House Minority Whip candidate, John Shadegg
Jeb Babbin, guest hosting for Hugh Hewitt.
JB: We’re joined right now by Congressman John Shadegg of Arizona. He’s running for the post of minority whip. He’s a rock-ribbed conservative, and I don’t think that’s an insult anymore, even though we have some folks in the Congress now who don’t seem to follow that path. He’s a former chairman of the Republican Study Committee, a Republican Policy Committee chairman, class of 1994. Mr. Shadegg, thanks very much for taking the time to join us.
JS: Thank you, Jed. Glad to be with you, and I consider it a high compliment to be called a rock-ribbed conservative.
JB: Well, I can’t think of anybody…you and Mike Pence are some of the people that I really think of in those terms. Your former colleague…and I hate to see J.D. Hayworth go, but you know, we’re just going to have to plug on, with or without all the help we can get. One of the things I’m trying to do, Mr. Shadegg, is get our conservative coalition back together. We’ve got to talk to each other, we’ve got to deal with each other on the issues we value most dear, and we need to figure out how to move forward. One of the lessons of this particular election, and I’m sure you’d agree, is people are not really happy about pork and earmarking. Would you, as one of the prospective leaders, support a no pork, no earmark policy for the Republicans?
JS: There are two problems with earmarking, and with, essentially, member projects, including members bringing home pork. One is that you get members focused on their job as being…or my job is to go get little pieces of pork, or little pieces of little projects, and bring them home to my constituents. That has them devoting all their energy to sorting out which of those they want, which ones they don’t, and of putting their energy into advocating for those projects. The second problem with it is what my friend, Tom Coburn, described in a single word, or two words, which is that member projects, or pork, earmarks, are a gateway drug. And what he means by a gateway drug is that sadly, once a member goes out and decides okay, for all these constituent groups that are coming back and asking me for a project, or asking me for language in a bill, or asking me for this little project that needs to be done, or a gymnasium here, or a swimming pool there, or a bridge here, or whatever, is that they discover that once they have requested projects for their district, they are then expected by the system back here to vote for everybody else’s…
JB: Everybody else’s. Sure.
JS: …request for a project.
JB: But what do we do? Do we end this? Can you guys stand up and say we ain’t going to do this anymore?
JS: I don’t think it is…I’m not certain if it is possible to end all member projects. There is a belief back here, which I think misapprehends the Constitution, which says that because Congress gets to write the budget, members of Congress should control spending, and we shouldn’t give that power away to the executive branch. Indeed, my opponent in this race said recently, before the Heritage Foundation, in a speech last week, if we don’t earmark in Congress, then we’re just moving the earmarking process down the street to the executive branch. I don’t believe that’s consistent with the U.S. Constitution. I think the Constitution says the Congress appropriates in a broad sense, sets up categories of money, and that the executive branch then spends that money as it sees appropriate. One of the most nefarious things about earmarking, and I’m sorry to give a long answer, but it’s important to understand this, is that if members decide which projects to fund, rather than the bureaucracy, then in the first year, they say okay, I’m going to earmark these ten projects. They go home, people love those ten projects. So what does the member say? Well next year…I’m going to earmark…
JB: He wants ten more.
JS: …fifteen or twenty.
JB: Okay, we’ve only got about a minute and a half left, and I really don’t…I don’t mean to press you…
JS: That’s all right.
JB: And I really…you are one of the good guys. Can we count on the Republican leadership to fight tooth and nail against earmarks?
JS: Oh, I’m going to fight tooth and nail against all earmarks. I’m going to try to reform this process. At a minimum…you know, we’ve already gotten some sunshine. We need much more sunshine, but it needs to go to not just financial earmarks, but also to legislative earmarks, where they stick language in. My preference would be to have none. If you can’t get to none, then my preference would be to say at a minimum, let’s say they have to be fair and across the board, and put severe limits on them. I think they’re a distraction from our job.
JB: I think you’re absolutely right, Mr. Shadegg, and I know you’re rushed, but can we hold you over for even just a part of the next segment?
JS: Oh, you bet.
JB: There’s a couple of things I’ve just got to ask you, we’ve got to get real firm words about whether we’re going to do something about illegal immigration, what is the Republican party going to stand for. Can you stick with us for just a couple of more minutes?
JB: Let’s go right to the next question, sir. One of the things that the people in our base, the conservatives across the American plain, are just so energized about, is illegal immigration. You guys, the House conservatives, you took a tough stand. The only reason we don’t already have an amnesty bill is that you guys dug your heels in and said no. What happens this year when the amnesty bill comes over from the Senate? What happens when the Democrats in the House start talking about repealing the 700 mile fence?
JS: I think it’s going to be one of the most defining moments of the upcoming Congress. You are absolutely right that but for House Republicans, we would have passed a Senate bill, a Senate amnesty bill, much like the one they tried to push down our throats already. I think stopping it is going to be a challenge. I would suggest that our best hope is to go to some of the more conservative Democrats who just ran, and who saw how the immigration issue played out in their districts, and who recognize that they cannot get crosswise with their electorate in places like Georgia and Tennessee, and support an amnesty-type bill. One of the issues that concerns me the most is the path to citizenship. I think one of the most serious problems deep in the illegal immigration issue is do we set the standard for what it takes to become a U.S. citizen, and therefore, what it takes to get the right to vote in this country so low that we begin to dillute what America stands for.
JS: And that has to be where House Republicans draw a line in the sand, but since there are not enough of us anymore to by drawing a line in the sand win, we’ve got to go to, hopefully, some conservative Democrats who recognize where the American populus is on this issue, and say please join us in resisting amnesty, and resisting an automatic path to citizenship, or something that is a virtual automatic path to citizenship.
JB: Well, I can only speak for myself, but I write two columns a week for American Spectator and for Realclearpolitics.com, and I appear here fairly often. But I have a funny hunch that a lot of people like me, when you guys start digging your heels in, you’re going to find us backing you 100%. Last question I have for you, and I’m holding you over, and I’m very guilty about that, but you’re so generous with your time, and it’s just so good to talk to someone who’s like-minded and a tough guy in Congress. Last question, one of the things that we saw in this past election, and we see it again and again and again, is that the media are essentially acting, some of the mainstream media are acting like 527 groups, prosecuting campaign commercials, when they should be producing news stories. Lynne Cheney, God bless her, went in there and kind of thumped Wolf Blitzer right down on the mat, and held him down for a pin. Now are we going to see some other Republicans fighting back a little bit, and demanding honesty from the press, and getting them back down from this business of basically campaigning for the Democrats?
JS: Well, I think you’re going to see a completely different House Republican constituency. My pitch to House Republicans is if I’m elected minority whip, the campaign for us to retake the majority began last Wednesday, the day after the election. Your first re-elect is your toughest re-elect. I plan to take this fight directly to the Democrats, and take back the majority in ’08, and not a day later. And I’m going to try to pull the entire Republican conference together under that proposition. Look at some of the Republican who lost. Charlie Bass and Jeb Bradley lost in New Hampshire because the Democratic governor got 75% of the vote, and there was a straight ticket voting. I guess what I’m saying is we are all going to come together. I hope we are all going to speak with one voice, and I hope we are going to be very aggressive, and make it near impossible for the media to ignore that pressure. I think we sat on our lead. We sat on our majority, and kind of protected it. We played the game not to lose for the last four years, or maybe even the last six years.
JS: You can’t play the game not to lose. You have to play the game to win, and I think that means being aggressive and in their face.
End of interview.