>> A fresh Republican voice with an independent streak, this week on "Firing Line."
>> Right now, I feel like I'm on an island.
I'm literally a caucus of one.
She's not afraid to speak out against the things she doesn't like in both parties.
Republican Congresswoman Nancy Mace of South Carolina was elected to a second term in November, despite being targeted by the former president.
>> In the first Congressional District, you have another horrendous RINO known as Crazy Nancy Mace.
>> Mace is the first female graduate of the Citadel, a single mom, and has come forward about surviving sexual assault when she was 16.
>> I learned some very tough lessons during some very tough times in my life.
>> In Congress, she's working on bipartisan legislation on issues from climate change to cannabis to abortion.
She also holds a key role on the Oversight committee looking at President Biden's handling of classified documents.
>> We have to hold ourselves to a higher standard.
Everybody should be treated the same under the law.
>> What does Congresswoman Nancy Mace say now?
>> "Firing Line with Margaret Hoover" is made possible in part by... And by... Corporate funding is provided by... >> Representative Nancy Mace, welcome to "Firing Line," >> And thank you so much for having me.
>> Your journey has taken you from the Waffle House to the U.S. House of Representatives, where you now represent South Carolina's 1st Congressional District.
>> You were the first female to graduate from the Citadel.
You're a single mom.
You're a survivor of sexual assault.
>> At the outset of your second term in Congress, how does your background and your own personal experiences inform the policy positions you take?
>> Well, my experiences, especially my rough start and being raped at the age of 16, I dropped out of school at 17, and that's when my parents said, "If you're going to stop going to school, you have to start going to work."
And I took a job as a waitress at a Waffle House on the side of the interstate.
And I learned some very tough lessons during some very tough times in my life.
And I learned about surviving, I learned about strength, and I learned about having courage.
I'd eventually get my high school diploma and would go to the Citadel.
You know, I went there to learn about myself more than anything.
I wasn't going there to be the first woman to graduate from there.
But I wanted to prove to myself I could face an obstacle and I wouldn't quit.
And that determination, not knowing -- Now I'm 45, right?
I'm, you know, about to go into menopause.
I've seen a lot now.
But, you know, I'm in my mid 40s, and I look back at my life, and I just had no idea that this trauma, the challenges that I had, the adversity I faced at the Citadel, it made me who I am today.
>> You were the first woman to graduate from the Citadel.
You graduated magna cum laude from its core of cadets in 1999 and even wrote a highly acclaimed book about your experience called "In the Company of Men."
What drove you?
>> It's that inherent need for me, because when I was raped and I had that trauma, I wanted to end everything.
I quit school.
I wanted to end my life.
And I got a job.
I got things together.
I did what I needed to do to get through that experience, as tough as it was.
And it took a very long time.
It's mental -- mental, it's physical, it's emotional healing.
And that takes a lifetime.
I'm still not recovered and fully healed from the experience, but it shapes who you are.
And the Citadel, for me, was this opportunity to just say "F you" to everybody in the world.
I was angry about what had happened to me, and I wanted to go there and prove to myself that, no matter what anyone threw at me, that I could be successful.
I could face that challenge head-on, and I would not quit.
>> You've just referenced your rape when you were 16, and you talk about being pro-life, but you support exceptions for rape and incest, which is, frankly, outside the mainstream of the Republican Party right now.
>> It is now.
>> How do you go about building consensus or support for that position in the conference?
>> Well, by being vocal.
Right now, I feel like I'm on an island.
I'm literally a caucus of one.
And I'm pro-life, okay?
And I have a great pro-life voting record.
But I also recognize that the environment has changed.
This is not where the majority of Americans are.
And I represent a purple district, a swing district.
And I talk to Republican women, Democrat women, Independent women.
Independents in my district outnumber Republicans, and they -- their voices aren't well-represented in Congress right now, either.
But I've been willing to have this conversation and say, "Where's the middle ground?"
And these people that are advocating for no exceptions, what are you talking about?
What are you going to say to the 10-year-old girl who was raped by her father, her uncle, or someone else in her family?
You know, and that's an extreme case, but those cases do happen.
Or the young woman who has a fetus that has got so many abnormalities, if she were to carry it to term, it could harm her life or harm her ability to get pregnant again in the future.
What do you say to that young woman?
And so, you know, it's -- these are uncomfortable conversations, but I often feel like I'm the only one in the room vocalizing what everybody else is feeling.
Like, I'm literally saying what's -- what's on everyone's minds, but they're afraid to say it because they're afraid of getting primaried."
They're afraid of the base.
But that's only a very small percentage, a handful of people.
And a primary, on either side, I don't understand it.
>> The other thing that strikes me is that you are the only Republican, as far as I can tell, who is willing to point to the overturning of Roe and the question of abortion as the reason for the GOP having lackluster gains and barely cobbling back a majority in the House of Representatives this last cycle.
>> Why are you the only one?
>> I would love for you to answer that question for me, 'cause I'm looking around the room, and I'm like, "Where is everybody else?
What lessons did we learn?"
And it feels like Republicans didn't learn anything from the midterms, and abortion, Roe, is one part of that.
But the second part of that was, we were nominating people that couldn't win general elections.
And that's a problem, too.
And not being able to read the room with what's going on with those who've left the Democrat Party, those who've left the Republican Party, that feel that they don't have a home because of the division that they're seeing today.
And I -- make no mistake, I'm a conservative, fiscal conservative, I'm a constitutional conservative -- but I consistently reach across the aisle to deliver for my district in the Lowcountry of South Carolina, to deliver for my state, and to deliver for my nation.
And so when -- My first term, I won by one point, right?
I flipped a seat, I won by one point.
This time, we won by -- by double digits.
We won by 14 points.
And I think -- you know, I know that it's because I've been vocal on these issues.
I don't toe my party's line, especially when I disagree with them on spending or taxes or after Roe.
I mean, we buried our head in the sand.
We didn't have a message.
We didn't have a solution.
And we weren't nice to women, especially victims of rape and girls who are victims of incest.
And I feel that, I feel what other women are feeling, and I want to fix it.
I want to help.
I want to find a solution.
I'm willing to work with both sides.
>> Is this an issue that has just been, like so many other issues, hijacked by the special interests on both sides of the argument?
>> Both sides.
And if you look at -- you know, everyone wants to fight.
Everyone's fighting, you know, the extremes of both sides right now.
But this issue is affecting women every single day.
We have entire counties in rural areas in South Carolina, like many other states that don't have a single OB/GYN doctor.
So when you're talking about, "Hey, we want to save lives," what about giving access to every woman in the country to birth control?
Last summer, only eight Republicans voted to protect women's access to birth control.
We're not even having this conversation.
It's just about fighting the other side because we want to pay lip service to the pro-life movement.
That's all you're doing.
You're not actually doing anything to save real lives.
So why can't we have that conversation?
And I'm just -- I'm sitting here alone, ready to have it, but I'm the only one.
It feels like I'm literally the only one.
>> Certainly the only one on the right.
Do you -- I mean, do you have any sense -- You've been in Congress now.
This is the beginning of your second term.
Do you have any sense of what it would actually take to make progress on this issue in a pragmatic way?
>> I'm going to be releasing a series of legislation and bills over the next coming weeks, starting this week and every -- probably every week thereafter through February.
And I would encourage members of Congress from both sides of the aisle to get on board, because we're having these conversations and these debates, and people are raising money off of it, but we're not doing anything for either side.
We're not pushing the ball forward in doing that.
>> And you're talking about forging some kind of policy consensus that represents the majority of American thinking.
Yeah, and it's going to cover everything from, you know, birth control to, you know, children that have been orphaned to, you know -- we have -- we have a backlog of 100,000 rape kits in this country, across the country, that haven't been processed yet.
So taking a pragmatic lens to this controversial issue to bring everybody together and put them in the same room on the same bill, I want to show what's possible.
I want to show that how we can move forward, protecting and balancing women's rights with the right to life.
There's a way to do it.
>> Where do you think the middle ground actually is?
Do you think -- Is it somewhere between 15 and 20 weeks?
I think it's somewhere between 15 and 20 weeks.
It's ensuring that we have exceptions for rape and incest, life of the mother, fetal abnormalities.
It's birth control, it's foster care, it's adoption.
It's -- It's a -- It's an amalgamation of legislation that shows that, "Hey, this makes a lot of sense," which is what we're going to bring to the table over the next couple of weeks.
>> You said you're also a fiscal conservative.
>> Of course, the United States has reached its debt limit, and Treasury Department has said it's taking extraordinary measures to keep paying the country's bills.
It's expected that this process will extend probably through the summer, perhaps even into the fall.
And it is yet to be seen whether Republicans will be able to use this moment to extract some version of budgetary reforms, to instill some degree of fiscal discipline after years of not, frankly, having much fiscal discipline at all -- on both sides.
>> I want to reiterate that, what you just said -- we should put the blame of this on both parties.
Republicans and Democrats alike, for decades, have been increasing spending with no end in sight.
The last time we had a budget and balanced it was in 1998 under President Bill Clinton.
The last Republican to balance the budget was Richard Nixon in 1970.
Clearly, the process isn't working.
And so utilizing this moment as an opportunity to say, "Hey, something's wrong here, and we, both sides, need to take responsibility, accountability, and put forth a plan."
But it's not going to be easy because some tough decisions are gonna have to be made.
Nobody wants to touch Social Security.
No one wants to touch Medicare or Medicaid.
So I -- you know, we all love to say, "Do it across the board," but you can't do that.
I mean, it's got -- you've got to find places.
I think mandatory spending and discretionary spending.
Congress has the ability to make the laws and how those budgets are written and how the money's spent.
>> As you well know, in the next 10 years, between Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, defense spending, interest on the debt, and V.A., that's 80% of the budget.
>> Let me read you -- I just want to get your reaction.
There's a fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a center-right think tank, who focuses on budget issues, and he writes... >> Right.
>> What say you?
>> It's, "We don't want it to be political."
I mean, nobody wants this to be political maneuvering, and that's always the risk, especially going into this.
Now, up until this juncture -- I just found out this morning that the President will sit down with Republicans, will sit down with Speaker McCarthy.
That has not been the case up until -- >> That's a shift in posture, isn't it?
>> Than just now.
And that is a move in the right direction.
We've got to be able to work together.
Nobody wants to see -- I don't want to see the debt-limit vote or increase be weaponized.
But we have to admit that what we've been doing is wrong.
And we need to find a way to correct the course in the future.
We can't continue down this path.
>> One more follow up on Speaker McCarthy.
You know, you were pretty vocal about actually criticizing the deals that he made to become speaker with some of the more extreme members of the conference.
Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, as we all know, has trafficked in conspiracy theories, and... [ Sighs ] ...she's, frankly, made bigoted statements, statements supporting violence.
She's a follower of QAnon.
Forged a close alliance with Speaker McCarthy, who recently, just this week, reportedly said, "I will never leave that woman.
I will always take care of her."
How precarious is Speaker McCarthy's leadership position?
>> Well, he was the only speaker possible for our conference because of the diversity of opinions, the diversity of political views within our conference.
And some of those holdouts, I mean, they got what they wanted.
And there were handshakes, there were promises made.
And I don't know that we have all the answers.
But some of the most vocal people got some of the most high-profile committee assignments.
And I can appreciate having the diversity on all the committees, but when you reward those for that kind of behavior, then what kind of precedent does that set?
And I think it's going to be incumbent upon us, those that have a more independent streak, to be more vocal, because the reason that we're in the majority are because of people who have more of an independent streak.
Those that flipped seats, that's the reason that we're here.
>> Yeah, it's not the Paul Gosars.
It's the Nancy Maces.
>> It's not the safe seats, right?
It's the people that have to pull together all sides.
And I'll tell you, those voices are missing right now.
>> On the Oversight committee, which -- upon which you sit, the committee has sent several letters to various officials demanding information related to the investigation of classified documents found in Biden's office and his residence.
It appears that Biden's team notified the DOJ and the National Archives and Records Administration as soon as the documents were found, promptly returned them, and is cooperating with the investigation.
You know, there is a perception that Republicans are treating the Trump documents investigation and the Biden documents investigation as the same thing.
But do you see substantive differences?
>> There are differences.
I mean, the President now says they're being transparent and they're complying, but for two months, nobody knew about this.
>> It's worth pointing out, though, that while there were two months that the Biden administration, of course, wasn't transparent with the American people, there were nine months that President Trump wasn't transparent with the American people.
NARA had reached out to him for documents in May of 2021, and nine months went by before the American public knew about it, and he had even lied to reporters -- Maggie Haberman of The New York Times -- about having documents.
So, in that sense, do you think it's apples and oranges or apples and apples?
>> Well, still, it's even hard because we don't know what's in the documents.
Like, how can you compare it?
Now, the former vice president, also, documents were found this week, too.
>> Vice President Michael Pence.
>> Do we need to go to President Obama and Bush?
Like, how far back does this go?
>> Do you think they all do it?
>> Well, apparently, it looks like they did.
I mean, and, you know, we have to hold ourselves to a higher standard.
>> Well, can you affirm that you're committed to applying an equal scrutiny to Biden and Trump on this issue?
>> 100%, 100%.
>> So then why is the Oversight committee only investigating Biden?
>> Because we don't have -- I mean, we don't have as much information about those documents.
A lot more is known about the documents at Mar-A-Lago.
>> Does that influence your thinking that Senator Lindsey Graham, from your home state, said he's known Joe Biden for a long time and he doubts that there's anything sinister here?
>> The law doesn't matter if there's intent or if it's sinister.
The law only matters about whether or not you knew that you had the documents in your possession.
>> Representative, you've been very outspoken about a new member of your conference, Representative George Santos, who has -- >> Should resign.
You've been outspoken that you think he should resign.
Instead of resigning, he's actually been assigned to committees this week.
What do you think of that?
>> I would want to make sure he's not assigned any committee that puts him in hands of classified information or top-secret information.
This is clearly someone who should resign but won't.
Clearly, he's enjoying the limelight and the spotlight.
But it's very obvious that we have a problem within our conference.
Literally, everything the guy has said, turns out, is a complete lie.
I can't even -- I can't -- Just, it boggles my mind that folks are giving this guy a pass and giving him excuses like, "I know we have a narrow majority," but is it really worth it to give this guy a pass when people don't trust Congress?
And there's a reason for it, because when each side is in power, well, you know, they get -- they get special -- they get treated special.
And that's not the way it should be.
Everybody should be treated the same, regardless of their party.
And this guy, he's got to go.
>> In 1973, William F. Buckley Jr. hosted an episode of this program where he answered questions from journalists and writers.
Mary Nichols Perot, an editor of The Village Voice, brought up the subject of marijuana.
Take a look at this.
>> Some couple of years ago, you testified on behalf of Congressman Ed Koch's Marijuana Commission Bill, and you said that you had gone on your boat outside the 3-mile limit and you had smoked some pot.
What I want to know is -- I suppose you said that you went outside the 3-mile limit.
Perhaps it was a polite fiction so that you could appear to be law and order -- or perhaps not.
How did you get the pot on your boat?
>> I grew it.
>> On the boat?
>> Well, but you had to come within the 3-mile limit in possession of the pot, did you not?
>> No, no, no.
I consumed it all.
>> How did you get the seeds to the boat?
>> Oh, you stayed out there, out beyond 3 miles?
You grew the pot while you were out there?
How long does it take to grow a pot?
>> It depends how much time you got.
[ Laughter ] >> Okay.
>> That's hilarious.
In 1973, when that clip aired, William F. Buckley Jr. supported the decriminalization of marijuana.
And you've been very outspoken about your views about marijuana with decriminalization and legalization.
It even became, frankly, a point of vulnerability in your primary.
Make the conservative case for decriminalization.
>> Yeah, they even ran ads against me.
Well, it is wildly popular, even in conservative South Carolina.
I would encourage all of my conservative colleagues to poll the issue in their districts and their states.
And they will be overwhelmingly surprised.
And I put forth a bill last session called the States Reform Act.
And the conservative argument is to allow states to have the right to make their own laws on cannabis.
And that's what the bill does.
But this has been a very long, very expensive, very painful, very harmful war on a plant.
And I look at my own life, my own life experiences.
When I was raped at the age of 16, I was in a really, really vulnerable position, from a mental-health perspective, in getting through that.
And I started self-medicating at the time, not realizing it, 'cause I was young, with cannabis.
It cut my anxiety.
I could sleep at night.
I laughed, I told jokes, I thought I was funny.
And I survived.
And when you talk to people, whether it's a veteran who's got PTSD, someone with Parkinson's or a terminal illness, someone with epilepsy, and you see the miracles that marijuana can bring to the lives of people, you have to ask yourself, "Where is the compassion?"
Why would we deprive people from something that is not harmful?
It is not a gateway drug.
It is something that can save lives.
>> I've heard you say it saved your life.
>> Yeah, it saved my life.
And I don't know why any conservative or anyone would want to deprive another human from that opportunity.
It's a no-brainer.
>> You know, President Trump is not going quietly into the night.
He's running for president again.
And he is coming to South Carolina, your state, this weekend.
Are you going to attend the event?
>> I am not going to attend the event.
I'm keeping my powder dry until the field is set.
I want to see a vigorous primary, and I want to hear from everybody.
And I want to see some diversity on the ticket.
>> Two candidates who represent diversity for the Republican Party are also from South Carolina, so I find it curious that President Trump is coming to South Carolina.
Of course, former governor Nikki Haley, and ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley, and Tim Scott -- Senator Tim Scott -- are both considering, it is reported, a run for the GOP nomination, both from South Carolina.
Why is President Trump coming to South Carolina?
>> They're both from my district, actually.
So I sit behind Tim in church.
And Nikki -- Nikki lives in the district, too.
They both live in the district.
I'm close with both of them.
And what, to me, as a Republican, is so exciting is the leadership that's coming out of the state of South Carolina.
Have two people from South Carolina, both in my district, be potential folks that are running for president in 2024, it's really an exciting time to be a Republican.
>> So why is President Trump coming to South Carolina?
>> Well, it's first in the South.
I mean, once you get through Iowa and New Hampshire, it's South Carolina.
And, historically, with the exception -- with only one or two exceptions over the last few decades, the Republican that wins South Carolina goes on to become the nominee.
That is the precedent.
That's how important our state is going to be in the 2024 primary.
>> Is it time for the party to move on from Donald Trump?
>> It's time for the party, overall, to look forward and not backward.
>> It's not the same thing?
>> And if you -- well, and if you look at the midterm elections, certain folks that were nominated in the primary process could not win the general election.
If you pigeonhole yourself into one corner of our party and are not open and talking to Independent voters or those who are left of center, right of center, if you're not appealing to those people, if you're only appealing to a fragment of the Republican Party, you will not win.
And that was just proven in the midterm election.
>> Well, you were on the ballot against Donald Trump, essentially.
I mean, Donald Trump endorsed a primary opponent against you.
>> I was one of the only Republicans in the House to beat -- >> To survive Trump coming after you.
>> And there was money invested in that.
But the policies, there were great policies in his administration, everything from criminal justice and prison reform from the First Step Act, lower taxes, something that I supported.
There was low unemployment for women, African-Americans, Black and Brown communities.
There was great things happening.
Policies are one thing, but the politics of personal destruction, when you're all on the same team, is not something that I've been able to support.
And I was -- I'm a very independent voice -- >> How about the destruction of the Constitution?
I'm looking at January 6th and the legacy that Trump left behind that day.
>> I was very vocal on that day, as well, and which is why I got primaried in the first place.
But again, the voters in South Carolina, we tend to march to the beat of our own drum.
I want to win -- I still want to get the majority in two years.
I want to win the White House in two years.
But if you ignore the growing masses of Independent voters, and I'm seeing it -- my district, this district has changed so much over the last decade.
So folks that are playing to the fringes right now, both on the right and the left, that's not the future that our nation is headed in.
And if we don't pay attention to what actually happened in the midterm election and we do what we've always done, we're going to lose.
And we're on the trajectory for that right now.
Very early into this session, we are not listening to the folks who got us here.
>> How much power do you think Trump still has with the base of the party?
>> Well, I think he's got significant influence in the party still.
There's always gonna be a percentage of Republican primary voters who support him.
I think there are more people that support his policies, which is why you're seeing a movement to encourage Ron DeSantis to run.
People see him as someone who can take the torch from the former president and move it forward without some of the other baggage that's there that would preclude Independent voters, for example, from getting on board.
If we have a nominee that can't give Independent voters a home in 2024, we are being enormously shortsighted, and we will not win.
>> Nancy Mace, thank you for coming to "Firing Line."
Thank you for your candor and for joining me.
>> Thank you.
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