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Hugh Hewitt Book Club

Oklahoma Senator James Lankford

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The transcript:

HH: I’m joined by United States Senator James Lankford, great friend of the show. And Senator, our thoughts are with the people in Oklahoma dealing with those wildfires right now.

JL: Well, I appreciate that very much. It is a remarkable set of fires. It’s not just one. It’s multiples as anyone who tracks wildfires know it typically is. High winds and dry temperatures, and it has wreaked havoc on our west.

HH: Well, prayers for their getting them under control. Let me ask you, you’re a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Did you know that Mike Pompeo had gone to North Korea?

JL: I did not actually know that. That might have been something that the Chairman and Vice Chairman were informed of, but I was not. Obviously, we all knew that there were upper level conversations pending with North Korea. You don’t have a meeting with the president and not have upper level officials meet first with officials there in North Korea to be able to set it up. So no big surprise there, and he seems like a reasonable person to be tapped to do it. But I was not aware in advance.

HH: What was your reaction when you learned that Easter sunrise was for Mike Pompeo in Pyongyang?

JL: You know, I actually felt sorry for Mike Pompeo to have to get the short straw to spend an Easter in North Korea. That’s not exactly a spot where they typically celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. But he’s a good one to be able to do it. Obviously, he’s someone being tapped by the President to work for the State Department. He has good experience there obviously working with CIA at this point. So I think he’s the best choice to be able to do the advance work.

HH: Now I’ve got to ask you, how do your, this is a sincere question. How do any of your Senate Democratic colleagues vote no on Mike Pompeo when one of the most pressing issues in the world is denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, and he has been there and begun that?

JL: You know, I don’t know. I hope they vote yes for him. I mean, he has made his rounds, obviously, through Foreign Relations Committee in their very long, contentious hearing. He’s going one by one to each member of the Senate that will sit down and meet with him to be able to meet. I’ve met with Mike Pompeo. Of course, he and I served together in the House together, and I know Mike well. He is really a very good choice. He has proved himself as leading the CIA, has been a person that’s not been focused on policy, but has been focused on what can we do to actually help bring some stability to the world.

HH: Do you expect him to be confirmed?

JL: I do expect him to be confirmed. And I think it’ll be noisy all the way to the end. But I’ll tell you, he’s a good choice. And I’ve been pleased to be able to see that. And most, it’s been interesting. I had someone that caught me in the airport a couple of days ago and said hey, I’m worried about all these rumors and things that I hear. And I said okay, here’s the thing to know about Mike Pompeo. Look at the job that he has done at leading the CIA for the past year, how evenhanded, how he’s handled the employees and the morale there, what he’s done and the quality of the work there, and you’ll see the quality of the work that he’ll do for the State Department as well.

HH: I just can’t imagine Joe Manchin or Heidi Heitkamp, Joe Donnelly, the other red state Democrats, voting no. And I hope some of the blue state Democrats like Chris Coons realize what’s best for the country. Let me talk to you a little bit about the Lankford nomination recommendations. Grenell is still not confirmed. What’s the deal? When are we going to get votes on Grenell? When are we going to get votes on everybody?

JL: Yeah, well, we are still trying to work through a few at a time. We have a NASA administrator coming up this week. Obviously, the acting administrator is retiring, and so we’re about to leave NASA with no administrator, and so trying to get that process through, that’s a long process. But multiple other people, I mean, you can go through the list on ambassadors as you have listed before that are not controversial. We had two district courts last week that were drug out to the very end of the week, but they passed near unanimous. The frustrating thing about this is I completely understand if the minority says I want to have a longer debate, I want to have 30 hours of debate on someone that is controversial. Bring it. That is entirely within their rights. But for them to ask for 30 hours for someone that passes near unanimous, or there is five to ten minutes of total debate on the floor about them, then we need to go ahead and move onto those. I have recommended two things. One is what’s called call for the question. If they’re not on the floor debating it, call for the question and let’s have the vote right then. So if they’re going to stall it, they’ve got to at least be on the floor actually debating it. They can’t basically filibuster from their office. The second thing is I’m trying to work for a very nonpartisan rules change to say to both parties we can’t continue to function like this. This is not right for any president to not be able to get their staff. And if this is going to be the new precedent, Democrats need to understand this is what’s going to happen to them, then, the next time.

HH: Well, I am, I understand the Leader is reluctant to use the Reid Rule. I want him to. But let’s say he doesn’t want to do it. Why not go 24/7? Why not just stay there and no weekend off, and we’re going to get our nominees, because honestly, Grenell in Germany, we have got major international issues. We need our ambassadors. We need our judges. We’ve got to get the 9th Circuit filled up. Why not 24/7, James Lankford?

JL: You know what? I do not know. That’s a question for the Leader, and that’s a question that we have raised multiple times. He typically will put early on in the week a cloture vote and say we’re going to try to get through eight of these this week, and we’re going to stay until we get them all done. Eight of them should take two weeks. And if at some point Democrats say okay, well, we’ll break towards the end of the week, then we’re done at the end of the week. But I think he should continue to increase a few each week, and then let’s try to get these done, or just load it up and stay until we’re done.

HH: Well, has the conference discussed this? Do you think he is going to, I mean, if you keep them there one weekend, they will fold. Your colleagues have told me that. They need to go home and campaign. Why not push the issue?

JL: Well, because occasionally, we’ll have a few of the Republicans that are in that group as well. If we just have two Republicans that leave and say I’ve also got to leave this weekend for whatever meeting, for whatever they’ve got, then suddenly, you, we don’t have enough to be able to pass them. I can tell you the Leader has been forward leaning on this. He is very supportive of the rules change that I have proposed. He’s been very encouraging in that process, as well as all of our Republican leadership. So we’re going to try to get this through to the Rules Committee by next week, go through the process, try to do a markup, try to bring it to the floor as soon as we can to be able to have a floor vote, and try to be able to fix this issue long term for both parties.

HH: All right, last question, is Grenell on the list for next week?

JL: You know, I’ve not seen the list. That is a tightly-held list. But I would hope that he would be.

HH: James Lankford from Oklahoma, thank you, my friend.

End of interview.


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