Fox News Radio: Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN): Some Democratic Colleagues Not Running For President Are Against Proposed Court-Packing Power Grab

Posted on March 20, 2019

Fox News Radio: Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN): Some Democratic Colleagues Not Running For President Are Against Proposed Court-Packing Power Grab

A growing number of Democratic presidential candidates are entertaining a push to add seats to the Supreme Court, as Republican success at filling the courts with judicial conservatives has infuriated progressive voters. Democratic presidential candidates Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, Robert "Beto" O'Rourke, Pete Buttigieg, and Kirsten Gillibrand have expressed willingness to consider proposals for expanding the composition of the Supreme Court as of this writing. The Trump campaign charged that those suggestions, called court-packing, keeps with other structural reforms to the U.S. political system some Democrats have endorsed since the 2016 election.

Fox News Radio's Guy Benson sat down tonight with Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) who said it's the very same sort of issue that the Republicans had going the other direction on the emergency declaration and what the Democrats are really saying is they want so much power that they can run over anybody who gets in their way. The Senator also believes that there are some Democrats (not running in 2020) that are opposed to this idea.

The Senator also spoke about the news he made last week when voting against the use of emergency funds for Trump's border wall. He said he wasn't voting against the President but rather for the Constitution.

Listen Below to the Full Interview:

Sen. Alexander: [00:00:44] Thanks for inviting me.

Guy Benson: [00:00:46] So you made news a few days ago I get longer than that at this point. You were one of 12 Republicans in the U.S. Senate to vote in favor of the House passed resolution basically reversing attempting to reverse the president's national emergency declaration visa of the southern border and that whole controversy that we have discussed ad nauseum here on the show. I just want to give you an opportunity for our audience because I know there are some people who support the president. Many people who support the president are displeased with the members of his party who decided to. They would say vote against the president vote against border security which is how the president framed it. I wanted to give you that chance to sort of engage our listeners and explain why it was that you made this decision you in 11 of your colleagues on the GOP side to really take an action that I think it was you know not terribly typical in Washington these days. Bucking the party.

Sen. Alexander: [00:01:44] Well I'm glad to have the opportunity and simplify it. I wasn't voting against the president. I was voting for the Constitution. You know the first thing we do and we're sworn into the United States Senate we stand up there. Put up our right hand and swear an oath to defend the Constitution and Article 1 of the Constitution says that you can't spend any money unless a Congress elected by the people approves it. And in this case what the president did was ask for money for the border wall the Congress and the president went back and forth and came to a decision and and the Congress approved less than the president wanted. And so he declared a national emergency and spent it anyway. And to me and the other 11 that contravenes our oath I mean it goes all the way back to the beginning of the country when we had a revolutionary war against the king and the founders tried to think of a way to keep one part of our government from having too much power. And the way they checked the executive was to say Congress has the power of the purse. You can't spend money unless Congress approves it. The other reasons I voted against the resolution was because it was unnecessary and we talked to the president about this for a couple of weeks. In January he asked for 234 enough money. He said five point seven billion to build 234 miles of border wall. Well he found that amount of money and we agree with that and it's the fastest easier way to build more wall and then the third reason I voted against it was the precedent it would set. Just last Friday Democratic candidates for president. What are they saying. They'll they'll declare an emergency and tear down the wall. Take away guns stop oil exports shut down offshore drilling and if we do that then they can do that and that destroys the constitutional checks and balances. So that's those are the reasons I voted against the declaration of emergency.

Guy Benson: [00:03:46] And for what it's worth. They're all sound reasons and they're all reasons that I probably would have done the exact same thing if I had been a member of the upper chamber of Congress. But I also want to underscore and you mentioned this I think in your floor speech and some of your social media you support the border wall you support funding more funding for border barriers. You are you are in lockstep with the president on that point. It's it's the discrete matter of where the money comes from and Congress's power of the purse right I think.

Sen. Alexander: [00:04:16] Yeah it's not what he's doing. It's how he's been advised to do it. You're absolutely right. I mean I I believe there's a crisis on the border. The fence and all that's coming across the border through ports of entry and then between ports of entry is a terrible problem for us. A border wall is something that we've been building for 25 years. I mean Congress has approved four presidents going back to H.W. Bush to build 654 miles of border was part of the security system. So why is President Trump the only president not allowed to bill more border wall. I'm sure that's what he's thinking. So the fastest easiest way to do that is to spend the five point seven billion we've identified already approved to build the 234 miles he ask and avoid the avoid the declaration. That was what I argued.

Guy Benson: [00:05:08] Now Senator you've been in the Senate for a while and you certainly around during the Obama years. I must say as someone who agrees with the entire rationale that you just laid out it has been a little bit galling for me as an outside observer and a commentator to watch your Democratic colleagues talk about this vote with such you know sober reverence for the constitution and we must stand up for the separation of powers. I don't remember almost any of them making a peep when President Obama said dozens of times he did not have the authority to unilaterally imposed DACA and then DAPA and then he did it anyway and they all had pompoms out cheering it. It does sometimes I think frustrate conservatives to see even conservatives like yourself making a stand for the right thing even when it's painful for the party. And it seems like a lot of the time the other side doesn't do that and it sometimes feels like a double standard.

Sen. Alexander: [00:06:05] Well it is a double standard. But I learned in kindergarten just because Johnny misbehaves doesn't mean I should. And so and in this case we're talking about money. Many of the cases under President Obama were talking about executive actions for other reasons violated separation of powers. But in this case we're talking specifically about whether the president can say I want this much money. And then he and Congress disagree. Congress doesn't approve it. He declares an emergency and spends it anyway right. That's never been done under the 1976 Act. But you're exactly right plus the Democrats provoked this. I mean how can they justify saying well we approve border wall money for President Bush Obama Clinton and GeorgeW. Bush but we're not going to do for Trump.

Guy Benson: [00:06:49] Yeah well I think we know the answer is because they want to deny Trump away in on his signature issue.

Sen. Alexander: [00:06:55] Exactly. That's exactly right. And their idea of bipartisanship is one way they all vote one way and then they persuade some of us to vote with them. Right. And in this case I did because of the constitutional issue. But I agree with the crisis. I agree with the border wall. I just urged the president to do it another way. And he by the way was great about this. We were at the White House a bunch of us Republican senators last Wednesday we talked about this as well as trade. He said I want you to vote with me I believe I'm right about it I believe I'm sound in my legal analysis but do what you think is right. So I appreciated that because he didn't say you guys are wrong. I'm going to beat you over it.

Guy Benson: [00:07:35] And he does that he does that from time to time if you notice.

Sen. Alexander: [00:07:38] How to do that and not do that in this case. And I appreciate the.

Guy Benson: [00:07:42] Last question on this subject. Your colleague from Utah Mike Lee a friend of the program he's on here pretty regularly. He introduced a bill or wanted to have a bill move forward that would limit a president's authority under the Emergency Powers Act moving into the future that would allow a president to continue to declare an emergency but then he would come up for congressional review after 30 days. I know the president said he would veto that. The Democrats are opposed to it for reasons that I think are a bit interesting. What do you make of Mike Lee's Bill would that be something that you would be supportive of.

Sen. Alexander: [00:08:16] I saw Mike Lee was right. What Mike Lee was saying was this is not all President Trump's fault. He may actually have the cost the legal authority to do this. He shouldn't do it but he may have the legal authority and that's Congress's mistake for granting that authority we should reform the law. I believe it will be reformed. I believe almost every Republican senator believes that the law that allows this much presidential authority goes way beyond what Justice Scalia talked about when he said that every tinhorn dictator has a bill of rights. What's important to our freedom is the structure of the Constitution the checks and balances. I think almost every one of us agrees with that and I expect Senator McCalls already asked Senator Ron Johnson to develop a bill similar to Senator Lees bill that we can all support reforming the law going forward.

Guy Benson: [00:09:09] My guest here is Senator Lamar Alexander from Tennessee. He's a Republican. And correct me if I'm wrong but I might broadly describe you as something of an institutionalist when it comes to the Senate it's a it's a legislative body that you have served in for quite some time you care about. So I am I am very curious to know your reaction to this now growing chorus on the left and particularly among presidential hopefuls on the Democratic side of the aisle where it almost seems like it's becoming a litmus test to endorse some form of court packing or quote unquote reform to the Supreme Court because they're obviously frustrated that President Trump won that they didn't get these last two nominees they've lost. So it sounds like they want to change the rules. Your thoughts on this new push.

Sen. Alexander: [00:10:01] Well that's the very same sort of issue that we had going the other direction on the emergency declaration and what they're really saying is we want so much power that we can run over anybody who gets in our way. So let's get rid of the filibuster in the Senate. Let's pack the court with people who agree with us. And then when we get the presidency in the White House we'll have our agenda we'll take away guns we'll have the Green New Deal we'll take away private insurance from 170 million people who have insurance on the job would change the labor laws we'll have. You mean you can't imagine the number of wild eyed left wing ideas that will come. So this this should be resisted for the same sort of reason President Roosevelt tried it in 1937. He wanted to pack the court up to 15 people to get his New Deal agenda through the Senate disagreed with that by a vote of 70 to 22 something like that. And then the president settled down in 1942 because he had appointed most of the justices by then. But we have checks and balances for a reason and constitutional conservatives especially should should want the Senate and the presidency and the courts to be in balance. The whole source of our freedom is that one part of government or even one political party doesn't have too much power.

Guy Benson: [00:11:27] It's frightening to me because this starts to get into and I've used this term a few different times today Banana republic type of feelings where they're saying well we don't like the way the court is going we don't like that we've lost these nomination fights and these confirmation fights based on precedence that they themselves set previously right and they kind of sweep all that into the dustbin of history and not really think about their own complicity in why we have justice Kavanaugh for example saying well let's just change the rules and expand the court. I know that it's kind of the hotness among presidential candidates pandering to a group of voters based on your conversations with your colleagues in the Senate who are not running for president on the Democratic side. There's a few of them left who are not running for president. Do you sense that there might be some significant bipartisan opposition to court packing.

Sen. Alexander: [00:12:18] Well yes I do. I can't imagine because some Democrats could look at and say wait a minute would we want President Trump to have 15 just.

Guy Benson: [00:12:28] There talking about it while he's president. While you guys control the Senate it's sort of it's sort of amazing.

Sen. Alexander: [00:12:34] It is very amazing so yes I would hope there would be that we had that with a filibuster. I know you've probably had on your show debates about why should we have a filibuster. The president said I'd like to get rid of that filibuster and get all my stuff through with 51 votes. Well you might get more of your things through. But think what happens when a president Warren or President AOC comes back and particularly if they haven't already in the Senate. There we go again. So we the checks and the balances that were there when we created our country after we had a war against a king really are the principal source of our freedom. And it's kind of dull it doesn't make front page news all the time but we never forget about it. We'll be in trouble.

[00:13:15] Senator Lamar Alexander Republican of Tennessee we are out of time but we always appreciate you coming on and we look forward to next time. Thanks for your time.