What do you think? Leave a respectful comment.

Barrasso on an ‘inspirational’ RNC opening, pandemic aid politics

Throughout the Republican National Convention, the NewsHour will be talking to prominent members of the party, including Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming. He joins Judy Woodruff to discuss his reaction to Night 1 of the RNC, President Trump’s handling of the coronavirus crisis, why Congress hasn’t passed new pandemic aid and what the Republican Party believes is on the ballot this November.

Read the Full Transcript

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And we now have Senator Barrasso.

    Senator Barrasso, we — I was just about to introduce you, and we lost you. And we're so glad that you are back, joining us from Casper, Wyoming. Thank you on this Tuesday night, second night of the convention. Thank you so much.

    So, what are you thinking, and what are your constituents thinking about last night? How did it go?

  • Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo.:

    Well, it was a really good night, I thought, for Republicans last night.

    The opening was so patriotic, inspirational, energetic, and optimistic. And when anybody that had a chance listened closely to Tim Scott, what you have seen is a remarkable man who tells the story of opportunity in America.

    The — you know, the classic line of from cotton to Congress in one lifetime, that's Tim Scott's life. And I would hope that, when you think about Obama's speech in 2004 in Massachusetts, I would hope that this speech by Tim Scott last night propels him in the same way that Obama's convention speech 16 years ago propelled him.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Sounds like you are touting him for a future presidential nomination, but, no question, that was an inspirational speech.

    Senator, one of the things people are talking about — and you're a physician, so I want to raise this — is, of course, the pandemic, and how this — how the Trump campaign, how this convention is talking about what the American people are going through right now.

    I don't have to tell you, more than 177,000 Americans have lost their lives. Millions of Americans have come down with this.

    The president blames it all on China. And it is the case that cases in the U.S. right now, as we come to the end of August, are stabilizing. But if you look at the record in this country since March, the U.S. has done worse than most industrialized nations.

    You compare the U.S. to Germany, for example, almost five times as many deaths, almost five times as many cases, or more than that. Where does the president's responsibility begin and end when it comes to this virus?

  • Sen. John Barrasso:

    Well, number one, it did originate in China. I think the president was acting boldly when he shut down travel from China to the United States, at the same time that Joe Biden was criticizing him, as was Nancy Pelosi, as was the mayor of New York City.

    I think that the Center for Disease Control — and I have said this before — failed with the testing early on. But now we have certainly caught up and gone beyond that, having done over 72 million tests. We're doing about 700,000 a day.

    When you look at the state that had the most deaths, it's New York state, where we know that the governor of New York had people go with the disease from the hospital back to nursing homes, and the deaths in the nursing homes resulted from that.

    So, we can always do better. We're still — as a doctor, I will tell you, we're still learning a lot about the disease. But what I hear from Republicans and hear from people in Wyoming is, we want to path forward, we want to get back to work, we want to get our kids back to school, and we want to get the disease in the rearview mirror.

    And we can do that with better treatments. And we're getting there. We can do that with a vaccine. And we're getting there in record-breaking time. And the testing is helping a lot.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, and, in fact, in that connection, I mean, just this week, the president on Sunday called a special news conference to tout the effects of so-called convalescent plasma as a treatment for COVID.

    But we learned that the scientists in the administration were urging the White House not to do that. They're saying there isn't the evidence yet that it should be used.

    Just today, the head of the FDA said, he spoke too soon. He regretted giving it a green light, in so many words.

    Is science being listened to in this administration?

  • Sen. John Barrasso:

    Well, science is being listened to, most certainly, and science is being focused on, which is why so much effort is being done in coming up with a vaccine.

    From the beginning, we have said, until we get a vaccine that works that we can disseminate widely, and people take, not just in the United States, but around the world, we will continue to have to deal with coronavirus. And this will be the fastest vaccine development in the history of mankind.

    But I must point out that, just this past Saturday, Nancy Pelosi brought the House of Representatives back to Congress to pass a bill unrelated to jobs, the needs of American people, trying to get kids back to school or the vaccine or treating the disease.

    And all she wanted to do was focus on the post office, at a time when 68 of her members didn't even come back to vote. And 137 of them wrote to her and said, we ought to be doing more for people who are suffering right now.

    She ignored all of us. And those are the kind of roadblocks that Republicans and President Trump are running into on Capitol Hill with Nancy Pelosi.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, we know there's concern about election integrity.

    But what I want to ask you about — I mean, it's also the speaker of the House who, at the end of the month of May, they passed legislation to provide economic, financial relief to Americans who are suffering because of this pandemic.

    To this date, the Senate has not acted. We know there have been negotiations between the House and the White House. But if this recovery doesn't take off on Main Street America, then what — how does the Senate explain its inaction?

  • Sen. John Barrasso:

    Well, let's first take a look at what Nancy Pelosi passed.

    It's a over $3 trillion what I call a visit to Fantasy Island. Over a trillion dollars of it has nothing to do with coronavirus. Even National Public Radio said that this was never intended to pass. It was just a liberal wish list, because it includes money for environmental justice and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And they did agree to bring the amount down to $2 trillion, you're right, as a — in a move to compromise.

  • Sen. John Barrasso:

    But they didn't really want to focus on the issues that we want to focus on, which is a targeted relief bill for people who are suffering, for people who want to get back to work, for our schools and for the vaccine.

    On Sunday — on Saturday, she rejected an amendment on the vaccine. She rejected amendments on trying to help people who are out of work, because she's playing politics, at a time that the American public want a solution, a safe return to life, a path forward, and some common sense.

    We're not seeing that coming out of Pelosi. And, of course, Chuck Schumer in the Senate, he is her deputy. He will do whatever she tells him to do.

    And we're focused on a targeted relief to get people back to work, kids back to school, and the disease in the rearview mirror.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Senator, just in the time that we have left, we know there's no platform, formal platform being put forward at this Republican Convention. That's very unusual.

    I think all the conventions I have ever covered in my career, there's been a platform. Does that say that this is the party of Donald Trump, and whatever President Trump believes is the party?

  • Sen. John Barrasso:

    Well, Judy, a couple things.

    As you know, I chaired the platform committee at 2016. And you and I had a chance to sit down with David Brooks and Mark Shields. So, I regretted I wasn't able to be there with you at the beginning of this show tonight.

    But I think you would have to judge a president on promises made and promises kept. And we have seen that. And we're also going to see the president talk about the path to the future.

    And if this is an election the Democrats said is going to be about character, it's also going to be about taxes, where the Democrats want to raise taxes by $4 million — by $4 trillion. It's going to be about the economy and getting people back to work.

    And Joe Biden is talking about shutting down the country again, in spite of the bad impacts on people's overall health and mental health, as well as on the economic health of the country. It's going to be about law enforcement. It's going to be about liberty.

    There are lots of things on the ballot. And I think it's going to be a very clear contrast when people go to vote in November.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    We are going to leave it there.

    Senator John Barrasso, joining us from Casper, Wyoming, thank you very much.

  • Sen. John Barrasso:

    Thanks, Judy.

Listen to this Segment