Live from Music Row Friday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – host Leahy welcomed Congressman David Kustoff (R-TN-08) to the newsmaker line to explain how Democrats are attempting to nationalize elections and circumvent the filibuster through stalled legislation.
Leahy: We welcome to our newsmaker line, Congressman David Kustoff, who represents the 8th District of Tennessee. Good morning, Congressman Kustoff.
Kustoff: Hey, good morning. Thanks for having me on this morning.
Leahy: We need help. Congressman Kustoff. We need you to explain something. There’s a story in The New York Times. I’m just going to read it, and then I’m going to say help! Help! Can you explain this to us? This was from The New York Times. Wednesday.
Moving quickly to force a showdown over voting rights, congressional Democrats plan to pursue a procedural shortcut to bring up stalled legislation. In a memo to Senate Democrats on Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer laid out a new strategy.
Under the plan, the House would package two major pieces of voting rights legislation being pushed by Democrats, the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, basically to nationalize all elections. Insert them into an unrelated bill and pass it.
That measure would then go to the Senate as what is known as a ‘message, meaning Republicans could not filibuster a move in the Senate to bring it to the floor for debate, and Democrats would not need to muster 60 votes to do so.’ Can you please unravel this labyrinthian plan for us?
Kustoff: Yes. (Chuckles) And you wonder why people don’t trust what happens in Washington. Everything you just said that you talked about from The New York Times is to everybody else, 99 percent of the country, it is procedural mumbo jumbo.
It doesn’t make any sense. We know there’s been this big debate about whether Democrats should get rid of the filibuster. Biden now wants to get rid of the filibuster.
Chuck Schumer, who a few years ago praised the filibuster now wants to get rid of the filibuster because they’ve laid down a marker on what they say is voting rights legislation. It’s really federalizing all elections.
Taking the power away from local and state authorities to conduct and govern their own elections. So they laid a huge marker down. And the problem is that the United States Senate has 50 Republican senators, 50 Democratic senators, which means it doesn’t get any more equal or even than that.
They don’t have the votes to override the filibuster in the Senate, which is 60 votes. Not only do they not have the 50 Republican senators, but we know they don’t have two of the Democratic senators.
Going back full circle to what you just talked about in The New York Times, there was a bill in the House of Representatives that had to do with NASA. And the name of it is the NASA Enhanced Use Leasing Extension Act of 2021.
Now, don’t pay any attention to it. I’m just telling you, traditionally with NASA, with this bill before they make changes, it’s something that probably Republicans and Democrats could have agreed on.
To get around their Senate filibuster rules they inserted all this voting rights legislation into a House of Representatives bill that doesn’t have anything to do with voting rights. It has to do with NASA trying to contort, if you will, their Senate rules.
So they did it. We voted Wednesday on this and I voted against it because it didn’t make any sense. But in the end, in the United States Senate, it still won’t get anywhere because they still have to get past the filibuster. That’s a very confusing answer. I tried to simplify it.
Leahy: No, actually, that was very illuminating. That bill, including the Voting Rights Act, the NASA bill passed in the House, it was at a party line.
Kustoff: It was a party-line vote.
Leahy: So, Jim Cooper voted with Nancy Pelosi.
Kustoff: Yes. All the Democrats voted the same way; yes.
Leahy: So their strategy, though, now, did they send this message over to the Senate?
Kustoff: They did. And so that has gone to the Senate. Here’s the rub, though. They had to get so many votes past the filibuster. Again, that’s 60 vote threshold by doing what they did Wednesday night, this NASA bill that now is a voting rights bill.
They took away one of their filibuster-proof votes. So it’s one less vote to get to 60. They still have to get one or two to advance the debate. And in the end, we knew where Joe Manchin was weeks ago.
He has said repeatedly, I don’t want to get rid of the filibuster. We had Senator Sinema yesterday from Arizona, who was a moderate Democrat from Arizona who has historically said, I don’t want to get rid of the filibuster because I know that with election cycles, one day her party, the Democratic Party is going to be in the minority, and I don’t want to have to deal with not having the filibuster.
She gave a speech on the Senate floor yesterday that says I don’t want to get rid of the filibuster. There’s only so much time and so much attention span that these senators can use. It’s not a good use of time.
The things that my constituents talk about every day are inflation, crime, and the border. Those are the issues that I’m hearing about all the time. And the Senate’s not addressing any of those.
Carmichael: Congressman, let me ask you a quick question. What I’m trying to understand here is that if there were 50 Democrat senators who all agreed that they wanted to pass this John Lewis Voting Rights Act and vote in favor of this message.
Is there a way for them to do that if they had 50 votes plus the Vice President? Is there a way for them to do that?
Kustoff: Not unless Sinema and…
Carmichael: No, I said if they had. I know they don’t, because I have a separate question for you that relates to if they had 50, would they be able to pass this legislation and avoid the filibuster?
Kustoff: Hypothetically, if Manchin and Sinema agreed to that. Agreed to either remove the filibuster, get rid of the filibuster, or have a carve-out of the filibuster just for these one or two or three bills, then, yes, they could.
Carmichael: Okay. So if Republicans win the House and win the Senate and win the presidency, then Republicans could pass a bill in the House and send it as a message to the Senate that does away with public employee unions, for example?
Kustoff: Hypothetically they could do any of that.
Carmichael: Interesting. This is why precedents matter.
Leahy: Yeah, they really do. You’ve done a great job of explaining and thank you so much because my head was swimming when trying to figure all this out.
Kustoff: Well, it’s really very wonky. I’ve been a congressman now for five years, and I still have to check the rule book because none of this stuff makes any sense. This truly was a bill about NASA that normally would not be controversial. And they inserted in the bill all of these voting rights, I keep using the term voting rights, but…
Leahy: The national takeover of all state elections is the way I describe the bill.
Kustoff: It really is. And if I could do a deeper dive, it’s really two different bills. One of them, and they’re both onerous. They both do virtually the same thing. But just to get inside Pelosi’s head and Schumer’s head for a moment now.
Leahy: Uh oh. Now I’m really scared.
Kustoff: (Laughs) Stand by because you see all these bills, HR 5289 and HR 2362. The Speaker of the House reserves the numbers one through ten for what they say are the most important bills.
When I was first elected to Congress, Paul Ryan, who was the speaker, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which I think is one of the most monumental bills that we’ve seen in the last 25 years, which has been so strong for the economy. He named that HR1. Pelosi’s.
HR1 one is voting rights. Schumer’s S1 is voting rights. What that tells me is that is their most important priority for the two years. And they’re about to strike out completely.
Leahy: And basically what are they trying to do? They’re trying to make it easier for Democrats to cheat so they can win. They know the only way that they can win this upcoming election is if they cheat. Congressman Kustoff, what a great explanation.
Carmichael: And thank you for what you do. It’s got to be very frustrating most of the time.
Kustoff: Sometimes you can feel like you are beating your head against the wall because of the way the House is structured, Pelosi has so much power, and we don’t want that.
Leahy: Come into our studio sometime in Nashville and we can talk more.
Carmichael: We would love it. That would be great.
Kustoff: Absolutely. I appreciate the invitation so much.
Carmichael: That was great. That was terrific.
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