South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham joined me Wednesday to discuss the aftermath of the Charleston murders, the looming appeasement of Iran, and whether the filibuster in the Senate rules should be preserved even if it blocks a new Republican president from repealing Obamacare:
HH: So pleased to welcome back to the Hugh Hewitt Show United States Senator Lindsey Graham from Mason City, Iowa, this afternoon and evening. Hello, Senator Graham, welcome back.
LG: I am almost to the Music Man place.
HH: Welcome. I want to begin by asking you the straight up question, a lot of Republican candidates are calling to break the Senate filibuster rules in order to make sure we can repeal Obamacare, root and branch. Ted Cruz has just finished defending the filibuster. What’s Lindsey Graham say on that debate?
LG: I’m with Ted. Absolutely not. I would never vote to change the filibuster for Obamacare or anything else, because it served the country well. But what I would do is use reconciliation, the budget process that they used to pass Obamacare, to repeal Obamacare. But I wouldn’t change the Senate rules. Reconciliation only requires a majority vote if it’s in with the context of the budget. That’s how they passed Obamacare with 51 votes.
HH: Now there’s some analysis, and it’s good analysis, that parts of Obamacare cannot be done away with reconciliation.
LG: That’s true.
HH: Assume for a moment, that’s true, so would you break the filibuster to get rid of those?
LG: No. No.
HH: Why not?
LG: Because I think the filibuster served the country well. I think at the end of the day, any big change should get 60 votes. I think the whole purpose of the Senate is to make sure that you have to think about what you’re doing. They did Obamacare by 51 votes, and we had enough votes to stop them. They used reconciliation. But if you take part of it down under reconciliation, the rest of it falls. And it doesn’t really matter if you don’t win the White House, because if she’s in the White House, she will vote to veto it, and you’ve got to get an override.
HH: I’ll come back to Mrs. Clinton in a second. Governor Huckabee began last hour from a different part of Iowa, and he lit after Republicans in the Senate. I want to play for you what he had to say, Senator Graham.
MK: I think Republicans are too concerned about protecting their own turf than they are protecting the lives of working Americans throughout this country. I just, for example, I thought we sent the Senators and gave them the majority so they would work on putting a stop to the executive overreach on things like immigration and Obamacare. And instead, this Senate turned around and gave the President more authority on trade, even though they admitted they hadn’t even read the bill they were voting on to give him more authority. And they’ve done nothing on the issues like Obamacare and trade. It’s very frustrating to watch this, and I went to 37 states campaigning for people to get the majority in the Senate, and I’m not sure why I did that last year, to be honest with you.
HH: Senator Graham, how do you respond to Governor Huckabee?
LG: Well one, I don’t think he knows what he’s talking about. We have voted umpteen times to repeal Obamacare. At the end of the day, you’re not going to repeal Obamacare as long as he’s president. Having a Republican majority means a lot. I think we’re doing things in the Senate today we would never have gotten to do otherwise. We sent the Keystone Pipeline to his desk. He vetoed it. We’ve stopped their agenda in their tracks. You’ve got to get 60 votes to do the big things. You’ve got a Democratic president you’ve got to deal with. I think it would be insane for us to repeal the filibuster, which has been a check and balance to bad ideas for a very, very long time. And at the end of the day, here’s civics. Mike, you’re not going to repeal Obamacare with Obama sitting in office. The only way you’re going to repeal Obamacare is to get a Republican elected. You’re not going to get a Republican elected to the presidency that doesn’t believe you’ve got to reform entitlements. At the end of the day, I’m trying to run a campaign so I could win. And if I got to be president, I could do the things necessary. But this idea of saying it is the Republican majority’s fault just really quite frankly don’t understand the role Obama plays in all of this.
HH: Now Senator, one of the reasons I think you attract a lot of interest and support is you’re strong on Defense. And one of the reasons to break the filibuster is to put the Defense Appropriations bill, which is so necessary, it’s got the Ohio replacement in it. You know what it’s got in it. You’re the Defense geek.
LG: Yeah, man, absolutely.
HH: So why not break the filibuster and put that on his desk?
LG: Because at the end of the day, I’m looking to, I don’t want to fundamentally change a check and balance that proves good for this country, slowing down a lot of bad ideas. Sometimes, we don’t get what we want, but more times than not, the filibuster’s been used to stop a lot of terrible ideas like paycheck fairness and all the other stuff they want to do to pay the unions back. All I can say about the debate here in 2016, if we don’t get the White House, we’re not going to repeal and replace Obamacare. We’re not going to repeal and replace Obamacare while he is president. We can have vote after vote. We can, I think, repeal the Medical Device Tax, but he vetoed that. So I want to put as much on his desk as we can, but I’m not going to eliminate the filibuster. To me, that makes no sense.
HH: All right, I’ve got to ask you about your former colleague, former Secretary of State Clinton.
HH: New emails released today. Mike Morell said on this show, former deputy director of the CIA, that he conceded. He affirmed that the Chinese, the Russians, the Iranians, probably knew she had that server and monitored it.
HH: Do you agree with Morell’s assessment?
LG: Absolutely. Here’s what I think. She set up a system outside the law, the rules of the State Department. She set up a system that nobody else could get away with to protect her from the scrutiny that comes with the job. She said that her people went through all the emails and turned them over to the State Department that related to business. Now because of Trey Gowdy, we know that Sidney Blumenthal had 15 emails talking about Libya and other areas, other countries in the region that clearly were not about yoga, funerals or weddings. But what I am going to demand is that the server be looked at by an independent organization. The people who said they knew nothing about the private server, now we know they’re lying. So at the end of the day, I think she needs to be held accountable for misinforming the public. She should not be allowed to self-police here. If this were Dick Cheney, there would be riots in the streets. So this is a very big deal. She’s trying to live by rules that nobody else can live by.
HH: I have to defend David Axelrod, though that sounds funny. I was the guy that asked Bill Daley about the server on Meet the Press, and I was the fellow who precipitated the David Axelrod. They were asked if they knew about the server, not about private email accounts. So I’m not going to call him on it.
LG: Okay, okay. No, he’s not the guy I’m talking about. I’m talking about people inside the State Department.
LG: All I can say is that this whole thing stinks. She set up a system to avoid the scrutiny that comes with the job, and God bless Trey Gowdy. He’s the guy that stumbled onto this, and you know, not stumbled on it, knew what he was doing. I’ve been calling for a special investigation, a joint select committee, for two and a half, three years. And we let a lot of valuable time pass. If we’d had Trey in charge two years ago, we’d know more than we know today.
HH: I just asked Senator Cruz this question, and I’ll ask you. Another Senator, Bob Dole, at another time, 1996, running against a different Clinton, Bill Clinton, said where’s the outrage. I repeat the question. Where’s the outrage?
LG: Yeah, really. You know, I can’t get over this. You’ve got somebody who sets up a system that makes you unaccountable, a separate set of rules for conducting business inside the State Department. They tell you basically a lie about how they scrutinize. They say they turned everything over, and now we know that’s not true. And nobody is saying anything. It shows you how in the tank the media is. If this had been a Republican, if this were Dick Cheney or George W. Bush or Lindsey Graham, there’d be riots in the streets by the media to make us accountable.
HH: Now I want to get to Iran, but before I do, your state has really shown the way in the aftermath of that tragedy and that murder by the domestic terrorist/racist, and compliments to all of the leadership of South Carolina. How is your state doing, Senator Graham?
LG: We’re hurting, and we’re going to reconcile ourselves in a way to move forward. There will be a vote on July 6th to remove the flag. It will have two-thirds vote. After this shooting, the flag has become a symbol of the shooter. People can look at the flag any way they would like. It’s going in a museum. The victims, the families of the victims did a better job of representing my state than I could ever hope to do, that within 48 hours of having their loved one killed. They appeared and court and said you destroyed my life, but I pray for you and I forgive you. South Carolina has forever changed. God bless the people of Mother Emmanuel AME Church and all those in South Carolina who are trying to move forward.
HH: Thank for that, Senator Graham. Now I have to ask you to put on your toughness hat with Iran. This, I cannot believe the President has ratcheted down anywhere, anytime to tight inspections. What in the world is going on over there?
LG: Well, we started the negotiations to do, what was the original goal of the negotiations?
HH: To get rid of the nukes, get rid of all the enrichment.
LG: Dismantle. What right wing body sets the terms of the negotiation?
HH: Bill Clinton at…
LG: The U.N.
HH: The U.N.
LG: The United Nations passed resolution after resolution asking the Iranians to dismantle their program. We’ve gone from dismantle to manage. We’ve gone from anytime, anywhere inspections to do you mind if we come by every now and then. And we’ve gone from you don’t get any money to you get $100 billion dollars. We’ve gone from the point of we can’t give you sanction relief until you tell us about your past military activities to where that doesn’t matter anymore. And we have a high official saying well, we wouldn’t let inspectors come on our military base. This has gone from a negotiation set by the U.N. in terms of the standards to a complete capitulation.
HH: And a last question, Senator Graham, the President unilaterally opened the embassy in Havana. If you’re elected president, will you close it?
LG: I’ll close it in a New York minute. I would not open the embassy until the Castro brothers are removed or they change their behavior. This is the worst possible signal to send at the most important time. What do you think Assad, Putin, the ayatollahs in Iran, China, what do you think they all think now?
LG: Cuba hasn’t changed one bit.
HH: I know that. Senator Graham, a happy 4th of July to you, thanks for joining us from Mason City, Iowa tonight, always a pleasure.
End of interview.