Q&A with Rep. Ken Buck: 'It's great to be away from the swamp for a little while'

Buck penned Denver Post op-ed declaring GOP dead

DENVER – U.S. Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colo., published a guest editorial in The Denver Post Monday declaring “The Republican Party is dead” to kick off his time back home for August recess.

Denver7’s Blair Miller talked with Rep. Buck Wednesday in response to the op-ed, the current fervor in Washington, and what he hopes to do to revive his party’s “soul,” as he said. The full transcript is below, and you can watch the full interview in the video player above.

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Denver7’s Blair Miller 0:03    

I guess first, Mr. Buck, how is it to be back in Colorado and on break?

Ken Buck 00:00:09,29

It is great to be in God's country. It's great to be away from the swamp for a little while.

Blair Miller

And you hit on the swamp immediately, and we all saw your op-ed in the Post. What’s your motivation for it?

Ken Buck 00:00:30,50 

I think the American people gave us a great opportunity with Republican control of the House the Senate and the Oval Office, and I think we've got to make sure we pass legislation to continue to earn that trust, and we're not doing that. We have to do it on health care; we have to do tax reform; we have to improve our immigration system. We have to do a lot of things and we've really got to get going on those things, and I'm hoping that my op ed really gets people motivated and thinking about how do we move forward and solve problems.

Blair Miller 00:01:03,11 

It was kind of interesting that the excerpt from Jeff Flake’s book came out where he’s talking about Trump, you’re talking about conservatism. Is Trump doing anything to harm the conservative faction of the Republican party?

Ken Buck 00:01:19,16

Yeah my op ed focused on Congress, and I think that if Congress was passing bills, I think the president would sign those bills. This is a very pragmatic president. He's looking for a win. He's not defining -- he's not trying to micromanage how the healthcare solution comes out. He's trying to get a health care solution. And we can continue to work on it, but we have to take that first step. Nobody -- nobody pretended that the House bill was perfect or that the Senate bill would be perfect, but until we start down the path of reforming a broken health insurance system, we're never going to know what exactly we need to do.

Blair Miller

As we progress through Congress, I know we’re coming up on some big issues in the next month once you guys get back – the debt ceiling, tax reform – how does Congress get past some of this divisiveness and get something done on those issues?

Ken Buck 2:18

Yeah I think it's going to require our leadership, Paul Ryan in
particular, Mitch McConnell in particular, setting a vision and energizing and motivating people to follow that vision. It's not going to come with some threat from the White House or anywhere else. it's really people are going to be motivated because they see positive change.

Blair Miller 2:39

Your district went heavily Trump. You’ve run away with the past two elections, and there hasn’t been a Democrat in your district since Cory Gardner took it in what 2010? So you’re in a safe Republican district. I was talking to Mike Coffman earlier today, and he’s not in quite such a safe zone. How does that differentiate when you’re in a district where Trump won by 23% over Clinton versus someone who has to make more concessions to the left and moderates.

Ken Buck 00:03:18,45 

Yeah I think Mike Coffman’s a principled person and I think he's going to understand when something is good for the country. He could come back to his district to make sure folks understand why it's good for the country, so I don't question that Mike is trying to just act to do what is politically expedient. He has a vision; it's a clear vision. He is a veteran, an Iraq war veteran, and I think he has the backbone and really the connection with the people in his district to be able to do the right thing in his district.

Blair Miller 3:52

So with your op-ed, you say ‘The GOP is dead.’ But is it really dead or is it just dead for the time being and needs to be revived back to its core values?

Ken Buck 4:00

I think what -- what I was trying to portray was that the soul of the Republican Party is dead. That there are too many Republicans who are running on less spending, less government, less federal government interference, lower regulatory burden on business. And then when they get to D.C. they don't follow through on those promises, and I think it's important-- because that's why I think that we the people gave the Republican Party a unified government, was supposed to solve those issues.

Blair Miller 4:34

Do you think that it’s Congress or the White House, or just everybody involved right now that’s not making that happen?

Ken Buck 4:39

This is on Congress. If we want to assert our Article I authority under the constitution, if we want to be truly the legislative branch, we need to start legislating. And we're not doing enough of the things that The American people expect us to do.

Blair Miller 4:55

Is the Senate and House at a sort of impasse right now with – you guys have been able to pass some things the Senate has failed on. Does somebody have the ball in their court to bring this Congress together?

Ken Buck 5:10

Well I think that the health care bill that was sent from the House to the Senate has now failed and something has to originate again in the House. And yet we have tax reform and we have other issues to deal with, so at some point, I think the House is going to have to revive health care, send it to the Senate again and hope for a better result in the Senate.

Blair Miller 5:35

Do you worry with some of these deadlines coming up that some of these disagreements, even among your party, is that going to further delay some of these necessary things that need to happen?

Ken Buck 00:05:43,34

I anticipate that we will have another continuing resolution -- the same way we've been running government for decades now at the end of September to keep government open, and I anticipate that we will pass appropriations bills in a combined form --either three or four bills, or one large bill that will fund the government. But I don't anticipate that we will have a government shutdown at this point. I think that Republicans will come together and figure out a way to fund the government and keep the government moving.

Blair Miller 6:14

Are there any efforts to bring Democrats on with this? You guys can obviously do pretty much anything if you can get all the Republicans on board in both chambers of Congress. How do Democrats factor into this current Congress when the White House and Congress are both held by Republicans?

Ken Buck 6:34

So I have written about the fact that we need to have a more open process than we have. We need to include Democrats. We need to hold more hearings in America. People have an expectation that health care should be at this level, but the American public is only willing to pay for health care at this level. And that difference is something that just doesn't work, so we need to have an honest conversation not just about the Affordable Care Act, but about Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid, and so many other areas. Our defense budget -- how do we defend our vital interests and spend less money and do it more efficiently? Those are all conversations that need to be public conversations -- not held in secret in some room in Washington D.C.

Blair Miller 7:17

And with President Trump taking to Twitter to even threaten Republicans on some legislation – is that having an effect on you guys in Congress?

Ken Buck

No.

Blair Miller

No?

Ken Buck

No.

Blair Miller

Not at all?

Ken Buck

Not at all.

Blair Miller

OK … So moving forward, what do you want to do to help revive the party?

Ken Buck 00:07:38,01 

Like I said I think we need to have a principled person set a vision and energize, motivate members of Congress to -- to follow that vision. I think we had a vision in 2016 when we ran for office, and I think we've got to start fulfilling the promises that we've made.

Blair Miller 8:05

You have three Democratic challengers and I don’t think you have a Republican primary challenger yet, but how does that factor into legislating when you have to get back out and campaign every two years?

Ken Buck 00:08:13,17 

I love retail politics. I love going out and meeting people and listening to their concerns, and talking about what's getting done in Washington D.C. So I am not running against anybody. I'm running for reelection and I'm running to let people know what my record is, and it's just up to the voters whether they want to reelect me.

Blair Miller 8:33

One more thing. I know you had some town halls over the weekend. What were people talking about there? What was the biggest sense of urgency you got from people at those town halls?

Ken Buck 00:08:45,46 

You know I think a lot of people are concerned. They're concerned about health insurance in this country. They're about the tax burden and the regulatory burden. They're concerned about North Korea and Iran, so there are many concerns that have been expressed to me. And I really appreciate when I show up and 50 people take a Saturday morning in Sterling, Colorado to spend it with me. It's really special if they care that much about their country that they're willing to engage with their elected officials.

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