In the Washington Examiner.
When Republican Rep. Louie Gohmert first ran for Congress in 2004, the former Texas judge was hoping to make a difference for those who entered his court. Too many federal laws, he believed, were preventing them from reaching their potential.
Since that time, Gohmert said, he has found that the design of Congress makes it hard for those laws to change, and that even his own party is often unhelpful. "Too often we go along to get along, and we keep doing the same thing," he told theWashington Examiner.
The changes that need to be made, Gohmert believes, involve the way that Congress puts out a budget. He's proposed a balanced budget amendment that would require spending to match revenue at a rate not to exceed 18.5 percent. (Spending for fiscal 2016 is estimated at 21 percent, and is expected to rise to 23 percent in the coming years.)
He added that the Congressional Budget Office, which "scores" congressional appropriations legislation, needs to have more accountability mechanisms in place.
"I don't think any entity whose margin of error on score is plus or minus 400 percent should be scoring bills," Gohmert said. "But if you got different entities to score our bills, and developed a grading process for rating the scorers, you could have more objective and more accurate scoring of bills."
Washington Examiner: What initially motivated you to run for Congress, and how have your impressions of it been shaped since arriving?
Gohmert: What I noticed when I was a judge is that, while I believed in holding people accountable for misconduct, I also noticed there were federal laws that encouraged people not to reach their potential.
Those encouraged young people, for example, not to finish high school. Someone would say drop out, the government will send you checks. Then they would find out you can't live very well on what you get for having a child out of wedlock.
This wasn't true for everyone, but some would have another child to get another check, still not got ahead, and then another, and still not get ahead, and before they knew it, they were in a hole they couldn't get out of. So the ones who came before me for welfare fraud would ultimately decide they need to try to get a job, and then maybe if they have the job and they're getting the welfare benefits, then they can have a shot at getting out of the hole.
I never sent any of those to prison, even though they were felony fraud cases. But I would give them incentives to get a GED or high school diploma.
That's when I first started thinking, "We've got laws that encourage people, entice them away from their potential." And I've just seen more of that, and I've seen more since I've been in Congress. In so many ways, Republicans want to do the right thing, but too often we go along to get along, and we keep doing the same thing.
Examiner: What's an example of that?
Gohmert: I couldn't believe that after Republicans took the majority in the election in 1994, when I was on the bench, that we never did end this practice of having an automatic increase in every federal department's budget every year. That's insane. There's no individual, charity, family, company, that has an automatic increase in their annual budget except the federal government.
It was put into place by a liberal Congress after Watergate. That is still out there, and it's one of those rules that forced us into this mess and deficit spending. And it's hurt Republicans, because every time they say, "Let's slow the rate of growth," they're accused of making draconian cuts. So in each Congress since I have been here, I have filed a zero baseline budget bill to end the automatic increase.
Examiner: How would you rate Paul Ryan's performance as speaker?
Gohmert: Well, as I figured, he's an honest, honorable guy. He's been more upfront about what he wants to see accomplished. We still have some disagreement on some bills, but he's an honest guy, and I can work with honest people, no matter which side of the aisle or political spectrum they're on.
Examiner: Which is a contrast with his predecessor?
Gohmert: That one was one of my problems with Speaker [John] Boehner. He was more Machiavellian, he was manipulative, he just was not, many times, honest with his own conference. That's a big deal to me.
I can get along with people I disagree with as long as they're honest. A good example was the last week of last July. Congress takes August as a district work period. Since every member meets with their constituents in August, everyone knows that September is an appropriate month for doing things, because they hear a lot from people and come back saying, "We've got to do this."
Boehner was telling our conference that we knew that transportation funding was going to run out in August while we were in recess, so we've got to do something about that. My concern was that the Senate may pass some massive transportation bill, leave town, and jam us.
He put his finger in the air and said, "I will not let the Senate jam us." People stand up, they're cheering, they're yelling. He gets a fabulous response. There were a few of us at the back who were not cheering.
He said, "Here's what we're going to do. We're going to pass a three-month continuing resolution to make sure transportation has money for the next few months and give ourselves a chance to work it out. We're going to put something on there for veterans' healthcare, and then we're going to leave town and we're going to jam the Senate."
One of our guys was talking to [Republican Senate leader] Mitch McConnell earlier in the day asking about transportation. McConnell said, "Boehner and I have a deal all worked out. We've got a three-month deal to cover transportation, and we're going to put something there for veterans' health."
I would rather Boehner have been honest instead of coming and making us think that he really is going to stick it to the Senate. Just be honest about it. And he wasn't. That was an ongoing problem. He was always trying to be manipulative instead of being upfront about what the situation was.
That's a major difference in Paul. He's not coming in and trying to manipulate without being honest about it. He wants to push us to do what he wants to do, but he's more candid about it.
Examiner: You've voiced some criticism of Donald Trump, saying that he should apologize to Ted Cruz for some of the things said during the campaign. Others, like Mitt Romney, have expressed an objection to Trump for other reasons. Do you see a difference between the concerns of some of those on the establishment side and your own?
Gohmert: There are a lot of different reasons that people are supporting Trump and a lot of different reasons that people are not supporting Trump. In the earlier days of the campaign, I appreciated his political incorrectness, and his not being manipulated by the rules of political correctness. I think that's why a lot of people were drawn to him.
But I have numerous concerns, not just about an apology to Ted, but numerous concerns not unlike what I had with Romney. He's a really fine, decent, caring, successful businessman, and a lot of people said we need a successful businessman.
The Left said, "I hope we don't nominate Romney, because he's the one guy we can't beat, he's been successful in everything he's done." And then he gets the nomination and they unload on him.
And there was video of him being on both sides of every important issue. So I wanted to make sure with Romney, that he was going to hold to his newfound positions that conservatives agreed with, whether it was pro-life or marriage between a man and a woman as Moses and Jesus said it was supposed to be.
He was on both sides of most important issues. He also actually did give the model for Obamacare. They used some of Romneycare to create Obamacare.
Examiner: If they're both relatively moderate, why is Romney even more critical of Trump than you are?
Gohmert: Romney was very scrupulous in trying to be gracious to people. Trump has a very different personality. He doesn't always try to be the most gracious, and I think that's what people like about him. Our country is in grave danger, and Trump seems to recognize that.
Examiner: Who would you like to see Trump choose for vice president?
Gohmert: I've got mixed emotions about him picking Ted. It would pull people to Trump who might be devoted to Ted and not interested in Trump. Then it would be a move for the future.
It might be fantastic insurance against impeachment for Trump if he'd pick Ted. A lot of people that hate Trump also hate Ted, because he was constantly standing up in the Senate against the establishment. And the establishment would know that if they participated in the impeachment of a president Trump, they'd have Ted, and that would be even worse.
So it might be good insurance to keep Trump from being kicked out as president. If you hate Trump, you're really going to hate Ted. It's like Obama picking Biden to be vice president.
Some of us need to be sure that Trump's newfound positions on things are positions he's going to hold. There have been indications he may waver even on some of his most strident positions.
Examiner: As a former judge, do you think the FBI is likely to recommend an indictment for Hillary Clinton?
Gohmert: We have all this massive amount of evidence, there's plenty here to indict, but it's up to the Justice Department to make a decision on indictment. [FBI Director James] Comey is a pretty straight up guy, and I don't think he'll pull any punches. But I could also see him avoiding a controversy by just saying, "Here's all the evidence, it's not our job to indict, that's up to the attorney general."
And so we're just laying out the evidence. That's what I can see the FBI doing, especially in light of an election year. And then leave it to [Attorney General] Loretta Lynch and President Obama to decide not to indict.
I think there's plenty of evidence on which to indict her. If you can go after [retired Gen. David] Petraeus ... They looked for everything to try to go after him ... With Hillary, as long as she doesn't criticize Obama, I don't see her being indicted, even though the evidence is quite strong and it's very clear she should be indicted. But if she were to turn around and start criticizing Obama herself, I could see her being indicted very quickly.
Examiner: Should the next president pursue indictment if this administration does not?
Gohmert: Absolutely. I like George W. Bush, personally and as a man. He is so much smarter and wittier than people give him credit for. But because he is such a nice guy, when he became president, he didn't want to hear about the wrongdoing during the Clinton years. He wanted a fresh start, basically saying, "All of the stuff before me, bygones."
We can't have a president that does that again. We have got to have a Republican president come in and say, "This is a cesspool here in the executive branch, and we are going to clean it out, and we are going to prosecute those who need to be prosecuted, who've violated the law, and we are going to fire those who may not have violated the law but who are worthy of being fired. We are going to clean house ..."
We have got to have a president who comes in and continues to investigate those who need to be investigated.
Examiner: Can you describe the balanced budget amendment you proposed this month?
Gohmert: Before I ever got to Congress, I wanted a straight balanced budget amendment. When I got here, I was shocked to find out it was actually easier for most members to raise taxes than to vote to cut funding for something. So it became very obvious very quickly that if you have a balanced budget amendment that just requires the budget to balance, it will be easier to create new fees, new revenue sources, than it will be to make cuts.
A balanced budget amendment without a cap on spending will be a disaster for the country. The budget will continue to go up, which will force taxes, whether they're called fee or revenue or whatever, to spiral upward.
Eventually, America will be destroyed by the taxes and the overspending. So my amendment has what any balanced budget needs to have: a cap on spending. I put it at 18.5 percent of gross domestic product so that we don't spend more than that percentage.
If you look back through history, big idea guys will propose their big ideas and people will naysay and call them names, but over time, people begin to realize that maybe something was a good idea. So you just need to avoid getting discouraged.
Examiner: You've also had some ideas regarding the Congressional Budget Office.
Gohmert: One of my ideas was to get rid of CBO, because their scoring rules have been so rigid. They've created models that don't have any reflection of what's happening in the world. They don't use history as a model of what will happen in the future. So good bills are constantly misscored, which keeps them from being passed.
I would love to see a scoring entity for Congress, not CBO, but independent scorers that score agencies like CBO. An example I've given before is Obamacare. CBO said it may cost $1.2 trillion, which upset Obama, because he had promised it would cost less than $1 trillion.
So Obama called the head of CBO over for a White House woodshedding. After their meeting, he comes out and announces that they found enough cuts that it would actually only cost $800 or $900 billion, and Obama says, "See, we told you."
After it passes, pretty quickly, they say it looks like we were closer to being right before, it may be over a trillion, it may be $1.8 or $1.9 trillion. Others have looked at Obamacare and said it's headed for over $4 trillion in costs.
I don't think any entity whose margin of error on score is plus or minus 400 percent should be scoring bills. But if you got different entities to score our bills, and developed a grading process for rating the scorers, you could have more objective and more accurate scoring of bills.
Another example ... If you created a 200 percent tax rate, obviously no one would work. But our scoring system would come back and say that the federal government will bring in twice what everyone in America makes. It's unrealistic.
Examiner: What's on your recommended reading list?
Gohmert: I think the best primer everyone ought to read is Mark Levin's Liberty and Tyranny, for anyone to learn where America came from and where it's going.
From a personal standpoint, the No. 1 selling book in the world is one I read every day, the Bible. It's the owner's manual. As C.S. Lewis described it, we're in enemy-occupied territory, and these are messages from home headquarters. And there's also David Limbaugh's book, Jesus on Trial.