Ross Kaminsky Show, Mike Coffman, July 18, 2018

Station:    KHOW, 630 am

Show:       Ross Kaminsky Show

Guests:    Coffman, Mike


Date:        July 18, 2018

Topics:     Opening of the Aurora V.A. Hospital, Army Corps of Engineers, Cost Overruns, Scheduling Delays, Construction, Authority, Primary Care Exam Rooms, Outpatient Facility, Congressman Ed Perlumtter, Congressman Bob Beauprez, Veteran’s Administration, Government Accountability Office, GAO, Shulkin, Inspector General, 21st Century Internet Act, Net Neutrality, FCC, Federal Communications Commission, Throttling, Blocking Content, Pay Prioritization, Infrastructure, Internet Service Provider, ISP, Open and Free Internet, Regulation

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HOST ROSS KAMINSKY: [00:00:00] All right. I am just so pleased to welcome back to the show Congressman Mike Coffman. And for purposes of full disclosure, I am in Mike Coffman’s district, so he represents me in Congress and I have made a modest contribution to Mike’s campaign. I just want to make sure — for purposes of full disclosure — that that’s out there. So, Mike, good morning! Welcome to the show. And let’s start with the big thing going on in Aurora on Saturday.

U.S. CONGRESSMAN FROM COLORADO’S SIXTH CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT, MIKE COFFMAN: [00:00:28] Oh, yeah! Saturday will be the ceremony to open the V.A. hospital [which is] way over budget, way behind schedule. Let me say, I think if we’re going to thank somebody for that it is the Army Corps of Engineers. I led the fight to get the V.A. removed — their construction management team removed — from the project. And so in 2015, the Army Corps of Engineers took it over and they’ve taken this to completion. We would not be celebrating on Saturday if not for the Army Corps of Engineers.

KAMINSKY: [00:01:01] You know, that’s — that’s true. And I am grateful to them. And I just do want to tell my listeners that Mike Coffman is being a little bit humble, here. Yes, the switch to get the army in and the V.A. people out is very important. But Mike, it wouldn’t have happened without you really leading that charge. And I want to make sure you get the credit you deserve, there, even if you don’t want to take it.

COFFMAN: [00:01:30] No. Thanks. No, I was able to pass legislation unanimously in the House that took the VA, in effect, out of all four major hospitals that they were working on at that time.And so, if not for — again, I think leading the charge to get the Army Corps of Engineers to take over the project — that Congress would have never — nor should they — have had confidence in funding the project to completion, given its cost overruns, given the scheduling delays. And now it’s about holding those individuals responsible accountable for what they did.

KAMINSKY: [00:02:10] There are certain aspects of the hospital that are going to be huge pluses and state of the art kind of stuff. And then there are some other things, like, kind of oddly, it’s been reported that there is basically half the number of primary care exam rooms as the old hospital. So what are you seeing is the major pluses and the major minuses of the new hospital? And are any of the minuses fixable, or is it too late for any of that?

COFFMAN: [00:02:35] Well, the pluses are certainly in the state of the art technology, the medical equipment that’s there in the hospital. I think on the negative side, there are probably two. I mean, it’s a very inefficient design. It is double the square footage with the same number of beds, and with a big problem in that they don’t have the appropriate number that they need pf these primary care exam rooms to basically move all their personnel who are involved in that outpatient care over to the new hospital from the old hospital. So now they’re going to have to keep the first floor of the old hospital open until there can be some new outpatient facility built to house these — I don’t want to say “surplus personnel” or “excess personnel” — but these primary care teams.

KAMINSKY: [00:03:30] Wow.

COFFMAN: [00:03:31] And so, I mean, this is just unbelievable incompetence, when you talk about a hospital that is about five years behind schedule and a little over a billion dollars over budget. And so, I got the hospital in my district in January 2013 when they redrew the line. So, Congressman Perlmutter was never before me. Before him, [it was] Congressman Bob Beauprez who did the initial legislation that authorized the planning of the hospital and to move forward the hospital. So, it is — you know, I mean, I’m glad that it’s done. I’m glad that it’s going to serve our veterans. But the chapter isn’t closed on this yet, in terms of trying to hold those responsible accountable. And the fact is, they still have so many of the personnel that are here in the V.A. at senior levels that have their fingerprints all over this mess and how –. And I’ve — I hope to meet with the new Secretary as soon as he in confirmed by the Senate, and sit down with him and say, “Look, there are about 400 people in the V.A. that are at the senior executive service level, that are just below the political appointees, that manage the day to day programs at the V.A.. And you need to go through all those positions and say, ‘Look, who — where are their reports — like the government — GAO, Government Accountability Office reports — or Inspector General reports that denote failure, where this failure hasn’t been corrected?’ And you’ve got the same people in leadership there. They’ve gotta go. You have got to clean House. And Congress has given you the authority to do that. And if you don’t do that, no matter what you say, no matter what you do, the bureaucratic incompetence and the culture of the V.A. is not going to change.”

KAMINSKY: [00:05:18] I agree with you. And I would also say that there’s probably never been a president who has been more overtly in favor of cleaning out incompetent or corrupt bureaucrats. I don’t know whether his game is as good as his talk, but at least he’s talking it. So hopefully that will at least, you know, kind of grease the skids for the conversation a little bit.

COFFMAN: [00:05:41] Sure. And just let me say one point on that.

KAMINSKY: [00:05:41] Okay.

COFFMAN: [00:05:41] So, Shulkin, when I made the decision that Shulkin had to go and began to press the White House for that, was actually not over the travel [controversy], although that was the catalyst and that was what the president siezed on, the fact that he had taken this European vacation at taxpayers’ expense and then lied to investigators about what he was doing, or what he had done. But the fact is that he not only didn’t fire the person that was the last person that was in charge of this hospital before the Army Corps of Engineers took over — the last V.A. person in charge of the military in charge of the V.A. Construction — didn’t fire her but tried to promote her to make are in charge of construction and contracting, both of which are equally in a mess.

KAMINSKY: [00:06:29] Unbelievable.

COFFMAN: [00:06:30] And so, at that point in time, I met with him and came to the conclusion that he had to go.

KAMINSKY: [00:06:34] Yeah.

COFFMAN: [00:06:35] I started leading the fight there, and the president — I’m glad — seized on that and got rid of him.

KAMINSKY: [00:06:39] Did you have any kind of direct conversation with President Trump — face to face, or by phone — to say, “Shulkin has got to go?”

COFFMAN: [00:06:47] What I did was I did a — I put my ideas in letters — in a letter to him.

KAMINSKY: [00:06:55] Mm-hmm.

COFFMAN: [00:06:55] And he did answer it in a tweet, and affirmatively, that he agreed.

KAMINSKY: [00:06:59] Okay.

COFFMAN: [00:07:00] He liked what — the direction that I was going, prior to firing him.

KAMINSKY: [00:07:02] All right.

COFFMAN: [00:07:03] So, he did acknowledge it. And so — but I’m just glad to see that that’s done. But really, if — I’ve really got to sit down with this new Secretary. I’ve talked to the acting Secretary yesterday, and then told him, “I really want to sit down with the new Secretary.”.

KAMINSKY: [00:07:24] So, just in the intere — I don’t mean to interrupt you, Mike. I’ve just got about 90 seconds and I need to ask you about something else. So yesterday, you introduced something called The 21st Century Internet Act, and it’s a very rare occurrence for you and I to disagree on policy, but I think you’re way off base on this one. But tell us what it is.

COFFMAN: [00:07:38] I know! [laughs] Well, I think you — this is about net neutrality. And so, I think we can agree — and it’s about whether or not, in my view, it’s — and we probably agree on this point: that it’s the Congress the United States that should make the decision, and not the FCC — the Federal Communications Commission, an unelected commission — to make a decision that is so foundational to our economy. And so — because once you go that route, then every new administration can change the policy. And I think this economy needs certainty, and startups and Internet entrepreneurs need certainty going forward as to what the rules are going to be. I think we agree there should be no throttling, no blocking of content –.

KAMINSKY: [00:08:25] I don’t agree.

COFFMAN: [00:08:27] Oh, you don’t. Oh, I thought we would disagree on pay priortization.

KAMINSKY: [00:08:32] No. Well, that too! I mean, I think the Internet infrastructure companies spend billions of dollars to build this stuff and they own it. And unless there’s an incredibly compelling evidence that something is being done that’s harmful to society — or to consumers overall — and there isn’t, it’s their property. And we should let Democrats try to steal property and not Republicans.

COFFMAN: [00:08:54] Well, I think that we — certainly specialized services are covered, like emergency services, or that — in terms of their ability to — you know, the ISPs — to have discriminatory policies, there. But the question is, should they be able to have it — pick winners and losers losers when it comes to business data services. And I guess you and I disagree on that [laughs].

KAMINSKY: [00:09:16] I’m a free market guy. You know? I think the market will sort all that out.

COFFMAN: [00:09:21] Okay. Open and free internet.

KAMINSKY: [00:09:22] My take, Mike, is the Internet is what it is because it was deregulated. And I think it’s a mistake to think that we know the point at which, “Now it needs to be regulated!” You know? That really troubles me.

COFFMAN: [00:09:34] Well, I think we want to keep an open and free internet. And so, we’re probably going to disagree with that. But I just think this is about, you know, being pro-consumer, pro-competition, pro-innovation, pro-Main Street business, pro-1st Amendment. And this — the bill that I did — ensures this country remains a global leader in Internet policy. So, I hope you take a look at the bill. But I get your Libertarian [inaudible].

KAMINSKY: [00:09:54] [chuckles] Mike, I appreciate your time as always. And really, you are an absolute champion regarding the V.A. hospital, although it’s late and over budget. You can pat yourself a little bit on the back on Saturday, and keep fighting the fight, as you said you will. Thanks a lot for being here, Mike. [I] Appreciate it.

COFFMAN: [00:10:15] Thanks, Ross!

KAMINSKY: [00:10:16] All right. We’ll talk again. All right. There you go. Congressman Mike Coffman. I’m not down with this Net Neutrality thing that he’s pushing. I am down with the efforts that he made for the V.A. hospital.