Alaska Senator Dan Sullivan joined me this morning:
HH: Joining me to talk about that and many other things, including a long-deserved and overdue rebuke of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Services, one of my favorite United States Senators, Dan Sullivan. Not only is he a Harvard guy, not only is he, like me, a former clerk on the D.C. Circuit, he is a Browns fan, even though he is the Senator from Alaska. And Senator Sullivan, welcome, we’ve got a lot to talk about. But I am correct in that. You still are a Browns fan, correct?
DS: Yes, Hugh, great to be back on the show, and I am a diehard Browns fan.
HH: So what should we do with number one – Miles Garrett or Mitch Trubisky?
DS: I don’t know. You know, the last time I was on the show, I said we need a franchise quarterback. That’s been the issue for gosh, since Bernie Kosar, at least.
HH: Yeah, my only problem with the Gorsuch hearings this week is that nobody asked the judge what the Browns should do with number one – trade down, pick Trubisky or go with Garrett. Are you heartened by the fact that all of your colleagues have said if this filibuster goes forward, we’re going to employ the Reid Rule and get him confirmed?
DS: Well, look, I think first of all, and you mentioned it at the top of the show, Judge Gorsuch did a great job. I mean, he showed to not only the Senate, but the American people that he’s a worthy successor to Justice Scalia, has the temperament. I mean, I don’t think you could have asked for a better performance. You know, I had the opportunity, which was for me quite an honor to go over to the White House a few weeks back with Senator Cruz, and we did some prep work with him, you know, one of those murder boards where we were asking some tough questions in that kind of setting, not that he needed that. I mean, you saw it. He did a great job, and now look, I think that Chuck Schumer is playing with fire. You know, if you look at the history of the U.S. Supreme Court, there’s never been a filibuster. People have talked about Abe Fortas and other things. Clarence Thomas got through the U.S. Senate with 52 votes. Had they wanted to filibuster that nominee for the Court, they could have. He’s unleashing something, if he goes through with this filibuster threat that’s never been done before, we’re going to get Judge Gorsuch confirmed.
HH: Yeah, and Abe Fortas was delayed, because he was corrupt. That was the 1968 last ditch moment. And I know Democrats are bitter over Leader McConnell’s no hearings, no vote, the hashtag I created, but that was the right thing to do, Constitutionally, and I stand by it. Nevertheless, let’s get to the important stuff. You’re on Armed Services. I’ve got to ask you a couple of things very quickly.
DS: Just one more, Hugh, just one more point on that, though. Remember, 12 Democrats, including Schumer, have already voted for Gorsuch.
DS: And the other thing on the Garland nomination is there is no doubt, there is no doubt that had the shoe been on the other foot, they would have done what we did.
HH: Of course.
DS: That was at the end of an administration. This is a completely different scenario. It’s at the beginning of a new administration where you know, Republicans have let go forward the nominees of judges in new Democratic administrations literally every time. So the context is not even the same whatsoever, and so we’re going to get him confirmed, in my view.
HH: Now you’re on Armed Services. You’re a Marine. You’re a veteran of the war. There are, no one nominated for the Department of Defense who is a Republican. Have you talked to General, now-Secretary Mattis about this?
DS: Well, look, I know some of my colleagues have raised this issue. I just want to say first and foremost that General Mattis was a great pick. And we are trying to help him. I’ve talked to him a couple of times already, several times, actually, since his confirmation on, for example, issues that don’t get a lot of news, but our strategy in the Asia Pacific, right?
DS: And I’ve been very focused on it. So you know, the beginnings of administrations sometimes go through ups and downs on who the nominees are going to be, but he not only is going to bring in a great team around him, he does have a great team already around him. And this is one thing I have said before publicly. I had a lot of disagreements with President Obama, but when you look at who he put forward with regard to the joint chiefs of staff, General Dunford, General Milley, commandant of the Marine Corps, General Neller, General Goldfein, chief of staff of the Air Force, these are warriors. These are outstanding military officers, same with the combatant commanders. So I think we’re in good hands right now, but we need to get more top people in the Department of Defense, as we do at the State Department.
HH: And I don’t know General Mattis well. I’ve only been in a room with him once. I knew his chief of staff, Clark Lethin, pretty well when he was down at Pendleton. I think career military people underappreciate how important it is after an election that the party that won train its bench in being assistant secretaries so they have a bench going forward, and service secretaries. I just don’t know that he gets that. And I hope you talk to him about it. It’s very important that both parties have national security professionals in their ranks. That’s all…
DS: I agree, and you know, I was one of those individuals.
HH: Right, right, and then they go to the Senate.
DS: So I don’t disagree with this.
HH: All right, let’s go to what you did this week. You used the Congressional Review Act.
HH: And my least favorite agency in government is the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. I litigated with them for the last 30 years. They are indifferent to law. They are indifferent to property rights. They are high-handed. They are absolutists, and you dealt them a serious blow this week, long deserved.
DS: We did.
HH: Tell us about it.
DS: We did, and by the way, I love how you focus on them on your show. I really do, and I’m just, I’m saying that, because I couldn’t agree more with you. Some of these agencies at the Department of Interior act in the way that you just stated. So this was a complicated Congressional Review Act. By the way, Hugh, we are using it since, that was the 9th CRA, Congressional Review Act motion that we moved forward on in the Senate. We had one yesterday from Senator Jeff Flake. So we are literally lifting billions of dollars of regulatory red tape off the economy, and millions and millions of man hours that Americans have to use to fill out paperwork by getting rid of these old Obama administration regs. The one that we took on just a couple of days ago, which was a battle, it was a battle if you watched what was going on in the Senate, was the Fish & Wildlife Service said that they were going to have authority to manage fish and game on federal refuges in Alaska. There are 70 million acres of these refuges.
HH: It’s unbelievable. It’s unbelievable. They can’t manage an office. They can’t manage a driveway.
DS: I couldn’t agree more, but legally, in my view, it started and stopped with the legal issue. There are several federal laws that say that power to manage the fish and game in Alaska belongs to the Alaskan state authorities who do it, by the way, Hugh, better than anyone in the world.
DS: We have the best qualified professionals who manage fish and game better than anyone in the world in Alaska. For all your listeners who have come up to Alaska, seen our abundant wildlife, they know it. So what the Fish & Wildlife Service said is no, we’re going to do it.
HH: It’s unbelievable.
DS: And we fought this. Even the State of Alaska sued to stop it. This is a federalism issue at its core. This is a 10th Amendment issue at its core, and we brought a CRA to the Senate floor. It had already passed the House by, under the leadership of Don Young, our sole representative from Alaska in the House, and we fought, it was a battle, because a lot of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle were telling me, you know, how to manage fish and game in Alaska…
HH: I know that. I saw some clips.
DS: …senators who have no clue about hunting or certainly about Alaska. And I was incredulous.
HH: I know. I watched some clips.
DS: Please bring a little humility to this debate, because you guys don’t have a clue.
HH: You went full Devil Dog a couple of times in this debate.
DS: I was really upset.
DS: (laughing) I was really upset.
HH: You were close to actually…
DS: I’m glad you saw that.
HH: Yeah, we almost had to use the beep on the Dan Sullivan bits. So at the end of the day, though, Alaska’s back in control of its wildlife and natural resources thanks to the Congressional Review Act, your leadership, Senator Murkowski’s leadership. Do you think the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service learned anything from this?
HH: You see…
DS: But what we are going to do, and this is the Senate confirmation process, I guarantee you, and look, I think Ryan Zinke, the new secretary of Interior…
DS: …is going to be great.
DS: He is great. He’s a combat vet, he’s a war hero, but he gets it, right? But we are still going to make sure our Senate confirmation process is going to be rigorous, because if there’s a new head of the Fish & Wildlife Service that doesn’t believe in federalism, that doesn’t believe that states know how to do this better than the feds, trust me, he’s not going to go anywhere.
HH: Three biggest appointments…
DS: I will be, I will make certain of that.
HH: Yeah, we need a head of the Army Corps of Engineers, we need a head of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, and we need a Region 9 director of EPA who actually know they are not God, and they’ve got to listen to landowners who have property rights and states who have federalism interests. Last word to you, Senator, how are you getting along with Donald Trump?
DS: I’m getting along well. You know, Senator Murkowski and I had a meeting with him in the Oval Office about two weeks ago. Actually, it was the two of us, a couple of the key White House staff and Secretary Zinke, an hour long, and talking all about the great opportunities we have in Alaska to grow our economy, natural resource development. It was a very good meeting. He listened, he was engaged. And on growing the economy and national defense, I think they’re off to a great start.
HH: Dan Sullivan, Senator from Alaska, and Browns fan, I hope we go with Mitch Trubisky at number one. You and I are agreed on this. I’ll send it in to the president of the Browns, Mr. Brown.
End of interview.