Monday, January 23, 2017

Fearing 2018 Challengers, U.S. Rep. Ronald Deon DeSantis Grants Interview to Daytona Beach Newspaper

"Rumors" of a DeSantis race for Florida Attorney General? An actual newspaper interview with the bumptious Congressman? How cool is that? Thanks to the Daytona Beach News-Journal for being perspicacious. We need more journalists who work thattaway -- more watchdogs and fewer lapdogs, thank you!

Rep. DeSantis on Trump presidency: Buckle your seatbelt

Posted Jan 19, 2017 at 6:35 PM
Updated Jan 19, 2017 at 10:23 PM

By Mike Finch,

U.S. Congressman Ron DeSantis, now entering his fifth year in the House of Representatives, sat down with The News-Journal editorial board this week to discuss a range of issues facing the country. The meeting touched on U.S.-Russia relations, health care, federal tax policy, immigration and incoming President-elect Donald Trump. The congressman's responses and questions posed have been edited for breadth and clarity.

On Trump's inauguration and the incoming Congress: When you have somebody that can change the news cycle with a tweet, it is going to be a topsy-turvy legislature, particularly in the first 100 to 200 days. That will shape the narrative in the media environment, and that could be very beneficial for us in Congress.

I think (the inauguration) is going to be memorable one way or the other. I can't imagine him doing this in a way that isn't memorable. He's got the chance to really change Washington a lot. The window, I think, is the first 6 to 9 months to really do that, and then we start getting into the midterms (elections). I say buckle your seatbelt. I think it's going to be entertaining. I think it's going to be interesting.

What are your thoughts on what the president-elect has said about Russia and the (unconfirmed) report that was recently leaked and U.S. relations with Russia going forward? I think Vladimir Putin does not have our interest at heart. I think he is a threat.

I think how Trump has approached it is not that dissimilar from how the last three presidents have approached it, saying they were going to have this great relationship with Russia. Bill Clinton tried. Bush looked into Putin's soul and said he found a kindred spirit. Obama did a reset with Russia and they unilaterally took the missiles out of Eastern Europe as a show of good faith.

I would like to have a better relationship with Russia. I don't think we have to have another Cold War, but with Putin this is somebody that has said the worst thing that has ever happened in the 20th Century was the expiration of the former Soviet Union. That's a pretty remarkable statement.

I think it's interesting because you can take some of the statements Trump's made. But then you look at who he's appointed in some of these key positions - Mike Pompeo for CIA director and James Mattis for Defense secretary - both are very strong on national security and very clear-eyed about Russia.

Do you think the US needs to do more than it has done in the last of eight years in regards to cyber security? Absolutely. We've passed cyber bills in the Congress and they're important. We also have to deal with this idea of what constitutes an act of war anymore. It was obvious 100 years ago. But now is it an intrusion into a private company? Does that trigger certain rules of engagement?

Congressman Ron DeSantis, speaking during a visit with The Daytona Beach News-Journal editorial board, said he is concerned about Russia. "I think Vladimir Putin does not have our interest at heart. I think he is a threat," DeSantis said. News-Journal/David Tucker

We do not have a good answer to those questions right now, and they're hard questions. I'm not saying it's easy to do, but clearly, we would want to have a better deterrent capability than we've shown so far. I don't think what Russia did in the election was necessarily that consequential, but I do think it was very brazen of them to be involved.

The Congressional Budget Office released a report this week saying 18 million people would lose health care by 2018 and premiums would soar if it were dismantled immediately. What do you think needs to happen? What's the path forward on affordable health care? I think the CBO has been wrong about Obamacare from the beginning. What they scored is not what Republicans have been proposing so I don't put a lot of stock into that. But I do think when you look at Obamacare, you'll hear numbers about 15 to 20 million people who have been insured by it.

The question needs to be asked is the goal to just get a card or is it to actually treat your health care needs?

We're not going to be able to totally (sic) fix the health care system because it's complicated and when they say repeal and replace, I don't want to replace it with our own 2,000-page bill where we're socially engineering everything because we can't do it. We don't have the capacity to do it and understand this. I say repeal and reform, so what targeted reforms could we put in place to put a downward pressure on cost. You will have more access if it's affordable.

Polls show that one of the most popular components of Obamacare is the pre-existing conditions part. Can that be kept without some sort of mandate to prevent free-riders and all the other issues that go with that? That is a problem that can be addressed but I think the way Obamacare addressed it the mandate doesn't have enough teeth to cause people to buy insurance. If you're younger, these plans where you're sinking hundreds of dollars a month into it and then your deductible is $10,000, you're better off paying a $1,000 penalty and then waiting and if you develop something then you can go get it. There will be coverage for people with pre-existing conditions, but it will have to be continuous.

One of the issues that is still roiling out there is the notion of immigration reform and specifically building the wall. What do you think about that? I think that was his signature campaign promise. I think he's got to build it. I think it's symbolic of whether his presidency is successful. He has the authority because the congress in 2006 passed the Secure Fence Act which said you needed to have 700 miles of at least double fencing. It didn't require a wall, but it authorized a wall if that's what the executive wanted to do.

I think they did about 17 miles of the 770 and then defunded it the next year in the appropriation when George Bush was president. So he may need some more money up front but I think he should do it.

It doesn't completely solve the problem of illegal immigration and illegal narcotics, but I think it will definitely help, and I think also think it will also be symbolically important in terms of showing we are going to be serious about our borders.

What will it cost to build that wall? There are different estimates. Trump has put out figures that say between $5 and $10 billion. Some people who are opposed to it say it's going to cost more than that.

Trump has promised we're going to make the military as strong as it needs to be. My assumption is that that means spending more on the military. We're also going to do a lot to the infrastructure; we're going to build a wall. Doesn't that make government bigger and more costly unless we figure out how to cut other things? I want the government to do the core things. Having a strong military, I don't consider that big government because I think that is government's proper role. For me big government is the federal government doing things that either it can't do constitutionally, it's not competent to do, or it would be better done by the states and localities.

I want a 350-ship Navy, bigger Marine Corps, bigger Army and I'm willing to spend more money to do it. But wouldn't it be nice if instead of adding to the top line let's look under the hood, and if we could divert some of the existing expenditures from tail to tooth then that's a huge increase in fighting capabilities without even adding to the top line.

Trump has been very vocal about some of the overruns. It may be a big Sea Change in how we approach this, not that we're not going to be committed to a big, strong military or even having to spend more. But hopefully, we're looking at some of the things that are a part of the permanent bureaucracy that just subsists year after year.

On infrastructure, we have to see what Trump is going to propose. If it's just to throw a bunch of money at stuff, the federal government has not done a good job at doing that. If we're really going to look at some structural changes that can empower local communities and states, that's something that I think can be good.

There have been ongoing efforts to expand the local Veterans Affairs clinic. Are you optimistic at all about where a Trump administration could take VA health care?

At the clinic, we have to get this new lease and it requires legislation and a part of it is just the way Washington works. They score the leases over a 20-year period that causes it to have a budget effect. The delay is not just in Daytona. This is happening in other parts of the country. My hope is that we deal with that and that we do it early.

On the overall system, I know we are at least committed to giving veterans an option to use private care.

Trump nominated someone who is in the existing VA chain of command right now. David Shulkin looks like he is a smart, capable guy. I just wonder if elevating someone from within the system is what we need or do we need someone to come from outside the system. I think we were all surprised it was someone from inside the VA.

How much of a honeymoon do you think he will have before John Kasich, Marco Rubio or Ted Cruz - or any number of people in his own party - start running for a presidential election? No one said he could win. And he won. I think all politicians are going to view any negative news that says he's not popular with a grain of salt because there's a lot of people who at least in some parts of society - it's not popular to be a Trump supporter but nevertheless they went in and voted for him.

Trump is going to get in and he has a sense for making deals. He has a chance to move a lot of things through Congress. If he's achieving everything that he said he was going to do, that's going to help him.

Voters may not agree with you on everything but if you're honest about what you want to do and you pursue it and you follow through I think they respect that. I think he has the chance to build a lot more support than he had in the campaign because that will be based on results. If they couldn't beat him the first time, I don't think there's any way they're going to beat him as an incumbent president unless he really messes up.

One of the rumors that are out there is that you may have an interest in the Florida Attorney General's position if Pam Bondi leaves to join the Trump administration. Is that something you have an interest in? I'm not going to launch any campaign until we get through this legislative process. That really has got to be my focus. I've been approached by people thinking that Trump was going to lose and it would be a way to stop Hilary's excesses. I haven't made any decisions about what I'm going to do in 2018 and beyond.

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