U.S. Congressman LOUIE GOHMERT: Proudly Serving the First District of Texas

 

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LIMBAUGH LETTER: My Conversation with Congressman Louie Gohmert

The Limbaugh Letter, May 2017

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Washington, May 1, 2017 | comments
My Conversation with Congressman Louie Gohmert

What a great, frank discussion with one of the truly good guys, a longtime staunch conservative, Texas Congressman (since ’05) and member of the Freedom Caucus; Louie is one of those rare people you can always, always count on to speak the truth:

Rush: So, Louie, how are things?

Gohmert: [Laughs] Depends where. In Congress things stink pretty bad, but in the White House I think Trump’s doing a lot of good stuff. Once he gets the people he can actually trust around him, I think he’ll do great.

Rush: Well, let’s explore Congress stinking. I want to start with the status on health care, “repealing and replacing Obamacare” — that’s the Republican promise that was made for seven years. The bill was sent six times to Obama, knowing he would veto it. Nobody knows what happened to that bill. It has gone missing. Paul Ryan is predicting a new bill could take months. Then you go to tax reform: “We can’t do that this year. Maybe next year.” We can’t balance the budget. We can only do an omnibus. Louie, what are we doing with the victory that we had in November? It doesn’t seem like anything’s changed from when we were in the minority.

Gohmert: You’re exactly right. With the Republican leadership, it’s a real problem. It’s like we’re afraid to bring up things we passed when we were in the minority in the Senate or didn’t have the Presidency. It’s like those things were only for show, and now we’re playing for dough.

We could have easily gotten over 218 votes on the repeal bill we passed two years ago. But we were told, “Gee, the Senate would have trouble.” They brought up the Parliamentarian. “The deal would blow up in the Senate. They wouldn’t be able to pass it.” Our question was, “Why not? They passed it before.”

I think the best solution would be to pass that bill, and then come back and pass other things that we can, whether or not we get 60 votes in the Senate, whether or not they want to use the nuclear option again. We could at least pass the repeal we did before. Then let the President threaten to go to the states where those Senators voted for it last time and are threatening not to vote for it this time. I think we’d get those as “yes” votes; their constituents would force them to vote for the repeal again.

Rush, part of this looks like the insurance companies had too much to do with it. Remember, they and Big Pharma signed onto Obamacare. They got us in this mess. Now for their best interests, for the country’s best interests, let’s get back to free market.

I’ve been surprised that [Speaker Paul] Ryan and [White House Chief of Staff Reince] Priebus and [Senate Majority Leader Mitch] McConnell have been able to convince so many people that the 100-plus-page bill we have before us is actually a repeal and replace. Some of us keep asking, “So what does it actually repeal?” They answer, “Well, we’re going to give more power to Health and Human Services, to our Secretary Tom Price.”

Now, he’s a great doctor, a great legislator, and I have no doubt he’ll be one of the best Secretaries that hhs ever had. But the strategy apparently is, “Let’s give Tom Price more power. He will do more to knock down Obamacare and repeal it administratively and with regulatory authority than we could pass through the House and Senate.” Some of us just don’t believe that’s true, because we could vote to repeal it.

And Rush, this keeps coming back to my head. I hear Justice Scalia’s voice. He told me more than once, not talking about a particular bill, but just in general: “Look, if you guys in Congress don’t have the guts to repeal a bill you don’t like, don’t come rushing across the street to us and demand we repeal what you didn’t have the guts to. You’ve got the power, just repeal it.” He was speaking generally, but it applies to this.

We did this same thing with amnesty, when [then-Speaker John] Boehner said, “We’ve got a federal judge in South Texas. He’s taking care of stopping amnesty for us.” We said, “No, we promised we would stop amnesty, and Boehner promised we’d fight it ‘tooth and nail.’” Well, he didn’t. He let the judge do it for us.

Trump would rather win it outright. He knows he can’t trust the courts. He saw what they did when he won a lawsuit against the nfl — and was awarded one dollar. So he knows he can’t trust the courts, and he knows we need to do it legislatively, but he’s getting some bad advice from Priebus, from Ryan, and from McConnell. We need to repeal it.

I’ve asked, “What happens? Say we give Tom Price all this additional power, and say he knocks most of it out with administrative devices. What happens when the next Kathleen Sebelius comes in? Can you promise me that we will eliminate all that additional power we’re giving Health and Human Services before the next Democrat arrives?” No. We’re not keeping our promise.

Yet those of us in the Freedom Caucus, those of us who still haven’t come to an outright “yes,” are being vilified. We’re all being told: “Count on having very well-funded opponents. You’re going out.” I’d much rather help America by doing everything I can to actually repeal Obamacare than win the next election.

Rush: Mike Pence told me, “Rush, this is really great. We just need to get this thing passed” — the one that failed — “and Tom Price will go in there and rip all those Obama regulations out.” I said the same thing you did, “But what happens the next time Democrats win and the next Democrat Secretary puts them all back in?” I asked, “Why can’t we make this permanent?” He said, “This is the first stage. In Phase II and Phase III we get rid of the state-line restrictions on insurance sales.” I said, “But we’re never going to get to Phase II or Phase III. Once the first phase passes, it’s over and done with.”

My overall question is: Why does the House not want to deal with these things? Is it because of donors? Is it because they’re afraid of the media? Is it because they’re trying to sabotage Trump so he has no success? Is it an outsider versus insider thing? Why?

We’ve got reports that they’re not going to appropriate money for the wall, that they’re going to do an omnibus again, that they’re not going to have a full-fledged budget. It seems like every effort is being made to thwart specifically those things that Trump campaigned on. Louie, it doesn’t make any sense. We’re still not acting like we’ve won anything. The leadership isn’t. I don’t mean you, I’m talking about the House at large.

 

 

Gohmert: You’re exactly right, as a Party we’re acting like we didn’t win. Priebus is a terrific guy. He had the good sense, when most establishment folks did not, to say, “Look, Trump is going to be the nominee, so I better get onboard and help him.” But since the Chief of Staff is the gatekeeper, Priebus is able to keep people out who have an “outsider” view, which is what you and I both know is actually the American view across the country — except the fringes. The Democratic Party is a fringe party. They just won the edges of the country and a few big cities.

But think about it. The Republican and Democratic establishment didn’t want Trump to win. He did win, and what are they doing? They’ve been able to turn Trump against the people who helped get him elected last fall. To the establishment, that’s a two-fer. They weaken Trump, and they also weaken and marginalize people like the Freedom Caucus, people like Rand Paul, and Mike Lee, and Ted Cruz. Trump doesn’t get the things done that he wants done, and ends up being a one-term President. Plus it helps take out those who actually stand up for the promises we made. To the establishment, that’s a win all around.

They didn’t want Trump to win. They were shocked that he did. I go back to that October call that the House had. I don’t know who recorded it, and I don’t know if they released the whole call, but you would have heard all of our leaders saying, “You’ve got to run away from Trump. He’s going down. And he’s going to take us down with him. So everybody needs to start running against Trump.” Our nrcc Chairman, Greg Walden, made clear our poll numbers started tanking three days after that Trump and Billy Bush video came out.

And when we were finally given a chance to respond, everybody but one answered, “Do you not understand? If Hillary wins. It’s over. She replaces Scalia. Our rights are gone. And you can forget about the Republican Party. We have to go all-in to do everything we can to help Trump win. And by the way, if our numbers started going down three days after the video, doesn’t that correspond with when some Republicans started bashing Trump? Maybe if you hadn’t started bashing Trump so badly the numbers wouldn’t have gone down.”

But it was that mentality: “Gee, we can do a better job if our job is to rein in Hillary Clinton.” But my question was, “How in the world can you say we can rein in President Hillary Clinton? We haven’t reined in Obama. We haven’t reined in [irs Commissioner] Koskinen, or Holder, or Lynch, or Susan Rice, all these people who have lied to our face. We haven’t reined them in at all. So we’d better help Trump win.”

With that as background, Rush, hopefully you can see the dynamics really haven’t changed that much. It’s still the establishment against us. The difference now is that the establishment has been able to turn some of our faithful and big donors to Freedom Caucus members against us: “You just should have voted ‘yes’ for the repeal.” They don’t want to hear that it wasn’t a repeal. They don’t want to read the bill and see for themselves it wasn’t a repeal. The establishment is winning right now.

Rush: I was at the White House on that Thursday night, March 23, when the “Tuesday Group” was there for a meeting with Trump. I actually saw some of the meeting where Trump converted 17 “no” votes into 16 “yes” votes. He did it not by selling the specifics of the bill, at least while I was observing — that may well have happened later — but rather by selling loyalty to him and the Party and the glories of having a legislative victory. It seemed clear to me that was the objective for a lot of people. Not what was in the bill; just get it passed so he could sign it.

And I was very alarmed when everything eventuated to turn on the Freedom Caucus. Once again, conservatives were portrayed as the roadblock. Conservatives were portrayed as the problem.

Gohmert: Right.

 

 

Rush: But here’s the thing. Trump’s not going anywhere. Louie, I may be whistling Dixie here, but at some point the people you’ve been talking about, the leadership, are going to realize that Trump is here to stay. He’s not temporary. He’s not going anywhere. You’re not going to change him. He sent Sessions down to the border to raise hell and to start enforcing the law on immigration. The things he can do on his own, where he doesn’t need Congress to implement his agenda, he is doing. He is not softening. He’s not watering himself down. The health care bill was the only instance in his Presidency where he signed up for something that was not what he campaigned on.

Gohmert: And who talked him into going first with health care? Priebus and Ryan and McConnell. They convinced him this was a slam-dunk: “Everybody loves the bill. There are only a few naysayers, let’s go first with health care.” When originally he was saying, “Let’s do the tax reform first.” Which might have actually been easier.

You’ve talked about some of the basics over the years. I’ve been listening to you since 1992. You were the first one I ever heard bring up the automatic budget increases, that we need to have a zero baseline. We need to get to that. Trump understands spending too much money, that you can’t. Cutting taxes so we can bring businesses back, he understands that’s going to work. But they pushed him into going first with health care reform, even though the establishment seems to have won on the idea of not actually repealing Obamacare. You’ve been right all along, that this is an establishment versus outsiders fight.

Rush: Exactly. Which brings me back to my observation about Trump not going anywhere. I think a lot of these people, Democrats included, are telling themselves stories that Trump’s temporary. That even if Trump’s still there, they can neuter him, and return to the establishment running the show. But at some point, my theory is, they’re going to realize that’s not happening. Now if that’s the case, is there a way that you see the House leadership changing down the road, instead of opposing Trump to stand with the establishment? Do you foresee the Republican leadership finally acceding to Trump and helping him move his agenda in these four years? Is that remotely possible?

Gohmert: It absolutely is possible. He is a strong-willed guy. But the only way it happens is if he realizes who in the House is really supporting what he wants, which is really the Freedom Caucus. Actually, you’ve got more than 200 in the House who support and want Trump to succeed. But never underestimate the power of apathy or going along to get along. It does cause a lot of awfully good people to just go along instead of standing up for what they ran on. Especially if you have leadership helping push the apathy.

 

 

Well, Trump doesn’t push apathy. He pushes “let’s get in there and get things done.” I told him back in September that I think he has the potential to be one of our greatest Presidents in foreign relations, but that domestically he’s going to have so many people fighting him that that’s an open question.

“On foreign affairs,” I said, “Presidents who are portrayed as being our smartest, even though they weren’t, had more trouble with foreign relations. But people like Teddy Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan, who were considered a little bit crazy, they got more done.” I said, “You remember Saturday Night Live, the way they used to portray Reagan walking around looking for the red button so he could launch the nuclear missiles?” I said, “It’s terrible to be portrayed that way, but Presidents who are perceived by foreign leaders as being just a little bit crazy like that get more done. They succeed more in the diplomatic relations with other countries because there’s that fear in the back of the mind, ‘This guy could be just a little crazy.’”

Rush: I think Trunp is exploiting that. It's called “the Madman Strategy.”

Gohmert: [Laughs] It’s terrific. I think it gives him a lot more leverage. Trump said back in September, “They’re portraying me as being crazy.” I said, “I know. That’s why you’re going to be one of the best we’ve ever had at foreign relations.” And he is exploiting it. He understands that. You read The Art of the Deal, he knows how to figure out strengths and weaknesses, and use the strengths and exploit the other’s weaknesses. I think that’s what we’re going to see continue in foreign relations. It’s just in domestic matters he’s got to figure out who is with him, and he has the heart of the Freedom Caucus with him.

Rush: You’ve made the case that Trump was ill-served by the Republican leadership on health care because he was blindsided by how many Republicans opposed the bill.

Gohmert: Right.

Rush: I’d be flipping livid. If I were Trump and I were misled I’d be livid and I wouldn’t trust these clowns again. I’d want firsthand knowledge rather than second.

Gohmert: I’d heard that was the case. That’s when he invited a bunch of groups over to the White House to talk to him face to face. At one of the meetings Mark Meadows and Jim Jordan said, “Mr. President, if we could sit down with you for three minutes, we can get a deal worked out.” And you know Trump. He said, “Then let’s sit down. Let’s get it done.” According to Jim and Mark, Priebus grabbed him and said, “Mr. President, you don’t have time for this. We’ve got to go do something else right now.” Priebus wouldn’t let the President sit down with them and get the thing worked out. What we’re facing is something that Reagan faced with at least one of his Chiefs of Staff trying to keep him away from the people who got him elected.

Rush: I wonder who you mean there, Louie.

Gohmert: [Laughs]

Rush: You wouldn’t be talking about James Baker, would you?

Gohmert: Well, that is a name.

Rush: [Laughs]

Gohmert: Yes. But Rush, keep in mind, with this health care bill, this is probably the first time in Donald Trump’s adult life he was relying on documents put together by people who didn’t support him.

 

 

Rush: Yes.

Gohmert: I mean, normally, he has documents put together by his lawyers. Read his book; he doesn’t tolerate it if they don’t do a great job. Especially if they’re not being truthful with him about what the document does and what it contains. So this is a new thing for him, having people around him, helping him, who aren’t doing what he tells them to do. I think he will eventually get adjusted and will prevail, but I hope there are not too many corpses [laughs] in the path before he figures it out.

Rush: I read that the budget is going to be omnibus again. It’s going to be catch-all. It’s not going to be a formal budget and there will not be any money appropriated for the border wall, according to The Hill. They claim Republican leaders are dropping funding for the border wall. That’s a top Trump promise that they’re making clear, right now, before they even get started, that it isn’t going to happen. Is it going to happen or not?

Gohmert: It will not be in there if our leaders get what they want. Look at the gop “autopsy” Reince Priebus did after the 2012 Romney loss. It is the antithesis of supporting something like a wall. It’s really the antithesis of Trump’s platform, his campaign. Priebus didn’t see this as popular even four short years ago. When you’re wondering where his heart is, look at what he said in the past, look at that “autopsy.” These guys didn’t want a wall. They said during the election cycle it wasn’t going to happen; the American people said, “Oh, yes, it will.” That really was a propellant in getting Trump elected. So he’s not going to give up on that.

Rush: I hope he’ll succeed. Look, every question I have really comes under one umbrella: Why are the Republicans afraid to act like they won? I draw the analogy that a person who’s been overweight most of his life and then loses a significant amount of weight just has the toughest time thinking thin. He just doesn’t believe it. He’s got too many years being fat, feeling fat, looking in the mirror and thinking he’s fat. So when he looks in the mirror and sees he’s thin, he doesn’t believe it.

The Republicans were in the wilderness of the minority for 40 years, then they won the House in 1994. I just don’t think Republicans have ever learned how to walk around that town with an attitude of victory. I don’t see the glow of victory from this election on anybody’s face. After election night, it just seemed to vanish.

Take, for instance, the idea of a government shutdown. If there’s a government shutdown over this omnibus budget, it’s clearly going to be the Democrats’ fault, but the Republicans are terrified of it. They act like they’re going to get blamed for it, so they can’t let it happen. So again, even though they won, they are conceding the leverage of everything to the Democrats. You know as well as I do how this frustrates people out there who vote.

 

 

Gohmert: It frustrates me. It is insane. But I do have to say there were an awful lot of us on Inauguration Day who were just basically giddy. Heck, I was so happy I shook Bill Clinton’s hand and I shook John Boehner’s hand. I was one happy camper [laughs] because there was a new sheriff in town. That was a great day. In fact, my dad, who’s 91, emailed me: “Son, everybody in Mt. Pleasant” — where I grew up — “saw you at the Inaugural. You were in a prominent position. But you’ve got to get rid of that tan raincoat. Just get a dark navy one and send me the bill. I’ll reimburse you.”

But I haven’t told dad yet, it was my brother’s raincoat. I lost him six years ago. I was proud to be wearing that raincoat. But I’m telling you, that was a great day. Just a superb day. I still carry some of that feeling. But Rush, there are such parallels to the story about the children of Israel, God bringing them out of Egypt. And every time they turned on Moses.

Rush: Yes, it’s human nature.

Gohmert: “And you brought us out here to die.” Sometimes that’s the way it feels in Congress. We won the election, “Oh, so you brought us out here. We won the election so we’ll get killed.” We’re going to repeal Obamacare, “Oh, we can’t repeal Obamacare!” Yes, we can. America’s going to love it.

The Democrats were not afraid of losing a majority to get Obamacare done, because they knew what planting that socialist flag meant. We need to be just as committed to knocking that socialist idea down and getting us back to freedom. So I’m hopeful, Rush. It’s why I’m still in Congress.

Rush: In closing, let me stipulate something. In some of my passionate moments here in this interview I have not meant to include you in those whose actions and motives I’ve questioned. The truth is, we could use 434 more people like you.

Gohmert: You’re so kind. Some Republican establishment people would have a heart attack if there was even one more of me. But I guess it’s the optimist part of me, I never thought for a moment you were including me. [Laughs]

Rush: I just wanted to make sure the readers of the interview understand. You are highly respected, and a lot of people have a lot of faith that you will never give up in this quest. It’s why you wanted to be elected to the House in the first place. And you’re pushing against the tide every day, especially when the Democrats have been running the place.

Gohmert: I’ve got to tell you, Rush, a few of my contributors have said, “You always say ‘no.’ Why can’t you at least say ‘yes’ on this one?” Others write letters to the editors, “Isn’t it time you stepped down, or didn’t run again?” I’m a fan of term limits. But we’ve got some work to do. We have got to make sure that people across America understand: This is our last chance, and if we don’t keep our promises in the next year and a half, I don’t see it happening. I just think God blessed us with another chance. That’s why I was so giddy on Inauguration Day, and it’s why we cannot stop, even if it means losing a seat. We have got to win.

Rush: You’ve stumbled into something here, because you’re exactly right. To this day, when I talk to anybody who’s a Washington resident or member of “the establishment,” and tell them that the vast majority of people who voted for Trump did so because they really believe the fate of the country as founded is at stake, they laugh. Their lives are fine. Their kids’ educational circumstances are fine. They think people who believe the country is in crisis are lunatics.

Gohmert: Yes. Yet that’s happened every time a great nation fails.

Rush: They don’t understand what you just said, that we’ve got a year and a half or we lose. Sadly, most people in Washington don’t believe that at all.

Gohmert: Democrats I’ve had discussions with think socialism is the way to go. Even though, as you point out, it has never worked. But when I’d get into discussions like that, the good-natured ones who are honest and easy to talk to [laughs] would say, “Well, Louie, progressivism is the right way. But if it’s not right, we’ll just fix it later.” They don’t understand what Reagan understood, that when a generation loses freedom, it doesn’t come back in that generation.

So we have got work to do. Which is why I can never thank you enough for being the great salesman for freedom, for a democratic republic, for free thinking. Last month was my 25th anniversary of listening to you. And by the way, your pushing to eliminate baseline budgeting, the automatic increase every year, inspired me to file that bill when I got into Congress. We actually got it passed two Congresses ago, and we passed it twice in the House.

Now, with two majorities and the Presidency, we’ve got a chance to actually pass it into law. Yet now that it can become law, there seems to be pushback against passing it. But that’s the way you start toward balancing a budget — just stop the automatic increases. So we’re going to keep pushing that with this Administration. I think if we can get the President behind it, with his refusal to fail, we just might get that into law.

Rush: Good luck. Thank you for your kind words, and I say them right back at you. Any way we can help, let us know.

Gohmert: Thanks, Rush.

Photos ©2017 Getty Images and ©2017 AP/Wide World Photos

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