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Rep. Schweikert Weighs In On Republican Priorities

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

It was a big night for Republicans last night. They won control of the Senate, won a bigger majority in the House. And let's here now from Republican David Schweikert from Arizona. He won a third House term last night, easily defeating his Democratic opponent. Congressman Schweikert, welcome back to the program.

REPRESENTATIVE DAVID SCHWEIKERT: Good morning, David.

GREENE: So big election victory for you, a big election night for your party. Republicans now control both Houses of Congress. What's priority one?

SCHWEIKERT: The first thing we do is we get ourselves organized.

GREENE: OK.

SCHWEIKERT: But remember, we're also walking into potentially a fairly cantankerous, lame-duck session. You know, remember budget authority, so the continuing resolution in - December 11, so there's still a lot of things on our plates when we come back to D.C.

GREENE: But isn't it sort of now the Republican Party's role to try and end that cantankerous feel in Washington as quickly as possible?

SCHWEIKERT: Oh, absolutely, particularly when the new members are sat. It's going to be, obviously, a lot of trying to study the numbers, trying to understand, you know, what happened in the American psyche on the right and the left. It's going to be fascinating.

And for many of us, we're looking at the president - and this is somewhat of a personal observation - he has two years to sort of build his legacy. Does he turn to a Bill Clinton model where many of President Clinton's greatest successes were working with the Republican Congress? I don't know if our president has that in him, but I can hope.

GREENE: Well, does the Republican Party have it in it to work with this president? Because there seem to be some different messages, as you say, you're sort of picking through the messages. A lot of Republican candidates made this very much a campaign about President Obama. I wonder if that puts pressure on Republicans to spend time dismantling his agenda as opposed to putting forth new ideas now.

SCHWEIKERT: Well, you know, we discuss also the new ideas, but we're sitting in a situation where we have - what? - 380 pieces of legislation, many of them bipartisan, that are sitting on Harry Reid's desk. How different does the relationship with the White House become when they no longer sit in the majority leader's desk but they actually move to the Oval Office? At that moment, we will start to see the White House have to say, we oppose this; we support it; we will work with you if you make these adjustments. For the last six years, the president has been indemnified for making those types of decisions, those types of outreaches - hopefully being pushed into that position of, I actually now have to work with Congress. Who knows? I may be pathologically optimistic, but we'll see.

GREENE: (Laughing) That's a wonderful phrase. Well, as you pick through those 300-plus pieces of legislation, can you give me an example or two where you see room for common ground, where you see something that you would support and something that the president would also support. Is there anything there that would fall in that category?

SCHWEIKERT: There's many there. If you even think about that number you've - we've bantered around a lot during this election - you know, the 380 pieces of legislation - understand a large number of them went out of the House bipartisan. A number of them - I think 60, 70-some of them - were actually Democrat-sponsored bills. So there is legislation out there that's just sort of frozen up in the Senate because of the Senate's dysfunction.

GREENE: But won't supporting some of those bipartisan bills do what many of your voters were asking you not to do, and that is work with this president? Isn't that the pressure, the reality that your party's sort of feeling right now?

SCHWEIKERT: Yeah, and I think that's actually far, far too simplistic on the reality of what we saw happen. There are good pieces of legislation. They're just, you know, they're work product. There are key issues that will become a great battleground. Will the president sort of reach up into thin air and magically find the authority to do some sort of executive expansion on immigration? That actually I think is very dangerous for the entire issue. I believe if the president goes as far as some of the, let's say, talking heads have said, it will poison the issue for a decade. So there's a lot of moving parts out there.

GREENE: We'll have to stop there. Thank you very much for your time this morning on this election morning. I know it was a busy night. We appreciate it.

SCHWEIKERT: Thank you, David. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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