tv Conversations with Retiring Members - Rep. Peter Roskam R-IL CSPAN December 29, 2018 8:00pm-8:32pm EST
this session on a gun bill. i got those assurances. i've been appointed to the gun violence task force. >> next must c-span interviews with outgoing members of congress. representative peter roskam, john duncan, and mike coffman. and ayanna pressley of massachusetts previous the massachusetts for the 160th congress. arizonaat, outgoing republican senator jon kyl joins the discussion on whether the u.s. is capable of intercepting a missile attack. c-span talks with outgoing u.s. representative peter roskam of illinois on his carrier and time in congress. this is 30 minutes. congressman, let's talk about your own reelection bid this year. you lost. what happened?
did the politics change? did the district change? professionalsthe that will analyze these races and look at the trends. there were a couple of things going on. hisident trump and disposition was on the ballot in someplace. we also had a gubernatorial race that was significant. the republican incumbent was worth $1 billion. you think that is real money, but not in illinois. his democratic opponent, the guy billion.was worth $3.5 these men were both spending extraordinary amounts of money. individual state representative thes in my constituency, democratic party was spending $2 million on individual state rep races. there was a money factor and all kinds of other things. this is politics.
this is the arena. i came up short. i respect the process very much. >> you voted with the president 95% of the time. at his postelection news conference, he called you out. >> welcome to the politics of 2018. the percentage of voting is a little bit of -- it's a tricky number, in one sense. the president doesn't vote. the president was signing things we were putting on his desk. that's an important distinction. that said, this is an environment with a very big personality in the white house. wentlection wnt forward -- forward. i was communicating to my constituency look, the job is to be a reflection of the constituency to a coequal branch of government. in some cases, work with the
administration, in some cases, they oppose the administration. the president made his comments. those types of comments are not surprising. >> what he said in the east room of the white house, that you didn't want him to embrace him. >> most folks, when they hear some of those offhand comments, i don't take them to heart. you can really litigate these things down and look at other candidates that fully embrace the president, other candidates that didn't. some candidates who fully embraced the president lost the elections. >> in-state office, you have run for state office, won a few, lost a few, why politics? >> politics is an interesting arena. there's a lot of sense of them -- cynicism about it, but i don't think there should be. if you have any one thing to say, our democracy is something to be cherished and celebrated.
it is a remarkably stable democracy. one of the things i have enjoyed in my time in congress is serving as chairman of the house democracy partnership. group.bipartisan 20 members of congress, both sides of the aisle. we represent the entire political spectrum. we interact with emerging democracies around the world, countries under a lot of pressure from authoritarianism, authoritarian neighbors, and so forth. each of these encounters, whether i'm visiting a foreign country or hosting an inbound delegation, at the end of these meetings, i come away with such profound gratitude for our system. even though it's a bumpy system, it's a system that has created more prosperity for more people than the world has ever known. sometimes today, it's easy to look out at the landscape and think these big events are overwhelming and i can't have a significance. in the public policy arena, and in politics in particular, you
do politics in order to drive policy. i foud great joy in that over the years. interest inave any rising in the republican leadership in the house? >> i was chief deputy whip for a period of time. when eric cantor lost his primary, iran four whip -- i ran for whip. steve scalise was successful in that, so he beat me. we both ran for it. there was not a sharp word between us. he won and has done a good job as the republican whip. what i did was turn my efforts to concentrate on committee work. i served in the ways and means committee and became a ultimate -- and ultimately chaired three of the subcommittees of the ways and means during a significant time. during a time when we found the irs was overreaching in terms of its authority,, i was chairing
the oversight subcommittee. then we moved into tax reform. i chaired the tax policy subcommittee. i've recently chaired the subcommittee. it was at a time when we were able to take on a great challenge of the hope euro crisis, along with -- opioid crisis, along with problems as it relates to regulatory burdens. >> you have been in the minority, the majority, what would you tell colleagues as you move back to the minority with pelosi about to take over as speaker? >> i also served in the minority and majority in the illinois house and senate. i know what it's like to be in the room, and i know what it's like to press your nose against the glass looking in. majority,republican they have to maintain a level of cohesiveness. that is one of their challenges. thatave to also be mindful if they are seeking to regain the majority, the country will
be looking to say what are your plans, what are you proposing. we know what you don't like about the direction that nancy pelosi issues the speaker where she had been leading the democratic majority. what are the alternatives you are advocating for? so many times, the politics today have devolved into the politics i don't like. there's an interest in the part of the voting public to say "i understand what you don't like, what are you for?" i think we need to be rebuilding that. the second thing is whether you are in the majority or minority, it's important to let your opponent take a victory lap everyone's in a while, just take credit. it doesn't have to always be a zero-sum game. our economy is not a zero-sum game. we don't assume that if you're successful it comes at my demise. if you are successful, it can add to my benefit. we also need a refashioning of
the politics we have seen today, in such a way that someone's success on the other side of the aisle is not perceived as something that comes at my expense. >> the state of politics today in washington is what? >> the state of politics today is driven much by social media, which is something we have to be very careful of and mindful of. we have a system of governance that was designed to restrain power. that's what our founders had put their percentage in. system,ders created a they understood human nature and were suspicious of it. our guys even rejected a parliamentary system. they said a parliament is basically a legislative gang where one faction gains control of both the executive and legislative branches. they said we will not have that either. we will have three coequal branches that we are all familiar with that are created
in perpetual tension with one another. here's the challenge. we have a culture that is an instant gratification culture that overlays on top of the system of governance. we now, culturally, i'm describing me, you, every person who is watching us today, we want what we want when we want it, and we want it now. we want it our way. yet, that is not the system the founders contemplated. we have a cultural challenge, and we have to be far more reflective about incremental change. thomas jefferson wrote a letter in 1790 two a pastor. i will give you three lines. think of this in the context of what i just described. we go on our app, our devices, we want things quickly. jefferson wrote this 14 years after he wrote the declaration of independence. "the ground of liberty is to be gained by inches. we must be content what we can
get from time to time, and eternally press forward for what is yet to get. it takes time to persuade men even to do what is for their own good." my point is that we culturally need to step back and say "these things take time, we have to take small steps to get there." >> let me take that one step further. the system also includes checks and balances. do you think your party has done enough of that with so many questions involving president trump? say theld come back and nature of the question, what specifically? let's go to tax returns, that's what the ways and means committee will be dealing with. the big drumbeat has been the disclosure of residential tax returns and using authority that the ways and means committee has. you goheadline, but if deeper into the story, you realize it's dangerous ground.
section 6103 of the internal the ways andsays means committee chairman has the ability to go in and look at those things, but it's only to look at those things to make sure the irs and government is not abusing a taxpayer. if there is a drumbeat that says there has to be disclosure of the president's tax returns, notwithstanding what the losses, where does that stop -- law says, where does that stop? justices are dealing with issues of great economic importance. should their tax returns be disclosed? it becomes -- i think there is a question about careful what we wish for. i'm willing to engage on any level of specificity about the president and so forth. i stood up to him on how he handled vladimir putin in helsinki. i had a discussion with him in the white house that was publicly noted. i stood up to the administration
on other things that relate to great lakes funding in my area, and any number of other things. the country and constitution, and the development of a body of work, legally gives a lot of authority under our system to the president, particularly as it relates to foreign affairs. >> based on that, what would you tell democratic colleagues who have this authority to do some of these things coming in january? >> their temptation will move right to impeachment. it will be interesting. i think nancy pelosi's first test, if she is the speaker, is if she will ever walk the democratic party back from that. i don't have a sense of what direction they are able to go. it's an open question. her capacity to control her caucus. you have some new members of her party coming in basically flipping the game board, saying they are not playing her game, they will hold protests, they msnbc with any sense
of frequency going over the heads of the democratic leaders. that will become a really significant challenge for the traditional democratic leadership on capitol hill. they are in for a whole new dynamic that they have not experienced before, not unlike the tea party movement that came in in 2010 that flipped the game board on the republican leadership. >> your interaction with the president one-on-one, what is it like? >> i have not been in one-on-one settings, i've been in smaller settings. it was around tax reform. i chaired the tax policy subcommittee. when we were moving through and discussing tax policy, i was in a number of settings. i thought to myself i wish the country could see this side of the president. he was intellectually curious, deferential, in some ways.
not the same type of figure that you see in larger public presentations. i also found the white house in that setting, in terms of tax policy, was very clear and fairly straightforward to work with. there was not a change in goalpost, not a change in dynamic, there was a level of clarity. was here's what we" trying to do, let's get the corporate rate to x, let's get the money repatriated, brought back from overseas, and drive middle income tax relief." with which wease were interacting at the ways and means committee, along with our senate interlocutors, about moving forward with tax reform. >> speaker ryan said repeatedly that the tax cuts would pay for themselves over time, will they? >> there are two ways of scoring this. now we are deep into washington week, to speak.
scoring, it won't work. there is dynamic scoring, which suggests it will, or it will come close. i've always maintained we are borrowing money to make these tax changes, and there's controversy about the borrowing. the way i reconciled it is it is rational to borrow money if it is ascending in value. you don't want money to buy groceries if you don't have to borrow it, but it's completely rational to borrow money to buy a house the increases in value or expand a manufacturing plant. we borrowed money, and what did we get? the first thing we got was a tax code that is updated, that has not been updated in 30 years. in the entire nature of the world economy, it fundamentally shifted, but our tax code was stuck in a 30 year ago spot. we desperately needed it to be updated, and we did that. the second thing, we got an
economy out of it that is expanding, growing, dynamic, and much more forward leaning. my kids are at the stage of life, they are all of -- they are all out of college. you want kids going into an economy where businesses are growing, expanding, and spending money, doing the type of things that allow new people to enter into the workforce. we borrowed money, but i think we got 2 things of substance out of it. >> as you look at the debt, almost $22 trillion, medicare, medicaid, social security, entitlement programs, defense spending, those are the big areas of the budget. where do you cut? >> you have to update the entitlement programs, in particular. let me go right to something i spent time on, medicare. cms,are fraud, if you call the medicare oversight folks, and ask them what their
fraudulent and erroneous payment rate is, they will tell you about 10%. let that sink in. 10% are fraudulent and erroneous payments. thedo a quick back of envelope, that's about $40 billion a year that by their own admission is going out the door either fraudulently or erroneously. it begs the question, how is this possible? because medicare has a system -- i'm oversimplifying it, but i'm not mischaracterizing it. the oversimplified version is it is pay and chase. they pay bills, they decide whether they are fraudulent later, than chase them down to try to get the money back. this way, you don't spend money this way, i don't spend money this way. the better system is to say use the same type of technologies the the financial services companies use to decide if it is really peter roskam, is he
really buying stereo equipment on the streets of budapest today? then they cut the charge-off. if you ask the credit card companies to ask the person in charge of the global network and terrified without fraud rate was, they would say i'm $10 trillion of transactions going on in the system, the fraud rate is .06%. private sector .06%, public sector 10%, that is fraud in error. that's an area of great common ground. i worked with the obama administration and trump administration working to fix and improve this. the improvements are challenging. i'm not pumping sunshine telling you that there are three easy points, it's a complicated matter to fix. my point is that's the first place to start as it relates to any sort of entitlement changes. >> do you remember the first time you came to washington as a
member of congress, day one, what you are thinking? >> i was thinking it was like drinking out of a fire hose. i remember being in the rayburn escalators, walking from one building -- session to another with my wife and my district director, looking at them both and thinking this doesn't quit. i remember being in the cannon told "ifom, we were you're ever served a subpoena, this is i you accept a subpoena." i thought what have we signed up for. i remember landing at reagan airport and being met there. evening, and it was like right out of the movies. the city was beautiful. couple ofked with a speakers, including john boehner, now speaker paul ryan,
they both admitted it has been tough to corral the republican caucus. why is it so difficult? >> the republicans are interesting people. the more i have looked at the disposition of the two political parties, my observation is this. it may be criticize, but i think i'm onto something. there's a collective nature to the democratic party that is more cohesive. is the nature of things. is morethe democrat dna collaborative, i would argue, then the republican dna. republican dna tends to be pretty entrepreneurial, pretty suspicious of power, and isn't necessarily interested in being all that collaborative and cooperative. this is a team sport. you have to be collaborative and cooperative. part of the social media
phenomenon i mentioned a couple forinutes ago makes it easy people to get on social media, or get on various outlets and say everybody i'm serving with is a sellout. there's always the temptation to make themselves look better at the expense of the group. -- leaves a leads lot of incremental jeffersonian wins on the table. personally, what has it been like for you commuting back and forth and raising for kids? >> i married the right woman. my wife and i have an married for 30 years. she is the rock of my life and a great blessing, and a credible encouraging -- and an incredible encouragement to me. door, myed out the wife was one of the type of people that were rolling her eyes or supporting, i could do that. but my wife supports me, i walk up the door and i can do my job.
it's like rocky coming out with the music on. we've been beneficiaries of a good marriage, and beneficiaries of raising 4 remarkable children who are 4 different people and are moving in different directions. there's incredible satisfaction in that. i've also been fortunate, because it's easy to get a stronger oh. there's multiple flights a day. i live less than an hour from o'hare airport. there's a comparative ease of travel compared to a number of my colleagues who are going to the west coast or other places. i can get home fairly quickly. >> did you have a sense that you would lose the election? >> no i didn't. my first opponent was tammy duckworth in 2006. that was a race that we narrowly won. it was a tough year for my
party, the house flipped. we were always behind in the polls, and we came out on top in the race. this was the same sort of dynamic. election night, it was pretty clear where it was going after two or three hours after the polls closed. calledmade a decision, i my opponent that night and congratulated him, i said he was going to love the job, it's a great honor. i hope he does. >> using comfortable with all of this. -- you seem comfortable in all of this. >> it's my face that drives me. my dad would lie down with me as a young boy, and he would recite a psalm. i will give you a couple of verses. the shadow ofn the almighty, sheltered by the gods.o is above all
he alone is my refuge, my place of safety. he is my god and i'm trusting in him." i am grateful for the season that i am able to represent the six congressional district of illinois. i look forward with expectation to the next season. >> you are still relatively young, do you have another race in you? >> never say never. those are decisions you don't make right now. those are decisions you make at some point in the future. >> have you worked with democrats? do you have friends on the other side of the aisle? >> i do. i very much enjoy the work we did on the oversight subcommittee, the ways and means, i enjoyed the work we have done in the house subcommittee. centerown university's evaluated all of the members of congress and said i was in the top 25 most partisan. withdoesn't mean you come a philosophy, i consider myself a conservative.
i'm a conservative who is trying to get things done. if constituencies gives members of congress more latitude to be able to get things done and take small steps, i think the system is more balanced over the long run. >> if you watch cable news, you think the whole system is broken, the end is coming, the crisis is around the corner. you are on the inside, do you feel that way? >> i do not feel that way. it's a great weakness in that's being communicated. it's a sense of discouragement and people feeling overwhelmed as they are looking in. in my constituency, i'm doing a small meeting at a company, or a senior citizen form, the first two or three questions, a hand will go up and ask why nobody can get along. i will walk through substantive examples of the opioid crisis, for example. that side came together, a big
controversial issue. everybody weighed insignificantly. you had multiple jurisdictions that were passing bills in both the house, senate, and signed into law. you would not know it. my constituents don't know that, because it doesn't involve anybody on television. >> have you casted a vote that you now regret? >> i don't want to be if i give you- the answer that comes to mind, it sounds like hubris and arrogance. that's to say that i was always right. i wouldn't be that presumptuous. your question was to regret. was there some position change havei have had that i changed? not that has come to my
attention. >> what are you most proud of? >> i'm really proud of the work we did on tax policy. views of theo economy that were competing for the affections of the american people. one is the zero sum game to view i mentioned a minute ago. we were able to reject that and repudiate it, saying we want an economy that puts a big percentage on growth, we wanted sensible growth so people can participate. together something that was transformational, in terms of tax policy, was incredibly satisfying. it's not just the economy or impacting, it's america's strength in the world from a military point of view, and the capacity to have more good influence. the other thing i have really enjoyed was this bipartisan work with the house democracy partnership. if you traveled with us abroad, you would not be able to tell who is in what political party based on what we were talking
about. all of that back here, and our main focus was working on democracy, capacity, building for these new emerging democracies. we look at the united states -- they look at the group united states with esteem. it was wonderful to be a representative of the u.s. in those settings. >> if you could change anything in the house, what would it be? >> you will never be able to do it, i would make the terms longer. the founders couldn't contemplate the ease with which we were able to communicate with constituents. the could contemplate ease with which i'm able to go back and forth with my constituency and the multiple ways to be in touch with them. if you had a longer cycle, i think it would allow for a better governing process. >> a four-year term versus two-year term? >> i would say four-year term. you can stretch out the budgeting cycle. i would revisit the budget act
of 1974. has was ever useful, it outlived its usefulness. it needs to be changed. >> when you close this chapter, begin another one in january, what's next? >> i have been asked to be a visiting fellow at the university of chicago, there institute of politics. i will be talking with undergraduates about this process and provide a series of seminars. i'm looking for to that. what will you tell them? >> we will talk a lot about process, we will talk about all kinds of different things. i'm going to tell them a quick story i will tell you. i went out with an old sunday school teacher of mine, someone i have known for my whole life. he's a very wealthy guide. during the course of the i asked him, what is it like to be that wealthy?
don't you feel like everybody who is approaching you is manipulating you? and wants something from you? you off?hat he said something to me that was hugely impactful. peter, guard your heart against cynicism. nothing good comes from a cynical heart. if people are manipulating me that is a their problem, not my problem. that was very formative for me when i heard it and i took it to heart. i think young people are sometimes tempted by others to listen, you cannot have any significance here. there is no way you could have an impact. it is completely not true. to influence the process is a significant and i want to communicate that to them. steve: is there anything on your bucket list? list things bucket
are always travel related. i love traveling and with my family in particular. i am even the scheming as we are talking about the next place to go. now, with my kids getting older, it is getting more and more challenging for their timeslots to be open. i have to induce them i going to cooler places. steve: what we miss the most? i think it is the relationships on capitol hill that i thoroughly enjoyed. i will do my best to stay in touch. there is a former members association i plan to join and went to be active in. it is very much -- this is a relationship driven institution. steve: we thank you for your time. rep. roskam: thank you. >> outgoing u.s. representative john duncan recently sat down with c-span for an interview to reflect