HH: I begin with Senator Bill Cassidy of the great state of Louisiana. He is a member of the Senate Finance Committee. He’s also, along with Lindsey Graham, author of one of the most innovative health care reform proposals. We’ll get to that. But mostly, I want to talk about the Committee on Finance. Senator Cassidy, welcome to the Hugh Hewitt Show, great to have you this morning.
BC: Hey, Hugh, it is great to be on the Hugh Hewitt Show.
HH: Let’s begin by talking about where are we on Finance Committee? Where is your markup of the tax reform bill?
BC: The chairman will bring in another bill today that includes the repeal of the individual mandate. Now I think this is incredibly positive. As it turns out, about 7 million people pay the penalty on the individual mandate. 5.2 million of those earn less than $50,000 dollars a year. In my state, Louisiana, 78% make less than $50,000 dollars a year, adjusted gross income, 32% less than $25,000. So if our hope, if the President’s goal is to help working families be able to afford life more, this is one step towards helping them afford life more.
HH: Can you walk us through the process, Senator Cassidy? When do you expect the markup of the Senate version of the bill to be complete and then go to the floor?
BC: The goal is for it to be complete this week and to go to the floor, at least to begin debate, sometime next week. Obviously, we have to work out differences with the House, but that will either occur before it goes to the floor or afterwards in a conference committee. And we would like to have it signed, the President says before Thanksgiving, but I’d be pleased if it was before the end of the year.
HH: Now Senator Cassidy, the key thing I’ve been waiting for is you’ve got some good, good deficit hawks like Bob Corker, Rand Paul, who are concerned about this bill, and you’ve got Susan Collins concerned about the health care. Have you done any whipping yourself to find out whether or not the removal of the individual mandate loses you any of our critical Republican votes?
BC: I can, I did not do the whipping myself, but I can tell you that the leadership has, and if it was brought up, there must be a comfort level among our caucus regarding this. So, so…
HH: So a comfort level among our caucus meaning you think you’ve got 51 votes?
HH: That is so great, because don’t you think we’re going to be able to hammer out, we being Republicans, are going to be able to hammer out differences between the House and the Senate?
BC: Absolutely. We have much more in common than we have that are different. In common, is the President’s priorities – middle class tax cuts, doubling the standard deduction, absolutely helps that. Pro-growth, keeping jobs in America as opposed to going overseas, absolutely have that. And folks say well, wait a second, unemployment is lower, do we need this now, hey. When businesses are competing for workers, workers’ wages rise. And I think that’s part of the President’s goal of improving a lot of the working family.
HH: Now the heart and soul of this is getting the corporate tax rate down to 20% so that American jobs and American headquarters stay in America, that people don’t understand this is the key here, is to get the corporate rate to 20%. But I read something this morning that said in order to do that, you guys have to make it go away after ten years. Where does the ten year rule stand right now, Senator Cassidy?
BC: So just for the listeners, there’s something, we’re under, in the Senate, we’re under something called the Byrd Rule, Byrd, after Senator Byrd from West Virginia, which says that you cannot increase the deficit after ten years. That’s a statute. You can’t waive it. That’s a statute. And so we are working so that there’ll be permanent tax relief for everybody along the line, and if we can get that permanent tax relief, we seal in the middle class, we make sure that businesses invested in the United States as opposed to invested in China and India, and we think we’ve got long term growth for the United States economy.
HH: Now Senator Cassidy, the repeal of the individual mandate will be demagogued by Democrats. You and I both know that. How do you respond to the inevitable attacks from the left that you’re destroying, sabotaging Obamacare?
BC: You know, Candidate Barack Obama, when he was running against Hillary, spoke against the mandate, said it would be as if you wished to eliminate homelessness by mandating that everybody buy a home. Candidate Barack Obama actually had it right. When you have 7 million people choosing to pay the penalty instead of buying insurance, because insurance is too expensive, in my state, there could be a family paying over $30,000 dollars a year in premiums. Mandating them to buy it is not going to make a difference. So if we’re going, but by the way, the people paying it don’t earn a whole lot of money. This is squarely a tax on lower working and middle income families. So if the liberals want to demagogue that we’re not penalizing working families, let them demagogue. We’ll win that argument.
HH: Now let’s talk about, then, if it gets out of the Senate committee, it will get out this week, correct?
BC: Yes. That’s a goal.
HH: And then how long will it take to get to a floor vote? Are you saying the week after Thanksgiving?
BC: Well, we’re hoping the week after Thanksgiving, first week of, absolutely, we’d like to get it done by the first week of December.
HH: And then the conference committee gets together, and that is, will you be on the conference committee, do you expect, Senator Cassidy?
BC: You know, I think it’s going to be the leadership of the committee. I don’t anticipate being on, but of course, if I’m asked, I will show up.
HH: All right. Now let me switch to health care. I saw you in the Majority Leader’s office when I was in for an interview with him briefly. I am a big fan of Graham-Cassidy. I believe it is the way to go on almost everything. In fact, I have a Washington Post column today on how one brings federalism to infrastructure spending. How goes the fight to persuade your colleagues that federalism is really the answer to health care?
BC: We’ll going to have to see this play out, Hugh, because right now, we’re going to have people, more people unable to afford premiums on the individual exchanges. Sooner or later, that has to be heard by a blue state senator. And we’re going to have more states who are unable to make their state budget numbers, because Medicaid is swallowing up their entire budget. Those two things will drive reconsideration. And the third thing is that the left demagogued it, as you pointed out. We’ll have more time to explain to folks how we were not taking dollars away from folks. We were just giving states the ability to spend those dollars more wisely, not a Washington, D.C. bureaucrat, but someone in your own state helping you decide, or you deciding where to purchase your insurance. We need more time to explain. Hopefully, we can do it.
HH: You know, Senator, when I was a Californian for 17 years, I served on a Prop. 10 Committee. That was actually established by film director Rob Reiner, and they gave us on a per capita basis by county all the cigarette tax money. And we went out and we did things like we built a dental clinic for poor kids with 12 chairs, which are filled all the time, because Medicaid dental coverage is so terrible, no dentist will take it. States know how to take care of their people better than the federal government does. What is it that folks don’t get about Graham-Cassidy?
BC: The left, the left fears the American people escaping from the control of a Washington bureaucracy. The idea that Rhode Island is different than Alaska should be self-evident. But that, unfortunately, is not. And again, just slipping that power away from Washington very threatens interest groups, very much threatens interest groups. We have to give power to the people, not power to interest groups.
HH: Now let me close, I know you’re not on Judiciary, but I read yesterday that Senator Grassley has said the blue slip is basically done for circuit judges. That means states with a Democrat senator can no longer block these great judicial nominees. Have you thanked Senator Grassley for that, yet, because it’s up to the chairman of Judiciary, and we’ve just got to applaud him continuously.
BC: I’ll see him today regarding that, and by the way, the blue slip, I am told, over the last 100 years, has more typically not been used than used. And unfortunately, it’s gone from allowing more consideration to being a de facto veto. And so it’s long changed from its original intent. So Grassley wants to move these folks. He wants to make the Senate work well. And I do applaud him for that.
HH: You know, the Minnesota Supreme Court justice, David Stras, coming to town for the Federalist Convention today, he’s not only a brilliant jurist, he is the grandson of Holocaust survivors. And Al Franken has got a blue slip and won’t let him have a hearing. And I, if you see Senator Franken, I would love for you to ask him in all honesty, I know you guys have to be collegial, how in the world can America not let a well-qualified, I mean extremely well-qualified judge get a vote when he represents everything the country stands for – the renewal of a decimated continent?
BC: There is an ideological battle taking place. People do not wish to have conservatives judges on the circuit. They will do whatever they can to stop it and be damned. And so it is one of the tools, and obviously Grassley is moving against that tool.
HH: Well, congratulations to him and to you, Senator Cassidy. Keep working on solutions. You’re really one of the more innovative senators we’ve got up there, and I appreciate you spending the time with me today. Good luck on a long markup. I know it can be boring, but I appreciate you taking the time.
End of interview.