Indiana Senator Todd Young joined me this morning to discuss the rules of the Senate:
HH: Joined now by United States Senator Todd Young of Indiana, a Marine veteran, an Annapolis graduate, Senator Young, if the Marine Corps ran like the Senate, would they ever take a beach?
TY: (laughing) Absolutely not. And I gather you wrote a piece in this morning’s Post. I look forward to reading it, but we’ve been wringing our hands around here over the last year plus since I’ve been in the Senate about how this place functions. I spent 6 years in the United States House of Representatives prior to that, and one of the reasons I think the state of Indiana voted for Donald Trump in our Republican primary and Bernie Sanders, both different sorts of Republicans and Democrats respectively in our primaries is because I think people are tired of this town not getting things done. And so much of that does indeed come back to the Senate and how we’re structured, and I think it’s worthy of a serious and public debate.
HH: Now I had Joni Ernst on and Chris Coons, and they agreed there are a group of sort of center-left and center-right senators, and some who are pretty conservative like James Lankford who could get together and come up with some rules changes on two areas – minor appointments, I don’t mean Supreme Court appointments, minor appointments…
HH: …for time limitation and appropriations, which ought to be majoritarian, because you’ve got to do them every year. Do you agree that those reforms are in the offing and they’ve got to happen?
TY: I agree with respect to the appointments, the minor appointments, that the 30 hours equally divided for debate has been abused. As was likely mentioned by some of my colleagues this morning, we have unanimous or near unanimous votes out of committee on some of these appointments, and then whomever is in the minority party abuses their prerogatives, takes the full 30 hours, bottles up the United States Senate, and puts us on a path towards not filling up the entire administration over a four year period. That clearly is dysfunctional, and I would favor a compression of debate time for certain nominees. And exactly the number of hours that ought to be allotted to different senators is something that is open to debate. With respect to spending bills, there again we have bipartisan agreement, sometimes as I understand it, majority agreement on these appropriations or spending bills that come out of committee. And they’re never allowed to see the light of day on the floor, because it takes 60 votes procedurally to get them down on the Senate floor and face an up or down vote. So that also is a potential reform that I am open to, and more than open to. I am warm to the idea, but I would only mention this initial concern, Hugh, and it’s that the authorizing committee, the committee that’s been charged for generations with coming up with programmatic changes, changing, reforming how programs work and making sure that we’re always scrutinizing their effectiveness, and whether we’re using taxpayer money wisely and so forth. Those committees could be sort of shut out of the process if we give them a higher threshold than we give the appropriators. So that’s something we’re going to have to deal with.
HH: I agree. Now but Harry Reid broke the glass when he invoked the nuclear option, Senator, and I’m just looking for a way to stop the Senate’s decline in the eyes of the public into a charade. And even though the Schumer Shutdown blew up in their hands and made them look bad, the whole body looks bad.
HH: And especially when it comes, when Secretary Mattis says, and this must resonate with you as a Marine, that no enemy abroad has done more damage to the American military than the Congressional funding process, doesn’t that hurt?
TY: Oh, gosh, it hurts deeply. I had a visit along with Thom Tillis of North Carolina with the top ranking Marine Corps generals, including our commandant, one week ago. And spouses joined them as well. And even the spouses were saying come on, please do right by our Marines. These continuing resolutions are hurting Marines in the field. They’re hurting our family. They’re hurting readiness as we look into the future, although I want everyone who’s listening here domestic and internationally to know that Marines remain ready for the fight. But as we look into the future, this is going to undermine our national security as well, and that’s of great concern to me. And so it does, I won’t say all of it, but so much of the dysfunction in Washington, D.C. comes down to the United States Senate and our inability to reconcile the long-standing rules with our current political culture, which is not one of principled give and take.
HH: I hope that you make progress on this and do so quickly, Todd Young, Senator from Indiana, proud Marine. Thanks for joining me this morning.
End of interview.