Georgia’s Senator David Perdue joined me this morning:
HH: I’m pleased to welcome first time this year Senator David Perdue, one of the rising stars in the United States Senate from Georgia. Senator Perdue, good morning. Welcome.
DP: Good morning, Hugh.
HH: Congratulations on becoming the chairman of the Armed Services Committee subcommittee on Sea Power. And so I want to start there before I get to the news of the day. You’re friendly with the President. You talk to him a lot, right?
DP: Well, I do. And you know, this is a very critical time. I’ve said since I was running, Hugh, that the world’s more dangerous than any time in my lifetime.
HH: So does he know, his number one promise about which he’s done nothing is a 355 ship Navy. Secretary Mattis didn’t like it. Apparently, Secretary of the Navy Spencer doesn’t like it. There’s no plan to get to 355 ships, but the President said it on the Ford. He said it in Philadelphia during the campaign, 355 ships. Are you going to insist on a plan like in three months on how we get there?
DP: Well, yeah. I mean, we’ve been working on that for the last two years. Obviously, I mean, we put $80 billion dollars more in the military last year. We’ve got $80 billion coming this year. Look, this is a time where we’re trying to get readiness up, Hugh. We’ve got to recap that military which is what you’re talking about. And with the focus on China now, the Navy is going to get the biggest emphasis of that. But you’ve also got to talk about a rationalization. We’re asking our military to do more than ever around the world, and we need help from our allies. That’s why the NATO deal is so important.
HH: I get that. But the President promised 355, and if there’s a plan to get to 355 in 10 years with a high-low mix, which I assume you support, at least there’ll be a plan. Right now, there isn’t. I think the Democrats are going to run to his right on the Navy, that he didn’t deliver the 355. Is he aware that he hasn’t kept that promise?
DP: Well, I’d love to see these socialists who are now leading the Democratic Party try to get to the right of President Trump on anything relating to our military after what President Obama did to our military. My God, he cut expenses 20…he cut our military by 25%, Hugh. So we’re trying to get readiness up right now, and I think in one year, we’ve made great progress there under General Mattis. I think President Trump’s very happy with that. The recap is now the primary focus, as you’re talking about. 355, and there are new plans right now out of the DOD in terms of advance battle management systems and so forth in terms of how they’re going to deal with it. But there’s no question that we’ve got to seriously get at increasing the number of surface ships and submarines in our Navy.
HH: So I’m going to make a fourth pass at this. You’re the chairman of the subcommittee. You can say to the admiral who comes in, or the SecNav or to the chief of Naval operations I want a plan to get to 355. I don’t care if you just buy a whole bunch of frigates from abroad. I don’t care where you get it from. But I want a plan in three months, and make them do it. You can make them do that. Will you?
DP: Well, that’s what we’re trying to do right now, Hugh. It’s not just about hearings and meetings. Of course, we’ve been talking about the 355 plan. And so absolutely, as chairman of that subcommittee, this is going to be a primary emphasis.
HH: All right.
DP: And the other thing, Hugh, we’re trying to do is make sure we have an audit in the DOD for the first time. Since ’91, there’s been a law that said Congress is supposed to demand that, and every president is supposed to supply it. Well, President Trump has now generated that. We have our first audit of the Department of Defense. So that’ll help us spend money more intelligently going forward.
HH: You know, audits are great, but the Chinese are putting a ship in the water every month, and they’re kicking our ass. And people don’t realize that, that the oceans haven’t gotten smaller, and presence is everything. And I just finished Victor Davis Hanson’s The Second World Wars, which I recommend to you, Senator. It’s all about industrial base and production of ships. And I’m glad you’re there, and we’ll talk more about it. Let me talk to you about, since you’re on Armed Services, military intervention in Venezuela. There is a report in the Post this morning Maduro has unleashed the death squads. How long can we wait until we combine with Colombia and Brazil and take him out?
DP: Well, I think you know, the White House is looking at that. His advisors are very close to the situation. But I’ll tell you this. You know, when he stepped up and endorsed the opposition leader, Guaido, 16 other countries stepped up. And that’s what we got to see. Under Obama, we never saw that. And so right now, we’re putting pressure, both openly and discretely, on Maduro to call for open elections. And there’s not going to be any acceptance of death squads down there. I mean, this has got to stop.
HH: Well, they are out there. So I saw Bolton had 5,000 troops to Colombia on his yellow pad. That’s an Army combat brigade. That would be sufficient with Brazil and Colombia to go in and get out. I don’t want to take over a country. I don’t need another intervention. But they’re killing people by the dozens and imprisoning them by the hundreds, so I hope you call the President on that. Quick question as a Navy guy again, Cully Stimson is a friend of mine. He was nominated for general counsel. He hasn’t been re-nominated, yet, because of the crazy Senate rules. They never got to him. Should the White House re-nominate Cully Stimson for the general counsel of the Navy?
DP: Sure, and I’ll tell you what. They’ve got to get them all over here, because right now, Mitch McConnell is ready to go to the mat to get, there’s some 330…at the end of the year, there were over 330 nominees waiting to be confirmed. That’s outrageous. This is the most egregious slowdown of the confirmation process in U.S. history. And I think Mitch McConnell now is ready to do that in the Senate, and we’re fully supporting that.
HH: Well, I would applaud, I think the base would be 1,000% supportive, but Roy Blunt said oh, it might take us two or three months to get this done. I said why don’t do it next week with the first nominee? I mean, it just takes…
DP: Well, first of all, you don’t have the votes in the Senate there. But what we’re trying to do is do a standing order, which is regular order. We’ll try that in committee and see if we can get the votes. I don’t think we’ll get the votes. I’m one that says we ought to go in and do it, we should have done it two years ago when we first saw what the Democrats were doing. It’s the first time in U.S. history the minority party has used the 30 hour debate rule to slow down confirmations. Look, Ginsburg got 96…
HH: Everybody knows that, though, Senator. It’s all on the Republicans. And Democrats aren’t going to go for it. It’s just a question of when the Leader pulls the trigger, and I think you ought to pull the trigger this week.
DP: Well, I don’t disagree, Hugh.
HH: All right. Let’s go to the immigration/border security deal. I know you’ve talked to the President about this. I want to go big. Lindsey wants to go, Lindsey Graham wants to go big. Border security, regularization for 10 million undocumented, give us a debt ceiling rise, get rid of the sequester, get rid of chain migration, put E-Verify in. Can we get a big deal done? The Homestead Act was four pages long.
DP: I don’t see any way in hell we’re going to get that done in three weeks, Hugh. Honestly, to be a realist in this, I’ve been working for two years behind the scenes. I think the Democrats want the immigration issue more as an issue than a solution. That’s just my pragmatic answer to you. I agree with you. I think the opportunity is there. It was there last year when the President offered a pathway to citizenship for 1.8 million DACA recipients. Look, we carved this up into a legal immigration proposal that is very reasonable. It mirrors what other countries have done, and the Democrats have not engaged. Even in this debate we have right now, the in last 30 days, the Democrats have not come forward with one proposal at all.
HH: Well, that actually, Kevin McCarthy told me that on Meet the Press on Sunday, and I was stunned. And so I would adopt the position we’re ready to go big. You make us a deal, put it in writing, make it a bill, we will amend and give you back our draft, but whatever you want. You want 10 million people with full citizenship tomorrow, we’ll start there. But you know, let, put it in writing. Make a deal that you will accept. And if they don’t, don’t you think that shifts the optics?
DP: Well, of course it shifts the optics. But right now, they are out-messaging us. And frankly, you know, this is more of a Schumer shutdown than it is a Trump shutdown, frankly. And I hope that we’ll get past this in this three weeks. I’m not hopeful, frankly, that we’ll get a comprehensive immigration bill. What I’m hoping for is a border security deal, frankly, and you know, get this thing moved on. We’re already in the fourth month of this fiscal year, Hugh. If we drag this on another two or three months, we won’t get next year’s budget done, and we’ll be right back in here September 30th.
HH: All right, I’ve got to switch to one more subject – judges. I know you’ve been very strong on judges, David Perdue. It’s going to get you reelected in Georgia. And by the way, is anyone going to bother to run against you down there, because you’re very popular in Georgia. Are they doing to send anyone up against you?
DP: Oh, I think we’ll have somebody run against us for sure.
HH: Is it going to be Stacey Abrams?
DP: Well, who knows? But I mean, she’s giving the opposition response. You know, we will hear how the socialists’ take is on the President’s State of the Union come Tuesday.
HH: Well, you come back early and often. We were with Brian Kemp the whole way, because Georgia, Atlanta 920 is one of my key stations. We’ll get you over the hump, and we’ll make sure people know why you would win.
DP: Well, I appreciate your help.
HH: The 9th Circuit is where I live a quarter of the year, and I teach, and it’s the left wing lunatic asylum of the judiciary. And I don’t mean that they’re lunatics, it’s just the hardest left group. The President nominated three originalists at the end of last year. Jeff Flake blocked them. He killed those three nominations. Now, there is a report in the Wall Street Journal that Pat Cipollone, the new White House Counsel, is doing a deal with Kamala Harris and Dianne Feinstein to nominate one squishy conservative, one compromise candidate, and one progressive. That is a disaster for the President. Will you call him and tell you he has to tell his White House Counsel to re-nominate the 9th Circuit nominees from last year?
DP: Well, we’re, you know, this is the White House prerogative, but we are offering a lot of opinions on the nominees. This has been a huge success, as you’ve called out. Over 85 federal judges have been confirmed, you know, I think it’s around 30 Courts of Appeal judges and two Supreme Court justices. Nobody saw that coming, and I have to tell you, that’s historic. But yes, I mean, this is all about balancing the courts. The 9th district, the D.C. Circuit, these have to be rebalanced.
HH: And that means, I’m just asking for a favor, that you, I know the President talks to you, that you call him up and say Mr. President, the 9th Circuit is a trap, and Pat Cipollone has walked into it. We don’t owe anything to Feinstein after Kavanaugh. We owe nothing to Kamala Harris who says terrible things every day. Do not do a deal with them. Jam them through the Judiciary. Will you call him and tell him, just to make sure he knows?
DP: Hey, Hugh, as a favor to you, absolutely, I will. This is so important that we rebalance these courts, particularly the 9th, as you call out, and the D.C. Circuit as well.
HH: That’s right. Neomi Rao, in the D.C. Circuit, they’re not going to stop her. But if Pat Cipollone is doing a deal, I don’t know that he is, but that’s what the Journal said, I said to myself, my God, everything we’ve worked for, for years to get the 9th Circuit back to a median point, will be lost if they do that deal.
DP: But I’d be really surprised. Why do we need to do a deal? This is totally within our purview. We can do this with 51 votes, and we’ve shown that we can do that. We stuck together as a Republican caucus in the Senate and delivered results for the President. And he has sent up really good candidates.
HH: And he sent up three great ones. All he has to do is re-nominate the three from last year and say the heck with the deal with Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris. But he needs to tell his White House Counsel, because I doubt the President pays attention to 9th Circuit nominees. But he should, and I appreciate, David Perdue, that you’re going to ask him to do so. Come back early and often, America. Follow him, @SenDavidPerdue, because he is going to get reelected, and he is a great voice for sea power, and he is a welcome guest on the Hugh Hewitt Show.
End of interview.