Fourth U.S. Congressional District Rep. Scott DesJarlais said in an Aug. 15 interview there are so many things that need to be done, but he expects more of the same from the nation’s Capitol and nothing of any significance will get done until after the 2014 elections.
“If Republicans don’t take the Senate, I don’t see anything happening until 2016,” he said. “I wish I could be more optimistic.”
But, he asked, what legislation could he write that three people in a room in Southeast Tennessee could agree on that Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., could take to the Senate and President Barack Obama would sign into law?
“It’s a situation where, maybe you can call it obstructionism or maybe just limited government. If nothing else, we’ve kind of stopped the excessive spending. We’ve made it more difficult for the Obama administration to push its agenda which I think is a government-dependent agenda,” he said. “I don’t think they have a problem with more people being on food stamps, welfare and unemployment. They like the concept of a nanny state in my opinion, because they’ve done nothing to curtail the things that are running up the debt. I blame both sides of the aisle for not addressing things like Medicare and Social Security, which we know are on a path of insolvency.”
He said there are maybe 20 reliable conservative votes that would fall on their swords for the country and that is not enough to get anything done.
“We haven’t even gotten into what’s going on in the Middle East, the phony scandals and the IRS targeting conservatives,” he said.
When asked if the IRS was one of those phony scandals, he replied, “It is not. We’ve got it at least to a political appointee. The chief counsel for the IRS had all these cases that were allegedly coming from all these rogue agents in Cincinnati,” he said. “A Miss Elizabeth Hoffacker had 45 of the cases. She testified in front of our oversight committee that she had to send them to a Mr. Carter Hull, who was a 48-year veteran of the IRS who said he had never seen anything like this. He was used to making the call on these (types of) cases. He would say you are tax exempt or you are not. They weren’t letting him do it either, one of their most experienced people.”
He said Carter had to send the exemption requests to IRS chief counsel, William Wilkins, who was one of two Obama appointees in the IRS.
“Now, Lois Lerner, who wouldn’t testify, who took the Fifth (Amendment), we’ve got a text message from her to a guy named Braun. That was one of Obama’s attorneys in 2008 and 2009. So she’s communicating about this to him, so in my heart of hearts, I believe the president knew that the IRS was suppressing his opposition,” DesJarlais said. “Most of these conservative agencies were going to raise money to use against him and he knew it. That’s wrong. This isn’t Russia. It’s America and you shouldn’t be targeted by a taxpayer-funded agency because of your political beliefs.”
He said many people who joined the tea party initially “were doctors, lawyers, main street people and then the media villainized the tea party to the point that they were these crazy, right-wing, radical people.”
The tea party, he said, did not exactly go into hiding after the last general election, but it changed.
“Any group, regardless of whether it’s Occupy Wall Street or any other group, the media will always pick the seediest of the seediest to interview,” he said. “But, there are a lot of issues where the tea party is disgusted with the Republican Party and a lot of Republicans disgusted with the lack of leadership.”
DesJarlais said when he first ran for Congress in 2010, candidates had to be 100 percent in step with the tea party or they were against you.
“You couldn’t differ with them on anything. If I had a different stance on the U.N., which mine has kind of changed since I’ve learned more about the U.N., how we’re funding it and the other countries aren’t paying their dues,” he said.
During his two terms in Congress, he has gained support of the tea party.
“I know the media likes to call me the tea party freshman, but I’m not part of the caucus. I’ve never been a member of the caucus, but I get labeled a tea party guy more than any of them,” he said.
He has been a part of the “no labels” movement in Congress for two years, along with Rep. Jim Cooper, a Democrat from Nashville.
“I wish it would pick up a little more traction. It’s almost like ‘no labels’ has become a label,” he said. “I told them we need to do this more off the record. Republicans and Democrats need to get together and have dinner, find something we can agree on. [But] if we publicize it, it’s going to turn into something that is not as effective,” he said. “It hasn’t become what I’d hoped.”
He expected it to become like the 20/20 caucus with 20 Democrats and 20 Republicans who felt and thought alike solidifying around a vote.
“You can pretty much block or make any vote happen with 40 people. If you can get them from both sides of the aisle, you can see some good legislation,” he said. “I just think the marching orders have been sent down in both parties to not cooperate, like on the farm bill. We were told we had ‘X’ number of Democratic votes and 65 Republicans, including Republican committee chairmen who are normally more lockstep voters with doing what they’re told. They’re just divided on this issue. I’ve voted against (House Speaker John) Boehner and (Majority Leader Eric) Cantor about nine times where they’ve whipped the hell out of me. But, it’s not what I thought the voters of the 4th District wanted. I’m probably not their favorite guy, but I felt like it was what I was sent to do, and I don’t mind doing that because I’m there to be the 4th District’s favorite guy.
“You may not stay in office long because you make enemies, and I feel like in the health care arena, I’ve been attacked for no good reason.”
He said newspaper headlines about him having sex with patients are untrue.
“The bottom line is I dated a girl for four months who I knew for six years outside the practice, in public, everyone knew we were dating — it’s no different than treating my wife. What I got slapped with from the AMA was a statue that said you shouldn’t be romantically involved with someone you’ve treated as a patient.
“Ask any doctor if they’ve ever treated their wife as a patient. If they have, they had better be quiet because if a political group turns in a complaint and the Tennessee Medical Board gets a little pushy because the national media says they aren’t policing their doctors in Tennessee, then you’re going to end up in a pickle.”
The congressman said he has upset Blue Cross Blue Shield. He upset nursing homes because he went against Medicaid expansion and went against state insurance exchanges.
“When you ruffle their feathers, you’ve got a lot of enemies,” he said. “I understand some of my political woes were brought on by myself for standing up against people who are powerful, like the Tennessee Hospital Association. They’re mad at me, hospitals are, pharmaceutical companies are, because in my opinion, they’re in bed with the government and that’s not what I was sent there to do.”
As a practicing doctor, he routinely gave flu shots, but now “you can get them at the grocery store.”
Though he doesn’t mind competition, he said the little guy — whether it’s a small business on main street or a solo practitioner — “it just seems like the government wants big entities. They are making it harder and harder for small business to survive, and it’s a shame because that’s what built this country.”
DesJarlais said he accepts political action committee money when it is offered, but he is not a favorite among PACs. He listens to their arguments and then votes his conscious, “but I won’t take money for votes. I don’t feel like I’ve ever done that, so I’m not the big PAC fundraiser like some of them are.”
Though he is not the biggest fundraiser for the 2014 elections, in June and July he was in Washington every week, except for the Fourth of July. He expects to do better once he ramps up his campaign.
“I’ve got to get busy raising money. Those guys (in the race) did a good job by coming out early. But, you don’t have to have the most money, you just have to have enough money,” he said.