Transcript: Rep. Summer Lee on “Face the Nation,” April 28, 2024

The following is a transcript of an interview with Rep. Summer Lee, Democrat of Pennsylvania, that aired on April 28, 2024.


MARGARET BRENNAN: We go now to Democratic Congresswoman Summer Lee. She joins us from her district in Pittsburgh. Good morning to you, Congresswoman.

REP. SUMMER LEE: Good morning. Good to be with you.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You just heard our CBS polling in reference to your home state. I know last weekend, Governor Shapiro told us, if President Biden’s pause on natural gas permits goes on a long time it’ll cost Pennsylvania jobs. And we’re seeing in our polling, the perception that Donald Trump would be better 49% of voters said, than Joe Biden 33% on these oil and gas exploration issues. This seems to be a headwind for Democrats in your state. Are you concerned?

REP. LEE: Yeah, I think that there’s- a I think there’s a lot to be concerned about. Right? I think that when we look at these polls, you know, we’ll pull out one issue at a time. But the reality is, is that there are a number of issues mixed together that make voters feel confident, that make voters- some other voters feel hopeless, or feel like maybe there’s a little reason to participate. And I think that we’re dealing with that a lot, right? When we talk to voters throughout my election, we talked to a lot of voters who, whether it’s the economy, the price of you know, goods, gas, food, things of that nature, or abortion, like all of these different issues made voters feel like there was very little options that they had, and that they didn’t want to participate. And we have to figure out something very quickly to address that.

MARGARET BRENNAN: In your primary, which you won, your democratic challenger’s point of attack was your willingness to break with President Biden in his unequivocal support for Israel with its war with Hamas and Gaza? You’ve called for a ceasefire. If you believe that this is such a matter of conscience, and so important, can you truly ask progressive voters to go and vote for Joe Biden in November?

REP. LEE: Yeah, I think that we do that every year, every two years, we ask voters, progressive voters, we ask black and brown voters, young voters, we ask them to weigh the totality of our options, right? The totality of a candidate, the totality of the things that we care about, that we come to the polling places with and that’s not new, right? This is an issue that gets a lot of issue and there are going to be very reasonably a lot of people who will feel apprehension about that. And I think that is not a foregone conclusion, that there’s just nothing that Democrats can do. When we look at an election like mine, we’ve seen how popular it is to take a pro-peace stance, how popular it is to call for a different direction in the policies that the United States has towards the war in Gaza, towards sending unconditional weapons, offensive weapons to Netanyahu and our government still has time to react, we still have time to listen to the folks who have feelings about that. And that’s what we have to do. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: So, you went to meet with some of the campus protesters out in Pittsburgh recently, you are in support of some of those young people who have chosen to protest against what’s happening in Gaza. Do you hear from them that they’re excited to go vote for Joe Biden?

REP. LEE: To be honest, you know, we don’t. It’s not a topic that, you know, always comes up, but it does a lot. I think that the number one goal for them right now, you know, just listening to what they had to say is that they want to see a ceasefire in Gaza, they want to see the indiscriminate bombings and killings and right- that is the reason why they’re on there’s a lot of noise around this that- that distracts from that. There’s a lot of noise that tries to take away from that central message. But, that is the central thing they are fighting for and they believe and they feel like our government can do more. And that’s what they’re looking for. They’re looking for some sort of acknowledgement from our leadership, that they hear our needs, that they hear these young people saying that we want our country, we want our government to go in a different direction.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, I hear you clearly distinguishing between Prime Minister Netanyahu and Israel, but some people, and I’m sure you know this, hear criticism and understand it as antisemitic when it is critical of Israel. The Prime Minister of Israel said that what’s happening on America’s college campuses is horrific. He said the protesters are antisemitic mobs, and he compared it to what’s happening in German universities back in the 1930s. How do you respond to that or the perception of that, perhaps among some of your constituents?

REP. LEE: Certainly, you know, his language is intentional and it’s always been. But the one thing that I know is that Benjamin Netanyahu has not been on the college campus in the United States. He has not talked to these students. He has not seen their encampments, he has not seen or heard the message that they’re delivering and he doesn’t want to hear it, right? His number one goal is, you know what he’s doing over there and anything that that harms or- or helps or makes it harder for him to achieve that goal, he’s going to- he’s going to distract from. But, this idea that every criticism of Israel is antisemitic is dangerous. There is a fair critique that we must make of every government of every war of every appropriation and when we say that students who are engaging in the time honored tradition of civil disobedience, of campus protests and action are inherently bad, are inherently antisemitic, particularly as we see Jewish students standing in solidarity with Muslim students, or Arab students and Black students. When you’re on the ground, you see that all of those students have been working together or had been learning and educating together and they are all in one voice crying for a difference in direction, particularly from Benjamin Netanyahu. So I’m not shocked that he would want to cast them as evil, cast them as in the wrong that’s been his MO. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Congresswoman, thank you for explaining what’s happening within your party and your position. We’ll have to leave it right there. We’ll be right back.

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