Arizona Governor Jan Brewer Defends Veto Of Religious Freedom Bill
HH: I begin this hour with the Honorable Jan Brewer, Governor of the great Desert State. Governor Brewer, good to talk to you, thanks for joining me.
JB: Well, thanks for having me on again, Hugh, appreciate it.
HH: Well, you know, I’m an old friend, and I’ve campaigned with you, so this is not in anger, but in sorrow. I can’t believe you vetoed SB1178, which would have protected the free exercise of religion. What’s going on?
JB: Well, you know, they sent it up to me knowing full good and well to test me. I had sent the word down to them that we needed to get our budget passed, and up here before any more bills would be signed. And so they tested it with five different bills, and that was one of them. So you know, I don’t know what they’re going to do in regards to that, but they’ve got bills down there. They can amend it on, they can do with it what they think is best. But you know, it wasn’t an idle notice of them to do what I believe was the right thing to do. We have been more than patient up here in the 9th floor with our legislature. And they’ve got the people’s work to do, and we are way over our hundred day time limit. And we need to get the people’s work done, and go home.
HH: Governor, the free exercise of religion is the first right. It’s the 1st Amendment and the first right in the 1st Amendment. I think you’re holding it hostage to fiscal issues, and I’m just shocked. Tell me how that can be.
JB: Well, Hugh, you know, we can debate that, but when a governor has to govern, and has to make decisions, they’ve got to tell them what it is that they want. You know, we don’t play games up here. We’ve got a budget. That’s what they are constitutionally supposed to be doing down there, is passing a budget and getting it up to me so that the state can run. And they refuse to do that. They kept diddling around, diddling around, and it was unfortunate. But I kept signing their bills, they kept sending them up, getting all their gravy and whatever else it was that they wanted. And then I told them very politely, by the way, that you know, please don’t send me any other bills until you get the budget up here. And I had to go through all of this once before in 2009, and you know, I’m not going to sit and make a statement and then not stand by my word. You know, I believe it when people tell you things that you ought to take it to the bank. And I hope that people believe me when I say certain things that that’s exactly what I’m going to do. And they were testing me. They know the bills that I like. They know the things that I support. They know that I’m a conservative. And so they, you know, they pushed their limit. And so now they have to deal with it, and hopefully, they’ll be able to do that after they get the budget up here. But I don’t want any more bills on my desk until they get the people’s work done.
HH: Governor, I was in town for the Scottsdale Prep commencement two weeks ago, and I went to Mass over at St. Daniel the Prophet, a wonderful, wonderful church run by Father McGuire, great church. All those people crowded, the Catholics of your state, the Protestants of your state, the Jews, the Mormons of your state, they may agree with you on fiscal issues, but their free religious exercise is under assault from the left, and you vetoed a bill that would have protected it. I understand your making a threat and backing it up, but sometimes, we have to realize we’ve overgone on the threat stuff. This is the most important thing in the country is the free exercise of religion. Will you reconsider if that bill comes to you again, and they haven’t passed the budget you want?
JB: You know, I don’t weigh in on any bill until it reaches my desk, generally speaking. I will tell you that people know who I am and what I stand for. And if it was the most important bill to everyone, as I think that a lot of people might agree, then they should have taken it and sent it up earlier. They didn’t have to wait. They didn’t have to hold it down there, and then all of a sudden are going to tempt me, if you will, to send it up here to see me, to cause me not to keep my word. You know, it was a silly game they played, unfortunately. And I take no delight in vetoing anybody’s bill once it goes through the process, good or bad. There’s a lot of responsibility that goes with this job, and I think the people know that I’m very, very strong in my faith. I couldn’t hold this position during the terrible times that I’ve had to govern if it wasn’t for my faith. And I believe that that’s what’s carried me, carried the day for me. But you know, they’ve got time. They’ve got other bills, and they can do it, and they can do it right. And if it was so important to them, why would they allow that to take place? Why would they send it up to me? Why did they send me junk bills?
HH: Well, Governor, I don’t know…
JB: They’re playing games, Hugh.
HH: That might be the case, but I’m a man of faith, and I just, I’m shocked, because I don’t care about Medicaid…compared to free exercise of religion, and I know what you’re saying about your faith is true. Not only do I know you, I’ve read Scorpions For Breakfast, and I know that’s true. But I think your advisors have put you in a corner, because 1st Amendment faith, I mean, this is the most important thing you can do for the people of Arizona, is protect them in their right to go to church when they want, and to have the health insurance that they want, and not to be sucked into the left and to be keepers of their commitments to God, not to man. So I just think this was a terrible mistake, maybe by everyone, but it’s got to be changed.
JB: Well, Hugh, you know me. You know me, and I know you. Why would a conservative legislature do that to something that was that important? You tell me. I mean, doesn’t some of that blame lay right at their feet?
HH: It may. I’m not saying they’re innocent of this.
HH: But I can’t believe when they put it on your desk you didn’t make an exception, because every rule needs an exception, and the 1st Amendment is the exception, the free exercise of religion.
HH: So if it comes back to you before this Medicaid fiasco is worked out, will you sign it?
JB: You know, and I don’t weigh in on bills until they get here. You know who I am, they know who I am. Certainly, I believe in the freedom of religion, and the right to exhibit that and participate in that, as I think most people do. But I’m not going to weigh in on that bill until it gets sent to my desk.
HH: Well, let’s talk about this Medicaid expansion.
HH: …to which the religion bill is being held hostage. I understand why Kasich expanded it. I had him on the show, and we talked about it. Some people say yes, some people say no. It’s the exchange that drives me crazy, and you, like the others, have turned that down.
HH: But the Medicaid expansion, why do you want it to happen, because it’s obviously got to be super important if you’re going to veto a bill protecting people’s religious rights.
JB: Well you know, first of all, let me say that you know, I was very much opposed to Obama health care. But Medicaid is just a little tiny portion of Obama health care. Obama health care is a big umbrella. Medicaid has been here long before Obama health care came out. The people of Arizona twice have voted to institute expansion of Medicaid. And the bottom line is that when we had terrible times, we had to go in and we had to cut Medicaid, taking people off the rolls, et cetera, et cetera, to get our budget balanced. I had to make some really tough, tough decisions. So when this decision came down that it was the law of the land, elections, you know, have consequences. Obama won, the Supreme Court upheld it, and I believe that all we’re doing is doing the will of the voters of the State of Arizona, and I am in the position at this time to get the federal tax dollars that my taxpayers have paid into the federal government to come back to Arizona, to expand the restoration of Medicaid back to where it was at no cost to the taxpayers here in Arizona. And it’s being very pragmatic. And I can tell you that if this doesn’t happen, they’re not going to be able to even get a budget out, because they don’t have the money to do it. And so here we are. We sit and we wait. I think that in the end, we’ll see it happen, but it’s been very, very difficult, and it is a complicated issue. But I feel very strongly about it. I thought about it a long time. And I have to do what’s right for Arizona. And when I go about the state speaking to people, I can tell you that the majority of the people in the state of Arizona agree with my position.
HH: Oh, but now transition for the audience who are listening as to why unrelated bills like the religion bill gets vetoed because you have, I mean, you could go all year on this Medicaid thing, and there are good positions on both sides. Actually, conservatives like Kasich and you want to take the money, and conservatives don’t want to take…you know, that’s an interesting debate.
JB: But Hugh…
HH: But why hold the…
JB: We can’t go another year. We can’t get our budget out. I’ve got education. I’ve got public safety. I have to get a budget out, and it should have been out probably about 25 days ago.
HH: But what’s that got to do with…
JB: …to put it mildly.
HH: But what’s that got to do with freedom of religion? I really genuinely don’t understand.
JB: The one and only constitutional thing that we’ve got to do is to get a budget out. And we all know, not only in the Arizona state legislature, but the legislatures across the country, that is their responsibility. And they can sit down there and they can not do anything forever and ever and ever. But I have to govern. I have to have a budget moving forward, and I need it by the first of July, the end of June. And we’ve got to get things organized in order to continue government as we have seen it. We have done so much of an Arizona comeback in the last three or four years during very difficult times, that we should be so proud to keep our record so positive. And then for them not to do the budget is outrageous. That’s what they’re elected to do. That is their job.
HH: Well Governor, I appreciate your coming on, but I really hope you rethink this, because the number one job of government is not to interfere with the God-given rights of people to worship God as they see fit. And I’m afraid your veto got ahead of you there, and I hope you rethink it, because that was just a mistake. It’s just a mistake. I mean, it’s not the end of the world, but it’s a terrible mistake. Governor Jan Brewer, I appreciate your coming on. As always, I appreciate your friendship.
End of interview.