I was joined this leader by the Majority Leader of the House, CA Rep. Kevin McCarthy:
HH: I’m pleased to welcome back to the program House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy. Good morning, Leader, good to have you back.
KM: Good morning and Happy Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day to you.
HH: Let me begin after a string of legislative victories – the tax bill, the spending breakthrough, the breaking of the sequester, you are linked now with the short list of people to become the new White House Chief of Staff. Have you discussed that with the President?
KM: No, I have made no decis…I have not discussed anything like that with the President. There’s no opening, either, so…
HH: Would you be willing to do it if there was an opening and he asked you to do it?
KM: Look, I don’t do any hypotheticals. I think my role here as majority leader is get all the work done.
HH: One source, according to CNN, says McCarthy is telling people he doesn’t want the job. Another source says he could be more valuable to the White House in his current role in Congress. Are people making up stuff without talking to you, Kevin McCarthy?
KM: I think stuff gets made up every week. I had Bloomberg calling me saying I took some job with Google last weekend. So…
KM: I don’t know what people, I mean, I had two different jobs made up over the weekend. I looked at my wife and we had filed the run for reelection on Monday, so…
HH: Okay, so there is no plan for you to go to the White House.
KM: No, I have not spoken to the President at all about that.
HH: All right, now last question on that, Kevin McCarthy. If asked by the President, because he likes you and you get along well with him, would you do it?
KM: Look, there is no opening. I think General Kelly is an amazing person. I watched what he’s been able to do with this White House, put structure to it, and I think those hypotheticals are not healthy in any shape or form. We all work very well together. And we’ve got a lot of work still to do.
HH: That wasn’t a no.
KM: (laughing) But there is no job out there.
HH: Okay, I just point out to my audience that isn’t a no.
KM: I know. You’re doing my job.
HH: Doing my job. All right, Kevin, let’s talk about the immigration bill, because there is a gan of 4. And finally, there’s a gang I like. It’s the two whips, you and Steny Hoyer, who I, you know, I’ve had a long time respect for Steny. He gets stuff done.
HH: And Dick Durbin and John Cornyn, and you four are driving the immigration deal. Is there going to be a deal that gets through both the Senate and the House?
KM: I think at the end of the day, we can get there. I still think there’s, what the Senate’s doing now, I don’t know that anything gets out of the Senate. So we stay at the table, and the one commitment we made to all four of us, and we also have the Secretary of Homeland and General Kelly in the room. What we say is there’s going to be ups and down as you go, like any other big piece of legislation. We’re just going to stay at the table and make a commitment to get it done with each other. And there’s a lot of, we know at the end of the day there’s going to have to be compromise. But I think the President laid out there a very good place that he shows he’s willing to get this done. I can’t believe the Democrats would want to walk away from this.
HH: What are the essential elements that have to be in it? Forget about all the side frills and whistles. What are the essential basic pillars of an immigration deal?
KM: I think you look at four items, right? Okay, you look at DACA itself, and the President said he would go to Dreamers. You’ve got to really talk about border security. And that goes beyond, because what most people don’t realize, we don’t treat everybody equally who comes across the border illegally. Like if you’re from a contiguous country, Canada or Mexico, you go directly back to that country. If you are picked up and you’re coming from another country, El Salvador or somewhere else that’s not contiguous, you get a ticket, you get a few days, and then you come back through the legal system that takes like seven years. So I don’t want to come back to this problem again, so you’ve got to solve it long term. So you’ve got to do something there. When people talk about the family reunification, people also call it chain, I’m talking about the nuclear family. So somebody comes in now, of course we want them to bring their children, their spouse. But what you can also bring is your married children, your brother and sister. And what the real challenge here is like the brother and sister, that’s limited to about 65,000 a year. In 2015, there were 2.4 million people waiting for that already legally. So you put new people on, that’s another 30 years. So why don’t we make the nuclear family closer, and give those to be able to bring those children and spouses in faster, and eliminate you know, the brother/sister or married children, because that’s a family upon themselves.
HH: So is that a source of controversy in the discussions, because that seems obvious to me, as does the ending of the diversity lottery.
KM: That is, I can’t, I can’t, the Democrats are just holding up on that. And so my point is you’re already on a 30 year waiting list. I don’t understand the point of why you’re holding here. And then when you think about merit and the lottery system, so that’s the fourth pillar. And I think those are all kind of common ground places that everybody’s giving from one aspect. And you know, in today’s society, when a person’s in business, you can make an agreement with somebody, and people could have a win-win on both sides.
HH: That’s what happened last week on the spending deal…
KM: That’s, yeah.
HH: …even though some of the deficit hawks were upset. I just got done telling Tim Alberta unless you’ve got 60 votes in the United States Senate, we’re never going to do entitlement reform. So I’ll take the best deal we can get, which I think was a very good deal, because it got the sequester off the Pentagon, so my hat is off to you guys. But there are lots of leaks about how unhappy deficit hawks are. Well, get 60 votes in the Senate, and Rand Paul can talk to the caucus then, not to himself. Let me ask you…
KM: And remember, 69% of the money goes to mandatory…
KM: When Ronald Reagan was president, it was just 25%. So you know, if you want to wipe out all the Department of Defense, we still have a deficit. We have to go after what those cost drivers are. And if you want to protect entitlements for a future generation, you’re going to have to do something about it now.
HH: And you’re going to have to elect Republicans, which brings me to the February 8-12 survey conducted by Consult Politico released this morning. 39% of registered voters would pick a Republican candidate compared to 38%. You have retaken the lead in the generic ballot when you were down by double digits only three months ago. What do you think of this, Kevin McCarthy?
KM: I’ll tell you what. This is all really going to tax bill, the jobs and the others. Remember what Nancy Pelosi said. These were crumbs. This is Armageddon. Well, more than four million people have now gotten bonus. 1.2 million who just work at Wal-Mart just got a longer maternity leave. Everybody should go and check your check this month. You just got a raise. My brother, he works in the prison system in California. We were over watching the Olympics this week, and he goes, you know, everybody came in and said this is great. We got our raise. They work for government, and my brother said no, there’s no raise. What you got was a tax bill that gave you a raise to let you keep more of the money you already made. So, and people should look at their checks.
HH: And so, they are, and I think that’s why you’re ahead in the generic ballot, but you’ve got to keep the momentum going.
KM: Oh, we have to.
HH: What do you follow this up with, because you’ve now done the tax bill. You’ve done the spending caps. You’ve raised the debt limit. Everything, and all the Senate nominations, courts, etc., are on the Senate side. What does the House do now other than immigration?
KM: Remember in that bill itself, now we’ve got to get immigration done. But also in our caps agreement, we put money in there to deal with opioids, which is epidemic across this country. We also put money in there for infrastructure, which the President just laid out starting this week as well. I’ll be down at the White House talking with him today about that. Those two items, I think, would be very big. And then also, remember, we’ve got some of the lowest unemployment we’ve ever had. And we still have millions of Americans out of the workforce. So what the President talked about in that State of the Union about job training, abled bodies getting back into the workforce, creating and helping that incentive to get more people in, I think doing those three things put us on a path, and remember, when you watch the generic ballot, in December, it was Democrats plus 12. That needs to be 6 or less for Republicans to retain the majority.
HH: And that’s where it is today. That’s good. Let me close by talking about the House Intel Committee. The Schiff-Nunes split, or the Nunes-Schiff split is pretty deep.
HH: And Adam Schiff is your colleague from California. I’ve talked with him in airports before. He’s a nice guy until he goes on TV.
HH: And then he turns into this complete, utter fabricator. I mean, I just can’t come up with any…
KM: It’s a whole different person.
HH: What is going on with him?
KM: I don’t quite know, because this is the not the Adam Schiff you had for years here. And he is a really a fundamentally different person on the television. And remember what he said prior to the investigation, that he had, and I’ll get the phrase incorrectly, but he gave something to the point that he had evidence that Trump was guilty before the investigation started. And then to what he did, they all voted against letting the information out about FISA. Every Republican voted for the Republican version and the Democrat version. And you know you can’t put methods in there. The one thing that the Republican memo did, they went to the FBI ahead of time and said scrub it. The Democrats did not, because they want to play games with it. And the President cannot put that out there, because it would put our agents in jeopardy and others who are gathering this information. But you know the FISA Court better than almost anyone. This is a unique court. You can’t go before them and to have three different times and withhold where you know the dossier is coming from, that it was from Steele and the Democrats are paying for it.
HH: Now 30 seconds, Kevin McCarthy, do you believe this will end up being more about Obama administration wrongdoing or about Trump campaign wrongdoing, 30 seconds?
KM: Much more about Obama’s overreach on the 4th Amendment than anything about Trump and the election.
HH: Remarkable. Kevin McCarthy, congratulations on a great start to 2018. Good luck on getting an immigration compromise done. Come back early and often, even when you’re chief of staff.
KM: (laughing) All right, Hugh, take care.
End of interview.