Transcript: Sen. Mark Kelly on “Face the Nation,” Sept. 24, 2023

Transcript: Sen. Mark Kelly on “Face the Nation,” Sept. 24, 2023

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The following is a transcript of an interview with Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly of Arizona that aired on “Face the Nation” on Sept. 24, 2023.


MARGARET BRENNAN: We go now to Arizona Democratic Senator Mark Kelly. He is in Austin, Texas this morning. Senator, it is great to have you back on the program. You just- you just came back from Ukraine, and you met as well with President Zelenskyy this week here in Washington. Can Ukraine count on that $20 billion that President Biden is asking Congress for?

SEN. MARK KELLY: Well, Margaret, thank you for having me on. This was my second trip to Ukraine. I went in April, I had the chance to meet with commanders, US military commanders, Ukrainian, Polish. The aid that we are giving them is critical. If this was the stop, they would lose, and Putin would win. So I am, you know, motivated to get this done in the United States Senate. There’s bipartisan support for this in a CR, providing funding for Ukraine. And so we’ve got to get this across the finish line or this would be a disaster.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Bipartisan support in a short term deal you said. Would you vote for a short-term deal if it didn’t have Ukraine aid in it? You know, I’m asking you this because, the House, there’s a problem getting this through?

SEN. KELLY: Hey, for years when we’ve done CRs, they’ve been bipartisan. Senator McConnell feels like we should continue to support Ukraine, Senator Schumer as well. Working across the aisle in the Senate, you know, we can get this done. The dysfunction in the House is unprecedented. You know who really cares about whether or not we fund Ukraine or not and continue to provide the support? It’s the Chinese president. This has implications across the globe. You know, I cannot- I spent some private time with President Zelenskyy, you know, just this last week, and, you know, tried to reassure him that this is coming. And if we do- if we fail at this moment, there’s a chance that we, you know, a year from now, two years from now, we wind up in a situation where we could be in direct conflict with the Russians. We do not want that.

MARGARET BRENNAN: CBS has confirmed that President Biden in his meeting with President Zelenskyy said he would provide Ukraine with ATACMS, these are these longer range surface to surface missile systems that would allow them to hit behind Russian lines. The Ukrainians have been asking for months for the systems, whether it was the F-16s, or the ATACMS now. Are you frustrated at how long it takes for approval to happen for these systems?

SEN. KELLY: Yeah, this conflict’s been going on for a year and a half now. And in the beginning, we provided artillery, ammunition, eventually HIMARS, F-16s are not like other weapons systems. They’re complicated. You have to train pilots, you have to train maintainers. I worked with the administration on that, we’ve gotten them cluster weapons now. ATACMS is an additional capability. There were some issues we had to work through. They’ve been, you know, stressing the need for this over- over a period of time now. And we’re at the point that we’re going to provide them this capability. And I think it’s going to be helpful.

MARGARET BRENNAN: What restrictions should there be, you know, why the apprehension for so long?

SEN. KELLY: Well, an artillery shell goes about 18 miles, an ATACM missile goes about 190 miles. So, there was concern where and against what targets would they use them. We don’t want this to escalate. But we’re at the spot right now where they need an additional capability to maintain some more progress. The progress on this counter offensive, it’s been good. You know, I talked to Ukrainian commanders. There are things that are, you know, starting to provide some, you know, problems, but we’re making progress there.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Very quickly, should Senator Bob Menendez resign from his position?

SEN. KELLY: Well, these are serious and shocking charges of bribery, corruption. I’ve never seen anything like this. He stepped down from being chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. That’s a serious step. I think Senator Menendez is going to have to think long and hard about the cloud that’s going to hang over his service in the United States Senate.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, he is up for reelection. It sounds like you are drawing attention to some questions about that. I have to take a quick–

SEN. KELLY: –He’s, he’s gonna be in–

MARGARET BRENNAN: –Sorry, go ahead. 

SEN. KELLY: I was gonna say he was gonna be in court next week. And he’s- he’s got to figure out whether he can adequately serve the people of New Jersey.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I have to take a quick break and continue this conversation with you on the other side of it. Senator, stay with us. We’ll be right back.

** COMMERCIAL BREAK **

MARGARET BRENNAN: Welcome back to Face The Nation. We continue our conversation now with Arizona Senator Mark Kelly. Senator, the governor of your state said Friday, the state’s overwhelmed. She was talking about migrants. We are on pace for a record number of border crossings. The Vice President told me recently that the administration’s policies are making progress. Do you buy that? Or does the administration need to change their approach here?

SEN. KELLY: Margaret, here’s the thing. I mean, the border in my state and others has been in a crisis for I mean, it’s generations, decades, now. We’ve spent billions of dollars on border security and it- you know, it’s still a problem. I’m on the phone with mayors and sheriffs and the Border Patrol agents frequently. I spoke to Secretary Marcus about this just three times last week. They’re making changes. Border security is national security. I’m really concerned about next week and the government shutting down. If there’s a government shutdown, border patrol agents are not going to get paid. This is going to, I mean, if we think it’s bad today, just think about what that looks like.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, what is the real world impact of that? Tony Gonzalez from Texas was saying, you know, border patrol agents, he claims are being prevented from doing their jobs in the first place right now and so it wouldn’t make that much of a difference. Why do you think practically it really would?

SEN. KELLY: Well, border patrol agents are on the frontline of this crisis. I mean, so are- so are sheriffs, he mentioned sheriffs, but we’ve got thousands and thousands of border patrol agents on the border, enforcing our laws and also processing, you know, asylum seekers. If they stay home. I mean, this crisis will be compounded by an order of magnitude. You know, it’s unconscionable to think that Republicans in the House are going to allow the government to shut down under the circumstances we’re under today. I mean, there’s always been bipartisan support for stopgap spending bills. Having a government shutdown, I mean, it takes off, you know, the growth of our economy is affected. It’s going to affect our air traffic control system. If you’re- if you’re going to travel over the holidays, and there’s a government shutdown, I mean that’s going to impact you. Kids don’t get meals when there’s government shutdown, the military doesn’t get paid. So, these things, these things are connected. We’ve got a crisis at the border, and what the speaker is allowing to happen in the House of Representatives could make this worse.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Senator Kelly, thank you very much for joining us today.

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