Coratti: Hello, everyone. My name is Kris Coratti. I am vice president of communications and events at The Washington Post. Thank you all for joining us this evening. In a moment, national political correspondent James Hohmann will interview House majority whip Steve Scalise, a Republican from Louisiana who’s been a key voice on issues ranging from immigration to gun control to tax reform.
Congressman Scalise has spent the last year recovering after being shot by a gunman at a congressional baseball practice last June. Two weeks ago, one year to the day of that shooting, the congressman was back on the field as starting second baseman for the Republican team. Now, they had to update me on this—I did not realize—he got the first out of the game after fielding a ground ball from one of his Democratic colleagues, throwing him out a first base.
We’re looking forward to covering a lot of ground with congressman Scalise today, but before we begin, I’d like to thank our sponsor for this event. Our presenting sponsor for this series is Delta Air Lines, and I would like to welcome to the stage Heather Wingate, Delta’s senior vice president for government affairs. She’s going to say a few words.
Wingate: Thank you, Kris, and good evening, everyone. My name is Heather Wingate, and I’m the senior vice president for government affairs at Delta Air Lines. And Delta’s proud to be a sponsor of an event series like this. We’re particularly pleased to be here this evening for the interview with Congressman Steve Scalise of Louisiana.
As most of you know, Delta has a very robust global footprint, but what you may not know is that our roots actually began in Louisiana, in a town called Monroe, Louisiana, nearly a hundred years ago, as a regional crop duster. We had something to do with the boll weevil beetle, from what I hear, which hopefully is not in Louisiana anymore. But Delta loves Louisiana. Today, even with our roots in Louisiana, we’re currently Atlanta headquartered, but we still cover every corner of Louisiana. And in fact, in 2017, we had 3 million passengers in Louisiana. That’s about 5,000 seats a day in Louisiana. And that’s everyone from the business traveler, to the college student, to the masses that come to Louisiana for Mardi Gras every year.
At Delta, our mission is truly to connect the world. And at the core of that mission is continual engagement—with our investors, with our customers, with our communities in which we operate, and obviously with government agencies as well. But our most steadfast commitment is actually to our employees. We know that if we take care of them, if we give them the tools to serve our customers, then our customers will keep coming back to Delta, and it will be a virtuous circle.
Now, nearly a century later into Delta coming into being, through a number of mergers and acquisitions and certainly plenty of headwinds as well, we are up to 800 aircraft and counting, we employ 80,000 people and are hiring, and we’re flying 185 million customers every year to over 320 cities around the world. We also have made major investments in airport infrastructure, and that includes $7 billion in airport infrastructure just over the last 10 years. We have another 12 billion ready to come online in airport infrastructure over the next five years alone.
And in recent years, Delta has seen strong profits, we’ve seen increased confidence from the financial markets, and we’ve had unmatched investment in our people. The company’s continued to lead the industry with innovations, with really innovative approaches, including technology that allows our customers to actually see when their bags are loaded onto an airplane, when the bag comes off the airplane, to an innovative app that our pilots use to avoid turbulence for a smoother ride.
Put simply, our mission is to make the world a smaller place. And in a business known as much for volatility as ingenuity, Delta’s commitment to being a great place to work and fly and positive force in the communities in which we are in has enabled us to maintain our position as the world’s most reliable, most customer-centric and employee-focused airline in the world. This is a virtuous circle that we believe will take us into the future. And with that, I want to thank The Washington Post for allowing us to partner with them on this series, and I look forward to hearing from the congressman as I know you do as well. Thank you.
Coratti: Thank you so much, Heather. All right. I would like to get this started and welcome to the stage James Hohmann, author of The Daily 202 newsletter, and House Majority Whip, Steve Scalise. Thank you.
Hohmann: Thank you so much, Whip Scalise, for being here.
Scalise: Great to be with you. All of you.
Hohmann: Great crowd. You don’t really need much of an introduction. We’re obviously all inspired by your remarkable recovery. It’s great to see you up and walking around. You’ve had nine surgeries, I think, over the last year.
Scalise: Nine surgeries, and hopefully no more tied to this. [LAUGHTER]
Hohmann: Hopefully you won’t for any reason.
Scalise: God has been good, and the marvels of medicine. I’m a testament to that.
Hohmann: Yeah. Thank God for that. And thank you for joining us. There’s obviously so much news. It’s my job to keep up with the news, and I struggle to keep up.
Scalise: Not much happened today. [LAUGHTER] Still on.
Hohmann: You’re making the news, so that’s even more work. And I want to get right into the news. The big news on the House side is immigration today. The House voted down a wide-ranging bill that would have funded President Trump’s border wall, offered young undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship, and partially addressed the family separation crisis at the border. It failed on a vote of 301 to 121, despite a last-minute tweet, in all caps, from the president—
Scalise: In all caps. [LAUGHTER]
Hohmann: —and your support. You supported the bill.
Hohmann: Why did 112 Republicans vote against this compromise measure that you and the president supported?
Scalise: If you look at both bills—Goodlatte I and Goodlatte II is how they were referenced—both bills addressed all the four pillars that President Trump laid out from building the wall to closing interior loopholes, solving DACA, reuniting families. Both bills addressed those issues in different ways. So you had some members that wanted to address DACA, for example, one way; some members that wanted to address it a different way.
At the end of the day, I think if you look at both votes, surely what I took away is we had a majority of Republicans vote for both bills. So in both cases, you had a majority of Republicans voting yes. But if you combine all of the votes, we had 224 Republicans vote yes on one of the two bills, and not one Democrat voted on either, which tells me our members wanted to solve these problems and clearly we have different approaches on immigration within our conference, and there are number of fault lines we work through, but you didn’t have one Democrat that was willing to work with us to address it. So, makes it a lot more complicated when you’re trying to pass something that important when it’s just one party approaching it.
And so we at least worked through all of the issues our members were interested in and worked with the president, and there were two bills that he would sign, and what we told everybody was, look, if you want to fix the problems of our immigration system, Barack Obama never made an effort to push legislation through with Nancy Pelosi as speaker to solve that problem. He created the DACA problem by saying come to America illegally—not I’ll fix the problem, but I’ll look the other way. Bring your children and none of them will be legal for the entire time that they’re here, and I’ll let somebody else fix it. President Trump said, “I want to fix it.” We had different approaches within our conference on how to, but at least we brought bills forward that, again, 224 Republicans voted yes on.
Hohmann: So let’s talk about what’s next. Will the House vote this week before the July 4th recess on a stand-alone bill that could address the separation issue and kind of codify some of the problems with the executive order and the Flores settlement, or is that going to end up not getting dealt with—[OVERLAPPING]
Scalise: No, you know, we wanted to work through the bills that we had on the floor, and you’ve seen the courts make some different decisions, especially as it relates to child separation. Let’s keep in mind child separation was the policy in law prior to President Trump coming into office, and he’s said as we’ve said, we don’t agree with that policy. We want to change that. That’s why in our bill—Goodlatte II, today, had, I thought, a really good, sound solution to fixing that, to say families will stay together, will stay united.
Hohmann: So now that it’s not passed, is there going to be a stand-alone effort, or is that—?
Scalise: I mean right now, we have looked for ways to find consensus on any of these issues, and clearly there hasn’t been a consensus that got 218 on any one particular bill, but again, the courts have weighed in as well, the president did an executive order, and let’s see how that plays out and continue working with the administration.
Hohmann: So don’t expect a vote before we leave for recess?
Scalise: Tomorrow there won’t be a vote on that—[OVERLAPPING]
Hohmann: Okay. I guess the next big fight on immigration would be the government funding—September 30th, the president has said he wants money for a border wall. Democrats have said they’re not going to vote for anything unless they get some protection for these DACA recipients—
Scalise: Well, they had that opportunity today and voted no, but we—
Hohmann: So we’re coming to this, you know, fork in the road. I mean it seems, just as an observer, like the odds of a government shutdown would be pretty high. I mean do you see a government shutdown over this?
Scalise: If you look at last year, the Democrats in the Senate—because ultimately getting 60 votes in the Senate’s been the impediment over the last few years. Last year, Senate Democrats didn’t provide votes on any of the 12 bills. I think something pretty important happened this week that didn’t get a lot of coverage, and that is that the three appropriations bills we’ve already moved over to the Senate actually got taken up and passed. They had over 80 senators voting yes on the three bills. It was the Energy And Water Appropriations Bill, Leg Branch, and MilCon-VA. So those three bills all got passed back to us by the Senate, and that shows that they’re willing to at least start moving appropriations bills.
We’re going to move the Department of Defense’s appropriations bill tomorrow, and I think you’re going to see a strong vote on that bill to pass that over to the Senate, and that’s the bill that actually does fund our Department of Defense—a very important piece of legislation. I hope it gets bipartisan support out of the House. And let’s keep these bills moving.
Hohmann: So you think a shutdown can be avoided?
Scalise: Yeah, I mean, you know, we—
Hohmann: And get money for—[OVERLAPPING]
Scalise: —didn’t want to shut down last year. We didn’t get one. We ended up with an omnibus, which is not good policy. We want to see appropriations bills move. We want to see that process work. We’re at least off to a good start. Now there’s a lot of time between now and September, but the fact that we’re in June and we already have three bills that have passed both the House and Senate in different forms is a good sign.
Hohmann: Looking ahead to the next Congress—the president said last week when it seemed clear that Goodlatte II wouldn’t get the votes, “Let’s deal with this next year.” I mean there’s so many other things that you obviously want to tackle—do you see another kind of sustained immigration debate in 2019, or are we sort of moving on?
Scalise: I’ve talked to the president about a few of the different things that we want to do to solve the immigrations problems in this country, and I think we’ve shown a number of ways to address the complicated nuances of each of the pillars that the president’s laid out, but if you look at where the fault line was, the Democrats in the Senate made it very clear they weren’t going to bring any of the bills up, so what President Trump said is, look, there are elections coming up this November, hopefully I think we’re going to get more Senate seats, and if we get that increase in Senate seats and hold the House majority—which I’m confident we’ll do, but you know, a whole other topic for discussion—
Hohmann: We’ll get there. [LAUGHS]
Scalise: —we—I’m sure you will. There are a lot of things I’d like to see us accomplish, not just this year—there are still things we’re working on this year, but next year, I think we should go back to repeal and replace of Obamacare where we had a really good bill that would lower premiums and put patients back in charge of their relationship between them and their doctor, and it fell short by one vote in the Senate. So more people willing to vote for those kind of reforms in the Senate’s going to be good.
Tax reform, we’ve seen great success in the economy by cutting taxes. Again, Democrats made it partisan. It should have never been a partisan issue. Giving people more of their money back. It’s a very bipartisan issue. It’s very popular now with the country. When we vote to make those bills permanent later this year, as Chairman Brady and his committee are working on, I encourage all Democrats who made a mistake when they voted no last time to correct that mistake and vote with us to make those tax cuts permanent.
Hohmann: So I want to move on from immigration to the other huge news today, but first I also want to tell everyone watching at home and everyone in the audience that you can tweet any questions for Whip Scalise with the hashtag #202Live, and they’ll pop up on this iPad here. So we’ll get some audience questions which will be great.
Scalise: That’s where it all happens.
Hohmann: This is—yeah, exactly. Those all pop up here. The other huge news today—Anthony Kennedy, the Supreme Court justice, the swing vote on the court, stepping down, retiring, appointed by Ronald Reagan—a huge opportunity for the president to appoint a second Supreme Court justice. How significant is that? What impact does it have on your agenda? Obviously the House doesn’t vote to confirm the nominee, but this is going to sort of become an all-consuming thing this summer.
Scalise: Yeah, it’s very substantive, and you know, look, this is one of the most important things a president does is appoint Supreme Court justices, because they individually can have such a big impact for decades, as we saw with Anthony Kennedy serving for over four decades on the court. And I think if you look at how President Trump has approached this from the beginning, he did something very unique. I mean he put out a list of names as he was a candidate for president, saying, “These are the people that I would appoint.” Neil Gorsuch obviously was the best person on every iteration of the list that he put out during his candidacy, and he stayed true to form, as he has with so many other issues, in following through on that and appointing Neil Gorsuch from that list.
Hohmann: Do you have a favorite of the others on the list?
Scalise: I don’t think there’s a particular favorite right now, but obviously everybody’s going to be combing through that list again to speculate, okay, who is it going to be? But at least we know. And I think that was important that he allowed the country to be involved in that. Mitch McConnell did I think a really important thing by saying let’s let the country have a say in this in the presidential election, and so the country got to see what that list was. Hillary Clinton, by the way, didn’t put out a list, and I didn’t hear anybody wondering about the list because I think they had an idea of what kind of philosophy she would have as she appointed justices, but I think the fact that President Trump did that is a really encouraging thing.
Hohmann: You mentioned Leader McConnell—Democrats are seizing on that, the Merrick Garland precedent. Merrick Garland didn’t get a hearing because Justice Scalia died in an election year. They’re saying the precedent is set, let’s follow the McConnell standard, not vote until after we figure out who controls the Senate in November.
Scalise: I would hope they wouldn’t want us to wait until the next presidential year is over.
Scalise: You know, clearly, it was a presidential election, and it’s the president that appoints justices. It’s not the Senate. The Senate doesn’t appoint justices. Maybe some of them want to be a justice. Most of them want to be president, it seems like, but at the end of the day, you know, they ultimately have a role in this. The House doesn’t. I thought it was important that the country did have a say in that during a presidential election, because they got to see the list of who President Trump would appoint, and that I’m sure factored into a lot of people’s decisions.
Hohmann: Want to change gears to the other big news this morning, which was Joe Crowley’s loss in New York—number four in Democratic leadership. Unexpected defeat to a 28-year-old self-described socialist who ran on abolishing ICE. Huge shakeup—obviously, we’ve been talking a lot about the Republican leadership race, and I want to ask about that, but what did you make of Crowley’s defeat? What message do you think it sends? And where do you see that impacting the Democratic leadership?
Scalise: Well, clearly within their ranks, he was being listed as a potential replacement for Nancy Pelosi, so if anything, it just reassures everybody that Nancy Pelosi is their candidate for speaker, and if anybody wonders just what her power base is going to look like, I think it strengthens her power base on their side. I don’t think that’s a good thing for Democrats running in swing districts, because the philosophy and approach of Nancy Pelosi and other extreme liberals like her is not, I don’t think, the philosophy of a lot of the swing districts in this country, and so that’s going to complicate things more. And especially when you look at the kind of person that beat Joe Crowley, I mean their party is shifting further and further to the left, way away from where mainstream America is, and you know, that’s not a good thing for them if they want to try to win general elections again if they’re moving so far to the left.
Hohmann: Do you think Pelosi sticks around next year?
Scalise: Look, I don’t vote in that conference. [LAUGHTER] And she’s well known in my district and a lot of districts like mine, so that’s going to be a fight that they’re going to have to have, but I do think it shows you, number one, you’ve got to pay attention to your own race before you think about anything else you’re going to do. And that goes across both parties.
Hohmann: Obviously a lot of people mentioning Eric Cantor in the—[OVERLAPPING].
Scalise: A lot of similarities in that as well.
Hohmann: So I have to ask about the Republican leadership race. You’ve expressed support—
Scalise: What leadership?
Hohmann: [LAUGHS] Speaker Ryan retiring, Kevin McCarthy says he’s going to run to be speaker. You’ve expressed support. So far, he has not been able to lock up the votes necessary to get that job. If he can’t lock up the votes, would you consider running?
Scalise: Well, first of all, Kevin isn’t formally announced because he’s focused, as I am, on continuing to push through our agenda. And I’ve been very clear about this, and I’m serious about it, that if you don’t stay focused on what your job is today, then you’re not going to have that next thing you might be going for tomorrow. And it’s been a philosophy I’ve had in my entire life in public office. And it’s served me well up until now. I’m not going to change course. And I think Joe Crowley’s election shows you if you’re worried about running around the country helping other people and not focused on what your mission is, then that next thing’s not going to be there.
So Kevin McCarthy’s working on making sure we move our agenda forward, working with this president to get good things done. It’s working really good for the economy—I mean great economic numbers. I’m sure we’ll talk about that later. But it’s only happened because we’ve stayed focused on our job. There’s going to be a time to worry about leadership elections, but I want it to be leadership elections for speaker of the House, not minority leader, and that means let’s keep doing our job, and we’ll have that opportunity if we stay focused.
Hohmann: And you think it made sense for Speaker Ryan to stick around through the end of the Congress for that reason?
Scalise: Yes. Yeah. And look, Paul’s got a lot of other things he still wants to do.
Hohmann: What’s he going to do next after this year?
Scalise: He’s a young guy, I mean, you know, maybe he goes and starts a business or—
Scalise: You know, he used to be a staffer on the Hill, so he might want to staff somebody on the Hill. [LAUGHTER] But no—
Hohmann: Probably not going—
Scalise: —Paul’s going to have good options from all of [OVERLAPPING] colleagues that are leaving, and—
Hohmann: He won’t have to wait tables at Tortilla Coast. [LAUGHS]
Scalise: Yeah, he won’t have to wait tables at Tortilla Coast anymore, but [LAUGHTER] he can go and afford a good meal over there after.
Hohmann: Yeah. [LAUGHTER] Let’s talk about something that, it feels like several days ago now, but it’s still this week, is the Maxine Waters business over the weekend. We kind of had this national conversation about civility that’s come back. Sarah Huckabee Sanders denied service at a restaurant last Friday, then on Saturday, Waters, who’s in line to be chairman of the Financial Services Committee if Democrats win the majority gave a speech in Los Angeles, said that activists should harass members of the Trump administration if they find them at gas stations or their homes or anywhere else—
Scalise: Or restaurants.
Hohmann: Or restaurants. You tweeted, you know, everyone needs to be careful. Do you think Waters should apologize or be censured or—what should be done about this? She’s been pretty defiant the last couple of days.
Scalise: Yeah, and look, and look I’ve been clear about this that I don’t think there’s any place for that kind of incivility of inciting harassment or violence of any sort. I mean I’ve seen it first hand. And you know, if you go out and try to encourage people to harass somebody, I mean what are you really trying to get them to do? I mean you’re getting up in somebody’s face. I’ve seen the video from some of these incidents, and it’s beyond offensive. I mean I think some of it borders on illegal when you see what some of these people are doing—getting in somebody’s face, trying to taunt them into a violent act. That’s not what our democracy’s about. I mean the great part of America is we actually can disagree with each other, and you settle those disagreements politically at the ballot box. You don’t try to beat somebody up. You know, you look at other countries, they might do that, but not in America.
Hohmann: How much do you think the political climate is to blame for the madman who almost killed you last year? How much is—?
Scalise: You know, I’m sure it had something to do with it, and think his actions definitely validate that.
Hohmann: When you were recovering—I mean obviously had a lot of time in the hospital—did you think about the heated rhetoric coming from the far left, and whether that led to the violence? What that something that was on your mind?
Scalise: I really didn’t focus on that a lot, and I had great support and prayers from so many people and I truly appreciate that. But I also had so much support from my colleagues in Congress, both Republican and Democrat. Obviously the Republican colleagues that I serve with I know much—much better than a lot of the Democrats that I might work with on a more casual basis, but I’ve got very close friends on the Democrat side, too. The first person that went to the hospital to see me was Cedric Richmond, straight from the Democrats’ baseball practice, and he and I have an incredibly close relationship. Even on—
Hohmann: You knew him in the state legislature.
Scalise: —yeah, we served together in the statehouse and got to be very close there, but on most major issues where see the divisions politically in the country, we’re probably on opposite sides of those. But we never make those differences personal. And you know, when I came back to Congress, one of the things I wanted to convey to my colleagues is to appreciate what makes our country great is the fact that we can express those differences, but express them in a civil way and don’t make the differences personal. You should never make your differences with somebody personal, because you disagree—I mean, you know, I disagree with my wife on some things—very rarely, and she’s usually right. [LAUGHTER] But if you make those differences personal, especially in a political environment, there are going to be issues where we agree with each other the next day, and if I’ve made it personal today, I’m not going to be able to get you to work with me on the things we might actually agree on tomorrow.
Hohmann: Yeah. You mentioned that some of the harassment is borderline illegal. What do you mean—just in terms of—?
Scalise: If you’re actually inciting somebody to go do somebody harm, to go get in somebody’s face and try to confront and create some kind of confrontation, you know, where do you really want that to end? That should be the question. And frankly, I think that’s the thing I express the most concern about is, you know, if you keep seeing this follow through its course, where do you think it’s going to end, and is that the kind of resolution you want?
Hohmann: What can leaders do to lower the temperature?
Scalise: I think we need to display that in our own behavior and, again, doesn’t mean you all agree on all the issues. I mean we’re a divided nation, and the House even more than the Senate reflects the divisions probably more closely, but at the same time, express those disagreements on the House floor. We get to debate bills back and forth, in committee, wherever the marketplace of ideas is, go out and make your case. And if your ideas are better, then have confidence that you can make that argument and then ultimately there are votes on the House floor, there are votes every two years in our case, there are elections. And if people don’t agree with my viewpoints, then they have an opportunity to go express it. I don’t encourage them to do that, but—
Scalise: —you know, they have that opportunity, and that’s what’s great about America. But to try to say you’ve got to go and threaten somebody personally—first of all, it usually means you’ve lost the argument, so don’t go admit defeat. Go out there and make your best case in a civil way, and then let it play out in the way that our founding fathers established.
Hohmann: During a House committee hearing today, Waters was pressed for why she won’t apologize, and she said, quote, “I think every reasonable person has concluded that the President of the United States of America has advocated violence. If you want to talk to me about civility, you start with the President of the United States.” Does she have a point there at all, that, you know, the president has criticized John McCain, he’s called the press the enemy of the people, he’s—
Scalise: Fake news, too, don’t forget that, but—
Scalise: —you know, there are a lot of disagreements and different ways the president expresses them. He uses Twitter real effectively to—you know, in the primaries, look at every one of his opponents, if they really got high enough in the polls, they actually got their own nickname. I mean I don’t know if they—
Scalise: —considered it a badge of honor, but it’s a real different line between saying, do that or, you know, go out and stop somebody from being able to get into a restaurant, or if you see them at a movie theater, you know, go and try to block them from being able to enter. That’s a big difference and a big fine line. And, you know, and everybody ought to be asked if they condone that kind of behavior that they saw and that kind of inciting of violence that they saw over the weekend.
Hohmann: Have you ever spoken with the president about his rhetoric?
Scalise: You know, we talk about the issues of the day and how we’re going to move our agenda. I deliberately don’t follow him on Twitter, because he uses Twitter to control the message, and it works very effectively for him. And he knows the media maybe better than most people because he served in it—he had a number one rated TV show, and if you weren’t aware of that, he’ll let you know.
Scalise: But because of that, he’s got a much better understanding about how to connect to people in a different way, too. And I think if you follow anything through the election that I think a lot of people missed out on during this whole rise of Trump’s candidacy is that he really did connect with people in a way where so many people had just forgotten about a big segment of America. And he not only didn’t forget about them, he said, you know, I’m going to go fight for you, and he is fighting for them I think in the way that they expected. I mean if you look at his policies—and that’s what I focus on, is I focus on the policy. And the policies that he’s been working on, that we’ve been working with him on, are the things that he actually campaigned on, and I think that’s a refreshing thing in politics, that you run and say, “I’m going to do these things,” and then you actually do those things. You know, if I’m able to get a Supreme Court pick, these are the people I’m going to choose from, and he chose from that list. He said he’s going to cut taxes.
Hohmann: You really don’t follow him on Twitter?
Scalise: I really don’t. Now, my press team—
Scalise: —will tell me, maybe, “Look, you might want to know about this tweet that went out—”
Hohmann: He makes a lot of news. [LAUGHS]
Scalise: “—because you’re going to probably be asked about it.” So, you know, I get some of those tweets presented to me. You know, a staffer told me like within a minute of him tweeting this morning, in caps, that he’s going to support and ask everybody to support the immigration bill. I didn’t follow that directly, I had a staffer show me that, and I shared that with colleagues as soon as I found it.
Hohmann: Every reporter in Washington has his tweets on text alert, so our phones are buzzing at like 6:00 in the morning.
Scalise: I’m sure you all wake up at 3:00 in the morning now, just so that you can see, okay, did we get a stream of tweets that went out?
Hohmann: [LAUGHS] Right. During the House conference meeting last week that the president appeared at, he kind of called Mark Sanford a nasty guy. You were in that meeting. There were some reports that there were boos, others said that was overblown. What happened, and was that wrong for the president to kind of rub it in? I mean he effectively helped kill Mark Sanford’s career.
Scalise: Well, you know, obviously they had some confrontations—more through the press, and I think that’s what was the genesis of that relationship kind of devolving where it did. And, you know, I’ve had a different relationship with Mark Sanford—I work with him, and have spoken to him about a lot of the bills we move through the House, ones—
Hohmann: He’s widely liked, right? He’s—
Scalise: —even the ones that he voted against, we always could have at least a very candid conversation about where he was, and if there was a way for him to get to yes, and that’s the conversation I have with members. All I ask is for them to give me an opportunity to talk to them about the bill, and if they’ve got issues with it, at least tell me are these things I can try to get addressed in the bill, or are there questions—you need more data, more information? Those are the kind of conversations I have with members, and most members are very open in that kind of back and forth, and Mark was definitely one of those people, and still is.
Hohmann: Well, and Mark—right, I mean he’s voted pretty consistently. I mean he’s a hard conservative.
Hohmann: He supported the agenda. Right?
Scalise: Yeah, and you know where he is on issues, and he’s voted for a number of the important bills that we’ve moved through, and even the ones where he voted no, at least I knew very well going in what the reason was that he would have been opposed to it.
Hohmann: Yeah. Let’s shift gears to the midterms because that is so important. It feels like November’s a long way away, but it’s really not. It will be here—
Scalise: Yeah, it’s going to be here real quick. [LAUGHTER]
Hohmann: Right. What percentage odds would you give Republicans of holding the House today?
Scalise: Well above 50%.
Hohmann: Is that higher than it was three months ago, six months ago?
Scalise: I’ve always had an optimistic outlook on it.
Hohmann: You have to.
Scalise: Right, and I try not just to have a kind of glass half full attitude—you want to look at it objectively. But I always felt very confident in what we did with the tax cut bill, and I worked on it literally from when I was just getting out of the hospital—I was making calls to Diane Black, our budget chair, about how we could get a budget passed so we could create a reconciliation opportunity. I was making those calls from the hospital. I will tell you, as the whip, when you’re calling members on a bill, you get a lot more members to say yes when you’re in the hospital than when you’re not in the hospital.
Hohmann: [LAUGHTER] Not that it was worth it.
Scalise: Maybe I just need to rent a room. I don’t want to go back. Maybe rent a room just on close votes.
Scalise: But you know, we started that process going back to July of last year, and then once we had the reconciliation bill passed with the budget, I started working very closely with Kevin Brady, and Kevin Brady and I room together, so we have a lot of these policy conversations anyway, but how do we actually put a bill together that can get 218 votes? Knowing that Democrats weren’t on board with it, how do we get just a Republican-only bill passed? And you would think it would be easy to—you know, here’s a bill that’s going to cut everybody’s taxes—that should be easy, right? Well, it wasn’t. It took months. And we whipped the bill. We worked very closely with the president.
In every conversation I had with President Trump on this, going back months before, was how can we make it work so that we can rebuild the middle class? I mean we had lost our manufacturing base in America and our middle class, and a lot of that was because we had the highest corporate tax rate in the industrialized world, and it was truly having a devastating effect on the manufacturing jobs that are the base of that kind of middle America, Rust Belt—the Reagan Democrats that we had lost over the decades that President Trump reconnected with. And so he wanted to make sure it worked.
So when we passed the bill, I had confidence it was going to work at some point over the course of the next year. I didn’t think it would be as quickly, where literally, we’re waiting for the president to come out to have this big White House ceremony before the bill is even signed into law, maybe a week before Christmas, and AT&T announces we’re going to give thousand dollar bonuses to over 200,000 employees. And then every day, it seemed like another company was jumping on that bandwagon, and we said, wow, this thing’s really going to work better than we thought and faster than we thought. And it did.
And so as you look at where we are today, you see a booming economy. I mean two weeks ago, The Wall Street Journal reported there are more companies looking for workers than there are people looking for jobs. that’s something we should be applauding, that the economy is working so well. And by the way, it’s every single income level. Lowest unemployment for African Americans in this history of recorded time in this country. Lowest unemployment for Hispanic Americans in the history of those polls [OVERLAPPING] recorded.
Hohmann: There obviously were a lot of bonuses, the unemployment rate’s the lowest it’s been since the 2000 minority unemployment low, but there was a Politico Morning Consult poll published today that showed support for the law actually dipped slightly over the last two months despite all those things.
Scalise: That’s because it was already so high.
Hohmann: [LAUGHS] 37%—and it’s not our poll, but 37% support the cuts, down from 44% in April. What was interesting is that number is being driven not by people turning against it—the opposition number was the same—just people sort of becoming ambivalent about it, or not expressing an opinion—that went from 17% to 24%. Among Republicans, support dipped from 80% to 70%. You know, there is a good story to tell here. You just told it. Is it not getting told? Is it getting lost because of all the noise? Is it—
Scalise: I think, you know, in politics, the old adage is just when you’re starting to get tired of saying it is right around the time when people are hearing it. And so if you look at all of the different ways that you can tell the story—I mean unemployment is a great story to tell, about how low unemployment is, about how the job market is. People’s confidence in the economy—you know, if you’re a low income worker and let’s say you just got a pay raise that you haven’t gotten in years—when Nancy Pelosi said, “Oh, that’s just crumbs,” to that family that maybe got $600 a year more that she’s frowning upon, when the average savings account in this country is $400, that $600 maybe was the difference between them being able to go on vacation for the first time in years and was a big deal. And so as this continues to grow—
Hohmann: Why isn’t that getting reflected in the polls, though? Just the—
Scalise: Because I think we’re going to continue to see the economy getting better, and then it percolates even further and wider across the board. I mean just look at what’s happening in almost every state now on utility bills. Publicly traded utility companies are now lowering utility rates because they’re paying a lower tax rate, which means the lower utility rate that you’re paying—you’re saving money every month—now, you might now know where that came from—it’s our job to go out and let people know. Go compare your utility bill to what it was this time last year, just a few months ago, and you’re paying less now. That’s money in your pocket because of the tax cut bill.
Hohmann: You have defended the president’s recent, I guess, tariffs and tariff threats, saying that he’s trying to get a better deal on some of these trade deals. We are starting to see some economists worry that our booming economy could get if not derailed, that it could put a dent in it or a damper on it—this potential trade war that’s escalating. You know, this week, 60 workers got laid off at America’s largest nail manufacturer because of the tariffs, they cited. Harley Davidson announced it would shift work overseas, blaming the tariffs. The president repeatedly criticized the company, threated to raise their taxes and predicted it’s the “beginning of the end” for the brand. How worried are you about this trade war? Was it wrong for the president to criticize Harley Davidson? Obviously he’s trying to get a better deal with these European countries, but—
Scalise: Yeah, I mean we are in the middle of some negotiations with a number of countries. I mean NAFTA is being renegotiated. And go back to when President Trump was running. A lot of people thought that he was going to pull out of NAFTA, which would not have been a good thing. What he’s ended up doing is saying, I’m going to renegotiate it to try to get better deals, and I think we should all hope that the president’s able to get a better deal with a lot of countries we trade with.
Look at Canada. And a lot’s been made of the kind of back and forth between the president and Canada’s prime minister, but Canada has a lot of barriers to entry for American products. It’s not just dairy. There are a lot of tariffs that are put in place by almost a 20 to 1 margin or higher that they have against American products that we have against theirs. So getting a better deal is something that we should all applaud because there really are not a lot of fair trade deals that are out there in some of these places where he’s trying to get better deals.
Hohmann: The key is to actually get a better deal—[OVERLAPPING].
Scalise: And hopefully we get a better deal, and I think once we do—
Hohmann: Do you think he will? Do you think—[OVERLAPPING]?
Scalise: —then all of this talk you’ll hear will die down. But I mean look at where people were criticizing the president when he started talking about engaging in a conversation with North Korea and Kim Jong-un. You know, and they had a few words if you go back a year ago back and forth, but then ultimately—
Hohmann: We learned what “dotard” meant. [LAUGHS]
Scalise: Yeah, you know, there was a lot of those terms that went around, and then all of a sudden, they met, face to face, and the leader of North Korea walked out saying, “I am going to denuclearize the country.” Now, the details are important, and all of those details have to be ironed out, and I know Secretary Pompeo is working on a lot of that now, but the fact that he is saying he wants to do that is revolutionary, compared to where we were just years ago or even a few months ago. So those negotiations worked, so before we criticize too much, let’s actually see if we’re able to get positive results for this country, and if we are, let’s applaud them. Because a lot of times when the president’s gotten successes on some of these fronts, he’s not applauded.
Look at NATO. There were a lot of our NATO allies, and as I would meet with different NATO allies right after the election, they were nervous, because they were thinking the president was going to get out of NATO. And we’ve got a lot of really good friends around the world that believe in and count on the United States’ involvement in NATO. And then what President Trump did when he came in is he said look, what I don’t agree with is that we’re carrying all the freight for NATO. Everybody’s got an expectation that they’re going to pay 2% of their GDP and most countries were well below 1%, and nobody even worried about it because we just paid the difference. And he said, I’m not going to keep paying. This is something important to Europe. It’s important to all of us. And guess what we’re seeing now? All of our NATO allies are bragging when you go meet with them—hey, look, we’re working to get to 1% next year, and we’re going to try to get to 1.5. That’s a positive thing, but I don’t see him getting a lot of credit for that.
Hohmann: So right now—I mean obviously, the president is trying to drive a hard bargain to get the Chinese and the Canadians and the Europeans and the Mexicans to blink. One of the things we’re seeing is the retaliatory tariffs that are sort of being designed in a very careful, tailored way to punish red states. [LAUGHS] You know, you saw a tariff on bourbon and—
Scalise: Wisconsin and bourbon, yeah.
Hohmann: —soybeans, which hits Iowa really hard.
Hohmann: I mean some of these people—the president may ultimately be validated, you’re absolutely right—but some people may get really kind of screwed in the short term. Is there something Congress can do to help the soybean farmers in Iowa in the interim, or is it just sort of—I mean he’s making a big gamble. It may pay off hugely, it may end up hurting a lot of those folks.
Scalise: The best thing we can do is when we get these new good deals, let’s go ratify them through Congress. And I still am optimistic that we’re going to get better agreements. And again, you look at the barriers to entry. You don’t hear a lot of countries around the world complaining that, gee, it’s hard for us to get our products into U.S. markets. It’s pretty easy for them to get their products—whether it’s Asia or Europe, others. What you hear from a lot of American manufacturers is gee whiz, we’ve got huge barriers—tariffs, other barriers, to us getting into these countries. And so if that was the deal somebody else cut, that shouldn’t be the norm that we expect. And if he can get a better deal for America, that’s a good thing.
Ultimately I want free trade, but I want fair trade as well, and I don’t think we’ve seen a lot of those reciprocations when the president’s identified the countries where we have disparities. Let’s go fix the disparities, get a good deal that works for everybody, and then you’ll see both economies grow.
Hohmann: Do you think it’s good for the Republican Party that—I mean there used to just be such a knee-jerk commitment to free trade, free trade, free trade; open markets, open markets, open mar—I mean this kind of rhetoric we didn’t hear from past Republican presidents, past congressional leaders. Is it good that we’re sort of now hearing Republicans talk about fair trade, not just free trade?
Scalise: Well, I think we’ve talked about it, but you know, I am, again, for both. I’m for free trade, but also for fair trade. And I think as you get into the details of some of these deals that were cut, you realize that some of our companies in America—and industries—it’s not just company by company—a lot of times it’s specific American industries that still have very high barriers and almost impossible barriers to entry in those countries, and let’s try to go and equalize that.
Hohmann: I want to talk more about policy, but first I want to circle back to the midterms and sort of close the loop on a couple things. George Will, conservative columnist for The Washington Post, wrote something that almost made me spit my coffee out in the Sunday paper.
Hohmann: Never thought I’d see the day when—
Scalise: Should have been drinking some good chicory coffee—[OVERLAPPING].
Hohmann: Right. [LAUGHS] Got to get to Café du Monde and fly Delta to get there. [LAUGHTER]
Scalise: Yeah, I found out, they started in Louisiana. Popeyes fried chicken was started in my district, by the way. [LAUGHTER] Wouldn’t you enjoy that? [LAUGHS]
Hohmann: So George Will, of all people, wrote, “Vote for Democrats.” And he said—
Scalise: And what was the tagline?
Hohmann: Right, well, he said, yeah, “Ryan and Republicans”—his word, not mine—“have become the president’s poodles”—this is George Will, of all people. [LAUGHTER] “A Democratic-controlled Congress would be a basket of deplorables, but there would be enough Republicans to gum up the Senate’s machinery, keeping the institution as peripheral as it has been under their control and asphyxiating mischief from a Democratic House.” What’s your response to George Will?
Scalise: I have a lot of respect for George Will, and I’m sure a lot of that was tongue-in-cheek. If you had a Democrat majority in the House, I think anybody that looks at it objectively will tell you, there would be no Tax Cuts And Jobs Act. We would still be going with a less than 2% growth every single quarter that we had for eight years that we expected was just, this is the new United States. This is as good as it gets. And we challenged that status quo.
If you look at our repeal and replace bill on the House, I’d still put that up against anything else that’s out there to lower premiums for families, who this year and next year, are going to pay double digits again—double digits increases in their premiums in so many states. And in many states, don’t even have more than one option to buy health insurance, which means they don’t have any options. If you have one choice, that’s a monopoly.
So if you look at all of the different things that we’ve been working on, just the rollback of regulations—I assure you, if you ask George Will, does he think it’s a good thing or bad thing for our economy that we finally right-sized the regulatory state in this country that was killing economic growth with absolutely no benefit to health—it was all about carrying out a radical agenda. That happened because President Trump worked with a Republican Congress. Those 16 CRAs—Congressional Review Acts—that were signed into law by President Trump, every one of them reversed a radical regulation that Pelosi would still be holding today in place that would be stifling our economy.
So again, I mean I’m sure some of that was tongue-in-cheek. If you asked him about those things, he would say absolutely it’s a good thing that they cut taxes, absolutely it’s a good thing that they were able to get regulations under control, and it would not have happened if Nancy Pelosi was speaker.
Hohmann: You mentioned healthcare. I want to touch on that. Obviously, it’s such an important issue. You actually got the votes to repeal Obamacare. You passed a bill through the House. Didn’t pass in the Senate. You mentioned that’s something you can come back to next year. Do you agree with the administration’s effort to not defend the Obamacare in court—there’s these 20 lawsuits—I don’t know if Louisiana’s one of the 20—
Scalise: We are.
Hohmann: —that are suing. There’s some concern that preexisting conditions might not get covered if this lawsuit succeeds.
Scalise: Yeah, now that the individual mandate is gone and we’ve repealed that in the tax cut bill, what you’re going to see now is these states that went forward in the past—the previous Obamacare lawsuit was based on—according to the Supreme Court, it was based on the taxing power of the Congress under the individual mandate. Well, now the individual mandate is gone, so I think what they’re doing is reviewing the law and revisiting the law. And ultimately, the law is going to have to go away. It’s going to collapse under its own weight, which it’s almost doing. The problem is it’s crushing families. It’s crushing the good things that worked in healthcare.
You know, we agree—and look, in our bill, we don’t allow people to be charged more based on preexisting condition. That was wrong. But in our bill, we handle it differently. Under Obamacare, what they say is, you just can’t rate people based on risk, so everybody gets rated based on a high risk. So everybody’s paying more. That’s not the right way to approach it.
What we did is say let’s actually lower the risk across the board, and for people with preexisting conditions, we set up these risk-sharing pools, which say, for somebody that’s got a preexisting condition, to them, they don’t see anything seamlessly different, they just pay lower premiums. And for everybody else, they’re rated on a lower risk pool across the board, so those premiums go down too. And we used the savings we got from repealing some of the unworkable parts of Obamacare to bring the premiums down for everybody.
And so there’s different ways to do this, and there are better ways than what we currently have in law. And I mean you talk to doctors that are getting out of the practice of medicine because Obamacare doesn’t work. And again, just look state by state at the increases we’re seeing that people can’t afford to pay, and they’re forced to buy a product that they don’t even want. This isn’t working. They don’t want to admit it’s wrong—the people that supported Obamacare. You know, gee whiz, I mean isn’t there a better way we can do this?
Hohmann: How big of an issue do you think healthcare will be in the midterms? Obviously last year you guys passed the bill, but there were a lot of conservatives who were very upset. Fundraising sort of slipped a little bit after the bill didn’t pass the Senate. Maybe it didn’t at the NRCC, but at the NRSC it did. Sort of this frustration, they couldn’t get this done. Why will it be different next year?
Scalise: Well, number one, you’re going to have I think more Republican senators that you do today—or than you did at the time that Obamacare failed by one vote. And so let’s go back and try that again, because it’s only going to get worse for families. And I mean if we’re going to stand up for families that are struggling under this law that doesn’t work, let’s keep fighting to ultimately get something passed.
Hohmann: Against the backdrop of Maxine Waters, who I mentioned earlier, a lot of Democrats this week have been focusing on Steve King, who’s refused to delete a retweet from a self-described Nazi sympathizer. He was on CNN last night, said he wasn’t going to take down the post because he didn’t know who the person who had posted this story was that he had retweeted, and he agreed with what the story was about, but he doesn’t agree with this guy. A lot of the Democratic leaders have said he should apologize, take down the tweet. Do you have any thoughts on that?
Scalise: I haven’t seen the tweet.
Hohmann: Do you not follow Steve King? [LAUGHS]
Scalise: I do not—[LAUGHS] I—you’d be surprised at what my day looks like in terms of what I’m doing from minute to minute, and usually my staff has me very busy working on trying to pass this agenda. But anyway, I mean—
Hohmann: Back to—yeah, I mean this kind of—it’s something that at the very least is a distraction from talking about healthcare and tax cuts—[OVERLAPPING].
Scalise: I have not seen the tweet, and you know, maybe we’ll go take a look at it and talk to Steve and see what’s going on there.
Hohmann: The other person Democrats are focusing on this week—Seth Grossman, who unexpectedly won a Republican primary in New Jersey. He called diversity un-American. He’s not someone that was the NRCC’s favored candidate. Is he someone that’s going to have support from the national party?
Scalise: Again, I mean, I’m not sure about that. And I do want to go back, because I mean you bring up—just throwing out the term “Nazi sympathizer.” It’s important that it doesn’t go without being checked that there are people out there that are still supporters of Nazism. We need to condemn that. We need to be very vocal about condemning that kind of viewpoint, because there are still people out there that try to go under the false impression that the Holocaust didn’t exist. I mean people say that, and it’s wrong. You know, and I work very closely with people that not only were Holocaust survivors or family members who lost people in the Holocaust. It’s not something to take lightly, and we need to be vocal in speaking out against that.
Hohmann: Good. [LAUGHTER] It is important. Let’s talk about Louisiana—change gears. Obviously—this will be a good season for the Tigers. Maybe next year.
Scalise: LSU’s going to—look, we’ve got to—we stole Ohio State’s quarterback. They’re going to regret that later on when we win the national title, but if any of you have ever heard our coach, Coach Orgeron, I mean—he called me when I was in the hospital, and I got to speak at LSU’s commencement, and so I conveyed to them the speech—you know, the conversation we had. It was like, “[SPEAKS GIBBERISH]—Go Tigers.” [LAUGHTER] And so what he said was—
Hohmann: You played—[OVERLAPPING].
Scalise: —“Steve, we’re all praying for you. We hope you get better. Come over and have some gumbo with me sometime, and go Tigers.” And so I understood what he said. A lot of other people maybe just don’t speak Cajun like he does. [LAUGHTER] He actually did invite me to go to his office and that he was going to cook gumbo for me, so I have got to take him up on that. But I’m real optimistic about the prospects for LSU this year. And just so I can throw out there, my cousin was a quarterback for Nebraska. He got drafted by the Jacksonville Jaguars as one of their quarterbacks.
Scalise: So, Tanner Lee—you want a hot prospect for the future—he went in the sixth round. If any of you all know any other quarterbacks that went in the sixth round and how that worked out for them, but no pressure. But, no, yeah, we’re very proud of him. Very proud of him.
Hohmann: Louisiana has some of the most fun politics in America, consistently. [LAUGHTER] I—[OVERLAPPING].
Scalise: It’s a full-contact sport in a lot of ways. [LAUGHTER] Best food in the world, by the way, the funnest people, but I learned a lot from serving 12 years in the state legislature in Louisiana.
Hohmann: And also there’s obviously the funny system where you’re up on election day as the primary, and then you have the runoff. Rudy Giuliani went down to your home state last week. He endorsed Josh Guillory who’s challenging a member of the conference, Clay Higgins. His new girlfriend is a fundraiser for Guillory. But—
Scalise: Guillory is how you say it—[OVERLAPPING] [LAUGHS]
Hohmann: Guillory. Guillory. Thank you. Thank you for correcting. I appreciate. You back Higgins.
Scalise: Yeah, strongly.
Hohmann: He’s the president’s lawyer. The president’s neutral on that race. Was it—
Scalise: No, the president just endorsed Clay over the last week—publicly endorsed Clay.
Hohmann: Okay. And do you think—
Scalise: He sent it out as a tweet, and I did see that tweet.
Hohmann: Okay. Someone showed it to you.
Scalise: Clay showed it to me and he was very excited about it. And he should have, because Clay has been a great supporter of the president’s agenda and the things that we’ve been doing in the House to get this country back on track. And his district’s right next to mine. I’ve got southeast Louisiana, he’s got southwest Louisiana in Congress. And we work very well together, and he’s done a great job in his role as a member of Congress, and I’m glad that the president endorsed him, and I’ll be actively making sure—whatever I can do to help Clay come back.
Hohmann: Mitch Landrieu has been making noise. He just came out with a book. He’s the mayor of New Orleans. He’s—
Scalise: Just left office.
Hohmann: He just left office, thank you. He’s one of the like 500 people who might run for president as a Democrat.
Scalise: It’s a growing list, right?
Hohmann: [LAUGHS] What do you think his chances are in the Democratic Party if he runs?
Scalise: I think the Party’s moved so far to the left. It’s going to be fun to watch them try to figure out who can identify what the left even looks like when they’re done. You’re already seeing some of it, and I wouldn’t be surprised whatever comes out of the attempts by everybody to try to look like they’re further to the left of Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders. That’s going to be pretty hard to do, but I have a feeling they’ll try.
Hohmann: Yeah. What did you make of him taking down the Confederate statues in New Orleans?
Scalise: You know, I didn’t agree with the way he did it. And you know, Mitch and I served together in the statehouse. We’ve always had a really cordial relationship, and clearly haven’t agreed with all of his policies, but it was something that I didn’t think he built a real swell of public support behind it. It was never an issue in any of the campaigns that he ran in, and when he did it, you did see it divide black and white in New Orleans in a way that wasn’t divided before that.
Hohmann: Shifting gears to another kind of hot button political subject—gun control. You obviously got shot, and I want to talk about your recovery a little bit. You’ve said it made you more of an ardent supporter for the Second Amendment because if there wasn’t someone with a gun there, you probably would have passed away last year, as would have several others.
Scalise: And at least a dozen other members of Congress—[OVERLAPPING].
Hohmann: After the Parkland shooting, some kids came to your office, you engaged with them, talked with them about why laws aren’t necessarily the answer to this. What was that conversation like? Do you think that what you said broke through?
Scalise: We had a real respectful conversation. And I know a lot of them came up wanting to push certain pieces of legislation. And we talked a little bit about that. But, you know, there were other people—I just met yesterday with another father who lost his son at Parkland, and that’s not what he was pushing. He was pushing more kind of on the school safety—how do we encourage our local school systems to focus on school safety? And that should be something that each school district confronts, not the federal government telling locals how to do this.
But the conversation we had really more revolved around the emotions and things that they’re going to go through. You know, I went through this. I serve with people who also went through it. I mean I was the only one shot that was a member. There were other people that were shot, and Dave and Crystal—David Bailey and Crystal Griner, the two Capitol Police officers who heroically held the shooter at bay and didn’t allow the shooter to go after us and the other people that were out there on that field.
But if ultimately you look at what happened, there were a lot of other members that were shot at that didn’t maybe get shot, but still had a lot of the emotions that come with being targeted in an assassination attempt. And we talked about it. We got together and we still talk about that. You know, Brad Wenstrup and I have obviously bonded in a way that we didn’t know each other and bond before because he saved my life. He applied a tourniquet that—I would have bled out if it wasn’t for him. But the other members talked about it too, and our shared experience.
And what I encouraged them is, look, when you leave Washington—and you know, the cameras are following them around, it might seem exciting and you’re trying to go and shape laws—you’re going to go back home and you’re going to be high school students again. And ultimately, you’re going to be sitting at home one night and you’re going to be thinking about a friend of yours that got killed. Don’t do it alone. Talk to some of your other friends that you’re here with today. If you don’t know them, exchange numbers. You all want the same thing today, but you all went through something similar. And talk amongst yourselves, because you’re going to go through a lot of emotions over the next few months. And don’t do it alone. Don’t go through it alone.
Hohmann: That’s good advice. On the gun point—obviously, we have the Second Amendment. It’s important, I get that. Why not pass some legislation to make it harder for people like that guy to get guns, to improve the background check process or to have a legislative fix for bump stocks? You know, where people can still have guns, but make it—
Scalise: Yeah, and I mean each time that there’s a shooting, you know, I really think the first thing we should do is pray. Unfortunately, before even facts are out there, there are some people saying, “Hey, we want to take advantage of this to go push somebody’s personal political agenda.” That’s not what’s needed at the time. Families need prayer. I needed prayer. But then you can go and look and see what worked and what didn’t work.
In the case of Parkland, you had so many breakdowns of government. The FBI had the name of this kid months ago, saying, “I want to be a school shooter.” I mean how much more of a sign do you want? And for whatever reason, he slipped through their cracks. They let him go. Why did that happen? I’ve never gotten an answer from the FBI by the way about who’s been held accountable for that? You know, for all we know, the people that were involved in that decision are still working over at the FBI. I mean we need to go and make sure that, before we pass new laws, look at all the laws that were broken along the way.
There are a lot of breakdowns in our mental health system. And we’ve actually been working on this. We’ve passed some laws, including the 21st Century Cures that we just signed into law not too long ago, that actually go and try to fix a lot of the problems in our country’s broken mental health system. And in many of these cases, you see mental health problems. In almost every case, by the way. In almost every case of a mass shooter, whether it’s at a school or a church, someone else was told about it prior to the incident. They’ve told someone else—in a cry for help or whatever it may be, and these things are slipping through the cracks. Let’s figure out why they’re slipping through the cracks before they happen.
Hohmann: I want to close by talking about your inspirational recovery over the last year. A lot of people have been very excited to watch your comeback. What was it like to be at the baseball game this year? You were out there. You seemed very happy. Had a good—
Scalise: Yeah, you know, there were a lot of emotions that day because it was literally the year anniversary of the shooting. But for me, it was in a lot of ways a triumphant moment to be able to kind of close the circle—to be able to walk back out on that field with my colleagues, to be able to put on a uniform, and just to be on a big league ball field. I didn’t know the day before, maybe two days before that I was going to start. Didn’t know [LAUGHS] if I was going to be able to do anything more than just kind of crouch down.
And I mean the first two batters were all supposed to get and they were both right handers, so nothing was going to come my way at second base. And you know, just all of the euphoria that’s tied to it. It seemed like, after the play, when the first—literally first pitch—and Cedric Richmond told me they were all supposed to be waiting and let Mark Walker throw a few pitches first and he swings at the first one, Raul Ruiz.
Scalise: And it comes my way, and I have to backhand it, and made the throw, and it was just like this release of all of us. I mean for me it was an unbelievable moment, I mean a magical moment that God can only provide. But for all of my colleagues, you could see it. As we just all hugged and we were crying. And it was a way of us saying, you know what? We got through the last year and now we’re able to come full circle. And that—you know, it’s just hard to describe.
Hohmann: Yeah. How has the last year changed you? I mean has it deepened your faith? Has it—how are you different now than you were 13 months ago?
Scalise: You know, it’s definitely deepened and confirmed my faith. I’ve always been somebody who just kind of kept it to myself, but I pray every night, and it’s more of a conversation with God. And you know, as I share with people now, don’t just pray to God when you want something. You know, if it’s the night before a big test, that’s not the time to start that conversation. Thank him along the way for things that happen to you that are good. You can ask him for things too, but have it be a two-way street. And when I needed him, I was laying down on that ball field, and I was praying for very specific things, and he delivered.
But all throughout the process of my recovery, getting the prayers, the prayers from people that I didn’t even know—it was amazing how much it uplifted me. I was, two days ago with King Abdullah of Jordan—the King and Queen, both—his wife was there as well. And we meet with him on a regular basis, our leadership—Republican and Democrat. And we talk about the issues in the Middle East and the things—Syrian refugees and all of the other issues that we work with Jordan on. And I personally thanked him because he was one of those who prayed for me. You know, Benjamin Netanyahu had called me from the hospital.
Hohmann: Bono called.
Scalise: We talked about that. Bono called me. I got to see him two weeks ago, and I mean we shared some incredibly emotional conversations about that, because for people who pray for other people, especially someone you really don’t know, you might wonder, does it even help? I felt it.
And when I got word that King Abdullah was praying for me, it was—you wouldn’t maybe understand just how much that actually meant to me at the time when we—we’re not close friends, we are acquaintances who meet on a regular basis and have shared interests. Well, now we have a much closer relationship. And I shared with him how much that meant to me. Same thing with Benjamin Netanyahu and others.
And so what I shared with my colleagues was this. This attack should show us a number of things. One is how we treat people. But another is how much people around the world are concerned about us and care about the institution of Congress. You know, because you can look at polls, and gee whiz, what do people think of Congress today? That doesn’t tell you the whole picture. People of this country love this country. They might not like the way it’s going today, but they truly do—when you rip away all of the skin, they love America and they care about America, and our allies around the world care about us too. And they showed that. They really did show it.
And it touched me, and when I shared it with my colleagues, I think it touched a lot of them too, to understand that, let’s keep focused on why we’re here. it’s easy to lose focus. Every day you’re running around chasing 10 different things. there’s a reason we all came here, and we all came here with a shared love for this country. Might have different ways how we want to carry out the objectives that we have, but we all love this country, and others around the world are counting on us too.
Hohmann: We’ll close with that. House Majority Whip, Steve Scalise thank you so much for joining The Daily 202 Live. Super appreciative.
Scalise: Thanks a lot.