Exclusive Q & A with Rep. Tom Rice
FLORENCE, S.C. – Republican Rep. Tom Rice was criss-crossing part of his Congressional District Monday, which covers most of the Pee Dee, to speak with constituents on the first week of Congress’ August recess.
The Morning News spoke with Rice before his constituent meeting at the Pee Dee Regional office in Florence on a wide range of topics, from the continued gridlock in Washington to international and domestic crises and a pending lawsuit against President Barack Obama. Below are nine questions we asked Rice and his answers.
Are things better off now in South Carolina since you took office?
I think so, the economy is very sluggishly moving in the right direction. I think South Carolina has done a fantastic job of positioning itself in terms of competitiveness within the nation. Places like South Carolina, Texas and North Dakota are revising their tax code, their infrastructure, their litigation infrastructure to attract businesses and it’s paying off.
What’s creating gridlock in Washington?
The House has been really effective; we passed 350 to 400 bills in the last year and a half that are sitting on (Senate Majority leader) Harry Reid’s desk gathering dust. I don’t know why, but for some reason Harry Reid and the president don’t want to take them up. I think it’s to their political advantage not take the bills up, to come in and say ‘the House Republicans aren’t doing anything’ but we’re the ones who are doing something. I think 10 or 15 of those bills have a lot of Democratic support in the House.
I think the House of Representatives is doing its job.
It’s a political calculation not to take anything up in the Senate and blame it on House Republicans and use it toward their election this November. I don’t think it’s going to work.
Is there a way to get beyond this tit-for-tat approach of governing?
I think we need to get to a reset to what the framers of our Constitution designed and that is the situation where the legislature makes the law and the president enforces it. This president prefers not to have any laws coming out of the legislature and use that as an excuse to make law himself; he has no power to do that. That’s one of the reasons why the Senate isn’t taking anything up.
Is our country governing by crisis now instead of being proactive?
No doubt about it. We’re truly lacking leadership. I wish the president, rather than giving speeches and throwing stones at Congress, I wish he would show leadership to try to work with Congress to find solutions we can agree on and try to work toward the betterment of the American people and the world.
What has Congress accomplished recently?
We passed some pretty important stuff out of the house last week; we passed the fix for the VA which is a huge change. It provided for veterans, at long last, a pathway to healthcare other than the massive, bloated, federal bureaucracy that is so inefficient that it causes veterans to die while they’re waiting in line for care. We passed a Republican proposal to allow veterans to go to private physicians. The average wait time at a VA facility is 53 days and the average wait time with a private physician is three days to get that same care.
We never would’ve gotten that through a Democratic-controlled Senate but for the crisis that occurred, the national disgrace that occurred with veterans dying waiting for the bloated federal bureaucracy to do its job.
On her Facebook page on Monday Gov. Nikki Haley said Congress should be called back to deal with the immigration crisis, do you agree?
I think it’s a national crisis, I think we need to be dealing with it. I also believe the House has dealt with it. The Senate needs to come back and take it up. Now, if the Senate is going to do anything and if we need to do anything I’m going to be there.
Will suing President Barack Obama accomplish anything?
My hope is as a result of this lawsuit we will return the relationship of the legislative branch of the government and the executive branch of the government to what the framers intended. I think we have a good shot of getting it to court, I don’t think its an absolute guarantee, but courts have allowed Congress access in the past, specifically for enforcement of subpoenas against the executive branch.
I don’t see it (impeachment) as part of this process. I see this as about the least damaging process for ongoing, day-to-day governing you could have. It’s very targeted on what the president’s role is, it doesn’t affect the operation of the government, I think the only ones up there talking about impeachment are the Democrats so they can raise money on it.
Did former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s primary loss mean anything to you?
I think that we need to be proactive and forward thinking and have positive solutions for people and act in the best interests of the people. I try to stay in touch with people, but if we’re positive and proactive we don’t have to worry about the next election; I think the next election will take care of itself.
What are your thoughts on your 57th birthday today?
My thoughts are that the best birthday present I could possibility have is to continue to serve the wonderful people of the 7th District of South Carolina. It’s an incredible honor and privilege to serve in this office and I thank them everyday for the privilege.
BY GAVIN JACKSON Morning News