▶ Watch Video: GOP Rep. Tony Gonzales has “no doubt” that U.S. is headed for shutdown

The following is a transcript of an interview with GOP Rep. Tony Gonzales of Texas that aired on “Face the Nation” on Sept. 24, 2023.


MARGARET BRENNAN: We turn now to Texas Republican Congressman Tony Gonzales, who joins us from San Antonio this morning. Congressman, a lot to get to with you, but I want to start on that question of what we should brace for in the coming days in regard to a shutdown. You had said you opposed a short-term deal, a continuing resolution, to keep the government funded in the near-term. Speaker McCarthy’s floated a 45-day short-term deal with border provisions added into it. Are you still a hard no?

REP. TONY GONZALES: I think- Good morning, Margaret, thank you for having me. Continuing resolutions don’t solve the problem, they just kick the can down the road. And so we have to lock ourselves in the room and solve the problem and the way you do that is by passing House conservative appropriation bills and working with the Senate. This is- I called it a month ago and I said we’re on a path to a shutdown, because speaker McCarthy wants that and President Biden wants that. Everyone feels as if this is a political problem, that they can just blame one another, who’s gonna get hurt the most is American- the American public. So we have to come together and we have to pass appropriations bills. That’s where I’m at.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But in order to pass those 11 bills, only one- one of the 12 has been passed, you need time, and then you gotta send it to the Senate, then they have to reconcile it, then you gotta send it to the President, you don’t have that kind of time, most likely. So without signing on to a short-term patch, are you basically saying you want to see a shutdown?

REP. GONZALES: I don’t want to see a shutdown, but in my experience, if you give Congress more time, they’re just going to take that time. It doesn’t- time does not equal solutions, in the exact opposite. If there is a hard cliff, then they are forced to come together. And that’s what I think we need, we need to have a hard line that forces everyone to get in the room and pass these bills. I don’t want to see a shutdown, but there is no doubt in my mind that the country is headed for a shutdown and everyone should prepare as such.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you have confidence in speaker McCarthy’s ability to lead?

REP. GONZALES: You know, I wouldn’t bet on Kevin McCarthy, but I also wouldn’t bet against him. I’m in a district where I’m just trying to keep my head above water. You know, this border crisis is very real. It’s- It’s Margaret, it’s very similar to when a school shooting hits your town. And sadly, too many Americans know what that’s like, or a hurricane and this border crisis, is as if a category four hurricane has hit. So I don’t have the time to- to pontificate on political futures for other- other people. We’re just trying to keep our head above water here in Texas.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, if there is a shutdown, are the Border Patrol agents in your district prepared to show up to work at a time of migrant spike and not get paid?

REP. GONZALES: You know, that’s the- that’s the ugly part of a shutdown is you’re gonna have- you’re gonna have real people get hurt. But right now, border patrol agents are showing up to operate in processing centers. They’re not out in the field, so they’re not really doing their jobs. And they haven’t been doing their jobs–

MARGARET BRENNAN: What do you mean?

REP. GONZALES:  And many, many agents have told me you know what, Tony? Right now, I mean, I’ll give you an example, in El Paso, the facility, 200 Border Patrol agents are in that soft-sided facility, taking care of migrants, meaning they’re not out in the field, protecting America from bad actors. So in many cases, they might as well already be shut down.

MARGARET BRENNAN; Who is preventing that?

REP. GONZALES: It’s- it’s the failed Biden administration. You know, when we talk about the border crisis, we know what the problem is. The problem is- is Joe Biden’s failed immigration policies, we see the images, we hear the stories, but we never hear solutions. Let’s- let’s talk some solutions. One, I think the house should immediately take up the homeland appropriations bill. Republicans can’t just be the party of rhetoric, we have to be the party of solutions and there are some solutions in this bill. One of those is I’ve been pushing very hard and many of my colleagues to end catch and release. I have an amendment in that homeland bill that ends catch and release. Another one is once again, the Border Patrol agents, they’re out of the game. The- the folks that are doing the real work are the sheriffs and the deputies. And there’s a program called stone- Stone Garden and there’s a $10 million upgrade for that. This helps with manpower and equipment to help fight the border crisis. But the third piece, which I’d argue is most important, is repatriation flights. And when I met with Secretary Mayorkas earlier this week, that’s what I asked him, for repatriation flights. Meaning if somebody does not qualify for asylum, you don’t bus them to New York, you don’t send them to LA, you don’t let them go other places, you send them back to their country of origin. If we do that, that is how the crisis ends short-term and then long term there needs to be some movement on immigration reform and in Congress.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You can’t do that with Venezuelans, part of the problem here. Secretary Mayorkas took the president of Honduras to the border yesterday. They have sent military members to work in offices, they’ve granted half-a-million Venezuelans these work permits, potentially, do you support any of that?

REP. GONZALES: In my eyes, that’s going the wrong way 800- 800 troops to the border solves nothing. They might as well be human cones if you don’t allow them to interact with migrants. You need to send immigration judges to the border and get these cases heard in days and not years, and if they do- do not qualify, once again, send them back. You know, the granting work visas to- to the Venezuelans. 500,000, by the way, it only makes immigration reform more difficult in Congress, because essentially, what you’ve done is you- you’ve encouraged those that have come over illegally, and these people have come over illegally into our country, and you’re giving them the access to work. It undermines everything that we’re doing in Congress to try to come together. The real solution is finding Venezuela working with Venezuela and other countries to take back some of their people. I’d love to see Secretary Blinken, I’m going to meet with him next week. I’d love to see Secretary Blinken spend more time in the hemisphere solving these difficult issues with some of our foreign- foreign allies and partners.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Speaker McCarthy has said there are going to be some border related provisions in this potential continuing resolution, you just laid out a whole bunch of things you want. If those are put on the table, would you change your mind on a short-term deal?

REP. GONZALES: You know, Margaret, there’s- there’s a difference between fantasy and reality and I live in reality. My district is hit with the realities of this border crisis. So I’m not looking for a messaging bill that says all the right things and accomplishes nothing. It’s once again why I sat down with Secretary Mayorkas this week and said, what are some real tangible things that we can accomplish today? So in my eyes, a continuing resolution that just has fake things doesn’t get us any closer. What we need to do is draw a hard line in the sand and pass appropriation bills and move that over to the Senate and work with the Senate to get this ultimately signed by the President.

MARGARET BRENNAN: All right, Congressman, thank you very much and the time clock is ticking on that. Face The Nation will be back in one minute. So stay with us.