Senator Tom Cotton joined me and Guest co-host “Luke the Luminous” —winner of the Midterm Madness contest, by a lot, and a Steelers fan!— to talk about the upcoming lame duck session of the Senate:
HH: I’m joined also by Senator Tom Cotton of the great state of Arkansas. I don’t know if you played Midterm Madness, Senator. Did you match yourself against Luke the Luminous?
TC: I did not, but I’m amused by the twist of fate that has a Pittsburgh Steelers fan in the chair with you there, Hugh.
HH: It is a…
Luke: It’s perfect.
HH: …twist of fate, and Luke is, but he’s originally from Ohio, right, Luke?
Luke: Yes, Northeast Ohio.
HH: So you see, it’s the genes, even though they’ve been driven to a bad use. Senator Cotton, Luke was telling me during the break his grandmother whose birthday it is today, which one?
Luke: Yes, my grandmother, my baba, is 89 today.
HH: All right, she came from the Soviet Union having met his grandfather after the war in Europe and came to this country as a legal immigrant. You and my next hour guest, Stephanie Ruhle, have been mixing it up about immigration. First of all, what role did immigration play in the elections, if any, do you think? And what are we going to do, if anything, in the lame duck session about it?
TC: Hugh, immigration was a central role in our elections. You know, in Arkansas, for instance, exit polls showed that it was the number one concern of Arkansas voters. That was the case in a lot of other states, especially in the states where we won Senate races. So in the lame duck session, we still have several government funding bills to pass, to include the Homeland Security bill. It’s high time that we provide the money necessary to secure our border, and that includes a fence or a wall in certain places on the border. We also need to reform our asylum and our refugee laws so foreigners are not taking advantage of our generosity. The rules of asylees and refugees are designed for people perhaps like Luke’s grandmother who are facing persecution because of their religion or their political beliefs or their sex or what have you. They are not designed to give everyone around the world a chance to come to the United States because it would simply give them a better standard of living. If that were the case, it would apply to almost every living soul on this Earth. We should focus those laws on ways to alleviate the suffering from people who face persecution for their beliefs or for who they are. And we should not let people game those rules.
Luke: Senator Cotton, the President came out with an executive order on port of entry, I saw something for 90 days. Do you think that should be a permanent solution? Can that be done by Congress?
TC: So yeah, Luke, I think we should try to make every effort to encourage people to apply for either refugee or asylee status in their home country or in a safe third country. If the people fleeing from the Northern Triangle countries – El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, are saying that they’re being persecuted for their political beliefs or their religious views or for who they are, not just because it’s high crime. Again, that’s not criteria for being a refugee or an asylee. They could easily apply for that status in a consulate or our embassy in Mexico City. No one should be showing up at our border and just saying we want to take these steps to be a refugee or an asylee when they can do that in an orderly fashion and in a way that can be processed either in their home country or in a safe third country in the region. That’s what we do in the Middle East.
HH: You know, Senator, I’m momentarily stunned for that question coming from a Steelers fan. So I’m just momentarily stunned. It was detailed, it was fact-specific.
HH: And researched, and so I don’t know who did that for him. Someone is helping him. There might be, remember when Bush had that pack on his back in the 2004 debate? I think someone, I think someone’s feeding him stuff. Senator Cotton, what about the money? I read that you might have a shutdown of the Homeland Security department because the Democrats want $1.5 billion as opposed to more, and in return they want DACA plus. I man, they don’t run the Congress, yet.
TC: Yeah, well, Hugh, I don’t know where you read that, but whoever reported it has got bad sourcing. Look, the President has said he just wants the money necessary to secure our border and keep our country safe and the reforms to our law that prevent people from taking advantage of our laws. There’s been a lot in the news about the caravans over the last month or so. But there’s really a silent or an invisible caravan every single day – the hundreds or the thousands of illegal aliens who enter our country on a daily, weekly, monthly basis without being part of a large attention-getting caravan. Those people are taking advantage of our laws just like the people in the large caravan. So it’s partly about funding the securing of our border, but it’s also about reforming our laws so our law enforcement professionals and immigration judges can take the appropriate steps in a quick fashion to enforce our laws and ensure people who want to immigrate here can come here in the right way.
HH: Now I have noted, Senator Cotton, I saw the movie Beautiful Boy last week. It’s heartbreaking. It’s about addiction in America. Then I saw a preview for Clint Eastwood’s new movie, The Mule, about running drugs into America from the cartels. Then I saw a preview for the new movie, Ben Is Back, starring Julia Roberts and the kid who was in Mystic River. And it’s another youthful addiction. The 73,000 people who died from opioid addiction overdose last year is an epidemic hiding in plain sight, and it’s really connected to the border. Doug Ducey told me this on Saturday night. He always talks about the border, but he always talks about security and drugs. Does the rest, do the Democrats understand this is not only a people issue, it’s a drug issue?
TC: Hugh, it very much is a drug issue. Opioids are coming in through Mexico. You know, sometimes Mexico is the place of transit for places like China. Sometimes, it’s the place of origin. But the porous border is one reason why so many drugs are pouring in. Obviously, there’s a lot that we need to do in our own country to try to get treatment for those who are addicted, to try to discourage from using drugs or experimenting in the first place, especially given how dangerous drugs like fentanyl can be and kill you on the very first time you use them. But there’s also the supply side as well, and that’s getting control of our Southern border, and getting control of the violence that this drug, that these drugs bring across the border.
Luke: You know, Hugh mentioned research. I saw in 2014, you know, your margins in a lot of those rural counties in Arkansas were 60%. Now, we’re seeing some places like Hawley in Missouri, Braun in Indiana, we’re seeing 70-80%. I think a lot of that is driven by the issue of judges. You know, Hugh says judges, judges, judges. Do we have some plans in the upcoming session to keep on filling those vacancies?
TC: Yeah, well, just in the next two months, Luke, we’re going to be confirming several more judges to our Courts of Appeals and to the district courts. I know that Senator McConnell has made a commitment that we’re not going to leave any judges behind over these next two months. You know, if they’ve been pending waiting for a vote, votes that should have come months ago if it weren’t for unprecedented Democratic obstruction, they would have been already been confirmed. In fact, the President just nominated this week Neomi Rao to replace Brett Kavanaugh on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. I think we’ll be able to confirm here before we start the new year.
HH: She is such a great choice, Senator Cotton. I don’t know if you’ve sat down with her. I’ve interviewed her before, and everyone in the administrative law world just think, they clicked their heels when they saw Rao had been nominated to the D.C. Circuit, which is the second-most important court. And we’re outnumbered there, because Harry Reid packed it. He’s paying for it now. But do you think you’ll be voting there on Christmas Eve? Do you think you’re staying that late to get judges done?
TC: Well, Hugh, that’s really in the hands not of Mitch McConnell, but of the Democrats. Senator McConnell has made it clear, as he did back in October, that we’re going to confirm these judges, judges that should have been confirmed months ago, Hugh, if it weren’t for the unprecedented obstruction of the Senate Democrats. So it’s really up to them whether they want to confirm those on Christmas Eve or New Year’s Eve, or whether they want to confirm them earlier in December by yielding back the time. That has been the custom in the Senate for over 200 years. And regardless, when we come back in January, we’re going to have two more senators. We’re not going to be 51-49. We’re going to be at 53-47, and we’ll start once again, you know, confirming judges as soon as the President sends them up and we can process those nominations in an orderly fashion and have the confirmation hearings.
HH: Now tell me a little bit about Rick Scott. Luke the Luminous did not pick Rick Scott to win, I like to point out. The Steelers fan was not perfect. He’s going downhill, in fact, I think, like the franchise. He did not pick Rick Scott to win. Rick is ahead by, I think, 12,500 votes. What do you hear, Senator Cotton, about that recount?
TC: Hugh, I think the recount’s supposed to end within a couple of days under Florida law. That’s when overseas ballots and military ballots are due. I’m not aware of a recount ever changing 12,000 votes. You know, recounts like the Florida recount in 2000, or Norm Coleman and Al Franken’s recount in 2008 in Minnesota were by the margin of a few hundred votes. So absent some kind of unexpected court ruling in Florida, it’s hard to imagine that we’re going to have any result other than Senator Rick Scott representing the state of Florida in Washington, and Governor Ron DeSantis serving the state of Florida in Tallahassee.
HH: So the Harvard Law Caucus that used to come on this show – Mike Pompeo, Tom Cotton and Ron DeSantis are now the Secretary of State, the Governor-elect and soon to be Governor of Florida and Senator Tom Cotton. That wasn’t a bad caucus. That wasn’t a bad caucus at all, Senator Cotton.
TC: And we did all of that in spite of regular appearances on the Hugh Hewitt Show.
HH: I know, and I just like to point out to people that correlation is not causation, but in this case, it might be. Did all three of you have Senator Warren for a teacher in Harvard Law?
TC: I think Mike Pompeo may be a little long in the tooth to have studied with Liz Warren at Harvard. I don’t know about Ron.
HH: Okay. Senator Tom Cotton, good to talk to you as always. Have a great day.
End of interview.