A Conference Call With 5 Republican Senators

Earlier tonight, I was fortunate enough to get in on a rolling conference with 5 different Republican Senators sponsored by the Senate Republican Conference. Moreover, probably because the subject line of the email gave the impression that the event was in Washington, there were only a handful of other bloggers on there.

The general idea was supposed to be that the Senators talked about Bush’s upcoming State of the Union speech, but we just asked them about whatever came to mind when it was time to ask questions. Here’s a quick and dirty rundown from my notes of what was discussed.

Jim DeMint

We opened up with a Senator who’s quickly becoming one of my favorites, Jim DeMint.

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He said that every American would support the NSA program if they understood the program.

Furthermore, he noted Democrats are going to try to block almost everything Republicans do and try to cause us to fail. We have to keep that in mind with the legislative agenda.

On illegal immigration, he said that the President understands many conservatives are unhappy with his illegal immigration stance because the GOP Senators have told him so. He said the GOP has got to convince Americans we’ll secure the border and stop illegal immigration before we start talking about a guest worker program.

I asked the Senator if he supported Tom Coburn and John McCain’s plan to challenge every earmark in the Senate. He said that he did and furthermore, he said he’d like to see more money sent in block grants to the states instead of letting the Federal government dole it out.

Chuck Grassley

He said the economy grew more in the last 4 years than any time during the nineties and tax cuts brought this about along with increased government revenue. But, the President’s poll numbers on the economy are bad because the liberal press never gives Republican Presidents credit for good economies.

He said immigration is the #1 issue with his constituents
#2 is health care
Last, he said Bush should address Iraq.

He also thought the President should brag more about his accomplishments.

In reference to Alito, he said that Republicans may not be as tolerant of liberal judges if there is a democratic President because of how the Democrats have behaved with judges during the Bush administration.

I mentioned that Mike Pence said, after the RSC retreat, that their top priorities were budget reform, marriage amendment and lobbying reform. Do you think a marriage amendment is a key priority this year and if so, do you think it has any chance passing?

Grassley said he would vote for it, but, that isn’t something that comes up a lot at town hall meetings. Education & the high cost of medical care are the ones that come up a lot at those meetings.

He also pointed out that illegal immigration is a hot issue. Iowans believe in the rule of law and resent people crossing the border illegally. Even recent legal immigrants say that.

Rick Santorum

Senator Santorum gave some generic remarks about the President’s upcoming State of the Union speech and seemed a bit distracted by a loud noise on the line.

I asked him about Casey being up 10 points on him and how he intended to catch up? Santorum said the MSM has had 5 years to tell their story, “I have a year to tell mine.” He also pointed out that he beat Casey by a million dollars in fund raising last quarter and has a 3 1/2 million advantage.He said his plan was to get around the filter of the MSM and go directly to his constituents. He also pointed out that he has won twice before, and thinks he will do it again.

John Cornyn

He complimented bloggers because they are an important check on the MSM who tend to be rather undisciplined without someone keeping their feet to the fire.

In response to a question I asked, he said we would like to have small permanent bases in Iraq.

Jim Talent

In regard to the ethics problems, he said he thought the problem wasn’t the system as much as the people who broke the rules.

Talent also talked about health care and said he favored allowing small businesses to pool together for health care (good idea).

He then added that the deficit could be more accurately referred to as a healthcare containment crisis.

That inspired a question from me. The Medicare Prescription Drug program is a big part of deficit problems. Did he favor changes to the program or means testing?

He does not. He said he hoped that this would blaze a path for broader Medicare reform and that the government has some responsibility to provide the basics for seniors.

So much for the healthcare containment crisis, huh?

That’s it. Thanks to the Senate Republican Conference for setting this up. It’s great to get an opportunity to question so many US Senators.

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