One-on-One: Scalise discusses new role as Majority Leader, priorities

Scalise weighs in on Biden & Trump’s handling of classified documents
Published: Jan. 13, 2023 at 9:15 PM CST
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Republican House Majority Leader Rep. Steve Scalise discussed his new leadership role in Congress during a one-on-one interview on Friday with FOX 8.

Scalise began his new position nearly a week ago when House Republicans voted to make Rep. Kevin McCarthy House speaker.

“It’s exciting to take on this new role, and you know, I served as [GOP House] whip for eight years, both majority and minority, and really enjoyed that job but the majority leader’s job is even more challenging and exciting so far, I’ve really been enjoying getting into that new job,” Scalise said.

Scalise discussed the first work week as the number two leader in the House.

“Getting last week behind us, you know, having the speaker’s race over and actually bringing bills to the floor, getting our committees up and running,” said Scalise. “We’re still filling some of the committees but I’ve been working with the chairman because the two main jobs of the majority leader is to schedule bills to come to the House floor.”

“But also to work with all the chairs of the committees to make sure, you know, if we need an energy bill on the floor in March, in January and February the Energy and Commerce Committee and the Natural Resources Committee need to be moving the bills out so that we can have those bills ready to bring to the floor.”

Republicans regain control of the House after the midterm election but by a slim majority. And pundits say that will make it harder for the GOP leadership to navigate.

“Well, if you look at the slim majority, a five-seat majority means it’s going to be hard under any circumstances to get, you know, you can only lose four people on a vote, so it’s always going to a challenge to get our agenda through but it also means you need to be working with everybody earlier in the political process when a bill’s being drafted and going into committee, if you had a larger majority you could lose 20 people and still pass the bill, it’s not the case now,” said Scalise.

It took 15 votes to elect McCarthy as House speaker and the frustration of some Republicans was palpable. Scalise was asked if he was surprised at the obvious infighting and tensions on the House floor.

“Yeah, and of course, I was on the floor for a lot of this, so you could see or I was in some of those meetings and you’re having these conversations and there was a lot of, there was some anger, some frustration and it really not just frustration about the day or the week, it was frustration about things that have happened over the years,” he said.

The four days of votes to elect McCarthy fueled speculation that Scalise would become House speaker.

“You know, obviously, there was a lot of talk about that and you know at the end of the day I had said early off that I supported Kevin McCarthy and as long as he was in the mix I was helping him to address the problems that our members had to get there and you know he did get there and we addressed those problems all at the same time and so, what I care about the most is I came to Congress to help fight to get our country back on track,” said Scalise.

Scalise commented on the Republican agenda for this Congress and what part would most benefit Louisiana residents.

“I will start with energy policy, look, our energy policy is so broken right now,” said Scalise. “President Biden has dramatically cut down on permits to do things like explore for new energy in the Gulf of Mexico we’re producing more energy in places like the Gulf of Mexico,” he said.

Scalise added that Gulf of Mexico energy production benefits Louisiana beyond oil and gas industry jobs.

“We only get more coastal restoration money if we’re producing more energy in places like the Gulf of Mexico,” he said.

The first legislation passed by the GOP-majority in the House defunds some of the additional funding passed last year for the Internal Revenue Service, a move Scalise supported.

“Well, we already have over 80,000 people working at the IRS, and look, in all my years in government service I have never had a single person call me and say will you hire more people at the IRS, they would like more people at the border protecting our southern border but to more than double the IRS--they went from 80,000 to now they want to hire another 87,000 to go after lower and middle-income people,” said Scalise.

The Biden administration says increased enforcement would be focused on the very wealthy and large corporations and not people earning less than $400,000 a year. Also, it says a lot of extra money approved for the IRS would help the agency modernize and hire other employees to replace workers who are retiring.

Republicans continue to be dogged by claims they want to cut Social Security.

Scalise was asked about that.

“No, in fact, we want to shore Social Security up, if you look at all of the estimates, you go back to President Obama even President Biden’s Medicare actuaries and Social Security actuaries say those two programs are going bankrupt if we don’t save them from bankruptcy, so why would you want to sit back and just let Social Security go bankrupt, I sure don’t.”

He said fixing Social Security means expanding the workforce.

“When you’re paying people not to work they’re not paying into the Social Security system which makes it less solvent, so we need to get more people into the workforce, stop using government money to pay people through welfare programs not to work and you will strengthen Social Security and make it sustainable,” Scalise stated.

While the November election returned Republicans to leadership in the House, the Senate is still controlled by Democrats and the president is a Democrat.

Scalise was asked about how much of his party’s agenda can realistically become federal law given the political dynamics in Washington.

“You know, we’re going to pass the bills that we feel strongly will help get our country back on track, whether they get through the Senate or not that’s not our decision to make,” said Scalise. “I do think you’re going to see us putting more pressure on the Senate to take up bills because look families are struggling right now, they want to see inflation addressed, they would love to see a smarter energy policy.”

Scalise says he has a good relationship with Minority Leader Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York and some other Democrats even though they often differ in political philosophy.

He also commented on the recent revelation that classified documents were found in an office used by Joe Biden after he ended his time as vice president and papers found at Biden’s home in Delaware.

He said the U.S. Justice Department has dealt with Biden differently than former President Donald Trump. The FBI eventually raided Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida to get the documents while Biden’s lawyers discovered the classified information in Biden’s possession.

“There are a lot of questions being raised right now about why did the Justice Department cover that up when they surely didn’t before the election, with President Trump, so a clear double standard. I think that’s what angers people the most is that they’re not treating people the same,” said Scalise.

His reference to the election was apparently the November 8 midterm election during which Trump backed candidates for the House and Senate.

But the White House says Biden is fully cooperating with investigators and his attorneys claim a small number of papers were found. While Trump is under investigation for allegedly ignoring requests to return hundreds of documents to the National Archives.

“Well, first of all, President Trump was in negotiations with the National Archives over which documents he could retain, again, all presidents take some documents with them to write memoirs, to put in their presidential library,” said Scalise.

Scalise’s second week as House majority leader will include doing more work related to committees. He said in the near-term Republicans will have legislation to secure the border and stop the illegal flow of Fentanyl which has killed Louisianans.

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