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Newsmaker Interview: Thaddeus McCotter

Newsmaker Interview: Thaddeus McCotter

By RealClearPolitics - March 29, 2010

RCP: What song do you think most appropriate to capture the mood of this week?

Thaddeus McCotter: Of this week? Oh, “Dazed and Confused.”

RCP: When did you finally realize healthcare reform was going to pass?

McCotter: We had – I had – the concern after the Blair House because the Dems seemed to be motivated. They seemed to be concerned about President Obama and Speaker Pelosi more than the Republicans and the public at that point – and that's been borne out by what Daschle said about it, and others on the Democratic side. That's when I started to get very concerned

RCP: On Tuesday you said some things on the House floor that I want to ask you to defend. The first is your statement that “Obama's campaign mantra of hope and change has degenerated into tax and hate.”

McCotter: Yeah. Look at how he demonizes oppositions, look what he's done to insurance companies, look what he does to Wall Street, look at the end result. It's to impose a tax, it's to get his agenda passed. That's things that Bush was accused of and I think it's quite manifest in what he's been doing to try to get his agenda through.

RCP: You said that healthcare has created a “crisis of consent” that puts “America's exceptional experiment in human freedom and self government on the precipice of  implosion.”

McCotter: Yes, both fiscally – in terms of what it's going to do adding another entitlement program to as we see today with Social Security for the first time going into deficit and with the other concerns that we have for Medicare, Medicaid, for fiscal irresponsibility in general and the out standing debt and long term liability –  as well as the fact that you've seen for the first time a partisan majority decide that in the wake, in despite, in defiance of public opposition they were going to pass a major and radical change in something as intimate as healthcare.

In the past, the public opinion has been used as a check on the executive or the legislature, or both, trying to implement such reforms. This time is the first time we've seen where the national consensus for what was possible was not worked upon and was actually defied.

RCP: Several people are charging that Republicans are encouraging domestic unrest with rhetoric like that, though. What do you say to that.

McCotter: I would argue it has always been the role of the Republican Party to discourage domestic unrest and have people peaceably resolve their differences. There is no recourse to violence, there is no excuse for it, and, if anything, Republicans have to continue to denounce it, as do both sides.

RCP: You also called Obama a “lobbyist” for the “most dangerous special interest” – that is, “big government.” How is government a special interest?

McCotter: It's a special interest when it combines to expand its own powers at the expense of the American people. As the Rasmussen polling shows, a decidedly overwhelming majority of the American people have come to believe that.

I think it started with TARP where they believe – and I think rightly so – big business and big government combined to do something the average American did not want done, certainly not in that fashion. And it's continued through healthcare, where they've seen the government defy them – their expectations and their opposition – to actually grow and expand its own powers at its expense.

RCP: You predicted that Obamacare will be repealed and replaced with “free market patient centered wellness.” What concrete, achievable steps is your party offering to bring down medical costs?

McCotter: Well we put them out in our Republican Solutions. It boils down to empowering the individual to be a consumer, to allow the supply to increase through market forces. The costs get controlled by the competition within the system and access becomes greater as the costs go down. We can start with tort reform. You can look at the proposals for buying insurance across state lines and the pools for preexisting conditions.

They're out there. They've been out there and I think that over time – whether the public is successful immediately in trying to repeal the parts of the bill that they do not like and replacing them with free market forces – it's nonsustainable policy to add 30 million people to a system that is already straining. The social safety net is already straining. So I think that whether it's a practical matter of having to go back and fix it or whether it is a political matter of the public absolutely having their voice heard, either way there's going to be changes.

RCP: You are chairman of the House Republican Policy Committee. You and several of your members have taken a fairly hard line on immigration. What do you think of the prospects for Obama passing comprehensive immigration reform in this Congress?

McCotter: Well I don't know that I've taken a hard line defending, one, the sovereignty of the United States to control its borders and, secondly, my concern is for the people who've played by the rules. The people who become naturalized citizens are the ones who are the most immediately impacted by illegal immigration because it's the services that are provided to them that are most impacted. The waiting rooms in those areas are the ones that are the most crowded. It's the jobs – those pay scales are depressed by the businesses that cheat to compete.

And I would urge my colleagues in the immigration debate one thing: Do not blame the immigrant that comes here. He is enticed here or she is enticed here, and they are exploited. It is our job to add sanity to this process and to add sanctuary and I would argue assimilation as part of what is going to have to be a revamping of the legal immigration process in this country which seems to have so fundamentally broken down. 

RCP: What do you think of the prospects for comprehensive immigration reform in this Congress?

McCotter: Well, I don't know. I mean, we are in uncharted waters here after the way the system – in my mind, and so many others including voters on the street – was abused to jam through healthcare.

You are going to have a bicameral concern with the process and the rules that are used by the majority. In the Senate, they have seen their traditional constitutional role as a deliberative body circumvented through the use of reconciliation to do this. In the House, we've seen total lock down in terms of amendments from members of both parties to legislation of that magnitude. So it is going to going be very difficult to see how the membership of the current Congress responds to that in the wake of what's just happened.

RCP: At CPAC in February, you apologized to conservatives on behalf of House Republicans for letting them down. In what ways did Republicans let conservatives down?

McCotter: I think there's two things. Obviously one is spending but spending was part of a larger failure to grasp the issues that are affecting real people. Spending became a symptom of trying to perpetuate a majority without a vision of the challenges facing the country and ways to going about dealing with them in a principled fashion.

So I think that was one and, secondly, there were the instances where we had members that misbehaved. And the inability or the (small chuckle) unwillingness of our own leadership to deal with those at the time brought discredit on the Republican Party. But I think that's something that we have to had to make sure that they heard because whenever I'm out with rank-and-file Republicans, the party faithful, talking about this, they are still angry. In the next election, Republicans have to remember we have to continue our path to redemption. One day at a time.

RCP: How would Republicans avoid a repeat if voters give them back the House or House and Senate in November?

McCotter:
I think that we face four fundamental challenges: globalization, the war for freedom against terrorism, the rise of Communist China, and the question of moral relativism eroding a nation built on self-evident truths. When I'm out with the party faithful, they agree on the challenges. We come at it from a principled basis and I think that's what they want to see. They want to see the challenges that we face because American are at their best when challenged.

When they're treated as if they are simply people wishing for state benefits or they are insulted or demeaned by the people they elect to serve them, it becomes very frustrating for them, because they want to get through this difficult time. They just want to have somebody who understands what's going on – namely, I think, the Republican Party – lay it out and then let them go at it and beat it like we have at other great times in our nation's history.

RCP: How bullish are you on the midterm elections?

McCotter: I think it's one day at a time. I really do. I don't think that Republican or Democrats should take anything for granted. I think the public is at a very, very critical point that I talked about in my floor speech – the crisis of consent. When 70 percent of the country thinks the government is a special interest, when 21 percent think they are being governed with their consent, you have problems about representative institutions. And I don't think that either party should think that somehow it's all going to be blamed on one or the other.

RCP: On the HRSC's blog, you wrote about an important gap between Republicans and Democrats, the hip gap. Tell me about that.

McCotter: I think that Republicans are always portrayed as – probably Mr. Burns on the Simpsons would be the most obvious example. The reality is that Republicans tend to be very normal people. Conservatives generally are very well grounded in reality. We have a lot of members that I think in some ways are afraid to let that side of themselves show. And I think it's absolutely critical. I would argue I'm absolutely a better guitar player than Bill Clinton is a saxophone player, so why not let people know it. Although that's a very low bar – no pun intended.

RCP: What is The Second Amendments?

McCotter: Defunct. It was a band that Colin Peterson and I set up. The original goal was just to get members to go play for the troops. As we did it, we wound up playing for charity events around here, we even did Farm Aid. What happened was eventually the process took its course and 60 percent of our band was no longer in Congress this time. Given what's been going on, there's just been no time try to get it back together.

A band is a very special thing, the chemistry was very good. But just don't have time to do it. It's unfortunate because there's still a lot groups that would like us to help them, to play. Even if they don't necessarily appreciate the music, they appreciate our effort.

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