tv Newsmakers Sen Pat Roberts CSPAN December 11, 2017 12:07pm-12:43pm EST
respond to you, but as a member of the ethics committee, the longest serving member on the ethics committee, i don't know what i've done to be on for that amount of time, but we can't comment. and so ask me all you want, but basically there will be a no comment. host: explain to our viewers why you can't comment. senator roberts: the ethics committee works in a bipartisan way. there are three each, three democrats, three republicans, but what we really talk about is highly confidential. and i just can't comment. that's the way it is. host: can you characterize, senator, the work of the committee? because senator al franken stepped down, despite saying earlier that he wanted the ethics committee to do an investigation. o you believe that a member of congress can get due process through the ethics committee? senator roberts: oh, yes. i've been on the committee, we've been through several -- i don't want to list all the cases we've dealt with. we are very deliberate, but we also expedite as best we can. john isakson is a super
chairman. we are bipartisan. it's three and three. it's probably the least partisan committee in the congress, without question. and each member i think does a very good job, but it is confidential to protect both the member and the process. but when we reach a decision, we make it public. the committee has already made a statement that we are investigating senator franken. host: without going into areas that i know you can't discuss, you know, your job could get even harder as soon as next week if it turns out that roy moore is elected and you have someone who is accused of molesting teenage girls in your midst. an you talk about how this compares to earlier moments? what is the mood like? how hard is it to grapple with these issues? senator roberts: there is a difference in that the
committee has always been involved with people who have transgressed the rules, or there's been a complaint. the committee receives a lot of complaints that are simply dismissed because they are imply without merit. but it's usually -- well, usually, it's always been, with regard to any transgression, during a person's tenure in the body and the senate, and with regard to judge moore, that's a decision that's going to have to be made. >> senator, just stepping back from the ethics committee, how is roy moore, if he's elected, how is he going to be received? how is this, within the republican conference, and how is the atmosphere and how is this going to affect the atmosphere with the big issues that you've got on your plate? senator roberts: phil, i don't know. people of alabama will make that decision. nd when that decision is reached, either candidate i think will be received than
perhaps any other. i think probably that senator, once they are sworn in, will have a lot of difficulty walking through the halls. you'll probably be right in there with him. we'll answer those questions at that time. >> you've occasionally been a little frustrated with some of your colleagues. what are some of the things they've done and said in the hallways, their independence. do you have another senator? what's this -- senator roberts: well, you're talking about the members on our side of the aisle that jump the fence. that hasn't worked out very well, especially with healthcare. but it did work with regards to the tax bill. we have a unified position. we're in conference now. we think it's a very good tax bill, and i think we'll get it passed. and i think we'll get the budget done, too. we're not going to shut down the government. >> senator, you brought up the tax bill. i'm wondering how you approach
it given that you come from kansas, known for cutting taxes and maybe experiencing some onsequences that some people ere concerned about. where did that put you on the debate about a trigger to have automatic tax increases in the event that the tax bill does not favor itself as advertised? senator roberts: well, i'm from dodge city, kansas, and we know what triggers are all about. but a trigger in the tax bill in this particular case i do not think would have been helpful. this is based on dynamic scoring much it's based on economic growth. it's based on providing more tax relief to people. it's called the tax relief and obs act. i don't think the trigger would be appropriate at this particular time. if, in fact, you are into a recession, i don't think the answer is to increase taxes. so i just didn't see the sense of that. i don't think it's needed. but we will get a tax bill done. i can't remember the first part of your question, but fire
away. >> well, kansas ended up with a budget problem, i'm wondering if you think america is going to end up with some new budget problems. senator roberts: well, the kansas situation is not the situation with this tax bill. he kansas situation is unique. i could go back in the history of that and how that happened, but there was no idea on the part of the state legislature or the governor for that matter on either side that we would experience a farm recession, that we would experience an energy recession, a general aviation recession. all that happened on top of what was agreed to by the state. so it's a different situation ntirely. and i wouldn't use that as an example. >> senator, speaking of dodge city, the polls indicate so far that these bills are just deeply unpopular. how do you -- how is this going to be perceived on main street in dodge city, and how do you think it should be?
what's going to change the minds? senator roberts: phil, i think what we've done as a party on the republican side is we worked very hard to get there from here. as a member of the finance committee, it's been tedious. as you well remember, it took us about a week in the committee, open hearings in the big room, senate room 216, and we went on and on into the night. i think our colleagues across the aisle filed over 200 amendments. we voted on 63. all 63 i think were meant for more press releases than anything else. i'll give them credit in regards to making a good effort, but after a while, it got very contentious, and that's unfortunate, because in the finance committee, we're known to be less partisan. on the agriculture committee we are the least partisan committee. but as it affects dodge city, several commodity organizations
have come out in favor of the bill. several farm organizations have come out in favor. there's one in particular hat's opposed. it went pretty much along party lines. we've done a pretty good job of putting this bill together. i think it's a good bill. is it the best bill possible? no. it's the best possible bill. and we haven't done a very good job of selling it. n other words, i know that our colleagues across the aisle, if you say tax reform, they immediately say taxes are benefits to the rich. you know, tax cuts for the rich. that's just not the case. so i think the more people understand what is in the bill, and we do a better job of selling it, i think that will change. by the way, i don't know of any poll that was taken in dodge city. >> can you talk specifically about how the tax bill would affect your farmers, and for me and also for the audience, are these farms set up as people that are not corporations, but would get other treatment? senator roberts: we have the pass-through thing taken care
of, and the expensing pretty well taken care of. those are the two big issues in farm country. i was very pleased to work with senator john thune on that particular matter. my main concern with the tax bill was how it would affect griculture, since we're in a very rough patch, and farmers need predictability and stability. so that's what the tax bill is all about as far as i'm concerned with agriculture. senator thune deserves a lot of credit. senator tim scott also worked very hard on behalf of agriculture. we had a number of people on the committee doing exactly that. >> are you confident you can nail down a conference agreement in the next two weeks? you've got big issues with differences between the house and the senate, and you've got our third rule issues in terms of the size, the effect on the deficit.
are you confident you can nail that down before christmas? you're going to have something to take home? senator roberts: phil, i'm going reply with the answer that i usually give you. you know, the farmer puts the -- doesn't put the seed in the ground without the hope he's going to have a crop. i'm optimistic this is going to happen, because it has to happen. and so i know there are differences between the house and senate bill, and as a member of the house, i know how house members sometimes feel about the senate. but i think little a good bill. i don't think the differences are that great. and we all agree that we have to have a bill. so that will work out. i think it's going to be ok. >> do you prefer the senate or the house approach to pass-throughs, and define that r people, these are the sole proprietorships, l.l.p.'s that are different from corporations. senator roberts: i think -- yeah, i prefer the senate bill. i voted for it. and we can work very hard on it. that doesn't mean that we're going to have major differences in the bill. i think we're going to be k.
>> where do you find the money to make some of the fixes that the house is demanding? so for example, the corporate alternative minimum tax, dealing with that is going to be very expensive. it's going to be very expensive to satisfy california republicans and let people take either a property tax deduction or income tax deduction. where can that money come from? senator roberts: well, you're talking about -- i think the -- talking about offsets and pay-fors. i think the answer to that is in the conomic growth that is bound to happen when this bill passes. that's to be worked out in conference. i'm not a conferee, but i'm sitting on the sidelines ready to go in at any time. so i'll just have to work that out. >> well, one of the options is taking the corporate rate up from 20%, 21%, 22%. senator roberts: i don't think that's a good idea. i don't say it's untouchable.
but you don't want it shaking or the tent comes down. and that's where it is at 20%. everybody knows that we have the highest corporate rate. everybody knows that f we're going to be successful in getting our major companies to come back, i think the estimate that the president keeps talking about is $4 trillion to ome back into our economy. i think the 20% ought to stay. and we can work around that as best we can to address the roblems, especially the ones that you're talking about with the folks from california and new york and new jersey, etc., etc. by the way, if they elect state legislators and governors that would cut the spending to begin with so they wouldn't have to write it off or have the opportunity to write it off on the federal tax return at the expense of states like kansas, i think it might be a good idea. >> i want to talk about trade a little bit, senator, because i know this is one of the areas where you have been at odds with the trump dministration. do you see president trump's views on trade as evolving at all, or do you see him as still somebody who could at any moment potentially pull the u.s. out of nafta?
senator roberts: let's hope the latter is not the case. i've met with the president four times now, once for an hour. i think we're going to come up with some more people involved in agriculture on the committee, and not necessarily on the ag committee, but people who are privileged to represent farm states. every senator has some agriculture. so i think everybody should be concerned. we're in a bad patch. and by that, we've had low prices for three years, and we've had, i don't know what we've done to mother nature, but she sure has not been kind to us with regards to hurricanes, prairie fires, what's happening now in california. those are bad things that happen that we can't control. but we can control a robust, aggressive trade policy. and that is one issue where i'm concerned, because with the white house council on trade, which tends to be very ideological, they want 34 policy objectives in every trade bill.
that's not going to happen. every trade bill i've been involved with has been overcriticized and has been oversold. but there is a sweet spot there. and in regards to nafta, mexico, canada, our exports are up over 250% over the last 10 or 15 years. right now, mexico is buying wheat from brazil. they should be buying wheat from kansas. the kansas wheat market, with the wheat that we produce, and a lot of sitting on the ground, that should be going to mexico. i know the president wants to look at the unfair trade balance, but if you look at what we have done on the other side with regards to what we sell to people all around the world, we have to have a consistent trade policy. i think we're getting there. our trade representative used to work for bob dole, he knows agriculture. i know him very well. when he came to the finance committee, the first thing to this me, now, senator, i know that you're going to ask me or tell me that you can't eat steel.
we have to export things we make. we also have to export things we grow. we have a new outfit that just has come to life with a very fine member of the senate, very well respected and max baucus have come together with a new organization called farmers for free trade. don't think you have to educate farmers, ranchers, growers, all their lenders, everyone up and down main treet that benefits, you know, rom agriculture. i think we know what we have to do. i issued a call to action before the u.s. chamber of commerce some time ago, so it is -- we're having meaningful dialogue with the administration. secretary ross, but more especially the president. i know the president wants the best trade deals he can get. but in the meantime, don't do any damage to our trade policies, especially when we have to sell our product. host: chairman roberts, where are you concerned with the urrent nafta negotiations?
where do you see problems? senator roberts: well, the problem is the trade deficit. but the trade deficit is very small if you look at the verall success of nafta. and i don't think we -- it's like humpty dumpty. you don't push humpty dumpty off the wall because you can't put it back together again. to start the termination effort, to start that clock, it would send shivers all throughout agriculture. you have to plan ahead in agriculture. you have to have predictability. you have to have stability. so all this talk about termination is very counterproductive. i just met with the president at the christmas party at the white house. i was one of the last ones before i could even say merry christmas, mr. president, he
looked at me, put his thumb up and said we're going to be all right on nafta. so we'll see. we've had some long discussions. many members have gone up and talked to the appropriate folks up in the white house. and i look forward to going up again. so i'm still optimistic we're going to be ok. >> you made reference to the white house trade council. there is clearly this tug of war that's been going on in the white house, other parts -- ther parts of the white house, more of a nationalist wing versus more free trade. what's your sense of who's prevailing there in terms of particularly on trade policy? senator roberts: well, we met with the white house counsel on trade on the finance committee twice, once republicans, once bipartisan. and as i've indicated or if i haven't indicated, i'll say it now, the white house council on trade is more an ideological approach to trade, what would be the best possible, you know, trade agreement.
i think we have 34 different policy objectives that they'd like to put in every trade bill. that's just not possible. i mean, it isn't. and of the 34, there are several that i think members of congress on both sides of the aisle would object to. so i don't begrudge them that effort. i mean, if you can get a perfect world and get a perfect trade bill, i think that's what they'd like to have. but that's just simply not possible. i don't think it's a war. i think you said it was a war, but i don't think it's a war. i think it is a needed dialogue to sit down and say what should e our best trade policy. and those of us in agriculture say, look, we have to have stability and predictability, while we're doing this. they've had three meetings now with regards to nafta. they haven't gone very ell.
and as a result, there's a lot of us that are worried that things could go on the down side. but i'm still optimistic that we will have a robust trade policy, again both with the things that we make and the things that we grow. host: what does going on the down side mean? senator roberts: if you go on the down side, you terminate the agreement in an effort to et a better agreement. i just don't think that is realistic, and i think it's very counterproductive with regards to our economy. and again, i would stress that we've been to all regions of the country. we meaning those of us on the ag committee. senator stabenow and myself, first thing we do is sit down with farmers, and i'm talking about all of agriculture, hether it's farmer, rancher, grower, or people involved, lending institutions, banks, cooperatives, so on and so forth. and it's the entire food chain that is now concerned about this. that represents a lot of our economy. we have a tax bill that's going to stimulate the economy, and
that's a good thing. you don't to want get into a situation to cause an even deeper recession. so i think those are the stakes, and we just have to make our voices heard. i've talked to senator ross. i've talked with the president. we'll continue talking. > senator, really broader, beyond nafta, the administration has withdrawn the united states from the trans-pacific partnership, which a lot of segments in agriculture are very excited about. and there's been a threat to pull out of the korean agreement as well, though that hasn't been materialized. but do you see any signs of progress in terms of our trade olicy? senator roberts: yeah, individually, we have a very reasonable discussion that we hear a lot of press reports from excellent writers like
phil saying, whoa, wait a minute, somebody said this, or somebody said that, or there's evidence that this could appen. i just -- i don't see that. i think that once people become aware of the consequences of what would happen about what you're talking about, i think they'll pull back, and i think we'll have, again, a very strong and robust trade policy. the thing about south korea, i think that cage was rattled, and i don't think there was nything in the cage. so i don't think that's going to happen. i am concerned about that. when you have trade agreements that involve that many countries, and you plant the merican flag with regards to reliability, with regards to our trade, that's also a national security asset. you start trading with people, show me a country that can't
beat itself, and i'll show you a country that's in utter chaos. american trade can do a lot of ifferent things. e can feed a trouble and had hungry world. we can make our presidents known in terms of a very reliable business partner. that helps with our whole national security. i think the t.p.p., those fforts were on the right track. i am very sorry that the president chose to cancel that. now, what he wants to do is go around to the same countries and agree and get a better trade agreement. i'm all for efforts to get a better trade agreement, but i don't think you have to, you know, break it up first and then go in and try to get something better. host: we have time for a couple more. >> you had talked earlier about agriculture knack tough spot throughout. you talked about hurricanes. it occurred to me, i wonder if
you see global warming as playing a role in any of these problems. and if so, if there's something congress should do. senator roberts: well, climate change has always happened. farmers know that. that's for sure. go back in the 1950's, i can remember that, where we had a ery dry period of years, and we suffered through that. everybody knows about the dirty 1930's. but we made so many conservation improvements that, you know, those kind of things, some could be very devastating, but we are much better able to control that. and we are in a period, i think, of global warming. i think the best source that i have ever been able to have the privilege of seeing is going to antarctica, and they have an ice quarter, if you will, that's 9,000 feet of ice. and then you finally hit land. in that part of the world.
and you can see, it's like, you know, tree rings. and you can see during periods f time there has been global arming, and there's been global cooling. we are in that -- you know, we're in that period. >> i'm sorry, to be clear, because my question could have been more precise. do you think that the production of gases, like carbon dioxide and methane, heat-trapping gases, are what is causing what you believe this period of global warming? senator roberts: well, i think they're part of it, but i don't think that's the total answer. i know i asked the scientists, the top scientist down in antarctica some years back what would to happen if we were to pass the kyoto agreement with regards to carbon emissions, and also global warming, and he said it's about zero point something. so i think we all have to work with regards to climate change, but in the doing of that, you don't want to put in a regulatory system from a cost benefit standpoint that doesn't
make any sense. the united states has had a very good regard with regards to emissions of carbon, and we are moving ahead with other sources of energy, probably faster than any other country. and so we are making progress along those fields, but let's do it in a rational way. host: final question. >> yeah, senator, looking ahead to the year, coming year, democrats are saying with this increase in the deficit that's projected from the tax cut, that republicans are going to be coming after social security, medicare, after the social safety net, food stamps, which is obviously under your jurisdiction in the agriculture committee, and speaker ryan, over at the house, said welfare reform is going to be a priority for them. what's going to happen in the senate? do you expect to consider cuts o any of those programs?
senator roberts: well, number one, i'm happy you underscored the democrats are suddenly interested in the deficit. that's something new. i think that's a good thing. we should all be concerned about that. i think you can offset that with economic growth, with this ax bill. now, i know what the speaker has said. your entitlement programs are the major sources pending, even cutting out in terms of the top expenditure, and i think that we can achieve efficiencies. you know, talk about cuts or going after. i think you said going after. nobody wants to go after anything. we want to make improvements. in particular, this program is absolutely vital to the farm bill, absolutely vital to passing a farm bill. but we've seen just recently reports that we've been able to discuss in committee about states gaming the system. that's got to stop. we want to protect the people
who really need the food stamps, and by the way, that number of food stamps has decreased and expenditures have come down, so we're making some progress. we can do more. but that's not -- we're not going to block food grants in the senate. we don't have the votes to do it. but we can achieve efficiencies and some reform if you want to call it reform. but i don't anticipate something dire happening. in terms of social security, edicaid and medicare and all he rest of these programs, i hink you can achieve efficiencies, but we're not going to go after those personally in terms of time, to pass the tax bill is number one. number two, right after that, there's the c.s.r. question with regards to people who may ose their insurance. patty murray and lamar alexander on the health committee are also on that committee as well. they have a proposal that i think makes a lot of sense.
kansas would be probably 52,000, 58,000 people that may lose their insurance. that will not happen in terms of kansas, because the insurance companies have lready said what they're going to do in terms of premiums. but i think we can make a step forward with that. then we got to get a farm bill. and i know that the house is working hard on that, along with colin peterson, his democratic counterpoint. senator stabenow and i, we get along. last farm bill, i think we marked it up in one morning and several hours. phil, i think you were there. on the floor, we got it done in two days. that's when harry reid shut everything down. we got it done in two days and handled 63 amendments. we can do this. we are going to try to work together in early spring. january, february. we hope to have a blueprint together that both democrats and republicans can agree ith.
we have to get something done on behalf of the farmer and rancher and their lenders who say look, we have to have dependability, we have to have predict ability. >> are you confident you will have that new farm bill passed by this time next year? senator roberts: oh, my gosh, yes. you remember what happened last time. we passed it in good faith and we hit a brick wall in the house. there was concern about food stamps and dairy policy and work requirements and things like that and it sort of fell apart. it went on for three years. we extended the farm bill for three years. we just can't do that, especially during this period where we are in the third year of a price depression and we have this trade fall -- trade policy fuss that we have to get
settled. this is no time to pass a revolutionary farm bill. you might call it evolutionary. if we can extend what we have and make some improvements and efficiencies, i think we can do that. host: well, senator pat roberts, we have to leave it there. chair of the agricultural committee, thank you for being here. we appreciate it. senator roberts: my pleasure. host: let me turn to my two reporters. you just heard the senator layout quite the ambitious agenda for the remainder of this year and going into next ear. what could hold that up? what are the challenges? >> the big challenge that i see has to do with getting an mnibus spending bill passed in all of the issues that could go along with that. a lot of democrats are unwilling on the house side to pass a spending bill unless there is assistance for children brought to the country illegally.
if democrats don't support that bill in the house and you have some freedom caucus members balk as well, it could stall out. >> the calendar is also a problem will stop it is an election year and if you don't get it done by july, it does not happen so there is a pretty concerned -- pretty compressed schedule. in an even numbered year. so that's a challenge. there's also -- she brings up the budget. there's actually a very important farm bill angle in that. it's important to senator roberts. there are provisions in the senate bill, but because of the rules, the way the rules work, there's money that provides about a billion dollars that with on't have to come up in the agriculture committee in the farm bill if they can get a big omnibus agreement passed. it's actually -- they need to get that done before they move on. all of these sorts of things
work together and they have to fall into place. host: on trade policy obviously a big issue for the senator and his state. when do we know the outcome of these nafta negotiations? where do things stand? >> the nafta negotiations are stuck right now. there are a lot of issues that they have been unable to esolve and until that happens, we don't know where we are going. senator roberts is right, technically donald trump could just decide he's going to pull america out of nafta. there probably would be a legal battle surrounding that. it is not clear whether he could do that automatically or not. that would have -- that would be very consequential for this country. host: well, phil, specifically for the agriculture industry? >> it would be huge. canada and mexico are huge markets. it can't happen. and i think there is this fundamental tension and you know canada and mexico know
that, that the farm lobby is extremely influential in congress and they can only go so far because canada and mexico have a lot of leverage because it is a bunch of big arkets for corn and soybeans and livestock products. >> and mexico has an election next year, so that is going to be a dynamic on their part as well. >> we want to thank you both. thank you for being part of newsmakers. >> thank you. [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2017] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. isit ncicap.org] >> and more on tax reform from "politico." treasury department reporting the tax cuts currently in the
g.o.p. plan before congress would not be able to pay for themselves without other changes. the trump administration wants to implement, including welfare reform and infrastructure spending in order to boost the economy. the treasury analysis said that it would see an increase in revenues by $1.8 trillion over a decade and that's to cut the roughly $1.5 trillion in tax cuts. treasury secretary steve mnuchin said his department would prove an analysis that the tax cuts would be fully paid for. you can read more at politico.com. on friday the president of the european council talked about the latest brexit negotiations with theresa may. we'll hear comments by both the prime minister and the commission president.