GOP House Leaders Elise Stefanik and Steve Scalise Outline Agenda


PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla.—Republicans say they have a plan to address the biggest problems facing our country, problems they say the left created.  

“We are seeing the results of unified far-left Democrat government and how that’s caused an inflation crisis, an energy crisis with the highest prices at the pump in our nation’s history, … [and] a national security crisis with a Russia rising and invading Ukraine,” Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York, chair of the House Republican Conference, told The Daily Signal at the 2022 House Republican Issues Conference.

House Republicans last week gathered here, just south of Jacksonville, for their annual retreat to discuss their agenda and solutions to challenges across the country. 

Joining “The Daily Signal Podcast” from the retreat are Stefanik, the House’s No. 3 Republican, and Minority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., the No. 2 Republican. They discuss GOP proposals to solve the crisis on the southern border, lower inflation, and stop the crime spike in American cities.  

Listen to both interviews on today’s podcast or read the lightly edited transcripts below: 

Virginia Allen: I am so pleased to be joined by the House Republican Conference chair, Congresswoman Elise Stefanik of New York. Congresswoman, thank you so much for being here.

Rep. Elise Stefanik: It is great to be here. We are in Florida with our annual House Republican working retreat. And I’m excited to talk about that.

Allen: Yeah. Well, speaking of the retreat, we’re looking toward the future. If Republicans take back the House, what will their priorities be?

Stefanik: Well, we have so much work to do. First, I think it’s important, let’s talk about why we are here in terms of the crises across America.

We are seeing the results of unified far-left Democrat government and how that’s caused an inflation crisis; an energy crisis with the highest prices at the pump in our nation’s history; we have a national security crisis with a Russia rising and invading Ukraine, which is an important national security partner for the United States of America; and we have crime continuing to skyrocket across the country and an open border.

So we have a lot of work to do as House Republicans. And we’re committed to doing that.

What we’re focused on at the retreat is developing our agenda, our “Commitment to America,” on how we’re going to govern on Day One. So some of these issues I want to talk about.

Inflation. We need to rein in the reckless, out-of-control trillions of dollars of spending that we’ve seen under Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi, one-party authoritarian rule, because it’s impacting everyday Americans’ wallets and their ability to balance their budgets.

Even Democratic economists such as Larry Summers warned of the detrimental results if they pass their multitrillion-dollar bill, which we’ve now seen: Inflation has skyrocketed. It’s the highest rate in over 40 years.

Energy, we need to unleash American energy independence. And that means moving in the direct opposite direction of [President Joe] Biden’s administration, who wants to pass the buck and also wants to import energy from dictators around the world.

We have so much opportunity and natural resources here. The energy is cleaner and it will immediately bring down the cost of the pump and the cost of heating bills, which has negatively impacted my district.

Secure the border. You do not have a nation without a secure border. So we have a lot of work to do there, and we’re prepared to do that work on Day One.

And then crime. We need to stand with our law enforcement and stand for the rule of law.

So it’s a long list and there’s even more that I could go into, but I’m sure we’re going to cover it in our chat.

Allen: Absolutely. Are there specific pieces of legislation that Republicans would introduce on Day One that they would prioritize in early 2023 if they win back the House?

Stefanik: Absolutely. We’ve had members developing legislation all year and, actually, since this term of Congress started and that’s part of this process of Commitment to America. We’re hearing from members today and tomorrow about their legislative bills that they’ve proposed, about their plans [on] how to conduct oversight and demand accountability. So I anticipate we’ll have bills to announce later on this spring.

Allen: We’ve seen a distinct lack of, really, accountability of the Biden administration in the past two years. How do Republicans plan to really empower members to make up for those last two years of really no oversight occurring?

Stefanik: It’s a great question and it’s a really important question. Congress is the voice of the people and we have the constitutional role of not only appropriating all federal dollars, but oversight over every federal agency.

And what’s interesting about House Democrats is they have eliminated—on every single committee, there used to be an oversight subcommittee. They’ve eliminated those. And it’s all on the Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

We’re going to bring back the oversight committee on every single committee in Congress. So that means the Homeland Security Committee, they’re going to have an oversight subcommittee. Why is that important? It means that there’s going to be members that are focused day in, day out on that oversight.

And when the Biden administration, if they fail to comply with our requests, we will not hesitate to subpoena them. I’ve been on record stating such. And I think it’s important to demand that accountability and transparency for the American people.

That’s one of the focuses tomorrow of the retreat, is helping prepare our members who have not been in a Republican majority before. And as we work to earn that majority, we want them prepared on how to conduct effective, fast, and accountable oversight.

Allen: One of these key issues that Republicans are focused on that we’re talking about here at the Issues Conference is that of Big Tech and really holding Big Tech accountable. We have seen just recently that The Babylon Bee has been suspended from Twitter for its tweet over [transgender Department of Health and Human Services official] Rachel Levine, who they said was “Man of the Year.” Do you think that the House should be tackling censorship for these Big Tech companies, should be tackling this issue?

Stefanik: Absolutely. And to show you how much of a priority this is, one of our major pillars of the Commitment to America is going to be on taking on Big Tech. [Rep.] Cathy McMorris Rodgers is leading that effort, not only scraping Section 230, but protecting Americans’ privacy, but also going after bad cyber actors.

For example, you see kids across America, good kids, that are purchasing drugs on TikTok, on Instagram, and they’re laced with fentanyl. These kids are dying and we need to make sure that we hold Big Tech accountable. On the censorship piece, I myself have been personally censored, so many Republicans have been censored.

The Babylon Bee, it’s just ridiculous that they were censored. Shame on Twitter. Unfortunately, it’s no surprise. And we need to make sure that these tech companies understand the constitutional liberties and the freedom of speech.

Allen: Excellent. As crime rises in America, we are seeing, really, a mass exodus from cities, and that has really far-reaching implications. What is Republicans’ plan to tackle rising crime?

Stefanik: No. 1, stand with law enforcement. There are results to “defund the police” policies and rhetoric. Look no further than my home state of New York.

Democrats, far-left Democrat socialists cut the NYPD budget by nearly one-sixth. Crime has skyrocketed, the number of law enforcement officers who have been killed last year and this year continues to increase. That is un-American. So we need to stand strongly with our law enforcement.

We also need to take on these [district attorneys] who refuse to prosecute crimes. We only have a society when you have law and order. And also, a secure border as part of that as well. You need to have a secure border to deal with a fentanyl crisis when that’s the leading cause of death for those aged 18- to 45-year-old adults.

So we have a lot of plans on the American security and crime task force.

Allen: Excellent. And you mentioned inflation, that inflation is soaring. What are those key objectives for Republicans regarding getting inflation under control?

Stefanik: Well, we know an economist, as I said, both liberal economists, conservative economists, those previous Democrat economists serving in pretty far-left administrations like Barack Obama have said on the record there are going to be consequences to this reckless trillions of dollars historic spending passed under one-party rule under Speaker Pelosi.

And the American families are paying the price. They’re paying the price at the grocery store, they’re paying the price every single day, utility bills, you name it, used cars. I mean, it’s skyrocketing and people are having to make really, really tough choices.

I saw a headline recently about how seniors who are on limited income already … their purchasing power has gone down so much because of inflation. They’re having to make the tough decision between how many hot showers do I take? Or how often do I have meat? It is un-American.

And I’m 37 years old. So my generation has never experienced this level of inflation. It’s 4% is what we’ve experienced, now at 7.9%. So nearly double. We need to rein in that spending and get back to sound fiscal policies and on a path toward a balanced budget.

Allen: Congresswoman, before we let you go, quickly, I want to get your thoughts on Ketanji Brown Jackson. Do you think she’s qualified to serve on the Supreme Court and do you have thoughts on her saying that she couldn’t define what a woman is because she’s not a biologist?

Stefanik: Well, you and I both know that you and I are women, and we are proud to be women. That’s a pretty ridiculous and I think it’s an unacceptable answer for a Supreme Court judge.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg would’ve been able to answer that question. Ruth Bader Ginsburg understands how to define, would’ve understood how to define that issue.

So I have questions about [Jackson’s] qualifications. Most importantly, I have questions about her record in terms of her soft-on-crime sentencing. And there’s not full transparency. I stand with the Republican senators who have requested the additional 48,000 documents from her time on the [U.S.] Sentencing Commission. And we deserve transparency when it’s the highest court in the land.

I think the Republican senators have done a very good job asking issue-specific questions, and we’ll see.

Allen: Congresswoman, thank you so much for your time.

Stefanik: Thank you.

The Daily Signal also spoke with House Minority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana at the House Republican Issues Conference about GOP solutions to America’s biggest issues. Here is a transcript of the interview.

Virginia Allen: I am so pleased to be joined by House Minority Whip Steve Scalise. Congressman, thank you so much for being here.

Rep. Steve Scalise: It’s great to be with you. Thanks for having me.

Allen: So, we’re here at the 2022 House GOP Issues Conference where Republican lawmakers are gathered to talk about the problems and the solutions to fix those problems that are facing America right now. So if Republicans succeed in taking back the House, what will your top priorities be?

Scalise: You’re going to see a real exciting, bold, conservative agenda to address all these crises we’re seeing. I mean, inflation is still the driving issue. High gas prices, there’s no reason for it. We know what we can do to lower gas prices. President [Joe] Biden and Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi are on the wrong side of this. They’re on the wrong side of all of these issues.

We’re going to address how to secure America’s border, how to roll out a robust foreign policy—you look at debacles from Afghanistan to what [Russian President Vladimir] Putin is doing in Ukraine. And I think it’s important to show the country what a bold conservative agenda would look like.

We had [former House Speaker] Newt Gingrich last night meeting with us. We’ve been talking with Newt a lot. Obviously, when he developed the “Contract with America,” I think it galvanized a lot of excitement around the country at a time when very few people thought they could win a House majority, because it had been over 40 years.

This time around I think there’s a different attitude around the country. They’re angry about the direction of the country that Joe Biden and Pelosi have taken. And I think they’ve never been more hungry than now to see what that bold conservative agenda would look like. And we’ll be rolling out what we call a “Commitment to America” later on this summer that’ll address all of these issues that I’m talking about here.

Allen: Are there specific pieces of legislation that Republicans are going to prioritize in early 2023?

Scalise: Yeah. And I think this is something that’s real important. If we’re fortunate enough to win the majority in November, we’re ready to go in January. We’re not going to be wondering what to do then, we’re going to have the country engaged in this.

And that’s why rolling out this commitment’s important, not just to show people what we would do differently than what Biden and Pelosi are doing, but then also you’ve got real specific things that—we have a mandate to go do and write out the box in January.

Let’s start moving bills that will lower gas prices, that’ll make our country energy-dependent again, which we used to be, take leverage away from people like [Russian President Vladimir] Putin. And not just him, but Biden’s begging dictators all around the world. If it’s not Putin, it’s over in Iran or in Venezuela.

Stop asking dictators to supply America’s energy. America can supply not only our energy, but our friends’ around the world, too. And that’s the kind of stuff you’re going to see us roll out.

We will have a bill on border security. We’ll have a bill to address a lot of these challenges and crises that people are facing right now, including school choice, a parental bill of rights.

I mean, this is something that’s popped up a lot. You saw it in Virginia where people are going to their local school boards. And I’m really excited to see how engaged people are in education at the local level, but they also want to see more ability at the federal level to have a role in their kids’ education. Things like just being able to see curriculums is important.

But I’ve always been a school choice advocate. I pushed it very hard when I was in the Louisiana Legislature, when we totally reformed the broken New Orleans public school system and created a charter school system where you could actually hire and fire people based on merit and the kids won. The kids benefited from that because parents had real choices.

I think when you see all these shutdowns where they’re keeping kids out of school and making them wear masks and the unions don’t want to go to work, but the kids want to be in school, and these Democrat leaders that are siding with the unions against the kids, that’s got to change. We’ve got to get parents and kids back involved and open up the classrooms and give real options to parents, too.

Allen: I want to dive a little bit deeper into some of those issues that you raised in just a minute, but first, I want to ask you about oversight. We’ve seen a real lack of Congress holding the Biden administration accountable recently. How do Republicans plan to really empower members to make up for the last two years of really no oversight occurring at all?

Scalise: Yeah, this is something you will see a House majority confront Day One. We’ve got committees. Every committee of jurisdiction on issues has an oversight subcommittee. And then, of course, there’s an overarching oversight committee. Those committees are going to be very, very busy working, bringing people in.

Look, we haven’t even had a hearing on the origins of COVID. Any scientist you talk to that’s honest with you is going to tell you it probably started in that lab in Wuhan. It wasn’t some bat biting a cat and human in a wet market. It was whether America had a role in the gain-of-function research that was being done at the Wuhan lab. It was probably, whether accidental or intentional, something that came out of experiments being done at the lab in Wuhan.

Why shouldn’t we have hearings about it? Pelosi won’t have them. We will have those kind of hearings.

Look at all the millions of people that have come across our border illegally in the last year and a half under Joe Biden, where he’s basically allowed the drug cartels of Mexico to have operational control of our border. You can’t even find out today how many people have come across, let alone where they’ve been sent.

You can ask governors. Governors can’t even tell you how many people have been sent into their states who are here illegally. We’re going to be able to get those answers.

What about the $85 billion of the world’s best military technology that Biden gave to a terrorist organization when he pulled out and left thousands of Americans behind enemy lines in Afghanistan? The C-130s, night vision goggles, military equipment that [Ukrainian President Volodymyr] Zelenskyy would love to have.

If Zelenskyy had just half of what Biden gave to the Taliban, he’d be able to defend himself so much better against Putin. And yet we haven’t been able to get an accounting of that. We will be able to ask those questions and get those answers in the majority, because we’ll have subpoena power.

So yeah, I think you’re going to be tuning into TV a whole lot watching these hearings, because people all across the country are asking these questions and they’re saying, “Why won’t Pelosi do anything about it?”

Well, you know what, if you’ve got a leader that won’t do anything about it, fire that leader. We’re going to fire Pelosi and we’re going to have those hearings and get those answers, doing a lot of robust oversight of the Biden administration in a Republican majority.

Allen: Well, I know one of the key issues you are also focused on is that of Big Tech and Big Tech censorship, which is something that really affects conservatives. It’s something that at The Daily Signal and The Heritage Foundation we’ve been affected by.

You tweeted recently regarding the revelation that emails from Hunter Biden’s laptop were verified by The New York Times. And you said, “The New York Post was right. Big Tech engaged in a cover-up to help Joe Biden win the election. They need to be held accountable.”

Does the House have a role in holding Big Tech accountable and what does that look like if so?

Scalise: Absolutely. When people abuse their powers—and Section 230 of the law gives any technology company the ability to not be sued if they’re a marketplace of freedom of speech. Well, many of these Big Tech companies have turned their backs on free speech and have chosen to discriminate, to try to cut out and suppress views of people they disagree with. We saw that in the case of the Hunter Biden laptop story.

We had Jack Dorsey before our committee when I was on [the House] Energy and Commerce [Committee] a few months ago, back when Dorsey was still the head of Twitter, he’s not anymore. But I asked him specifically about them not only shutting down the story about Hunter Biden, but they shut down the whole Twitter account of the New York Post.

This is a 230-plus-year-old newspaper. And they basically said, “We’re going to shut down the New York Post because we don’t like the story they’re putting out.” And it turned out all to be true. And I said, “Do you regret that decision?” He actually said under oath that he made a mistake and that he regretted it. And as we were speaking, the New York Post put that up as a headline on their website.

But it just goes to show you they’ve got to be held accountable like anybody else. If you’re going to hold a public trust and a tech company who’s hiding behind a government protection like Section 230, if they’re going to abuse that protection, then they’re going to be held accountable.

And in fact, [Reps.] Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Jim Jordan have been working on legislation to make changes to Section 230 to take those protections away from Big Tech, because they haven’t been the marketplace of free speech and we need more town squares. We need more opportunity.

Look, if you’re afraid of somebody else’s ideas, maybe you just have the wrong ideas yourself. You should be able to defend what you stand for and you should encourage other people to have different ideas. Sure, I want everybody to agree with my ideas. That’s not what America’s about. There are people that think differently. We should encourage that, not try to shut it down like some in Big Tech.

Allen: I want to get your thoughts on Ketanji Brown Jackson. Have you been following her Senate confirmation hearing?

Scalise: I followed a little bit of it. There’s definitely been some things she’s been asked that I have been alarmed about her answers. Not surprising that Joe Biden would pick somebody that’s got a far-left viewpoint. But if you go back to President [Donald] Trump’s three appointees, they were phenomenal picks for the Supreme Court. You watch the way they were treated so unfairly and dishonestly.

At least now you’re seeing very valid questions being brought forward. I mean, it’s a lifetime appointment on the Supreme Court. You should have to answer these very fair questions about your viewpoints on issues.

Allen: Excellent. Congressman, thank you so much for your time today. We really appreciate it.

Scalise: Appreciate being with you. Thanks a lot.

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