Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., joins this edition of “The Daily Signal Podcast” to discuss key questions and issues in our current politics.
After 16 years in the House and being elected to the U.S. Senate, Blackburn outlines the main themes and principles that Republicans must articulate as they move into the 2022 midterm elections.
She also discusses the economic distress, inflation and energy issues facing Americans under President Joe Biden’s administration, and what can be done to help.
“When you look at what the Democrats have pushed forward,” Blackburn says, “you have Biden’s greatest hits of failures. And people are talking a lot about inflation, crime; they’re talking about the open border, drugs on the streets; they’re frustrated with Afghanistan, with the Chinese Communist Party. The list goes on and on.”
Blackburn, joining the podcast from The Heritage Foundation’s Resource Bank conference in Nashville, also articulates what comes next in abortion policy if the leaked Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade becomes final and puts an end to abortion on demand in America. (The Daily Signal is Heritage’s multimedia news organization.)
Listen to the podcast or read the lightly edited transcript.
Richard Reinsch: Hello, this is Richard Reinsch. I’m a senior fellow at The Heritage Foundation. We are at Heritage’s Resource Bank conference here in Nashville, Tennessee. We’re with Sen. Marsha Blackburn, Tennessee Republican. We are grateful for your support.
Sen. Marsha Blackburn:It is a pleasure to be able to share your company. Thank you so much.
Reinsch: All right. We are heading into the midterm elections in this fall, which is five months away, Sen. Blackburn. What do you think should be the messaging, policy, and focus of the Republican Party going into this fall?
Blackburn: It’s so interesting to me that when you look at what the Democrats have pushed forward, you have [President Joe] Biden’s greatest hits of failures. And people are talking a lot about inflation, crime; they’re talking about the open border, drugs on the streets; they’re frustrated with Afghanistan, with the Chinese Communist Party.
The list goes on. It’s like a Tennessean told me a couple of weeks ago, said: “Everything this administration does makes my life worse.” Interesting thing is, that was a Democrat.
Blackburn: And people are beginning to say, “What are you going to do? What’s the difference?” They don’t like the agenda of the Democrat Party and they see it all as pushing people toward big government control; protect the government, don’t protect the people.
They then look at the Republicans to find out their vision, and what they are going to do in order to return to freedom, free markets, and free people. And I think it’s going to be up to us to say, “We have a vision.” They have a checklist, but we have a vision for a better country, better days, hope for a better country, opportunity for all citizens, equal justice for all.
Reinsch: When you think about these issues like the border, the Biden Administration seems to be running de facto open borders policy. We have an inflation problem sprung by insane fiscal and monetary policy, and energy prices are among the highest prices ever. Are you surprised at the intransigence of the Biden administration, the refusal to rethink what they’ve done, or do you see this maybe as he cut deals with the left wing of the party to get elected, to earn that nomination, and now he’s stuck, whether he likes it or not?
Blackburn: I think you have to look at the repeated actions and say, “This is intentional. This is their agenda.” And Richard, that’s what people have moved away from. They’re just so frustrated.
I was speaking with someone in South Carolina last evening. Early voting began yesterday. They had been counting the ballots and found that many of those who were coming in were voting Republican. And as people exited, they would say, “I did this because I’m so fed up with what Biden is doing, the inflation, the open border.”
Richard, the things you’re talking about, these are the things that when they were going to vote, this is the reason that they were going to vote. And people like their freedom, and they don’t want to hand that over to the government and let the government divvy back out to them what they think they deserve to get.
Reinsch: Thinking more recently about this baby formula shortage, what’s behind that? I was struck by the heartbreaking stories of people who traveled 30-40 miles to find baby formula. What was the government doing to create this crisis? It seems to me that the solution to this problem is to find incentives to produce and distribute that good. What’s the Republican approach and solution on that?
Blackburn: Yes. It was because Abbott owns a plant that produces just over 40% of all baby formula on the shelves in the United States. Then, they were confronted with the sad accusation that the formula was contaminated and had caused the deaths of a few children. They had to investigate.
Also, [Food and Drug Administration]The plant was closed down. The formula was not to blame for the shutdown. They did not allow the plant to be reopened.
So this administration knew back in February that they were already running at a 25% shortage in the marketplace, but they didn’t do anything. This is why the FDA has not dealt with the problem.
Now, also back in February, they could have said, “We’re going to put some waivers in place for Canada, the EU, U.K., get the formula in.” They didn’t do it then, they waited until it was a crisis. Tennessee was home to 54% of the bestselling formulas.
And at that point, the administration is going, “We’ve got a crisis on our hands. We have to do it for ourselves. Cheer for us, planes are landing now to import this formula.” They should have waived those restrictions in February. This would not have happened.
Reinsch: I’m thinking, a similar crisis in energy. The fear is that gas could go higher as we get into summer. Many people believe it will. We’ve already seen it rise in last few weeks, despite releasing oil from the strategic oil reserve.
It seems that the Biden administration is refusing to move in the right direction of markets. Instead, they want to move in production. They claim that federal energy leases are available to these companies.
Companies responded that although it may be true, there are many regulatory restrictions that prohibit the use of that land. And of course, they’ve been under a lot of restrictions, whether the past five, six years, from how capital can be flowed or directed away from them, also by encouragement from the administration, from major shareholders.
As you think about America’s energy industry are one of our major domestic strengths, policy wise, what are you pointing to?
Blackburn:You must start with the Biden policies and move on to the executive orders, regulations, and executive orders. The executive order that ended the Keystone pipeline was issued on Day 1. That pipeline would’ve been finished by the end of ’22, had he not stopped it.
He did that on Day One. Then, he made drilling leases difficult. He took Alaska, the shore in Alaska off, you can’t drill there anymore. Offshore drilling, can’t do that anymore. Go talk to people in Louisiana, they’re really upset about this.
You must also consider the impact of all regulations. You’ve got to realize 69 major regulations, and most of them targeted to energy, that is enormous. [Former President]Donald Trump enacted 22 regulations in four years and took 1,600 regulations off the books.
But if you’re going to restrain oil production and not issue the drill permits for those existing leases, it doesn’t do you any good to have a lease. It doesn’t do you any good to have mineral rights. They’re worth nothing without a drill permit.
And a company, whether they’re a wildcatter, an independent, a major oil company, they cannot put a drill in the ground until they get that drill permit, will not happen. They have one person at the helm. [Environmental Protection Agency]These drill permits can be obtained.
If you want to help Ukraine, our EU allies, NATO allies, then you must make us energy-dominant once again, just like we were under President Donald Trump. This means exporting energy. This is the fastest and most efficient way to ensure that we provide for allies.
The other thing, when you look at the inflation rate and what is happening there, everybody knows it’s well above 8% or 10%, because what you’re paying to fill up your car, what you’re paying for food at the grocery store, clothes, shoes, everything that you’re purchasing that has a polymer component, whether it’s a plastic bag or a fabric, it all is coming out of hydrocarbons.
You have an impact on the marketplace in addition to transportation, home heating, and industrial energy.
Reinsch: Thinking also about difficulties the American energy industry is facing, we just spoke about at this conference, we heard from Vivek Ramaswamy, Andy Puzder, some others on this ESG movement that’s been receiving now a lot of pushback—environmental, social, corporate governance—and attempts really by BlackRock and other major proxy firms that hold pensions, 401ks of Americans, using that weight to try, and succeeding, in forcing capital away from the energy industry.
Is there a Senate Republican policy that could be used to prevent this from occurring or limit its power?
Blackburn: Yes. There are a few things that can be done. Our Banking Committee is also looking at fairness components when it comes to policies of administration.
And this is going to be a big thing in the ’24 election cycle, is to make certain that you’re not seeing these executive orders and this push on industry to have these ESG policies because this administration and the left writ large go back to [former President] Barack Obama’s first term, we’re going to radically transform this country. They couldn’t get their policies through Congress.
Donald Trump wins the election. These men are out. They spend their time putting together an agenda. And we all know that they’re the ones that are making all the decisions. That’s why they refer to this as the third term of Barack Obama. They see this as their open window to force companies to do what they could not achieve through legislation, which they’ll never achieve through legislation.
So it’s up to Congress then to push back on that and to say, “Oh no you don’t, you’re not going to use corporate America. You’re not going to use the not-for-profit sector to achieve your goals.”
Reinsch: I’m curious if you were recently blocked by Facebook for a post you wrote about women in sport. You also had, I thought, a great moment with Biden’s judicial nominee to the Supreme Court, where you asked her, “What is a woman, could you tell the difference between a woman and a man?” And she said she could not. That seems to be becoming de rigueur amongst our progressive elites, that you’ve got to be a biologist now to make these determinations.
What do you think of this? Is this something that questions the idea of citizenship in America?
Blackburn: I had one of the county mayors out in Tennessee, I was out in some counties yesterday, and one of them looked at me and he said, “Marsha, what’s right is now wrong. What is upward is now downward. What is forward is now backward.” He said, “I’ve never seen such in all of my life.” And I chuckled because that is where so many people are.
If you have someone who’s a nominee to be on the U.S. Supreme Court who will not answer the question about a curriculum that instructs 5-year-olds to choose their gender, who will not say whether or not they agree with Justice [Ruth Bader] Ginsburg that there are enduring differences between male and female, will not answer a question about the NCAA allowing biological males to compete against biological females—and then I thought, out of frustration, “Well, just give me the definition of the word woman.” And she refused. She refused.
You can also see Facebook censoring my information about biological males and females. And 80% of the country agreed with me. But Facebook decided that it was hate speech and needed to take it down. It’s not hate speech. It’s called common sense.
Reinsch: Yeah. And that Facebook move raises also the specter, similar to what we’re talking about ESG, of major private corporations functioning, it seems, as arms of the federal government.
Blackburn:They do. This administration will protect government and big business, not the people. They do it every day because they want to tighten this circle of control. Only a few people will have such control.
And Big Tech is playing right along with them because if you exercise censorship under Section 230, and it’s why we have to rework that, then you have the ability to control what people see, what they say, what they hear, what they think, and how they vote.
Reinsch: Last question. The Dobbs [v. Women’s Health Organization]Draft opinion leaked, many believe it will hold, that opinion is going to be released. Republicans have been a prolife party for decades. Let’s say that opinion holds, what’s next?
Blackburn:We all pray every day that this opinion holds. Conservatives have long discussed the issue of sending the issue about abortion to the States. And so the issue would be sent back to the states, and that is the opportunity for states to move forward with their regulations and restrictions on abortion and how they’re going to approach that. I know Tennessee is currently reviewing its regulations and will be ready for action.
We can all agree that protecting life is our goal. Roe is a good example. [v. Wade] and you look at, and you can look at Eisenstadt, too, and say, “These were wrongly decided, the premise was wrong, the precedent is incorrect.” And to revisit that and reset that and allow the people to have their say in how this is regulated is appropriate.
Reinsch: Sen. Blackburn – Thank you so much for being here today. It is greatly appreciated.
Blackburn:We are delighted to be of service to you. We are so grateful.
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