Rep. Buck McKeon (R)
David W. Erickson (L)
Robert Rodriguez (D)

Candidates for 25th Congressional District

Interview by Leon Worden
Signal Senior Editor

Sunday, October 15, 2006
(Television interview conducted November 1, 2006)

    "Newsmaker of the Week" is presented by the SCV Press Club and Comcast, and hosted by Signal Senior Editor Leon Worden. The program premieres every Wednesday at 9:30 p.m. on SCVTV Channel 20, repeating Sundays at 8:30 a.m.

Signal: In the next two years, what is your single biggest priority issue, and what background or skills do you have that make you think you can do something about it?

McKeon: First of all, thank you for hosting this and giving us a chance to get together. My biggest priority — I chair the Committee on Education and the Workforce, and we have the responsibility in the next Congress to reauthorize the No Child Left Behind Act. As chairman, that will fall upon me as my No. 1 committee responsibility. There are still some things that we need to finish up that we haven't finished from this Congress: the Higher Education Act reauthorization and the Workforce Investment Act that have been stalled in the Senate, but hopefully we can get those finished quickly and then move on to No Child Left Behind. Those are on a national front, and they're important ... and then of course here at home, the most important thing is the Cemex mine, and that's what we'll be working on full-time.

Erickson: My No. 1 priority would be to eliminate all the federal laws on education, like No Child Left Behind, which are all unconstitutional, because the federal government doesn't have any authorization to be involved in education. But I would also introduce a constitutional amendment to require all state and local governments, also, not to be involved in education, and get government out of schools completely and make all education, all schools, private or home-schooling. I don't really have any qualifications to get that done, but that's what I would do.

Rodriguez: I think it's cleaning house. I think right now we see broken government. We see big money, big lobbyist money that's steering our policy. I think we need to get back to a time when our government looks out for the American people rather than the big, special interests that we see on Capitol Hill right now. I worked on Capitol Hill, and I grew up in a working-class family in Barstow, Calif., and my father worked for Santa Fe Railroad and I had a sister who was very ill; (she) went through two kidney transplants, kidney dialysis — and having those personal experiences really brings light to what's really going on on Capitol Hill. We can look from Iraq to Medicare Part D, the prescription drug bill, to education, higher education, and it all comes back to the big money that's in politics. So I think it's increasing that transparency in government and holding our politicians accountable.

Signal: Iraq. Stay the course, or cut and run?

Rodriguez: Well, not stay the course, nor cut and run — but we need to finally do what President Bush told us he was going to do when he stood on the rubble of the World Trade Center and said, "It's time to go after Osama bin Laden." You know, I believed my president when he said, "I want this man dead or alive," and I had a flight on Sept. 11 going back to grad school — the reverse route from L.A. to Boston, nonstop. Talk about hitting home: It hit home. I have two cousins who just returned from Iraq, and I have many friends who are there right now, and we know we're in a civil war there. It's time to listen to the generals and finally engage the international community. We see what's going on; it's time to get out of those no-bid Halliburton-Kellogg, Brown & Root contracts. We have soldiers that I talked to just outside of Fort Irwin military base, which is right in our district, and they tell me they're sick and tired of making $35,000 a year working in a convoy next to one of these Halliburton or Kellogg employees making $150,000 to $175,000 a year, tax-free money.

McKeon: I think the Democratic position has been cut and run, and it's been kind of all across the board. The president has said, when he gave that speech and when he came and talked to us right after Sept. 11 — a few days after he came to Capitol Hill and he talked — he said, "We are involved in a war against terror. We are going to prosecute. This war's going to take a long time, it's going to be tough." And you know what? We need to have the patience. We need to persevere. We need to win. And he's going to be changing tactics as he does. He listens to the generals, he listens to the military advisors, and he follows and gives them the help that they need. I think that we have to stay there until we win.

Erickson: The real issue with Iraq is that we shouldn't be there in the first place and wouldn't be there in the first place if Congress had done its constitutional duty to declare war. Because if they had made a declaration of war, a lot of the lies that got us in there in the first place would have been exposed before we invaded instead of after. Now that we are there, we need to get out, and the war in Iraq has nothing to do with the war on terrorism. All the terrorists over there — there were no terrorists in Iraq that were bothering us before we invaded; now we've created a lot of them. So if the intent of the war on terror is to create more terrorists, it's an astounding success.

Signal: Social Security. Is it broken? Does it need to be fixed? What would you do to fix it?

Erickson: It is broken, but it doesn't need to be fixed; it needs to be eliminated. It's also unconstitutional. But obviously it can't be just cut off immediately; it needs to be phased out so that everybody who's already retired (and who has) paid into Social Security all their lives will get what they were promised, and the people that are currently working like me will get a prorated amount based on how long we already put money into Social Security. People who haven't yet entered the workforce shouldn't even be allowed to pay into Social Security. It needs to be phased out and eliminated, eventually, and people can take care of their own retirement with company pension plans and IRAs and however else they want to do it, just like they did it before Social Security was started in the 1930s.

Rodriguez: I think what first needs to happen is that Congress needs to quit spending the Social Security trust fund to cover deficits that are run in other programs. Since President Bush has taken office, $825 billion has been taken from that trust fund alone, and if Congress doesn't want to be fiscally responsible, if they want to run deficits in other programs, do not take Social Security money. It's time to restore that fiscal responsibility back on Capitol Hill and give seniors the respect they deserve. They worked hard to build this country into what it is today, and they deserve the respect in return, whether it's Social Security or whether it's Medicare Part D, they deserve this respect from politicians and from all Americans.

McKeon: Social Security has been one of the mainstays since the 1930s for people in retirement. It was always meant to be a safety net. And it's still there, very important, and we need to do all we can to preserve it. In 39 years, if we don't address some of the shortcomings, we will have less people paying in than drawing benefits, and it doesn't take a genius to figure out that that's not going to work. So at some point, we need to have enough leadership that all of us will come to the table and sit down and listen. The president tried to address this in the last couple of years, and the Democrat leadership on the other side of the aisle would not even talk. We need to be adults about this, and we need to sit down and address this issue before it gets too late. The closer we get to it, the harder it is to fix it.

Signal: In 2008, Cemex, the Mexican national cement company, is preparing to mine sand and gravel in Soledad Canyon. Over the next two years, what would you do about it? Is it as big a problem as people in Santa Clarita seem to think, and what could you do to help stop it?

McKeon: I think it is a big problem. Back in 1990, the BLM signed a contract with Southdown, who later sold to Cemex. They have won court case after court case showing that they have the right to mine in that spot. I think the city has been putting up a great fight to hold them back. There was a point where negotiations broke down, and I got the leadership of Cemex and BLM and the city leadership in my office in Washington to try to get their negotiations going. If they can come to some kind of agreement that we can work on to solve the problem, then I will carry legislation to put it into effect in federal law, because the BLM comes under federal law, and until they come to agreement, the legislation really won't carry any weight.

Erickson: I agree it's a problem, and I am opposed to it. I don't know the specifics on what I would do; if I did get elected, I would look into the details and work out the specifics on what I could do to stop it. But the real issue with that is it shouldn't even be up to the federal government. All that BLM land should belong to the state of California, like most of the rest of the federal land should belong to the states instead of the federal government, and if it was a local issue, then it could be dealt with locally in the state of California and we wouldn't have to rely on the politicians in Washington, D.C., to make our decisions for us.

Rodriguez: I think it's an extremely huge problem, and it needs to be stopped. I actually reached out to Congressman Brad Sherman this week and got him to agree that when Congress goes back into session, that he will co-sponsor Mr. McKeon's bill. I think that more needs to be done. I think that just simply dropping a bill and getting no co-sponsors is not the answer. I think you have to reach out to people across both aisles and make them understand just how important this is, to get this mine stopped. You know, you look at these "Thank You" banners that were all around town, and I think, save the "Thank You" banners until the job is done. No deception to people. Let's really take it to Cemex and stop this. Few people realize this, but Tom DeLay's brother was a lobbyist on behalf of Cemex, and I think it's this kind of stuff that needs to get brought out there. Mr. McKeon received a 95 percent rating from the National Association of Sand, Stone & Gravel, and I think things like this need to be brought up so that people know whose side people really are on.

Signal: Illegal immigration. Should we have a 700-mile fence? Should we have open borders? Should we have amnesty for people who are already here?

Rodriguez: Well, we definitely need to secure those borders, but we need to understand there are roots to this problem, and one of them is enforcement of laws that we already have. Just last year, only three cases happened where employers were fined for having illegal immigrants. We need to step that up. I think D.C. needs to quit playing politics and quit saying, "We're going to do this, we're going to do that," and doing nothing. This Republican Congress has been in control for six years now — six years in control of every branch of government, and has been in control of Congress since 1994 — and nothing's been done about this. I think people want real solutions to real problems. Just two months ago, they were fighting over what to name this bill. I think that we definitely need to get on that route where we secure those borders so we know what's coming in and out, commodities or people. We need to know what's happening, and we need to get realistic. We know there's 10 million to 12 million undocumented immigrants here, and we know it's going to cost $200 billion to round them all up, and I think people rather want our troops going after Osama bin Laden and protecting our borders rather than going after women and children.

McKeon: No open borders. No amnesty for illegal immigrants that are in this country illegally. I've been down to the border. I've seen the problem years ago. I was down there again this year, met with the Border Patrol, saw the problems that they're dealing with. We have increased the number of Border Patrol (agents). We have been building a fence along the border. We've already closed down much of the illegal immigrants coming across. It's a tough battle. We just passed Monday to authorize another 500 Border Patrol agents, and I think that we need to get serious, more serious about this issue, because it's not just a problem with people coming and taking jobs; it's a problem with our national security. So I'm convinced that this is something that we have to address much more seriously.

Erickson: The border definitely needs to be secured, and that is a proper function of the federal government. In fact, if Congress wasn't so busy doing stuff it's not supposed to be doing, it could devote more attention to the border. But the border definitely needs to be secured. I don't like a fence for a variety of reasons, and particularly the 700-mile fence, which doesn't even cover the whole border, so it's not going to accomplish much. But the border can be secured with Border Patrol agents and also by using things like making sure employers verify citizenship before employing the immigrants, and then we can control the illegal immigration. Once the borders are under control, then we can decide what to do with the illegals that are already here. As long as we can secure the borders, I'm not too concerned about the ones that are already here because eventually they will assimilate.

Signal: Many teachers and administrators in the Santa Clarita Valley have expressed concerns about the targets in No Child Left Behind, particularly the requirement that special education students and non-native English speakers will soon be expected to meet the same high standards as mainstream students. What are your thoughts for reform to No Child Left Behind?

Erickson: I wouldn't reform it — I already addressed this earlier — No Child Left Behind needs to be abolished, along with every other federal law that deals with education. In fact, we need to get government out of education completely, and stop dumbing down and brainwashing the future generations. That's my solution to No Child Left Behind — get rid of it.

Rodriguez: First, I think if the federal government is going to put these mandates on our schools, they need to fully fund this program. They need to equip our schools and our teachers and our administrators with the tools necessary to meet these standards. I have a brother who is a seventh-grade history teacher, and they're required to teach seventh grade versus some sixth grade, as well. If we're going to hold teachers accountable, let's hold them accountable on the subject material they are responsible for, and let's get some teachers involved in this process. It's time for D.C. to stop thinking that they know better than us and know better than everybody. Teachers are on the ground. They're in the classrooms. Let's get them involved in this process.

McKeon: Our public education system has been something that the rest of the world has looked up to for years, but lately, for the last many years, we've not quite been measuring up because we've only been educating about half of our young people. In the 1970s, they passed a law to try to close the gap between the haves and the have-nots, the minorities and the majority, and it was about 14 points. We passed No Child Left Behind; it has closed that gap. Nine-year-olds, 13-year-olds are testing better in reading and math than ever in history, and the gap between African-American, Hispanic and the white students is closing. It's at an all-time low. Having said that, I have the responsibility as chairman of the Education and the Workforce Committee to see through the reauthorization of this in the next Congress. I've been traveling around the country, I've met with our local teachers and administrators, held hearings in Washington and around the country to listen to people, to find out what the problems are. I hear about the special needs, I hear about the ESL problem; we will address those as we go through the reauthorization.

Signal: One concern in Santa Clarita is the so-called Whittaker-Bermite property in the center of the city. Throughout much of the 20th Century, a succession of companies that manufactured bombs, flares, fireworks, left pollution behind on this 1,000-acre site. One contaminant we often hear about is perchlorate. To what extent do you believe it is the federal government's responsibility to be involved in the cleanup of pollution left behind by a private company such as the ones here or perhaps a defense contractor in the Antelope Valley?

McKeon: I think it bears a responsibility because they were the ones hiring the company. I think they don't have all the responsibility, but I think they have some of the responsibility. The way the program is working out, I've been able to bring home millions of dollars to help clean up the perchlorate, to isolate it and clean it up, and we're making good progress there. But the company is gone, some of their subsidiaries are picking up some responsibility, and their insurance companies are picking up part of the responsibility, and I think that it's very important that we get it totally cleaned up before we move forward in developing the land. I think that as you move forward, you have to get it cleaned up.

Erickson: It shouldn't be the federal government's responsibility at all. The state of California can more than adequately deal with that problem by itself without involvement from the federal government.

Rodriguez: They have a tremendous responsibility, because most of those came through the Department of Defense. I worked for Sen. Boxer and she was a big champion of this issue. I saw firsthand the amount of groundwater contamination that happened. And it just doesn't stop with perchlorate. You know, in our 25th District is where the whole Erin Brockovich scandal happened. I have friends who, from groundwater contamination, who had hysterectomies at 21 years old, women who can't have children. I've seen this firsthand. There's a responsibility, and the federal government needs to step up to the plate and deal with this issue right now because there are too many lives at stake, too many children at stake.

Signal: Not necessarily opposites, but: Increase the minimum wage, or cut taxes?

Rodriguez: We definitely need to increase the minimum wage. I think for too long, the American people have been waiting for this to happen, and this Congress is playing games with it. They've gone on the record numerous times and said that they're not going to increase the minimum wage, they're not going to increase the minimum wage. And then just before Congress left session, they held a vote with the minimum wage — and Mr. McKeon knows about this extremely well; as the chairman of the Education and Workforce, he can call that vote — and they tied it to the estate tax, knowing full well that it was going to get killed. I think that's why the American people are fed up with this, and we need tax cuts to go to the real people who deserve them: to the middle class. The working class. People who are going to take that money and invest it right here in our communities. They're struggling every day with higher gas prices, with higher energy costs, and they need that money in their pockets. They know how to spend it better than the federal government does. I think it's about time we give the working class that tax cut they deserve.

McKeon: I voted for every tax cut that we've had since I've been in Congress. I'm strongly in favor of tax cuts. Give the money back to the people, let them spend it. That's the way we move the economy. Since the tax cut of 2001, we have put $1.1 trillion back into people's pockets. We have added 6.6 million jobs since 2003. Unemployment is running at 4.6 percent. It used to be, 6 percent was considered full employment. Historically, I have been opposed to the increase in the minimum wage because I come from a small business background. I see what it does, cutting young people out of getting jobs. But because of the package that we passed, I did vote for it because it was tied with other things, other tax cuts that would stimulate the economy. And we were very hopeful that that would pass, because it would eliminate the death tax. We passed it in the House, and we fell three votes short in the Senate. Hopefully when we get back in the lame-duck session, we'll get that passed.

Erickson: Minimum wage laws are not a proper function of government at any level, especially the federal government. As far as taxes, I'm all in favor of cutting taxes. In fact, I think the income tax should be eliminated entirely, and the 16th Amendment, which authorized the income tax, should be repealed. If the federal government scales itself back to its constitutional functions, it could easily operate on a budget of about 10 to 15 percent of what its current budget is, and it could get by with excise taxes and tariffs and the other stuff that was used to fund the federal government before the income tax was implemented in 1913. We don't need income tax at all.

Signal: How would your policies help companies in the 25th District remain competitive, and what would you do to make sure the workers who live in the 25th District have the skills they will need to succeed in a changing economy?

Erickson: The only area the federal government should have any bearing on that is with the defense industry up in the Antelope Valley, and if there's any down here — I don't know if there is any in Santa Clarita — but there's nothing specific that needs to be done. If there are defense contracts that need to go to the companies in the Antelope Valley, then they're going to get the work. If there are no contracts, then the workers will have to find a job somewhere else. There's nothing specifically that the federal government needs to do or should do to ensure jobs of any person in any occupation. That's not for the federal government.

Rodriguez: We've seen a lot of vocational training that has been cut at the high school levels and the junior college levels, things that lead to a trained workforce that we need to compete in this economy that we have. For the defense contractors, we need to make sure that the people who are getting funding for defense contracts are legitimate, (and that) they're just not getting big lobbyists donations. Mr. McKeon's office had the fifth-highest lobbyist-paid expense trip this last year on all of Capitol Hill. One to Australia, one to Italy. Things like this, and then these companies turn around and get big government contracts. That's what we need to clean up, to make sure that the government contracts that we have are to fight our war on terror, to secure our borders, and are there for the American people. We need to train those workforces so that we have them and keep bringing jobs to the Santa Clarita Valley as well as the Antelope Valley.

McKeon: We have Plant 42 up in the Antelope Valley where the B-2 was built, where many of our planes over the years have been built, and we have many aerospace companies up there. We also have many here in the Santa Clarita Valley, small machine shops with one or two, three, four employees. We have 1,500 subcontractors in our district that participate in building the F-22, the Joint Strike Fighter. I do what I can to make sure that our companies have a good shot at those jobs. We formed a coalition of local, state and federal government leaders and industry leaders working together to try to have the Joint Strike Fighter built in the Antelope Valley. We didn't get the final assembly there, but we got a lot of the subcontracting work there — a lot more than we would have had if we hadn't fought hard for that. I think it's very important that we keep those jobs here in the 25th Congressional District.

Signal: In terms of keeping jobs in the 25th District — and for that matter, the concept of "bringing home the bacon," how do you weigh that against the need to rein in federal government spending? How do you prioritize the interests of the 25th District versus the interests of the United States of America?

McKeon: The first thing you have to look at is — let's take the Joint Strike Fighter. Is it a viable weapon? Is it going to be built? Is it important for the national defense of our country? If that is the case, then I look at who would be the best ones to build it, who would be the better trained, better equipped, and we have the trained workforces in our district that I think can compete against anywhere in the country. So, after I've checked if the weapon is viable and we are going to build it, then I fight like crazy to see that we get our share of the work here in our district.

Erickson: They're both important, but I think the overall interests of the country in general are more important than just what's important specifically in this district. But to the extent that any weapon program or any federal government program is necessary, like the B-2 bomber, and the work that does need to be done, obviously I would try and get it done here in this district. But if it doesn't need to be done, if any particular program doesn't need to be done, I'd be more in favor of eliminating it than just trying to bring home some pork for this district. But if it is something that's necessary, by all means I'd fight to get it done here.

Rodriguez: I think the American people want — they don't mind money coming back to the district, but they want it to be responsible money. What we're seeing right now is — President Reagan in 1987 vetoed a transportation bill that had 152 earmarks in it because he said it was too many. In 2005, the transportation bill had over 6,000 earmarks, and that's why the American people are fed up. They're tired of these bridges to nowhere that we saw in Alaska, and they're tired of corporate lobbyists' money that's steering these earmarks rather than that money going to really what's needed, what's needed in our communities. People out here talk about a high-speed train they want to see. People talk about freeway congestion. People have moved out to the Antelope Valley and they commute every day to work, and they want jobs that are brought there. But they want responsible money being spent there, not these bridges to nowhere in response to who contributes the most money to whatever campaign.

Signal: The Santa Clarita, Antelope and Victor valleys will see explosive growth in the next couple of decades. The federal government has put money into a cross-town road through Santa Clarita and has funded other highway projects in the 25th district. As we grow and our 14 and 5 freeways get clogged, how do you see your role in terms of helping people get from Point A to Point B?

Rodriguez: Most importantly, we talk to people in the Antelope Valley all the time, in the Victor Valley, and they've moved out there for that cheaper cost of living, but they still commute to work every single day of the week. When they're stuck in traffic for two hours coming home, their kids have been home for two hours after school because all the after-school programs have been cut, and they want to be spending more time with their families, and they want jobs in their own area. We talk about the small business 7A loan programs. Mr. McKeon owned a small business, I'm sure he knows about this. These are things that have been cut drastically, fees increased by this administration. We need to get back to a point where we allow Americans to achieve that American dream and do so in their own neighborhoods so that people aren't stuck on the freeways all day, and they're spending more and more time with their families and their kids. Because most people move out there to own a home for the first time, and a lot of them have newborn babies, and they want to spend time with their kids, not time on those freeways.

McKeon: I fought hard, as you know, to bring money home for that cross-valley connector because I think it's regional transportation, and the federal government has some responsibility. The way the earmarks work — what I do is, I meet at the beginning of every Congress, every year, I meet with the local leadership of the cities and towns that I represent and I find out what their priorities are. If I'm able to get them some money, what would they like to spend it on? And then we pass a budget in Washington; they give those numbers to the appropriators, who spend the money. They take a small portion of that money and use it back for earmarks. That way, we get a chance to get some money in our district. If it goes through Sacramento, the Democrats in Sacramento are not going to send money to our district. So we have to fight for it through the earmark process. I don't determine what those earmarks are; I don't determine where they are. I leave it up to the local leadership. But I fight like crazy to try to get our share back. We pay the taxes, it goes to Washington, we should get a portion of it back.

Erickson: Roads is one area where the federal government definitely should not have any responsibility. The state of California is perfectly capable of building its own roads. California was building freeways before anybody in the federal government ever heard of a freeway, and we can take care of our own roads rather than send money to Washington and let them dole some of it back out to us and tell us what we can and can't do with it. We should just keep it here and build our own roads and get Washington completely out of the loop.

Signal: What would you do to help make prescription drugs more affordable for seniors, and should folks be able to purchase prescription drugs from Canada and other countries?

Erickson: I think most people who have been watching this debate probably already know my answer to this one, but the federal government has absolutely no business being involved in health issues or health insurance issues, especially Medicare and Medicaid and prescription drugs. That's absolutely counterproductive as well as unconstitutional. Virtually all the problems we have with excessive health care cost and health care insurance costs are caused by federal government intervention and extraordinarily convoluted, complicated laws and rules and regulations. The federal government has just made a humongous mess out of everything related to drugs and Medicare, and the best thing the federal government can do is get out of the business completely.

Rodriguez: I think it's a perfect example of just how broken our federal government is. I was there working on Capitol Hill when they passed this bill, and I watched it with my own eyes. The congressional leadership called that vote at 3 a.m. in the morning, and they held it open for three hours — the longest vote in the history of the United States Congress. They did so because they didn't have the votes. I saw my own congressman vote "yes." I saw them working the room with Tom DeLay, with Dennis Hastert escorting fellow congressional colleagues to the back room where they had Dick Cheney and President Bush on the phone promising money and future bills for a "yes" vote on this bill. Just seeing what it was doing to our seniors — basically corporate welfare for big pharmaceuticals at the expense of our seniors. One thing we could do was negotiate in bulk. That law prohibits the federal government from negotiating in bulk on behalf of senior citizens, yet the Department of Veteran Affairs can do that for our veterans. Why can they do it and others can't? Because of big, corporate money that was put in there by big pharmaceutical companies. That's what needs to be stopped, and that's why we need to be on the side of our seniors, not on the side of big pharma.

McKeon: You know, elections are choices, and when my opponent talks about that he was in the gallery watching this vote, I was down on the floor working, and I worked hard to get that bill passed. Medicare was passed in the 1960s, but they left out a drug plan, and they've been providing a safety net for seniors ever since. But medical delivery systems have changed, and people are getting very sick before they go to a hospital. If they could have a prescription drug, it might make their life longer and better. So it was very important to add prescription care. The Democrats fought the bill because they wanted us to spend $800 billion. It was $400 billion that we spent, and the bill that we passed. Thirty-eight million seniors are now signed up. Their average savings is $1,100 a year, and the vast majority of them are very happy. Eighty-four percent of the seniors in our district have drug coverage now, and I think that was one of the good things that we've done.

Signal: What you plan to do in your first 100 days of the next Congress?

McKeon: I've already addressed some of that. We have to finish up the higher education reauthorization, the Workforce Investment Act reauthorization. I've already talked to Sen. (Mike) Enzi, who chairs a similar committee in the Senate; we need to get that moved quickly. We'll continue our hearings on the No Child Left Behind, and I promise that we will quickly get a bill written. I want to get that done this year, before we get heavily into the presidential politics. Those are the main things. I took a congressional trip to China with members of our committee last year; we're going to try to go to India this year. We're looking at our competitive things that we need to do to prepare our workforce for the next 15, 20 years so our grandchildren can have the kind of lifestyle that we need to be competitive around the world. Those are the things we'll probably do in the first 100 days.

Erickson: One of the things is what I already talked about, would be to introduce a constitutional amendment to get complete separation of education and state. I'd also like to introduce legislation to get the ball rolling to repeal the 16th Amendment, the income tax amendment. One other thing which I would like to do that I haven't talked about yet would be to introduce legislation to require Congress to read the legislation that it votes on. Because right now, the way Congress works is that it routinely passes huge, complicated, convoluted bills that are many hundreds of pages long, and there's no way anyone in the world could possibly read those things and understand them, even if they wanted to. If Congress was required to actually sit there and listen to the entire bill read to them, it would immensely simplify the bills as well as occupy their time so that they couldn't pass so much legislation.

Rodriguez: I think we need to clean house. What we're seeing out there right now, I talked about earlier, we need lobbying reform. Since 2000, there are now double the amount of registered lobbyists on Capitol Hill that there were in 2000, and that's wrong, because they're steering our policy now. We need to bring Congress back to Earth. Their salaries have increased by $20,000 since 2000, while the rest of us haven't seen our salaries increase of that same level — not even close. We've actually seen our salaries drop. We need to reform Congress and get it back in touch with American values. You know, Congressman McKeon talked about these trips. A lot of these trips are sponsored by lobbyists themselves, and we need to get that big money out of politics and give this country back to whom it really belongs to: the American people. Then we can have reform on Medicare and change the course on Iraq.

    See this interview in its entirety today at 8:30 a.m., and watch for another "Newsmaker of the Week" on Wednesday at 9:30 p.m. on SCVTV Channel 20, available to Time Warner Cable subscribers throughout the Santa Clarita Valley.

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