Freshmen to GOP leadership: We were serious about ‘read the bill’

Jonathan Strong Jonathan Strong, 27, is a reporter for the Daily Caller covering Congress. Previously, he was a reporter for Inside EPA where he wrote about environmental regulation in great detail, and before that a staffer for Rep. Dan Lungren (R-CA). Strong graduated from Wheaton College (IL) with a degree in political science in 2006. He is a huge fan of and season ticket holder to the Washington Capitals hockey team. Strong and his wife reside in Arlington.
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Republican leadership stumbled this week with two bills going down in defeat on the House floor, a highly unusual occurrence in a chamber where the majority rules nearly absolutely and leadership rarely calls votes without knowing in advance they will win.

A key reason one bill went down – a reauthorization of the Patriot Act – was that GOP leaders allowed only 45 minutes of debate on the measure and scheduled the vote under suspension of the rules, usually reserved for non-controversial proposals.

Sen. Rand Paul, Kentucky Republican, blasted his fellow party for how they brought up the bill. “Little debate, no committee hearings held, no amendments allowed, and no examination of whether our government had lived up to its responsibility to protect the liberty of the people,” is how he put it in a press release.

The Daily Caller spoke with freshman Republican Rep. Bobby Schilling of Illinois on his decision to vote no.  Below is a transcript of how, with incomplete information given the limited debate, he “went with his gut” and sided with liberty:

TheDC: Why did you vote against the Patriot Act last night?

Rep. Bobby Schilling (BS): When I was running during the campaign, I even stated you know we need to increase national security, but not without a thorough and complete look at the Patriot Act. One of the things I look at is how much intrusion is enough.

But the big problem I have, is that we had 45 minutes of debate on that thing and I wasn’t comfortable going with just the party-line vote. The people of the 17th district that I represent  — I get a lot of people that sent letters to me saying, “hey, do not vote for this, this an infringement of the Fourth Amendment.”

The bill was rushed to the floor with limited debate. I’m huge on national defense. I’ve got a large family. That is the number one thing we have to do here in Congress is to protect the citizens of the United States. I went with my gut. I didn’t have a lot of information on it and the problem I see with some parts of the Patriot Act is that the wrong person is able to access your information. That could be a problem.

TheDC: So what you’re saying here is that with 45 minutes of debate, with this bill rushed to the floor, you couldn’t make an informed decision?

BS: Exactly, I mean I knew it was coming up. I could have just said “I’m here” and not hit “yay” or “nay.” But I hit the “no.” The big thing that we have to do is make sure that anything we’re voting for we know darn sure what we’re voting for. The way I understood parts of it, there’s some things I have problems with in the Patriot Act.

TheDC: This reminds me of the Tea Party rallies where they chanted “read the bill.”

BS: Exactly. The thing is this a pretty important piece here and for us to have just 45 minutes…

A lot of people out there that have a problem with it, their concern is that a regular citizen of the United States of America is that someone doesn’t like them all of a sudden they’re being checked out for no good reason.

TheDC: Did your fellow freshmen lawmakers also reject the short debate in voting against the Patriot Act reauthorization?

BS: It was actually about a 50-50 in the freshman. I talked to [New York Republican] Rep. Chris Gibson and he was a “no” and on the way over we talked a little about it, and I asked “where are you at on this?” and he goes, “H*** no.”

And then goes “when we swore to uphold the Constitution of the United States of America, it wasn’t just for the Second Amendment.”

And when he said that I thought you know there’s a reason why I’m walking over here with him, and that was my gut and that’s the thing I always want to be able to do is go with what my gut tells me and not be the guy that goes, “oh, how are they doing this one? Ok, I’m there.”

I want to go with what I think is really the right thing. And you know am I going to make perfect votes all the way through? No. But if I’m going with my gut, I’m going to do what I think is best for our district.

TheDC: It’s very unusual for votes to fail on the House floor because the majority has tremendous control over what comes up. What does it say about the leadership now that two bills have failed in rapid succession?

BS: One of the guys I was talking to today said, “what you’ll see happen is that they’ll make sure we get all the information before it comes to a vote.” Because there were a few guys that said, “hey if I had known that, I probably would have went ahead.”

I think what you’ll see is, we’re only 30-some days from being sworn in and I think that there’s some small glitches that are going to be happening. If I can have all the information and make a good sound decision after having everything. But if I can’t get all the information then I’ve just got to go with my gut. And that’s the thing, I’m an independent thinker, and if somebody gives me all the information on an issue I can weigh it out. But as for last night, I don’t think 45 minutes of debate for something that major, to just go out there and pound it through isn’t the right thing to do.

TheDC: What was the reaction from Kevin McCarthy? It’s his job to count votes; did he send any message to people who voted “no” on this?

BS: No, actually I didn’t. I saw him this morning and it was interesting. What happened is I voted last night and I kind of just sat around, and if someone wanted to come and talk to me I was there. If they wanted to say, “hey Bob here’s why you should vote for this,” because you know, I don’t know everything. And I’ll be one to admit that. If someone came up to me and has some good solid lines back to me for why exactly why we need to do this, I’m not saying it would have changed my vote, but at least I’d have a little more info.

But I did get a call as I was walking over to the Cannon Building, I was out on the sidewalk and I got a call saying, “hey, these guys are flipping votes, how solid are you on here?”

And I said, “Well, I’m pretty solid, if someone wants to talk to me I’ll listen but I can’t guarantee it.”

And as soon [as I] went up there and as I walked into the door for someone to talk to me, the gavel came down and it was over.