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Local members of Congress cast votes in the national debate over the debt ceiling. D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray issues a pocket veto to overrule the Council on city finances. And Virginia candidates pick sides and hone their messages weeks before legislative primary elections. Join us for our weekly review of the politics, policies, and personalities of the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia.
- Tom Sherwood Resident Analyst; NBC 4 reporter; and Columnist for the Current Newspapers
- Donna Edwards Member, U.S. House of Representatives (D-MD, 4th Congressional District)
- Jo-Ann Chase Republican Candidate, Virginia House of Delegates (87th District)
Politics Hour Extra
Donna Edwards, member of the U.S. House of Representatives (D-Md., 4th Congressional District) talks about why she voted against raising the debt ceiling.
Donna Edwards, member of the U.S. House of Representatives (D-Md., 4th Congressional District) says not enough of the stimulus went to job creation, and talks about what should be done to increase employment.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIFrom WAMU 88.5, at American University in Washington, welcome to "The Politics Hour," starring Tom Sherwood. I'm Kojo Nnamdi. Later in the broadcast, we'll be talking with Jo-Ann Chase. She's a Republican candidate for the Virginia House of Delegates. We'll also be talking with Congresswoman Donna Edwards, member of the U.S. House of Representatives who voted against the measure to raise the debt ceiling.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIShe will tell us why. Tom Sherwood is our resident analyst. He's an NBC 4 reporter and a columnist for the Current Newspapers. Last week, I made fun of the prospect of a motorist targeting Tom Sherwood while he was out bicycle riding. A few bicycle riders were outraged, saying this is an issue that should not be treated lightly. I agree. If you want to target Tom Sherwood, do it in writing. We want it on record.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIAs for the suggestion that I would seriously advocate that motorists hit bicycle riders, well, maybe you've missed every show we did with the Washington Area Bicyclist Association, encouraging bicycle riding and the fact that we've never done a show encouraging more driving. But maybe I digress. Tom Sherwood, Mayor Vincent Gray of the District of Columbia has -- by the way, were you out bicycle riding this past weekend?
MR. TOM SHERWOODWell, I am doing a story today about, you know, the bike -- the very popular Bikeshare program in the city. You know, all these people are riding bicycles without helmets. And so the city is going to do a pilot project and get about 500 helmets and distribute them to people who have signed up for their kind of the daily commute portion of Capital Bikeshare.
NNAMDIAre those the kind of foldable helmets we talked about last week?
SHERWOODYou know, I just don't know what they're -- to be honest, I just don't know -- maybe you'll get to keep this helmet as long you're a member of Bikeshare. But I just can't see people trading the use of helmets...
NNAMDIOh, well, we will see exactly...
SHERWOOD...unless there's a lot of Handi-Wipes around.
NNAMDIWe'll see exactly what emerges from this. As I was saying, Mayor Vincent Gray has vetoed a proposal that would have delayed collecting a new tax on out-of-state municipal bonds. The first vote by the city council was to impose a tax on non-D.C. -- or to get rid of the tax break on people who invested on -- in non-D.C. municipal bonds. It would have taken effect January of 2011, making it retroactive.
NNAMDIInstead, they have a later vote to put that off until January of 2012. And they would have made up for it by getting the money from the city's reserve. The mayor said, no, that's not going to happen. So he vetoed the measure.
SHERWOODWell, you know, it's only the...
SHERWOODI don't want to get too much in the weeds on this, but you've pretty well described what happened. The surprise, the anger, came in that the mayor waited for the 11th hour to allow a pocket veto to go into effect with no opportunity for the council to come back into session to override it. He gave us his excuse that, well, we can't take $13 million out of the reserve fund because we've promised Wall Street that we would build up our reserve fund.
SHERWOODWell, Mary Cheh, who generally likes Mayor Gray, said, you know, Mr. Mayor, we put $13 million into that fund. You put none in. And now, we're going to take it, just put $13- in, take $13- to take care of this tax. And she said, we're still putting money in the reserve fund more than you did. So she doesn't stand -- she's furious.
SHERWOODThe business community is furious, the Chamber of Commerce, the Board of Trade, the Federal City Council, that the mayor called in Council Chairman Kwame Brown on the last day, on the last hour, and said, well, I'm going to do this. Well, the mayor knew this provision was in there. He had said he didn't like it weeks ago. Waiting to the last moment to veto it was just a total surprise to everyone.
NNAMDIAlso a total victory on his part since the city council can't do anything about it.
SHERWOODRight. They're all in recess now. But, you know, they'll come back in September. The mayor says he's going to work out some other arrangement, but he thought he had to keep his word to Wall Street. And then Cheh says, well, you know, we're talking about $13 million in a $10 billion budget -- $10 billion budget. And so it's really not keeping your word to Wall Street.
SHERWOODShe thinks the mayor wants to take another slice at maybe raising taxes on people who make $350,000 or more a year to replace the money. But we'll see. It's a nice little battle to have in September when everyone comes back.
NNAMDIThe Office of Campaign Finance has completed its investigation of Ward 7 Councilmember Yvette Alexander, and it says that Yvette Alexander has not improperly spent constituent services funds on herself, which is what the investigation was all about. But it gave her a slap on the wrist and said, well, there are a couple of things you didn't do that well.
SHERWOODRight. And the complaint about some money spent for robocalls, which she says she can still explain. She's going to challenge. I think the problem is these allegations about her spending are not nearly as serious as anything approaching what Harry Thomas faces or what Council Chairman Kwame Brown faces. But it adds to the aura that this city council -- this council is not tending to business when it comes to ethics.
SHERWOODAnd there's -- and I wrote a column this week about whether they're going to wring their hands and meet and discuss and do all this about a new tougher ethics law when the house is on fire.
NNAMDIWhen they could in fact be doing something about it, you say.
SHERWOODWell, they're -- yes -- talking about it is not doing something about it. The house is on fire. You don't -- as I wrote, you don't form a committee to just discuss how to build a fire department. You get the biggest hose you can. And that's what they need to do. A lot of issues out about Harry Thomas' defense committee and all these other things.
NNAMDIWell, joining us in studio, right now, is Donna Edwards. She's a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. She is a Democrat from the state of Maryland. Congresswoman Donna Edwards, good to see you. Thank you for joining us.
REP. DONNA EDWARDSThank you. It's good to be with you again.
SHERWOODShe was just complimenting the city on the light traffic in August. It's one -- it's the month not to go on vacation because it's so easy to get around town.
NNAMDIBecause everybody else is gone. The Congress is gone. And everybody who's affiliated with the Congress is gone, except for Donna Edwards, who's still here.
EDWARDSWell, I think what people forget is that we live in this region. And whenever there's all this Washington bashing, you know, I get a little uptight about that with my colleagues because a lot of us live here. We work here. We love it here. And so August is a great month for us.
NNAMDIIf you'd like to bash, call us at 800-433-8850. 800-433-8850. You can send email to email@example.com. Go to our website, kojoshow.org, and join the conversation because we will be talking with Congresswoman Donna Edwards about her position on raising the debt ceiling. And I'm sure you have one, too. You can also send us a tweet, @kojoshow.
NNAMDICongress worked up until the final buzzer this past week to pass a bill that would raise the federal debt ceiling and to protect the country from default. It's a deal that also made way for heavy cuts to federal spending and promises to cut even more. And it's a deal that you felt, in the end, was not good enough. Why did you vote no?
EDWARDSWell, you know, I had actually voted two times prior to raise the debt ceiling once, in fact, a clean debt ceiling, which had been done over 100 times in the Congress without tying it to these budget constraints. And one of my real concerns going into the final package was that it, actually, even changed from the one that we had just voted on a couple of days before.
EDWARDSYou know, the levels of cuts that are going to happen are going to deeply impact a lot of very vulnerable communities. And I'm concerned about that. Even though I think it was important for us to raise the debt ceiling, I'm concerned, also, with the appointment of this so-called super committee, super Congress, joint select committee.
EDWARDSAlready, the Republicans have announced that they don't really plan to put anyone on those committees who believe in raising any kind of revenue. And I think that, as the president has said, you have to have a balanced approach to cutting back on government spending. And what we see today is that we have such a contraction in government at the same time that we're facing real economic challenge, it's actually the wrong time to contract government spending on things like roads, bridges, water systems and our infrastructure.
EDWARDSWe should actually be spending to make those investments now, so they pay off in the future. And when you completely take revenue off the table, I think it's just a bad deal for the American people.
NNAMDIIf your vote were the deciding vote in whether or not the debt ceiling would be raised under the bill that you voted against, would you have voted against it anyway?
EDWARDSI think that's a good -- that's a really good question. I was actually looking at the vote. And I had figured out by then that, in fact, the Republican majority and some -- with some Democrats would be able to pass this debt ceiling, which is why I thought it was really important to then look at the substance of the bill.
EDWARDSAnd when you looked at the substance, hands down, I voted with -- it turns out half of the Democratic Party voted for the bill, and half of the Democratic Party voted against it, even split, 95-95. And so, you know, a good question, but I had voted on a clean debt ceiling prior to that. But it was important to look at the substance.
SHERWOODSo the answer to his question is...
EDWARDSWell, I mean, the answer to his question is...
NNAMDINo, I would not.
EDWARDS...I -- no, I've -- if mine had been...
SHERWOODIt was your vote...
EDWARDS...the deciding vote, that would have made the difference between the United States defaulting, of course, I would not want the United States to default. But that really wasn't the question in the end. And we have to go forward from here, and I think it's important to lay some markers down. So we can't just cut spending without also raising revenue.
SHERWOODYou are a fairly progressive member of Congress. Some would say liberal. I think you might even say that. A lot of irritation is with President Obama for, arbitrarily almost, dropping the revenue part. Do you understand why he did? He said, okay, we'll take revenue off the table because we just can't get it in any kind of deal 'cause he did not want to risk default.
SHERWOODDo you understand -- could he -- is there a way you saw that he could have kept revenue in the negotiations?
EDWARDSWell, I mean, there are a couple of things. Number one, I think, you know, starting with the continuing resolution that was actually passed in December, in the lame-duck Congress, where we, you know, made a decision in exchange for unemployment benefits, yet another (word?) taking unemployment benefits in exchange for retaining tax cuts for the...
SHERWOODBush tax cuts.
EDWARDS...wealthiest 2 percent, the Bush tax cuts. And I think that actually set the table for what we're experiencing right now. And so, you know, could -- you know, all of us could say woulda-coulda-shoulda, you know, done differently. But I do believe that engaging with -- without engaging in a real debate with the American people about the importance of revenue -- and, really, the American people actually agree with us.
EDWARDSYou look at poll after poll, and it shows that people think that we should have revenue on the table.
SHERWOODA liberal friend of mine said that he wants an intraparty challenge to Obama's re-nomination, just to hold the president's feet to the fire by having someone campaign against him within the Democratic Party. Would you go that far?
EDWARDSYou know, I know that I'm probably going to anger a lot of my progressive and liberal friends. I actually don't find that that would be very helpful. I actually...
NNAMDIDo you remember what -- 1980, Carter-Kennedy?
EDWARDSI do. And I just -- I don't think it would be helpful at all.
SHERWOODIt would be...
EDWARDSAnd I also think, especially at a time where it's important to draw the distinctions between those of us who want to create jobs, who want to protect Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid for future generations, and the other folks who want to decimate government -- after all, that is the strategy. It's been a 30-year strategy. And to run an intraparty fight for, you know, a primary fight for the presidency, I don't think that gets us anywhere.
SHERWOODThat's what the Tea Party is doing within the Republican Party.
EDWARDSAnd it's destroying the Republican Party. And I'm a good Democrat, a progressive Democrat. I want to push my president, and I want to push our party to do better and to do differently. For working families, I just don't think that's the way to do it.
NNAMDIYou said you like hardball bargaining. Do you feel that, had the president insisted on a revenue stream, that the Republicans would have, at some point, compromised? And if so, what gives you -- what leads you to believe that?
EDWARDSWell, I mean, there are a couple of things. I joined with our assistant leader, Clyburn, and a lot of our leadership, calling on the president, actually, to use the full force and weight of the Constitution and to invoke the 14th Amendment and executive, you know, authority to pay America's bills, to say -- to take it to them.
NNAMDIAnd what if that had happened and he was impeached?
EDWARDSWell, I actually find -- I find it very difficult to believe that the American people would want to impeach the president because he paid Social Security checks, because he paid veterans, because...
NNAMDIIt doesn't say the American people. It only takes the majority party in the House of Representatives.
EDWARDSNo. You know, they tried this strategy with Bill Clinton. It didn't work then, and it wouldn't have worked with this president. The president would have said, you know what? I'm going to maintain the full faith and credit obligations of the United States. I'm going to pay Social Security. I'm going to pay veterans. I'm going to pay our servicemen and women. And I dare you to come after me for that.
EDWARDSI think the American people would have been with him. And we could, you know, debate that. The president obviously didn't agree with that and thought that he had to get this deal in order to increase the debt ceiling.
SHERWOODWhich scared them...
NNAMDIAnd one more point. What do you say to Republicans who say, what do you mean we didn't compromise? We didn't get the balanced-budget amendment that we wanted before the next election.
EDWARDSNo. They're going to get a vote on it. I mean, the reality is -- it's like John Boehner said. I mean, the Speaker Boehner actually said himself that the Republicans got 98 percent of what they wanted. That doesn't sound like a compromise.
EDWARDSAnd when you're holding the full faith and credit of the United States hostage to these budget considerations, which never before in our history have been included in a discussion about raising our debt ceiling and meeting our obligations and avoiding default -- not with any other president has it been done -- but it was done with this president. I think it was wrong.
EDWARDSI think it sets the wrong framework for the future. And, you know, this is why, I think, it's really imperative for us, as Democrats, you know, to say, you know, enough of this silly talk about whether we're going to run a primary or not against the president. We actually need to unite because, otherwise, the -- you know, the entire fabric of working families is at threat with these folks who just want to decimate everything that government does.
NNAMDIThe Tea Party is a grassroots movement. Where's yours?
EDWARDSWell, I'm not sure that the -- I think the Tea Party is a minority grassroots movement. You can see that in Congress. It's unbelievable that the Republican Party is allowing themselves to be, you know, co-opted and driven by such a minority interest. Even Tea Partiers don't think that we should cut Social Security and Medicare. Even Tea Partiers believe that we should raise revenue.
EDWARDSAnd so I'm not sure that that group that calls themselves the Tea Party is actually really even representing the interest that they claim to support.
SHERWOODWell, we've had a terrible week in the stock market. One of the arguments about doing the debt ceiling and getting it done before Aug. 2 was to avoid financial turmoil. Well, I think we've had financial turmoil. How do you explain -- how do you look at the stock market news this week, and how it scares people who are on fixed incomes and retired and wanting to retire? The 401 (k) is dipping again.
SHERWOODWhat's your own view of that? And this debt fight seems to have exacerbated that, not helped it.
EDWARDSWell, I agree. And I think the damage was done, you know, probably a couple of weeks ago when it became clear that people would rather engage in politics than just do what we need to do to stabilize our own economy, stabilize our own markets and stabilize world markets. And so the signal was already sent out to the market, even as the debt ceiling was being signed by the president.
EDWARDSAnd so it's not -- although I think it's a surprise that the more markets have reacted so drastically, it shouldn't be a surprise that they reacted at all because of the instability that's been created. And, frankly, setting up a process where we're going to engage in this fight, yet again at the end of the year, sends great signals of instability to the world market.
NNAMDIOur guest is Donna Edwards. She's a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. She's a Democrat from Maryland. If you'd like to speak with Congresswoman Edwards, call us at 800-433-8850. Or if you have a question or comment, you can do so at our website, kojoshow.org. Send us a tweet, @kojoshow, or email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Tom Sherwood is our resident analyst.
NNAMDIHe's an NBC 4 reporter and a columnist for the Current Newspapers. The Washington Post profiled you last month as an emerging, quote here, "progressive voice" on Capitol Hill. How would you define what it means to be progressive? And where do you see the so-called progressive movement heading right now?
NNAMDIAnd that relates to the question I asked earlier about where is your grassroots movement? Because one got the impression during this debt ceiling debate that the "progressive movement," to some extent, relied on the president to speak for it, and when he didn't come through, had no gas left.
EDWARDSI think what I've discovered since I've been in Congress is it's always complicated when your party occupies the White House. That is, after all...
NNAMDIAnd the majority in the Senate.
EDWARDS...the bully pulpit and the majority in the Senate. On the other hand, for -- I'll tell you where progressives were when the president and in these negotiations suggested that, well, you know, all things, you know, being equal, if we're really going to have a negotiation, let's talk about Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
EDWARDSI actually organized a group of 70 members of Congress, myself included, who wrote to the president and said, take this out of the discussion. And I think because of the pressure that we put on as progressives and as Democrats in the Congress, that, indeed, you know, those things were removed from this debt ceiling debate, even though, you know, at the end of the year, if this trigger goes into effect, that, potentially, those programs are part of the conversation.
EDWARDSBut I think that we were actually successful in articulating, on behalf of working people, the importance of these programs to income security and retirement security in this country.
NNAMDIHow do you define progressive right now?
EDWARDSWell, I define it as -- you know, I mean, I think -- feel like we're a set of members in the progressive caucus in the Congress and across the country who care about what is happening with working families and who want to raise and lift the hopes and dreams of those who are poor and who've been left out and who want to enjoy the largesse and opportunity in this country.
EDWARDSAnd that means, you know, the ability of working people to organize in their workplace. That means, you know, fighting for young people to be able to go to school without having to spend, you know, their fortune and their grandchildren's fortune in order to do that, ensuring that the vast majority of American people enjoy retirement security, fighting for the values of working people. And I think that that's about as progressive as it comes.
EDWARDSLooking at tax policies that say, you know what, 3 percent, 2 percent of income owners in this country shouldn't suck all of the life blood and the energy and the resources away from the country while 97 percent have to pay the bill. And I think that's about as progressive as it comes.
SHERWOODSome people have said that if Steny Hoyer had been the leader of the Democrats, things would have been different than Nancy Pelosi as being such a progressive person, that Hoyer would've been able to negotiate better with Republicans, given his history. I realize he's your fellow member of Congress and you would support him, I suspect, if he wanted to be speaker or something.
SHERWOODBut what would you say to that, that maybe the Democrats in the House were outflanked, they were outnumbered -- to be sure, but you were outflanked -- because you weren't prepared to do a in the ditches kind of fight?
EDWARDSLet me tell you something. Number one, I, you know, really strongly support our leadership. And the two people who were at the table at the White House negotiating on behalf of House Democrats were our leader Nancy Pelosi and our whip Steny Hoyer, as a team.
EDWARDSI think that we have, you know, in -- under Nancy Pelosi's leadership as the Speaker of the House, we had some of the most productive Congresses that have ever taken place in the history of this country, and that's because of her leadership. It's because she knows how to get votes. She knows how to compromise. And she actually understands how to win, and that's been her leadership.
EDWARDSI think that she and Steny Hoyer make a great team. They represent, you know, diverse and different interests of our big tent Democratic Party. And I think that that's actually served our purposes really well.
SHERWOODAnd Chris Van Hollen (unintelligible) been very active on the national media, talking...
EDWARDSAnd Chris Van Hollen is our budget negotiator...
SHERWOODHe's often -- he's seen a lot more than any -- I guess, almost anyone else, really, on the national news.
EDWARDSWell, Chris Van Hollen, and, I think, our former whip and assistant leader, Jim Clyburn, we have a great leadership team. They involve our caucus. I feel like I have, you know, open access and conversation with, you know, with all of them, even as a very, very junior member of our Democratic caucus. And as part of...
NNAMDIWell, there was a minor dust up between you and Steny Hoyer, in which you talked about the fact that when Steny Hoyer said that entitlement reform needed to be on the bargaining table, you disagreed. And, ultimately, you apologized for the manner in which you disagreed.
EDWARDSNo, I did disagree. And I think it's really important. I was representing the interest of the people of the 4th Congressional District in Maryland and across this country who believe in the protections and the values of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
EDWARDSAnd when I heard that I thought I was hearing that there was some difference between what he was suggesting and what our leader Pelosi was suggesting, I wanted to clarify that for our entire caucus so that we could actually be united as they were going into the White House to negotiate on our behalf.
EDWARDSAnd, you know, much as I adore Steny Hoyer and Nancy Pelosi, if -- you know, I'm a member of Congress representing a congressional district, too, and I do my homework. And so I felt like it was important for me to articulate that viewpoint of a number of us, as members of Congress, with our caucus and with our leadership as they were going into these really important negotiations.
EDWARDSAnd what's really interesting is part of what came out of that is this letter that I talked about with 70 of us as Democrats signed on to the president, saying, you know, this is not part of the conversation. And so I thought it was important for me to represent those viewpoints in our caucus meeting.
NNAMDIOkay, Tom. We weren't able to get anything going between her and Steny Hoyer or Nancy Pelosi here, so I guess we'd better go to the callers. Here is Nick in Winchester, Va. Nick, you are on the air. Go ahead, please.
NICKGood afternoon. Thank you, Kojo. I'm not a constituent of Ms. Edwards, but I know -- never want to miss an opportunity to bang individual members of Congress over the head about how I think that Congress is not performing its duties as set forth in Article I of the Constitution. There hasn't been a declaration of war since July 5, 1942. I can't remember the last time they booked -- Congress passed a budget in a timely fashion.
NICKAnd you've got 90 judges and God knows how many other officials waiting for confirmation in the Senate. And if you read between the lines there, I'm even angrier at the Senate than I am with the Congress.
NICKBut I -- when I went to work for the federal government 35 years ago, one of the first things a high official said to the group I was -- who had been hired -- was, when somebody comes to me and said, I wasn't able to finish that report last night, I ask him, how much sleep did you get? And I don't see the Congress working eight hours a day, or five days a week on the next...
NNAMDIAllow me to have Congresswoman Donna Edwards respond.
EDWARDSWell, thanks for the concern. I just want to share that I know that I join a lot of my colleagues. I don't work eight hours a day. I usually work about 16 hours a day in serving the people of the 4th Congressional District. I'm proud to do that. I think you're right. I mean, the -- we did pass a budget out of the House, and it was a bad budget. It was a budget that was proposed by Paul Ryan of Wisconsin in the Budget Committee that decimated Medicare.
EDWARDSI voted against that budget. The Senate hasn't passed it. I think there are a lot of judicial nominations that are hanging in the wind for various and sundry, you know, individual, political reasons. And I think we need to move those forward because people need access to justice, but also, other nominations that are hanging in the balance for very political reasons. And so the Senate needs to do its job there.
EDWARDSI think that the Congress -- we need to do our job and create an opportunity for job creation and innovation in this country. And, you know, even with 9.1 percent unemployment, just down below the 9.2 percent rate before, it is anemic job growth. It's job growth, true, but it's anemic. It is nowhere near the way we need to grow this economy. And the government has to play an important role in making certain that that happens...
SHERWOODCan the -- given the fears about the double dip recession and given some complaints that President Obama should've done more about jobs rather than health care, won't we fight that battle? But what -- facing the election now, just a, what, 13, 14 months away, what can the president do that really can jumpstart jobs other than having more QE2, -3, -4 and -5 to spend money.
SHERWOODWhat can really be done to create jobs in the short period of time for political benefit?
EDWARDSWell, I don't know about for political benefit, but people want to work. And even the Washington Metropolitan region is actually facing, you know, really tremendous strains on our workforce. We are losing jobs here. And so that has to be done all across this country.
EDWARDSBut, you know, anyone, whether in Washington, D.C. or the Metropolitan Washington suburbs, you just have to drive outside your door to see that the roads need repairing, bridges need to be rebuilt, water main systems need to be rebuilt. And those are jobs right now, not jobs a year from now, not jobs two years from now. Those are jobs right now.
SHERWOODThe president did show already -- I mean, he called them shovel-ready jobs. Things are ready to go. We'll just give them money. And so that was done some.
EDWARDSI'd argue that we didn't do enough.
EDWARDSBut I think we did -- you know, we did $786 billion worth of funding for stimulus funding. Only a portion of that was actually for infrastructure. I would argue we need to do more. And the Congress plays a role in this. I mean, it isn't just the president's job to create an environment where we're actually engaged in job creation. It's our job in the Congress, too, and there are things we could do.
EDWARDSWe could jumpstart the Surface Transportation Act, which would fund transportation projects all around this country. I mean, we had to go to a shutdown of the FAA that put at jeopardy, you know, some 75,000 jobs, construction jobs at the height of the construction season. And so Congress needs to actually get out of the way of, you know, not moving forward on job creation.
NNAMDINick, thank you for call. From domestic to foreign policy, we go to Saqib (sp?) in Gaithersburg, Md. Saqib, your turn.
MR. SAQIB ALIHi. I just wanted to say that, you know, I'm a fan of Congresswoman Edwards just because, whatever policy position she takes, she's always going in for the underdog, whether it's the working class or the middle class or as college students and -- or, you know, for people that live under an occupation in the Middle East. I mean, she's using a good solid voice. I'm -- I wanted to -- I know she's very good on issues of peace and on issues of preventing wars.
MR. SAQIB ALII wanted to ask her to say something on the terrible, terrible situation in Syria, where Bashar Assad is, basically, just butchering his people. It really bothers me, and it's...
NNAMDICongresswoman Edwards, the situation in Syria. Saqib, thank you for your call.
EDWARDSSaqib, thank you. You know, I think this is a very troubling circumstance because, I think, the United States has very little leverage in terms of what's happening in Syria. I mean, it was, you know, good to see the United Nations acting forthrightly in calling for additional sanctions on Syria. But we don't have the kind of leverage, frankly, that we either had with Egypt or that we had in terms of allying the Arab states with Libya.
EDWARDSAnd so, I think, this is a -- you know, this is a much tougher call. I mean, Assad is, you know, wholesale slaughtering his people. And I think that the Arab community, actually, in the countries, actually, really need to step forward. I mean, the difference with Libya is that Assad apparently has had a great relationship with other Arab nations. And it's made them reluctant to step forward in the same way that they did with Syria.
EDWARDSAnd, until that kind of coalition happens, it makes it very complicated for the United States and others in the Western world to act and to know what to do.
NNAMDIIs this former Delegate Saqib Ali?
NNAMDIOh, Saqib, thank you very much for your call.
EDWARDSThank you, Saqib.
SHERWOODI thought it was you.
SHERWOODSecretary Clinton -- well, it's not much more of a bully pulpit just to talk about it, but she's spoken about this issue among others.
EDWARDSWell, she did. And, in fact, I think, yesterday, and also through the United Nations, I think, all of us recognize what's happening in Syria and the tragedy of that, but very little leverage. I mean, we had an ambassador for the first time, actually, in a long time in Syria. And he was actually just in the Senate testifying, I think, last week, a few days ago, and acknowledges that we have very few leverage points in the kind of way that we have in some other areas of the region.
NNAMDIAfraid that's all the time we have, Donna Edwards. Thank you so much for joining us.
EDWARDSThank you. I'll have to come back.
NNAMDIDonna Edwards is a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. She's a Democrat from Maryland representing District 4. You heard her here promise to come back. Hopefully, it won't take as long in the next...
SHERWOODAnd the president will have to change his campaign slogan to, yes, we still can.
NNAMDITom Sherwood is our resident analyst. He's an NBC 4 reporter and a columnist for The Current Newspapers. Tom Sherwood, when Mayor Vincent Gray came to office, he said he would have a transparent government.
NNAMDIBut, apparently, dozens of his staffers were being required to sign nondisclosure agreements that would have kept them from talking about potential cost-saving and revenue-raising measures that they were discussing during a top-to-bottom performance review of city government this year, that performance being conducted by former chief technology officer Suzanne Peck.
SHERWOODWell, you know, this is a good lesson for people who are in government. You know, the fact that it was disclosed, that she was trying to get them to have nondisclosure agreements ought to tell you about the power of nondisclosure agreements. I understand the bureaucratic and the policy thing. You want people to discuss freely how you can do government better, cost savings, better performance and all of that.
SHERWOODBut then to ask people to sign secrecy agreements -- that's what nondisclosure means, is to be secretive about it and not to discuss it outside the confines of her work -- just were not working in a big government, in any kind of government.
NNAMDIBut why would you think Suzanne Peck, who's got a lot of experience both in government and in politics -- she's been a major contributor to campaigns far and wide. Why would you think Suzanne Peck, who, by the way, was our chief technology officer when we were scared back in 2000 over the Millennium Bug...
SHERWOODAnd didn't she work for Metro (unintelligible) Prince George's (unintelligible) ?
NNAMDISure did. Why did...
SHERWOODI don't know what she's doing. I just -- you just cannot tell people to shut up. That's good for our business. But, you know, maybe she tried -- she's trying maybe to do some innovative things. We'll see. Certainly, this administration, the Gray administration, needs to streamline and get things going a bit faster. That's one of the criticism I hear consistently across the board, is the Gray administration just seems to be stuck in neutral.
SHERWOODI know he would disagree with that and would be irritated I even said it. But if she's going to provide ways to do things better, they better do it faster.
NNAMDIAnd, I guess, their concern was that, as they were speculating on ways to cut revenues, they didn't want it being said in the media that there were -- that they were deciding on things that they were, in fact, just speculating on.
SHERWOODWell, they're -- you know, speculating is not like they're sitting around having a drink, talking about what they might do if they had any power. But the fact is she's trying to look at very specific ways to raise -- to get money faster and better revenue and to administratively do things better. It's not a bad idea.
SHERWOODIt's just that if she had another task force, another organizational bureaucratic structure when things are not getting done, they're talking about how they're going to get things done. And I think that's a severe criticism of the Gray administration.
NNAMDITom Sherwood, he's our resident analyst. He's an NBC4 reporter and a columnist for The Current Newspapers. Joining us now in studio is Jo-Ann Chase. She is a Republican candidate for the Virginia House of Delegates. She's running for the seat representing the Commonwealth's 87th District, which includes part of -- parts of Loudoun County. Jo-Ann Chase, thank you so much for joining us.
MS. JO-ANN CHASEThank you very much.
SHERWOODAnd she's brought a baby picture over here.
SHERWOODLook at this. You can't see it, of course, but...
CHASEThis is my granddaughter, Emmanuela Jo. (sp?)
SHERWOODAre you dragging your granddaughter into politics at this young age?
SHERWOODThere's got to be a law against that.
CHASENo, I know. But I usually babysit for her on Tuesdays and Fridays. And so I am not doing that today, but I'm bringing her right here.
NNAMDISo she's at least in mind, if not here in person.
CHASEShe's always in mind, yeah.
NNAMDIYou've been clocking a lot of time for the Virginia Republican Party for a long time. You've been a member of the State Central Committee. You've been a member of the Republican National Hispanic Assembly of Virginia. But there's a difference between being an activist and a legislator. Why have you decided to make that transition? And why do feel that you're up for the job?
CHASEWell, I agree that there's a difference between being an activist and a legislator. But in my capacity as a member of the board of directors of the Republican Party of Virginia, I was -- I had to be elected by the voters of 10 counties of our 10th Congressional District to assume a position in that board in which I had to -- I have to vote for issues associated with the well-being of the Republican Party and the members of the party.
CHASEAs far as legislating, I'm not actually making laws, but I'm voting on issues that are of very much importance to the party. The reason for which, right now, I've decided to run for the seat has a lot to do with the fact that I've spent my entire adult life working for others, as far as trying to look for issues that are important to the people. I ran for the school board in Columbia, S.C. when I lived there.
CHASEI don't know if I have that in my information. I was the only Hispanic at that time to run for the school board in the entire state of South Carolina. And, right now, I'm running for a brand-new seat.
SHERWOODDid you win that seat?
CHASEI did not win that seat. They were six people running for two seats. And I had the third position as far as the vote count. But it was a great experience. It was a wonderful opportunity. I was, at that time, the chairwoman of the South Carolina Hispanic Outreach and Development Committee. And it gave me an opportunity to do something and give an example to other Hispanic women, Republican Hispanic women in the state of South Carolina.
SHERWOODYou're a Tea Party person. Is that right?
CHASEI'm also a Tea Party person.
SHERWOODWhat does that mean? What does that mean to you?
CHASEWell, after being involved within the party affiliation for so many years --because I felt so strongly that the Republican Party espoused a lot of my fiscal and, very much, my social values, I found myself being very compatible with a lot of the people in the Tea Party and with their concern that things in our country were not going well, regardless of the political affiliation, whether they were Democrats or Republicans or independents.
CHASESo the voice of the people was yelling out, wait a minute. No matter what letter is besides you, as far as your political affiliation, we see our country going the wrong way, and we would like to have an impact and a voice.
SHERWOODAnd you're going to -- on Saturday, you have this Prince William -- Tea Party has a meeting? Is that right? Is it this Saturday?
CHASEYes. There is a...
SHERWOODWhat's the point of that?
CHASEThere is a little forum put together by the Prince William County Tea Party to bring women that are Republicans running for office, different seats, just to give us an opportunity to speak to the voters and espouse the importance of the influence of the Tea Party in our local politics and our international politics.
NNAMDIIf you have questions or comments for Jo-Ann Chase, she's a Republican candidate for the Virginia House of Delegates, running for the seat representing the 87th District, call us at 800-433-8850. Send email to kojowamu.org, a tweet, @kojoshow, or go to our website, kojoshow.org. Ask a question there.
NNAMDISpeaking of the party in Virginia, it was only a few years ago that the Virginia Republican Party went through a bit of what you might call an identity crisis. Former state chairman Jeff Frederick was basically thrown out for allegedly lobbying verbal grenades and staking out positions that a lot of people thought were extreme.
NNAMDIBut you and other "grassroots activists" sided with Jeff and promised that the old guard in the party was picking fights with the wrong people. What do you make of how things have played out since? And how do you feel about the direction in which the statewide Republican Party has gone?
CHASEWell, I felt, at that time, that the way Jeff Frederick was treated was very unfairly. As far as whether the accusations were actual fact -- factual accusations and proven, I don't think any of that came to any fruition.
CHASEI felt that the fact that he was a young, Hispanic, Republican chairman, and the establishment of the party got together behind the scenes, or in front of the scenes, and put together this horrible attack against this young leader, who at that time was -- he wasn't -- he has been the only Hispanic ever elected to the state Senate in our general assembly.
CHASEI think that what it did to Jeff, it caused him a lot of grief on a personal and a professional basis. I think it allowed the establishment of the party to continue getting more power and more influence. But, thanks to the Lord, Jeff is having another opportunity right now to run for the state Senate. And I hope and I pray that the establishment of the Republican Party can give him an opportunity, a fair opportunity like he deserves as well as everyone else.
NNAMDIA reminder that Jeff Frederick, as you just heard, is back. He's running for the state Senate this summer in a contested primary. And you said, thanks to the Lord. There are some people who are uncomfortable about the notion that God votes. How do you feel about the role you feel that God plays in politics?
CHASEWell, I need to speak only as far as how I feel about the role that the Lord, in this case, in relationship to my faith, plays in my personal life. I believe that, based on the way I was brought up -- I was brought up as a Catholic, born and raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico, went to Catholic schools all my life, all the way to college. I went to Trinity College. My base as a human being, it's totally related to my relationship with Jesus Christ.
CHASEAs far as it relates to me as an individual, as a mother, as a grandmother, as a social component and as a political personality, I am formed by my faith. I am not making representations as to any other faith, just mine. My personal faith and my personality is formed by my relationship with Christ.
CHASESo if someone were to say, well, Jo-Ann, you know, who are you, in the context of a candidate running for any office or for any position? I would have to say I am first and foremost an individual that believes that, within my relationship with Jesus Christ, my way of thinking, my way of voting, my way of functioning is completely based, molded and ruled by that faith.
SHERWOODDoes that mean that if a person is not a Christian that he or she might not expect your support on civic matters?
CHASENot under any circumstances is that so. The other individual has all the right and abilities and freedoms to espouse their faith. What I am saying is that, in my personal case, my faith is very important.
SHERWOODThat will guide or direct your vote.
CHASEIt will guide me, definitely. It will guide me, and it will decide, basically, in -- especially in issues in which -- whether they're political issues or whether they're civic issues, there's always, like, this little line in which you have to decide what's right and what's not. And I will always try to go with what's right, first and foremost.
CHASEAnd in politics, I think, that's really important because, whether an individual is extremely well-qualified for a seat or not, it has a lot to do with that. But what happens when the individual gets pressured by special interest, by pressures of individuals that have donated to his or her campaign and those special interest are not in compliance with what otherwise would be the right thing to do?
SHERWOODWell, for example, in that sort of thing -- you're in the real estate industry, right?
SHERWOODYou have the real estate company. And what it's called?
CHASEIt's called Exclusive Realty, Inc.
SHERWOODExclusive, right. Well, if you are elected, real estate interests are one of the most powerful forces in the state of Virginia and every other jurisdiction. How will you deal with your belief and your support of the real estate industry when it comes to voting on those types of issues?
CHASEI would always look at what's right, first and foremost, for the constituents and the voters that I represent as an elected official.
SHERWOODDo you think the home mortgage deduction should be still in place at the national government?
CHASEHome mortgage deduction? Definitely. I agree for the...
SHERWOODThey don't even -- it basically supports middle and upper income people and not poor people.
CHASEI believe that the home mortgage deduction is the only deduction that we've got left, and it's very important. Yes, I do.
NNAMDIWanted to get back to the issue of religion for a second because the individual that you're running against in the primary, David Ramadan, is a Republican. He also happens to be a Muslim. Does that make a difference at all?
CHASENo, not at all. Not at all. It doesn't make a difference to me, and I hope it doesn't make any difference to the voters saying -- and constituents of the 87th House of Delegates. When I talk about faith, I'm not talking about a specific religion. I'm just espousing my beliefs in my Lord Jesus Christ. That's my personal being. It doesn't have anything to do with anyone else. Lots of people -- I've sent thousands and thousands of flyers.
CHASEAnd I've gotten wonderful response from the people that have gotten my little flyer. And they've said, oh, by the way, it's the first time that I have an individual running for office that has put in writing their faith. And they've asked me, we like that. Oh, how come you're doing that and other people don't do that?
CHASEAnd what I've answered is what I just said previously. It's because my faith drives me, and it motivates me. And it inspires me to do what I do on all areas of my life.
NNAMDIHere is Mohammad (sp?) in Sterling, Va. Mohammad, you are on the air. Go ahead, please.
MOHAMMADThank you for -- thank you, Kojo, and -- for taking my call. The question that I have for the candidate is one where that is -- in her faith, she believes that, you know, it's going to guide her decision making and how she votes. I'm very concerned about that 'cause we have laws that are on the books today, and that may be contrary to her faith or my faith or anyone else's faith.
MOHAMMADBut they are the laws of the land. Will she uphold those laws? Or will she fight against those laws or repeal those laws?
NNAMDIYou want to mention any laws specifically, Mohammad?
MOHAMMADNo, not really. But, I mean, I'm sure there's a lot of statutes that are on the books right now that are, you know, outside of, you know, that may be contrary to an individual person's faith, such as abortion rights, for example, you know, to name one. And so those types of laws, how is she going to vote on those issues, number one? Number two...
NNAMDIWell, you know how Jo-Ann Chase is going to vote on what you'd call abortion rights. But go ahead, Jo-Ann Chase.
CHASEMr. Mohammad, thank you kindly for calling me. I greatly appreciate your contribution to the show and asking me that question. As far as my policy on the different issues, just so that you get that very clear, I have, am and will always be for upholding the rule of law, the law of God and the law of man.
CHASEAnd in this case, specifically, federal or local laws, and, specifically, any other type of jurisdictional regulations or rules in place will always abide by the rule of law, Mr. Mohammad.
NNAMDIIt's my understanding that you say you were asked to run by Bob Marshall, a state delegate who has made a name for himself on a lot of social issues. Why did he ask you to run? And how do your politics compare to the politics of Bob Marshall?
CHASEThat's one of the most exciting and wonderful questions you could ask me because I feel so blessed to have met and worked with and supported Delegate Bob Marshall. He is an inspiration to me and to many other voters and constituents, not only in the 87th House of Delegates, but also in the 13th House of Delegates in which, for the past 10 years, every two years, he's been consistently elected by the voters. And he's always been outspent.
CHASESocially, we are extremely compatible. He is pro-life. He is for the Second Amendment. He is for traditional marriages. He is for abiding by the rule of law. He is also very much, very much concerned with cutting the spending and cutting taxes. And so I am. And I am thankful and blessed to have the support and having Bob Marshall ask me to run for office.
NNAMDILet the record show that I have been described as exciting and wonderful. Go ahead, Tom Sherwood.
SHERWOODI'm sorry. I was sleeping through that part of the program.
CHASEOh, come on.
SHERWOODThe -- you know, this is an irreligious issue. It's about Metro funding. The governor of the state, a Republican, McDonnell, has pushed to have more influence on this Metro. You -- and I was just looking for it while you were talking. You have suggested the state should cut its funding for mass transit, which means Metro in this -- don't you think that would be an unpopular position in Northern Virginia?
CHASEIt's a little bit of an unpopular position. I would like some of those funds to go into maybe working on road improvements right now because...
SHERWOODBuild more roads or fix the roads you have?
CHASEFix the roads that we have. We have to start by fixing some of the roads that we have that are in horrible condition and expanding some of them to make it easier for -- to get from point A to point B.
SHERWOODBut on Metro specifically, there's the issue about the type of terminal at Dulles Airport…
SHERWOOD...and the money. The state should put in more money to make Metro more successful. It's getting to be an old, tired system. But you would cut funding for Metro, according to what I read.
CHASEI would cut funding for specific issues associated with Metro. For example, in our area, there was an issue of whether the station over in Dulles, the Metro station, was supposed to be underground or above ground. And there were about $300 million of difference. And I was -- I felt that it was important to cut the spending and have it on -- above ground to save some money for our voters in our area.
NNAMDIOn to Nick in Arlington, Va. Nick, your turn.
NICKHi, Kojo, thanks for taking my call. The person who you're speaking with said she is a Republican, and she agrees with the party on monetary and on social issues. But she's a member of the so-called Tea Party because she thinks the country is going in the wrong way. What does she mean by that?
CHASEWell, what I mean by that, specifically, is the fact that -- I kind of explained it previously. I did say that, whether you're a Republican or a Democrat or an independent, the voting and the way the country has gone with spending has gotten overboard. And I think that the Tea Party is bringing awareness to that and has been able to go across party lines and say, it doesn't matter what the party affiliation is.
SHERWOODExcuse me for interrupting. That's a general -- defense spending. We spend all this money, billions of dollars on two wars. Are you -- do you think we should cut defense spending and stop the warring?
CHASEI don't think we should cut defense spending. I think that the wars that we get involved in should be looked at more carefully.
SHERWOODWhat about Social Security? Should -- raise the retirement age?
CHASEI don't think Social Security should be cut. As far as raising the retirement age, I don't think so either.
SHERWOODWhat about assistance to people on welfare?
CHASEWelfare is a really...
SHERWOODI mean, where would you cut, I guess, is what I'm asking. People talk these general remarks about cutting. I was just -- give me one example of what you would, in fact, cut.
CHASEWell, when I'm talking about cutting, I could maybe make it more specific to the state level.
CHASEWell, for example, right now, I've become aware of certain areas in our state agencies in which there's duplication of responsibilities, and we can cut on the duplicity of those agencies. We can also rearrange the way that we are funding certain areas. We became aware of the fact -- sorry.
SHERWOODYou're about out of time.
NNAMDIGo. You got about 10 seconds.
CHASEI guess that we need to make sure that, at the state level, the funding actually goes to the important issues of education and health care and so on and so forth.
NNAMDIJo-Ann Chase is a Republican candidate for the Virginia House of Delegates. She's running for the seat representing the commonwealth's 87th District, which include parts of Loudoun County. Thank you for joining us. Good luck to you.
NNAMDITom Sherwood is our resident analyst. He's an NBC4 reporter and a columnist for The Current Newspapers.
SHERWOODLet me just tell you quickly. Some people want local music on your shows during the week, not just that national stuff you're playing.
NNAMDIGood luck with that. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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