Transcript of Senator Cassidy Interview

Transcript of the Oracle’s December 9th interview with Senator Bill Cassidy

This document is as error free as possible, as it was transcribed from an audio recording.

This document is the property of the Blair Oracle.

Cassidy “Hey y’all Bill Cassidy here; thank y’all for being on”

Tys “Hi Senator Cassidy, I’m Tys Sweeney, Editor of the Blair Oracle at Blair Academy. I have with me—”

Cassidy “Which Academy?”

Tys “Blair Academy, in New Jersey.”

Cassidy “Gotcha, okay.”

Tys “I have with me Jamie Phelan, one of our political writers, and Sam Hamway, another of our political writers taking notes for us, and the Head of School just listening in with us. So, I’ll introduce you to Jamie—”

Cassidy “Now where is your Academy in New Jersey?”

Fortunato “This is Chris Fortunato, the Head of School. We’re in northwestern New Jersey — Blairstown — which is a little outside of Pennsylvania and about an hour west of New York City. Thanks for being on today.”

Cassidy “Oh now problem. My son is in school in Philadelphia, so I have a little bit of familiarity with it, and am good friends with some of your Congressmen. And so anyway, glad to be on with y’all.”

Fortunate “Thank you.”

Tys “Well thank you Senator Cassidy it’s a pleasure to have you here.”

Cassidy “What’s your question, or questions?”

Jamie “Well first of all I’d like to thank you for making time out of your day to do this for us. This is very important, to us. We’ve written out a list of questions, and we’ll just go down the list with what time we have. and so to start: [questions below]”

You were born in Illinois, but went to LSU; what made you pursue a political career in Louisiana rather than Illinois?

“My family moved to Louisiana when I was eight months old, or thereabouts, so although my obituary will say I was born in Illinois, my whole life has been in Louisiana, except for eight years when I was in Los Angeles doing my medical resume. So I’m a product of that state, not of Illinois, in kind of a real emotional and intellectual sense.”

What is your opinion of Senator McConnell pulling the Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act out of the Highway bill revealed last Tuesday? Does your position on the VA committee affect your views?

“Well, probably. I tend to approach thing differently, just because I have a different background, but some of the issues of that particular bill, is, for example, is it paid for. So, as sometimes, kind of ‘should that matter,’ the reality is the Federal Budget is zero sum, in the sense that, if one thing is paid for, another is not. Or, we borrow money and we enter more deeply in debt as a country. So the problem, you know, any person who is a leader, it always looks easy, if you are not that leader, to make the decisions that we would want made. The nature of being a leader is that you have to take the whole picture into account. We could pay for it, I suppose, by decreasing the amount of money available for student loans for those going to university, but that wouldn’t be very good. Or we could pay for it by decreasing the amount of money available to build highways – I’ve been in New Jersey traffic – I suspect that wouldn’t be great. We can go down the list of pressing priorities, so I think his challenges, among others, is how do you find the money to pay for something, however worthy the cause, it is still going to come from someplace else.”

In your early career, you were a Democrat, and even supported Mary Landrieu in 2002, who you defeated in 2014. What prompted you to change your political affiliation?

“I think it’s fair to say that the Democratic party has moved steadily to the left over the last two decades. In my state, it is a working class state. It is a state where a family, if they want to ascend to a higher economic level – send their kids to better schools – they’ll do as my dad did: my dad didn’t graduate from college; he sold life insurance. But he sold life insurance to the folks that worked at what is now called Exxon-Mobil, or folks who worked building pipelines, folks who worked in the tugboat industry. Arguably, the democratic policies, which are prejudicial against such industry, are hurting the working man. You can talk to the folks who had the trade unions that were strongly in favor of Keystone XL pipeline and bitterly disappointed when the President decided to veto something would have created 40,000 construction jobs. And the President’s kind of reason for not doing so – he poo pooed those jobs, saying ‘oh it’s just jobs that last for a few of weeks or a few of months.’ I have to smile; when he first came into office he put forth a stimulus package – a stimulus package which emphasized strongly construction jobs. Why do construction jobs only matter if they are paid for with a stimulus package, but they do not matter if they are paid for with private equity? Or, it isn’t just those construction jobs, it is the permanent manufacturing jobs, or it is the mining jobs associated with the extraction of the oil and gas in the first place. So the Democratic Party has moved beyond a concern for those workers, and many of the policies which they institute destroy their jobs. I’m for those workers – they are those who I think about when I go to bed at night, and that is why I am a Republican.”

What are your views on gun control? In the wake of recent mass shootings, do you stand with the majority of your party on gun legislation? Do you think the Second Amendment extends to the sale of semi and fully automatic rifles to the general public?

“Well the Second Amendment… I think you’ve asked an implicit question as well as an explicit question. The explicit question: does the Second Amendment have limitations? Yes it does. You obviously cannot buy a bazooka, we cannot buy an automatic weapon. So every now and then Congress will put limits on the Second Amendment, and those have been found okay. But your implicit question is ‘Would those limits have done something which would have prevented some of these mass shootings that we’ve had.’ And the answer to that is clearly no. Chicago has – first let’s not go into mass shooting, but shooting in general – Chicago has some of the toughest gun laws in the nation, and Chicago has one of the highest, per capita, murder incidences in the nation. California has some of the toughest gun laws in the nation, and it just was the home of the San Bernardino shootings, among which, those terrorists had pipe bombs. Now are we talking about restricting access to pipes? Of course we’re not. But they were nonetheless able to assemble those weapons necessary. I’ll also point out that Paris has extremely tough gun laws, and yet those who just carried out the Paris massacres were the ones who were still able to circumvent them. As we make an allusion to France, there is a line in The Count of Monte Cristo, and in The Count of Monte Cristo some character says something along the lines of ‘The Government has just confiscated all the firearms’ at which point the Count of Monte Cristo responds ‘I’m sure the criminals are quite pleased.’ So the point being, that a setting in which a mass shooting was prevented, was when a security officer, in Texas, happened to have a revolver, and when terrorists showed up with semi-automatic weapons to inflict harm, he shot them before they were able to inflict their harm. I would argue, law abiding people having weapons to protect themselves is a better way of protecting yourself against mass shootings than to think that the criminal is going to obey the law when you criminalize the possession of a weapon.

Do you think that it is right to constantly focus on repealing Obamacare if the measures to repeal have already failed so many times? Is it worth the American people’s time to constantly focus on repeal without proposing counter legislation?

“First: I have proposed counter legislation, and have filed such legislation. And it’s been well received, and praised, as serious alternative legislation; but elected representatives don’t propose things in a vacuum, elected representatives propose things that their constituents ask to be proposed. The American people continue to be extremely upset about Obamacare. There’s an article today – it may have been New York Times, may have been Wall Street Journal or Washington Post, but you could easily Google and find it – in which they speak about how the penalties for not having policy are about to be instituted, and if a person does not purchase a policy under the individual mandate, they’re about to be fined $900 per year. The article points out it’s extremely unpopular. Now, the American people want that portion of Obamacare repealed. The Cadillac Tax has been in the news; unions bargained in the past to have more generous health care benefits, and in their bargaining they gave up income in exchange for richer insurance policies. Obamacare taxes those middle class workers who give up income to have more generous insurance benefits. Obamacare taxes them with the so called ‘Cadillac Tax.’ Now, those workers want that portion of Obamacare repealed. So when these bills come up, to do this or that about Obamacare, it is a response to the American people’s anger about how the law in being implemented. Now, another part of your question, implicitly, was should Republicans have alternatives? ABSOLUTELY. Absolutely. And that’s why I’ve done my best to propose alternatives, and have worked with people from both sides of the aisle to look at these as alternatives to Obamacare.”

You were working on legislation with Senator Susan Collins of Maine that would presumably fix some issues with the Affordable Care Act and allow states to make changes to certain policies. Could you elaborate on what policies could be changed by states that wished to do so?

“Yeah, that was what we called the Patient Freedom Act, and would have been – if the Supreme Court had ruled against the Administration in King v. Burwell – would have given states an option to do something different than Obamacare. The problems of Obamacare are myriad; among them are that there are still about 33 million people who are uninsured, that the costs are exploding, and that premiums are up. The President promised premiums would go down $2500 per family, and they’re up probably 3 to 4 thousand dollars per family. Heh. I’m chuckling; I just had a guy from home in Louisiana send me his insurance quote. The insurance he paid $200 a month for last year is quote this year, is over $900 a month. He goes from $2400 a year to roughly 11 thousand dollars a year. That’s what people are running into. So what we proposed is that the money that a state would receive would – most people in their state that are eligible for Obamacare sign up, and, and if the state took the Medicaid expansion, we would send those dollars to the state. And the state would then give all those who are eligible – unless the person opted out – a health savings account with a catastrophic policy on top. If the individual, though, wished she or he could do something besides to have a health savings account; they could pool their money with their family members and buy a family policy, or they could sign it to their employer to pay for the employee’s portion of the employer sponsored insurance. A variety of things, that because the person would automatically be enrolled unless they chose not to be, would make that 33 million people uninsured basically nobody uninsured. But also, instead of someone having a $6000 deductible in a bronze level plan now they’d have, with now way to fill in the gap between 0 and $6000, and that is a huge problem with Obamacare policies, they would actually have a health savings account with first dollar coverage in case their daughter needed to go to the emergency room to have her earache checked out, they’d have first dollar [coverage] for it. But also the price transparency, so when she took her daughter to the urgent care center, they’d have a fee schedule knowing how much it would charge her. She would be charged [similar to (words garbled)] a comparison shop. She can go to this urgent care center for $50 for a visit, or that one for 150 but the x-rays and the lab tests are all thrown in. So, we need to create a marketplace where someone can purchase health care as they would bluejeans: they can make a comparison on price, convenience, and quality, and then make the decision that fits with their budget. That is a major reform that we have that Obamacare is lacking.

Did you watch President Obama’s Oval Office address this week? If so, what are your thoughts on his statements? Overall, what do you think America’s best options are in the Middle East to deal with ISIL?

“First, if you watched it, did you feel reassured, after you watched it, that he had a plan on how to defeat ISIS?”

Jamie “I think he’s been repeating a lot of what he’s been saying over the past few weeks, so I will admit that I did not feel that much more reassured.”

Senator Cassidy “And seeing as just before the San Bernardino attack he had mentioned that we did not need to worry about ISIS coming to our shores, and then San Bernardino happened. Now, he said just before the Paris attacks that ISIS was contained, and then we had the Paris attacks. And as you put it, he has been repeating that which he has previously been saying. I think a lot of us have the sense that the President doesn’t know what he’s doing. So, what could we do differently? Well, General Petraeus has recommended – and others, even Secretary Clinton has now joined with this – to create safe havens within Syria. And those safe havens would be where there would be a no fly zone, Assad could not barrel-bomb them, ISIS could not penetrate, and would be protected by coalition forces, but now instead of feeling as if they have to flee to Europe to be safe, people could stay in Syria and rebuild their communities. Within that you begin to rebuilt civic society, so that whenever you do transition to a government not headed by Assad, that you would now have community leaders and community organizations which could then fill the void of that which has been destroyed by civil war. The President is clearly not going after all the assets that ISIS has been using to finance their operations. They gave this weak excuse that they did not want to cause civilian casualties. What was San Bernardino? Civilian casualties. What was Paris? Civilian casualties. What is Mosul, where and entire population is enslaved by ISIS, but civilian casualties. So, the President, in his delicateness about going after oil tankers, has allowed tens of millions of dollars, if not hundreds of millions, to flow to ISIS and their ability to purchase weapons and continue a war. You go after that aggressively. At some point, we don’t know what the President has not done; we all assumed he had been shutting off their revenue from the sale of oil. It turns out we had not begun to do so until three weeks ago. So, we actually need an inventory of what the President has not done before we can say what we can do, but we’d better start by shutting off the money they get from selling oil. If not, we are going to be battling them for a lot longer, and a lot more intensely, than the President has been willing to admit, is the case.”

Cassidy “Hey gentlemen, I enjoyed the questions. They were good questions and very thoughtful, so thank you for them.”

Tys “Thank you Mr. Senator, you’ve helped us understand politics a lot. So thank you, and have a wonderful day.

Cassidy “You too, bye bye.”

Tys Sweeney

Founder & Editor-in-Chief Emeritus

Tys Sweeney '17 founded the Blair Oracle in April 2015. He wrote news, fiction, poetry, and announcements for the publication until he graduated in 2017. He served as Editor-in-Chief until 2016 and was succeeded by Seth Kim.