SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (NEXSTAR) — Congressman Darin LaHood (R IL-17th District) joined Capitol Connection this Sunday. Read the full transcript of his extended interview below:
Mark Maxwell: Congressman Darin LaHood joins us now from his offices on Capitol Hill. Congressman, good to see you. I want to start with asking you about a new report that came out just this week Thursday from the Government Accountability Office. It says that in that big wave of COVID-19 relief that went out across the country, 1.1 million dead people got about $1.4 billion in relief. Your reaction to that? I expect you’d like to see something different should there be a second round of stimulus or funding coming from Congress?
U.S. Rep. Darin LaHood: Well, I think we have to react accordingly to where the country is at. And obviously there are different parts of the country that are reopening quicker than others. There are spikes around the country. But as we look at the next stimulus package, which I anticipate will happen sometime in the middle of July to the end of July. Listen, we always have to be concerned about how much money we’re spending. We’ve already spent over $3 trillion dollars, put that on the proverbial federal credit card. So we’re now up to over $25 trillion in debt. So listen, I’m open minded on on money for our cities and municipalities. I’m open minded on businesses that have been disproportionately affected to have some of that money. I’m supportive of more testing where we can do that. But I think we got to be careful about continuing to spend money when we haven’t spent the money that we’ve allocated already. And secondarily, I think the most important program for my district has been the PPP program, Paycheck Protection Program. It’s been a lifeline to our small businesses. I think it’s worked very effectively. And and I think that’s something we have to look at, again. How do we help our small and medium sized businesses?
Maxwell: Yeah, I want to ask you about the PPP program in just a moment, but just to get a clear answer from you on this: Do you agree with President Trump that individuals should get a second stimulus payment if it’s 1200 dollars per person roughly. Do you support that idea?
LaHood: Listen, I’m I guess I’m open minded on it, but I’m not convinced that’s the right approach to take is just to give money to people. Again, that cost us about $400 billion in the first CARES Act. I want to look at that proposal very carefully. You know, I have a lot of people in my district that didn’t think they ought to get the money and that individual cash. So, again, we got to think fiscally responsible here, and we got to figure out what’s the best appropriate use of federal dollars. So again, I’m anxious to look at that, see how much money we’re talking about. But I have concerns about continuing to go into debt, federally.
Maxwell: There was a rush it seemed to get that relief out the door in a hurry that first time around. There were several different waves of CARES Act and COVID-19 relief that came from Congress. You mentioned the Paycheck Protection Program that small businesses could apply for loans to get cash flow to stay afloat, but it wasn’t just businesses. It was also nonprofits in many cases. These are social service providers. These are people who are organizing homeless shelters or helping to deal with youth when they come into troubled times with police or otherwise. Some of these social service providers work with the state and the state told them, ‘Hey, if you took out these loans from the federal government, weeks later, the state comes back and says, Hey, we’re not going to give you any state funding. The funding that’s in the budget for you for the programs and the work that you do. If you took that federal loan, which you might still have to pay back, the state is going to withhold funding.’ I understand you’ve raised some concerns about this with Governor Pritzker’s office, but was that the intention when Congress passed that Paycheck Protection Program was that that funding would replace lost revenue from state contracts?
LaHood: Of course, that was never the intention of the PPP program. It’s a complete overreach by the state of Illinois. My understanding is that Illinois is the only state that is doing this. We have some wonderful nonprofits and charitable organizations that particularly during COVID are helping the most vulnerable in my district and across the state of Illinois and to think that the state of Illinois, because of their own fiscal mismanagement, is now going to hold that against them is really disingenuous. We wrote a letter to the governor. And by the way, this is not a partisan issue. This is bipartisan. There’s many Democrats in the state of Illinois that have concerns about this, also. They should not be held, you know, accountable for this by accepting PPP. Again, we’ve raised this with the governor. We hope he makes the right decision here. It’s not the proper approach and nothing that we anticipated.
Maxwell: Yeah, it’s just we’re getting two different messages here. Because if you look at the actual language from the Department of Human Services, they describe double dipping. They say some of these nonprofits could be getting paid from the federal government and the state government for the same thing. I’m hearing you saying, we want to be careful not to spend too much not to go into debt. We want to be careful and fiscally responsible with how we spend this money. Governor Pritzker’s office, his administration is saying that they cannot spend federal dollars on state expenditures and that the PPP they can’t do both. They can’t use the $2 to spend it on something that costs $1. Does he have a point there? Is there some crossover?
LaHood: Well, I will tell you this, Illinois, as I said, the beginning is the only state that I’m aware of that is making this argument. Again, these charitable organizations, these nonprofits, you know, their margins are very, very thin now. They’re not raising the dollars they normally would. They’re disproportionately affected. And again, why is the state of Illinois trying to withhold the money that they rightly deserve? It’s the wrong approach on many different levels to think that they’re getting too much money to help people in the state of Illinois the most vulnerable doesn’t make any sense. I don’t think anybody thinks that’s a good idea.
Maxwell: And they’ve had a lot of increased workload during this Coronavirus, too, in helping to restructure homeless shelters for example, or to expand PPE, they’ve been spread out and spread thin and they’re trying to stay keep their doors open. Related to the Coronavirus, earlier in this interview you mentioned that you support expanded testing. We’ve heard twice from President Trump this week saying slow the testing down quote I told my people slow the testing down later asked about it. He said he wasn’t kidding. Two days later we saw in Texas federal funding was ended for testing. They’re in hotspots around Houston. Now we see Texas Governor Abbott there, slowing down their reopening amid a surge, a hotspot there. Shouldn’t President Trump do everything in his power to expand testing immediately in Texas, in hot spots in the country across the across the United States?
LaHood: Well, listen, I’ve supported expanded testing, I supported $25 billion in the last stimulus package. In addition to that, Illinois has gotten over $260 million in testing. That’s a lot of money. And testing in my district has been extended twice in Bloomington-Normal and Peoria. If we want to move back to some sense of normality, we have to have testing that’s expansive, that’s efficient, that’s effective, that’s accountable. I’m going to continue to support that. I think it’s going to help us reopen in a safe fashion that’s going to help us to help our businesses come back. So we got to continue to have that.
Maxwell: Does it frustrate you then when President Trump says the opposite?
LaHood: Well, listen, I look at my own district, I look at the state of Illinois. We have plenty of testing, we’ve we’ve worked well with the state on testing places around. I’m going to continue to support that. Right now. I don’t know that there’s more money that’s necessary after the $25 billion. Let’s spend that money. Let’s see how it gets implemented. But I think thus far, our testing has been fairly robust. But the other thing we have to do is figure out, we got to get testing that comes back quicker, and continue to use the best technology that’s coming out from companies like Abbott and others.
Maxwell: We’re also looking at this debate over policing, police reform and accountability. A lot of Democrats said, and Republicans agree, that some of the language in both different plans, the Democratic version and the Republican version, say a lot of the same things; but Democrats require police do things when Republicans so recommend they do it. There’s a difference. It seems Republicans are taking a softer stance on on forcing police accountability and just recommending more reporting. Is that a fair assessment? And why the reluctance to get tougher with bad cops?
LaHood: Couple things on that, Mark. I spent 10 years as a state and federal prosecutor, much of that in the state of Illinois. The vast majority of police officers and sheriff’s deputies and state troopers and federal law enforcement that I’ve worked with are quality people in it for the right reasons. But let’s remember a couple things: in the state of Illinois, we’ve already banned chokeholds. In the state of Illinois, we’ve already set up a database that tracks bad police officers. Many of these issues ought to be decided on the local level. And we’ve done that in the state of Illinois. That’s one approach I would take. But I will say this: It is a poison pill and the Democrats have included this in their bill, and they’re well aware of this. To get rid of qualified immunity for police officers doesn’t make any sense. You’re not going to have anybody wanting to go into law enforcement if you grant qualified immunity. In Illinois already, if you want to sue the city of Springfield or the city of Springfield police department, you can do that. There’s a civil remedy there. Nobody is going to go into law enforcement if you get rid of qualified immunity. So that’s the biggest mistake the Democrats have made. And to do it, it’d be like telling prosecutors, you don’t have qualified immunity to go into court or you’re going to get sued every case that you prosecute. We can’t do that…
Maxwell: I mean, how do we know that that’s true? And perhaps this is apples and oranges, but I mean, we don’t have a shortage of doctors necessarily lining up to go into the medical field. They could face malpractice lawsuits. What’s the difference?
LaHood: The difference is police are out every single day, looking out for the safety of our communities. By the way, Mark, I talked yesterday and today to the nine police chiefs in the largest cities in my district. Not one of them thinks getting rid of qualified immunity makes sense. And the police unions don’t think that either and the sheriff’s deputies don’t. So I can just tell you in downstate Illinois, they will tell you to a person, they’re not going to have anybody go into law enforcement if a police officer that does a traffic stop is going to get sued civilly the next week and have his personal property, whether it’s his house or other things in jeopardy. There’s plenty of remedies to do that. That’s the first thing. Second thing: the Democrats insistence on getting rid of no-knock warrants doesn’t make any sense. Right now in the state of Illinois, we have a judicial oversight process. When you go get a warrant — and I’ve done this plenty of times as a prosecutor — you give the facts and evidence to a judge, the judge reviews that, makes a decision whether there should be a no-knock. So we have plenty of provisions in place to protect that. We don’t need to get rid of that at the federal level. And that’s what this bill does: take those two things out, there is 70% of this bill we can agree on. We ought to put in place new standards, we ought to have a national database on police officers, they ought to get rid of choke holds on the federal level. But the Democrats unfortunately want to make a political issue out of this instead of getting good policy in place.
Maxwell: Interesting, I should note that two weeks ago on this program, Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul also raised some concerns in his view about both of those ideas: ending no knock warrants, he could see some reasons why you might not want to knock if it was an unsafe situation and that could get a little bit hairy on the ground there. He also mentioned qualified immunity. Maybe there’s a way to reform that without totally getting doing away with it. Perhaps that’s a compromise still in the works. Would you be open to that? Some measure of reforming qualified immunity where under certain circumstances, there were ways that officers could feel a little more skin in the game? A little more part of the social equation with not trampling the civil or individual or constitutional rights of a person when they encounter them on the street?
LaHood: Well, listen, I’m happy to look at any proposals. Right now, the Democrats, it’s take it or leave it. That’s their approach. They want to make a political issue out of this. I would also raise a point. You know, last weekend in Chicago, we had, I don’t know, 16 murders and over 70 shootings. The same folks in Congress here, my Democrat colleagues that are advocating for getting rid of qualified immunity and getting rid of no-knock warrants are the same ones that want to defund police. And again, I think that’s the wrong approach. If Minneapolis wants to defund their police, they ought to be able to do that at the local level. I go back to my point, Mark. If the citizens of Springfield or Peoria or Bloomington-Normal or folks in my district want to make changes to their local police department, they ought to be able to do that on their own, go to their local city council. They can make those decisions. But again, when we look at the violence that’s occurring in places like Chicago, this is the last thing we ought to be looking at is defunding police or taking away qualified immunity or no-knock warrants.
Maxwell: This is also an election year. A lot of eyes are watching toward November. We just saw some interesting news developing this week. Ted Cruz’s former pick to be VP should he have won the nomination in 2016, Carly Fiorina, you might remember her name. She said she’s voting for Joe Biden. Your father has also said he’s supporting Joe Biden’s campaign for president. What kind of a president do you think Joe Biden would make?
LaHood: Well, listen, I’m supporting President Trump. I’m proud to be his co-chair for Illinois. I look at the results that President Trump has put in place across this country. We had the best economy in my lifetime, pre-COVID. What he’s done with the federal judiciary, what he’s done with trade agreements, whether it’s USMCA or the phase one deal with China, or the trade agreement with Japan, you know, rebuilding our military, standing up for the rule of law. President Trump has real results, and I know he’s going to talk about that. And we are between now and the election, and that’s what elections are all about: talking about ideas and a track record. And I think the President, President Trump, is best equipped to get us back on track and rebuild this economy and get us through COVID.
Maxwell: But I didn’t hear an answer to the question, which was what kind of a president do you think Joe Biden would be? Do you think he would be a capable, respectable executive of the United States?
LaHood: Well, I look back over 40 years of Joe Biden being in Washington, DC, and I look at what are his accomplishments? What has he done? And I put that up against President Trump and what he’s done in three and a half years. And it’s remarkable in terms of those things that I just mentioned on the economy, on rebuilding our military, what he’s done with our federal judiciary, on trade agreements. Those are real results. Standing up for the rule of law. Those are things, and I would put that track record up against Joe Biden. But listen, we’ve come through a pandemic that we’re still in now and we’re coming out of, we’ve had unrest in the country. And so, you know, these will be the issues that people will be focused on when they go into the voting booth. But I’m confident when they look at both sides, they’ll see the track record and the results that President Trump has brought.