The Democrat-controlled House is moving ahead with its impeachment inquiry, prompted by President Trump asking the Ukrainian president for an investigation of his political rival.
Like just about every House Republican, U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis said he thinks impeachment is a bad idea. Davis’ 13th Congressional District includes parts of Bloomington-Normal.
Here’s a transcript of Davis’ WGLT interview, lightly edited for clarity and length. You can also read his Democratic challenger Betsy Dirksen Londrigan's position on the impeachment inquiry.
WGLT: What do you think of the impeachment inquiry now underway?
Davis: I think the impeachment inquiry right now is short sighted. I think it's politically motivated. I don't see evidence in the transcript that would lead me to believe a crime had been committed, therefore, you know, an impeachable offense. And I do believe that this entire process, as former congressman and former Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood told me at a hearing last week, this process will shut down progress in Washington. We're not going to be able to address our infrastructure needs. We're not going to be able to address the student loan debt issues that I'm trying to solve. We're not going to be able to address our broken healthcare system that Democrats, they promised the American people they were going to do if they got the majority in the House. We have yet to vote on a single bill.
These are things that we ought to find bipartisan consensus on. But the far left of the Democrat Party is leading the agenda. And it's really forcing some of those that we can work with the most off to the wayside, and we're not able to govern with them. Impeachment took over Washington in the 90s, according to Mr. LaHood, who chaired the impeachment proceedings in the House back then. And he told us to avoid it at all costs, and I think he's right.
Last week you put out a statement that said, “I believe in Congress’ constitutional responsibility to be a check on the Executive Branch, but after this spectacle why would anyone believe us?” Can you expand on that? What’s a better way, in your view, to handle oversight?
Well, I'm all for oversight. I mean, I practice it all the time in my committees. As a matter of fact, that's something we do on a much more regular basis than fight with the other side.
But when you look at this objectively, everybody in this country deserves due process before they're charged with the crime. And in an unprecedented way, the Trump administration released the transcript of a call between two leaders, the one that was in question, the one that was brought to the attention of the media and now we see brought to the attention maybe of Speaker Pelosi and Chairman Schiff, before it was brought to the attention of the media and then eventually via the Trump administration to the public. This is the first time we've seen a transcript between two leaders released publicly.
And then we have a whistleblower report that comes out after that. That's hearsay information from somebody who was not on the call. We don't know who that person is. And they're going to run an impeachment inquiry based upon anonymous information? Rather than taking the facts of the transcript of the call? And also, taking what the president of both countries have said that there was no pressure?
This is obviously a political process that the Democrats are putting forth in trying to impeach the president, not a legal one that they're trying to sell the American people right now.
You’ve said "it’s clear Democrats have been intent on impeaching this president, regardless of the facts, since he was sworn into office.” A lot of Democrats would say Speaker Pelosi was too slow to reach impeachment. Even your Democratic challenger, Betsy Dirksen Londrigan, has never seemed all that eager to talk about impeachment when we’ve asked. How do you square those two things? Are Democrats obsessed with impeachment or slow-walking it?
My opponent Betsy Londrigan has said before that she's all for impeachment. So she's, typically, as we've seen in her candidacy over the last two cycles, she tries to say whatever she thinks is going to be best heard in front of a certain audience. That's not who I am.
And when you look at what Speaker Pelosi has done throughout the time that she's had the majority when it comes to impeachment, she has tried and tried to hold back the far left, and I got to give her some credit for doing that. But when every member went home over August, and even the moderate Democratic members who were elected and been holding off on impeachment, when they were pressured by their far left when they got home, many of them caved and said, ‘OK, we're for impeaching the president because the far left doesn't like him.’ Speaker Pelosi followed suit. Now they're trying to get evidence. They're trying to they're trying to get evidence after the fact.
And that's what I think is wrong with this process. And I have the luxury of being able to serve in an institution with many former federal and state prosecutors. And when this transcript came out, when the president in an unprecedented way released a transcript detailing the call between two leaders in question, when that came out, I went to many of those former prosecutors who were my colleagues now, I said, ‘Take a step back. If you were in your prosecutorial role, did you see anything in that transcript that would warrant criminal wrongdoing or activity and charges being filed?’
In every one of them said, ‘Absolutely not. There's no there there.’ And now we're debating an anonymous whistleblower report from somebody who wasn't even on the call. That's tantamount to impeaching the president based upon an anonymous Crime Stoppers tip, when the facts are there in a transcript that has never been released before in our nation's history.
I love how many in the 24-hour news cycle and many of the talking heads and some of my colleagues, they like to criticize the transcript of the call. Well, how do we know they can even criticize the transcript of the call when it hasn't ever been released? In my memory by any administration?
If that's the case, how about release some of the calls between the last administration, both President Obama and Vice President Biden, and foreign leaders? How about you release some of those transcripts to see if we can get a comparison?
So you've made the case several times that an impeachment inquiry will make it harder to actually get stuff done, actual bills that you care about and want to get passed. It seemed like a pretty difficult thing to do that anyway, even before the impeachment inquiry began. Which of the things you rattled off – be it infrastructure, be it health care, be it student loan debt – which of those things had a real chance?
All of them.
You think they all had viable chances?
Were there hearings canceled?
Yes, I had a hearing canceled the first morning after the impeachment. We were holding the FEC accountable. Now we have an FEC commissioner, who has led the charge along with many Democrats on the committee that I run for our Republican side, to politicize the FEC. The FEC should not be a political organization. It should hold every candidate and every member of congress accountable for spending their funds correctly once they're raised. And to make it a partisan split on the FEC, I think would be devastating to that process.
So that got cancelled the morning after the impeachment inquiry was put forth. Those things are already happening.
Infrastructure: You can't get a better issue that those of us who want to work together in Washington could come together on. I am the chair of the largest subcommittee in Congress, the highways and transit subcommittee, because I believed we could get an infrastructure package together. I have 59 members of that committee. That should tell you how many people out of entirety of Congress are truly, really interested in putting together a bipartisan package. That's where bipartisanship reigns.
School student loan debt, my Employer Participation in Student Loan Assistance Act, is something that Rep. Scott Peters from California, my Democratic colleague and I, are continuing to lead on. We were told by Democrats that this should have been put into our tax reform bill. I agreed with them then. Now they're in charge. Put our bill up for a vote. I just sat down with the CEO of Chegg a couple weeks ago, who was advocating for our bill to help pay down the student loan debt that's crushing many Americans who have just graduated from college or may not have graduated but left with thousands of dollars in debt companies want to be helpful. There's no reason why we can't treat student debt the same way we treat tuition reimbursement. So those two things would have been easy.
Health care? I think we could have come up with a plan. But Nancy Pelosi and Democratic candidates, many who won and others who didn't, touted that they were going to take control the House and fix the problems in our health care system. We have yet to have one single vote to fix our broken health care system that’s still leaving 60 million Americans behind with no coverage or coverage they can't afford to use. That's a failure by all measures of the Democratic majority. The No. 1 issue that many will say they were elected on has yet to be addressed. And we're almost done with the first year.
Impeachment is not gonna help that process move forward.
Democrats are the ones driving impeachment inquiry here, and you’re saying that will make it harder to get things done. But Republicans have been more than willing to not work on stuff when it suits them, like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refusing to vote on a House-passed bill to expand background checks for gun purchases, or to vote on former President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland. There are times when both sides are guilty of this, right? Not getting stuff done deliberately?
Yeah, there are many times that Speaker Pelosi and her majority did not, and would not, take up bills that passed out of committee and an overwhelming bipartisan fashion
A prescription-drug pricing bill passed out of the Energy and Commerce Committee in a very bipartisan way. They changed that bill. They changed legislation that had bipartisan co-sponsors to address the issue into partisan bills.
Look at HR 1, which the Democrats put forth as “taking money out of politics.” You know, everybody wants to take money out of politics. Well, the Democrats put a 600-page bill through my committee, with only nine total members of Congress on it—three Republicans. And many of the provisions in that bill were provisions that not a single constituent of mine ever brought up as a solution to getting money out of politics. They introduced this bill on Day 1 of this Congress. They had every Democratic member of the House co-sponsor this bill. Obviously, before they read it. They bragged about having it written with special interests, who have some relationship with this issue. And then they tried to create a program that would have put the first-ever taxpayer dollars directly into the coffers of every member of Congress' campaign. That's not bipartisan, because I don't know any Republican and any constituent of mine who says, that's a good idea. No one has come up to me and said that's the way to get money out of politics.
That's what Speaker Pelosi is sending over to Sen. McConnell. I had a lot of problems with the Senate not taking up good legislation when we were even in the majority, but much of that was bipartisan. And it's frustrating to see the Democrats put partisan bills over to the Senate, and then complain about them not being passed in a bipartisan manner.
Can’t you make the argument, so what? Aren’t there some things—like oversight or allegations like these against the president—more important than a transportation bill or broadband internet access? Isn’t there a time when other things should stop and something more serious should be considered?
What are you talking about that’s more serious? What behavior do you think is serious enough to tell my constituents right now? What behavior? What evidence do you have of behavior offered by the president or anyone in his administration, that rises to the level of an impeachment inquiry? That I should go back to my constituents and say, ‘If you've got $30,000 in student debt right now, and you've graduated and the company you're going to work for and wants to help you pay that off, I'm sorry, we can't do that. Because impeachment is more important.’
What evidence do you have for me to go tell them that, ‘I know that road that you drive over every day is dangerous, that bridge needs repaired. But you know what, there's no evidence right now. But I think we got to, we got to take away our progress on infrastructure because, you know, somebody says somebody may have done something wrong without any evidence.
And then lastly, what do you tell the family who has a $24,000 premium and deductible, that when they may get diagnosed of a condition that they may have already had, their pre-existing condition came back, and all of a sudden they're sitting there wondering how they're going to use the health care coverage that they can't afford to use. So you tell me what evidence exists right now? What evidence exists that puts this impeachment inquiry as a priority, over fixing their problem?
After reading the transcript, you said no crime was committed...
I talked to prosecutors who made a living before they got elected to Congress prosecuting criminals for crimes, and determining …
Let's say that's true. Still, was there anything in the transcript that you found troubling?
Well, there’s always things that you can find interesting. But troubling? I'm just glad that the president released the transcript, because if he didn't, if the president followed every other administration's precedent, in never releasing a transcript of calls between two leaders, then, and I think that's what the Democrats thought would happen, then they could put forth as many conspiracy theories as they can.
But clearly, once the president released the transcript, I mean, that’s the fact. Those are the facts. I would certainly be for, you know, President Obama and Vice President Biden and the other presidents, if they want to be as transparent as the Trump administration, in this instance, release their transcripts.
… This administration's been transparent. So again, show me the evidence that exists that President Trump or anyone in his administration committed an act that should lead to an impeachment inquiry. And I will then go tell my constituents, that their broken health care system, that their infrastructure problems, and their student loan debt problems should take second fiddle to this.
I think your listeners would agree, unless they are just politically intoxicated by the fact that President Trump won in 2016, that the evidence just isn't there.