Senator Tom Cotton joined me this morning to discuss botht eh prison “reform”/”jailbreak” bill and the looming partial government shutdown over border security funding:
HH: Joined now by United States Senator Tom Cotton. Merry Christmas, Senator Cotton. Good to talk to you. You guys are going to be spending most of it in D.C., I think.
TC: Merry Christmas to you, Hugh, and to all your listeners. It is the most wonderful time of the year in most places, but not in Washington, D.C. where little good happens in lame duck legislatures.
HH: I agree with you. Let me ask you first about one quick personnel question. David Urban is on the list of, and it’s a very good list of people to become the chief of staff for the President. He’s a West Point grad, a 101st Airborne…do you think that military experience helps you in that job of chief of staff?
TC: Well, I know Dave Urban very well, and I think that he would excel in any position in which he serves this country as he did in the military. I do think military experience helps not just in a position like chief of staff in the White House, but really any government position or any position in business, Hugh. I mean, even as young lieutenants or sergeants, especially in times of combat, you have to make dozens or hundreds of decisions per hour that mean the difference between life and death for yourself and your troops, and the civilians on the battlefield. Also, it helps you when it comes to having an orderly and structured planning process and execution, and ensuring that everyone is sticking to the plan or adjusting the plan in face of new circumstances as needed. I just think it’s exceptional preparation for almost anything in life.
HH: I hope we find out this week, and they’re going to need…I’ve been playing clips all morning of Democrats talking about impeachment, so it’s clear that the next two years is going to be full of impeachment proceedings and talk. And you’re just going to need someone with a level head there. Let me turn to the issue of the prison reform/jailbreak bill, which I’ve talked with you about before. The more I talk to people, the more they agree with me that if fentanyl dealers are eligible for any kind of grace under this bill, they don’t like this bill, because they agree with me that fentanyl is akin to dealing an instant killer. It’s not like cocaine. It’s not like dope. It’s an instant killer. What’s the status of the bill right now, Senator Cotton?
TC: Hugh, we don’t really know, because there’s ongoing changes, seemingly by the hour from the advocates of this bill that they’re not releasing in public. It’s getting pretty late in the day in this lame duck session to be making changes in such a highly-complex area of law that have such grave consequences for public safety. If they do want to move forward, I certainly hope they would exclude all fentanyl traffickers from any kind of leniency or sentencing reduction. But if, Hugh, if what they really want to do is reduce recidivism, which we should do in our country, people who have paid their debts to society should have a chance to get back on their feet and not be a menace to society, it’s very simple. Simply delete from the bill all the provisions that allow people to get out of prison early, that reduce sentences for repeat or serious offenders, and that apply these changes retroactively. There is common ground on trying to provide prisoners education such as GED programs or job training in technical career skills, giving them counseling and mentoring programs, especially faith-based ones. We should be focusing on that common ground. We shouldn’t be slashing sentences and releasing child abusers and serious felons and drug dealers early from prison.
HH: So what is the status, is the conference going to meet again to discuss this? Has the Leader given any kind of guidance as to when a decision will be made, because I just don’t think you have the time at this point to have a serious debate about this bill?
TC: Hugh, there’s not really a bill to be discussed right now. I mean, the proponents dropped a bill Friday afternoon before Thanksgiving. By their own public account, they have engaged in repeated changes to the bill, yet those are not being made public. So at this point, the majority leader doesn’t really have a piece of legislation to put on the floor and vote on. And as you say, I mean, here it is Tuesday, and our now target date for adjournment is next Thursday. And there’s many other pieces of legislation, many important nominations to entertain as well.
HH: Okay, so let me switch to one of those. I’m not thinking it’s getting done. I just don’t think so. But what about the President who’s tweeting this morning about the wall? It sounds like he’s ready to go the mattresses on this and shut down the government. Have you discussed it with him?
TC: We’ve talked repeatedly over the years about the need to secure our southern border, a key part of which is a physical barrier in the areas where we have illegal aliens crossing our border with impunity. You know, the President made a decision in the late summer/early fall to have this debate after the election during the lame duck session of Congress while we were funding other critical parts of the government like our military. Now is the time to have this debate. And I think we should fight very hard to secure our borders. This is a critical issue on which we all campaigned when we were elected to office. And Hugh, it’s a simple fact that walls, fences and physical barriers work. If they didn’t, you wouldn’t have all these rich politicians living in gated communities. We wouldn’t have a fence around the White House. We wouldn’t have armed guards standing at the doors of the Capitol. Physical barriers work, and they’ll work at the border.
HH: Do you, are you willing to see that 15% of the government that isn’t funded shut down or at least reduced to critical employees in order to get that wall funding that the President wants? We have 30 seconds, Senator.
TC: Hugh, that question is better directed not at me, but at Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer. It’s really their choice. I mean, remember, they shut down the government in January because they wanted to give amnesty to three million illegal aliens with no strings attached. They reopened the government pretty quickly when they realized how unpopular it is to deprive American citizens of the services their tax dollars pay for to give amnesty for illegal aliens. I suspect they might recognize once again how unpopular that is this time.
HH: I hope you’re right. Senator Tom Cotton, Merry Christmas. We’ll talk again next week, because I don’t think you’re going to be home by this time next week, unfortunately not in Arkansas, but still in D.C. Don’t go anywhere, America.
End of interview.