President Donald Trump on Wednesday called out Senate Republicans who are preparing to overturn his declaration of a national emergency over border wall funding. In a tweet, Trump called for party unity after at least four Senate Republicans agreed to vote to approve a resolution that rebukes the president's national emergency declaration, which he issued last month to skirt congressional approval in his bid to gather billions for a wall along the southern border.
Fox News Radio's Guy Benson & Marie Harf sat down with Senator Steve Daines the Republican from Montana who says this is a National Emergency. He has been to the border and seen it with his own eyes. Listen to him explain.
Guy Benson: [00:00:12] We continue on this Wednesday. Thanks for listening to Benson and Harf Guy Benson in Chicago. Marie back inD.C. today and we are very pleased to welcome to the program for the first time Senator Steve Daines a Republican of Montana. Senator thanks for being here.
Sen. Daines (R-Mt): [00:00:27] Hey guy thanks for having me.
Guy Benson: [00:00:29] So I want to start with a question about next year and your re-election campaign year up in 2020 along with the president and Montana's an interesting state because as you know better than anyone. Barack Obama came awfully close to winning it in 2008 even though it's seen as a red state and then Mitt Romney really improved on that number and then President Trump won by more than 20 points last time around. But in 2018 your colleague Senator Tester hung on and won his reelection race in the midterms when some other red state Democrats did not. So it's not the same type of red state that we see sometimes elsewhere in the country. So I'm curious how you're looking at your re-election fight ahead and how you feel like Montana is going to treat President Trump in 2020.
Sen. Daines (R-Mt): [00:01:18] Well Guy if you look back at the political history of Montana I was the first Republican elected to this seat in in a hundred years. So Montana as you noted has a history of being switch hitters as it comes to their ballot. They revote Democrat. They vote republican. Montanans are very independent minded folks. We don't like the government telling us what to do. I think it comes back to that that Western heritage that we have. My my ancestors that came out to Montana homesteaded once upon a time. So what you'll see Montanans do is they'll start typically for president. They tend to vote Republican. But boy once you start going down ballot they vote Democrat. Reublican Democrat Republican. It's not unusual if you have the four top names on the ballot where two will be Republicans to be Democrats in terms of who wins Montana at the end of the day Montana's aren't real enamored with voters. There's an R or a D behind your name. They really look at who is going to best represent Montana and they vote accordingly.
Marie Harf: [00:02:21] Senator Marie Harf here thank you so much for joining the show tonight. I really appreciate it. I want to pick up on one thing you just mentioned about folks from your state. And that's not liking when the government tells you what to do. So on this question of the national emergency and taking resources that had been earmarked for one thing and taking that putting them toward something else when Congress said had already said no to the president right this issue you're going to be voting on this week. Where do you come down on that issue and how do you think your constituents see what too many people appears to be an executive overreach.
Sen. Daines (R-Mt): [00:02:59] Yeah. Marie two thoughts. First of all three weeks ago Monday I flew down to the southern border and spent a night with Border Patrol just my jeans my boots from 2:15 am early Monday morning until about 8:00a.m. I wanted to see it firsthand. I didn't want to have another briefing in Washington D.C. everybody's in their suits and ties. I want to get out of D.C. get down to the border and see it. And having seen what's going on face to face on our southern border with the Rio Grande Valley sector they're down or McAllen Texas. That's why we flew into that really ground zero for the flood of illegal immigrants as well as drugs coming across the border. Here's what's happening is because of the flood of illegal immigrants coming across our border. In fact I just saw John Cornyn put out a stat a couple of days ago that they seized seven thousand illegals just in the Rio Grande Valley sector alone last week. And in fact Secretary Nielson briefed us the homeland security secretary this week that in February are Border Patrol seized 76000 illegals. So we're on a on a path to break probably a 10 year record of what's going on the border. But here's the connection to Montana. Is it because Border Patrol spending so much time apprehending illegals the illegal drugs have an easier time getting across the border. These are Mexican cartels it's organized crime. They're bringing this mess in particular across the border and coming right to Montana. In fact when I was in Montana crisscrossing the state two weeks ago I went literally from the edge of my state speaking with local law enforcement speaking with the treatment centers or healthcare professionals. We've got a meth crisis going on. They just told me that in Montana last year our law enforcement seized twice as much meth as the year before. And it's all Mexican cartel meth. So when you think about it Montana is a northern border state. We border Canada but we have a southern border crisis of what's going on in Texas so bringing it back to where the president sat. I believe we do have a crisis. You think Montana is a long ways away from the southern border. Well it is geographically but we're being directly influence. I spent a couple hours in a treatment center in Billings where they treat moms who have have addiction issues who have children you know to be alcohol was the number one issue. Now it's meth. We have a crisis.
Guy Benson: [00:05:36] Something has to be done Senator so let me make this point and just see what your reaction is and I agree with you and I agree with the president and I agree with many in the Republican Party that there is in fact a crisis at the southern border. I don't have a problem with the president saying that this rises to the level of a national emergency. I think that is appropriate. I wish the Congress was doing frankly a lot more I start to have a problem is where Rand Paul for example has a problem where I am on board for the national emergency and saying yes this is a crisis that needs more attention. But I am concerned about right on the heels of Congress and the president really having a big battle with a shut down and everything over this specific question about how much money to give for the construction of new barriers that came to a resolution the Congress spoke its will was quite clear for the president to say well you use this other money over here to do more. I'm just worried about the precedent that that would set for a future president doing things that you and I as conservatives senator would hate. And I wonder what your responses to that concern.
Sen. Daines (R-Mt): [00:06:39] So I think each one of these arguments that a president makes is you know Guy you've done your research as well as you have Marie that there have been over 50 times that presidents have exercised this president for emergency going back to law from 1976. If you notice the White House is not making a constitutional argument about the article 2 responsibilities of the president. They're making a statutory argument which is this law from 1976 regarding. So I believe he he has he has legal authority to do what he's doing. On the question of precedent I think it's a fair question. But I believe each one of these issues has to be argued and won on its own merits. And as I look at this I see based on the merit of the argument that we do have a crisis truly as I see what's going on in my home state our law enforcement are saying Steve we need help. Right now we're being overwhelmed with Mexican cartel drugs. In fact the potency of these drugs is over 90 percent the old the old days of meth was the home grown laboratory meth that had a 25 to 30 percent potency. This Mexican cartel Meth is so much more addictive so much more dangerous that 90 plus percent potency. So I go back and say his merits the argument is based on the merits. I support it. I recognize the left make Madison the future. They may make an argument based on climate change or on the Second Amendment on gun violence and so forth. I just think eephus has to make that decision based on the merits of the argument. And I don't think we have a crisis here as relates to CO2. If you look at the nation our CO2 levels are dropping dramatically the best in the world right now because of natural gas. So I think we have to look at each of these arguments and arguments on merit.
Marie Harf: [00:08:32] Senator I want to pick up on. I'm glad you mentioned the opioid crisis and meth and other drug issues. I'm from Ohio where we're battling a lot of the same issues and it's really ravaging parts of this country and I think that's one of the reasons you see so many voters concerned about health care. And we saw it in 2018. It was the issue voters cared about the most. I know your state right now is going through a debate about why they're content to continue with Medicaid expansion. This has been a hot button issue in a number of states. Do you support continuing Medicaid expansion. Do you think it's been good for your state. Because I've looked at some of the polling. But you know the state better than the polls do probably. So what do you make of this issue.
Sen. Daines (R-Mt): [00:09:10] Sure. What we're seeing in Montana is the expansion of Medicaid now was agreed to by our legislature signed by our governor and that is helping address a need in our state here of those who were uninsured. The question is how do you pay for it. In so in terms of the benefit we are seeing that although we need to add a provision in the Medicaid expansion in Montana that says that if you're able bodied and able to work without dependents that then that needs to be part of the requirement. If you if you're going to be receiving the Medicaid expansion benefit. So I hope that our legislature will add that provision to it. But the problem we have is that this is now costing the state significant amounts of money I think of 160 million dollar price day because as you know with the expansion originally with the Affordable Care Act the federal government paid 100 percent of the expansion that wide passed down to 90 percent now by 2020. So states having to pick up that 10 percent. 10 percent seems like a small amount as a percentage but 10 percent of a big number is still a relatively large number. From a revenue viewpoint. So that's a debate right now is how do we pay for it but we need it we need to tighten the program. It's the waste the abuse the fraud that is going on. Each time expand a program that fast that's occurring. But importantly one of the challenge we have right now in this economy thanks to President Trump we've got this booming economy. We don't have enough people in the workforce now to fill the jobs that are available. One of the challenges right now is there have been incentives that have actually show in people that say you're better off to not work and take a benefit from the government than to go get a job. So if you're able bodied I think we should put pressure on those individuals to consider getting a job that I think a balance here in this debate.
Guy Benson: [00:10:58] And Senator you said that you know how you pay for it. The question I would also point out though we have 22 trillion dollars in debt at the federal level and counting. So that's the age old question that we're going to be facing for a very long time. Last question briefly I had the great opportunity to chat with you a little bit at an event recently. And we were talking a little bit. And I've always been curious to ask you this question setting aside the politics of the cabinet hearing I don't want to relitigate any of that. There was this moment where every vote was so close and it was you know did they have the votes did they not have the votes to confirm a Supreme Court justice a massively important vote and then the vote is just aligning on a weekend and all of a sudden at some point you realize oh my gosh my daughter is getting married back in Montana on the exact same day. That is down to the squeaker vote you know and with all eyes on Washington. What was that realization like and how did you make the decision to in fact not cast a vote on this hugely important question and attend your daughter's wedding.
Sen. Daines (R-Mt): [00:11:59] Well when my sweet daughter Annie and now our son in law Brad told us that we're going to get married. We sat down and talked about planning a date. We picked October 6th. This is way back to the very beginning of 2018. October 6 seemed like a very good date at the time. And as we drew closer to that date in fact remember there was that moment in the Judiciary Committee where Jeff Flake changed his vote and decided to ask for that week extension to do an additional FBI background check. we all saw that and I looked and I said Oh no. This means the votes probably get to line up with a wedding this is our daughter's wedding. It's a big wedding was planned for months. And so we chatted with Senate leadership chatter with the White House literally with the president the vice president and others and said hey here's the deal. I'm walking my daughter down the aisle. That's that's really a non-negotiable. And we can make sure that we put a new Supreme Court justice on the court named Brett can I called Brett and explain what is going on in a test into a testimony to Bret's character he said. Absolutely senator Daines. That's your highest priority because what we had is we had a backup plan if they needed my vote. We had a plane waiting to get me back to Washington D.C. I would have been the tie breaking vote. Now here's what happened if you remember Lisa Murkowski said she was going to vote no. I was going to vote yes so we paired our votes and in otherwords Lisa said I'm not going to vote just to help you Steve because you can't vote. And so the margin of victory for Judge Kavanaugh was 50 to 48. It would have been 51 49. Had I been there. So it all worked out and I know everybody got nervous. But I said two things going to happen this weekend. I walk my daughter down the aisle and we're going to have a new Supreme Court justice and both have my gosh.
Marie Harf: [00:13:52] Before we let you go I just want to thank you. I know you were up on a break but I want to thank you for your work on public lands and conservation. I know we don't have time to get into all that today but I want to thank you for the bipartisan work you've been doing on that from this the.
Sen. Daines (R-Mt): [00:14:05] I've been called the The Conservative Conservationist and that's that describes who I am. Is my wife and I in our family our idea of a great weekend in Montana is spending it in our public lands. We're avid backpackers. We spend a lot of time in the wilderness areas. I could probably talk about lakes and the Beartooth wilderness as much as any Sierra Club member because I've been to virtually all of them and that's where Montana is that it's a blend of Merle Haggard and John Denver.
Sen. Daines (R-Mt): [00:14:32] It's both. We sponsor my favourites and we can tell you know what it's OK that ever spousal resource development and we can protect our public lands. And that's the right temperature that we of the porridge in Montana.
Marie Harf: [00:14:45] John Denver is one of my favorites. Literally I grew up with John Denver. I love that Senator. Thank you so much so much.
Guy Benson: [00:14:53] And on that note Senator Steve Daines Republican of Montana thank you so much for your time.
Sen. Daines (R-Mt): [00:14:58] Hey thanks for having me.
Guy Benson: [00:14:59] All right we're going to step aside and come right back with more Benson & Harf