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In Election Year, Sen. Gardner Says Senate Is Focused On American People


2018, it's a congressional election year, which we hardly need to mention to our next guest. Senator Cory Gardner of Colorado leads the National Republican Senatorial Committee, charged with keeping his party in the Senate majority if they can do it. Republicans also aspire to send legislation to President Trump's desk this year although the president remains, to say the least, unpredictable. Senator, welcome to the program.

CORY GARDNER: Hey, thanks for having me.

INSKEEP: I just have to mention. So we're into a new year. And so far this year, the president has denounced North Korea - said his nuclear button is bigger - attacked Pakistan, attacked an aide to Hillary Clinton, criticized Iran, attacked the media, talked up voter fraud, said his former aide Stephen Bannon lost his mind. And it's January 4. Is this helpful to you either in terms of electoral politics or policy?

GARDNER: Look. I think the president is going to continue doing what the president has done. That's up to him and his administration. What we will continue to do in the Senate is focus on policies that help the American people. And that's what we focused on the past year. That's why we passed a tax relief bill that's going to help millions upon millions of Americans around the country keep more of their own dollars in their own pocket. That's why you passed legislation to revitalize our STEM education programs earlier in the year. And that's why we'll continue to cut regulations, grow businesses and help people take home more money.

INSKEEP: But did anything the president has done over the last several days in public help your cause?

GARDNER: Well, look. I think it's not about the president. I think the American people know the president is going to tweet what's on his mind. I wouldn't have done what he did. But the fact is this. We've got to focus on helping the American people whether that's Colorado, whether that's Missouri, whether that's North Dakota. All 50 states, that's our focus. And we're going to continue to do our job and let people ask the president about the president's actions.

INSKEEP: Well, there's a substantive issue here that is before Congress because, of course, the Senate and the House are investigating and having to do with Russian interference in the 2016 election. And one of the disputes in which the president has weighed in, in recent days, involves that his former aide Steve Bannon described a meeting with Trump's son, his son-in-law and campaign chairman and a Russian lawyer as treasonous or unpatriotic. And, of course, this is one of the meetings at the center of the investigation of Russian interference. I'd just like to ask you, from the outside, when you think about that meeting, do you think about it in those terms?

GARDNER: When I think about anything relating to this, I think about the investigation that's taking place. And that's why it needs to be thorough. It needs to be fair. It needs to be as quick as possible. We need the results. We need the conclusions. And I'm not going to speculate about what did or didn't occur. I'm not going to speculate about what the facts can be inferred to mean. What I hope to do is to see through an investigation that's bipartisan in the Senate that continues with the Mueller investigation. Let's get this done. Let's get these results to the American people. That's what we have an obligation to do.

INSKEEP: You don't want to endorse those words like treasonous or unpatriotic.

GARDNER: Again, I think that's why we're having an investigation, to make sure we know the facts. And everything else right now, I think, is - we have to wait for the facts.

INSKEEP: As you know, Senator, Steve Bannon has wanted to play in the 2018 congressional elections and support certain candidates and support a certain point of view. Does his break with President Trump complicate your job in any way?

GARDNER: Well, I think Mr. Bannon has played in the 2018 elections, and he lost Alabama. That's a pretty amazing feat for a Republican. And so what we know we have to do, as candidates who run good races, candidates who represent their state, candidates who work hard, who go home, who show up - they're the ones who are going to be victorious. It doesn't matter who's behind them whether it's the president, whether it's Steve Bannon, whether it's the National Republican Senatorial Committee or whether it's the Democrat Senatorial Committee. What happens is candidates who are going to do the best job for their states are going to get the votes of their state.

INSKEEP: Does the break between Bannon and Trump represent any larger fissure within the Republican Party?

GARDNER: I've never been concerned about the relationship of the president with Steve Bannon in terms of campaigns or elections or what it means for candidacy's successes. What I'm focused on is making sure that our incumbents and our candidates represent the best values of the American people. That's growing the economy. That's doing what they can to make sure Americans feel like they're going to be better off tomorrow than they are today. And that's making sure that we represent those values of whatever state it is that they're seeking to represent.

INSKEEP: Let me ask about some legislation that, in some people's minds, is very urgent - having to do with DACA, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. Many people, after President Trump declared an end to that program, are waiting for a legislative fix. You're sitting there considering that as a senator and also as the head of the Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee. Is it to the political benefit of your party to allow a DACA fix to get through Congress before the election?

GARDNER: Well, I hope people don't look at DACA through the lens of a political guise only.

INSKEEP: Well, you can hope - but, well, not only.

GARDNER: Right, right.

INSKEEP: But let's just ask about it in those terms if you don't mind.

GARDNER: You know, look. I think it's important that we do what's right and doing what's right is good politics. And good policy is good politics, as the old saying goes. And so if you look at the children who were brought to this country, through no fault of their own at very young age, we're not going to hold them responsible for the acts of their parents. And I think most Americans - a majority of Americans agree with that whether that's Republicans - Democrats. They understand that if your 3 year old crosses your neighbor's lawn - front yard, you're not going to charge them with trespass. We don't do that in this country. And so that's why I think it's important that we find a solution that can be bipartisan in this nation. And I'm excited about the opportunity to bring a bipartisan solution for so many DREAMers.

INSKEEP: Cory Gardner of Colorado, thanks for the time - always appreciate it.

GARDNER: Thanks. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.