tv Conversations with Retiring Members - Rep. Mike Coffman R- Colorado CSPAN December 30, 2018 12:51am-1:29am EST
has been an honor. i am a c-span junkie. the 7:00 show just about every morning. my wife says don't you get enough of that? i say yes but when you know these people it is even more about hisg. career and time in congress. this is about 40 minutes. teve: congressman coffman, for those retiring yours is not voluntary, what happened the election? in 2012 they dramatically changed my district to essentially get rid of me at that time.
john mccain had carried the district by eight points in 2008 to an area that barack obama carried by eight points in 2008. what was extraordinary about it, was the diversity of the district was extraordinary. it was blue but it was stunning in terms of its -- 20% is foreign-born. three large immigrant communities dominate, aurora, colorado. it is over half the population were the minorities are the majority. i was able to decisively win it in really a wave election. it is a stork when you have a new president who comes to office, particularly with a house and the senate. midterm election
is going to be ugly. the president's tone made it very tough in the state of colorado. i think there were losses at every level. steve: in your campaign and in congress you have expressed your displeasure with donald trump, why and how? issue by issue, certainly when i agree with the president i sit with him. as ii disagree with him, did with separating families at -- i think his relationship with vladimir putin. there are a number of issues that concern me. particularly among college-educated women, independents that are registered, who had voted for me in the past. they really were recoiled by the tone of the president.
they felt there needed to be a greater check on the president by a democratic-controlled house. steve: were you caught in the middle? you were one who would often cross the aisle and that would anger conservatives in your own party. rep. coffman: it was a difficult situation to be in. most ranked as the 12th bipartisan member of congress by the nonpartisan institute. i think those who were offended by the tone of donald trump, nothing i could do or say would be enough. at as disloyalw th . i sighed as representing a certain district.
here is the question. as you know, our country was founded on compromise. why is it so hard today to compromise and have bipartisanship within the two parties in congress? redistricting has become such a science that the are either very red or very blue in the congress. in either party, to stay in office the threat is in the primary. it is to go to the ideological base of one's party. in the political culture of the compromise seems to be a dirty word. it seems as though you are giving up principal. versus finding common ground to advance the country.
called problemp solvers. reduce theether to partisan divide in washington, d.c. we pledge that whatever party maintained control of congress, if there are members or problem solvers, they would stand up to leadership and demand change. i commended democrats for doing so. i think there were rule changes that will hopefully make the congress more about partisan. steve: how do you think the democrats will run the house? rep. coffman: i think with some of the changes like the ability -- is there to hundred 90 sponsors on the bill it automatically should come to the floor for a vote. i think that is a very important change that allows members from either party to cross the aisle to establish a coalition without
to permission of leadership advance an issue that is important to the american people. beyond that, i am hopeful. at the same time i do think that o years will be pretty ugly. i think immigration will be front and center. parties -- i think the leadership of the president and nancy pelosi and a senator schumer, i think will be their desire. i think both sides would rather keep the issue going for their own political basis. what will happen with the immigration issue in the next tw oh years. i think the president prevails in reelection at that plan time he would be willing to negotiate
some sort of comprehensive immigration reform. until then i think both sides -- i think it will be raw and ugly. steve: was there a defining issue in your reelection effort that hurt your chances? rep. coffman: you can't really isolate it to one issue. when i was told at the beginning ifthis cycle early in 2017, you can localize the race and the things you have accomplished a home, if you can keep it referendum on your leadership and not the president then you will win. ande becomes nationalized if it becomes a referendum on the president you cannot win. what the president did in campaigning in red states and
doing rallies in red states where he availed on some senate seats, a net of two. that really became the story every day. what he said. so dominated the media and the new cycle. he said, anhing offhand remark or something he said at a rally. that was the story every day. that, combined with the fact weakening press in colorado, the dailies cannot focus on it. the "denver post", the majority
are syndicated stories from the national media. you do not have the focus in terms of local politics. with cable news and the new cycle, the president was dominant every day. it was impossible to break through. steve: you are a veteran on the state level of colorado politics. when the campaign committee pulled out of your campaign, did you feel they were disloyal, did you expect it? rep. coffman: i think it was a calculation on their part. had limited resources. democrats are energized in this race. it felt like they had unlimited resources. you had somebody like michael bloomberg who wanted to run for president. when you have him weighing in had another you from california weighing in. the energy was so incredible.
it was a green wave preceding the blue wave in terms of the amount of resources available. it is an expensive media market. financially that they do not plan what it would take to penetrate that wall to get my message through was simply too high. steve: did mike coffman make a difference in congress? i think with mycoffman: diverse background in the committees to work to make sure we have the best trained and best equipped military in the world. a member of the house veterans committee, really fighting to make sure that we honor our nation's obligations to men and women who made tremendous sacrifices for our country. certainly fighting for immigration reform for my
nthiopian community, making a impact on human rights in ethiopia. caucus forpartisan that. convince the prior administration to file a complaint against china for which the united states prevailed on that issue. certainly did i cop is all i wanted to? no. representatives there is simply -- even with the reforms that nancy pelosi has pledged to accept based on my my problems in solvers caucus, i think there is too much power in a too few hands. i feel that is not going to change. steve: what would you change if
you could change one thing?rep. coffman: i think i would of thealize the power committee chairman. decentralize the power of leadership from both parties. in colorado we had the same problem. the voters in colorado in 1988 forward a reform that was called give a vote to every legislator. priorhat did was said -- to that we functioned like washington. it said bill would be referred by the speaker to a committee and the committee chair would be assigned to schedule that bill or not schedule that bill for a hearing or vote. in colorado, we functioned the same way. 1988, voters enacted a
constitutional reform called give a vote to every legislator. that required every bill introduced in the house of representatives and the state senate as well in colorado that every bill had a hearing and a vote. limitneral assembly could the number of pills to every legislator. acould not deny a vote on bill. that dramatically changed the political culture of our general assembly and legislative branch in colorado. i believe changes like that could change the political culture in washington, d.c. it is difficult to get things done. it is partisan to the point of being dysfunctional. steve: i want to get your views on an issue that is a statewide issue in colorado that you have been involved with. that is the legalization of marijuana. where do you see that going in the next five years?
coloradoman: i believe had the legal authority as an issue of interstate commerce. my guess is that as more states legalize it, medical marijuana seems to proceed recreational marijuana. i did not vote for it as a citizen in colorado. as their representative, this felt vote of the people, i that i had to represent the interests here. what i fought for was federal with the decision the state has made. as opposed to mandating it on states that have not made that decision. we have not made good progress in that area. i believe progress will be made in the near future. of things inumber
colorado that make it difficult. it is still an illegal activity. our marijuana distributors in colorado do not have access to financial services that other industries have. often times they are relegated to being an all cash business. i think that is more prone to criminality. it is more difficult without the trail of a banking relationship to collect taxes owed to the government. as the state moves in that direction, we will proceed accordingly from a federal standpoint state-by-state. you talk about bipartisanship with the problem
solvers caucus. the perception is that this town is dysfunctional. would you agree or disagree? does more get done than the public often sees? spurtsffman: i think in things get done. immigration reform, we made no progress on that. that is something that has been there for a long time. we are not getting enough done on health care. although some things are happening on an incremental basis. enough ist feel that getting done on a timely basis. to not finish the appropriations process, to move continual resolutions, as whether they are hard on federal agencies.
there is not an adjustment for changes necessary to move the policy forward when you are governing in that manner. steve: speaker ryan says he has tw over gretz, one is immigration and the other is the rising debt. it was your party that passed a add upx cut that would to $1 trillion into the nation's debt. rep. coffman: i think was necessary to move the economy forward. from the budget office still looks backwards 10 years. the average gdp growth we are in greatly excess of right now. are ahead of that curve in terms of gdp growth, i don't see that number materializing. it is important to make the united states competitive globally by virtue of doing that.
where the fundamental problem is going to be tough for congress to take on. we have to do it. every congress is at fault for not addressing it. as we move forward as a country, the sooner we address it, the easier it is to do. you have to look at mandatory spending. you have to look at entitlement programs. there is no other way to resolve it. in 1965, 2 thirds of the budget was discretionary spending. that is appropriated on an annual basis. if there is no appropriation, the program goes away. congress establishes eligible requirements for mandatory spending and those programs simply continue on autopilot. now, a snapshot of the budget, 2/3 is mandatory spending and
1/3 is discretionary. and you canntinue eliminate the entire defense budget and not resolve the problem right now. it is that great, unless you are willing to go into mandatory spending. as soon as we go in and make minor adjustments, then the greater the impact is. steve: when will congress and the president stopped kicking the can down the road? the president said in his first term he does not want to deal with entitlement or mandatory spending. what is his second term look like? that i cannot tell you. the longer this country waits, the more catastrophic the cuts are and that will impact people directly.
i disagreed with the health care plans that came out of the house out of concern of pre-existing conditions. it could've been more firmly expressed in the legislation. with regards to the amendment i had concerns. certainly the medicaid expansion was fair game. that certainly was a major entitlement reform bill that was envisioned by the speaker of the house and the chairman of the ways and means comittee. short of onefall vote in the senate to go to conference committee to negotiate the differences. these mandatory spending programs are a great concern. steve: how would you a
assess donald trump's tenure so far? rep. coffman: as far as tax reform and regulatory reform, pretty good. probably pretty good on foreign policy. it seems his rhetoric is different and moves in a different direction than the administration moves. ishink the president's tone really problematic. strongly differ and i think it is very polarizing for the country. why such loyalty among republicans? what is it about donald trump that endears that? rep. coffman: they see washington is broken and see him as a person that can fix it. remember speaking to a
rotary club during the election in 2016. i certainly was not a fan of the president then. steve: you were public about it. rep. coffman: i remembered a when i said i, didn't think he could be the nominee for the republican party. nomineee he became the for the republican party. i remember a retired banker kind ied theng we tre republicans and democrats and neither work. it is time for something different. i think it is time for something different. if your member how he got elected in fact, states like colorado that have closed primaries, he did not do well in. it is the states that had open primaries that he did better in.
he attracted a very different coalition that was not just republican. i think republicans warmed up to him over time. his selection for the supreme differenceking a there. i think it solidified his position in the republican party. i think he will be the nominee going forward. steve: what was going through mind when you first came to washington as a member of congress? i was in awe of being in washington and at the center of power. in.s taking it all it was a lot to take in. i think it was more -- what i was learning at the beginning of the process. then gravitating to fighting for change as the process went on.
certainly discovering how difficult that process is in getting changed on the such as immigration reform. steve: william is it? it?ill you miss rep. coffman: i think 10 years has been substantial. steve: what do you want to do rep. coffman: what i'm going to do back home, when i finish out this term, i've committed to one veteransor group as a volunteer, and potentially two veterans groups in my community. local government interest me, that is a possibility. steve: have you been able to develop relationships across the aisle? friendships over the years? rep. coffman: i really have. there are people that i miss. i think the problem solvers
first of all, i was luckier than the average member of congress to not only be in problem solvers, which was very bipartisan, a separate oncus unto itself, but to be two of the most bipartisan committees in the congress, the house armed services committee that operates like no other committee. one major bill a year, the national defense authorization act. the military personal , the full committee for the base text, and we have to come to an agreement, the base text, the chairman in the ranking member. that is an extraordinary example of bipartisanship in congress
that doesn't exist in any other committee. fromself and jackie spear california, we worked well together on that. she certainly opened my eyes to different things. we were able to push forward a lot on military sexual assault, to change the military justice system to have special prosecutors, to have training requirements for military in terms of understanding the ramifications of sexual assault to the military, as well as to have victims advocates. to encourage victims of sexual assault the come forward, to have someone who truly understands their issues within the military itself. so i am very proud of our work there. and then the veterans committee inherently tends to be more bipartisan, republicans and democrats equally care about meeting our obligations to the
minute women who serve the country in uniform. steve: let me ask you about the speakership. it came to congress when nancy pelosi was speaking as speaker the first go around. what advice would you give her and the democrats as they regain control of the house? think, myan: well, i , and both be to stop sides do it -- to stop the posturing on issues. for the intention of not getting something done. you know you're going to put a poison pill in there and the other set is not going to accept . trying to arrive at a compromise to get things done, to be open and know you're not going to get everything. , on immigration
reform, the position was when i came to congress, by democrat leadership, that everything or nothing. even when we shifted to republican control and harry reid was still the majority leader, there were bills individual -- bills individually that came over and he said no, it doesn't have everything we want. posturingpe that the would stop and people would be more open to compromise and stop thinking solely about the next election. steve: john boehner became speaker of the house when you came in on the majority in 2010. why did he have such a difficult time managing republicans in the house? rep. coffman: i think what you had in the republicans was the rise of a conservative caucus luxury -- you talk
about compromise, no deal is perfect. it's not 100% what you want it to be. i think what would happen is they would be on the sidelines. he would have something they did not agree with 100%. but the fact was there was enough of them on the sidelines, to not haveed him enough votes in hand go to the other side of the aisle and say, what do i have to do to get your vote? beginning,, at the they argued that he was a conservative enough, but they made it less conservative by not participating. i think they made governing increasingly difficult, to the point where he was forced out. steve: if you could get a do
over, is there a vote you would take back? rep. coffman: i'm sure there are a number of them i would take back. i have to think about that. yes -- i think when, before my district was redrawn. immigrant community was asian. so the issue of dreamers, i was never confronted with good i think there were some version of a dream act i did not support. new districto a and i got to sit down with the families and these young people, and understand their issues and challenges, and became much more sensitive to the issues. i ultimatelyll, lost because of the new district boundaries and i would've prevailed under the old boundaries easily, but i think
that forcing me to reach out to communities,verse it made me a better congressman, and ultimately made me a better person. steve: it sounds like you are not done with politics yet. rep. coffman: probably not. i will serve in some capacity, i'm not sure yet what -- what yet. steve: what would you like to do? rep. coffman: i have done the military, i have done business. i am not sure yet. i think something in education interests me, local government interests me. 10 years in the house of representatives has been a great experience. defined myw if it career. i still want to serve. in a different capacity.
-- i was veryve focused on the campaign, and it did not turn out as i would have liked, but i am excited about moving on. i'm grateful for the experience i had. although i admit, probably at awe at the it is the beginning that everything is new, but as the years went on, it began to be like "groundhog i have seen this before, i have seen this before. it did get competitive, to where the learning curve intellectually seemed to be a diminishing return. steve: what advice would you give your successor? rep. coffman: to be independent. to try and be an independent voice and representing all of the district, and listen to all elements of the district. he has the fortune of representative districts now --
district that now leans democrat. win, simplybably with his base in the democrat party, but i hope he listens to intoone and does not fall an ideological trap. and that he grows as he matures into the job. steve: if the denver post had a reporter looking at you and your career, 10 years in the house, what would you want them to write about? rep. coffman: what would i want them to write about? i think bipartisanship. i think -- and they did in their editorial endorsement of me in the selection -- in this election.
the value of somebody who grew into the job, that the redistricting helped him grow into the job. thethat he demonstrated value of compromise in terms of getting things done for the american people. steve: when you walk out the stores for a final time, what will you be thinking? rep. coffman: what an awesome experience it has been in the and that of all of the extraordinary things i of being an terms member of the armed services committee, going to iraq and afghanistan, being able to take my military experience and apply it in terms of making policy for the department of defense, i think my experience as a veteran too and be able to apply that in
the veterans committee. it is an awesome experience that bestowed on few americans i am grateful to have had it. moment, onehere one day, one story you take away after 10 years in congress? rep. coffman: yeah. oneink recently, there was where i was getting ready to go back to washington, d.c., and i ,as at the airport in denver ,nd a group of young people ethiopian americans, and just thanked me. they were in tears for what i had done in terms of human rights in ethiopia, and that we had really made a difference.
they are large community in my congressional district. they are a community that was effectively pushed out of ethiopia for the most part, the authoritarianry government that really was abusive in terms of human rights. and was always threatening the united states with withdrawing support if we criticize the government there. they were helping us in the war on terror, and it reminded me in the cold war when we supported authoritarian regimes that did not respect the human rights of their people. because they were anti-communist, we supported them. we were doing that in ethiopia in the war against terrorism. a lot of the weapons we were given them and the ammunition, they were using against our people. they put a lot of pressure on
congress to not even vote on house resolution 128, and threatened corporation with the united states over that resolution. we were spending a lot of money on lobbying, and i really just work hard to maneuver that to a vote, and it passed. it broke the wheel of that government. that was one of the factors in creating regime change in ethiopia with the new prime minister who has respect for human rights. was a moment,t certainly for me, where you can make a real difference in the lives of so many people. steve: