Coronavirus Report: The Hill's Steve Clemons interviews Rep. Rodney Davis

The Hill's Steve Clemons interviews Rep. Rodney DavisRodney Lee DavisThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the Air Line Pilots Association - Key 48 hours loom as negotiators push for relief deal Illinois Republican tests positive for coronavirus The Hill's Campaign Report: Even the Post Office is political now | Primary action tonight | Super PACS at war MORE (R-Ill.). Read excerpts from the interview below.

 

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Clemons: Can you walk us through what you've learned in recent hearings about your concerns about a national mail-in ballot initiative?

Davis: Absolutely. ... This is an issue that we've been addressing since I took over on our Republican side to lead the House Administration Committee, which actually has jurisdictions over our nation's election system in the House of Representatives. We saw with H.R. 1, the new Democratic majority decided they wanted to push election reforms. Part of those election reforms were reforms to mail-in balloting, nationalizing ballot harvesting, a process that's already been corrupted and caused us to have to have a special election in North Carolina. These things are not part of COVID-19’s pandemic. This has been part of their agenda. And when you look at mail-in balloting, we first have to understand what they mean. Many Democrats mean that they want to mail a live ballot to every single registered voter. And at the same time as I've been in hearings throughout this country, many of my Democratic colleagues don't want our local election officials to be able to follow the law and remove voters from those voter rolls that aren’t registered there or don't live there anymore. That would mean millions more ballots being put out into the street, into mailboxes. That's something that I am against, and most Americans would be against it. It's OK if you want to request a vote by mail. I encourage that, that happens in my home state of Illinois. But we can't nationalize a process that even Secretary of State Kim Wyman from Washington state, whose state has only vote by mail. She said it would take upwards of 10 years to effectively implement her system again. So things have to take time. We don't want to have to wait for election results. And if Democrats are successful, by mailing ballots to every single registered voter even though they might not be legally registered there at that address anymore or legal to vote, that's a problem. 

 

Clemons: So, you actually support mail-in ballots, but folks need to request them. Is that right?

Davis: Yeah, and the White House is not against mail-in balloting. What they're against — And it's tough to explain this in the limited amount of characters that Twitter allows — But we have the ability to come on shows like yours. Mail-in ballots are something that Republicans and Democrats agree on, but it's how you implement them. We, as Republicans — and I know, the White House agrees — we don't want to see live ballots mailed to people who should never be eligible to vote at that address and Democrats will say, “Well, that's not a problem.” Well, you know what? It is. I have another member of my House Admin. Committee, Barry Loudermilk, congressman from Georgia. One of his staffers moved to Maryland. He requested a ballot to vote in Georgia as he should and can do. He got that one, but then got two ballots mailed to him in the most recent Maryland election, made out to some other names because they're still on the voter rolls of that address that he now lives at. And he did the right thing and destroyed them. But that's a problem. 

 

Clemons: Is there a proactive GOP response on that makes that clear that you support some level of mail-in ballots? Are you crafting a bill that gives states the support they need for mail-in balloting?

Davis: Well, we've crafted numerous pieces of legislation regarding mail-in balloting, outlawing the corrupted process of ballot harvesting that is still ravaging in states like California. We did a ballot harvesting report where I sent observers from the House Administration Committee out to California and we saw numerous instances of ballots just being thrown outside and outside the collection box with no one watching them. They could have been stolen, corrupted, added to, who knows? We saw them laying around the elections office to where anybody walking in could grab them. That's not maintaining the chain of custody of a ballot to make sure someone's vote counted. Those things we've introduced bills to address. But unfortunately, Steve, not everybody wants to talk about elections. Not everybody wants to talk about the details of election reforms. It's folks like you that allow us to do that. But to answer your original question, we've laid it out on our social media pages in media interviews before. But also, we're just trying to build that case that there are a majority of areas that we in Washington, Republicans and Democrats, have agreed on immensely. We have provided over $1 billion to our local election officials to address cybersecurity issues and other election issues. And you know what? None of us talk enough about the success in the cybersecurity side when it comes to elections that 2018 showed us. We didn't have one instance of foreign interference, and that's a good thing that shows we have been working together, investing billions to help this process. 

 

Clemons: Illinois's numbers of coronavirus are coming down dramatically, which is not the case in a lot of the rest of the country. What are you folks getting right that others are not?

Davis: Well, Illinois, we have had a state home order still in place, minimal exceptions. And we've seen many areas, especially the areas that I represent, that have met for months, the metrics that our governor laid out to get to phase four which just started this Friday. So we're seeing an increase in cases nationwide in many areas due to a wide variety of reasons. One, we have more people being tested. We’re testing asymptomatic people, which we were not doing during the height of this crisis, the height of this pandemic. But time will tell. After we've seen thousands gather in the streets to protest, others gathering for other nefarious reasons. We're going to see our Fourth of July weekend. We still see in news reports, thousands gathering in places like Los Angeles, just yesterday, defying the orders that Gov. Newsom put forth. This is an issue we're going to still have to continue to fight. It concerns me, especially with the good economic news that we've seen just recently with millions of jobs even more so than expected, being added to our economy. 

 

Clemons: What do you think can be done on the job front? Do you need to pump more money into the system?

Davis: I think that's going to be determined by the continued increase or continued decrease or a stabilization in cases. We've bent the curve from where we were when this pandemic initially started, but we can't talk about the need for a new stimulus unless we look back at the successes we've had. Without the investment in the PPP program to keep our mom and pop shops alive before they could get to a phase four and partially reopened in states like Illinois, where I represent, was a program that worked. If it didn't work, we would not have seen the historic job numbers that we just saw in the last few weeks. If we weren't investing in the local tax base, then we wouldn't have the ability to fund our local governments once this pandemic was over. So we did the right thing in a very bipartisan way. We still have hundreds of billions of dollars yet to go out to our hospitals and medical facilities as part of the original CARES Act legislation. So these issues have to be put into the debate and into context in the discussion of any future stimulus. 

 

Clemons: Is the situation improving for rural hospitals? Is the money and resources there for medical support in rural areas?

Davis: Yes, we've already seen over $75 billion sent out to our hospitals, both rural and urban, and our medical facilities. You know, those clinics that are really essential when it comes to getting diagnostic procedures and access to primary care and even elective procedures, that's getting better, especially in states like Illinois. I successfully argued with our administration at the end of April to reopen our clinics, to reopen our hospitals for elective and diagnostic procedures, because what one person may determine is elective, another person may need that same procedure to survive, and we don't want to have a higher death rate for diseases we know how to treat once we come out of this pandemic, because people were either too scared or they didn't have access to basic medical care that could have easily addressed their problem that killed them or could have killed them. So we've seen success. But we've also seen and need that increased testing to be able to be sure that those coming in don't have the virus, and if there are any facilities in this nation Steve, that ought to be able to mitigate the risk of anyone coming in and getting COVID, it's our hospitals, it’s our clinics. My wife goes to work at a hospital every day and does everything she can to mitigate the risk of bringing COVID home or coming home to anyone in our community with it. 

 

Clemons: Do you support looking at supply chains in a new way?

Davis: Absolutely, I support that. Steve, my former colleague and good friend John DelaneyJohn DelaneyCoronavirus Report: The Hill's Steve Clemons interviews Rep. Rodney Davis Eurasia Group founder Ian Bremmer says Trump right on China but wrong on WHO; CDC issues new guidance for large gatherings The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas says country needs to rethink what 'policing' means; US cases surpass 2 million with no end to pandemic in sight MORE is absolutely right. John and I used to work together on infrastructure issues when we served together, actually trying to put together a national infrastructure bank that would have been able to invest hundreds of billions of dollars in rebuilding our crumbling roads and bridges and other infrastructure, even vertical infrastructure. We have to look at our supply chain and really, I think, as we move ahead, we ought to plan to invest federal dollars to partner with our manufacturers to really incentivize construction of facilities. I believe in many rural areas because we have the workforce, we have the space and we ought to be able to incentivize the placement of that supply chain need into our rural communities to make sure we don't rely upon China for PPE, when they cornered when they cornered the market on PPE before the rest of the world knew about the virus. We have to make sure that our defense industry is able to produce the needed materials here. It's time to bring them back home. Bring that supply chain back to North America. And it's especially telling today, with the full implementation of the USMCA, North America is the place where we should be. 

 

Clemons: What would you say if you were to have a talk with the president or vice president or the coronavirus task force in the White House?

Davis: Guidance and advice. I know we're learning about a disease that no one on Earth knew existed a year ago. I know that advice is going to change, but when the advice continues to change without taking into consideration the advice that's already on the table, what is created is we have a bunch of masked vigilantes that you know don't follow the guidance or the advice that the CDC has already laid out, consistency matters. If Dr. Fauci, who I have the utmost respect for, is going to offer continued advice on when and where somebody should wear a mask. Then he's gonna have to follow the same guidelines, but it has to be consistent. Are we able to stand 6 feet or more away from somebody outside without a mask, as CDC says? Or do we have to wear a mask every time we're in public? That consistency matters because without it, people don't take any guidance seriously.