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Scalise on Trump’s reelection message, coronavirus aid and health care

Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., one of his party’s top-ranking members of Congress, is addressing the Republican National Convention Monday night. He also represents the first district of Louisiana, where residents are bracing for not one, but two tropical storms this week. Scalise joins Judy Woodruff to discuss those topics, plus the USPS, passing coronavirus relief legislation and health care.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Congressman Steve Scalise is the second highest ranking Republican in the House, and he's just hours away from speaking later this evening at the Republican National Convention.

    He also represents the 1st District of Louisiana, where, as we reported earlier, locals are bracing for not one, but two tropical storms.

    Representative Scalise joins me now from New Orleans.

    Congressman Scalise, so good to see you. Thank you very much for talking with us.

    What do you think the main message…

  • Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La.:

    Good to be with you.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Absolutely.

    What do you think the main message should be from this Republican Convention? How much of it should be about Donald Trump, and how much of it should be criticizing Joe Biden and the Democrats?

  • Rep. Steve Scalise:

    Well, really, Judy, I think, first of all, through the week, you are going to see a vision for what we need to do to get the country back on track through COVID-19.

    And everybody is dealing with it all around the globe. But here in America, there are a lot of things that we are doing to, number one, help people safely reopen, whether it is businesses or schools.

    But, also, there's this rush towards making sure we can put all the energy of the FDA and other agencies to find a cure and a vaccine. And we're very close to some remarkable breakthroughs there. And so the president, I think really his message needs to be what he has done to deliver on the promises that he has made over the last four years, delivering for hardworking families.

    We built the greatest economy our country has ever seen just over the last two years. And now we are at COVID. Obviously, things are different. But who best to bring us back through that than the president who already did it?

  • Judy Woodruff:

    President Trump said today at the Republican National Convention, he said he and the Republicans have always protected preexisting conditions.

    But he is now — his administration is asking the Supreme Court to throw out the Affordable Care Act, which protects preexisting conditions.

  • Rep. Steve Scalise:

    Well, the problem with the Affordable Care Act is, it is not affordable.

    You can look and see how premiums have gone up dramatically. Millions of people lost the good health care they had. That old promise, if you like what you have, you can keep it, probably the most broken promise in the history of politics.

    What President Trump wants to do is focus on letting patients and doctors decide the best health care, not Washington bureaucrats, and lowering premiums, while protecting preexisting conditions.

    That is not happening right now. The premiums are too high, where people with preexisting conditions even right now are paying in some cases $10,000 deductibles. And they can't even afford the free health care that — quote, unquote — "that was sold to them."

    So, we need to focus on rebuilding and strengthening our health care system, giving people real options, buying across state lines, protecting people with preexisting conditions by lowering premiums for everybody, not by raising them, where everybody is paying too much.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, it is a much bigger subject protecting preexisting conditions.

    But my point is that that has been a central feature of the Affordable Care Act. And that is something that the Trump administration is trying to dismantle.

    But I want to ask you about COVID relief, Congressman Scalise.

    As you know, the House passed the Democrats' version of COVID relief. It was at the end of May. So, it was three months ago. Then the Democrats offered to reduce the $3 trillion price tag to $2 trillion. The Republicans still have not passed legislation in the Senate, so that the two sides can get together and work this out.

    This is not the way things are supposed to work in Washington, is it?

  • Rep. Steve Scalise:

    Well, I would like to see everybody at the table.

    And, in fact, you saw Mark Meadows, the president's chief of staff, over at the Capitol just the last few days trying to meet with Speaker Pelosi, and she was too busy. She would not meet with him.

    When you won't sit down and meet with the president's chief of staff, you are showing you are not serious. They brought us in Saturday to do this vote on the post office, when the post office themself has said they have enough money to get through the middle of next year.

    Our small businesses need help right now. Families need help and relief. We have got, Judy, over $500 billion of money that we have sent out in the CARES Act and all the relief packages that is not spent yet, over $500 billion.

    I would say, before we get into a negotiation of how many more trillions we give, for example, to states like New York that were already having problems beforehand, we can't be worried about bailing out states that had their own problems. We need to be worried about saving small businesses, helping schools safely reopen, making sure hospitals can get through this.

    That is where the focus needs to be. And for whatever reason, Speaker Pelosi won't sit down and have that conversation. So, hopefully, that happens.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But it's the — but, in terms of the Congress, it is the House and the Senate. And the Senate has not passed legislation, so there can't be a negotiation.

  • Rep. Steve Scalise:

    Right.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    That's what I'm asking.

    And, as you know, it takes 60 votes in the Senate. So, unlike the House, Speaker Pelosi can bring any bill she wants. She has brought many partisan bills that she knew would never go anywhere that she has passed.

    But, in the Senate, even if every Republican was for a bill, because of their rules with the 60-vote requirement, Chuck Schumer and Democrats can and have blocked a lot of those bills.

    So, it's kind of hard to bring a bill through the Senate, when the minority party wants to block even a discussion about it, let alone trying to get a solve, solution.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Two other quick things I want to ask you about, Congressman Scalise.

    One is QAnon. You supported the opponent to Marjorie Taylor Greene, who is running for a congressional seat in the state of Georgia. She won that race. Do you now support her and the others, even though they have made these statements in support of these conspiracy theories around QAnon?

  • Rep. Steve Scalise:

    Well, look, I had to go Google what that was when I was asked about it after she won the primary.

    In the end, look, I'm focused on relief packages, helping families get back. That's what my — the calls to my office are. It's not on QAnon.

    I mean, look, there's — there's real major terrorist — domestic terrorist groups like Antifa out there. I don't hear the other side trying to be asked about whether or not they endorse or oppose that.

    But, at the end of day, it is the voters of Georgia that are going to decide that race, just like in any election.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    I understand that. And we do report on the activities of groups like Antifa.

    But are you saying that you would welcome to the House candidates who has spoken out, who — clearly anti-black, anti-Muslim, in the statements they have made in their campaigns?

  • Rep. Steve Scalise:

    Well, look, I have been very vocal.

    And, as you mentioned, I was not supporting her in that primary. But, at the end of the day, it is the people of each district that decide who their representative is. It is not me.

    Clearly, I serve with a lot of people who have very different views today in the current Congress, whether they are Republican or Democrat. We don't all agree with each other on any given day.

    But you work with people. And you work to solve problems. And, if somebody makes inflammatory statements, racist statements, you call it out.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Finally, Congressman Scalise, these two tropical storms headed to the Gulf, potentially to the New Orleans area, what's the concern right now about these? And is Louisiana prepared?

  • Rep. Steve Scalise:

    Yes, I have been in contact with our governor, with all of the parish presidents throughout Southeast Louisiana that I represent, along the Gulf Coast of Mississippi.

    You work and prepare for the worst, but you pray for the best, and that is what we are all doing. Everybody is, I think, stepping up and getting people prepared. And people are, I think, properly taking precautions.

    A lot of people have evacuated the lower-lying areas. And where I am in New Orleans, in this region, we have — we are ready to hunker down and hopefully get through it and not have real damage.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Congressman Steve Scalise, thank you very much.

  • Rep. Steve Scalise:

    Great being with you, Judy. Thank you.

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