Interview with Congressman-Elect Tim Scott

Interview with Congressman-Elect Tim Scott

By John King, USA - November 5, 2010

ANNOUNCER: It's time to go "One-on-One".

KING: Tim Scott is the first African-American Republican since reconstruction to serve in South Carolina's State House of Representatives and now he's headed to Washington as a congressman to join the new Republican majority thanks in part to big support from the Tea Party.

Mr. Scott joins us now. Sir, let me begin by first saying congratulations. When you come to Washington as a member of this new Republican majority and your leader turns to you and says, what is priority number one, what's the answer?

TIM SCOTT (R), SOUTH CAROLINA CONG.-ELECT: It's got to be to stop spending money we simply do not have. As I have traveled throughout my Congressional district, the one thing I heard loud and clear was simply please stop spending money you do not have, rein in spending, live within a budget. Those are words I heard consistently, even as often as I heard we need to create more jobs in the private sector, I heard consistently, we need to stop spending the money that we don't have.

KING: Another big figure of your campaign and Republican candidates many of them successful across the country was to go after the Obama health care program. You said on your web site, the health care bill spends too much is bad for our health care and it's unconstitutional. The Democrats still control the Senate. The president has a veto pen. Do you think it is still worthwhile for the new house Republican majority to pursue a repeal or would that be a waste of time given the politics of Washington?

SCOTT: There's no question that the repeal process would take either two thirds majority in the House in the Senate to override a presidential veto. Obviously the numbers are not there for that, so probably the most pragmatic approach would be to find ways to defund aspects of the health care bill that have not been implemented yet.

KING: There would be some conservatives who say if the president has the votes in the Senate and the president has the veto pen, the only option might be some sort of a spending showdown, refuse to raise the debt limit, some other mechanism that would bring you to a stalemate. Would you go that far or would that be irresponsible?

SCOTT: It's a great question and one that I'll answer once I get there and see the process, it's hard to predict what will happen. But I do understand this from the American people, that this president and this current Congress has not been listening to the American people. It is our responsibility to listen to our constituents and then make the best decision we possibly can. You cannot consistently spend money you do not have.

KING: You come to Washington with that zeal for cutting spending, you'll encounter a Democratic president who says yes, I get the message of the electorate but I also believe it is critical from an economic development stand point and he'll be off on a trip to Asia this week. The president says the government still needs to make investments in infrastructure, some investments in science and research and development to help the next generation get the education and the training they need to be competitive in the economy. Are you open to some new spending on things like that as long as you get larger reductions elsewhere?

SCOTT: I'm open to prioritization. We do not have a revenue problem in D.C. or this county. We have a prioritization problem. When you create the priorities you fund the priorities of the country and you stop spending money when you get to zero. I will be very open to a conversation with anyone as it relates to what are the priorities of the United States of America and how do we fund those priorities? If the money runs out before we get through the priorities you have to stop when the money runs out.

KING: And you're going to come to Washington as part of this new Republican majority. Clearly a lot of the energy in the campaign was opposition to the president and opposition to Speaker Pelosi and the Democratic agenda but as you know very well, in the Republican and the conservative grass roots and they're not always the same thing, there's a great mistrust of establishment Republicans in Washington, too. Do you trust the leadership of the house Republican conference, Speaker Boehner, the potential majority leader Eric Cantor or do you think they're sort of on probation too?

SCOTT: I also believe that elected officials are on probation, to be honest with you. I think we all bear the responsibility of poor governance no matter whether it's Republicans or Democrats. In 1994, one of the figures that we had was we simply did not govern well after we won the majority. What the American people want, they want people they can trust. We don't always have to agree on the issues.

KING: I have a couple of questions about the message you think your election sends specifically, the first African-American Republican to serve in the House of Representatives in seven years. Is there a message there?

SCOTT: I don't necessarily believe there's a message in the fact that I'm an African-American Republican. I think there is a message that America as a whole, we are now awake. We are looking at a political construct and we're fairly disappointed. I think the message is no matter where you come from in this country, there is great potential. It's our responsibility as conservatives to take that message to every corridor of this country. My hope is that as a kid who almost flunked out of high school, I'll take the conservative message of entrepreneurship and private sector business opportunities and go to those schools and talk about the future is right if you study and apply yourself. I'm hoping that as a kid that was a raised in a single parent home that I'll have an opportunity to go into single parent homes in the communities that have a larger concentration of single parent homes and talk about that this country is your country that you have an opportunity and an obligation to make an investment of your time, your talent and your skills back into this country. If we do that, I think what we'll find is that a we'll be listening, b we'll be talking and c we'll have a great level of communication that is inconsistent with what exists today.

KING: And Mr. Scott, you're among the candidates in this country who benefited from the tea party energy at the grass roots level of the Republican primaries and through to Election Day. What now? How does the tea party transition the energy of the campaign into the challenges of governing?

SCOTT: The tea party lady, her name is Barbara, she told me, I'm going to be watching you, Tim, I'm going to be watching you. So I think what we'll have the a higher level of accountability that is necessary for those of us who have been given the trust of the people that we serve to do what we say we're going to do. I think the philosophy of the tea party is consistent with that of any conservative Republican. If you believe in entrepreneurship and capitalism, you believe in at least a third of what the tea party stands for. If you believe that you ought not spend money you simply do not have, you believe in another third. And if you believe that limiting the role of federal government in our lives is a way to return power back to the people, I think you might be a member of the tea party.

KING: And lastly, to that point, do you believe those activists including those who say Mr. Scott we'll be watching you, do you think they understand that there's a divided government awaiting in Washington. You won't be able to get everything done, you won't be able to keep your promises. Do they accept that compromise is part of the process and will the tea party candidates like yourself be on the hot seat?

SCOTT: I think what we have to do is set realistic expectations for the electorate. We all understand and if we don't understand, then it's up to the elected officials to continue to talk about the fact that without a 2/3 majority in both houses, you do not have the ability to override a presidential veto. So the question about stalemates and other challenges are sincere and real questions. I believe what will happen in the end is this, that we will have a tough time to go. It will be a challenging environment for all of us. But we will have to either figure out how to work together or we'll have to figure out how to deal with the consequences of the Midwest American people. They want people who want to listen to them and then implement policies that are consistent with their objectives.

KING: Tim Scott is on his way to Washington from South Carolina. Mr. Scott, congratulations again and thanks for your time.

SCOTT: Thank you.


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