BLAIR – This week students Jamie Phelan and Tys Sweeney interviewed Senator Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R- Louisiana). Many thanks to Spencer Quinn for putting us in touch with his brother, James Quinn, the Senator’s Chief of Staff, who arranged the interview. Thanks also to Harry Moore and Sam Hamway for contributing questions.
First Cassidy elucidated why he pursued public office in Louisiana, though he was born in Illinois. The Senator’s family moved to Louisiana when he was very young, and he is very much “a product of [Louisiana], not of Illinois, in kind of a real emotional and intellectual sense.”
Senator Cassidy was formerly a Democrat, and even gave money to the 2002 senatorial campaign of former Senator Mary Landrieu, a Louisiana Democrat, who he ultimately defeated in the 2014 election. Cassidy pointed out that the Democratic party, which used to be more conservative, particularly in the South, “has moved steadily to the left over the last two decades.”
The Senator further explained his shift in political affiliation, stating that Louisiana is “a working-class state” with jobs in construction, oil refineries, oil extraction, and the tugboat industry. Cassidy believes that “the Democratic Party has moved beyond a concern for those workers, and many of the policies which they institute destroy their jobs.” He cited the Democrat’s stance on the Keystone XL Pipeline, which would have connected Canadian oil fields with refineries in the American South. The Democrats opposed the construction of the pipeline for environmental reasons, but Cassidy was concernedthat the “trade unions [were] bitterly disappointed when the President decided to veto something would have created 40,000 construction jobs.” Given the Democratic drift away from support for the industries so important to the Louisiana economy, the Senator explained “that is why I am a Republican.”
We also discussed with Cassidy Senator McConnell’s pulling of the Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act from the Highway bill, something hotly discussed in the news lately. The Zadroga Act would have provided Federal monetary to support to 9/11 first responders who fell ill due to their service following the terrorist attack. Though his position on the Veterans Affairs Committee “probably” affects his views, he stated that it is an issue of the bill being“ paid for.” He went on to ask “‘should [finding the funds] matter’” in this case, because of it is a good cause, but that the “Federal Budget is zero sum, in the sense that, if one thing is paid for, another is not.” While to many people, including those 9/11 First Responders affected, the issue seems clear cut, the Senator pointed out that “however worthy the cause, [the money] is still going to come from someplace else.” While the Government could certainly pay for it if they wanted to, Cassidy defended the Republican position, saying “[w]e could pay for it … by decreasing the amount of money available for student loans for those going to university, but that wouldn’t be very good.”
When discussing Obamacare and the continued Republican effort to reform or repeal it, he said “I have proposed counter legislation… it’s been well received… as [a] serious alternative” He went on to illustrate how his constituents are being negatively affected by the Affordable Care act, noting, “The insurance [a certain constituent] paid $200 a month for last year is quote this year, is [now] over $900 a month.” The Senator discussed the Cadillac Tax and penalties for not signing up for health insurance under Obamacare, both of which his constituents are against. Cassidy also stated that even with the “myriad” problems with Obamacare, “should Republicans have alternatives? ABSOLUTELY. Absolutely.” Providing good healthcare to the masses is a difficult thing to do, and Cassidy says he has “worked with people from both sides of the aisle to look at these as alternatives to Obamacare,” such as his proposal with Senator Susan Collins (R- Maine) to fix some of these problems on a state-by-state basis. Called the Patient Freedom Act, it would have “given states an option to do something different than Obamacare.” Allowing people more options, Cassidy says, “would make that 33 million people uninsured basically nobody uninsured.” Describing the goal of the plan, he said “we need to create a marketplace where someone can purchase health care as they would blue jeans: they can make a comparison on price, convenience, and quality, and then make the decision that fits with their budget.”
Given the hundreds of mass shootings this year in the United States, and the terrorist attacks in Paris this past November, the Senator also discussed his views on both gun legislation and counter-terrorism measures. President Obama gave his Oval Office Address this past Sunday, in which terrorism and ISIL were major topics, and Cassidy pointed out that people were not “reassured” by his address, “seeing as just before the San Bernardino attack, [President Obama] had mentioned that we did not need to worry about ISIS coming to our shores.” The Senator went on to say that “a lot of us have the sense that the President doesn’t know what he’s doing” in regards to dealing with ISIL. He also discussed how many Republicans have formulated plans for taking care of ISIL and the growing refugee crisis, including a proposed plan to “to create safe havens within Syria” that even Democrat Hillary Clinton has voiced support for. He stated that America needs to target the flow of capital to ISIL as an immediate priority, and stated that “[Congress] need[s] 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.” To further emphasize this point, Cassidy said that “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.”
In discussing gun control in the United States, and whether the Second Amendment has limitations, Cassidy said that “Yes it does. You obviously cannot buy a bazooka.” However, he also stated that if too much gun control legislation was enacted, only criminals would be able to obtain guns, which, he says, would not prevent crime. He argued that “law abiding people having weapons … is a better way of protecting … against mass shootings than to think that … criminal[s are] going to obey the law when you criminalize the possession of a weapon.”
We were happy to hear that Senator Cassidy found our questions “good … and very thoughtful.” It was truly informative to interview an American Statesman, so if you would like to peruse Senator Cassidy’s full responses, we have included them in a concise transcript of the conversation.
William Morgan “Bill” Cassidy (born September 28, 1957) is an American physician and politician currently serving as the junior U.S. Senator from the state of Louisiana. He is a member of the Republican Party and served as the U.S. Representative for Louisiana’s 6th Congressional District from 2009 to 2015.
Tys Sweenes – James Phelan – Sam Hamway – Harry Moore – Dr. Higgin
(Copyright 2015 Blair Oracle. Article written with permission of the Office of Senator Cassidy.)