Kelley & Company, Cory Gardner, January 27, 2015

Station:   KNUS, 710 AM

Show:      Kelley & Company

Guests:    Gardner, Cory


Date:       January 27, 2015


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HOST KRISTA KAFER: […] This is the first time we’ve talked since your election.  I want to know, what’s it like there?  Does it feel friendly, contentious, go-along-get-along?  What’s the feel of the Senate?

U.S. SENATOR FROM COLORADO, CORY GARDNER:  [laugs]  I think the feel of the Senate has changed dramatically from what it was last year.  In fact, earlier — uh, I just — Last week we were able to surpass the votes — the number of votes that we had on amendments for all of 2014.  So, just in the three weeks that we’ve been in session, we’ve already voted on more amendments than the Senate did in the entirety of last year.  So, it is certainly a different place.  We’re working to open the process, having open discussion and debate.  That’s what you’re seeing on the Keystone Pipeline right now.  And I think people on both sides of the aisle — Democrat and Republican– are excited about the fact that we can actually have an opportunity to put issues and ideas forward.

KAFER:  Actually be a deliberative body.  Go figure!

GARDNER:  You know, and that’s –I think– one of the greatest things that has been accomplished with this new majority is the open — openness that it has meant.  I mean, the fact that we have already voted on more Democrat– in fact, we voted on more Democrat amendments than all of the amendments combined in 2014.

KAFER:  Well, I often say, without principle there is only power.  And I love the fact that this body has returned to the principle that you have deliberative body where, you know, you vote — you even vote on stuff you don’t like and don’t want to vote on.  I want ask you, so, uh, friends — Senator Thune,  Senator Lee.  You’re in good company as far as western Republicans.  Who are you hanging out with?

GARDNER:  You know, again, [I’m] getting to know Senator Thune.  We were just at a meeting earlier today where we talked about issues that Senator Thune has in South Dakota.  Uh, I talked with Jerry Moran about issues on endangered species that affect southeastern Colorado and all of Kansas.  And getting to know — getting to know everybody.   I sat next to Senator Cruz over the past several policy meetings that we’ve had, talking about issues like what we’re going to do on healthcare, what happens with King vs. Burwell — the Supreme Court decision that could rule in June about whether or not parts of the healthcare bill are going to– allowed to be going forward. And working with Rand Paul on a number of bills, whether it’s auditing the Federal Reserve, or legislation that we introduced just earlier this week on the REINS Act, which would make sure that our regulations aren’t burdening our economy.

KAFER:  I think that’s an absolutely a terrific start.  You know, I’ve been telling Steve [Kelley] for a while –.  He was kind of angry that the — that Congress, the Republicans in the Congress didn’t hold up the spending bill, cause kind of a showdown, right before the beginning of the year.  I contended that this was the most prudent path forward, to save that battle for this year.  And I was guessing, having not spoken to you yet, that Congress — that Republicans wanted to be able to vote on each appropriations bill, you know, as they did, you know, ten years ago, and actually have some of these policy discussions and votes, and be able to have those battes this year, when we actually have a chance.  Was I right?

GARDNER:  Look, we didn’t have the majority last year.  We have it now, in the House and the Senate.  And that’s something that we’re going to be able to make sure that we move forward on all those appropriations bills.  And one of the things that I think gets lost in the — the sort of dysfunction of Washington D.C.:  When you’re passing forward a — putting in place a Continuing Resolution, it’s very difficult to make determinations and changes in the way things have been, because it’s a continuing resolution.  It just continues what you’ve been doing.  But when you can pass the spending bills, or do something like we did at the end of last year, you can actually make policy changes.  And that’s what we were able to do.  We were able to reduce funding at the IRS by about three-hundred-and-some million dollars.  We were able to take spending, overall, back to pre-Nancy Pelosi levels.  We were able to make sure that the sage grouse isn’t listed [as an endangered species] which could overly burden the recreation economies, renewable energy and traditional energy.  And we made sure that waters of the United States — that regulation where the federal government wants to take over water, isn’t going into effect for agriculture.  And we’ll continue to work on it for the rest of our economy.  And so, while not a perfect bill, the fact that we have been able to take spending back to pre-Nancy Pelosi levels, and we did it when we didn’t even have a Senate majority, is a good step forward.  And now we have more work to do.  One more I’ll note, that we talked about today, the President has really talked about declining deficits.  Now, by definition, deficits mean that you’re adding to the debt every year.

KAFER:  Mmm-hmm.

GARDNER:  So, you can’t say that, “Hey, we’re reducing the debt,” because it’s increasing, even though you have the declining deficits.  But next year, those deficits start increasing again.  In ten years, you know, our debt is going to be over 25 trillion dollars, if we do nothing. The third largest expenditure of our budget!  It will go Medicare — you know, it’ll go your Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security expenditures and then — and then the interest on our debt.  So, it’s unsustainable, and we know we have more work to do.

KAFER:  Well, it is unsustainable, and I don’t see any appetite on the left to even taking a stab at that.  I want to take one step back, real quick, because I know that you were a real leader with the sage grouse issue.  And I know people want to write that off, “Oh, you know, that’s some small thing.”  But these were really about the lives of ranchers, farmers, energy producers, –real Coloradoans in west — in, you know– out there on the Western Slope, that would have had their very lives affected.  And so, by not going with the CR, but going with the true spending bill and making sure that that was attached to it, we have actually helped real Coloradoans.  It was an important victory.

GARDNER:  It was an important victory.  And we need to make sure that the state of Colorado is driving conservation decisions and efforts when it comes to the sage grouse.  It’s something the federal government has not been able to do, is actually manage this in a way that we know we can do in Colorado.  And that’s why it’s important.  The Governor, Hickenlooper, through the Western Governors’ Association, put forward a resolution that said, “Hey, let’s let the states lead these efforts.”  If we don‘t then we’re going to see the federal government interfering with — with, whether it’s renewable energy, whether it’s recreation, hiking, outdoor activity, agriculture, you name it.  It could have a grave impact.  And the sage grouse has a tremendous footprint on Colorado and almost a dozen states in the west that would stifle local economies.

KAFER:  Yeah, I don’t think it’s an important victory.  I know it’s a small victory, but I’m glad you did it.  Now, you were sitting in the State of the Union address with all the other Senators, sitting on the Republican side,  when the President teed up his tax and spending agenda, which, I mean, that could have been — that could have come straight out of the mouth of Jimmy Carter. It could have come straight out of the mouth of LBJ.  I mean, this is a man who — I guess he missed the last election returns, possibly.  How have you all responded to that tax and spend agenda he put forward?

GARDNER:  That State of the Union address, and I said this the night of the State of the Union, I think was written by two different speech writers.  The first half of his speech was talking about tax increases, big government, things that you knew the new majorities in the House and the Senate would not support.  And then the second speech writer took over, and talked about the need to work together–

KAFER:  [laughs]

GARDNER:  –and accomplish things together, in a bipartisan basis.  So, it really was a speech that was opposed to itself, by the time it was done.  Uh, this President has frustrated so many of us because when there have been moments to sieze a leadership opportunity, he has failed to do so.  And there’s an opportunity for Congress to work together on comprehensive tax reform.  There’s an opportunity for us all to work together when it comes to growing middle class jobs and opportunity, but yet his policies have actually made things worse.  And we’ve seen middle class families lose income as a result of his failed policies, instead of having them increase.  We could work together on that, but instead, he puts forward a very partisan agenda based on tax increases, and it really makes me wonder whether he’s serious about trying to find some of these solutions that, in a leadership moment, could be formed together.

KAFER:  But what about that snide comment, “Oh, those elections — I won both of them”?

GARDNER:  You know, I may be the only one who did this, but when you’re on the  — when we were on the House floor, when he said that, there was a small group applause.  And, you know, I actually thought it was a little bit funny when he said that– kind of a, “Well, you know what? You can say all you want, but I won these elections.”   So, that didn’t bother me as much as it may have bothered other people.  But the fact is, he’s still in a position where he’s not working with Congress the way that we know we could.  And that’s on an agenda to find that common ground of things like reducing taxes on America’s job creators.

KAFER:  [Common Ground on Iran — but the Congressional Dems don’t want to touch it until mid-March.]

GARDNER:  [There is a sense of frustration around sanctions for Iran. The House may be working forward on a sanctions bill.  It sounds like Senator Menendez wants to wait until March.  That may deprive the votes necessary to get something through the Senate if they object to the bill, not allowing us to get to the sixty vote threshold.  Unfortunately the media has characterized this as saying that, “Oh, Congress is trying to impose new sanctions during negotiations.”  Not true. Only sanctions if the negotiations fail.  Why is that a bad thing?  Hopefully, that conversation will continue. I believe that Congress should have opportunity to vote up or down on the terms of those negotiations — something that the White House has yet to really say they’re willing to do.]

KAFER:  [Yeah, it’s enough like a treaty that the Senate does have the duty and obligation to vote on that. About Obamacare:  the Supreme Court decision coming up that could remove the subsidies in states that do not have a state exchange, which would cause the law to crumble in those areas.  Will that give you leverage to pressure the President to reconsider this untenable law?]

GARDNER:  [And there again is a leadership opportunity that we as Republicans in the majority has to sieze and I believe the President can sieze, as well.  This law needs to be repealed and replaced with something that works.  We have to be ready to go when it comes to this decision.  If they wait until June 30th, we need to be ready to respond immediately with our plan to replace this with, and actually do what we’ve wanted to do all along:  Let’s put consumers in charge of their healthcare and get government out of the way.  And provide more quality healthcare with a more affordable price tag.  We have to be ready with that, and hopefully the President will be willing to work with us instead of playing politics.]

KAFER:  [What is the biggest difference between House and Senate?]

GARDNER:  [Senate Rules require unanimous consent in order to do anything.  Only one person can object and hold up legislation.   So we need to line up the votes to make sure we can get legislation through that will actually get this country back on track. We want to rein in president’s executive orders and keeping this President from overreaching.  That’s going to require us to get sixty votes if there’s not unanimous consent to do it.  And you know what?  We’re going to have to work hard to make it happen.]

KAFER:  [We’ve enjoyed having you. Thanks for explaining thorny issues with depth and candor.]