Congressional Corner With Richard Neal | WAMC

Congressional Corner With Richard Neal

Oct 20, 2020

Former Vice President Joe Biden hopes to become future President Joe Biden.

In today’s Congressional Corner, Massachusetts Representative Richard Neal wraps up his conversation with WAMC’s Alan Chartock.

This interview was recorded October 5.

Alan Chartock: Here we are in the Congressional Corner with one of my favorite people in the world, Congressman Richie Neal. And Richie, let me let me start by asking you about Joe Biden running for president. How's he doing?

Well, I think he's doing fine and I think that he offers a measure of reassurance. He's had a long career. I think that he is an individual of great reliability. As I've noted, I have talked to him in the last three weeks about some of his plans going forward. And I think that we're pretty much in sync on these issues. I also think that it's a pretty interesting story that for Democrats, that after South Carolina, he became the winner of without a lot of contest. And, you know, he won that Texas primary without spending 10 cents or even visiting there. And I think that what happened at that point, Democrats said, you can elect Joe Biden. And there was a concern as to some of the other candidates and electability. And I think in Biden's case, he made the argument “I can win”. The polling, as you could witness, over the past even few days has been very supportive of that conclusion. The fact that he's contesting Ohio, he's back there, a state that Hillary Clinton lost by eight and a half points tells us part of the story. The fact that he's headed to Arizona, and Michigan again this week, I think is also part of the story. But Michigan, and even though Wisconsin is a bit closer, not to miss the point of I think that Biden is right now holding a pretty strong and consistent lead across the country.

Richie Neal, do you think that the President of the United States, this president, the one we have now is capable of doing something really despicable if he loses in the election, the popular vote and the Electoral College? I'm getting an awful lot of letters by people who think you know that he's going to drag us into some kind of totalitarian dictatorship.

Well, I'm very optimistic that there's going to be an inauguration of a president on January 20th. And the election is going to adhere to the schedule of the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November, and that I'm optimistic about the Biden candidacy. But in addition, I think that this is part of the subterfuge that we witnessed during the last four years always trying to change the subject. And in this instance, here, the reliability of the American elections for decades has really not been in question. And as the President's tried to make this argument about absentee balloting, absentee balloting has worked, even with the margin of error here. 1,000,003 voted in the last primary here in Massachusetts. And it's estimated that 40% of those numbers came from mail in balloting, and there was less than 2% of those votes that were disqualified. So I think the President spent a lot of time trying to change the subject, as opposed to trying to argue the merit of the point that's in front of us.

Now, what if the Supreme Court has to make a ruling in deciding the election? Do you have any confidence, I've asked you this kind of thing before that these people who are appointed by Republicans, will do the right thing in terms of the law? Or will they just be shills?

Well, I'm a believer in Americans institutions, and I am still grievously disappointed about what happened in the election between Gore and Bush. I mean, that was decided in the end to five to four Gore v. Bush, I also think that it harmed America's faith in our institutions. And I think that in this instance, here, you know, President Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in the Electoral College as well without defeating her the popular vote. And I've been one who’s in favor of getting rid of the Electoral College, largely because of that. But Americans have to have faith in the idea that when they cast that vote, in just about 30 days, that that vote is going to mean something. And the Supreme Court has to have the understanding that in that faith, that that individuals vote means something.

The question I have is how far do you think Donald Trump will go to stay in the White House?

I think again, I think that it's smoke and mirrors on his part. I think he tries to change these things. And I don't think that he's going to be very successful.

Okay, so let's assume that the Democrats, according to the polls, win the presidency, and they take the Senate, which looks quite promising to happen. I'm wondering, how will America change?

Well, I think that Biden is going to offer a reassuring figure, I think there's a chance here to expand the Affordable Care Act. I think that we’ll do a big infrastructure bill. And I think that because Biden is so much a creature of the United States Senate he'll actually develop a working relationship because the margin over there will be narrow. I think there is the prospect of eliminating the filibuster. And I think that Biden is going to have pretty good relationships with the Senate. And you'll have a good relationship with the Democrats and some Republicans in the House. So I think the potential for a Biden presidency could be substantial.

So talk to me, Richie Neal, if you would, about the census. I'm very concerned about that. And I wonder if you could tell us what some of the dangers are, as well as whether you have any good feelings about this?

Well, the census, as you know, is a family undertaking in America. It dates to 1790. And our constitution was developed. And the idea was to every decade, take a snapshot of the American family and what it looked like. It also would go to the heart of some formulaic spending as it related to the demographic trends. But it tells you who lives where in America as well. And constitutional obligation as it relates to congressional apportionment is foremost. I was using that example in a press conference with Senator Markey and some activists here in Springfield on Saturday morning, pointing out that in 93, 94, we lost a seat in Congress from Massachusetts, to the state of Washington by 35,000 people. I mean, that's in my judgment, you look at the rearview mirror, that's why this count is so important. And I see these census takers I roll down my window or one was in the neighborhood a couple of weeks ago, I congratulate them. Tell them how earnest their responsibility is and the obligation that they have to get it right is foremost.

Is Massachusetts in trouble? Is there a possibility of losing more?

No, no, there's not. But I do think, Alan, that if we were able to actually count as the Constitution requires, the enumerated, which would take into consideration people that perhaps are not citizens, but that our constitutional obligation is to count everybody regardless, I think that it would put us in a better position going into the future. I talked to Bill Galvin about that. And we both came to the conclusion that we might have been on the cusp of picking up the seat again, if we were able to count everybody as the Constitution requires.

And we can't because?

Well, one of the one of the challenges you have is that if you're living in the shadows here in Massachusetts, you are unlikely to cooperate with the census.

You’re not going to open the door.

You’re not going to open the door. That's the reality of it. And I think that when you consider that these congressional districts all have about 700,000 people, a little more, that you could quickly come up with another new round of growth that would maybe give us a different snapshot, but because people are afraid to answer the door and afraid to cooperate, I think that the picture will be very different.

Well, Richie Neal, I know how busy you are. Being chairman of the Ways and Means Committee is quite a difficult and strenuous job. I want you to take care of yourself and be safe, okay?

You too, and thanks for the good work you do, Alan. It's important