The Real Capitol Hill sits down with Congressman Alan Grayson to discuss why he still hasn’t endorsed a candidate despite his record being much closer to Senator Bernie Sanders
ALAN GRAYSON: Obviously–obviously my progressive track record on legislation is closer to Bernie’s than it is to Hillary’s when she was in the Senate. Obviously. DESVARIEUX: Yes. GRAYSON: But I have to make sure that I don’t undermine either candidate if they’re going to be on the ticket in November. [The Real Capitol Hill titles] DESVARIEUX: Welcome to the Real Capitol Hill. I’m your host, Jessica Desvarieux, coming to you from Capitol Hill, where we’re joined by Congressman Alan Grayson. He represents the 9th District of Florida, and has been a champion for protecting Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and pushing back on austerity measures. He’s a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, and he’s currently running for Senate. Thank you so much for joining us, Congressman. GRAYSON: It’s a pleasure. Thank you, too. DESVARIEUX: So we have to just get into Iowa, before we start talking about policy. It was basically a photo finish between Senator Sanders and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. And I have to ask you, who are you endorsing? GRAYSON: I haven’t endorsed either one of them. I’m running for the Senate in Florida. I have to be able and willing to work with either of them, depending upon who gets the nomination. I’ve said–there are important things that need to be said about both of them. With regard to Secretary Clinton, I’ve said that she’s a very well-qualified candidate. One of the best-qualified candidates of my entire life. She’s been in the Senate, she’s been in the cabinet. And I think it makes a difference for the country to have a woman as president of the United States. With regards to Bernie Sanders, on MSNBC recently I called him a national treasure. He’s been right on every issue now for 20 years or more. And that certainly has to count for something, as well. DESVARIEUX: But I want to push back on her being qualified, because some folks will say, yes, her resume, you know, is certainly there. But what she stands for is not necessarily progressive and in line with what you advocate for. I mean, you have talked about a $15 minimum wage. You and Bernie Sanders are both members of the Progressive Caucus. When Secretary Clinton was Senator Clinton, she was not a member of the Progressive Caucus. So why wouldn’t you support Senator Sanders instead? GRAYSON: Well, to be fair to Senator Clinton, first of all on social issues I think that her experience and her record is unblemished. DESVARIEUX: Unblemished. GRAYSON: Unblemished. I can’t think of any occasion when she’s been on the wrong side of a social issue. Obviously she’s pro-choice. And I could go on from there. And I think she’s been a powerful champion of equal rights for women and minorities for a generation. With regard to economic issues, I see your point. I agree with you, there is a difference between a $12 minimum wage, which is what she supports, and a $15 an hour minimum wage, which is what Bernie Sanders supports, so I’ll concede the point there. And I also feel, in an area that you didn’t mention, that I’ve been somewhat concerned about some of the foreign policy. DESVARIEUX: What in particular? GRAYSON: I have to–well, in particular the fact that unlike Joe Biden, for instance, Secretary Clinton never spoke out in favor of ending the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq any earlier. DESVARIEUX: And she voted for the Iraq war. GRAYSON: She voted for the Iraq war. So all of that is true, I can’t argue with you there. DESVARIEUX: Okay. What about her stance on the TPP? Her, as Secretary of State, she really helped bring it together. She’s now against it. But now we have the president of the chamber of commerce, Tom Donohue, saying that if she’s elected she’s going to support the TPP. And you’re very much against the TPP. So what about that? GRAYSON: I don’t know why he’s saying that. I don’t know what would make him think that. Frankly, it sounds like it might be sabotage. DESVARIEUX: You don’t know–I mean, in terms of her, the interests behind her, Wall Street being behind her, corporations being behind her, supporting her candidacy? There’s no link there? GRAYSON: I think Bernie’s done a magnificent job of lighting up the grassroots. I can’t remember anybody else in my lifetime at this stage in the presidential cycle who could boast that he had over 3 million contributions from virtually everybody who regards themself as a progressive. There’s no question that his money base for this campaign is, in some respects, healthier than hers. DESVARIEUX: Yes. And when you say healthier, what do you mean by that? GRAYSON: What I mean is it’s more reflective of the grassroots. And it’s more reflective, frankly, of people who want nothing in return for their support except for good government. When somebody gives $100,000 or $1 million to a super PAC, there’s a good chance that they want something in return for that. DESVARIEUX: Or a speaking fee, for $400,000. Goldman Sachs. GRAYSON: Again, I see those kinds of quid pro quos in this building from time to time. And I have enormous respect and admiration for Bernie to be able to do something similar to what Barack Obama did eight years ago, except taking it to the next level. Barack Obama never actually said to large donors, I don’t want your money. Bernie is coming very close to doing that, and I think that’s a very healthy thing for our democracy. Bernie does not spend his time on fundraising, he spends his time on legislating. And frankly, the same thing is true of me. I’ve got the fifth-largest donor base of the Democratic party. Over 100,000 people have come to our website, SenatorWithGuts.com, and made a contribution at the website. And that gives me the same liberty that Bernie has had over the years to be right on the issues and be a champion for ordinary folks, and try to preserve the middle class. So Bernie gets high marks from me in that regard, for having run his campaign in an exceedingly clean manner. DESVARIEUX: But you still won’t endorse him. GRAYSON: Well, I mean, look at it from my point of view, okay. My point of view is that if it turns out that Hillary’s on the ticket, and I’m on the ticket in November in Florida, I don’t want anybody to say that we’re working at cross-purposes with each other. I mean, obviously, obviously, my progressive track record on legislation is closer to Bernie’s than it is to Hillary’s when she was in the Senate, obviously. But I have to make sure that I don’t undermine either candidate if they’re going to be on the ticket in November. DESVARIEUX: So you, when do you think you’ll make your endorsement? GRAYSON: I think–you know, I want to consult with our grassroots. I’m going to see what people have to say about that. I’m going to get more input from people who actually represent the progressive movement, and see what they have to say. And by the way, I don’t want it to sound like Bernie has all of the grassroots and Hillary doesn’t. That’s not how I see it. I think Bernie has a substantial majority of the grassroots. DESVARIEUX: What portion of the grassroots do you see Hillary having? GRAYSON: I don’t know, I can’t quantify it for you. But there are plenty of, shall we say, the people who actually register the voters, the people who knock on the doors, the people who make the phone calls, there are plenty of people who support Hillary. You can see that from the polls. I mean, the polls still show Hillary ahead nationwide, even though in New Hampshire Bernie is well, well ahead. DESVARIEUX: Let’s switch gears a little bit and talk about the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Today’s a huge day in the step of making it a reality, the TPP. A lot of folks know, we’ve talked about it here on the program. Folks can go watch episodes of the TPP that we’ve discussed here at the Real News. You are very much against the TPP. Now we’re seeing it being signed by Pacific Rim countries today. What is your reaction? GRAYSON: It’s a disaster for the American middle class. If we do nothing you can kiss this country goodbye. We’re already $11 trillion in debt to foreign countries. That’s almost $40,000 for every man, woman, and child in this country. What if they came to you tomorrow and said, we want our $40,000 back? What would you do? Most Americans would be horrified by that, but that is the condition we’re already in. We’re already there. And the TPP takes that bad status quo and makes it that much worse. DESVARIEUX: And how? GRAYSON: By, by accelerating the export of jobs out of the United States. You know, it’s not really free trade anymore, it’s fake trade. What’s happening is that we are buying the goods and services produced by foreign workers. But they’re not buying an equal amount of goods and services from America. Instead they’re lending us the money, we’re borrowing the money, and that drives us deeper and deeper into debt, over $1 billion every single day. Every day we’re another billion dollars into debt to foreigners. If we had no trade deficit, that would be a different story. But the TPP would actually make our trade deficit that much worse. It certainly doesn’t help to solve the problem. We need to be running trade surpluses, not trade deficits. The world is running a con game on America. And that con game is thank you very much, America, your purchasing power and your willingness to drive yourself into debt is putting tens of millions of foreign workers to work, and to hell with the American worker. DESVARIEUX: And you say the world. I mean, let’s name them. We’re talking multinational corporations, really. GRAYSON: Yes, of course. I mean, very little trade is done by mom and pop shops. Exactly right. It’s multinational corporations that are doing this, driving us deeper and deeper into debt. And the endgame is very simple, it’s cheap labor. It’s debt slavery. And it’s national bankruptcy. That’s where we’re actually heading, unless we get off the fast track to hell called TPP. DESVARIEUX: Do you–you mentioned, you see how this building works, the Capitol works. The TPP having so much support from multinational corporation lobbyists. Where do you see this going, now? GRAYSON: Well, the people have to rise up. Why are they signing this in New Zealand? They’re signing this in New Zealand because they’re desperate to avoid any sort of attention in the American media. You’re one of the few people who actually knows about this. I did a Google search about this earlier today and I came up with only foreign news coverage. Only in other countries are they paying attention to the fact that it’s now a signed, done deal, and it’s going to be foisted on Congress and the American people. So what we have to do is basically rise up. When we were dealing with the fast track legislation last year I was able to get thousands of people to call Capitol Hill who had signed up at our website, TradeTreachery.com, for our emails. Thousands of people called Capitol Hill and gave their elected officials two cents on how they didn’t want to see this country driven into bankruptcy. Just recently, a couple of months ago–actually, less than that. Barely a month ago, when they were soliciting comments on TPP, we informed people of the comment period and we quadrupled the number of public comments that were submitted in 24 hours. So if people want to learn about this they can come to my website, TradeTreachery.com. There’s a nine-minute video there that 1.4 million people have seen on Facebook already. And they can sign up to help. And by help I mean organize, organize, organize. Submit public comments, call your representative, be involved, and engage. Because that’s exactly what the multinational corporations are afraid of, the fact that people might actually be informed of this issue and fight back. DESVARIEUX: And you know, you’re hearing a lot–I don’t know if you’re hearing this. But in terms of the news coverage around the TPP, folks are saying it’s not going to come up this year, because it’s an election year. So that might be another reason why there might be not as much coverage on this, because it’s sort of in the distant future. But you don’t see it this way at all. Could this possibly come up this year? GRAYSON: Well, thanks to the fast track legislation the president can force a vote on it before the end of the year. What’s happened is McConnell has told him he doesn’t want to see it before the election. But between the election and January 3rd is the lame duck session. And if the president lines it up properly, given the fast track legislation, the president can force a vote on this. Now, I don’t know if he really wants to do that, because he may very well lose. Last year during the president’s State of the Union address when he talked about this, these trade giveaways, it was the only time during the speech the Republicans got up and cheered, and Democrats stayed utterly silent. You could hear a pin drop on our side of the room. This year, when he talked about it, he lost the Republicans as well. The only people who stood up and applauded him were his own cabinet. You can go to the tape and you can check that out. It was really shocking to see even the Republicans abandoning the president on these giveaways to multinational corporations. So he brings it up now with every Democrat, and also every Republican other than John Kasich, who is a Republican candidate for president, going against this. It should go down to defeat. You can bet that Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, these are all people who are going to understand that it’s a device for them, politically, to be able to work against the president, and to be able to supposedly stand up for the working man. Although that’s a farce when you’re talking about any of the three of them, particularly the one whose catch phrase is “You’re fired.” But in any event, I think that given the fact that all of the three primary Republican candidates, plus the two Democratic candidates for president that remain in the race, all of them are now against TPP, makes it politically impossible to bring it up before the lame duck session. DESVARIEUX: Well, we’re certainly going to be following what happens in New Hampshire this weekend. We should tell our viewers that we are going to be out there in New Hampshire. So please, be sure to check in our coverage. Congressman Grayson, thank you so much for being with us. GRAYSON: Thank you very much. I think what we’re seeing here this year more than anything is an opening toward the progressive spirit. It’s not so much a function of people, Bernie himself would tell you that. Notice that their catch phrase is “Not me, us.” What we’re seeing here for the first time in a long time is an openness to the idea that we’re all in this together, and we can make America a paradise if we simply work together and improve the lives of the people in the middle and at the bottom rather than simply trying to appease and placate the people at the top. DESVARIEUX: We’re going to see how far that message goes with Senator Sanders’ campaign. Thank you again for joining us. GRAYSON: You’re welcome. DESVARIEUX: And thank you for watching the Real Capitol Hill.
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