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Republican Sen. Cory Gardner On Gorsuch Hearing And Health Care Bill

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Having heard from Neil Gorsuch, the Senate Judiciary Committee soon votes on his nomination to the Supreme Court. Gorsuch is from Colorado, and we have one of his home-state senators on the line, Republican Cory Gardner. Senator, welcome back.

CORY GARDNER: Thank you. Good morning.

INSKEEP: Do you think that Gorsuch is going to have 60 votes, assuming it gets to the full Senate?

GARDNER: I do think he should have 60 votes. I think he will have 60 votes. There are a number of people who have tuned in over the last three days and understand why he deserves to be on the Supreme Court.

INSKEEP: Do you favor what's called the nuclear option, eliminating the filibuster, doing it with 51, if Democrats do manage to keep him away from 60 votes? And there are some Democrats suggesting he's not to 60 yet.

GARDNER: You know, I don't think we'll have to come to that. I think we'll have 60 votes just like we have for every other Supreme Court justice that we've put forward. So I think it's important that we make that happen.

INSKEEP: How do you think he's done in these hearings?

GARDNER: I think he's done exceptionally well. He's showed how even-tempered he is. He shows a brilliant legal mind. He's tried to explore where he can, without violating judicial ethics, as many of the questions as possible. And they have lobbed hours upon hours of questions at him.

INSKEEP: Although they've tried to just get a sense of what his legal philosophy is, and he's avoided that, as many nominees do.

GARDNER: Well, you know, again, I think there's certain ethics, certain rules, that he cannot cross, including issues that may pertain to cases that might arise before him. The last thing you want is a Supreme Court justice who's already tainted his decisions, and I think he's very well aware of that.

INSKEEP: Let me ask about the weirdness of this moment of the nomination, Senator, because at the same time that these hearings are going on, which would normally be by far the biggest story in Washington, there are questions about the Russia investigation, the investigation of Russian meddling in the election, the disclosure yesterday by Devin Nunes, the House Intelligence Committee chairman. And amid all of that, your state's governor, John Hickenlooper of Colorado, made a statement questioning the legitimacy of the president who appointed Gorsuch because of the Russia probe. This is part of the quote - "maybe we should wait another four and - four or five months and see what this investigation proves?" Should you wait?

GARDNER: Well, I think it is not a good situation for any leader in this country to question the legitimacy of the president of the United States, whether that's Barack Obama or Donald Trump, the current elected president. If Democrats think that Russia cost Hillary Clinton the election, they're going to continue to lose elections. Did Russia meddle in the election? From the evidence, from what we've seen, yes, they attempted to. Did they try to involve and influence it? Absolutely, they did. But did they affect the outcome and all of a sudden make Hillary Clinton a bad candidate? No, they did not. She was a bad candidate to begin with. And so if you're looking, as a Republican, I guess you hope that they hang their hat on the fact that Hillary Clinton lost because of the Russians because they'll continue to lose elections after that.

INSKEEP: One question, of course, is whether there was collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. Based on the evidence that you've seen, do you have a view of this one way or the other?

GARDNER: I don't have a - again, that's why we're doing an investigation. I'm not on the Intel Committee, and so I've supported the investigation, and I have confidence in the FBI to carry this out. But what I do know is this - the Democrats are trying to obstruct every nominee coming before the United States Senate. I think it's a shameful act. It's the slowest rate of a confirmation process since George Washington. And I think the American people are going to get sick and tired of the kind of politics that are being played in Washington.

INSKEEP: Just a few seconds left here, Senator, but I do want to ask about the replacement of the Affordable Care Act, which the House is expected to vote on today. If it passes, it comes to you, comes to you in the Senate. If that version of the law - that version of the bill became law, would it be good for Colorado?

GARDNER: Well, I'm not going to play hypotheticals on it if that version becomes the law because we have to see what happens in the House tonight. We have to see what happens with the amendments that will be adopted in the House and the Senate as it moves forward. And then we'll have a bill that we hope is better than what we have now, which is a bill that has cost hundreds of thousands of people in Colorado their insurance plans. They've lost their doctors as a result, and they've seen their insurance premiums increase.

INSKEEP: Are you comfortable with the measure as it is now, or do you need to see it amended in order to vote for it?

GARDNER: This is a legislative process. It will be amended in the House as, I think, tonight as planned. And then it will continue to go through a legislative process in the Senate. So bottom line is what we have right now, the Affordable Care Act, is unacceptable for the American people because it's hurt far too many people.

INSKEEP: Are you OK with the Medicaid provisions, limiting the amount of money that would go to states for Medicaid?

GARDNER: What we have to do is make sure the states have flexibility and more functionality when it comes to implementing a program. I have full confidence that the states can do a better job than Washington, D.C., in many areas of government. And so I look forward to working on a solution that works for the states and works with the people.

INSKEEP: Is that a yes? Just got a couple seconds. That's a yes, you like the Medicaid provision?

GARDNER: Well, again, I think - this is a process. I'm not going to commit to a hypothetical bill.

INSKEEP: OK. OK. Senator, thanks very much, really appreciate you taking the time.

GARDNER: Thanks.

INSKEEP: That's Colorado's Cory Gardner. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.