Antonin Scalia died today, at the age of 79. He was the longest-serving member of the court, appointed by President Reagan in 1986.
09:02:46:00 Justice Scalia was the court’s leading conservative, and even those who disagreed with his opinions regarded him as a brilliant legal scholar. Please join us and the candidates on our stage in a moment of silence for Justice Antonin Scalia. Thank you. We will talk to the candidates about Justice Scalia and the road ahead when the debate begins in a moment. (LONG PAUSE) (MUSIC) (APPLAUSE)
09:05:03:00 Before we get started, candidates, here are the rules. When we ask you a question, you will have one minute to answer and 30 seconds more if we ask a follow-up. If you’re attacked by another candidate, you get 30 seconds to respond. And here’s how we keep time. After we ask a question, you’ll get a green light. The yellow light means you have 30 seconds left to finish your answer. And when time is up, the light turns red. That means please stop talking.
09:05:31:00 If you keep talking, you will hear this. (BELL) You don’t want to hear that. Joining me in the questioning tonight, my CBS News colleague, chief Washington correspondent Major Garrett, and Kimberly Strassel, who is on the editorial board of The Wall Street Journal. And you can participate in the debate too, through our partnership with Twitter.
09:05:49:00 Tweet us your questions and comments using the hashtag #GOPdebate. So let’s begin. First, the death of j– Justice Scalia and the vacancy that leaves on the Supreme Court. Mr. Trump, I want to start with you. You’ve said that the president shouldn’t nominan– nominate anyone in the rest of his term to replace Justice Scalia. If you were president and had a chance with 11 months left to go in your term, wouldn’t it be an abdication, to conservatives in particular, not to name a conservative justice with the rest of your term so that–
09:06:20:00 Well, I can say that. If the president had to– if I were president now, I would certainly want to try and nominate a justice. And I’m sure that, frankly, I’m– absolutely sure that President Obama will try and do it. I hope that– Senate is going to be able, Mitch and the entire group, is gonna be able to do something about it, in terms of delay. We could have a Diane Sykes or you could have a Bill Pryor. We have some fantastic people. But this is a tremendous blow to conservativism, it’s a tremendous blow, frankly, to our country.
09:06:52:00 So just to be clear on this, Mr. Trump, you’re okay with the president nominating somebody?
09:06:55:00 I– I think he’s going to do it whether I’m okay with it or not. I think it’s up to Mitch McConnell and everybody else to stop it. It’s called delay, delay, delay. (APPLAUSE) (CHEERING)
09:07:10:00 Governor Kasich, I wanna get your response on this. Justice Scalia was– Mr. Scalia was a real believer, obviously, in the strict word of the constitution. Now, Harry Reid says that a failure to fill his vacancy would be, quote, “shameful abdication of one of the Senate’s most essential constitutional responsibilities.” Where do you come down on this?
GOV. JOHN KASICH:
09:07:28:00 Well, John, first of all, if I were president, we wouldn’t have the divisions in the country we have today. And I do wanna take a second as we reflected on Judge Scalia, it’s amazing. It’s not even two minutes after the death of Judge Scalia, nine children here today, their father didn’t wake up– his wife– you know, sad, but– you know, I just wish we hadn’t run so fast into politics.
09:07:50:00 Here’s my concern about this. The country’s so divided right now, and now we’re going to see another partisan fight taking place. I really wish the president would think about not nominating somebody. If you were to nominate somebody, let’s have him pick somebody that is gonna have unanimous approval and such widespread approval across the country that this could happen without– a lotta recrimination.
09:08:14:00 I don’t think that’s going to happen. And I would like the president to just, for once here, put the country first. We’re going to have an election for president very soon. And the people will understand what is at stake in that election. And so I believe that the president should not move forward and– I– I think that we oughta let the next president of the United States decide who is going to run that Supreme Court with a vote by the people of the (BELL) United States of America. (APPLAUSE)
09:08:41:00 Dr. Carson– Dr. Carson, you, like others, put out a statement– after the death was announced. And you said, “The president should delay.” You’ve written a book on the constitution recently. What does the constitution say about whose duty it is here to act in this kind of a situation?
DR. BEN CARSON:
09:08:57:00 Well, (THROAT CLEAR) the constitution actually doesn’t address that particular situation. But the fact of the matter is, the Supreme Court obviously is a very important part of our– governmental system. And when our constitution was put in place, the average age of death was under 50. And therefore, the whole concept of lifetime appointments for Supreme Court judges and federal judges was not considered to be a big deal.
09:09:27:00 Obviously, that has changed. And it’s something that– probably needs to be looked at– pretty carefully at some point. But we– need to start thinking about the divisiveness that is going on in our country. I looked at some of the remarks that people made after– finding out that Justice Scalia had died, and they were truly nasty remarks.
09:09:52:00 And that we have managed to get to that position in our country is truly a shame. And we should be thinking about how can we create some healing in this land. But right now, we’re not gonna get healing with President Obama. That’s very clear. So I– (BELL) fully agree that we should not– allow a judge to be appointed during his time.
09:10:12:00 Senator Rubio, you’re a lawyer– (APPLAUSE) (CHEERING) Senator Rubio, you’re a lawyer. Quickly, can you address the issue of whether the constitution– tells us whe– whose– who has the power to appoint Supreme Court justices? And then also, the Senate Republicans last year floated an idea of removing the filibuster for Senate– excuse me, for Supreme Court nominations. You seemed open to that. What’s your feeling on that now–
SEN. MARCO RUBIO:
09:10:39:00 Well, let– let me first talk about Justice Scalia. This loss is tremendous, and obviously our hearts and prayers go out to his family. He will go down as one of the great justices in the history of this republic. You talk about someone who defended consistently the original meaning of the constitution, who understood that the constitution was not there to be interpreted based on the fads of the moment, but that they were there to– it was there to be interpreted according to its original meaning.
09:11:00:00 Justice Scalia understood that better than anyone in the history of this republic. His dissent, for example, on the independent coun– on the independent counsel cases, it’s a brilliant piece of– of jurist work. And of course, his dissent on Obergefell as well. Number two, I do not believe the president should appoint someone. And it’s not unprecedented. In fact, it’s been over 80 years since a lame duck president has appointed a Supreme Court justice. And it reminds us of this, how important this election is.
09:11:25:00 Thank you–
SEN. MARCO RUBIO:
09:11:25:00 Someone on this stage will get to choose the– the balance of the Supreme Court. And it will begin by filling this vacancy that’s there now. And we need to put people on the bench that understand that the constitution is not a living and breathing document. It is to be interpreted as originally meant.
09:11:38:00 Quickly though, on your (UNINTEL)– (CHEERING) (APPLAUSE) very quickly, Senator, on this specific question though, you were once– in favor of dropping the threshold–
SEN. MARCO RUBIO:
09:11:54:00 That– that’s not accurate.
09:11:55:00 –majority, you were never in favor of that?
SEN. MARCO RUBIO:
09:11:56:00 No, I’ve never– there has been– for example, today, according to the changes Harry Reid made, appellate judges can now be appointed by simple majority–
SEN. MARCO RUBIO:
09:12:02:00 –but not Supreme Court justices. And I think today, you see the wisdom of why we don’t want that to change. Because if that were the case, and we were not in charge of the Senate, Harry Reid and Barack Obama would ram down our throat a liberal justice like the ones– b– Barack Obama has imposed on us already–
09:12:16:00 Okay, thank you Senator. Governor Bush– I’d like to ask you, conservatives for a long time have felt like– that their Republican presidents have picked justices that didn’t turn out to be real conservatives.
GOV. JEB BUSH:
09:12:26:00 Barry– b– Bernie Sanders has said he would have a litmus test. He would make sure that he appointed a justice who’s gonna overturn Citizens United. If they can have a litmus test, what about you? Would you have a litmus test for a nominee and what would it be?
GOV. JEB BUSH:
09:12:38:00 Not on specific issues, not at all. I think the next president, if I’m president, I will appoint people, I will nominate people that have a proven record in the judiciary. The problem in the past has been we’ve appointed people thinking you can get it through the Senate because they didn’t have a record. And the problem is that sometimes we’re surprised.
09:12:57:00 The simple fact is, the next president needs to appoint someone with a proven conservative record, similar to Justice Scalia, that is a lover of liberty, that believes in limited government, that consistently applied– that kind of philosophy, that didn’t try to legislate from the bench, that was respectful of the constitution, and then fight and fight and fight for that nomination to make sure that that nomination passes.
09:13:19:00 Of course the president, by the way, has every right to nominate s– Supreme Court justices. I’m an artic– Article II guy in the constitution. We’re running for the president of the United States. We want a strong executive for sure. But in return for that, there should be a consensus orientation on that nomination. And there’s no doubt in my mind that Barack Obama will not have a consensus pick when he submits that person to the Senate.
09:13:40:00 Right, so Senator Cruz, (UNINTEL PHRASE) (CHEERING) (APPLAUSE) so Senator, the constitution says the president shall appoint with advice and consent from the Senate, just to clear that up. So he has the constitutional power. But you don’t think he should. Where do you set that date if you’re president? Does it begin in election year, in December, November, September? Once you set the date when you’re president, will you abide by that date?
SEN. TED CRUZ:
09:14:07:00 Well, we have 80 years of precedent of not confirming Supreme Court justices in an election year. And– and let me say, Justice Scalia–
09:14:14:00 Just– can I– I’m sorry to interrupt, were any nomina– appointed in an election year? Or is that just there were 80 years happening–
SEN. TED CRUZ:
09:14:20:00 Eight– 80 years of– of not confirming. For example, L.B.J. nominated Abe Fortas. Fortas did– did not get confirmed. He was defeated.
09:14:28:00 But Kennedy was confirmed in ’88.
SEN. TED CRUZ:
09:14:32:00 No, Kennedy was confirmed in eight– ’87.
09:14:33:00 He was– he was appoi– he was appointed–
SEN. TED CRUZ:
09:14:35:00 He– he was appointed in ’88–
09:14:36:00 –that’s the– but is it appointing or confirming–
SEN. TED CRUZ:
09:14:38:00 In this case, it’s both. But if I could– could answer this question–
09:14:40:00 Sorry, all right, I just wanna get the facts straight for the audience. But I apologize. (AUDIENCE REACTION) (LAUGHTER)
SEN. TED CRUZ:
09:14:50:00 Justice Scalia was a legal giant. He– he was somebody that I knew for 20 years. He was a brilliant man, he was faithful to the constitution. He changed the arc of American legal history. And I’ll tell you, his passing tonight, our prayers are with his family, with his wife Maureen, who he adored, his nine children and 36 grandkids.
09:15:11:00 But it underscores the stakes of this election. We are one justice away from a Supreme Court that will strike down every restriction on abortion adopted by the stakes. We are one justice away from a Supreme Court that will reverse the Heller decision, one of Justice Scalia’s seminal decisions that upheld the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms.
09:15:32:00 We are one justice away from a Supreme Court that would undermine the religious liberty of millions of Americans and– and the stakes of this election, for this year, for the Senate, the Senate needs to stand strong and say “We’re not gonna give up the U.S. Supreme Court for a generation by allowing Barack Obama to make one more liberal appointee.”
09:15:52:00 And then, for the state of South Carolina, one of the most important judgments for the men and women of South Carolina to make, is who on this stage (BELL) has the background, the principle, the character, the judgment, and the strength of resolve to nominate and confirm principled constitutionalists to the court? That will be what I will do if I am elected president–
09:16:14:00 All right. (APPLAUSE) (CHEERING) Thank you, Senator Cruz. All right, we’re gonna get a move on to national security here. And we’re gonna– I wanna read a quote from Secretary Robert Gates, Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates who served for eight year– f– eight– under eight presidents. And this is what he said about Republican candidates, quote, “Part of the concern that I have with the campaign is that the solutions being offered are so simplistic and so at odds with the way the world really works.”
09:16:43:00 So in that spirit, we’re gonna work tonight to be more specific. Mr. Trump, I want to start with you. You said if– as president, you’ll get up to speed very quickly. You’ll know more quickly as president than any of the experts. So you’ve been elected president, it’s your first day in the situation room, with three questions do you ask your national security experts about the world?
09:17:04:00 What we wanna do, when we wanna do it, and how hard do we wanna hit. Because we are going to have to hit very, very hard to knock out ISIS. We’re gonna also have to learn who our allies are. We have allies, so-called allies. We’re spending billions and billions of dollars supporting people, we have no idea who they are in Syria. Do we wanna stay that route, or do we wanna go and make something with Russia?
09:17:29:00 I hate to say Iran, but with Russia, because we made, in the Iran deal, with one of the worst deals I’ve ever seen negotiated in my entire life. It’s a disgrace that this country negotiated that deal. A very important– (CHEERING) (APPLAUSE) not only a disgrace, it’s a disgrace and an embarrassment. But very important, who are we fighting with, who are we fighting for, what are we doing.
09:17:51:00 We have to rebuild our country. But we have– I’m telling you, I’m the only one on the stage that said, “Do not go into Iraq. Do not attack Iraq.” Nobody else on this stage said that. And I said it loud and strong. And I was in the private sector. I wasn’t a politician, fortunately. But I said it. And I said it loud and clear. “You’ll destabilize the Middle East.” That’s exactly what happened. I also said, by the way, (BELL) four years ago, three years ago, “Attack the oil. Take the wealth away. Attack the oil and keep the oil.” They didn’t listen. They just started that a few months ago.
09:18:22:00 Senator Rubio, (CHEERING) (APPLAUSE) just– 30 seconds on this question, Senator Rubio. Are those the questions you would ask?
SEN. MARCO RUBIO:
09:18:31:00 No. I think there are three major threats that you want to immediately get on top of. Number one is, what are we doing in the Asia Pacific region, where both North Korea and China pose threats to the national security of the United States. Number two is, what are we doing in the Middle East with the combination of the Sunni/Shia conflict driven by the Shia Arc, that Iran is now trying to establish in the Middle East.
Transcript Courtesy CBS News