A few days ago, we caught up with U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-Baton Rouge) and grilled him on some of the pressing issues of the day. Rep. Cassidy, who is moving from an assignment on the House Natural Resources Committee to a spot on the coveted House Energy & Commerce Committee, is likely to be a very vocal advocate for Louisiana’s perspective on two crucial issues in the 112th Congress – domestic energy production, and in particular fighting the EPA’s efforts to regulate hydraulic fracturing and wedging open the Gulf of Mexico to offshore oil exploration again, and the repeal of Obamacare.
It was on these and a few other issues that the Congressman gave us a few moments of his time…
The Hayride: The GOP won a pretty big victory on Nov. 2, but it doesn’t really appear the Democrats have drawn any lessons from it. Is it your sense that this is just posturing and behind the scenes they’ll be softening some of their more unpopular stances, or are we in for two years of “trench warfare,” as the President has called it?
Rep. Cassidy: As a group, the Democrats who are left are from reliably liberal districts. They don’t care about the economic effect of regulations and taxes, and actually believe that more of both is good policy.
I hope we do not see two years of “trench warfare,” as the President calls it. No one should. I didn’t run for office to fight over inches of policy; I ran for office to solve problems. Chief among them is creating private sector jobs. Gridlock is preferable to job-killing policies, but I believe we can do better than that.
The Hayride: What’s the status of the effort by the Left to put the EPA in charge of regulating hydraulic fracturing? Is anything in the works to rein them in before they kill the shale gas industry?
Rep. Cassidy: EPA could potentially regulate fracking at two levels: carbon in the air and water underground. The Energy & Commerce Committee will hold hearings on both, and, if necessary, statutorily block EPA’s penchant for overreach.
The Hayride: On to Obamacare. A majority of the American people say they want it repealed. Obviously, there aren’t enough votes in the Senate at present to pass a repeal, much less overcome a presidential veto which would be sure to follow. Where are you on passing a repeal bill out of the House? Do you think the GOP ought to pass one and put the pressure on the Senators – 23 of whom are Democrats up for re-election in 2012 – to go on record for it or against it?
Rep. Cassidy: A repeal bill is going to pass the House on January 12. Whether it can clear a 60-vote threshold in the Senate, I don’t know. But the fact that 23 Democratic Senators have to ask for votes in 2012 certainly improves the chances that they’ll listen to their constituents.
The Hayride: What changes can House Republicans make to the bill or overall healthcare policy in the face of opposition from Obama and Senate Democrats?
Rep. Cassidy: A lot. The Executive cannot do what the Legislature does not fund. Defunding is passive. It simply requires something not to happen. I think House Republicans will do a great job of not funding the parts of ObamaCare that require funding to take shape.
On the other hand, changing statute requires action. For that to happen, Congress must pass and the President sign new law or changes to existing law. For example, on some elements of ObamaCare that are particularly onerous, there is bipartisan agreement that the law needs to be changed, like repealing the 1099 requirement. That will probably be one of the first things to go.
The Hayride: During the holidays, subject of TSA’s security measures at airports was one of the hottest around. What’s your take on airport security? Should we be making changes in our approach?
Rep. Cassidy: Last year, I went to Israel. At Ben Gurion Airport, which is arguably one of the most targeted facilities in the world, there aren’t long lines, security personnel treat you like an adult, and you don’t even have to take off your shoes. If the Israelis can secure Ben Gurion Airport without looking at nude images and invading peoples’ space, then I believe we should be able to achieve something similar here.
The Hayride: Estimates on the first day of the GM IPO indicated that the taxpayers will lose some $38 billion from our bailout of that company. What do you think the future holds for that investment? And can we feel safe that the Age of Bailouts is over?
Rep. Cassidy: I hope that the federal government’s purchase of GM ultimately turns a huge profit and that the profit is used pay down the federal debt. The degree that the federal government remains involved in the management of GM may dictate the outcome. As far as House Republicans are concerned, the Age of Bailouts is over. But it is important to remember that the Obama Administration bailed out GM without explicit authority from Congress.
The Hayride: How do you feel about Quantitative Easing II? And what do you think Congress might do about it?
Rep. Cassidy: To pursue Quantitative Easing with Interest On Reserve paid to banks which exceeds the effective yield on reserve on annual T-bills is working at cross purposes. This effective IOR negates any potential benefit of QE.
The Hayride: Charlie Rangel, after having been found guilty on 11 counts of ethics violations, was censured. Maxine Waters, facing three ethics charges, will have her case tried sometime this year. The general reaction to those items has been negative, as the perception seems to be that the last Congress wasn’t serious about dealing with bad behavior of its members. Do you see changes coming in the new Congress on ethics, and why?
Rep. Cassidy: In recent months, several senior counsels on the Ethics Committee either resigned or were forced to resign. It is in shambles. Republicans will do it differently.
The Hayride: Any comment on Nancy Pelosi’s chiding John Boehner for his occasional bouts of weepiness?
Rep. Cassidy: No.
The Hayride: Rep. Mike Pence has pointed out that the number one organization for federal Title 10 funding is Planned Parenthood, and their annual take is some $350 million. He’d like to defund them completely. Is that within the realm of possibility, and would you support doing so?
Rep. Cassidy: Yes.
The Hayride: The First Lady announced recently that she wants to put 5,000 salad bars in American schools. Thoughts on this one?
Rep. Cassidy: Obesity is a leading driver of rising health costs. Childhood obesity is particularly problematic. Arguably, the federal government, through subsidies, food stamps, and school meals, has made the problem worse. I’m not sure salad bars are the answer, but federal policies that contribute to this problem must be addressed.
The Hayride: What’s your take on Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood’s statement in favor of jamming cell phones in cars?
Rep. Cassidy: It is appropriate for parents to set guidelines and have access to technology to enforce those guidelines with their teenagers. It is unacceptable for the nanny state to do the same with adults.