Conversation with Congresswoman Ann Kirkpatrick (D)
Ted Simons: For nearly two years, Democratic Representative Anne Kirkpatrick has served Arizona's Congressional District One, the 10th largest district in the country. It covers about half of the northeastern sides of the state. She's fighting to keep her seat with a tough challenge from dentist Paul Gosar. Gosar accepted an invitation to appear tonight on "Horizon," but several days ago he cancelled his appearance. Here now is Representative Anne Kirkpatrick. Good to see you.
Anne Kirkpatrick: Thank you very much.
Ted Simons: Mention that you were in kind of a tough fight here, you won last time, two years ago, things are -- what happened in the intervening time?
Anne Kirkpatrick: Well, you know, jobs and the economy has been an issue. When I took office in January of last year, we were immediately confronted with the worst economic crisis in two generations, and it was clear to me that jobs, getting people back to work was and continues to be the top priority. So I have been working on a couple of jobs projects in the district, one is the Forest Restoration Initiative that partners with the timber industry, taking the wood products from the thinning process and would create 600 jobs. That requires only federal action, no federal spending. Another similar project is the copper basins jobs project, the "Arizona Republic" had a good article about that this week. I've been working with senator Kyl and McCain that would bring 2,500 jobs. Copper mining jobs, to my district. And so fighting very hard, and I will tell you, I'm disappointed we're not having a debate tonight. I had asked Paul Gosar for five debates after the primary, four would be in the district, regionally strategic so that folks could get there. And then this one, I heard that he was going to show up, and debates are how folks get to know the candidates. And I'm just really concerned that what people don't know about Paul Gosar is going to hurt them. And on the jobs front, there are two things I think people should know. I opposed the tax credits to Wall Street and big corporations that ship jobs overseas. He supports that. He supports giving those tax credits to ship those jobs overseas. We need those jobs right here. The other thing is he said, you know, he don't really care that much about minimum wage. He's a millionaire and in this district, median household income is less than $33,000. I just don't think he understands this district.
Ted Simons: Those are two points that many Republicans would agree with, and as far as this campaign is concerned and this race for CD-1, there's a base question that has to go to the incumbent, especially if the incumbent is a Democrat. And that is, why should folks in your district say, I like the last two years, I want more.
Anne Kirkpatrick: Let me tell you why. This district as you mention, is huge. It's the 10th largest in the nation. And it's bigger than the whole state of Pennsylvania. It's a rural district. 84 small towns. But it is so vast and diverse, it has such different communities. Such as Sedona, and Superior. Prescott, and Window Rock. And to represent this district have you to be able to balance what is in the best interests of all these communities. And anyone who toes the national party line, whether it's the Republican or Democrat, can't well represent this district. So I've been an independent voice for the people in the district. Regardless of what my party says I should do.
Ted Simons: Is that why I believe you told the Arizona Republic Editorial Board that you would reject President Obama's support?
Anne Kirkpatrick: Yes. There are a lot of things I'm unhappy with. Spending is a big concern. And growing up in this district in rural Arizona, we've always known how to do more with less. And so when I went to Washington I said, you know, Washington needs to have an attitude adjustment. And I introduced my do more with less initiative. Part of that is a pay cut bill for Congress. First time in 77 years. And I don't know anybody who hasn't had a pay cut in 77 years. I oppose 72 $72 billion in spending, I've introduced amendments to cut the transportation budget by 5%. That didn't pass. And so I signed on to a balance budget amendment. I think we've got to keep an eye on the debt and the deficit. As you've heard, I'm sure, I already voluntarily pay 5% of my salary --
Ted Simons: why --
Anne Kirkpatrick: -- to the public debt.
Ted Simons: Why do you do that? If everyone did, that's one thing if one person does that, why do you do it?
Anne Kirkpatrick: I believe you have to lead by example. My parents always said, put your money where your mouth is. I was small business owner. And there were years when I had to ask my employees to take pay cuts, but I didn't do that until I first cut my own pay. And so I think as a nation, we're going to have to make some hard choices in the future about our debt and deficit. But Congress needs to lead by example before we can ask other people to take cuts.
Ted Simons: Let's talk about those choices. Should taxes be raised?
Anne Kirkpatrick: They should not.
Ted Simons: OK. Should reduce the payouts be considered regarding Social Security and Medicare?
Anne Kirkpatrick: They should not.
Ted Simons: Should other cuts to other critical programs maybe not so critical, should cuts to other programs be considered?
Anne Kirkpatrick: Right now we can't make any of those cuts. It's still about the economy. And getting folks back to work. There is a balance. I think there are things we can do to address the debt and deficit, but we can't do anything that's going to hurt job recovery. That's why I voted against cap and trade. I felt that was the wrong thing to do at this time when so many folks are still struggling to get back to work.
Ted Simons: But your opponent would say, and Republicans would agree, that the stimulus package is adding untold numbers of future debt piled upon future debt. The Stimulus Package was it a good thing?
Anne Kirkpatrick: It was. Even the Arizona Chamber of Commerce recently said that had we not done that, Arizona would have lost more jobs than we did. And so it was necessary at that time. And look, that was hard choice. But economists across the board, people who had advised the Clinton Administration, the Bush Administration, said if we don't do this, the economy is headed over the cliff into a deep dive, similar to the great depression.
Ted Simons: President --
Anne Kirkpatrick: we were able to avoid that.
Ted Simons: The president also had economic promises regarding the unemployment rate. And those don't seem to have come to pass. Again, 2% GDP growth, unemployment numbers seem to be stuck. Was it still the wise thing to do?
Anne Kirkpatrick: I really do. I stand by that vote. I did a lot of looking into it, and I think we did avert a huge crisis for this country. But I've always said, it's the American people that are going to turn the economy around. Not government. And I really believe that. And I think now the effort is giving small business the financial resources to expand their businesses. Everywhere I go in my district, small business owners say, we cut our salaries, but kept our employees. Now we'd like to expand, now is a great time to do construction. Can't get lending.
Ted Simons: But quickly, before I get to health care reform, when you talk about the bush tax cuts and those things, and the idea business needs more tax cuts, cash, a lot of economists will tell us on this program, they got the cash, they're just reinvesting, buying back stock --
Anne Kirkpatrick: The big banks are. We just passed a bill that will give small businesses the financing they need. But, yeah, the big banks, Wall Street, they're holding on to their cash.
Ted Simons: The Health Care Reform Plan. Why did you vote for it?
Anne Kirkpatrick: Again, I thought that was the right thing for my district. Let me tell you something, very unique about my district. I have the highest Native American population of any Congressional District in the United States. Nearly 25%. A key component of the Health Care Bill, and this doesn't get said enough -- is the reauthorization of the Indian Health Services Act. They've been fighting for that for 10 years. And in the reauthorization, it includes mental health services, which they've never had. So I was listening to that part of my district, and that goes back to, this is a very diverse district. But I saw a billboard the other day that said, health insurance for $49.99. Before we pass the health reform, who knows what that meant? But now we know that means parents who have insurance, can have their children with preexisting conditions like asthma, on their policies until they're 26 years old.
Ted Simons: Critics will say seniors could lose their doctors, that the Medicare could be cut, critics are saying it's too much government control. It's a big overreach.
Anne Kirkpatrick: You know, we had to do this. We had to do this. The cost of health care was rising at such a great rate, that it would basically going to be unsustainable for our country. We were not going to be able to be globally competitive. The other thing this bill does, these are in effect right now, is that I was hearing from people tragic stories, who had paid for their health insurance premium, they got sick and guess what they were cancelled. That can't happen anymore. I also was hearing from people who had some kind of illness, a car accident, where they had $250,000 in claims, and all of a sudden they were kicked off their coverage, or it was capped and they had to pay that out of pocket. That can't happen anymore. And so there are some very, very good things, but the bill is not perfect. The job is not done. I read the bill, and in reading it I realized there's still a lot of discretion in terms of the rule making. I put together a health care advisory board, in my district, across the district regionally and folks from all walks of life, to continue to work with me as we move forward to make this better and better.
Ted Simons: Last question, regarding immigration. And there's been no immigration reform under Democratic control here for the past few years. How come?
Anne Kirkpatrick: Well, let me tell you, I'm the only Arizona Congressional Member on Homeland Security. I've been down to the border, I've talked to the commanders on the ground, and it's clear to me that we have to secure the border.
Ted Simons: What does that mean?
Anne Kirkpatrick: Making it operationally secure. That means that we have lowered to such a minute rate, the people who are coming across illegally, that it's not dangerous for the folks who are living down there on the border. But we have to do that before we can address a national immigration strategy.
Ted Simons: Why can't democrats do that?
Anne Kirkpatrick: Well, I think --
Ted Simons: you've got the power.
Anne Kirkpatrick: I think we've made good progress. We don't get to that discussion until we've secured the border. I think finally Arizona made Washington listen to us. We came back in our -- for our August recess and I thought it was wrong that we had not addressed something about border security before we came back. So I pushed leadership to call Congress back into session, I was successful in that. We did pass a bill that will put a thousand more National Guard troops, more drones, will give us more resources to deport criminals. I'm a former prosecutor, I'm opposed to amnesty. And I think that criminals should not be allowed into our country. And those folks who are here who have committed crimes should be deported. And so we have made progress, but I don't want people to think the job is done. We have not controlled the border. We have not fixed the problem.
Ted Simons: I guess the question I always ask when I hear that, control the border, then let's work on it, at what point is it secure? There are some folks say, right now most folks in southern Arizona are as safe as they've been.
Anne Kirkpatrick: Here's the thing. Talk to the people who are down there. There are sectors of the border where people do feel secure. Most of California, it's OK. Yuma sector is good. Tucson sector is not. You talk to the ranchers, when they tell me, look, Anne, I'm concerned about going out and doing my ranch chores, because I don't want to leave my family alone in the ranch house, we've still got a problem.
Ted Simons: We have to stop it right there. Thank you so much for joining us.
Anne Kirkpatrick: Thank you. I wish we could continue on for another hour.
Ted Simoms: I do want to remind our viewers, Paul Gosar did accept an invitation to appear with Anne Kirkpatrick on "Horizon" for debate, but several days ago he did cancel that appearance. Representative, good to see you.