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Rep.-elect Waltz, a former Green Beret, shares his congressional vision

More than 150 veterans ran for the House as either Republicans or Democrats during this fall's midterm elections, at a time when many former servicemen and servicewomen in Congress have retired or left for roles in the administration. Florida Republican Rep.-elect Michael Waltz, a former Green Beret, joins Judy Woodruff to discuss how his military background might influence his policies.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Earlier, I spoke with one of those new lawmakers, Representative-elect Michael Waltz. He's a Republican from Florida.

    The former Green Beret is one of 16 military veterans newly elected to serve in Congress. He won the House seat vacated by Ron DeSantis, Florida's Republican candidate for governor.

    I started by asking about how his military service may shape his work in Congress.

  • Rep.-Elect Michael Waltz:

    You know, I can tell you, in the foxhole, nobody cares about race, religion, party, social economic background.

    It is about mission, it's about country, it's about getting things done. I could tell you, from my perspective, compromise is not a dirty word. The voters in my district in North Florida expect us to get things done that's going to better their lives and not sit up here and kind of throw rhetorical grenades.

    So, I can tell you, with veterans, we put our lives on the line at a very early age for this country, and we are determined to see it progress for all Americans.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, I hear you say compromise is not a dirty word.

    So, let's talk about some issues. What about on health care? A lot of conversation about that during the election.

  • Rep.-Elect Michael Waltz:

    Oh, yes.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Do you see the two parties coming together to come up with a bill that covers preexisting conditions, lower the price of prescription drugs, for example?

  • Rep.-Elect Michael Waltz:

    Look, I campaigned hard, as a business owner as well, on the fact that premiums are out of control.

    I am determined to get after the cost of health care. That may be tort reform. That could be market-based systems, selling across state lines, increasing health savings accounts, lowering the cost of prescription drugs, which the president put forward a plan to do. And I think we need to flesh that out, absolutely.

    But if you drive down the cost of care and you put that as a priority, you actually will make it more universal, because more people can afford it. It also helps businesses like mine. It is the fastest growing part of our defense budget, is actually health care, not planes and tanks and ships.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Right.

  • Rep.-Elect Michael Waltz:

    And it also gets after our national debt. It is the biggest driver of our national debt.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Let's talk about foreign policy. You did serve in Afghanistan, several tours.

    Given how long the United States has been there, given the ongoing casualties inflicted by the Taliban, should the U.S. stay there longer, or is it time to come home?

  • Rep.-Elect Michael Waltz:

    I don't think we really have a choice but to remain engaged, because half of the world's terrorist organizations reside in the Afghan-Pakistani border region.

    What we cannot do is just pull the troops out. Look, I would love to get the men and women home. But if we just pull them, like we did in Iraq, you are going to see the situation actually worsen. So the choice here is how do we do it better, not whether we stay engaged.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Two other things. One is immigration.

    Now, there was a bipartisan bill proposed this year, the Hurd-Aguilar legislation, that would have provided a path to permanent residency for young people, the so-called dreamers, also would have put money towards electronic surveillance at the border.

  • Rep.-Elect Michael Waltz:

    Right.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Not so much for a wall. Do you see a compromise on immigration?

  • Rep.-Elect Michael Waltz:

    Frankly, I think what the president offered was an incredible deal on immigration.

    So, it was a million more dreamers with a pathway to citizenship than President Obama offered, but in exchange for we have to secure the border. Otherwise, you're going to have the same problem again going forward.

    And also reforming the legal side of things, you know, with the lottery system, and then also with the other ways that you get a visa through chain migration.

    I sponsored an Afghan soldier to come over who is now actually a U.S. citizen and thriving. But he had fellow soldiers and family members executed for working with Americans overseas. There is over 50,000 of them on a waiting list for the special immigrant visa for Iraqis and Afghans that fought with us.

    So when we talk about who deserves to be here, who has earned the right through a merit-based system, that is what we have to drive towards, not just these kind of more randomized systems that we currently have.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    All right, you are representing the state of Florida. I have to ask you about the recounts under way there, three statewide races.

    Do you believe that, ultimately, those votes will be can counted fairly? I ask because President Trump has said fraud has been committed. Did you know if there is evidence of fraud?

  • Rep.-Elect Michael Waltz:

    We are for, I am certainly for every legal vote being counted. That is the heart of our democracy. That is democracy I have fought and all veterans have fought to defend for our entire's nation's history.

    But this problem in Broward County and Palm — and West Palm has happened cycle after cycle after cycle. So, there needs to be accountability. Whether it is negligence or malfeasance, something is very wrong because it continues to happen.

    So I think we need to get to the bottom of what the issue is and stop it from moving forward, so we don't keep having this problem. The voters deserve better.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But, ultimately, do you think voters can count on there being a fair process?

  • Rep.-Elect Michael Waltz:

    Well, I think we need — we certainly need an investigation to get to the bottom of what happened.

    And I am confident that we are going to have a fair process going forward.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    All right, congressman-elect Michael Waltz, again, congratulations. Thank you.

  • Rep.-Elect Michael Waltz:

    Thank you. Thank you. God bless.

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