Idaho U.S. Senator James Risch joined me today to discuss the iran “deal”:
HH: Joined now by the last United States Senator of the day, Senator Jim Risch from the great state of Idaho. Senator Risch, welcome to the program, good to have you on the Hugh Hewitt Show.
JR: Thank you so much. I’m glad to be here.
HH: I was about five miles away from Idaho last week. I was fishing the Madison in Montana, and then we drove up close. But I did not cross over. I didn’t enter into your jurisdiction.
JR: I wish you did. The fish…
HH: Senator, what’s your reaction to the Iran deal today?
JR: The trout in Idaho are a lot bigger than they are in Wyoming.
HH: Well, I caught some 34 inch trout, so I don’t know about that.
JR: Like I said, the trout in Idaho are a lot bigger than they are in Wyoming.
HH: So what’s your reaction to this deal, Senator?
JR: Well, it’s a bad deal. And you know, it’s been a bad deal from the beginning. I mean, they gave away the, to me, they gave away the farm before they ever sat down. If you’re going to make a deal with Iran, it should have been, number one, they give up their nuclear ambitions. Now what that means is a total dismantling and getting out of the nuclear business. And number two, cease supporting the terrorist organizations around the world, namely Hezbollah, Hamas and the Houthis, and other terrorists that they support. Both of those were given away before they ever sat down at the table. So once you sit down at the table and you’ve given away the farm, what’s there to negotiate?
HH: Now your colleague, Senator Graham, agrees with me that the August 10th through September 7th recess should be cancelled, that you folks need to stay in D.C. and focus the world’s attention on the terrible nature of this deal. Do you agree with that, Senator Risch?
JR: Well, of course, you know, all of us have offices. I’ve got six offices in Idaho that I’m committed, I’ve got lots of commitments during this period of time. I certainly wouldn’t be opposed to that. I mean, we’d move the schedule around as we had to. This is a huge deal, and it certainly needs our attention. It will be getting our attention whether we’re in session or out of session.
HH: Yeah, but it’s hard to keep the American, I’m arguing, I’m not arguing with you, I’m trying to make an argument to you. It’s hard for me to focus my audience on the urgency of the moment if they see Washington, D.C. is empty of its leading figures. I mean, it’s just hard to argue that it’s an urgent historical crisis, because after 9/11, you didn’t take a recess. After Pearl Harbor, people came to work. If it’s that kind of a deal, shouldn’t, I don’t know if all of you stay in D.C., but shouldn’t the debate go on for people to focus their attention on?
JR: Yeah, first of all, I agree with you 100%. This is as important as the things that you talked about. Having said that, I think I might disagree a little bit with focusing on it, because I find it’s a whole lot easier for me to get the attention of people in Idaho when I’m there, when I can walk into a TV station or a radio station, or into the editorial boards and lay the thing on the table. And believe me, this is going to be at the top of every one of our lists, even though we’re at home.
HH: Let me give you the counter, though. It’s not really you we’re worried about. We’re worried about Chuck Schumer and Joe Manchin. Joe Manchin, I am told, reliably, has said that he’s sort of for the deal today. The only way to bring pressure to bear on them is through national media outlets being observed by their voters. You’re in Idaho. If you’re in D.C. talking to me, and there’s a debate on the Senate floor that could get sparky and we watch testimony, and we see experts arguing, the national debate needle moves. If you go to the Idaho, what’s a big city in Idaho?
JR: Well, that would be Boise, Idaho.
JR: But we have some others. Idaho Falls, Coeur d’Alene, Twin Falls.
HH: I’ve been to Coeur d’Alene. If you go to the Coeur d’Alene newspapers and you persuade their editorial board, it doesn’t help us find, we need 13 of those guys, right? We need 13 Democrats to beat this deal.
JR: Yeah, you know, and that cuts right to the heart of this. You know, I voted for the bill that said that we were going to get to vote on this, but I have to tell you, it was a close call, because there were arguments on both sides of it. But the reason I voted for that was that at least I’m going to be able to get a vote and be on record as opposing this thing. Now how’s this going to work? Well, obviously in the House of Representatives, it only takes 50% plus one. In the Senate, in order to get on the bill, it takes 60 votes. Now there’s 54 of us, so that means assuming every Republican votes for, votes to get on a resolution of disapproval, that would mean it would take six Democrats. Now I’m not positive that 100% of the Republicans would. I would guess there’d be at least 53 of the 54, maybe as low as 52, but my guess would be 53 of the 54. So then you need 6 or 7 Democrats to get on the bill. If you do that, you get on the bill, and you invoke cloture and go through the process to get to a vote on it. That means you can probably pass it with a 60 vote margin. Then it goes to the House, it passes, and then it goes to the White House and he vetoes it. So now it comes back and you need 67 votes. The President has already had the whole group of Democrats up at the White House and have been twisting their arms, and so will we get to 67? You know, probably what they do is say well, okay, you and you and you that are up for election this year, you can vote with the Republicans, but everybody else will hang tough and we can beat it. So you’re right at the heart of it. There’s no question about it that we need pressure on the Democrats. And how you go about that, whether it’s better whether we’re in session or at home, again, I would argue that when I’m walking down the supermarket with my wife and we’re shopping, and somebody comes up to me and says Senator, I want to tell you what my opinion is on the Iran deal, I’m going to listen to them.
HH: But Senator, I’ve been doing this for 26 years on television and radio. The only time that Washington has moved, I’m thinking of the immigration bill in 2005 and ’06 and other issues is when all of the national news media is focused on debate underway in D.C. It never happens in August. The only way to beat this is if you guys stay there. And it’s not, to me, I don’t care if we get 66. We’ve lost. They’re a nuclear power. We need 67. I mean, and we need two-thirds of the Democrats in the House. And that requires like all hands on deck. I know that some of you want to go home and talk to your constituents, but we can’t move the ball forward if you go on vacation. You can’t persuade anybody that this matters if you go on vacation.
JR: Well, of course, you know, Hugh, I can give you Mitch McConnell’s phone number if you’d like to. This is above my pay grade.
HH: Oh, I already talked to Thune.
JR: I’ll do whatever they say when we’re, you know, they gave us a schedule at the beginning of the year, and I said I’d be here for every day. And if they change it, I’ll be here for that.
HH: Okay, I got Senator Thune to rethink it, and Senator Graham’s on the team for staying there. I’m just trying to set up an argument here so that we win.
HH: Because this is, when you read about this, do you have an emotional reaction? Or is this just another deal? This is a bad, bad thing.
JR: There’s no question about that. And when I read about it, it wasn’t surprising, because this thing’s been coming for so long, and they’ve been, you know, they have moved the goal posts day after day, week after week, month after month. And you know, I mean, it’s like the frog in the boiling water. You know, he’s fine when you put him in there, and you just turn it up a little bit every so often, and pretty soon, the frog’s in boiling water, and that’s where you are with this. I mean, the Iranians have never moved off their position.
HH: No, they haven’t, and I tell people, children in first grade won’t even be juniors in high school when Iran has a legal nuclear weapon. Senator Jim Risch, good to talk to you from Idaho. I appreciate you coming on, Senator. Follow him on Twitter, @SenatorRisch.
End of interview.