Full transcript of "Face the Nation" on Jan. 8, 2023

CBS News

On this "Face the Nation" broadcast, moderated by Margaret Brennan:

GOP Rep. Nancy Mace of South CarolinaGOP Rep. Tony Gonzales of TexasDemocratic Rep. Victoria Escobar of TexasIndependent Sen. Angus King of MaineUkrainian Ambassador to the U.S. Oksana Markarova

Click here to browse full transcripts of "Face the Nation." 

MARGARET BRENNAN: I'm Margaret Brennan in Washington.

And this week on Face the Nation: the battle for the head of the House is over. The dust is settling. But how will new Speaker Kevin McCarthy rule with such a bitterly divided group of Republicans?

At long last, after 15 roll call votes spread over more than four days and 25 hours of congressional togetherness on the House floor, the ultraconservative never-Kevin caucus won a number of concessions from California's Kevin McCarthy. The arm-twisting finally paid off.

(Begin VT)

REPRESENTATIVE KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-California): I hope one thing is clear after this week. I never give up.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(End VT)

MARGARET BRENNAN: For the nine-term Bakersfield, California, native, it was a moment of triumph. On the cusp of victory, he claimed the prolonged haggling was a plus.

(Begin VT)

REPRESENTATIVE KEVIN MCCARTHY: This is the great part. Because it took this long, now we learned how to govern.

(End VT)

MARGARET BRENNAN: Let's hope so, because the challenges ahead are daunting.

Speaker McCarthy's Republican Conference has only a tiny five-seat majority, difficult even if his party were united. This conference is not.

We will talk with two House Republicans, South Carolina's Nancy Mace and Tony Gonzales of Texas.

Then: President Biden is headed to the U.S.-Mexico border after unveiling tough new immigration rules meant to discourage illegal entry.

(Begin VT)

JOE BIDEN (President of the United States): Do not just show up at the border. Stay where you are and apply legally from there.

(End VT)

MARGARET BRENNAN: Some Democrats don't like it.

We will talk with El Paso's congresswoman, Veronica Escobar, and get her take.

Maine Senator Angus King is just back from Ukraine. We will talk with him and Ukrainian Ambassador Oksana Markarova.

We have got a new CBS News poll that looks at how Americans are feeling in the new year.

And we will take a closer look at the evolution of a congressional tradition.

It's all just ahead on Face the Nation.

Good morning, and welcome to Face the Nation.

It was early yesterday morning when Kevin McCarthy finally secured enough Republican votes to give him the gavel.

(Begin VT)

REPRESENTATIVE KEVIN MCCARTHY: That was easy, huh?

(LAUGHTER)

REPRESENTATIVE KEVIN MCCARTHY: I never thought we'd get up here.

(End VT)

MARGARET BRENNAN: That latter sentiment was felt by many Americans, after watching the proceedings drag on for days.

(Begin VT)

REPRESENTATIVE KEVIN MCCARTHY: Do you solemnly swear, affirm...

(End VT)

MARGARET BRENNAN: Congress was finally sworn in, and they are officially on the job.

(Begin VT)

CONGRESS MEMBERS: (r)MD-IT_I do.

(End VT)

MARGARET BRENNAN: But the challenges ahead are enormous, especially for McCarthy, who was forced to make concessions to a small group of holdout conservatives in order to win their support. Will he live to regret what he agreed to?

We begin with one of the Republican members of Congress who was with Speaker McCarthy on all votes. That's Nancy Mace of South Carolina.

Good morning to you, Congresswoman. Welcome back.

REPRESENTATIVE NANCY MACE (R-South Carolina): Good morning. Thank you.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Again and again, 14 times, the hard right faction of your party refused to vote for Kevin McCarthy, even after he was making repeated concessions to them.

How can Republicans possibly govern when your party is so unruly?

REPRESENTATIVE NANCY MACE: Well, first of all, I want to say, number one, Kevin McCarthy is the only member that I know of that can bring all the different groups together within our own party, because we do have different factions, just like Democrats do.

And that's -- that's the first thing. And then the second thing is that, sometimes, democracy is messy. It looked kind of like an unnecessary and prolonged food fight last week. And I agreed with many Americans who thought that. I came home this weekend and listened to folks of all sides. I represent a very purple district. I have all sides to serve.

And there was a lot of was a lot of frustration with the prolonged and unnecessary food fight that we had this week. But you saw democracy on full display. And I think that's healthy to have that kind of debate. I'm glad that it's over and we can move forward.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, I mean, some would say it wasn't so much democracy as it was dysfunction.

"The Wall Street Journal" editorial page was pretty scathing, said: "Don't believe the happy talk this was a healthy display of deliberative democracy. It was a power play. A group of backbenchers saw an opportunity to exploit the narrow GOP margin of five seats to put themselves in positions of power that they hadn't earned through seniority or influence with colleagues."

If this rules package passes, with all the concessions that Speaker McCarthy made, this will be leave you beholden, won't it, to those backbenchers?

REPRESENTATIVE NANCY MACE: Well, a couple of things I want -- I want to say.

On the rules package, the rules that are governed the way -- that will govern the way the House operates, there are some very great, good ideas in there, like the 72-hour rule, having three days to read a bill before it comes to the floor for a vote, having a path to balance the budget over the next 10 years, ensuring that there are spending offsets, especially with mandatory spending.

If you're going to increase in one area, then you have to decrease in another. But I will tell you, when I ran for Congress two years ago, I won by one point, and I ran to be a new Nancy in the House. And what I saw last week was a small faction of the 20 who were acting just like the old Nancy, trying to cut backroom deals in private and secret without anyone knowing what else was going on.

And when they did the rules package at the end of the day, there was only one point that was changed. That was on the motion to vacate. That was the only difference in the package that we're going to be voting on tomorrow that was different from the original package that was proposed.

So, my question really is today is, what backroom deals were cut, did they try to cut, and did they get those? Because we shouldn't be operating like Nancy Pelosi, this small faction. And they're the ones that are saying they were -- quote -- "fighting the swamp," but then yet went and tried to act like, you know -- like, they actually are the swamp by trying to do these backroom deals.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.

REPRESENTATIVE NANCY MACE: And we don't know what they got or didn't get. We haven't seen it. We don't have any idea what promises were made or what gentleman's handshakes were made.

We just -- we just have no idea at this point. And it does give me quite a bit of heartburn, because that's not what we ran.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So, Speaker...

REPRESENTATIVE NANCY MACE: It is quite ironic.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But -- well, so, you're saying Speaker McCarthy is not being transparent about all the deals that he brokered in order to win this job?

REPRESENTATIVE NANCY MACE: I'm saying there's a small handful of individuals in that 20 who were trying to cut deals in secret, and not letting anybody else know about them.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Didn't they succeed in doing that?

REPRESENTATIVE NANCY MACE: We're not sure. We don't know at this point.

And that does give me pause and gives me significant heartburn on what direction we're going to take.

MARGARET BRENNAN: OK.

REPRESENTATIVE NANCY MACE: I represent a purple district. I have to represent Republicans, Democrats and independents.

I want to know that the positions that I have are going to have a voice, that it will have weight in the conference. There are a lot of members like me that that have issues with some of the policies that we're going to be working on. Look at what happened after overturning of Roe v. Wade.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.

REPRESENTATIVE NANCY MACE: We didn't have a plan.

And I want -- as a woman and as a victim of rape, want to know that we're going to be serious, that we're going to be balanced in protecting the rights of women and protecting the rights of the unborn.

MARGARET BRENNAN: OK.

REPRESENTATIVE NANCY MACE: There's a way to do both, and not be guided by one extreme or the other.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, I just want to clarify there, because it -- I had asked you initially about the rules package, which is published and would be voted on tomorrow.

REPRESENTATIVE NANCY MACE: Right. Right.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Are you saying that you're going to withhold your vote on those published agreements until you know what these backroom deals were?

REPRESENTATIVE NANCY MACE: I am considering that as an option right now.

MARGARET BRENNAN: OK.

REPRESENTATIVE NANCY MACE: I like the rules package. It is the most, open, fair and fiscally conservative package we have had in 30 years. I support it.

But what I don't support is a small number of people trying to get a deal done or deals done for themselves...

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.

REPRESENTATIVE NANCY MACE: ... in private, in secret to get a vote or a vote present. I don't support that.

MARGARET BRENNAN: OK.

REPRESENTATIVE NANCY MACE: That is just what Nancy Pelosi does. And that's not what they should be doing.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you...

REPRESENTATIVE NANCY MACE: And so I am on the fence right now about the rules package vote tomorrow for that reason.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Got it.

It reportedly includes a pledge that would likely require a $75 billion cut to national security funding. Do you support that part of it?

REPRESENTATIVE NANCY MACE: I want to see -- I want to see it in writing. I want to see what promises were made.

And what we are being told is that these handshakes, what's going on, these promises, will go through regular order and go through the regular appropriations process. I don't want to see defense cuts. I -- again, we don't -- we don't know what deals were made. And that's something that we should be transparent about

Sunshine is the best medicine.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.

REPRESENTATIVE NANCY MACE: That's what we have always said. So, what -- what are we guaranteeing or what promises were made? We should know.

MARGARET BRENNAN: The speaker has reportedly given the Freedom Caucus, that ultraconservative faction, a third of the seats on the powerful Rules Committee, which controls which bills make it to the floor.

You have called Matt Gaetz, one of its members, a political D-lister and a fraud. You have sparred with Marjorie Taylor Greene. I will show our viewers part of that and let them interpret your meaning.

How are you going to work with these folks to get anything done for the American people?

REPRESENTATIVE NANCY MACE: It's going to be very difficult.

Matt Gaetz is a fraud. Every time he voted against Kevin McCarthy last week, he sent out a fund-raising e-mail. What you saw last week was a constitutional process diminished by those kinds of political actions. I don't support that kind of behavior.

I am very concerned, as someone who represents a lot of centrists, a lot of independents -- I have as many independents and Democrats as I have Republicans in my district. I have to represent everybody. I am concerned that commonsense legislation will not get through to get a vote on the floor.

And I -- for example, we have 12 bills that we're supposedly going to be voting on in our first week in office. Three of them are abortion -- abortion bills and pro-life bills. I am pro-life, but I have many exceptions. But they are not legislation, pieces of legislation, that can pass the Senate and get onto the desk for the president to sign into law.

And so if we're going to be serious about protecting life, for example, maybe we should look at more centrist views, like ensuring every woman has access to birth control, because, if you can reduce pregnancies, you can reduce the need or want for women to have abortions...

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.

REPRESENTATIVE NANCY MACE: ... for example, a very commonsense, pragmatic point of view.

But that's not what we're going to be voting on this week.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.

REPRESENTATIVE NANCY MACE: And I am concerned.

I want to see pragmat -- pragmatics at work, common sense, fiscal conservative issues at work that represent all views.

MARGARET BRENNAN: OK.

Before I let you go, I have to ask you. You have a new colleague from the state of New York, Representative George Santos. He says he's embellished his resume. You could say he just flat-out lied about work history, education, family background.

How can you work with someone like that? And does he need to be removed from office?

REPRESENTATIVE NANCY MACE: It's very difficult to work with anyone who cannot be trusted.

And it's very clear his entire resume in life was -- was manufactured, until a couple of days ago, when he finally changed his Web site. It is a problem. If we say we can't trust the left when they aren't telling the truth, how can we trust our own?

Americans want transparency. And the one lesson I have learned in D.C., if you want a friend you can trust, get a dog.

(LAUGHTER)

REPRESENTATIVE NANCY MACE: So...

MARGARET BRENNAN: I understand you are a dog fan.

All right, Congresswoman, thank you.

REPRESENTATIVE NANCY MACE: I am a huge dog fan.

MARGARET BRENNAN: All right.

REPRESENTATIVE NANCY MACE: Thank you.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Nancy Mace, thank you for your time this morning.

We want to go to another Republican, Tony Gonzales of Texas. He is in San Antonio this morning.

Congressman, let's get right to it.

I saw you said on FOX News Friday you're very worried and the American public should be terrified at what the 118th Congress is going to look like with all this division. Exactly what do we need to be prepared for?

REPRESENTATIVE TONY GONZALES (R-Texas): Yes, Margaret. Good morning. Thank you for having me.

You know, the speaker vote is the easiest vote we'll take in Congress. And it was pretty chaotic. The rules -- the rules package is the next easiest vote. It's -- look, the House of Representatives is a rough and rowdy place. Anybody that watched C-SPAN this week got to see it firsthand.

This is only the beginning. And with a such a small minority, Republicans are much different than Democrats. We're not just going to line up and jump off the cliff. All of us represent our districts and we're going to fight for that.

I spent 20 years in the military.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.

REPRESENTATIVE TONY GONZALES: Beyond my district, we've got a nation to save. And -- and part of this division doesn't help. But at the end of the day, you can't let you know the insurgency caucus take hold and dictate.

You know, Kevin McCarthy ran on this Commitment to America, great leadership. He put this together. Many of us got elected this cycle because of this Commitment to America.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.

REPRESENTATIVE TONY GONZALES: These are the type of policies that we have to initiate.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So you dropped a bit of a bomb when you said that, even though you have supported McCarthy and voted for him, you are going to vote against this rules package tomorrow that includes some of the deals he brokered.

Why? And how many Republicans are with you? And then what happens?

REPRESENTATIVE TONY GONZALES: Yeah, McCarthy's a great leader.

Like, once again, he put together this Commitment to America agenda that we have all circled behind. The reason why I'm voting against the rules package was really two -- two specific reasons. One, we were supposed to vote on this rules package in the dead of the night right after swearing in, which I think is very, not transparent of what happens.

I'm pleased to see that that has now been pushed to Monday. That gives a lot of people an opportunity to -- to -- to vote on it in -- during -- during the daylight hours.

But the second reason...

MARGARET BRENNAN: Did it change your mind?

REPRESENTATIVE TONY GONZALES: ... more importantly, was, this is -- this has a proposed billions-of-dollar cut to defense, which I think is a horrible idea, when you have aggressive Russia in Ukraine, you've got a growing threat of China in the Pacific.

I'm going to visit Taiwan here in a couple of weeks. How am I going to look at our allies in the eye and say, I need you to increase your defense budget, but yet America is going to decrease ours?

MARGARET BRENNAN: So, that is -- you are still going to vote against it tomorrow.

How many Republicans are with you? And does this cause further chaos?

REP. TONY GONZALES: You know, I am going to vote against it.

But there's a difference between voting against it and whipping other members to vote against it. I would say, in this case, I'm not whipping other members to vote against it. But what I will give you an example. If - - you know, if these -- this insurgency caucus decides to put anti- immigrant legislation on the floor and masquerade it as border security policy, that's not going to fly.

MARGARET BRENNAN: OK.

REPRESENTATIVE TONY GONZALES: And I will do everything in my power to make sure that type of legislation fails on the floor.

So, this is -- this is one of many votes, I think, in the 118th Congress that have to be well-thought-out.

MARGARET BRENNAN: OK, I want to get to the border in a quick moment.

But let me quickly ask you, how can Republicans possibly govern and do things that are essential, like dealing with the debt ceiling, without causing more chaos and potentially economic catastrophe? How can you get your party in line for important, basic work?

REPRESENTATIVE TONY GONZALES: Yes, it's going to be ugly.

I mean, you look at the White House, the White House is a dumpster fire. You look at the Senate, the Senate is chaotic. You look at the House, and you -- I mean, if you're an American just sitting down watching TV, you're going, where has this country gone?

What has happened, what I see is, there's nothing but politicians getting up here and grandstanding. It's time for leadership. And I think what you're going to see is, leadership has to be from the ground up. It has to be the rank and file come together and say, enough is enough.

You know, I'm a conservative Republican that wants to see the border secure...

MARGARET BRENNAN: OK.

REPRESENTATIVE TONY GONZALES: ... that wants to see inflation get put down.

So, these type of things is what we need to focus on.

MARGARET BRENNAN: OK.

Last time you were here, you said you wanted to go with President Biden to the border. He's going there today. Are you participating at all? Have you had any contact with the White House about migration?

REPRESENTATIVE TONY GONZALES: I'm very disappointed in the administration.

You know, seven months ago, I hosted the president in Uvalde, and I asked him to visit on the border. He looked me in the eye and he said: "Tony, yes."

Seven months later, when I tried to be part of this El Paso visit, which I represent El Paso, I represent 50 -- nearly 50 percent of the southern border -- the White House told me, I wasn't -- I wasn't able to be part of it.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Why?

REPRESENTATIVE TONY GONZALES: What does that mean? That means -- that means that Democrats are using this as a political -- they think this is a political challenge, not a policy challenge.

Clearly, you know, you see these images a couple of weeks ago of hundreds of people in a cell. That's not a political challenge. That is a policy challenge.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Why? Why did they tell you can't come? What did they say?

REPRESENTATIVE TONY GONZALES: I don't know. That's the frustrating part.

You know, on one end, you're hearing them say they -- you know, that they want to work with Republicans.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.

REPRESENTATIVE TONY GONZALES: I'm not this crazy extremist Republican. I'm jumping up and down, pushing against my party when I think it's right, looking for ways to solve problems.

What I don't want to see is a terrorist action happen and say, I told you so. I have no interest in that. I'm trying to keep America safe. The administration just has turned a blind eye. And it goes to show they think that their policy is correct. And it's dangerous.

If you're -- it should scare the hell out of every American out there to say this administration is going to going to double down. And it's going to taint the Biden administration. It's going to taint Biden's legacy.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes, well -- well, actual legislation on the border would require your party to also help out.

But, very quickly, George Santos, new New York Congressman. We just talked to Congresswoman Mace. She has a problem with the fact that he is consistently lying. He is also under investigation. Do you think he should be removed from office?

REPRESENTATIVE TONY GONZALES: I think -- look, there's a lot of frauds in Congress. I think a lot of people got to see that firsthand over the last week.

I mean, George Santos is the least of this country's worries.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So, he should stay?

REPRESENTATIVE TONY GONZALES: We have a lot of things to worry about. Step one is -- is getting this rules package done.

MARGARET BRENNAN: OK.

All right, I got to go. Congressman, thank you very much.

When we come back in one minute, new insights into how Americans are feeling about the economy, democracy and politics in the new year.

Stay with us.

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)

MARGARET BRENNAN: Our first CBS News poll of 2023 is out.

Overall, Americans are feeling better about some things in the new year. But there's still a lot of angst out there.

Mark Strassmann reports from Atlanta.

(Begin VT)

MARK STRASSMANN (voice-over): American confidence, historically fickle, gaped at this scene, the country's elected grownups grappling, another flash point in a four-day, 15-ballot debacle.

No wonder our new CBS News poll shows 70 percent of Americans generally pessimistic about U.S. politics right now, and 55 percent disapprove of the way Republicans picked their new speaker of the House.

About the economy, especially with inflation's long shadow and recession fears, Friday's jobs report suggested the economy is cooling, with wage gains slowing. Unemployment is at 3.5 percent, a 50-year low, but expect interest rates to rise again in 2023.

Our CBS News poll shows Americans feel better about the condition of the economy than they did six months ago. But when it comes to specific economic measures, 59 percent feel pessimistic about the stock market, 70 percent pessimistic about the cost of goods and services.

ALEX PELLE (Economist, Mizuho Securities USA): But we are starting from a position of strength. So, that is something that people can take comfort in.

MARK STRASSMANN: But what about Americans' strength overall in this post- pandemic phase of recovery and renewal? Our poll shows only 34 percent of Americans, one-third, believe life in this country is going well.

The good news? That's up from one in four last year. Nearly half say they're scared, while nearly another half feel hopeful about 2023.

(End VT)

MARK STRASSMANN: Two years after the January 6 riots, our poll also showed roughly three in four Americans agree the results of last year's midterms were legitimate.

But most Americans also believe our democracy remains threatened, another area that showed improvement, but still has a long way to go -- Margaret.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mark Strassmann, thank you.

And when we come back, we will take a closer look at some of the very new faces we met in the first days of the 118th Congress.

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)

MARGARET BRENNAN: A lot of us were glued to last week's coverage of the battle for speaker on the House floor, and particularly taken by the pictures of all of the children and grandchildren in the chamber for those marathon sessions, also awaiting the official swearing-in of House members.

This year, we saw a lot more dads in charge, both on the House floor during boats and behind the scenes, especially when some moms had to head home to work. California Democratic Congressman Jimmy Gomez was one of those dads. His 4-month-old son, Hodge, became a social media and national TV star as he and his father bonded on and off the House floor. Baby Hodge had a firsthand view of all of the chaos from his forward-facing baby wrap.

The last time children were in the spotlight during the first days of Congress was back in 2007. That's when Nancy Pelosi became the first woman speaker. She appeared on Face the Nation right after that with our Bob Schieffer.

(Begin VT)

BOB SCHIEFFER: Let me ask you about being the first woman speaker.

That was quite a scene. When you were sworn in, you called all the kids, your grandkids, the members' kids to come up to the rostrum with you.

Did you mean that to be a signal of a different kind of House?

REPRESENTATIVE NANCY PELOSI (D-California): Well, certainly, a woman speaker, it represents change. And I have said it over and over in the campaign, that I will receive the gavel, the speaker's gavel, from the hands of the special interests and into the hands of America's children.

I was so thrilled. The children weren't shy. They all came running up. And I want our members to know that every action that we take in the Congress, we must do with an eye to our children and their future. We owe that to them.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Do you believe that, as a woman, the first woman, that you will be held to a higher standard?

I have heard some people go so far as to say, if she's not successful, it will have an impact on candidates in the 2008 presidential election.

REPRESENTATIVE NANCY PELOSI: Well, let me remove all doubt. I have absolutely no intention of not being successful.

I have -- I'm ready for this job. The Democrats in general are ready to lead, prepared to govern, and determined to make the American people proud.

(End VT)

MARGARET BRENNAN: Nancy Pelosi has served in the House for more than 35 years, eight of those as speaker. And she's back to being Congresswoman Pelosi.

As for little Hodge Gomez, he's eligible to serve in another 24-and-a-half years.

We will be right back with a lot more Face the Nation. Stay with us.

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)

MARGARET BRENNAN: If you miss an episode of Face the Nation, you can listen to our podcast. Find us on Amazon Music or wherever you get your podcasts.

We will be right back with a lot more Face the Nation. Stay with us.

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)

MARGARET BRENNAN: Welcome back to FACE THE NATION.

President Biden travels to El Paso today after announcing new border enforcement actions last week. Democratic Congresswoman Veronica Escobar will travel with the president to Texas later today.

I'm so glad you could join us.

REP. VERONICA ESCOBAR (D-TX): Thank you for having me.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So, the president is going to visit one of the busiest ports of entry in El Paso and he's going to meet with officials and other aid organizations. What can he do to make sure that this three-hour visit is more than just a photo op?

VERONICA ESCOBAR: Well, we've worked with the White House to make sure that all the folks who are actually doing the work on the ground day-to-day are the ones that the president will meet with. He needs to hear about how over time the challenges that we have faced as a country on immigration, on border issues, they have grown exponentially.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So, we looked at the latest CBS polling. Only 38 percent of Americans actually approve of what the president is doing on immigration, 62 percent disapprove. This has consistently been one of his weakest issues. And it was just this last week he gave his very first speech on the border policy. For the first time he's going today. And it's taken, what, two years to find some kind of alternative to Title 42. I understand it's going before the Supreme Court, but why is it taking so long to get just this?

VERONICA ESCOBAR: This challenge that we're facing is so complex. I'm with you. I would have loved to have seen the administration lean in on immigration from day one because --

MARGARET BRENNAN: Why didn't they?

VERONICA ESCOBAR: You know, you'd have to ask them that.

The executive branch is not the only branch of government that needs to do its job, though. And - and I will tell you, I've worked very closely with Secretary Mayorkas. He has been phenomenal. Every idea that I have asked him to explore, he has. Every collaboration I've asked him to engage in, he has. Where - where it's been -- where I've hit a brick wall is Congress. And, frankly, Democrats and Republicans alike.

I'm hoping things change. There's a bipartisan delegation going to El Paso from the Senate tomorrow and I hope they see what the president will see today -

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.

VERONICA ESCOBAR: Which is opportunity, but also long overdue work.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Let's talk about what the administration did just announce, because it was pretty big, this policy. They're expanding the use of that same Title 42 policy, the pandemic-era restrictions that allow for expulsion without guarantee of asylum hearings. And it's going to allow them to dramatically step up expulsions of Cubans, Nicaraguans, Haitians, Venezuelans. They make up the majority of those crossing.

You oppose Title 42. Does that mean you oppose what the Biden administration is doing?

VERONICA ESCOBAR: Well, it's a complicated answer. So, the - the administration, in the absence of any legislation from the - the Congress -

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.

VERONICA ESCOBAR: Has very few tools available. I -- I'm a staunch opponent of Title 42. In fact, I think Title 42 is the reason why those apprehension -- or encounter numbers are so high, because people kept trying over and over and over again. When you're expelled from the border, you're going to try in different areas.

I think it also helped fuel the human trafficking that we've seen a significant increase in. And all of this started with the Trump administration.

When -- in my conversations with the Department of Homeland Security, because a Louisiana judge essentially created a situation where they have to continue to use Title 42, they can't go to a different policy, which was used prior to Title 42 called Title 8.

Now, Title 8 is - is much more punitive. And I think that is what the administration is ultimately going to go towards once a judge allows the Biden administration to do away with Title 42.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Which could come in June when the Supreme Court rules.

VERONICA ESCOBAR: Could come in June. And - but even then, Margaret, we will not have had a legislative solution. So, all of these executive branch efforts really are just temporary band-aids. Whether it's Title 8, whether it's Title 42, we need to make sure that Congress acts.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes. And it sounds like you don't have a lot of high hopes for that kind of action.

But let me ask about the Biden policy. So it's going to allow 30 - up to 30,000 migrants per month from the four countries we just listed to enter if they have a U.S. sponsor. It will also allow migrants to apply via cell phone app, something called CBP1.

Does someone fleeing abject poverty really have a cell phone to apply for access?

VERONICA ESCOBAR: The vast majority of refugees who are fleeing their home countries do have cell phones. That's how they communicate with one another. That's how they communicate with their - the folks at home.

But I will tell you, we do need far more robust State Department involvement, especially for those who do not have access to that kind of technology. We need far greater education. Many of the refugees that I have spoken to, especially over the last couple of weeks, are - have no concept of what the asylum process is.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.

VERONICA ESCOBAR: Their idea is, I'm going to go to the border, I'm going to get a job and I'm - and I'm going to help my family. Something all of us would do, of course. So, there's a lot of work that needs to be done, whether it's assisting those who don't have a cell phone access these services and legal pathways offered through CBP1, or whether it is helping to educate folks about those legal pathways so that they have a better shot.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I asked you that because I know some have argued it's discriminatory against those who have the least.

Mexico, as part of this Biden agreement, has agreed to take about 30,000 people a month from the four countries, but one of the things that we've consistently heard over the past few years, and it was a harsh criticism of the Trump administration, is that when individuals are pushed back to Mexico, and they're awaiting some kind of action, they face a lot of violence.

VERONICA ESCOBAR: That's right.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So, if you criticized it during the Trump administration, you must be a critic during the Biden administration.

VERONICA ESCOBAR: Absolutely. And that's why I'm - I'm grateful that the president's going to Mexico City to talk to the president. Every step of the journey along the way for these refugees, people who leave with little more than a backpack and their hopes and dreams experience a nightmarish journey along the way. And many migrants have told me, in fact, that the - the most dangerous part of the journey is in Mexico. And so there's a lot of work that needs to be done.

But, Margaret, not just in Mexico, but for the entire hemisphere. We are seeing people flee their home countries, heading to Costa Rica, heading to - to countries all - all south of here. We - we have to make sure that diplomatically we are engaging at the highest levels. And, finally, giving the western hemisphere the kind of attention that it has lacked for a long time by - by the U.S. government.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Congresswoman, thank you for your time today.

VERONICA ESCOBAR: Thank you, Margaret.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We'll be right back.

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)

MARGARET BRENNAN: Turning now to the war in Ukraine. We are joined by Maine's independent senator, Angus King, who just returned from a trip to Kyiv.

Good morning to you, Senator. I understand you -- you just got back.

SEN. ANGUS KING (I-ME): Last night.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Last night. And you met Friday with President Zelenskyy.

What was the purpose of this visit?

ANGUS KING: I once did a visit overseas and an - and an old man in Pakistan, as a matter of fact, said, I know why you are here. And I said, why is that? And he said, because one of day of seeing is better than 100 days of reading. And I believe you got to see, you've got to be there and meet the people in person. And we had a very informative trip. There's a lot to learn and a lot to be able to communicate back here about what's going on in Ukraine.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, as you were over there, here, the White House announced it was released roughly $3 billion in security aid to Ukraine. It was the biggest, sort of one-time package. It included, for the first time, tank-busting armored vehicles.

Why such a surge now? Is it to get ahead of what may be a pretty serious spring offensive? What are we preparing for?

ANGUS KING: Well, there are -- there are - there are two factors. And - and the - the Ukrainians, particularly, the first thing is air defense. I mean they're just being pummeled -- that's too mild of a word -- in terms of their energy infrastructure. So, air defense is part of it, patriot missiles.

But also what's going on in the east is essentially trench warfare. It's almost World War I. It's horrible. And these -- these armored vehicles are designed to deal with it -- that kind of situation -- to give the Ukrainians a fighting chance against this invasion that's going on.

And to put it in perspective for Americans, it's as if our East Coast, from Maine to Florida, and then west to Houston, Texas, was being occupied by a foreign power. That's the entire eastern edge of Ukraine is occupied, and that's where this fight is going to be. And that's why these maneuver vehicles are going to be so important.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But this drawdown, which is what they call it technically, presidential authority, allows for an immediate or close to immediate delivery of some of this weaponry. And I am hearing increased concern here in the United States that sending weapons there is depleting U.S. stockpiles in a way that's concerning to some officials.

How concerned are you about that? And how does -- how do you, in Congress, get ahead of that to make sure the U.S. isn't hurt?

ANGUS KING: Well, part of it is replenishing our stockpiles. But you're right, that's - and that's a decision that the - the Pentagon, the Defense Department, has to weigh when they're doing these drawdowns.

And, by the way, a lot of this equipment is coming from other countries. It's not just coming from the United States. So, some of the fighting vehicles are coming from France. Patriot battery from Germany. So, that is an issue but it's one that I know in the deliberations about what the drawdowns are going to look like, stockpiles is - is part of the issue.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, and it also makes me think of the -- two of the conversations we just had in this program in terms of potential slash to defense spending that could potentially happen if this House proposal actually gets approved.

ANGUS KING: It - it would be -- it would be catastrophic to cut off aid to Ukraine at this point. I would just ask those people that are making those noises to read a little history. Google Sudetenland in 1938, Rhineland in 1936, when Hitler could have been stopped. When he wasn't stopped, we ended up with 55 million deaths worldwide.

This is a moment where we know that Putin wants to take over Ukraine. He wants to rebuild the Soviet Union. Mia Angelou says, if someone tells you who they are, you should believe them.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.

ANGUS KING: And who he is, is a guy that wants to rebuild the Soviet empire. And this is a place where he can be stopped.

They -- the Ukrainians are fighting for us, for our values. The aid that we're providing to them isn't charity, it's - it's self-interest.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And you believe there is enough accounting for what is being given? Is it --

ANGUS KING: I'm so - I'm so glad you asked that, because that was part of my mission. I spent a lot of time in Kyiv on accountability. And, in fact, sitting across from President Zelenskyy, just as you and I are, I asked him point blank, what's the status of accountability? If there's a scandal, it's going to kill our ability to support you. He understands that.

And then later we had a meeting with many of their defense officials and privates, their finance people. They're developing -- they're working with Deloitte, the accounting firm, they're working with SAP software, they're accounting for every spare part that's coming into the country.

Plus, we have an inspector general from the Pentagon who's going over, I think, next month. I was very impressed by the level of accountability. And so this argument that somehow the money is being wasted, I don't think holds water.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Let me ask you about things here at home and the conversation about the U.S. border that we have been having.

There are Republicans who want to get something done in this new Congress. You've got Republican-held House. You've got a 51-49 Senate. Is there any possibility of getting legislation on immigration or anything?

ANGUS KING: To me, there's an obvious deal on immigration, which is, heighten border security, which is very complicated. And I want to talk to the congresswoman that you just had on talking about what -- the ideas that she has. Republicans along the border, the Republican Congressman Gonzales. I want to learn. And - and there are a lot of people working on, how do we figure out the border.

But the deal is, increased border security, a path to citizenship for dreamers, and workforce. I'm hearing from businesses in Maine all the time about a shortage of workers. It's one of our biggest economic problems after inflation. So, we've - we've got to work on legal immigration for workforce.

So, I think, as I say, there's a package. And border security is where it starts. And I - I believe, I'm delighted the administration -- the president's going down there today. They should have gone sooner, in my view. But let's - let's work on this because we - we can't have the chaos and the humanitarian crisis that we have. Let's - let's find that. But then put together a package involving dreamers and involving workforce. That's where I think we can move. And we ought to be able to move in a - in a bipartisan way.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well -- well, you're a centrist. You're an independent. Though your caucus with Democrat. So, you can - you can say you want to work with everyone. But the politics right now are just so divisive. I read something you told "The New Yorker" last year where you said you have never been so worried about the future of the country because the structure of our system is at risk.

Do you still feel that way? Is it improving?

ANGUS KING: Well, what happened in the House this week wasn't reassuring because what you had was 20 people -- I did the math, 3.7 percent of the membership of Congress held it hostage for a week. And I don't know what -- what that foretells for the future. Yes, that is a concern.

On the other hand, since I had that quote, which I certainly think has some validity, we've had one of the most productive congresses in the last 25 or 30 years. Almost all on a bipartisan basis. Not all. But the infrastructure bill, the CHIPS Act, the PACT Act for the veterans. All of those bills were done in -- on a bipartisan basis. And they started, interestingly, from the ground up. They started organically from a few members getting together, working from the middle out. The leadership blessed it. They allowed it to happen. But that's the path. And I'm hoping -- I think immigration is a great opportunity to do the same thing.

MARGARET BRENNAN: All right. Well, we'll end on that optimistic note.

Senator, thank you for joining us.

ANGUS KING: Thank you, Margaret.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We'll be back in a moment with Ukraine's ambassador to the United States, Oksana Markarova.

Stay with us.

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)

MARGARET BRENNAN: We are joined by the Ukrainian ambassador to the United States, Oksana Markarova.

Welcome back to the program. Always good to have you here.

OKSANA MARKAROVA (Ukrainian Ambassador to the United States): Good to be here.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I understand you are just back from visiting your family in Ukraine. Over the holidays we saw Russia bombed hospitals on Christmas. On New Year's they were also bombing your country. What is life like during the holiday season?

OKSANA MARKAROVA: Well, it was - it was very good to be home. And, you know, when this invasion started on February 24th, until my first trip home in April, and it was right after the -- my hometown was liberated a couple of days, literally, before that, I always woke up thinking, is that a bad dream? Like, I always try to, you know, fight with the reality.

But, you know, going back always, on the one hand, gives you a good perspective of how horrible it is. And, on the other hand, inspires, because you see everyone not giving up. And everyone is -- even throughout the holiday seasons when the bombs are still flying everywhere, the destruction is enormous, people are very focused on winning. People are very focused on helping each other.

And there was still a festive spirit everywhere. People were singing. You know, people were trying to give gifts to each other. But, of course, the main focus is helping our brave defenders and doing everything possible to win.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We were just talking with Senator King about this massive package President Biden just signed off on, which also had sort of increase in the type of weapons and - and defense items for Ukraine.

Why do you need this so immediately? What are you preparing for?

OKSANA MARKAROVA: Well, first of all, let me take this moment to thank the previous Congress for voting on the legislation and allowing us to have the possibility to have this packages this year for everything that we need from the financial assistance, but most importantly security assistance.

MARGARET BRENNAN: That was the $45 billion.

OKSANA MARKAROVA: Yes. Yes. And the fact that, you know, we have this support from American people is very valued in Ukraine. So, everyone, you know, president, Congress, big thank you.

Why do we need more? Because we see that, a, we need to increase the liberation speed of our - of our land. We need to free more people as soon as possible because we see what happens when they're under occupation. We also do not intend to stop. We do not intend to take operational pauses, which Russia probably needs because they have problem with their motivation, they have problem with even the rockets. I mean they have so many of them. But they -- we would like to faster get to peace, which means we have to liberate our territories faster.

So, whatever we can get from air defense to all the armored vehicles to everything that you saw in the package, we need even more because we are facing much larger enemy.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So, this package of $45 billion from the last Congress should take you through next year according to some officials, U.S. officials.

When President Zelenskyy was here in Washington on that surprise visit, he did meet with Kevin McCarthy, who is now speaker of the House. Did you get assurances that U.S. support will continue with Republicans in control?

OKSANA MARKAROVA: We are fighting for the same values and for the same principles. We are fighting against the evil, which is a threat not only to Ukraine, it's existential threat for us, but is a threat to everyone who believes in democracy.

And I can say that our meetings during the president's visit here, both with president, administration, but also with all leaders in Senate and House of Representatives on a very strong bipartisan basis have been very constructive and very productive. I believe the American people support us and will support us until we together can win this.

MARGARET BRENNAN: When the president was here, President Zelenskyy was here, he said, financial assistance is not charity, it's an investment. And he said, Ukraine will be responsible with it.

But given the concerns about corruption over years past, how do you respond when you were asked that question of how do you guarantee every dollar being given to Ukraine is going to defense and not to, you know, embezzlement or something else?

OKSANA MARKAROVA: I can only quote Senator King, who was just here. First on -- there are three types of assistances, right, budget assistance, security and humanitarian.

On security, we're not getting the money, we're getting the goods. And we're very grateful for them. And the accountability for every piece that we are getting is there. We are not only sharing implementation, we are implementing NATO systems in place and we are ready - and already are providing information. And we know where everything is located.

On the budget assistance, we have reported on all assistance that has been provided to us. There is an audit underway. But we have also sent - I mean it's very clear where we are spending the money on. And our ministry of finance has reported even before the audit is complete, and I have shared that report with every member of the previous Congress. And we intend to do so in the future.

The inspector generals are involved already, from Pentagon but from other, from Department of State, from Treasury. So, we are not only open and ready, it's in our interest as well. In order to prove why we need more and that we're using it very effectively and efficiently, we would like to be as open as possible.

Every U.S. dollar that is given to us, we are putting it to a good use and we're using it as an investment into our joint fight for democracy.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to ask you about something we've talked about in the past, and that is what's happening to Ukraine's children. More than 13,000 were deported to Russia. Are you having any luck in getting your children back?

OKSANA MARKAROVA: Well, first, unfortunately, we know the number is much larger than that. The 13,000 is the official number of the children we accounted for, we found. But we know we already have so many, you know, tens if not hundreds of thousands of people who we don't know their fate yet. And until we liberate our territories, we will not know.

Out of the 13,000, the vice prime minister already informed that 212 have been returned. And 212 is, of course, a small number, even though, unlike Russians, every child and every life is very precious to us. So, we're so happy that these 212 are home.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.

OKSANA MARKAROVA: But we will not get tired and we will not stop until all of them are back home.

MARGARET BRENNAN: All right.

OKSANA MARKAROVA: That's why we need more weapons to liberate our territories and people.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Ambassador, we'll continue to follow this story and talk to you.

Thank you.

OKSANA MARKAROVA: Thank you.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We have to go.

And we'll be right back.

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)

MARGARET BRENNAN: If you can't watch the full FACE THE NATION, you can set your DVR or we are available on demand. Plus, you can watch us through our CBS or Paramount Plus app and on our streaming network.

That's going to do it for us today. Thank you for watching.

Until next week, for FACE THE NATION, I'm Margaret Brennan.

Ukrainian ambassador to U.S. says Kyiv needs "even more" military aid to defeat Russia

Sen. Angus King says cutting aid to Ukraine would be "catastrophic"

Escobar previews Biden's trip to southern border