How Democrats Are Trying To Win Back Parts Of The Midwest That Voted Trump In 2016 NPR's Ari Shapiro speaks with Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Ill. A conservative-leaning Democrat, Bustos has been instrumental in campaigning throughout the Midwest on behalf of House Democrats.
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How Democrats Are Trying To Win Back Parts Of The Midwest That Voted Trump In 2016

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How Democrats Are Trying To Win Back Parts Of The Midwest That Voted Trump In 2016

How Democrats Are Trying To Win Back Parts Of The Midwest That Voted Trump In 2016

How Democrats Are Trying To Win Back Parts Of The Midwest That Voted Trump In 2016

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/664794720/664794721" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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NPR's Ari Shapiro speaks with Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Ill. A conservative-leaning Democrat, Bustos has been instrumental in campaigning throughout the Midwest on behalf of House Democrats.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Tonight, Democrats have a chance to take back control of the U.S. House of Representatives for the first time in nearly a decade. They need a net gain of 23 seats to do it.

Illinois Congresswoman Cheri Bustos is co-chair of the House Democratic Policy and Communications Committee. It's her job to help develop the Democrats' message. Congresswoman Bustos, welcome to the program.

CHERI BUSTOS: Thanks for having me.

SHAPIRO: I want to start by talking about the Midwest. You're from Illinois. And, as you know, Democrats relied for years on what they thought of as a blue wall stretching across the Great Lakes.

And, of course, two years ago, a lot of those states supported President Trump - Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin. Your own congressional district in Illinois supported President Trump. So what kind of message do you think will win those voters back to the Democratic Party?

BUSTOS: I think it's the message that we have been sharing in districts like mine and these tougher swing districts all over the country. And that is that please put your faith back in us. And if you do that, we will show you that we can deliver things that you care about for your families, like bringing down the cost of health care and prescription drug prices, things like rebuilding our country again and having a real trillion-dollar infrastructure package and lastly cleaning up the mess in Washington, D.C., that is just out of control right now.

SHAPIRO: It's so interesting to me that you start with health care in that list because more Democratic ads have been about health care this cycle than any other topic. And just a few years ago, Republicans were using health care as an issue to hammer Democrats with repeal and replace. What do you think changed to make the politics of the health care debate shift so much?

BUSTOS: Well, all you have to do is go to any member of Congress, go to their home district and talk to people. And it becomes very clear that health care is one of the top concerns that people have.

And here's the reality of the Affordable Care Act. We had more than 50 million uninsured Americans when that passed. And by virtually every account, the rollout of it was a disaster. But then given the time to have that sink in, we all of a sudden have 22 million Americans who are getting health insurance for the first time.

And then what comes along? Then you had the Republicans, who have done everything they can to repeal that without any real replacement. And so it has become the issue of the day. And it doesn't take any poll to know that. All it does is it takes talking with people and listening to people.

SHAPIRO: If Democrats do take back the House and not the Senate tonight, voters will have a lot of expectations. But Democrats, of course, will be limited in what they can accomplish legislatively. What do you think are one or two things that your party has to do to meet the expectations of voters if you do take control of the House?

BUSTOS: I think we have to deliver on the three things I just talked about.

SHAPIRO: Does that mean getting a vote through the House, or does that mean actually getting a law passed and President Trump to sign it?

BUSTOS: Well, we can only control what we can control. The plan will be that we, as Democrats, who will be in control of the House - we will pass these three measures - health care, an infrastructure package and the mass corruption, money in politics. We'll pass legislation on all three of those items.

If the Republicans are still in charge of the Senate, we'll ask them to cooperate with us. And so we'll be able to send something over to the president to sign into law.

SHAPIRO: How much energy do you think your party should spend on oversight and investigations of the Trump administration, including pressure from the base to consider impeachment?

BUSTOS: If we use the truth to guide us and we operate with the mentality that we hold everybody accountable, whether it's in the administration, whether it's members of Congress, as long as we use transparency, accountability and truth as our guiding light, I think that's fair.

My personal opinion is that we need to wait for Robert Mueller's investigation to be completed. But after Democrats win back the majority, we have three very able incoming chairmen of the judiciary, of the intel committee and of oversight. They are smart people. They are fair people. And the truth will guide them.

SHAPIRO: If Democrats don't take back the majority tonight, how do you think the party will need to recalibrate?

BUSTOS: Well, I'm confident we will take back the majority. You know, I believe a worst-case scenario would be that we get so close to the majority that the Republican single-party rule will have to go away if they want to accomplish anything. And they've accomplished not a whole lot, even with a pretty decent majority in the House and in the Senate and having the White House. They've accomplished very little as it pertains to what people care about so deeply at home.

This tax scam that passed, they thought that they would be able to go home and brag about that and run on that. And they've had to run away from it because it is very clear to people that the benefits of that tax bill went to the richest people in this country. And so they've had to run away from that. That's the one accomplishment that they had hoped that they could point to.

SHAPIRO: Congresswoman Cheri Bustos, Democrat from Illinois and co-chair of the House Democratic Policy and Communications Committee, thanks so much for joining us today.

BUSTOS: Thank you, Ari.

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