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GOP Problem-Solver On Legislation He Thinks Will Unite Lawmakers

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

At this time tomorrow, the country will have a new president with a new set of priorities. In many cases, Joe Biden will have to work with Congress to turn those priorities into reality. And while the Democrats will hold small majorities in the Senate and the House, some Republicans say they would like to find ways to work with the incoming administration. Representative Don Bacon of Nebraska is one of them.

Congressman, welcome to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.

DON BACON: Thank you, Ari. I appreciate you having me on.

SHAPIRO: You're a member of the House Problem Solvers Caucus. And one big problem facing American democracy right now is that up to three-quarters of Republican voters say they believe the lie that President Biden did not win the election legitimately.

What do you think you can do to address that problem?

BACON: Two things - first, we just need to be candid that there's not been hard evidence of fraud. So for example, on 6 January, when we were having the objections debated on the floor, we had four hours of debate, and there was no fraud allegations brought up on the floor. And so as a Republican, you know, I should point that out more often with my constituents, saying that there was no fraud allegations brought up. And then 62 court cases didn't go his way. And sometimes, I hear, oh, they were all based on standing. Well, that's not true. Many of those court cases also looked at the evidence, so I think we need to have an honest discussion there. But I think also, it would be helpful if Congress put an investigator or commission so that people really get a strong sense of confidence there was nothing there. I think it would help out both ends on this. I think you'll...

SHAPIRO: Well...

BACON: ...Find out there was very little fraud. But it would help clarify or remove the doubts.

SHAPIRO: Yeah. Let's talk about the legislative agenda...

BACON: Right.

SHAPIRO: ...That's on Biden's list. He wants to begin with a nearly $2 trillion coronavirus relief package. And you were part of a bipartisan group that helped get the last relief bill through Congress. Are there provisions in this one that you think could get Republican support?

BACON: I'm reluctant to say - at least, I don't think it will early on. We just passed, you know, a $900 billion plan, and it has money going to small businesses. It has unemployment, mortgage. There's a couple of areas in this bill that will cause heartburn (laughter) on the right. I'll give you an example. A lot of money is going towards state and local governments. And, you know, the sense on our side of the aisle is it's helping bail out bad governance. Well, in Nebraska, we have a balanced budget, and there's a reluctance to have our taxpayer money going to New York and Chicago, Los Angeles, if they're not being fiscally responsible. So there's...

SHAPIRO: Well, what in this bill do you think could get some Republican support?

BACON: Well, right now, I think right - we're of the opinion that we should give it a little time. We just passed a $900 billion plan. We've already passed a $3 trillion one, you know, back in March. And now we did another $900 billion. So I'm - I don't think there's a big appetite for an immediate - another COVID round, at least...

SHAPIRO: So...

BACON: ...Maybe for another couple of months to see how this turns out.

SHAPIRO: All right. So if Biden does want an early bipartisan win, what would you suggest?

BACON: Well, there's - I think there could be some health care things that we could do. I don't - it wouldn't be right to double-down on ACA, but there are some things that we need reformed in ACA. I'll give you example. We need associational pools, for example. I think - we need to find some more options for people that are on the ACA market. So I think that would be one right there. I think that we...

SHAPIRO: You know...

BACON: ...Could get some progress on law enforcement reforms...

SHAPIRO: Yeah.

BACON: ...As well because there was about a 60- or 70% agreement on those reforms between the House and the Senate to begin with.

SHAPIRO: Let me just ask briefly before we have to let you go - when President Obama took office, there were Republicans in Congress who said, look; by standing in lockstep against his legislative goals, we will win. And two years later, the GOP took back the House. What would you say to your colleagues who would argue that Republicans should approach the Biden agenda the same way?

BACON: It's not good for government. It's not good for our country just to oppose Joe Biden because he's a Democrat. It's not the right thing to do. We need to make progress on immigration. We need to make progress on health care, trade, law enforcement reforms. We may not agree on the final solution, but we could agree on 50- or 60- or 70% of what to do. And it would be right for the country to find those areas of consensus and do it.

SHAPIRO: That's...

BACON: We cannot just have gridlock to win.

SHAPIRO: That's Representative Don Bacon of Nebraska, a Republican and member of the House Problem Solvers Caucus.

Thank you very much.

BACON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.