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House GOP Number Three Mike Pence On Earmarks

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HH: Joined now by Indiana Congressman Mike Pence, third-ranking Republican in the House of Representatives. Hello, Congressman Pence, welcome back to the Hugh Hewitt Show.

MP: Hugh, it’s wonderful to be back on, and good to be in sunny California.

HH: I’ve got to ask first about the breaking news of the hour, which is CNN anchor, after a series of comments widely viewed as anti-Semitic today, has been dismissed from CNN. But CNN has yet to cover it thirty minutes after they put out a press release. Are you surprised that this kind of stuff goes on at a network with the reputation of CNN?

MP: Well, let me say probably one of the things you don’t know, because you didn’t read my whole bio, Hugh, is, that’s meant to be a joke, I’m actually co-chair of the anti-Semitism caucus in Congress.

HH: Oh, I didn’t know that.

MP: Yeah, the late Tom Lantos, who was the only Holocaust survivor ever to serve in Congress, asked me to be the Republican co-chair of that several years ago. And you know, let me just commend CNN, whatever they do to cover it, let me just commend CNN for having zero tolerance for the kind of rhetoric that is being reported to have come from that individual. It’s, you know, I appreciate the fact they acted decisively to take away his bully pulpit, and I think it’s imperative people on every end of the spectrum draw the line at rhetoric that history teaches has really no place in debate in a free society.

HH: Let me play it for the audience in case they haven’t heard it yet, Congressman, and then we’ll get back to the Pledge. Here’s what Rick Sanchez said earlier today on Sirius radio.

PD: …is a minority, as much as you are.

RS: Come on. How is he a minority?

PD: He’s Jewish.

RS: Yeah, yeah, very powerless people.

PD: Rick,

RS: (laughing)

PD: Whoa.

RS: Ooh, he’s such a minority. I mean, you know…please, what are you, kidding?

PD: He’s…you’re telling me that…

RS: I’m telling you that everybody who runs CNN is a lot like Stewart, and a lot of people who run all the other networks are a lot like Stewart. And to imply that somehow they, the people in this country who are Jewish, are an oppressed minority? Yeah…

HH: So Mike Pence, I asked Charles Krauthammer if that was anti-Semitic, he said oh yeah, that’s anti-Semitic. And so I’m glad that we got your statement as well. And I’m actually amazed they haven’t said anything on air yet, but we’ll come back to that. Now, tough question, Mike Pence.

MP: Yeah.

HH: The Pledge To America does not have a ban on earmarks. Why not?

MP: Well, let me say first and foremost, I’m pleased that our team put together a document that represents what I’ve characterized as a good start. It’s meant to be a list of things that Congress could take up right now that would get spending under control, get the economy moving again, bring about government reform, protect the country, and respect our values. And so you know, I think it’s important that people know this was not intended to be a comprehensive document, and I’m pleased with what is in it. In terms of the earmarking issue, the fact that Republicans this year embraced a unilateral moratorium on requesting any earmarks, frankly hasn’t gotten a lot of press outside of great programs like this one, Hugh. But you know, Republicans turned down earmarks this year. And since this document was about what we should do this year in this Congress, it was less urgent that that be addressed in there. But make no mistake about it. As John Boehner said this week at a speech in Washington, D.C., House Republicans are committed to ending earmarking as we know it, once and for all. And that’s going to mean new processes in Congress, new transparency, new accountability, and it’s also going to mean new people on the Appropriations Committee that are going to have zero tolerance for the kind of pork barrel spending that has so frustrated the American public in recent years.

HH: Now Congressman, I appreciate that you’ll come on here, like Campbell and Dreier and Paul Ryan yesterday, and letting me ask you the tough question. But I must have, if I’ve got ten, I’ve got a hundred emails. I don’t trust them. See? The first time they get together, the very first thing they do is protect their ability to do earmarks, and they’ll double-cross us like they did before. And further, Mike Pence, even if they don’t intend to do that, they’re so blinking tone deaf to the country, how could they possibly not ban earmarks? Are they that tone deaf? How do you respond?

MP: Well, look, I understand the frustration. I don’t think Republicans lost their majority in 2006. I think Republicans lost their way. I think, you know, Republicans in Congress walked away from the practice and the principles that minted our governing majority in 1994, and the American people walked away from us. So look, I get it. I get the cynicism. It’s well-deserved, but my hope is that should Republicans be given the opportunity to lead the Congress again, that the determination that we’ve shown in opposing Obamacare, unanimously, opposing the stimulus bill unanimously, fighting against their big government plans and spending, will also be exactly what people see on spending reform and discipline in large ways and in small ways. Look, we’re going to end earmarking as we know it.

HH: Oh…

MP: And people are going to judge this Congress in short order if Republicans are given the opportunity to lead again, and I like our chances. I think Republicans in Congress get it, and more importantly, Hugh, the generation of men and women that are running for Congress all over this country, I’m going to be campaigning with Van Tran this afternoon, are going to hit Washington, D.C. and be a real catalyst for change in the way we spend the money, in tax and pro-growth policy, in values, in security, and we have a real opportunity for transformational change.

HH: Now Congressman, you stole the show in Washington, D.C. at the Family Values Conference, and I know you’re a rock-ribbed, true blue conservative.

MP: Thank you, Hugh.

HH: But that change it as we know it is the kind of language that just tells people out there oh, that’s not going to work. Why not hold a conference call with the entire conference and say oops, we overlooked this, and vote right now an amendment, no earmarks, we will not pass an appropriations bill…I know you’ll do plus ups on defense, and you’ve got to do highway spending. But why not give the people what they demand right now, which an end of this practice?

MP: Well look, as you know, I declined to request earmarks about four or five years ago myself. And you know, I’ll continue to decline requesting earmarks until I’m convinced that we have fundamentally transformed the system to only accommodate those things like you just suggested, you know, whether if there’s national security issues that members are aware of issues affecting border security, affecting our military, that have the ability to be spent. But we’ve got to kill off the bridges to nowhere. We’ve got to kill off the cowgirl hall of fames. And I believe that we can do that. I believe we can do that without unilateral statements and promises. We just need to go in and do it, restore the confidence in the American people in the way we spend the people’s money.

HH: Mike Pence, always a pleasure, good luck out there with Van Tran down in Orange County. We’ve got to get him to beat Loretta Sanchez. Congressman Mike Pence, number three in the Republican hierarchy.

End of interview.


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