Al Hunt: GOP Congress 'Not Interested in Getting Things Done'; May 'Screw Up' Great Economy

In an interview with newly elected Colorado Senator Cory Gardner for PBS's Charlie Rose, Bloomberg View columnist Al Hunt grilled the Republican on conservatives in Congress being obstructionist: "Some of your Republican colleagues, Ted Cruz in the Senate, those twenty-four House members who voted against Speaker Boehner, they're not interested in getting things done as much as they are in putting down markers. Isn't it more likely there'll be a series of confrontations rather than any kind of collaboration?"

Later in the same interview, Hunt cheered how well the economy was doing but worried the new Republican Congress could ruin it: "The report came out Friday morning that we – 600,000 jobs in the last two months, unemployment down to five, six. We are the envy of the world right now. And I guess the question is: Is there any danger Congress will screw it up?"

Early in the exchange, Hunt pressed Gardner on whether he would move to the left as a senator: "You also are going from representing one of the most conservative, the Republican districts in the state of Colorado, to representing a state that, as we said earlier, really is, if anything, Democratic-leaning, a different constituency. Does that change your approach, does that change your views about some issues?"

Minutes later, on the topic of immigration, Hunt again worried about supposed Republican stubbornness: "There are some House Republicans who are proposing now, with the Homeland Security authorization, that they would deny funding for Obama's executive action in November and some would go even and deny funding for the DREAMer's action in 2012. Is that helpful? Is that constructive?"

Hunt followed up by warning of political damage for the GOP on the issue: "Do you worry that if you don't get this done, that that problem with Latino voters in the next presidential election is going to be even greater?"

Here are excerpts of the January 14 exchange:

11:30 PM ET

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AL HUNT: You also are going from representing one of the most conservative, the Republican districts in the state of Colorado, to representing a state that, as we said earlier, really is, if anything, Democratic-leaning, a different constituency. Does that change your approach, does that change your views about some issues?

SEN. CORY GARDNER [R-CO]: I think one of the things that we've always been very attentive to is making sure that we're up-front, where we stand on policies like immigration, where we are in terms of economic policies. And the people of Colorado, I think, they're willing to make sure that, you know, maybe you disagree with them on this issue or that issue or they disagree with me on this issue or that issue, but the bottom line is this: As long as they believe that their elected official, whether they're in the House or the Senate, the governor's office, is actually trying to make progress, trying to move the ball forward, they're going to be, they're going to give you the benefit of the doubt. As long as they believe you're working hard, you're genuinely trying to make a difference.

HUNT: I'm struck by your optimism to that first question, and yet, Washington hasn't seen a lot of optimism in the last decade or two. Some of your Republican colleagues, Ted Cruz in the Senate, those twenty-four House members who voted against Speaker Boehner, they're not interested in getting things done as much as they are in putting down markers. Isn't it more likely there'll be a series of confrontations rather than any kind of collaboration?

GARDNER: I think everybody's interested in getting things done. That's why we went here, that's why people ran for Congress in the first place. They got elected to actually accomplish things.

HUNT: Even those twenty-four members of the House?

GARDNER: Everyone, I believe they did. And so – now maybe they have different goals about what it is that they want to accomplish, but I believe it is about making a better place here in Washington, here across the country tomorrow, than it is today.

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11:34 PM ET

HUNT: Let me ask you about immigration because that's been a big issue in your state. There are some House Republicans who are proposing now, with the Homeland Security authorization, that they would deny funding for Obama's executive action in November and some would go even and deny funding for the DREAMer's action in 2012. Is that helpful? Is that constructive?

GARDNER: I hope that we, as Republicans, we as Democrats in Congress, instead of just saying no to this or no to that, we can actually come with a solution to a problem that needs to be addressed. And clearly immigration is one of those issues that we have a problem with. And it needs to be addressed in this country. Our system isn't working right now, it's broken.

Just saying no to something, to me, isn't the way that we have to go. I believe we have to do more. I believe what the President did, even the President, himself, has said, was wrong. That he lacked the constitutional authority to do it. Just a couple of years ago, time and time again, he said he lacked the legal authority to do what he did and then he turns around and does it.

HUNT: But they claim they do have the constitutional authority.

GARDNER: Now. I mean, a year ago or two years ago he didn't and now he's saying-

HUNT: But you supported the DREAMers action, didn't you?

GARDNER: I believe that we have to – that ultimately be part of a solution, but we have to start with a secure border, we have to start with a guest worker program. Those are things that the American people support. They want to show, and it be proven, that we can actually handle some of these bigger issues like border security now.

HUNT: But do you think it's possible to get some kind of an accord that includes some legal status or citizenship for almost all of the eleven million undocumenteds that are here?

GARDNER: I think at some point that will be one of the solutions that is reached. But right now, Republicans should put forward a bill that starts with border security, addresses a meaningful guest worker program, because without a workable guest worker program, you do not have border security. Let's put those pieces in place, make sure they work, and then we can move forward to additional solutions that are – that must be a part of the overall fix to immigration.

HUNT: You did well with Latino voters this year, for a Republican, you really courted them and you were very aggressive. But the party has a problem. Do you worry that if you don't get this done, that that problem with Latino voters in the next presidential election is going to be even greater?

GARDNER: You know, it's not about voters. It's not about what happens in 2016 or 2018. It's about what happens to our country. Yeah, I mean, this is about – our daughter – our son will soon be going to school – our daughter goes to school with a number of people who either parents came here without documentation or they, themselves, are here without documentation. They go to school with our children, they're in our communities, they've made our country stronger. We, most of us, are a nation here because of immigration. And so how do we make these fixes that we know are in the best interest of our country?

(...)

11:39 PM ET

HUNT: I want to ask you one question about the economy. The report came out Friday morning that we – 600,000 jobs in the last two months, unemployment down to five, six. We are the envy of the world right now. And I guess the question is: Is there any danger Congress will screw it up?

GARDNER: Look, never underestimate the ability of Congress to screw something up, so we have to make sure that we change that, that that doesn't become the norm as it is previous to this. Excited about the numbers, however, the labor participation rate still remains about where it was, meaning that there are many Americans out of the workforce who simply have given up looking for work. They're out, they're not working anymore. It's at historic highs, remains at historic highs.

And I think the key into our economy – and this is part of the people who voted for our campaign, independents, Democrats, who voted for Cory Gardner in November, they've been working harder than ever. Maybe they have two jobs. Maybe they're in the same job. Maybe they're looking for a better-paying job. They've been working harder than ever, but for the past ten, fifteen, twenty years, they're earning the same amount of money. And so, while the haves have more, the have nots have less. That's really what's wrong with our economy. You scratch the numbers behind this economy and what you get to is the unevenness and the fact people are suffering.

(...)

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