By TODD STACY, Alabama Daily News
Today we are talking with Mo Brooks, the North Alabama Congressman who just this week threw his hat in the ring for the contest to replace outgoing U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby.
Brooks ran for Senate once before in 2017 when a special election was called to replace Jeff Sessions, who was appointed attorney general. Brooks came in third in that primary to the appointed incumbent, Luther Strange, and the eventual nominee, Roy Moore. He actually talks a lot about that race in our conversation, which you’ll find interesting.
Man, that feels like ten years ago, and it is politically, in many ways. The state, and specifically the Republican Party, have only grown more devoted to Donald Trump. Brooks has only grown into more of a firebrand on the right, and that’s saying something. He gained national notoriety for starting the congressional effort to challenge the 2020 election results and was rewarded with a speaking slot at the Washington rally that preceded the Capitol riot. We talked about that a lot, too.
The point is, Brooks has aligned himself with where the very conservative Republican electorate is right now, both in policy and rhetoric. That makes him a very formidable candidate in this GOP primary, and most, including myself, consider him the front runner.
Look, it’s going to be a long campaign, perhaps even longer than currently scheduled. Plenty could go wrong for Mo in the next 18 months and other candidates could catch fire. But right now he knows he has an advantage and is working to build a pace that makes it hard for others to catch up.
The feedback I hear most from readers and listeners is that people like our how in-depth and informative stories and interviews. Folks like to learn things they weren’t aware of or hear politicians answer questions they’ve not been asked.
If that’s the measure of a good interview, you’re going to like this one. We talked about why he wants to be a senator, his lengthy career in public service, how that squares with his term limit position, his family background including his mom the economics teacher, his conversations with Donald Trump, the election objection process, his infamous “take names and kick ass” speech, Stephen Miller, redistricting, earmarks and what committees he wants to be on. In short, we really got in the weeds.
I greatly appreciate Congressman Brooks and his staff for taking the time for this lengthy interview. He was gracious with his time and I believe candid with his answers. So here it is, In the Weeds with Mo Brooks.
Todd Christian Stacy: Hey, Congressman, thanks for coming “In the Weeds” with us again.
Congressman Mo Brooks: My pleasure.
TCS: I guess congratulations on your announcement. You’re now running for Senate. It’s official. You’re out campaigning. How’s it going so far?
CMB As well as could be hoped. To have Stephen Miller, President Trump’s speechwriter and senior policy adviser, endorse me as a part of the announcement, I think that sends a very strong signal as to where Mo Brooks is on the Make America Great Again agenda and sends a very strong message that I, in fact, have had President Trump’s back for four straight years. And, as Stephen Miller stated, I was the number one congressman having the president’s back over that four-year period of time when it came to issues such as fake impeachment efforts by the socialists in the House of Representatives or when it comes to the Russian collusion hoax or when it comes to voter fraud and election theft, or when it comes down to border security and build the wall. When you put all the issues together, I was right up there near the top and supporting President Trump and the Make America Great Again agenda.
TCS: Why do you want to be in the Senate?
CMB In the Senate, you have a better ability to impact public policy and affect public opinion. By way of example, just pure math — in the House, you’re one of 435. In the Senate, you’re one of 100. Odds are better. But also, in the Senate, the rules are a lot different. One senator can stop bad bills much more readily than one House member can stop bad bills. But you also get to vote in the Senate on things you don’t get to vote on in the House. You get to vote on confirmations to the judiciary. You get to vote on confirmations to the executive branch like cabinet members. You get to vote on treaties that impact our economy and our relationship with other nations around the world. The House does not have the right under the Constitution to vote on any of those things. But as a United States senator, you do.
TCS: So it’s a promotion from the House, you’d say?
CMB: I’m sure just about everybody in the House of Lords thinks so about those in the House of Commons.
TCS Yeah. Well, walk me through your career, your public life. You began here in the State House, right? The House of Representatives?
CMB: My public service began before that.
CMB: I was as an assistant district attorney in Tuscaloosa for a couple of years. I was managing the grand jury and also doing felony jury trials when I left the Tuscaloosa district attorney’s office. Then I returned home to Huntsville. I was elected to the Legislature in a year which Democrats outnumbered us in the in the House and in the Senate 136-4. After I was elected, along with some of my colleagues, it was kind of a wave year for Republicans. We were outnumbered 129-11. So I was elected four times to the state legislature, I served two years as Madison County District Attorney, elected four times to the Madison County Commission and elected six times the United States Congress.
TCS: I mean, that’s a really impressive career. And, you know, a lot of times these days, voters seem to gravitate toward the “outsider” candidate — take a Tommy Tuberville who had never held elected office. So how do you make that appeal having basically been in public life as long as you have?
CMB: I ask people to decide where they stand on public policy issues and the advantage of considering someone like Mo Brooks is, you know where I’ve been, which tells you where I will be. That is a much better position to be in if you’re a voter than if you’re having to evaluate someone who, by way of example, might be reading polling data, knowing what people want, to parrott back to those people, what they want to hear in order to get elected masquerading as a conservative, but then when holding office, disappointing those voters by doing something entirely different from what you would have expected. So with Mo Brooks, you have a proven individual, someone you know is going to be protecting the Second Amendment right to bear arms because I have a record of doing it, knowing that I’m going to protect the sanctity of life, the unborn children, because I have a record of doing it, knowing that I’m strong on border security, because according to Federation of Americans for Immigration Reform and Numbers USA, I’m ranked number one on border security issues out of 435 congressmen over that ten year period of time.
So I would submit that while it is often good to have an outsider, somebody new under these uncertain times, it is best to go with a candidate that you can trust to actually do what you believe needs doing in Washington, D.C.
TCS:You’ve been a supporter of term limits, right?
CMB: I have.
TCS: So when you ran for Congress the first time was, you know, committing to six terms? I guess my question is, given that what you just said about experience and record and all that, why are term limits important?
CMB: Term limits are important because it means that these types of positions are less a career and more of a volunteer effort to do what’s best for your city, county and state. I have endorsed the concept of term limits. I have co-sponsored legislation relating to term limits myself. If you look at my track record as a public servant, I have voluntarily term limited myself without overstating how many years I’m going to serve. So in the legislature, after nine years and four elections, I retired. After the county commission, four elections, less than four full terms, I retired. As a United States congressman, six terms, 12 years. I’ve decided to move elsewhere. You know, life is short. You only get to live at once. I also believe that variety is the spice of life. And fortunately, a couple of things that you may not know, those 14 successful elections I’ve had carrying the Republican banner in general elections, no one in the history of the state of Alabama has successfully carried the Republican banner in general elections more than Mo Brooks has. Of those 14, 11 were re-elections. No challenger in any of those 11 re-election efforts by myself has ever broken the 40 percent mark in a general election or in a Republican primary. And I would submit to the people who may want to consider me as the next United States senator that that is a good indicator of how the citizens I represent view my service in the United States Congress, as a state legislator, as a county commissioner. They like the job I have done since they overwhelmingly reelect me by very large margins.
TCS:Which of those jobs was your favorite?
CMB: That is very difficult to say.
TCS: I have put you on the spot.
CMB: All of them had wonderful experiences in some way and not so good experiences in other ways. When I was in the Legislature, gosh, were we horribly outgunned by the Democrats. I think when I left we were still outnumbered like 100 to 40 — somewhere in that ballpark — when you look at the House and Senate put together in the legislature. As a county commissioner, you are where the rubber meets the road. You’re actually able to get things done because you are more of an administrator, not just a legislator, okay? And by administer, I mean, you’ve got money in your budget and you could spend it on the things that you think would best improve the lives of the people that you’re supposed to represent. And so that was kind of a unique experience and it was a good experience. It was, quite frankly, the most bipartisan body I’d ever served on – the Madison County Commission. We were in the minority — the Republicans were four to three or five to two, depending upon the year you look at. But we worked together as a team to do what was right for Madison County. In the United States Congress — gosh, it’s an honor to serve in the United States Congress — representing 700,000 plus citizens of the state of Alabama, the highest honor that anyone could hope to have. But on the downside, right now, you have Nancy Pelosi in total charge. The socialists have taken over the House, taken over the Senate, they occupy the White House. They’re doing great damage to our country with the bad policies that they promulgate. And we’re just getting rolled over because they outnumber us. In the House the only thing that counts is the majority. If you’re in the minority, quite frankly, there’s very little that you can get done.
TCS: I was reading up on your background and I read that your mom taught economics at Lee High School.
CMB: And government.
TCS: Government and economics — that makes sense. And just knowing that you went to Duke for economics, is that where you got that inspiration to pursue economics?
CMB: I think it’s in my DNA.
My mom taught government and economics at Lee High School. My grandfather was a road commissioner and involved in the Board of Education. Are familiar with Interstate 40 going through the Smokies from Tennessee down to Asheville? My grandfather was primarily responsible for that getting built. And the first rest stop you come to in North Carolina is named after my grandfather, D. Reeves Noland. His dad was a state legislator. His dad was a sheriff of Haywood County in the Smokies of North Carolina. So we have a lot of tradition of service in our family DNA. And somehow or another I picked that up.
TCS: Do you need to get that?… That’s interesting. I was just trying to peek into your background. Did you grow up in Huntsville?
CMB: I was born in Charleston, South Carolina, there for the first eight years and have been in the Tennessee Valley for almost 60 years now.
TCS: Getting back to the Senate race. I’m curious. You’re obviously running to replace Richard Shelby. Have you spoken to him about your decision to run or maybe even before you made it, thinking about running?
CMB: There are only two senators I have spoken to. Tommy Tuberville called me back, which was nice because I didn’t have his new unlisted phone number, so I couldn’t reach him. But he called me and we chatted about it for a little bit. And I’ve spoken with Rand Paul. Richard Shelby and I have not seen each other since I announced for the United States Senate. Heck, that’s only two days ago. Now, Richard Shelby and I have seen each other in airports and we have had conversations, but I haven’t really talked about him in his retirement with him. And he has not inquired about my desire to run for the United States Senate to replace him.
TCS: I just wondered if he might be somebody to ask for advice on, not necessarily the campaign, but the office itself.
CMB: Richard Shelby and I have served together for a decade. So we have often chatted with each other and shared insight about a number of different things that are going on in our state and also the public policy issues that we face.
TCS: What about President Trump? Have you spoken to him?
CMB: I have.
TCS: Did he have advice?
CMB: Um, President Trump has asked me about the Senate race in the state of Alabama. We’ve talked to a number of times over the past month. I’m really not at liberty to say more about our communications. I hope you don’t mind, but I think it’s wisest to let the president do what he’s going to do, whatever he’s going to do it. Obviously, he can endorse me or he can endorse somebody else or he can be neutral. Time will tell what his decision is going to be. And if it’s me, I hope he uses a loud bullhorn somewhere in the state of Alabama to announce it. And if it’s somebody else, I hope he announces it, say, in Timbuktu.
TCS: When we first started talking and your reasons for running for Senate? Trump had a lot to do with it. Right? And your defense of Trump and your involvement there, why is that? And you wouldn’t be saying it if it wasn’t important to voters. Given the fact he’s not president anymore — and maybe he’ll run again and he won’t — but why is that such a central part of this race?
CMB: Because Donald Trump’s endorsement in the state of Alabama is like gold in a Republican primary.
TCS: Well I get that, but why?
CMB: Republican primary voters very much like the job that Donald Trump did as President of the United States. Voters overall, you may recall, re-elected Donald Trump in the state of Alabama by a wide, wide margin. Donald Trump almost doubled the vote of Joe Biden in the state of Alabama. And quite frankly, in a Republican primary, the endorsement by Donald Trump signals to a large degree who the (former) President of the United States feels is best to continue to advance to Make America Great Again Agenda now that he’s no longer in office.
TCS: I guess it’s fair to say that now. There’s only two candidates in the race right now. Some more are about to get in. But that’s going to be pretty much everybody, right? They’re going to be talking about Donald Trump and their ties to him, how they line up with him. And we’ve already seen Lynda Blanchard, she’s doing that. I just would imagine that every candidate is going to have some type of pitch to voters about while they’re close to Donald Trump and they’re tied with him. So if that’s the case, how do you differentiate yourself? And if everybody is saying the same thing, how are voters going to tell the difference?
CMB: My relationship with Donald Trump is unique compared to everybody else’s. Donald Trump and I communicate on a periodic basis. Donald Trump’s inner circle and I communicate on a regular basis. I stood by Donald Trump’s side defending him against two scam impeachment efforts. Nobody else can say that. I stood by Donald Trump’s side when it came to voter fraud and election theft. Nobody else can say that. I stood by Donald Trump’s side on the Russian collusion hoax. Nobody else can say that I have twice been endorsed by Donald Trump for election 2018 as a congressman, 2020, as a congressman. Nobody else has that kind of endorsement. I was co-chair of Donald Trump’s reelection campaign in the state of Alabama. Nobody else who is running can say that they dedicated their efforts to the reelection of Donald Trump to the degree that I did in 2020. So we can go down the list of things, but there are a number of things or attributes that are unique and set me apart from all the other candidates. If and to the extent voters appreciate the insight of President Donald Trump and who he thinks is most likely to support to make America great again agenda in the position of the United States Senate.
TCS: You mentioned the election and challenge of the election or its certification, all that and your involvement in that issue. You were really the first and one of the loudest to, you know, oppose certification.
CMB: I prefer the word most persuasive, but yes, I was the first.
TCS: Well, okay.
CMB: I’m teasing with you a little bit!
TCS: But this was a big moment for you to sort of set off on the course.
CMB: When I started, it was very lonely. Most congressmen and senators, in my judgment, did not even realize that in the United States Constitution and the United States code, the United States Congress was primarily responsible for presidential election contest. Not the courts. The Congress was. Once I got past that, and the next step was to ensure that people knew that, yes, there were serious voter fraud and election theft issues. And I gave a total of nine speeches on the House floor from November 3rd through January 6th, detailing as best I could what our legal responsibilities were and how badly flawed our election system is and how badly the socialists exploited those flaws in order to turn around this election.
TCS: Well, your most famous speech was at the rally the day of the certification.
CMB: That would be speech number 10. I didn’t count that one.
TCS: Alright, well, certainly you got more attention for that! I read your defense of it, right? It was very lengthy. I think it was like 2500 words or something.
CMB: I didn’t count the words. I was just trying to be thorough.
TCS: Right. I read it. But that was like two months ago, more than two months ago. And I wondered if, given hindsight and the time that has passed, you would have done anything different or said anything different, particularly on the “kick ass and take names” line.
CMB: Well, when I got up to the podium, I’m looking at a crowd that extends from the South Lawn of the White House, the Ellipse, all the way to the Washington Monument. And the natural reaction for someone under those circumstances is to talk louder, even to shout. I didn’t realize that the sound system was as good as it was, because apparently it was pretty good and I was talking louder than I should have. I probably would have been not quite as high on the decibel range. And I realized how good the sound system was. But no, it was a great speech, okay? And I don’t mind at all that the fake news media and the socialists attacked me over it because I know what was communicated. The individuals who were at the Ellipse know what was communicated. I’ve had lots of them come up to me and express their frustration with the way the fake news media, the socialists have distorted it. Not a single person who heard that speech as a part of the audience has ever said, “Oh yeah, Mo Brooks was inspiring me to violence” because that wasn’t the case. The only thing I did in asking people to do things at the United States Capitol to let the Congress know that you were patriotic Americans. And how do they do that? By chanting USA, USA, USA. So that’s the only thing in my speech they asked anyone to do it. The United States Capitol exercise their First Amendment, freedom of speech rights, their protest rights, and the right to seek redress from the government for their grievances.
TCS: But “kick ass” along with that?
TCS: Yeah, go to the Capitol and express that. But when you when you put alongside of that “kick ass…”
CMB: Well, that’s a distortion by the news media.
TCS: Well, I watched it.
CMB: That that was an absolute distortion by the news media. That was a snippet of one sentence in a two-sentence paragraph.
TCS: I know. I’m just I’m just wondering if you would do it the same.
CMB: Well, I probably in the second sentence, knowing how badly the news media has distorted it, I would have added the phrase “in the 2022 elections,” okay? But the very first sentence of that paragraph began with the 2022 and 2024 elections are upon us with a little bit more verbiage. Then, as such, today is the day that we start taking down names and kicking — I’m going to use the word derrière because my wife prefers that. And to me it was pretty plain what I was talking about. We gotta win the 2022 and 2024 elections, much like the Democrats just got through kicking our derrieres in the 2018 and 2020 elections. It never occurred to me that someone would distort my remarks and suggest that I was inciting violence. I have never given a speech that resulted in violence. As far as I’m aware, no Trump rally has ever been followed by violence. So it’s totally unexpected what happened. And only later did I discover, along with a lot of other people, pursuant to the investigations that have been conducted, that there were militant elements that embedded themselves into the crowd and that they had planned this attack in the United States Capitol for days, even weeks before those speeches were given at the Ellipse, which further confirms that the speeches at the Ellipse had nothing to do with the violence that was planned because the violence that was planned was planned before they ever heard us.
TCS: I guess what surprised me about it was, I mean, you yourself have been a target of violence from an extremist who was radicalized by someone. [Brooks was among the members of Congress that were shot at by a left-wing extremist during a congressional baseball practice in 2016.]
CMB: Yeah. Well, I didn’t ask anyone to commit any violence.
TCS: Right, but I do remember you talking afterwards about the dangers of violent rhetoric on the left, and so, I mean…
CMB: My my rhetoric is not violent.
CMB: Have you ever played sports?
CMB: Okay, when a coach at halftime says it’s time to go kick some ass, do you actually go on the basketball court and put your foot there? No, you don’t. Okay? In a political context, we use the word fight on a regular basis. Do we really mean duke it out? No, we mean beat the other side, defend the principles that we believe in as a country that we believe in, as a political party that you believe as an individual citizen. So the Democrats are distorting the words in a horrendous way to give them a meeting that was never intended in that very few, if any, in the audience discerned.
TCS: It’s just me. And I was just curious because.
CMB: Now you were at the Ellipse?
TCS: No, no, no. But I watched it. I watched your speech live.
CMB: Okay, well, people who were in the audience did not have the impression that you had.
TCS: Well, I’m just I’m just asking your perspective. And again, the reason it surprised me was you have talked about violent rhetoric and the dangers of all that. But I really just wanted to know if you would have done anything different. Sounds like hindsight is 20/20, as it were.
CMB: In my judgment, is one of the best rally speeches I’ve given in my life. The purpose of it was to inspire the people who were there to make sure that they properly exercise their right to protest on the First Amendment, the United States Constitution, and that they were inspired, rejuvenated after the derrière kicking that we got not only in 2020, but remember the day before was the Georgia Senate elections where we just lost two of them. And my task was to get people back in the game. Sure, the other team just scored a touchdown on us. Maybe we fumbled the kickoff return and gave up another touchdown. But that does not mean you quit. The fight continues in the election process. That was my task. And to a certain degree, I believe I achieved that result.
TCS: You mentioned Stephen Miller at your campaign rally or announcement endorsing you. I heard what he said, I mean, it couldn’t have been a stronger endorsement. I don’t know what he’s doing now. Are you considering him for some kind of staff role if you get elected?
CMB: I have not given any thought to it.
CMB: He’s a volunteer.
TCS: He’s got Senate experience.
CMB: Yes, he has. He would serve well in whatever capacity anyone could get him to serve. But, you know, he’s been in the White House. I don’t know if he’d want to step down to the Senate. We’ll have to see. I don’t know. His opportunities are. I don’t know where he wants to end up living. He’ll have to make that kind of decision.
TCS: Just talking politically for a minute. It’s going to be a long 18 months. They’re going to move the election back from…
CMB: Maybe, maybe not.
TCS: Well they have a bill. We’ll see.
CMB: Well, it’s in the legislators self-interest not to move it back because they know where the lines are going to be while the challengers don’t. So we’ll see how that actually plays out.
TCS: Yeah, maybe so. But some some might want promotions to the Senate and things like that. It’s my sense they’ll probably move it back, if nothing else, just to avoid lawsuits.
CMB: That won’t stop lawsuits.
TCS: Let’s just say they do and you’re talking like an August, you know, late July or early August primary. That’s 18 months, it’s going to be long campaign.
CMB: Well, if the Legislature pushes it back into July or August, these primaries, then they’re doing a disservice to people who are conservative.
CMB: Because what’s going to happen is, and this is why they moved them up, what’s going to happen is you’re going to have vigorous primaries, maybe runoffs, and it’s going to take a while for the party’s nominee to pull the team back together again. And the last time you have, the greater the likelihood that you’ve given that seat to the opposition party that did not have that kind of vigorous primary runoff. I don’t know if they’re thinking this through. If it was me, I’d keep it in May. But it’s not my decision. It’s the Legislature’s decision.
TCS: I worked a campaign up in Tennessee when the election was like August 3rd or something, the primary. There was no runoff up there, but if there was you’re talking September. So, yeah, the the eventual nominee had a long (campaign) and very short runway to try to reunite after a bitter primary. And that was a little different because that was a tougher general election than I imagine we’ll see here.
CMB: When I first ran for public office in 1982 the primary was in September.
CMB: And it was moved back so that the prevailing party in a contested primary could let the bad blood get behind him a little bit and bring the forces back together in order to be competitive in the general election. And I would hope that the Legislature would look at that history and not put the Democrats in a position where they can pick up a bunch of House seats and Senate seats because our vigorous primaries have resulted in a party split that’s not healed by the time the general election rolls around.
TCS: You ran in 2017. Now, granted, that was a special election for Senate in 2017. And that was special election and a pretty short campaign. Based on your experience from that, how are you going to make the next 18 months or however long…
CMB: I’m optimistic, 14 months!
TCS: Okay. Walk me through your basic plan to win the primary tactically.
CMB: Well, I hope you understand that I’m not going to share all my strategies with anyone in the news media because I suspect my opponents and try to use that.
TCS: Ha ha, it’s just me and you talking!
CMB: But basically, I’m going to go around the state, spread my message, let people know who I am and what I believe in. I don’t have much in the way of diplomatic skill. After people have communicated with me, they know what my belief system is. And if they don’t like it, they vote for somebody else. If they like it, they vote for me. I hope that they’ll like it and vote for me. I believe principled conservatives will vote for me. But still, you gotta get around the state and you gotta communicate. That’s one of the reasons why we’re starting early. It’s a big state, so it’s a totally different ballgame compared to 2017 when you had a shortened race against an incumbent United States senator and against an individual who had very high name I.D. In that race, we started out third or fourth, ended up third out of ten candidates, which, after all, became nine candidates. This time we’re starting out in first with a double digit lead over all actual and rumored opponents.
TCS: Is there anything that you learned from that race that, you know, comes to mind.
CMB: Donald Trump’s endorsement can make a big difference.
TCS: Well, but he lost out really because he endorsed Luther and then he ended up endorsing Moore.
CMB: Had he not endorsed Luther Strange, I would be a United States senator today.
TCS: You think so?
TCS: Because you would have gotten in the runoff?
CMB: I was ahead of Luther Strange at the time of the endorsement, and it was President Trump’s endorsement of Luther Strange at the behest of Mitch McConnell and a few others that helped Luther Strange from third into second. And by a significant margin, I might add. That was about a 10 to 15 point swing in favor of Luther Strange because of the president’s endorsement.
TCS: There were also a ton of negative ads. I mean, they buried you in negative ads.
CMB: About 15 million dollars worth.
TCS: Well, does that concern you this time around?
CMB: We would have won last time in the face of that attack barrage, but for the rather unexpected endorsement of Luther Strange by President Trump in 2017. So I can withstand the negative attack ads. They’re all easily rebutable. It’s just a matter of getting the information out in a way in which the voters understand it. They’re almost always distortions, these attack ads. I mean, I’m kind of like an open book. Anybody wants to know what I’ve actually done can look at my voting record. That’s it. OK, they can look at my actual quotes from actual speeches instead of seeing what’s filtered through the news media or the eyes of the socialists who have a very hard time telling the truth. In the same context, when my position is distorted, it’s very easy to disprove it.
TCS: Do you expect that? Do you expect another – I mean, 15 million sounds like a lot – but, you know, eight, 10 million worth of D.C. groups, others, coming after you?
CMB: I would hope that national Republicans would spend that money on battleground districts. But if they want to come after me, that’s fine. I understand how the establishment wing of the Republican Party does not want any principled conservatives elected to the United States Senate or the United States House of Representatives. Fortunately, they’re going to be a number of principled conservatives running in the House and running in the Senate. So that’s going to dilute the establishment’s attack effort because they don’t have enough money to attack us all. But it is what it is, and I’m quite confident that we can prevail over whatever barrage of attack ads may come, because my name I.D. is higher, my image is better established, people know better who I am today than they knew in 2017. And so if they want to come at me, come on at me, but we’re going to beat them.
TCS: Well, win or lose, you’re no longer going to be the Congressman from the 5th District. And that’s just, you know, pretty long tenure you’ve been there. We don’t even know what the 5th District is going to look like.
CMB: Both points are true.
TCS: Well, what’s your perspective on that? Do you want the Fifth District to always try to look like what it does now in terms of Madison County and Huntsville and NASA and Redstone.
CMB: Well that is a legislative decision. Personally, I prefer that the Tennessee Valley remain intact as one congressional district. But ultimately that’s going to come down to House Speaker Mac McCutcheon and what he want. He is a key in the preservation of the 5th Congressional District, and time will determine whether he wants to do that or not.
TCS: And last question: earmarks, they’re coming back. I don’t know if it’s final yet, but I think yall’s conference took a vote and it passed. And I don’t know if it’s official House policy yet, but what’s your perspective on that?
CMB: Well, the House GOP conference vote on earmarks is symbolic, but not substantive.
CMB: I say it’s not substantive because it has no binding effect on what the rules of House might be. Certainly the Democrats want earmarks because they believe that’s the best way to buy votes under hazardous circumstances where they may not be able to win their reelections except for the purchasing of votes. My personal view on earmarks is relatively simple. Earmarks are a way that leadership has of punishing people who vote for America as opposed to the special interest groups that are behind much of the legislation that flows to the United States Congress. Earmarks are a way of rewarding those people who vote with the leadership on bad legislation, and it’s a way of punishing those that don’t. And so I believe that earmarks corrupt the public policy debate by diminishing the will of congressmen and senators to do what’s right for our country.
TCS: What about the argument that, without earmarks, you basically leave it up to the executive to determine where all these, you know, funds go?
CMB: Well, that’s not necessarily true…
TCS: For a Republican, that might be great during the Trump years, but it may not be so great in the Biden years.
CMB: Transportation spending, okay? We send that to the state of Alabama, directly to the state — not all of it, but a good chunk of it. And the state then, within certain parameters, (like) how much can be used for interstates versus U.S. highways versus state highways versus county roads versus city streets or whatever, okay? Then the local governments, through whatever mechanism they choose, decide where that money goes. Now, one of the big issues here is what is the phrase or word earmark mean? And it means different things to different people. Do we want a powerful congressman from Alaska, by way of example, being able to take tens of millions of dollars to build a bridge to nowhere? That seems like a pretty big waste and misplaced priority of taxpayer dollars. And so I think it’s going to be pretty quick that we remember what made the earmark process so disreputable that, when we took over the House of Representatives in 2011, we banned it.
TCS: So fair to say you’re not going to be on the Appropriations Committee if you’re in the Senate?
CMB: Well, seniority will determine that.
TCS: What committees do you want to be on? I said that because it’s kind of known, right, that on appropriations you’ve got to play ball on stuff like that.
CMB: No, you don’t.
CMB: In the House you do.
CMB: But House has an entirely different system than they have in the Senate. I’ll give you an example of something you may not know, but the public should know?
CMB: In the House, the biggest factor in what committee chairmanships you get or don’t get, subcommittee chairmanships you get or don’t get, is how much money you’re willing to pay to buy them.
TCS: The NRCC?
CMB: Then you are familiar! I’ve been offered three subcommittee chairmanships during my time, the United States Congress, each of those cost three hundred thousand dollars every two years. So it wasn’t really a purchase, it was a rental agreement. If you want to be a chairman of a committee, the purchase price is in the neighborhood of a million dollars before you can be considered, and we rank our committees as ABC and so on. You know what the basis is for that ranking? How much money you can raise from special interest groups if you’re on those committees. And that is a huge corruption of the public policy debate, because to get the money that you need to buy those positions of stature means that you have to get it from the very special interest groups you’re supposed to be overseeing, the very special interest groups who are trying to corrupt the public policy debate and get special treatment rather than have us do what is in the best interests of our country.
CMB: Hopefully, the Senate doesn’t operate that way, but that’s the way the House, both Democrats and Republicans operate.
TCS: What committees do you want to be on if you get there?
CMB: Well, I want to see what’s available and I’ll make a decision then. I don’t want to tie myself down to any particular committee or set of committees. Certainly the ones that relate to oversight of military, they’re important. The ones that relate to transportation, they’re important. The ones that relate to judiciary, they’re important. And when I say they I’m talking about the committee and the subcommittees that are associated with them. Budgeting process, given that we have a $30 trillion debt mark that we’re going to blow through sometime this year, that’s important. There are very few committees in Washington that are unimportant. So I’ll have a wide variety to select from and I will try to select the ones that I believe will best protect and promote both the state of Alabama and the United States of America.
TCS: Thanks for your time, Congressman.