House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy joined me to open the show to discuss whether the Patriot Act would lapse:
HH: We begin today’s program with a special shout-out to our special friends listening on AM1070, KNTH in Houston, and to our friends at KLUP, AM930 in San Antonio, basically underwater in both places, 11 inches of rain in Houston, 30 people are missing. I’ll keep you posted on that disaster. Governor Greg Abbott all over Twitter bringing us updates, but it’s really horrific. I begin today’s show with the Majority Leader of the United States House of Representatives, the Honorable Kevin McCarthy. Mr. Leader, welcome, it’s always a pleasure to have you on.
KM: Hugh, thanks for having me, and I do want to put our prayers out to those being flooded throughout Oklahoma and Texas. It’s devastating, the stories you’re hearing out there.
HH: Yeah, 11 inches of rain. We could use it in your Central Valley…
HH: But it’s just too much at one time in Texas. Kevin McCarthy, that’s a natural, manmade disaster. I’m worried about terrorist-made disasters and whether or not this country’s going to be covered come next week. And where are we on the Patriot Act? What is the option open to Congress, because I can’t believe we’re going to go back to a 9/10 world and leave ourselves vulnerable.
KM: I do not believe we’re going to get there. And just so your listeners know, now the House has passed what is the USA Freedom Act, because it’s updated it. It made some changes and corrections to it. And that passed with 338 votes, early, sending it over to the Senate. But unfortunately, they went to cloture, and they were three votes short. It was 57-42. You know, in the Senate, it takes 60 to pass anything. Now they come back on May 31st. I’m pretty confident that they’re going to find three votes and pass that USA Freedom Act.
HH: So what are the differences? I know there’s quite a lot of conversation about Section 215 and metadata, and I’m not one that worries about metadata. But I’m a whole lot more worried about having nothing at all. So what happened that causes the fracture here?
KM: Well, there’s two key points. And you know, inside Congress, you’ve got every different opinion. So to get a bill with 338, you know that you found protection, that we can protect the American public, but at the same time, you’ve got the concerns about civil liberties. And this is the change inside from FISA to USA Freedom. You know the bulk collections, where they would collect all the numbers through there. We stopped the bulk collection, but you have the service providers keeping it so if the government needed it, they’re tracing a terrorist, they can go get that. There is another loophole that’s very important that no one’s talking about. In the current law, when a terrorist would enter the United States, they would have to stop tracking them for like 72 hours before they got the right to track that foreign terrorist in America, not a U.S. citizen, but a foreign terrorist. Now we closed that loophole in USA Freedom, that you won’t have to stop. You can follow, if that person is coming into America, and they’re a foreigner, and you have a fear that they’re a terrorist, you won’t have to stop tracking them.
HH: Now it’s interesting, on Friday, a lot of people didn’t see this, because it happened on Friday. Two would-be Islamic State terrorists were arrested at LAX. They were from Orange County, down in Anaheim, and they were heading off to fight the jihad in Syria. This is not an unusual situation. Do you think that the members of our party are at least aware that this threat is viral in the United States and growing?
KM: You know, I do feel that we understand the threat. I just think people feel it at different levels. But Hugh, in my personal belief, the things that I read, the sensitive material and the other things, we cannot let this lapse in any shape or form. The other concern I have, when you look at Rand Report and others out there, the world is more dangerous today than it was at 9/11.
HH: So when the Senate comes back next week, they have the option still of trying to vote USA Freedom Act forward, of finding three votes? And why didn’t, what was the argument offered by the 43 against doing so?
KM: Well, there’s some in that category that want to do nothing, that want it to lapse. You have to remember that. There are some people out like that. Then there are some others out there that feel as though if you end the bulk data, you can’t do it instantaneously, that there should be an ability to merge through that, maybe like a six month, to make sure that the service providers are able to keep that data and have the searchable engines within there to do it. And so I know individuals are talking now. Is there a place we could find common ground? But you know, any time you get a bill of 338, that’s beyond veto-proof. Very seldom do you ever find that much common ground inside the House.
HH: Now if the Senate passes something that is different in particular from what the House passed, will you be in session in time to pass it without lapse?
KM: Well, what they would have to do, the Senate, if they pass a different bill, which I’d find it difficult in there to pass something differently, instead of maybe just an extension, they could pass a short-term extension, and we could come back in and pass a short-term extension to figure out whatever differences if they could get a bill. But I doubt if they’re able to work one while they’re out right now if they couldn’t do it before.
HH: All right, a couple of other issues, there is a case pending before the U.S. Supreme Court about redistricting that’s going to come down. My friend and yours, Dana Rohrabacher, has dropped a bill in where he wants to empower state commissions, independent commissions, to draw those lines. Is that going anywhere, Kevin McCarthy? Or is that just sort of a unique Dana moment?
KM: No, look, I think, no, Dana always has some ideas out there, but the difficulty is will the President sign something like this, because this is what’s before the Supreme Court. Currently in California, we have a commission. Arizona are the ones who are suing, because they have a commission, but the legislature never approves the commission at the end of their line. It’s the same thing in California. That decision will be made, or made public, by June 30th. If that is the case, and it gets thrown out, the redistricting in Arizona, I’m sure people will challenge in California. Now could you imagine, when we did a commission, they had to have certain criteria. Now if we turn that commission away and we put it up to Sacramento, could you only envision the lines that they would draw, trying to take these seats away and make it a more political decision?
HH: Well, that is going to happen.
HH: I’m curious what your plan is, because I think the Arizona case is going to win, because I’m an originalist. So what’s the backup plan for California Republicans if the Arizona case wins and everything gets thrown into a cocked hat?
KM: Well, there’s a couple different roads to go. You’ve got a number of Democrats out there who also believe in the commissions. If you could hold off those votes and say keep the current lines until the next redistricting, because you’ve got competitive seats in California now, and they’d try to make them non-competitive. If the Assembly and [State] Senate pass something very political, you could referenda it, as long as you didn’t get a two-thirds vote. We can try to fix this in the legislature, and I mean, inside Congress, but I’m not sure it can get through the Senate, or that the President would sign something like that.
HH: Would there be a chance that Republicans and Democrats in California would simply say an Ollie, Ollie in free, we’ll pass the lines as they exist through 2022?
KM: I think that would be the most rational, and from a basis of looking at voters, of what they care most about, I think that would be the best option for everyone.
HH: All right, now let me conclude by asking you about Approps. There’s a huge piece in the Washington Post this afternoon by Simon Denyer, Chinese Military Sets Course To Expand Global Reach As National Interest Grow. Your House has passed the first budget in I don’t know how many years. It sets a number for Defense Approps with a plus up in the OCO, which is terrific. But now they’ve got to get a bill to the President’s desk and in a hurry, because the Chinese aren’t waiting for anybody. They double digited it again.
HH: How soon do you think Defense Approps gets a fill to full Approps, which goes to the Senate?
KM: I say we’ll get this done in June.
HH: Oh, really?
KM: Yeah, and this is, we want that to be one of the first to go to the President, because we want to get it out of the Senate there. We did NDAA, which is Defense, and you found that the Democrats, this has always been a bipartisan bill, we only had 41 Democrats vote with us. Pelosi lobbied against it. It’s the first NDAA bill that Steny voted against. They’re trying to make everything political. And if there’s one thing that should not be political, it’s the defense of our nation. And that brings real concern. That’s why I want it to be one of the first to get to the President, and let’s really lay down the marker, what are we going to do with the future here.
HH: That’s terrific. On a light-hearted note, Cavs are going to be up against the Warriors. I assume you’re, because the GOP convention is in Cleveland, you’re supporting the Cavaliers, Kevin McCarthy?
KM: No, I’m a Warriors fan.
HH: I knew that was going to be a problem. I knew that. in the Central Valley, you’re not Lakers people? You’re actually Warriors people?
KM: No, I’m a big Lakers fan. The Lakers have got some rebuilding years, and you’ve got to give it to the Warriors. How many years have they been playing and people didn’t even know they were a team?
HH: Not enough. Exactly. Not enough. It’s going to be the Cavs in five, Mr. Leader. Great to talk to you, Kevin McCarthy, thanks for joining me to start this off. Good luck on getting Defense Approps done and getting the USA Freedom Act passed, because we do not want to be naked before our foes.
End of interview.