Congressman Jeb Hensarling on Tuesday night and his future role as Conference Chair?
HH: Pleased to welcome now to the Hugh Hewitt Show Congressman Jeb Hensarling, one of the architects of the victory, a prodigious fundraiser. But much more importantly than that, a communicator for many years on the Hill of the values that triumphed on Tuesday. Congressman Hensarling, welcome back, great to have you on the Hugh Hewitt Show.
JH: Hugh, thank you for having. It is a great day.
HH: We just played some of the greatest hits from the last two days there. And what is your sense of the possibility of getting this spending under control when you folks get back to D.C?
JH: Well, I know that House Republicans are going to do everything they can to make sure that we do. We’re talking about the survival of a great nation. And I think if the American people said anything, it’s we want our jobs back, and we want you to quit bankrupting our government. Now unfortunately, there is one reality. Barack Obama is still the president of the United States of America, and we have that unfortunate reality for at least two more years. But I think, Hugh, the most important thing is the American people need to know that the Republican Party stands by what it says. I was there when the Republicans were in the majority last time, lost their way. I fought it. I lost. And the Republicans consequently lost. I’m committed to making sure that doesn’t happen. So I believe this time the American people have given us a second chance. And I’m one who has authored the spending limit amendment to the Constitution along with John Campbell and Mike Pence. And it says hey, you know what, the federal government since World War II has averaged taking 20% of the economy. Right now under current law for our children, it will double. Double in size, and we say no. We want to enshrine in the Constitution a limit to the size and expense of the federal government. And I hope I’ll have an opportunity, along with my colleagues, to offer that. And working with great Republican leaders like Paul Ryan, we’re going to start out rolling this stuff back to pre-bailout, pre-stimulus levels. And listen, families can’t live beyond their means, small businesses can’t live beyond their means. A great nation cannot live beyond its means. So I know we’ll send the bills out there. What the Democrats do in the Senate, and what the President does in the White House, Hugh, I don’t know.
HH: Now Congressman Hensarling, obviously the President started talking compromise before the votes had even been counted. And the MSM was out there urging Republicans to compromise. Is there, you heard the quote from Mike Pence on my program before the election saying that’s not on the table. Do you believe that there is a majority in the caucus to stand firm on these key issues?
JH: Oh, I think absolutely. And listen, I would phrase it this way, and Mike Pence is my dearest friend, closest colleague in the United States Congress. And he has, I believe, an incredibly bright future ahead of him. And nobody articulates the vision of the Republican Party like Mike Pence. Listen, I’m happy to sit down with the President. I’m happy to talk with the President. Even willing to negotiate with the President. But when it comes to bankrupting America? There can be no compromise. When it comes to Obamacare, the American people have spoken loudly and clearly. There’s just nothing to compromise on. Listen, I’m happy to negotiate, but you never compromise your principles. And the American people, maybe they didn’t totally affirm what Republicans have done, and I understand that. They certainly rejected the President. They rejected Speaker Pelosi. And perhaps Nevada didn’t quite get it right, but I think the American people rejected Harry Reid as well.
HH: Yeah, my home state of California, adopted home state…
JH: Didn’t quite get it.
HH: Oh, that raises the quick question. They’re going to come a-looking for a handout. We know that. What’s your opinion of New York and California and Illinois, they’re on the verge of bankruptcy, asking the rest of the country to send checks?
JH: I’m in the opportunity business, not the bailout business.
JH: I fought my own President, fought my own party leaders against the original bailout, the original TARP bill. And I’m not in the bailout business. You can’t live in a society and expect to have capitalism on the way up, socialism on the way down. And you know, at some point, the voters have to be held accountable for who they send to Washington. And I’m just not sure, as bad as things may be, you know, you always ask yourself the question, Hugh, is it worth borrowing almost forty cents on the dollar, a lot of it from the Chinese, and sending the bill to our children and grandchildren? I mean, I’m sorry these states and these municipalities are in such debt. But again, is it worth sending the bill to our children and grandchildren? And the answer is no. Bailouts beget bailouts. And sooner of later, you’re looking at a Ponzi-like scheme.
HH: Now Congressman, I want to talk a little bit about communication. I just finished an hour talking about how the Republicans ought to lead. You want to be the Conference Chair, and have enormous support from many perspectives, I wrote on the web today, because of your communication skills. So how important is it that the Republicans stay in touch with the people who sent them there, and become at least as accessible as Nancy Pelosi was inaccessible?
JH: (laughing) Well, Hugh, that’s a good way of putting it. Listen, great companies in the private sector stay close to their customers. The Republicans in the House have to stay close to their constituents. And I think it is critical, and I think again, when the Republicans used to be in the majority, they lost their way. I don’t think we’re going to make that mistake this time. And I could not be more grateful that so many people across America who haven’t been actively involved in the political process rose up and said you know what, we want our country back. We want limited government. We want Constitutional government. What a novel concept. And we don’t want to live beyond our means. And the American dream is all about leaving your children with greater freedom, greater opportunities, and a greater standard of living. And you, Mr. President, and you, Madame Speaker, and you, Mr. Majority Leader, are compromising that. And so I think Republicans have got that message, and yes, you’ve got to keep close to the American people, because as Franklin put it all those many years ago, it’s a republic if you can keep it. The people’s will will be heard.
HH: I’m talking with Congressman Jeb Hensarling of Texas’ 5th district. Now Congressman, as I mentioned, you’re a prodigious fundraiser and campaigner for the new Republican majority. And so how would you send, a million bucks out to Congressmen this year that you raised for them?
JH: Well, I was happy to do what I can to help put some bullets on the front lines to win these things. But I spend most of my time in the battle of ideas. But yeah, I tried to do a lot to help build this majority with a lot of good people, Hugh. I mean, it was a wonderful team effort starting with Leader Boehner and Eric Cantor and Pete Sessions at the helm of the NRCC. But you know, before any of us get too big of a head, I mean, let’s face it. Again, the American people’s will was known. I’ve tried to be a leader. I’ve tried to be a communicator. I’ve tried to help my fellow members of the conference. But you know, I’m a movement conservative. It’s who I am. And I always look for opportunities to further those principles.
HH: Well, that’s my last question for you with a minute to go. You were out on the trail a lot, and you’re a movement conservative. Did the conservatives do better than the center-right candidates this cycle, and do you put it down to the Tea Party, or to the clear articulation of principles, or just being more anti-Obama than the next person?
JH: No, I think the Tea Party had a lot to do with it. Listen, I think in its totality, the Tea Party is a very healthy movement for our country. As a guy who considers himself a movement conservative, I’m happy for folks to feel little pressure from the right, particularly when I know that America is in peril of becoming a second-rate economic power, that we are on the verge of being the first generation in America’s history to break faith with the forefathers and lose that American dream. And so listen, I think the Tea Party was very, very helpful, and those who said basically two things – we’re going to help you bring about jobs, and we’re going to quite spending our nation into bankruptcy. Those were the candidates that won.
HH: Jeb Hensarling, I look forward to talking to you a lot in your job as Conference Chair if that’s what you end up doing, and if not, just generally talking with you. Thanks for joining me today.
End of interview.