Join Arizona Democratic Representative Raul Grijalva as he discusses the latest issues.
TED SIMONS: Congressman Raul Grijalva represents Arizona's third congressional district in southern Arizona. Representative Grijalva joins us now to discuss the proposed nuclear deal with Iran and the ever-evolving Democratic race for president. Good to see you again.
RAUL GRIJALVA: Good to see you again, thank you.
TED SIMONS: You are against the nuclear deal with Iran or for it? What's your position?
RAUL GRIJALVA: I'm for it.
TED SIMONS: Why?
RAUL GRIJALVA: Very much so. It's a diplomatic opportunity, five plus one, the major powers led by the United States, have come to this agreement. Iran has signed on and I think it gives us an opportunity to defang Iran. I'm not naive. Iran is not a good player globally and they've been responsible for creating problems in other parts of the world, but the issue, how do we make sure that they can't build nuclear weapons? I think that first 15 years of the treaty gives us that assurance. The next period of time, the United Nations and the continued presence of the United States in those inspections which have been going on ever since I think begins to provide us with an opportunity to make sure that there's no proliferation of nuclear weapons by Iran.
TED SIMONS: Those against the deal say it ties the hands of Congress. They got a point?
RAUL GRIJALVA: Well, I don't think -- we have -- we have an opportunity to vote up or down on this. There is no hand tying on this agreement. These international agreements of this kind and this magnitude have been done by Republican and democratic presidents in the past and the ratification has been up to Congress. We are not the ones intimately involved in how that deal went down. I think it is a balanced deal. Is there risk involved? Yes. But creating, doing nothing at this point leaves us with one option and an option and a half and that as the president said, is to prepare for military intervention.
TED SIMONS: Again, those against the deal say it's too hard to respond if this deal goes through, too hard to respond if Iran starts doing bad things in the region and getting their fingers in the wrong places and everyone gets upset with them. If we try to challenge that then all of a sudden, the deal falls through. They say it's actually in the agreement's fine print.
RAUL GRIJALVA: No, I disagree. I think that Iran, even with the money they receive as a result of the sanctions being lifted have to take care of their population. Unemployment, 40-50% among the young. The lack of basic nutrition in the country. Oil subsidies collapsed. They have to rebuild the nation and that's where the emphasis is going to be. As far as them being bad players, we have the United Nations and those five other nations that are committed to the fact that the role that Iran plays in the future is a non-nuclear country with no threat of being able to do that.
TED SIMONS: Non-nuclear is one direction, but the other direction is funding terrorist groups and doing other nefarious activities and again the critics will say you start challenging on that end, they're going to start saying that the deal on that end is invalid.
RAUL GRIJALVA: I think that the deal on that end in terms of Iran's responsibility is to be a better player but a lot of that is going to happen as a result of them rebuilding their nation and the population itself, which the vast majority is young, is looking forward to the opportunity to join the world again and for us to say that this incident could happen, Iran has been a bad player since they occupied the embassy and for people to say that that's going to change overnight, no. But the 15-year period gives us an opportunity we don't have.
TED SIMONS: So for those who say it gives too much leverage to Iran, you say...
RAUL GRIJALVA: Not at all. They have to produce for their people and they produce for their people without threatening the region with nuclear arms.
TED SIMONS: Would you rather see the treaty as opposed to this?
RAUL GRIJALVA: I think this agreement has a better chance of being sustained by Congress, a treaty in the long term I think would have been a mechanism that would have been impossible to get to.
TED SIMONS: Something else you're very involved in right now is this land and water conservation fund. What are we talking about here?
RAUL GRIJALVA: We're talking about a fund that needs to be reauthorized, that has the fund from which money derived from royalties on public land has been used primarily for the acquisition of additional private land, like we have expansions that are needed and there's in-holdings and willing sellers, to be able to do that, water conservation has been essential in maintaining the quality of our national parks system which has been cut dramatically in the last six years. Now, we've been waiting and the authorization ends September 30th. We have a piece of legislation that we introduced, my office introduced 140 signatures, 11 Republicans on that piece of legislation, and we hope the chairman of the committee, Mr. Bishop, would at least allow a hearing and allow us the opportunity to reauthorize this which has been essential in the maintenance and the enhancement of our national parks system.
TED SIMONS: Park service, forest service, BLM, these are royalties from offshore oil drilling?
RAUL GRIJALVA: Primarily.
TED SIMONS: Yet those against the deal say the government already can't handle what it's already got. Why are we adding more?
RAUL GRIJALVA: It's a self-fulfilling prophecy, you keep cutting away at the maintenance budget of the lands, you keep not funding fire suppression the way it should be and taking it out of the forest service budget that is used for other purposes, yes of course, you begin to shrink the budget of the national parks system and we're approaching our centennial to celebrate. This would be a good time, reauthorize this, go into the centennial.
TED SIMONS: Should the reauthorization emphasize upkeep more? There's $11.5 billion of maintenance back log out there. There are those saying let's take care of that before we start acquiring more.
RAUL GRIJALVA: I don't think it's simply an acquisition. It's making sure our waterways are clean, it's making sure that acquisitions in the future are from willing sellers. The fund has been primarily dedicated to that purpose. I think shifting it to making it an maintenance and operation of the parks system I think is wrong. That is a congressional obligation that we need to fund to make up that back log. I think it's wrong to use that fund to pay off the rural schools as part of what's being recommended. Just keep to the essential purpose, let's not undercut and dismantle this fund.
TED SIMONS: Democratic presidential race. What are your thoughts?
RAUL GRIJALVA: I think Bernie, senator Sanders, has struck a chord within the American people and certainly on the democratic side of the frustration over the economic issues facing us, income inequality, the lack of access, and the control that Wall Street has had over the future and the fiscal policy of this nation. I think a legitimate chord has been struck there. Hillary going into October, the issues of the e-mail, the issues around that whole situation have to be clarified or it becomes a bigger drag on her campaign. And the budding ambition of the vice-president at this point, wait to be seen but if he gets in, then we now have a very significant three-way race.
TED SIMONS: If you have a significant three-way race, is that good for the Democrats or does it become destructive if you have that kind of a competitive primary?
RAUL GRIJALVA: I think a competitive primary without what happens in these primaries is that the losers pack up and go home. And one thing the Democrats don't need in this election is to be disunified when we get to the general election. So what I would hope the danger for me is that anybody that is not the nominee, that their supporters take their marbles and go home. This is a time where everybody should be very concerned about not losing that very, very important position, which is the presidency of the United States. You could say the same for the 17 that are running on the Republican side. Their internal water is going to have ramifications, as well.
TED SIMONS: So the biggest issue you think facing Democrats in this presidential race?
RAUL GRIJALVA: I think it's repairing the social fabric of this country, making sure that our motto from many become one, we need to repair that. We need to invest in our future and I say education is a key thing. We need to come to grips with climate change but overriding all that is the issue of income inequality and the fact that the average Americans are working 40 hours a week and they can't sustain themselves and their families.
TED SIMONS: Is there one of those three candidates that suits you best?
RAUL GRIJALVA: At this point, this is one representative that's keeping their powder dry for a little while.