I talked to Rep. Dave Brat by phone at 10:00 a.m. EST this morning to discuss last night’s House passage of the “cromnibus” bill supported by GOP leadership and President Obama.
Brat discussed why his “nay” vote was set in stone, his proposed amendment to the “cromnibus” banning funding of Obama’s executive amnesty (Brat gathered the support of 75 GOP reps, yet was not allowed to proceed by the Rules committee), and just what was happening on the floor in those final minutes, as it seemed many reps were still making up their minds.
Steinberg: Your vote, first and foremost, was against funding Obama’s executive action on amnesty. Why was that your overriding concern amongst all the concerns with this bill?
Brat: Because it rises to the Constitutional level. You can have serious policy disagreements that are utilitarian in nature, where you are calculating benefits and costs. But this one was intentionally illegal. The president clearly asserted that he didn’t have the authority. The GOP said on paper that his act was illegal.
Once that’s been established, I don’t see how I can go forward in principle and vote for something that’s illegal. You have to act immediately to defund, to get that illegal act halted as soon as possible.
Steinberg: So your biggest concern is that any of this strategic, political positioning that we are witnessing, that all must go out the window, and not be treated as legitimate act when it involves funding an illegal act.
Brat: That’s right. And, just to be consistent, there are other outstanding issues that rise to that level, other unconstitutional actions that need to be stopped as well. That doesn’t weaken this challenge, we just need to prioritize our strategy, basing it on those higher first principles.
Steinberg: Can you share with us the behind-the-scenes message from leadership used to persuade a “Yea” vote? I assume you didn’t get too much arm-twisting as you set your position in stone ahead of time, but what was leadership doing to win over GOP votes?
Were they only using fear of public backlash about a shutdown? Were you hearing any other arguments from leadership in favor of the bill?
Brat: The substantive argument on the GOP side was that a lot of this was not our own doing. We were forced into an omnibus situation because the Senate would not pick up any of the bills that the House has put forward, none of the appropriation bills. So when that’s the case, you’re left having to do this piecemeal approach which no one thinks is good process.
The test is, in moving forward, to see that the leadership goes toward regular order, and deals with this executive overreach. They promised they would do that, and I think they are going to do it.
Steinberg: Pete Sessions [chairman of Rules committee] guaranteed an amendment in January after the new congress takes the oath, an amendment halting the amnesty action to be added to a bill and voted on in January. We heard little about that prior to this morning, was that plan known of prior to last night’s vote?
Brat: He promised that to us on Wednesday night, the evening we brought our proposed amendment to Rules. He put it in strong language, he said: “This is not a pledge, it’s my promise that we will put the Mulvaney amendment on to the defense bill coming in January.”
Steinberg: Do you think that promise may have helped contribute to winning some “yea” votes?