The Lone Star State’s new governor joined me today to talk about his newest battle with the EPA –and a little GOp presidential politics:
HH: I am joined now by one of America’s great governors, Texas Governor Greg Abbott. If he was a Browns fan, he’d be perfect. Governor Abbott, good to have you, welcome back.
GA: Hugh, it’s great to be back, and you always have to insert something involving the great state of Ohio. Of course, you do have the great Johnny Manziel, Heisman trophy winner on the Browns team, and hopefully he’ll be able to carry them to more victories.
HH: And we’re rooting for him. He should be coming out of rehab pretty soon, and we have not given up on Johnny Football. That’s Johnny Radio talking there. Now Governor, I’ve got one political and two substantive questions. Here’s my political question. Texans on Tuesday, March 1st of next year are going to face a terrible dilemma. They’re going to have Ted Cruz and Rick Perry, both friends of yours, both enormously popular in the Lone Star State. I figure if you run as a favorite son, you’ll save everybody a lot of money and headaches. Any chance of that happening?
GA: I don’t think that’s going to happen. We have enough Texas-related candidates on the ballot. Remember, there’s a couple more Texas-related candidates. We have Rand Paul, who is a native of Texas, Jeb Bush with Texas ties, and so there’s a good chance the next president is going to have a pathway through Texas.
HH: Are you going to stay on the sidelines in this one, Governor Abbott, and let them fight it out? Or will you be declaring for one or the other of the many Texas-affiliated candidates before then?
GA: Hugh, you know that I am a committed conservative, and I am looking for the candidate who will be the most conservative candidate. I’m really looking for a candidate who is going to embrace a close connection with the United States Constitution. I am so frustrated with the current president abandoning the Constitution. I’m really looking for a true Constitutionalist. And so I may get involved, but I’m not ready to do so, yet.
HH: All right, now that brings me to my first substantive question. I asked yesterday, and I’m going to ask every presidential candidate who comes through here, I asked Bobby Jindal yesterday, and I think I’ll talk to Scott Walker tomorrow, if they will enforce the federal drug laws against the states of Colorado and Washington State and the District of Columbia because of the incredible, obnoxious effects they’re having not only in their states, but in other states. Do you expect that to be an important issue in this campaign? And what do you want that answer to be, Governor Abbott?
GA: I expect the rule of law writ large to be an important issue in this campaign. Remember this, under the past seven or six years under the Obama administration, we’ve seen an abandonment of the rule of law. This nation was built on the rule of law as opposed to the rule of man. I have filed 31 lawsuits against the Obama administration in my prior capacity as the attorney general of Texas, the most recent one was because the President, acting as the chief executive, rewrote the immigration law, abandoning the rule of law. And I’ve got to tell you, it’s, every single time the President does not follow the Constitution and abandons the rule of law, it erodes the fabric of our society. And so whoever the president is has to enforce the law, because when they fail to do so, the citizens feel like they also don’t have to follow the law.
HH: Now does that mean, then, you want the federal prosecutors to come in and shut down marijuana dealers in states that are not enforcing the law?
GA: I want federal prosecutors to enforce all the laws, whether it be those or any others. Federal prosecutors should not pick and choose which laws they are going to enforce. They should enforce all of the laws.
HH: All right, now…
GA: If they’re written, and here’s the deal. If they want to change the laws, fine. Let them change the laws. That’s the way the process is supposed to work.
HH: Now I see that the 5th Circuit chose not to disturb the trial court’s injunction in the immigration case. How are you reading that, Governor Abbott?
GA: Well, it was the right thing to do. Here’s the deal. Whenever an injunction is issued, the only way an appellate court is supposed to disturb it is to disturb it to maintain the status quo. Well, the status quo was to not allow the President this illegal executive action to change the status quo. And so all the rulings have been the correct thing so far by leaving the status quo the way it is. And that’s the way that Congress wrote the law, as opposed to the way the President tried to rewrite the immigration laws.
HH: Now Governor Abbott, I want to turn to something that’s really inside baseball. I served on the Air Quality Management District, so I know what a NAAQS is, the National Ambient Air Quality Standard. And I know what the EPA is doing. But I’m going to leave it to you to try and explain to people why you have sent a blistering letter along with some other governors to Gina McCarthy, the administrator of the EPA, about their proposed changes to the National Ambient Air Quality Standard for ozone.
GA: They are making, the EPA is trying to enforce changes on states that will further reduce the ability for businesses to conduct themselves the way they have. What these regulations are really going to do is to crush job growth in this country. You know, there is a reason why we’ve seen stagnant job growth, and a stagnant economy, and that’s because of the heavy hand of regulation. And these most recent EPA regulations are going to be even worse, even more constricting on the ability of these enterprises, and things like schools and farms and other types of activities like hospitals from being able to conduct themselves the way they have in the past because of the impact that it’s going to have on the ozone level. The ozone level is improving constantly. In fact, Texas has proven if you can’t expand the economy while reducing ozone pollution at the very same time, what we don’t need is the heavy hand of the EPA trying to micromanage what’s going on in our state.
HH: Now I like the line in your letter. You say that non-attainment is an economic penalty box. And so if the EPA lowers the standard for ozone level, everybody goes into the penalty box, and they get to begin to micromanage your economy by vetoing projects. Is that in a nutshell how it works?
GA: That’s in a nutshell how they want it work. That is in a nutshell how not the EPA and state relationship is supposed to work. The EPA is supposed to set the standards and give the states the flexibility to find ways to meet those standards. One more point, too. They’re supposed to go through an economic evaluation process. And in this case, we don’t think they’ve done that process adequately, because the economics of this are horrendous, and not just in Texas, but across the entire country.
HH: But you know that the President has stacked the DC Circuit. That’s the circuit on which I clerked, and I know that you litigated in it back when it was a fair circuit. But if you challenge this in the DC Circuit, you’re going to lose. Are you going to challenge this in the 5th Circuit?
GA: Well, we will challenge this at the state level, meaning at the State of Texas federal court here and then go to the 5th Circuit and then go on to the Supreme Court from there. This will be one of those issues that makes its way back to the U.S. Supreme Court.
HH: All right, now Governor, as you see the Republican race shaping up, we started and now I want to end up with politics. What do you want to see the candidates talking about every single day? I want to see them talking about national defense. But what’s Greg Abbott? Obviously, rule of law is one of them, but what else do you want to hear them talking about?
GA: Texas is at the epicenter of the immigration debate. We face the consequences of it more profoundly than maybe any other state. We need to have a president who’s going to step up and address both the immigration problem and the border security problem. We face real challenges every single day because of the lack of border security. And Texas is stepping up and doing what the federal government has failed to do. We’re coming out of our own pocket to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars to pay for more enhanced border security. So we are paying to do the federal government’s job. I’m expecting the president to start stepping up and assuming the federal responsibility to secure our border.
HH: So you want to see candidates lay out a specific border security plan. I want to see them talk about miles of fence they’re going to build. But what level of specificity, Governor Abbott?
GA: They could just adopt my plan, which adds more than 500 boots on the ground, more officers to go after corruption, new technology, both planes and cameras, as well as anti-gang efforts across the entire state.
HH: Greg Abbott, always a pleasure, Governor, good to talk to you. Follow him on Twitter, @GregAbbott_TX.
End of interview.