Strategies For Working With The New Congress

Guests

Ken Rudin, political editor, NPR
Linda Chavez, chairman, Center for Equal Opportunity
Keli Goff, political analyst, Huffington Post
Rep. Jeff Flake, Republican from Arizona
Rep. Devid Dreier, Republican from California

Change has come again to Washington. Republicans regained control of the House. The Tea Party won a number of seats in Congress, and the GOP must sort out how these new party guests will fit in. President Obama must figure out how to work with the new congressional leadership.

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NEAL CONAN, host:

This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan, in Washington.

Republicans vow to change course on health care, spending and taxes. Democrats vow to fight on. Both sides call for the other side to cooperate. It's Wednesday, and time for a double dose of the Political Junkie.

President RONALD REAGAN: There you go again.

Vice President WALTER MONDALE: When I hear your new ideas, I'm reminded of that ad: Where's the beef?

Senator BARRY GOLDWATER (Former Republican Senator, Arizona): Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.

Senator LLOYD BENTSEN (Former Democratic Senator, Texas): Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy.

President RICHARD NIXON: You don't have Nixon to kick around anymore.

Governor SARAH PALIN (Former Republican Governor, Alaska): Lipstick.

President GEORGE W. BUSH: But I'm the decider.

(Soundbite of scream)

CONAN: Every Wednesday, NPR political editor Ken Rudin joins us to talk about the week in politics. This week, we will not let him leave. This hour, we focus on what happens next, in the next few months, when the new Congress convenes in January and over the next two years.

Linda Chavez and Keli Goff with join us in a moment. Later, GOP Congressman Jeff Flake and David Dreier explain how they plan to wield their majority, and we will also go ahead and take a look ahead to 2012.

But first: What change do you expect as a result of yesterday's elections? Split lines today. If you voted Republican, the number is 800-344-3893 - again, 800-344-3893 if you voted Republican. If you voted Democratic, 800-344-3864 - again Democrats call 800-344-3864. Everybody can email us. The address is talk@npr.org. You can also join the conversation on our website. Just go to npr.org. Click on TALK OF THE NATION.

And Ken, looking ahead, first, a lame-duck session of Congress, which is going to have to focus, for one thing, on the Bush tax cuts.

KEN RUDIN: Exactly. That's what Republicans are insisting on, and President Obama, at the press conference this morning, was asked whether he would be willing to compromise - maybe people making a million dollars, you know, over a million dollars don't get the tax cuts.

Those are one of the things that the Republicans, the newly emboldened Republicans, have laid down, and it depends on whether obviously, it depends on whether the president and the Democrats will accede to that.

CONAN: What happens in a lame-duck session? Clearly, the old Congress is still there. Nancy Pelosi is still speaker of the House. The Republicans are in the minority, but they are saying, wait a minute. You have to listen to the voters.

RUDIN: That's exactly right, and there could be you know, as much recrimination and bad feelings that we saw in the waning days of the campaign, you're going to probably see the lame duck because Republicans are going to say, well, wait a second. We cleaned up on November 2nd, and here we have Democrats in charge in the lame duck. So it'll be - it probably will be a lot of acrimony.

CONAN: Well, let's bring some an analyst in on the conversation. Linda Chavez, chair of the Center for Equal Opportunity and a syndicated columnist. She served in both the Reagan and George H. W. Bush administrations, and joins us by phone from Virginia. Nice to have you back on the program.

Ms. LINDA CHAVEZ (Chairman, Center for Equal Opportunity): Great to be with you.

CONAN: And can Republicans legitimately claim a mandate from yesterday?

Ms. CHAVEZ: I think we can. I think Republicans did very, very well, better than many people expected. They didn't quite win the Senate, but I think their numbers have increased enough that they're going to be able to stop the Democrats from some of the mischief that they've been up to over the last two years, which the voters didn't agree with.

CONAN: And one of those things of mischief, as you would describe it, I'm sure, is denying the extension of the tax cuts to those making over $250,000 a year.

Ms. CHAVEZ: Well, that's right. I think you will see a broad-base tax cut - at least an extension, maybe it will be one year, maybe it'll be longer - of the Bush tax cuts. I think most economists believe that you don't raise taxes, even on the rich, during a recession. And so I think you're likely to see that come through - if not in the lame duck, it will certainly come through as an item of business early in the new session.

CONAN: Keli Goff is a political analyst and author, a contributor to TheLoop21.com, and she's with us here in Studio 3A. Nice to have you back on the program.

Ms. KELI GOFF (Political Analyst, Author): Great to be back.

CONAN: And there is all sorts of parts of President Obama's agenda that a lot of people would like to see move ahead, progressives very disappointed. They did not get don't ask, don't tell in the first two years.

Ms. GOFF: Right.

CONAN: Is any of this going to be moving ahead?

Ms. GOFF: Well, you know, look. I think about the only good news from the shellacking is they did hold onto the Senate. But, of course, we know that the House is incredibly important when it comes to actually getting things through.

So that's a very long-winded way to say that I hate to break it to progressives, but I don't think that the next two years are going to be looking a lot better than the last two years. So if you weren't happy with those, good news, the sequel's worse.

You know, I will quote Bill Cosby here, though. He once said that if you're making everyone happy, you're doing something wrong. So the good news for the president is he must be doing a lot of stuff right, because progressives are unhappy, conservatives are unhappy, and apparently, according to yesterday, independents aren't so happy, either.

So I guess in terms of his legacy in getting stuff done, he's, you know, doing something right in that light.

CONAN: We saw a fascinating poll published in the New York Times, just at the end of the campaign, about the Obama coalition. And among those who came out very strongly, of course, to support him last time around, Hispanics from - African-Americans and, of course, young people. And from what we're gathering so far in terms of what it looked like, Latinos did come out and vote yesterday. Young people, not so much.

Ms. GOFF: Yeah. It's interesting. You know, I've read about this group quite a bit. And so here's what's fascinating. I like to say that the Democrats had two major, major problems yesterday. Major problem number one was a candidate whose name wasn't even on the ballot, and that's Barack Obama, because there are a lot of voters who, to put it diplomatically, just are not fans of the president right now. And we're talking particularly older voters, older white voters, and they vote. They're not like young people who vote sometimes and not others.

The second biggest problem the Democrats faced is the fact that Barack Obama's name wasn't on the ballot, and that's because there are a lot of voters part of the Democratic base, younger voters and voters of color, who are extremely loyal to President Obama, but his name wasn't on the ballot.

And it's really hard to be a Democrat in a conservative district who looks at a black voter and says, come on, a vote for me is a vote for the president's agenda, when you're then turning around and criticizing the president's agenda to try to win older, white voters. And I think that's what ultimately proved to be a problem with those two groups, black voters and younger voters.

CONAN: Let's get...

Ms. CHAVEZ: Neal, I'd just like to say that there is a little bit of a cloud hanging over the Republican victory last night - and it's one you won't hear about from a lot of Republican analysts - and that has to do with Latino voters.

It was a very interesting night last evening. You had a huge victory for Republican Latino candidates, two governorships and a Senate seat won by Republican Hispanics.

On the other hand, Hispanics may very well have been the decisive vote that deprived the Republicans of defeating Harry Reid. You had Sharron Angle, who decided to get off-message, not to talk about the expansion of government, not to talk about things like health care, but to start anti-immigrant bashing.

And frankly, she got less - 60,000 votes less than Brian Sandoval, the Republican candidate for governor. And so that may have actually been as a result of Hispanic turnout.

And I think you could also point to the loss of the Senate seat in the state of Colorado as perhaps owing to the fact that you had a very large anti-Republican vote among Hispanics because of Tom Tancredo's presence on the gubernatorial race. And that may actually have, again, sort of ironically hurt Ken Buck, who was running for Senate.

RUDIN: But Linda, you also saw in Arizona, for example, Jan Brewer, who signed the controversial anti-immigrant law, won overwhelming re-election - actually, election, because this is the first time she's run. And we saw two Democrat incumbents in Arizona get knocked out - Ann Kirkpatrick and Harry Mitchell - also because of the immigration issue.

Ms. CHAVEZ: Well, I think that's right, but I think that Arizona is a sort of a special case. I mean, it is the frontlines in the immigration wars. I think Republicans ought to consider seriously whether or not they ought to sort of get ahead of the wave and perhaps consider supporting legal immigration reform.

I think the difficult issue is what do about the 12 million or so illegal immigrants who are here. But frankly, I think the country as a whole is very much in favor of moving forward with changes in legal immigration laws that would make it easier to allow people to come here legally to work. And I think the Republicans, if they want to be the majority party for the future, they're going to have to figure out a way to win larger numbers of Hispanic votes.

RUDIN: You're talking about the old John McCain strategy.

Ms. CHAVEZ: Well, I am talking about what George W. Bush had proposed. I thought it was good policy then. I think it's good policy now. And, you know, it's conceivable that immigration really wasn't a big issue in most states. And as I say, I think in states where it became an issue, where you have large Hispanic populations, it did not redound to the benefit of the Republicans.

CONAN: Keli, do you agree?

Ms. GOFF: I'm nodding because I'm in wholehearted agreement with her. I mean, I you know, look, I wasn't the only person who labeled Sharron Angle's ad the Willie Horton ad of this year. And that's not a compliment.

CONAN: Well, the Aqua Buddha ad became the Aqua Buddha ad of this year, but that's another case.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. GOFF: That, too, right, yes. But no, and that's not you know, that's not a badge of honor. So - and I think that Linda's completely right on that. Look, Hispanic-Americans are going to become the majority in this country. What's fascinating is the Republicans had a really great night in terms of diversity. I said that in my piece that's up on The Loop and The Huffington Post today, which is that in terms of - you know, Nikki Haley, the first Asian-American woman governor, Susana Martinez, the first Latino woman governor, Alan West, Tim Scott, African-American GOP congressmen.

But she's right. There was this cloud, and that when push came to shove in certain races, they played the race card, only it wasn't played against African-Americans this time. It was played against Hispanic-Americans.

CONAN: Let's get some callers in on the conversation. We'll start with Steve, Steve calling on the Republican line from Cincinnati.

STEVE (Caller): Hey, thanks for taking my call.

CONAN: Sure. Go ahead.

STEVE: The changes here, you know, we - Strickland is out.

CONAN: The governor.

STEVE: Yes. And then John Boehner is right here out of Cincinnati. He's the speaker. And then, of course, in my district, District One, Driehaus was defeated by Chabot. Chabot ran for 14 years, and they got him back in.

CONAN: The Republicans elected again from that district, Driehaus, the Democrat, defeated.

STEVE: Yes, sir.

CONAN: And as you look ahead, what change do you expect?

STEVE: Maybe Obama will recognize I don't know if he'll do what Clinton did, you know, go to the center. I'm sure that's what they're pushing him towards.

Will, you know, will the Republicans be, you know, magnanimous and, you know, work with the Democrats? Or will there be, you know, gridlock?

CONAN: Two questions there, Steve. Let me just...

STEVE: I'm hoping that there will be the other way.

CONAN: All right, Keli Goff, do you think the president is going to move to the center?

Ms. GOFF: I actually hope that the White House is listening, because I think that and the new heads of Congress, because I think that that caller just encapsulates exactly what a lot of voters feel, the frustration on both sides.

And so I think it's incredibly important that we not have what happened back in '95, in which we ended up having a government shutdown because both sides didn't want to work together. And I think that's the cautionary tale for the White House.

The last thing I say is I wrote a piece criticizing - saying that it's actually better for Obama to possibly lose one of the houses because it would push him to the center like Clinton did, which got Clinton re-elected.

CONAN: And Linda Chavez, are Republicans going to be willing to work with him if he does move?

Ms. CHAVEZ: I think Republicans do not want to have a government shutdown. I think that was a bit of overreaching back in the mid-'90s, and I think it did not help Republicans.

So I think they do want to get some things done. It's just a different set of things that they're going to want to get done than the Obama administration.

What is not clear to me, though, Neal, is whether or not Barack Obama really is Bill Clinton. Bill Clinton, after all, was part of the Democratic Leadership Council. He was a much more centrist, much more moderate Democrat. I think Barack Obama is, in fact, a committed progressive. He is about trying to change this nation, moving it more to be much more similar to some of the social democracies in Western Europe, and I think he's quite ideological.

So it's not clear to me that he is going to be able to bring himself to do what Bill Clinton did, and only time will tell.

CONAN: Linda Chavez, thanks very much for you time.

Ms. CHAVEZ: Thank you.

CONAN: Linda Chavez, chairman of the Virginia-based Center for Equal Opportunity and a syndicated columnist. Our thanks as well to Keli Goff, political analyst and contributor to the Huffington Post. She joined us here in Studio 3A. Thanks very much.

When we come back, we'll talk with two Republican members of Congress. This is TALK OF THE NATION, from NPR News.

(Soundbite of music)

CONAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan, in Washington.

President Obama described the outcome of yesterday's election as a shellacking. Republicans say it gives them a mandate to roll back what they see as excesses of the Obama administration.

We're talking today about the results and what they mean going forward for Republicans and Democrats in Congress and for the White House. What change do you expect as a result of yesterday's elections?

Split lines today. If you voted Republican, you can call us at 800-344-3893. Again, that's 800-344-3893 for Republicans. Democrats, dial 800-344-3864. Again, Democrats call 800-344-3864. Everybody can email us: talk@npr.org. You can also join the conversation at our website, at npr.org. Click on TALK OF THE NATION.

We're joined now by one of the people who will help oversee the changes in Congress, Congressman Jeff Flake, a Republican from Arizona, and he joins us on the phone from Mesa.

And Congressman Flake, congratulations on re-election yesterday.

Representative JEFF FLAKE (Republican, Arizona): Well, thank you. Thank you. It's nice to be re-elected.

CONAN: And what do you expect going forward first in this lame duck session?

Rep. FLAKE: Well, we don't know. A lot of people are worried, a lot of Republicans worry that some of the major items - card check, immigration reform or other things - might be pushed during that time. I think that's extremely difficult.

I think more likely, we're going to see a large omnibus spending bill that will include a lot of items that we probably would rather not spend the money on.

CONAN: And as you look ahead, some in the Tea Party movement - which of course won some outstanding successes yesterday - they demand a balanced budget, lower taxes, and some say they will not compromise on issues like raising the debt ceiling.

Are the Tea Party candidates who won going to face a different reality once they get to Washington? Do you think they're going to be able to sustain that position?

Rep. FLAKE: Well, I hope they maintain the same fire that they were elected with, because that tends to dissipate all too quickly in Washington. So the longer they can keep that, the better.

It's going to be difficult, having said that, to when you face something like the debt limit. I mean, we're spending - we're borrowing 41 cents on the dollar right now. To be able to eliminate that in one year, or in the next few months before we have to raise the debt ceiling, is probably not going to be possible.

So we're going to be faced with a dilemma here: How do we convince people that we're serious about moving ahead on spending when we haven't been too good in the past?

CONAN: Ken?

RUDIN: Congressman, I know that John Boehner would rather be speaker than minority leader, and, of course, he does have a lot of goals and problems ahead of him. But you've been the kind of Republican who never accepted politics as usual. You never you didn't like the kind of establishment, the way the Republican leadership did their thing. And that's one of the reasons Republicans were defeated in 2006 and 2008.

But now you have a whole class of Republicans coming in who really don't owe allegiance to anyone - I mean, except for the people, of course. But I mean, how is Boehner, how are the Republicans going to manage their own caucus, let alone go after Obama and the Democrats?

Rep. FLAKE: With great difficulty. I think that you cannot underestimate the difficulty that's going to come with trying to corral this bunch. And that I think that's certainly a healthy situation, to have people come with an outside perspective, because certainly, the go-along-to-get-along attitude that we've had as Republicans for far too long has to be challenged. But that doesn't minimize the task that Speaker Boehner will have.

CONAN: And how confrontational do you think Republicans ought to be? We've seen Darrell Issa say he's going to be showering the White House with subpoenas. Is that an appropriate way to go?

Rep. FLAKE: Well, I think all of us should proceed with caution in terms with what might be viewed and what would be kind of witch hunts going on. And I'm sure that Darrell Issa will be careful of that. We saw too much of that in the '90s.

There are plenty of areas that we need to study, that we need to look at, where the agencies have moved forward without congressional authorization. And there are plenty of hearings to be held, plenty of things to do legitimately without going on witch hunts.

RUDIN: Yesterday's elections, looks like the Republicans are going to pick up 60, if not 61, House seats. That's the most they've picked up since 1938. Was it - yet, was it a victory for the Republican Party, or was it just a defeat for the Democrats and a rejection of the Democrats?

Rep. FLAKE: Well, I think, you know, the pollsters told us, you know, months ago the bad news is they still don't like you out there. The good news is, it's not about you.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Rep. FLAKE: And so I don't think we ought to delude ourselves into thinking that this was some great affirmation of what we've done. I think we have got a second chance here. We've got to convince people that we'll not only do better than the Democrats have done, but we'll do better than we did before, not too long ago, and that's a tall order.

CONAN: Let's see if we can get a caller in on the conversation. Let's go to the Democrat line, and this is Deborah, calling us from Austin, Texas.

DEBORAH (Caller): Hi, how are you?

CONAN: Very well, thanks.

DEBORAH: Actually, I'd like to talk a little bit about state politics instead of national politics in terms of change. I'm pleased to report that I'm one of the few people left voting for a Democrat, Lloyd Doggett, who has represented me for as long as I've lived here in Travis County, was re-elected.

But he was one of the few Democrats to retain his seat last night in Texas. And for the first time anybody can remember, the Republicans have a two-thirds majority in the State House. And we have a $25 billion -that's with a B - state deficit.

We have schools that are unable to raise their property taxes, and we're hearing no new taxes from the Texas legislature, and we have a large Hispanic population.

And so I think I'm curious as to what your panel thinks about what's going to happen in Texas, and Texas tends to be sort of a bellwether for the nation. When things start to change in Texas, they start to change elsewhere. How do we deal with, you know, a huge budget deficit without working with the federal government - our leadership has said they'll take no federal funds and maintain jobs and employment without social services and education in Texas?

CONAN: And Ken Rudin, Texas is, in fact, one of the states - as bad as Deborah describes it - they're better off.

RUDIN: Well, yes, that's true. But, I mean, as gubernatorial candidate White, the former mayor of Dallas, tried to Houston - tried to make the case that Rick Perry overstayed his welcome, that there are problems that the Republicans and the Republican leadership are ignoring, Rick Perry being governor longer than anybody else in history, it was a referendum on the Republican rule. And yet according to the numbers, people in Texas were pretty happy with what they had.

CONAN: And Jeff Flake, let me put this to you, as well: One of the things the Obama administration did in its second - if you want to describe it that way, they wouldn't - stimulus package was to send money to the states to hire teachers and policemen and firemen and that sort of thing. Is that going to be possible in this next part of Congress?

Rep. FLAKE: Absolutely not. I think that's well, first, coming from Arizona, I think we'd gladly trade places with Texas right now in terms of our own budget problems. But I don't think the states can look to Washington for any solution.

What hopefully the states can look for is some relief on future expenses. And if the health care bill was implemented as planned, I can tell you that will put states like Arizona, Texas - you name it, just about every state - in deficit to the tune of, in Arizona's case, more than a billion dollars a year in addition to everything that's going on.

So I think the best states can hope for is some kind of relief from future expenses.

CONAN: The speaker-to-be, John Boehner, called health care a monstrosity, said it needs to be repealed and replaced. The president said: Let's not spend the next two years fighting over the legislative acts of the last two years. Is health care reform going to be as much a part of the next two years as it was the last two years?

Rep. FLAKE: I think it has to be. You can put all the questions about, you know, individual mandates and whatever else at the federal level or the individual level aside and just realize that at the state level, we simply can't afford this.

The maintenance-of-effort requirements, the matching funds that'll have to be provided will put already strapped state legislatures over the brink. And so it would be all well and good to put those discussions aside, but we can't - fiscally, we simply can't.

CONAN: Congressman Flake, thanks very much for your time today. Again, congratulations on your re-election.

Rep. FLAKE: Hey, thank you for having me.

CONAN: Jeff Flake, a Republican from Arizona, joined us on the phone from Mesa. And we're going to turn now to Congressman David Dreier, a Republican from California, the current ranking member of the Rules Committee. A lot of people say he's the once-and-future chairman of the Rules Committee. And Congressman Dreier, nice to have you back. Congratulations on your re-election.

Representative DAVID DREIER (Republican, California): Well, thank you very much, Neal. And I understand that you're sitting there with the man I say Michael Barone is the Ken Rudin of television. Is that...

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: The pictures are better on the radio. Let me put that out there.

RUDIN: David Dreier has long looked to me for guidance.

Rep. DREIER: Yeah, Ken's got a face made for radio, right?

CONAN: Absolutely - and a haberdashery, as well. But anyway, getting back to what do you plan to do, what do you think is going to happen in this next lame duck session of Congress, particularly as you look ahead to the question of the Bush tax cuts?

Rep: DREIER: Well, first, let me say, Neal, I want to express my appreciation to the people of California for giving me the opportunity to serve. And the message is loud and clear. When we know that this was not a message of support, for Republicans, it was a mandate to ensure that we focus on job creation and economic growth. And there is bipartisan consensus. And I was encouraged by the words of the president today, said that we needed to address this issue in the lame duck session. There is a bipartisan consensus to ensure that we do not see taxes increased on any working American. And even Keynesian economists have said that during a difficult economic time, increasing taxes is the bad formula for economic recovery. So I believe that we can do this.

You know, I was meeting with a group of mayors here, the day before yesterday and - here in Southern California - and they were taking about, one of them in particular, just this uncertainly that is there which has played a big role in a hesitation on the part of many people who would be job creators from proceeding.

CONAN: As you look ahead, though, one of the mandates, if you will, that seemed to come across yesterday at certainly some of Tea Party candidates was for clean amendment, for no more earmarks, plenty of time for members to read legislation before they vote. The rules committee obviously plays a large part in all of those things.

Rep: DREIER: Those are all priorities that I have, Neal. And in fact, if you look at the publication that we put together, the document called "The Wrong Way Congress," which you can get at rulesrepublican.house.gov, you'll see that we focused, not only on the fact that we have just - we're in the process of completing, very sadly, the single most closed Congress in the 221-year history of the republic. We've gone through this entire Congress without a single bill in the House of Representatives being considered under an open amendment process. And that meant that Democrats and Republicans, alike, have been denied the opportunity to participate.

And one of the priorities that Speaker Boehner is going to have, and I've been working with him on this, is to ensure that we have more open rules than we had when I was privileged to be chairman of the rules committee in the past. And certainly, I mean if we have open rule, we will have had more than we've had in this past Congress. But, you know, we want to move ahead and we want to make sure that there is, in fact, an opportunity for members to read the bill, as you said, Neal, so there's an opportunity for us to have the kind of free flowing debate that the American people deserve, rather than having this process closed down.

CONAN: We're talking with Congressman David Dreier, who represents the 20 - is it the 26th District of California?

Rep: DREIER: You know, there's so many in California, Neal, I get confused myself. So I represent the suburbs of Los Angeles.

CONAN: And he will - may have some company after the redistricting. But anyway, Political Junkie Ken Rudin is also with us. You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. Ken.

RUDIN: Congressman, when you were first elected in 1980 with Ronald Reagan, you ran on a platform of limited government, things like that. And yet, by the time the voters voted out the Republican control of Congress in 2006, there were complaints about bloated government and wasteful spending, and all the things that the Republicans blamed Democrats for. Coming in to the majority in 2011, what lessons did you learn from your defeats - the Republicans' defeats of 2006, 2008?

Rep: DREIER: You know, that's a great question, Ken, and I will tell you, I don't believe that we ever did shift away from that vision that was put forward by Ronald Reagan. If you look at the last few years of the Bush administration, with the exception of defense, homeland security and veterans, we actually were able to see real cuts in spending take place. But we could've cut more.

RUDIN: There were earmarks, right? There were earmarks.

CONAN: And there was Medicare part (unintelligible).

Rep: DREIER: Yeah, they were. You know, there are earmarks at the beginning of time, but they're not going to be earmarks anymore. And I think that - and, I mean, to get into the big debate on earmarks, we all know what percentage of the budget that is. We know about the debate on the constitutional responsibility that members of the House have for the power of the purse. But having said that, we know that perception is reality. And if you look at the members of Congress who have horribly abused the process of earmarks, we know that we can't go down that road. And so we're not going to go down that road.

And I believe, Ken, that we have an opportunity - we've had a 92 percent increase in non-defense discretionary spending take place. So whatever took place in the years before, it pales in comparison to what we've gone through, and we want to do everything that we can to reverse that. And I believe that we can. I think we can have a serious discussion about entitlement reform. I think that we can focus on job creation and work in a bipartisan way, taking the John F. Kennedy/Ronald Reagan model for economic growth, and ultimately increase the flow of revenues to the Federal Treasury.

CONAN: And it's - if the mandate is to work on jobs, what can the Congress do, in your mind, to help speed up the recovery?

Rep: DREIER: Well, I think that the single most important thing that we can do now, Neal, is to ensure that we don't see those job creators, or any Americans, face a tax increase. I think that that will do more, right now, to get it going. The second thing that we should is, you know, the president has, in his state of the union message this year, talked very strongly - and I praised him for this - about the need for us to deal with opening up markets.

He's getting ready to go to Asia. He wants to do that. And he's called for this export council to focus on increasing - doubling exports, he says. Well, as he calls for that, the single most important thing that he could do is ensure that we work together in a bipartisan way, to pass the Panama, Colombia in what would be the largest bilateral free trade agreement in the history of the world, the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement, so that we can sell more U.S. goods and services around the world.

Ninety-six percent of the world's consumers are outside of our borders. There is a market there. And there are many countries that are looking to us to provide that global leadership. And since it hasn't happened, unfortunately, in the past two years, I think we have a chance to do that now.

CONAN: Congressman Darrell Issa, who is expected to chair the Oversight Committee, said he expects to flood the White House with subpoenas. You've talked about working together with Democrats, working together with the White House. Is that the right way to proceed?

Rep: DREIER: Well, I don't know about flooding the White House with subpoenas. I do know this. And you and Ken understand this very well. There is a constitutional responsibility that we have for oversight. And congressional oversight is something that is to be expected. It has been lacking in the past Congress, and I won't say that its only happened - I wish we'd had more oversight by the term, a legislative branch, over the Bush administration than we did have. So I think that there's going to be a chance for us to do that. We need to have increased oversight so that we can be successful at reigning in this dramatic expansion that we've seen in government. I think that's why it's going to be very important tool for us to deal with that.

CONAN: Congressman Dreier, thanks very much for your time today. And, again...

Rep. DREIER: A pleasure to be with you both.

CONAN: ...congratulations on your re-election.

Rep. DREIER: Thank you very much, Neal.

CONAN: David Dreier, a Republican from California, likely the next chairman of the House Rules Committee. Ken Rudin will stay with us. And we're going to be looking ahead, not just to the next Congress, but the next election, to 2012, when we come back from a short break. What changes do you expect? We have split lines today. Republicans, call 800-344-3893. Democrats, 800-344-3864. All of you can send us email, talk@npr.org. Stay with us. I'm Neal Conan. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

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