Senator Todd Young of Indiana joined me this morning to talk about the 2020 Senate map, Secretary of State Pompeo possibly running for the open seat in Kansas, and changing the rules of the Senate via “The Reid Rule” to limit the time of “debate” on nominees:
HH: Joined by one of our favorite members of the United States Senate, Senator Todd Young. Senator Young is from Indiana. He is also a graduate, 1995 graduate, of the United States Naval Academy. He is also a Marine. He has also got his MBA from the University of Chicago. He’s also got a J.D. from Indiana University, one of those guys who makes you just tired looking at his resume. Senator Young, welcome, good to have you. Good Monday morning to you.
TY: Good morning. It’s great to be with you. I’m actually calling from my garage sitting in my car here with my little children asleep. So…
HH: Well, that’s, I do that often. When I do radio in the morning, you’ve got to go out, sit in the car so you don’t wake up the babies. Well done, Senator. Well done. You were, I want to talk policy with you in a second, but first, you’re the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. I’ve always thought why do people volunteer to raise all the money that their buddies need, and you’ve done it. You’ve been asked by your colleagues to do that. I want to run down with you the six big races – three Democrats – Alabama, Michigan, and I believe New Hampshire, and three republicans – Cory Gardner in Colorado, Martha McSally in Arizona, David Perdue in Georgia, maybe Thom Tillis in North Carolina. Where, is your work cut out for you? Can we make pickups in this cycle? It’s not as good a map as it was last year, but I think Alabama’s got to be in the red column.
TY: Well, we certainly can. And you know, mostly, we want to make sure that we fulfill the number one mission of the NRSC, which is to make sure that my incumbents come back. We accomplished a lot together in just a couple of years getting the economy moving again and restoring people’s faith that we can make constructive changes with respect to the economy. But that’s our number one priority. Most of those states that you mentioned were indeed states that we won just four years ago. You think of Iowa and Joni Ernst, and North Carolina, Thom Tillis. These are the sorts of outstanding members that can actually run on a record of accomplishments as compared to their opponents who will be trying to criticize them for voting for things that have stimulated our economy. So I feel good about that. Why am I doing this? Well, you know, I like big challenges. We do have 22 seats up. I think that many of those seats, it’ll become clearer earlier going to go our way, so we have about a half dozen seats that are up for grabs. To your point about offense, you know, I played sports growing up. It’s always more fun to play offense, and I think there’ll be some opportunities there. Most commonly mentioned is Alabama, which ought to be a Republican seat. And then if the environment’s right, there are two other seats. You mentioned New Hampshire. That could be one where we will be recruiting strong candidates and prepared for success if the conditions cooperate.
HH: Is Kelly Ayotte a possibility to get back in the game and try for a rematch with Jeanne Shaheen?
TY: So she was obviously an outstanding senator with a national profile. I think a lot of Kelly, and you know, that’ll be a decision for her. I’ve heard other big and accomplished names mentioned. The name Sununu still resonates in New Hampshire.
HH: You bet.
TY: So I’ve certainly heard that. But we’re going to let the people of New Hampshire ultimately make those decisions, and we’ll support our good candidates along the way.
HH: What do you hear in Michigan? John James was a favorite of our show. We poured a lot of time into him. Maybe there was a strategic miss there. There was a chance there. But the President carried Michigan by 12,000 votes, I believe, two years ago. John James came close in the off year. Do you expect him back in the game?
TY: Well, I think John listens to your show, so I hope he hears this. I think a lot of John James. He’s a West Point graduate. I won’t hold that against him being a Navy guy, but you know, he has the military profile to help us on the national security front. He’s a businessman, very successful. More importantly, he proved as a candidate that he can excite the people of Michigan. He may need another cycle, this cycle, to get his name out there further. And you know, I think that John James would be as good a candidate as I can conceive of to run in the state of Michigan. So let’s see if he’s prepared to suit up again.
HH: I hope he is, and I think you’re absolutely right. It’s like John Thune who had to run twice to win in South Dakota. Maybe John James has to run twice to win in Michigan. In Alabama, has anyone filed or indicated they’re running? I know you don’t get involved in primaries. I’m just curious as to who you know is going to go.
TY: Yeah, so we have not had any filings. There’s some strong names that have been put forward. Congressman Bradley Byrne, I’ve seen his name mentioned in print many times, for example. He’d certainly have to be regarded as a viable and a strong candidate for this seat. But there will be others, no doubt, that will put their names forward. The bottom line is I want the strongest conservative who can win a general election, and I think we’ll have that in Alabama, a traditionally in modern history Republican state. And we, of course, will be supportive of our Republican team.
HH: Now you’re lucky, Senator Todd Young, in that your two most vulnerable incumbents are Cory Gardner and Martha McSally, and that they’re vulnerable because of the demographics of their state changing. But they also happen to be magnificent campaigners and workhorses. I know Martha pretty well. I know Cory pretty well. I mean, if those are your two most vulnerable, you’re in the game. You just have to get them the resources and the people on the ground and work, work, work, work, work, right?
TY: Well, absolutely. So Cory came in four years ago, defeated one of the best-known Democrats in the history of the state, won a very tough race. He has one of these personalities that’s larger than life. And he does a good job of representing the people of Colorado as opposed to just the Republican Party. So he’s prepared to be independent-minded and depart from his party when it’s in the best interest of his state. So he is indeed a hard worker, and we’re going to make sure he gets across the line. We will work with him. And then Martha, she is a hero in my mind, an Air Force Academy graduate, a fighter pilot, and the sort of candidate that you know, either party, that our country needs more of. I think she, too, has already been working very hard, and we of course want to support her. So yeah, like I said, yes, it’s a tough map, 22 seats, 20 of those, I should add, were won by Donald J. Trump just four years ago. So this is a Republican map. We’re going to make sure we do all we can to strengthen the Republican majority. And you know, I’m so happy that I have a lot to sell out there with respect to candidates and accomplishments.
HH: Yeah, and your Annapolis is going to run into Joni Ernst as well, who’s got one of her kids at West Point right now, and she’s an Army gal. But what a great candidate. Perdue’s a great candidate in Georgia. Tillis is a great candidate in North Carolina. You’ve been dealt a good set of hands. Let me ask you one more question.
HH: Do you want Secretary Mike Pompeo to run for the United States Senate?
TY: Let me put it this way. It’s certainly his decision. But having served with Mike Pompeo in the House of Representatives, and having worked with him as Director of Central Intelligence, and then as Secretary of State, and him continuing in that capacity, I can say without equivocation and without qualification, I can conceive of no one who I’d rather work with in the United States Senate from the state of Kansas than Mike Pompeo.
HH: He wouldn’t have to decide until the filing deadline, and he can freeze the field by just looking at it. But when is that filing deadline? It’s got to be late into ’20, isn’t it?
TY: Yeah, he has roughly a year to make that decision. I don’t know the exact date off the top of my head, but he has a lot of time. And of course, I would hope that there’s some, you know, sort of at least hushed consultation with different parties involved along the way so that preparations can be made for a potential run. But it was reported in Politico this weekend that he was visiting with someone to discuss this possibility, and you know, clearly has a heart for service, and he wants to continue moving into the future giving back to his country. Serving in the U.S. Senate would be a great way to give back to his country.
HH: He’s a great Secretary of State. I’d just like to keep him for another year there to try and see through some of the initiatives. Now let me turn to the rules of the Senate.
TY: I agree.
HH: Mitch McConnell is said to be close to invoking the Reid Rule, which will allow a change of the rules via simple majority rather than by two-thirds in order to cut the amount of time available to deliberate a nomination, which the Democrats use to run down the clock. Do you support that move? And if it’s going to happen, when is it going to happen?
TY: So I do indeed support the move. I support the move, because Democrats have been in an ahistorical fashion violating precedence about the number of hours in which one debates non-controversial nominees that have been reported out of different committees of jurisdiction. Now Senator McConnell, Leader McConnell, has proposed this with the support of many of my colleagues, because there will be no way for this president or for future presidents, were this practice by Democrats replicate, should Republicans be in the minority someday, to populate their administration with their own people. So there are mid-level positions in multiple agencies in Washington, but you know, are Clinton political appointees. So it’s very difficult for a president to advance his or her agenda if you don’t have the right people in place. I think it’s also really important for me to emphasize that Leader McConnell, myself, and others in the Republican conference do not want rules to be changed with respect to the legislative calendar. This is just a personnel issue. We want to make sure that the right people, whether they’re judges or mid-level appointees to different agencies are expeditiously processed if they are of a non-controversial nature.
HH: And people have to understand, my, one example. Cully Stimson, who had been nominated to be general counsel of the Navy, he languished for a year and a half, never, everyone was going to vote for him. He never could get to the top because of the 30 hour rule, and he’s withdrawn. He’s not going to be the general counsel of the Navy. That hurts the Navy. And that happens again and again and again and again, and we’ve got 120, I think, judicial vacancies. So this has to…
TY: So a couple more quick things, a couple more quick things on this. By the end of this president’s term, at the current rate of confirmations, he will not have his administration filled with his own people. That’s destructive to our republic. Another thing. We have the worst humanitarian crises going on in a generation with these various famines around the world. Tens of millions of people on the brink of starvation, our person who walks point on these matters at the State Department has not been confirmed. So you know, this needs to happen for the good of the country. And I think there’ll be some Democrats who’ll be warm to this idea as well.
HH: When is it going to go down? When is the trigger going to get pulled and the rules changed?
TY: You know, it’s unclear, because we of course have the President’s compromise, common sense proposal that we’re first going to have to begin debate on hopefully coming Thursday this week and go through amendments and so forth. But I think right in the week of that, we will take up this matter.
HH: All right, and that means next week, and I’m glad, I’ll come back to the President’s proposal in one second. One more question. You’ve got to go find Lindsey Graham and ask him where are the judges? I mean, we’ve been, you guys have been back in session for three weeks. We haven’t had a judicial hearing or confirmation, yet.
TY: Yeah, well, you know, there hasn’t been a whole lot of love, I mean, from the other side. You know, we’ve had a piece of legislation pertaining to Israel and its security. And Chuck Schumer just would not allow it. So we’re trying to work our way through this partial government shutdown. We’re trying to get the border secured, which is something the President and so many of us campaigned on. And you know, there are three answers to any question, Hugh, I understand, because I learned at day one at the Naval Academy, it’s yes, sir or ma’am, no, sir or ma’am, and I will find out, sir or ma’am. So this one would be sort of yes and aye aye. We do need to move forward with judges. We’ve gotten more through than any Senate in history. And we’re going to step on the gas and…
HH: Would you do me a favor, Senator Young? In every conference meeting, would you do a Cato the Elder thing and at the end of it, stand up and say what have you done for the Republicans lately on judges, because that actually, national security and judges are it. And I know we can move the judges. You might not be able to move stuff on national security, but you guys can move the judges. That’s all on us.
TY: Yeah, well, you know, I have to hand it to our Republican conference. We’ve been fixated on this issue. Your comments are well-received, because that is the long game. This is a generational issue. We are remaking the federal court system not just at the Supreme Court level, but the next tier down, which is where most of the controversial cases are heard, the Circuit Court level. You know, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, should President Trump earn a second term, by the end of the second term, we will have Trump and Republican-appointed judges in control of that Circuit as well. That’s…
HH: Yeah, there are three slots there right now that unfortunately, Jeff Flake blocked. I’d like them back in front of Lindsey shortly. Let me give you the last two minutes, Senator Young, to talk about this border proposal. The President made an offer. The Democrats have to make a counteroffer, I think, at this point, if they don’t like it. What’s going to happen?
TY: Well, yeah, I think it’s a principled, common sense proposal to secure our border before we reopen the government. We, of course, are going to be voting on it on Thursday following the filing of that legislative proposal today. It takes two intervening days under our rules to actually come to the matter. That vote will not be on the substance itself. It will be a procedural vote, which will allow us, should we receive 60 votes to move forward with further debate and amendments. So to the extent Democrats want to include other things, or exclude particular things, they can through the regular order, through the amendment process, do so. So this need not be about power, which is really a zero sum game, too often times in Washington. Let’s, if this was instead about the common good, about finding a solution to our border situation, about fully reopening the government, then we could have a win-win solution which is what the President wants, and of course what we want in the Senate. So we are moving now, because we have indicated as Republicans in the Senate, so we’re not going to take up any spending bills that the president of the United States won’t sign. He would sign this one. And it’s our hope that any variant of this arrived at through the regular legislative process, the President will give strong consideration to as well. So there is a close predictive future on this. I have been disappointed by a lot of the public commentary from Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, especially seeing as the President’s going even further. He says in the way of the immediate near-term crisis, he intends to hold weekly bipartisan meetings to make sure we address all of immigration reform – asylum reform, interior enforcement, merit-based immigration system, something I’d like to see. So you know, these are issues that haven’t been begun to be properly addressed.
HH: You got to get moving. Yeah.
TY: …in three decades, and this president has resolved to take them very seriously and try and get them done. And I just hope that for the good of the country, we can move forward in a serious way starting on Thursday.
HH: You and me. Senator Todd Young, come back early and often throughout 2019 and 2020 as chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. Thank you, Senator.
TY: Thanks so much, Hugh.
End of interview.