Our previous coverage: Roy Blunt at Missouri Boys State: opening remarks
[transcription with the assistance of s]
Congressman Roy Blunt: …By the way, one night, a couple weeks ago, at an event in, uh, St. Louis…uh, introduced me, and…are you here?
Congressman Blunt: There he is. There’s…, well thank you. I, I, uh, I told…if he was here I was going to mention him. He gave me a great introduction at an event. And you get to ask the first quest – Let’s see, are you second or first? …Are you number one or two in the line there?
Question: I’m number one.
Congressman Blunt: Okay.
Question: Uh –
Congressman Blunt: We’ll come over here next.
Question: …I was wondering, Congressman Blunt, uh, how far do you feel that you holding the Republican seat, in 2010, in the Senate is to the checks and balances, uh, that are so important to the American democracy in government?
Congressman Blunt: Well, the, the, everybody heard the question, so I won’t repeat ’em. That’s what those mics are for. I, I do think in our system part of the, the, the best part of the way our system was designed was it was designed so that nobody could get overwhelmingly dominant in the system, in a way that allowed people just to do whatever they wanted to do. And, uh, in Washington today, uh, the Democrats are comfortably in control of the House. The President, of course, has just been elected and is in the first months of the new term that will, uh, will last for four years. Uh, the Senate, is the one place where the minority can still ensure some debate. At this moment there are fifty-nine Democrats in the Senate. Uh, one vacant seat in the Senate that will soon be decided from Minnesota. And forty Republicans. And in the Senate it takes sixty votes, sixty people to decide to have a vote. And, and so that number is really important. We’re really close to where one side, even in the Senate could just do whatever they want to do. And I, I, I think a lot of Missourians are going to think about that as they look at the election next year. And they’re going to think, well, even, even in our state, Independents, certainly Democrats. I, I can see this thought process with the thought, well I voted for Barack Obama, even though he didn’t carry Missouri, I’m glad he’s President, I don’t have any particular strong feelings about either Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House, or Harry Reid, the leader of the Senate, uh, but I just don’t want ’em to be able to do, anything they want to do without ensuring that there’s, there’s the kind of debate for the American people to know what’s going on. There’s some really big issues right now, domestically, uh, a discussion about whether we, uh, have more government control of health care. A discussion about utility rates and energy, uh, that particularly impacts Missouri. Taxes, uh, a discussion about everything from taxes to labor organization. And so it’s an important time, Missourians, you know one of the advantages that we have as Missourians is somehow, we always seem to be, right in the middle of every political fight. And frankly, I think this Senate seat is gonna be seen around the nation as one of the, one of the four or five races in the country that will really decide a lot about the next, uh, the next, uh, the rest of the Obama administration, what happens in the country. Uh, you know we’ve, we’ve got, uh, uh, a record that’s almost unbroken in the presidential election, always voting for the winner. That’s how much in the middle we are and the last time we broke that record and voted for Senator McCain, about thirty eight hundred votes out of three million cast, uh, but we were the only competitive state that, that voted for Senator McCain in the last election. All the other, uh, bellwether states, or competitive states, uh, voted for, uh, the guy who was going to win the presidency. It’s the second time since nineteen and four that we didn’t vote for the winner in the presidential election. So we still have the best record as a bellwether state, uh, we just don’t have the most recent, uh, record as a bellwether state. Let’s go over here…
Congressman Roy Blunt at Missouri Boys State on Saturday evening.
…Question: When you’re, when you’re about to make a vote on legislation that’s about to change the future of the country –
Congressman Blunt: Uh hum.
Question: What’s the motivation for your choice?
Congressman Blunt: Well, you know there, there are lots of folks in the Congress, in fact, I’ve been in the Congress for a dozen years now. This is my thirteenth year, my seventh term. My votes are all on my website… Uh, and um, and you can do that, when I went, I started my very first year, every vote that was not procedural is on my website. So, I can, I can guess about, uh, seventy thousand votes now. I had, so on any given day some of those votes are about, will change the future of the country, and some decide how, with the name of a post office. Uh, I think less about the name of a post office than I do those big issues. Actually, I, I hope I gave you some idea tonight as I was talking earlier, about a process I go through, and it’s that, is this really a job for government, is this really, if it’s a job for government, is it really a job for the federal government? Uh, if we do this, is it going to divert our attention from other things that are more important? You know, you can only do so many things and one of the problems in the federal government, uh, for a long time now, has been that government continues to take on new responsibilities before the old responsibilities are fully realized. Uh, in education, uh, in um, defense and other areas, uh, it’s always easier it seems, to take on a new program than it is to go back and do the less, uh, um, appealing p.r. job, of doing the program well that you decided to do. But I’d say the first two things I think of are that, uh, that they would be, is this the job for government and if, if I decide no, I just don’t vote for it. And, uh, two, is this the job that the federal government really has to step in and play a role. But the things that…mentioned earlier, uh, the strong national defense, that’s clearly our responsibility. The things that, it, um, that encourage our relationships with other nations in a, in an increasingly smaller world, that’s clearly the responsibility of the federal government. And then what are you doing that encourages states to do their job better? Are you doing things that empowers the state to be one of those laboratories for change? So actually I try to apply a philosophy that, that largely, if you have a chance to go back on the website or wherever, look at the things I talked about when I just talking about my view of our country. I try to apply that to those votes in the House. And a lot of them come pretty fast and pretty furious and I can look back over twelve years of seven thousand votes and I can find a few of them, if I could vote now differently based on everything I know now, I, I probably would but the day I cast that vote, hopefully it was, uh, with those things in mind. Back over to this side, I guess…
…Question: And my question is, um, what are your views on national health care and specifically is it the right or the obligation of the national government to provide national health care? And the second part, as a minority, um, party –
Congressman Blunt: Uh hum.
Question: How do you get your views incorporated into the bill?
Congressman Blunt: Well, um, I’m actually, on health care, I’m actually organizing our side on health care. [garbled] I was on the Republican leadership for a long time, I, I stepped bac
k from that and running for the Senate now. Uh, but, uh, our leader, the Majority Leader – the Minority Leader asked if I would get all of our posts that are most responsible for health care together and be sure that we’re part of that debate. Uh, the health care is an importance, obligation, for a society to have a health care system that works. Uh, I, I don’t know that it’s the id- I don’t believe that it’s the obligation of government, necessarily to do that. I do think the government here has a chance to step in and create a health care system that’s more patient, doctor-patient driven. A health care system that has more choices for people. Uh, the health care system that we have now, um, mostly developed after World War II, the end of World War II, You had price controls and lots of things, it was hard to give people, and people were desperately trying to attract and keep employees and so they started adding health insurance at work for the first time. Most of your families have that. Uh, sixty-one percent of the American people under, who aren’t on Medicare, get their, their health insurance at work. But you don’t have many choices even at work. So I, I have a view that if you like what you have in health care you should be able to keep it. But even if you like what you have and, and we’ve, we work hard to be sure you keep it, and employer provided health care or your other options, we should be working toward more of a, uh, marketplace for you. More, more choices for you. We had, uh, about five years ago, we added something to Medicare, which is health care for people over sixty-five. It’s a government program that’s been in place since nineteen sixty-five. Uh, and we added prescription drugs to Medicare. Nineteen sixty-five it wasn’t a very big issue. By the, the uh, by nineteen ninety-five it was a huge issue. By two thousand it was a bigger issue. Uh, and we added prescription drugs to Medicare. But the way we did that is we organized the system for the private sector companies, uh, compete, uh, to have your business, rather than the government telling you what you can you have, and what you’re going to pay for it, uh, there’s a real competition. It was a government organized system instead of a government operated system and the satisfaction levels have been very high. Here’s a government, the cost is forty percent less than the lowest estimate that anybody had. There’s no government run program that’s ever been forty percent less than peoples’ estimate. The cost is forty percent less. It’s a voluntary program. Ninety percent of the people that could be in it are in it. Over ninety percent of them think it’s either good or excellent. And one hundred percent of them, this would generally be your grandparents, uh, one hundred percent of them know that sometime in the next year, uh, you’ve, you’ve only agreed to have this, um, this, this coverage from this company for twelve months. So sometime in the next year, you can change your provider and you know that and your provider does too and that has created a very healthy model of what we can do with health care generally. More choices, less government control, not a government run system, uh, but a, but a, uh, government organized system. And if you watch this over the next two or three weeks, this debate is really going to heat up. And one of the big differences between my side of this debate and the other side is the other side, and the President’s on the other side, will say, well, we’re for this marketplace but we think there needs to be a government option. We think one of the plans should be run by government. And I would say that the government will never compete fairly and if you have a government option you’re never really going to let the marketplace develop and eventually you only have one government provider and I don’t, I don’t find very many Americans who think that one government run health care system is what you want. I think that people want to have more choices, higher quality, uh, more doctors and patients making decisions about health care, instead of some government, uh, board or bureaucrat making decisions. Back over here…
…Question: …My question is, what is the most important aspect or principle in prioritizing on such a busy schedule?
Congressman Blunt: In, in prioritizing things, is that what you said?
Congressman Blunt: Um, prioritizing schedules, really, it’s really hard. Uh, and one of the frustrations in being in Congress is you really don’t control that schedule. You know for the years before I went to Congress I was a statewide elected official, I was the Secretary of State for eight years, I was a university president for four years and I, I really had a lot of control over my schedule and the hardest thing for me to adjust to going to Congress a dozen years ago was that nobody controls the schedule. And for a while I was both the Majority Leader and the Majority Whip, the number two and number three jobs, uh, in the majority and I didn’t even control the schedule. Uh, and so prioritizing the schedule’s hard in terms of the work on the floor. Prioritizing who you, who you get to see every day is sometimes even harder. But my inclination to be to see everybody and um, and I, you just can’t do that so, trying to figure out who you need to see, where your time is best spent, uh, who the, who is even better off talking to key members of your staff that are really focused in narrowly on the target that that person brings special information to the, to our office in Washington, or our office in Springfield, or Joplin. Uh, that’s, it’s, it’s, it’s a very big job. I actually thank the scheduler in our office has, it, one of the very most important jobs. But those, that person scheduled me, but also decides of all the requests coming in, part of his job is to figure out and talk to the other staff, okay, how is it always the best time to use our time, but how is it the best way to use, the best way to use our time, but how’s the best way to use the time of this person who is making an effort to come to our office, wherever it is, maybe all the way to Washington, D.C. So it’s a, it’s a challenge and it’s, it’s one that I think a lot of the members of Congress don’t take seriously enough. Now I’ve always thought the scheduler was right at the top of the, of the heap, of, uh, who, who, who we have, we had to have the very best person. I see a lot of offices where you, you start as scheduler and then you work your way up. I, I don’t think there’s any, very much working your way up from trying to manage that very question. Okay, over here.
Question: …My question is, have you ever had conflicts with passing legislation, like with other parties, or with, with members of your own party and if so, how did you like work through these conflicts?
Congressman Roy Blunt: Well we have lots of conflicts. It’s a system that actually should have conflict. You know a lot of people, the, the, representative democracy should have conflict. And one of the things that I, I really assume that our friends on the other side of the, of the debate are, are every bit as well motivated as I am, I just, sometimes I, often if I’m not agreeing with them I must think they’re wrong, but I don’t think they’re evil. Uh, and um, you know particularly, and, and I had a job once which was called the, the Whip. And the Whip’s job in the Congress, uh, you know, I’m a congressman from Missouri but I’m also one of the leaders, and the Whip’s job, is to find the votes to get things done. And when we were in the majority, we had such small majorities we always had to have some Democrats. And, so I was always talking to, looking for, trying to figure out which Democrats were absolutely opposed to whatever we were doing and I was trying to get done the day before, could be part of what we were doing the next day. Uh, so it’s a, I, I think that it’s, it’s a system that should have conflict. It’s a system where, uh, you’re much better off if you realize that just because I don’t agree with this person on the health care de
bate doesn’t mean that I may not be in total agreement with them on the energy debate. The so-called Cap and Trade Bill is a big issue in Washington now, too. And, uh, our state is particularly badly affected by it because almost all of our electricity comes from coal. Well, in my view what we ought to be doing is finding a better way to use coal rather than deciding we’re not going to use it. We’re the Saudi Arabia of coal. Uh, and um, and when you have a resource, uh, that’s uh, advantage to you, you ought to figure out how to, how to use that resource rather than how not to. You know every other county in the world looks at their natural resources and they think economic advantage. For some reason, Americans, uh, sometimes want to look, uh, at their resources and think environmental hazard. Uh, we need to be thinking how do we take a problem and turn it into an opportunity. I think we’re back over here. I’m going to get a lot quicker on the rest of these questions.
Question: I’m sorry I’m –
Congressman Blunt: No, that’s alright. It’s not your fault at all. It’s my, I’m answering too long.
Question: …My question is um, do you believe that the [mic feedback], sorry, do you believe that the current budget for the United States is good and if not –
Congressman Blunt: The current, what, what, the current budget?
Question: Budget for the nation is good –
Congressman Blunt: Spending way too much money. Way too much money. [laughter][applause][cheers]
Congressman Roy Blunt: The problem with this level of spending and borrowing is, is actually your problem. Sorry. We had, we had Tony Blair come to speak to the joint session of Congress a few years ago and, and um, as we were walking through the, you know, the building with him, uh, the leaders and I, that I was with at the time, and talking about where, where the British had come in and tried to burn the Capitol down and he, uh, he got up and, and um, as he started remarks and he said something like, well they were showing me where, where, um, where, um, where my country tried to burn the Capitol down and then he paused for a minute and said, “Sorry.” And that was um, it was pretty, it was very well timed. Sorry’s probably not good enough, uh, for you all. If you borrow this level of money and apparently the President’s plan is to um, is to double the national debt in um, five years and double it again in ten, the entire, it took a long time to get to where we are and I’m not happy with where we are, but to, to, take this national debt that took us, what would that be, seventeen eighty-seven to now, you can figure out those years, and then double it in four or five years and then double it again in ten. The only way to pay that back is, is to do, is to see inflation become a problem and interest rates become a problem and, uh, this could be a huge challenge for the country as, uh, you’re starting your careers. You know, add another year in high school and, and, whatever, whatever college, and other school, training you do, that’s about what this really hits the country in a hard way and I’m gonna to continue to fight against these levels of spending and uh, hopefully the American people will decide, wait a minute, you know this unfair to the future. Uh, we can’t, we can’t spend money now, uh, at this level and not expect it to have dire consequences in the future….