The Majority Leader of the House of Representatives, Kevin McCarthy, joined me this morning:
HH: Joined now by the leader of the House majority, Kevin McCarthy. Leader McCarthy, welcome back to the Hugh Hewitt Show, great to have you.
KM: Oh, thanks for having me. I appreciate it.
HH: It is reported that you’re pretty close to President Trump. You were down at Mar-A-Lago last week, right?
KM: Yes, that’s true.
HH: Okay, so do you watch Morning Joe, by chance, Kevin McCarthy?
KM: I don’t watch Morning Joe, but what did they say?
HH: Well, they’re blaming the collapse of immigration talks and the shutdown of the government on Stephen Miller. And that’s widely reported. Joe’s just relaying what the Washington Post…I’m just curious in your conversations with the President at Mar-A-Lago, does Stephen Miller come up?
KM: No, and you know what’s so outrageous, when I had that dinner with the President, earlier in that day, I talked to Schumer, I talked to Durbin, I talked to Steny Hoyer, and I talked to Cornyn all about solving this immigration problem. And what’s been going on, and I give the President a great deal amount of credit, when he brought that bicameral, bipartisan group into the White House that he watched, the American public was able to watch, before we all left, we all agreed that we needed to narrow the discussion to get an agreement done. So we narrowed it, and everybody in the room, I went around, does anyone disagree to these four items? So we’re going to discuss DACA, border security, chain migration and the merit system lottery. Since them, we’ve been meeting in my office every day. The day before the shutdown, Durbin said it was the most progress that we have made. And what’s so ironic is they’re shutting the government down, they’re holding the military hostage, they’re stopping the Children’s Health Insurance Program over something we’re making progress on.
HH: I can’t believe it. I think that Leader Schumer stepped on a rake when he went down to the White House and the President asked him to keep the government open and the minority leader said no. That branded this as the Schumer Shutdown. Are the terms unconditional surrender, Majority Leader McCarthy before we begin negotiations again?
KM: Now we have said with these negotiations you open the government back up, we’ll go right back to the table. What’s really happened here, and look, we’ve learned from experience. We’ve watched, we’ve done some things that weren’t right in the process and messed up. They’ve shut down over an emotion. They don’t know why they shut down, so they don’t know how they can get out. They want their way or no way. We’ve been making progress with where we’re going. They tried to claim they offered to the President the funding for the wall, and that’s just not true. What they offered was we’ll do authorizing, not appropriation. Well, it was already authorized, and Feinstein voted for it, Clinton voted for it, Biden voted for it when they were all in the Senate, and you never got the money to build it. The real challenge here is what do you do with chain migration, and your listeners are highly intelligent. They know that this immigration system, if you’re going to solve it, you don’t want to come back here two years later. We don’t treat everybody the same who comes across the border illegally. If you come from Mexico, you go back to Mexico. If you come from El Salvador or somewhere else, you come into America, you get a ticket, and you go through the court system, so seven years later before you ever come into the process. And what happens in those seven years? Maybe you get married, maybe you marry someone who’s an American, you have children, your children are American, and then the story become you’re breaking up of a family. Let’s solve this problem so we’re not back here seven years later.
HH: Now let me see if I can confirm my understanding of what the basic deal is. Most of the 700,000 to 1 million DACA-eligible people in the country remain, provided they have no criminal or violence in their background. Number two, the wall, at least 700 miles of it, is funded, that’s new 700, and refurbished on the old wall. Three, those DACA recipients who are regularized receive no right to bring family members in, nor any other grandfathering of the parents who brought them here illegally. And then four, the lottery ends. Is that the basic 80% deal that we talk about when we talk about the deal that 80% of Americans support?
KM: Yes, that is, because people don’t understand when you do chain migration, you’re able to bring your family, which is right. Bring your children, and bring your spouse. But you can now bring your parents, you can bring your married children who bring their family, and then you can do your siblings, your brother and sister. Now those numbers currently in the code are capped. There is a 30 year waiting list. There are 2.4 million people that have siblings that are ready to come over. But if someone signs up today, there are a 30 year waiting period. Why don’t we modernize that and make it just the family? And then when you’re going to a merit-based system, that’s really taking what Martin Luther King talked about in that dream, that anybody can make it based upon your merit. And I think that is a much better system than just some luck of the lottery process.
HH: So if the Schumer Shutdown ends and the Democrats surrender their posturing, will the whip group continue to meet immediately, and that’s you and Senator Cornyn, Steny Hoyer and Senator Durbin? Will that reconvene?
HH: …because that’s where the real action is.
KM: That’s where it is, and we have, had Secretary Nielsen there from Homeland, and we also have General Kelley from the White House. Yes, we’ll go right back to meeting that first day that we are back up and running.
HH: All right. Now how much money do we need appropriated, not authorized, but appropriated, in your view, to make this deal work for border security, including 700 new miles of barrier and refurbishment of old barrier?
KM: Well, and you also want to look, there are other ways to do other portions of it when it comes to border security. But you also have to deal with how you treat people illegally that come across the border. You want to make sure in the asylum program that for those women that are coming across that are in real threat, that they’re able to get through. Other people use it for other reasons. I mean, you’re talking in the range of about $23-25 billion dollars to be able to solve that.
HH: That’s appropriated this year?
HH: And by the way, Apple’s going to write a check for $38 billion dollars.
HH: We’ve got money.
KM: Yeah, it’ll pay for itself very quickly. You know what the Democrats have offered and they said they’ve paid for it fully? $1.5 billion.
HH: So we’re not really, they’re not serious, yet.
KM: No, and they want to extend the population further and go straight into citizenship. But we’re willing to talk about everything that’s on the table. What we want to see happen here is that we’re not back at this problem two years from now.
HH: Is it helpful…
KM: This is our one opportunity to solve it.
HH: Now I believe in the whip group, because I actually used to work with Steny Hoyer back in the day and got some stuff done on the Combined Federal Campaign.
KM: Oh, yeah.
HH: He’s very good to work with. I think you’ve got John Cornyn, who’s very smart. Dick Durbin walked out of the meeting and kind of blew it up. But does, is the whip group where this ought to come from, as opposed to, you know, gangs of this and gangs of that? The whip group, you guys are the folks who actually run the business.
KM: Yeah, and you have, it’s bicameral. You’ve got the White House in there, you’ve got the Secretary. You’ve got leadership on all sides. And we have come to many agreements, Steny Hoyer and I. We can philosophically disagree, but we can find where common ground, and remember, how is government created? The reason we’re in Washington is because Hamilton got an agreement for our banking system, right? There is compromise to be found here, and we can get this done. Remember where the court decision right now is. No child’s being harmed by DACA in this process right now. But the children in the health insurance, the military, those who got in the hurricanes and we know the fires in California, that money has all moved out of the House and sitting in the Senate. We’ve passed all 12 appropriation bills. All of that is being held up in the Senate. They will not allow us to do anything, and this is really harming the military.
HH: Now Leader McCarthy, let me switch on you. I just talked to Press Secretary Huckabee about this.
HH: It was released that the FBI has lost months and months, maybe thousands of texts between Agent Strzok and Attorney Page at the Bureau. Sarah said it’s outrageous, but not surprising. What’s your reaction?
KM: I mean, it seems like a coincidence that that’s the ones that were lost. I think in the world of technology, if you think it’s lost one place, I’m sure you can find it at another.
HH: All right, the second related subject is #ReleaseTheMemo, the hashtag #ReleaseTheMemo.
HH: Do you, have you talked to Devin Nunes? Is that memo going to be released?
KM: Well, you know, there is a process for it. You don’t want to put any politics into it. I have been down, I have read the memo. I think it would be appropriate to release. Devin is walking through the process where one, the committee voted as a whole for those members of Congress to read this. I think next, you have to have it declassified. The President will have after, if the committee votes, to move forward with that. I think the American public should be able to see this. I think this country was created on a check and balance system, and that’s why I think the public should be able to see things.
HH: Leader McCarthy, I know you have restrictions on what you can say, but you can tell us what you feel. When you finished reading the memo, what was your emotional reaction to the memo?
KM: I was shocked.
HH: Can you expand? I mean, is it…why?
KM: I don’t want to put any jeopardy, I don’t want to put any misconstrued information about it. I just, I would like this to go before the American public, for the American public to see and let them understand what’s happening in government in this particular case.
HH: You know me pretty well. Would I be shocked by what I read there?
HH: Okay. Okay, that’s interesting. Now when you sat down with the President, did you talk about the Russia investigations at all?
KM: No. No, we talked about DACA, we talked about the military.
HH: And then that leads me to the last, did you talk about this windfall coming from the tax bill? I mean, it’s an…
KM: Oh, yes.
HH: What are we going to use that money for, because I think it should go to infrastructure?
KM: Well, that’s what, we talked, we were at Camp David about the week before laying out wanting to do infrastructure. We’ve got an opioid epidemic across this country. We’re going to have a challenge here with having the lowest unemployment. We need to help people to get back into the workforce. There are so many things that still need to get done, but think for a moment. When you and I would talk about this tax bill, when Pelosi would say it’s Armageddon, right? More than 2 million people have gotten more, almost $2 billion dollars in bonuses. Everyone who works at Wal-Mart now gets a longer maternity leave. Look at how many companies raised their minimum wage. But even more importantly in this cold winter, these energy companies are taking the tax savings, just in Baltimore, put $82 million dollars, and lowing the rate for all of their customers. So now bills are getting lowered, they’re getting more money in their paycheck. Someone just told me the story the other day, a person came to him and said why am I getting a raise? And I said what do you mean you got a raise? I didn’t give you a raise. I got more in my paycheck because the withholding is being lowered. And now you’ve got these trillions of dollars coming back from overseas being reinvested in America? You’ve got companies that are now leaving Mexico, automobile plants, and building in America. This is going to be bigger than we thought.
HH: It’s been a boom, and I don’t believe the Democrats are going to run on we have too much growth, put Nancy Pelosi back in the speakership, but it sounds like that. Are you afraid of a blue wave, Kevin McCarthy?
KM: Look, history says on an off-presidential year, the party in power, the party that has the White House, loses on average 29 seats, and we have 24 for a majority. But when you look at those special elections, if you go back, there’s two anomalies in there, 1998 and 2002. It’s not going to be 2002, because we’re not going to have another strike on America. But what Bill Clinton was able to do, and no one thought he was able to do it when he was impeached and everybody thought Republicans were going to gain, he was successful, because America had six consecutive quarters of economic growth. And I think all that they said about this tax bill, all that they said about the regulation that we were able, to be able to turn, we got unemployment lower. If we finish this job, come November, it’s going to look much different than what history has said in the past.
HH: And finishing the job would require a budget this year. I just talked with Chairman Black about this. Will there be a budget this year that we can attach reconciliation instructions and pass with 51 votes in the Senate?
KM: I know in the House there is. In the Senate, the number got narrowed a little one to 51, but in the best interest of America to finish the job, you know, the tax reform was the beginning of the American comeback. We’ve got to finish the American comeback this year, and I think that would be ideal to make it happen.
HH: Leader McCarthy, thank you for joining me this morning. I appreciate all the insight. Keep working hard. We do need a budget. We do need another reconciliation bill. I appreciate your time.
End of interview.