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Stephanopoulos to Schumer: Do You Buy That There's Billions in Gov. Waste?

On Monday's Good Morning America, ABC's George Stephanopoulos took a skeptical tone during an interview of liberal Senator Chuck Schumer concerning a new report from Senator Tom Coburn, which pointed out the 100 most wasteful federal government projects of 2010: "He [Coburn] says there are hundreds of billions of dollars of waste. Do you buy that?"

Stephanopoulos turned to Senator Schumer after ABC correspondent Jonathan Karl highlighted the findings of Senator Coburn's "wastebook" report, and led the interview with his "do you buy that" question. After the Democrat from New York gave his initial answer, the former Clinton administration official trumpeted the accomplishments of the outgoing liberal Congress in its lame duck session:

STEPHANOPOULOS: And you are- looking like you're going be [there] until Christmas, doing an awful lot of work during this lame duck session of Congress. I know you were critical of the President's negotiating in this tax compromise, but decided to vote for it. You've also now passed the 'don't ask, don't tell' [repeal], the food safety bill, and you seem to have a breakthrough on something you've been fighting for for years, this several-billion dollar bill to get health benefits to emergency workers for 9/11. Are you confident now that you have the votes to get this through the Senate, and will the House stay in session to make sure it gets passed?

Near the end of the interview, when Good Morning America anchor prompted Schumer to give advice to President Obama on how he should deal with the incoming Republican majority in the House of Representatives, the liberal Senator replied with a hyperbolic attack on conservatives in Congress: "My advice to the President is, compromise when you can, but when people are being unreasonable- and we have hard-right people who seem to be wanting to move us back to the 19th century- draw some lines in the sand and fight."

The full transcript of George Stephanopoulos's interview of Senator Chuck Schumer, which began 12 minutes into the 7 am Eastern hour of Monday's Good Morning America:

STEPHANOPOULOS: Let's get more on this and all of the big issues remaining in the surprisingly packed lame duck session of Congress with New York Senator Chuck Schumer, [who] joins us this morning from the Capitol-

SCHUMER: Good morning- good morning, George.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Good morning. Senator, I want to get to a lot of different things, but let's begin with this report from Senator Coburn. He says there are hundreds of billions of dollars of waste. Do you buy that?

SCHUMER: Well, there's lots of waste in the government- that's true- but Senator Coburn never mentions the outstanding things that we do in the government that senior citizens, soldiers, veterans depend on. And you can't just use a meat ax- you have to use a scalpel, and that's what we're trying to do.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And you are- looking like you're going be [there] until Christmas, doing an awful lot of work during this lame duck session of Congress. I know you were critical of the President's negotiating in this tax compromise, but decided to vote for it. You've also now passed the 'don't ask, don't tell' [repeal], the food safety bill, and you seem to have a breakthrough on something you've been fighting for for years, this several-billion dollar bill to get health benefits to emergency workers for 9/11. Are you confident now that you have the votes to get this through the Senate, and will the House stay in session to make sure it gets passed?

SCHUMER: Well, I believe we have the votes, and Speaker Pelosi- I spoke to her last night again, and she wants to get- do everything we can to get it done. We now have the votes. We made some modifications that some of our Republican colleagues requested, and if no one does undue delay, just stands up and delays and delays and delays, we will get this done, and that's my plea to my colleagues in both the House and Senate. Please don't delay this bill. Let it come to a vote, and we will win. One point, George: the people who rushed to the towers after 9/11- they're our heroes. Just like veterans, they volunteered and risked their lives for us at a time of war. American tradition is we don't turn our backs on them, no matter what state you're from and no matter what party you're from, and I see at this last moments the Congress coming together along those lines.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Why did this take so long?

SCHUMER: It took so long for a number of reasons. First of all, for the first several years, we didn't realize the kinds of terrible illnesses people were getting. The glass and soot that accumulated in your lungs those fateful days after 9/11 didn't begin to bring out the cancers 'til several years later. And then, of course, to figure out how to do this exactly right took a while. The House passed it in September. We're working on it now. It's not too late, but it will be if we don't do anything, because thousands will die because they didn't get adequate medical care.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator, I also want to ask you about the President pushing very hard for the START nuclear arms reduction treaty with the Russians. It's going to take 67 votes in the Senate. You saw the two top Republicans in the Senate announced yesterday they will not vote for it. Can you get the 67 votes you need to ratify?

SCHUMER: I believe we can. The President is working really hard. He's burning up the phone lines on this. Yesterday, [Senator] Thad Cochran, who was a vote that we weren't sure of, said he'd be for it. We do need, of course, nine or ten Republican votes, and I think we will get them. It's going to take- it's going to be a real slog- you know, sort of house-by-house combat, if you will, but I think we'll be there.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Finally, you know, I wonder what you make of how the President is handling Congress and his agenda, in the wake of the midterm losses. As I said, you were critical of the President negotiating- his negotiating style on the tax bill. You got that through. Yet, the spending bill for next year crashed and burned during the session. What does that say about where Congress is going in the next year, and what's the single piece of advice you have for President Obama as he faces a Republican majority in the House?

SCHUMER: Well, first, let me say this: we in the- we Democrats in the House and Senate know we're joined at the hip with the President. He does well, we do well, and vice-versa. So, we're working as a team. We have our differences. I would have pursued the tax bill differently, but once the President made the decision, you saw large unity, particularly in the Senate, and I think you'll see that. My advice to the President is, compromise when you can, but when people are being unreasonable- and we have hard-right people who seem to be wanting to move us back to the 19th century- draw some lines in the sand and fight. So, try to compromise first, do everything you can, but don't give up your fundamental core principles, and I think the American people will respect that.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Okay. Senator Schumer, thanks very much for your time this morning.

SCHUMER: George, nice to talk to you. Merry Christmas.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Thank you very much. Happy holidays.


- Matthew Balan is a news analyst at the Media Research Center. You can follow him on Twitter here.