Q&A: Coble on 'New Era'
Congressman Howard Coble doubts that Congress will succeed in repealing the health care reform bill, but he predicts that the U.S. Supreme Court might eventually strike it down.
"I can't prove this, but if the Supreme Court were to accept the case, I believe the health care plan would probably be defeated by a 5-4 vote," the Republican 6th District congressman said Wednesday in an interview with The Pilot. "That's just my gut feeling."
Among other topics, Coble also expressed deep concern about the violence in Egypt and predicted that former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin would not win the Republican nomination in 2012.
Coble answered questions posed by Senior Writer Florence Gilkeson, Editor Steve Bouser and Publisher David Woronoff. Here, edited for length, is the text of their recorded discussion.
Q: Congressman, how does it feel to be part of the [Republican U.S. House] majority now?
A: Some of these newly elected folks may think, you know, "By golly, this is a new era that will last eternally." Many of these voters last November weren't voting for us, they were voting against them. And that is indeed a different ball game.
We'd better produce or they may show us the gate that leads to the road out of town.
Q: So this new mood that prevailed at the State of the Union - is that going to last much longer?
A: Well, I hope so, because I think that's something else that the voters were annoyed about - just too much bickering. And both parties are to blame for it, I think.
Mel Watt [Democratic congressman from North Carolina] and I sat together at the State of the Union. I usually go to the Republican cloakroom, be it a Republican or Democrat president. I don't like getting up and down 15 times, and I get to the media quicker. And I told Mel, I said, I'll be in the cloakroom.
Well, then I got to thinking. Here Mel's invited me to join him, and I rejected the invitation. So I went back to him later in the day, and I said, "Is that invitation still out?" He said sure. So I said, "I'll go with you. But I ain't going to get up and down 15 times." And he said, "Neither am I."
And I think the only time he and I stood up is when we praised the troops. Everybody stood up then.
Q: You voted in favor of repealing the health care reform bill. Do you really want that to happen, or was that just kind of a statement?
A: Well, maybe a combination of both. I think health care, the delivery of health care, is indeed an issue that needs attention. But this one was too voluminous, and I believe if you can say something in a page, you don't need three pages. And this thing was in excess I think of 2,000 pages.
But it appears that the provision that requires you to purchase health insurance and then upon your failure to do so, then you'll be penalized, that flies into the teeth of the Constitution, according to two courts. Now there are two other courts that indicate that it does pass constitutional muster. So I think that's where we are on that issue.
Q: Obviously the Senate and the man in the White House are not going to go along with repeal. Do you see any light at the end of the tunnel, that there might be compromise -possible?
A: Perhaps. I don't think it's likely that the Congress is going to repeal the whole thing. This may come as a result of what the courts say. And I can't prove this, but if the Supreme Court were to accept the case, I believe the health care plan would probably be defeated by a 5-4 vote. That's just my gut feeling.
Q: How worried should we be about what's going on in Egypt right now?
A: Very, I think. Folks, this is not just going to involve Cairo and Alexandria. This is going to involve all of us, I'm afraid. The good news is, this guy is our guy. He has kept what some folks call a cold peace between the Mideast and Israel, but a peace nonetheless. And I don't think we can haphazardly reject that as insignificant.
The bad news is I don't think we can afford to turn a blind eye or a deaf ear to the protesters. Obama's presidency has been criticized, and maybe rightly so. I don't know this for certain. I don't sit on the Intelligence Committee. But they were criticized for their very docile and tentative response in Iran, when they felt like we should have maybe been more vocally supportive of the protesters n Iran. We don't have "our guy" to worry about in Iran, as we do in Egypt.
Now it appears, from what I can gather, he's indicated he will step aside in September. Well, that's not going to satisfy the protesters. But I think, to answer your question, we need to be very much concerned about this.
Q: How's the Republican race for president shaping up? Who are you rooting for for 2012?
A: Well, my choice last time was Romney, and I'm still leaning more toward Romney. Now I noticed the ambassador to China submitted his resignation effective n April. So I have no idea what his plans are, but I think he may be eyeballing this thing as well.
Newt Gingrich is probably the most brilliant visionary I've ever known personally. They say, well, he probably couldn't be elected. Well, I don't know if he could or not, but I certainly think he's going to be a candidate. [Former Minnesota Gov. Tim] Pawlenty, obviously in it. Romney, obviously in it. Now a guy I like, and he's definitely a long shot, he's [Sen. John] Thune from South Dakota. He comes from a small state, but I think has a lot of appeal, and I think he may well be a candidate.
Q: I can't help noticing these have all been guys. What about [former Alaska Gov. Sarah] Palin?
A: I don't believe she would win our nomination. Here again, that's a gut feeling, but I'd be surprised if she became our nominee.
Q: This is out of your field, but I'd like to get your reaction to the Democrats' decision to bring their national convention to Charlotte.
A: Well, I'm excited about it. Do you all know we just hosted the national U.S. figure skating event in Greensboro, and it generated several million dollars? And I think you can compound this four or five times with the Charlotte event. That's going to generate a whole lot of revenue. And I'm excited about it. Not my party - my mama and daddy's party, but not my party. But I'm glad to have them come to Charlotte.
Q: What about your plans for 2012?
A: (Laughter.) I'll tell you what I've told [others]: I'm getting long in the tooth. Fortunately, knock on wood, I'm still in good health. But 80, folks, just sounds terrible to me. I'll survive, I'm going to make it OK. But I don't know.
And I'm not playing games with you. They're accusing Newt of playing games when he always says, 'Well, I'll let you know about that later.' I won't be up there eternally. And I've told you all this story. It happened at the old Southern Pines police station. A constituent - I wish I had remembered his name - he came up to me and said, "How long are you going to stay up there? You ain't going to stay up there as long as Strom Thurmond, are you?" I can assure you I'm not going to try to break Strom Thurmond's record.
Q: With the shooting of Congressman (Gabrielle) Giffords, have you ever worried about your safety at constituent events and subject to any threats that you might take more seriously now?
A: I've probably been too casual about it. We've gotten a handful, but I figure I've been the beneficiary, if you can call that being a beneficiary, of death threats - probably 25 to 40 in the long haul. Most of them came during the impeachment (of former President Bill Clinton).
We've never referred those threats to any law-enforcement entity, because we concluded that it was just some mentally deranged person venting his anger here, there and yonder. I may be less casual now in view of what happened in Tucson. But I don't plan to remarkably change my pattern - pretty much do it the same way.
I was visiting a second-grade classroom in rural Gilford County. "Where's your limousine, where's your chauffeur, where's your bodyguard?"
I said, well, none of the above. I don't plan to alter that. It will still be a casual response. But that was a terrible thing. I didn't know her personally. But I heard nothing bad about her from Democrats and Republicans before the accident. So she was held in high regard in the halls of Congress.
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