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CNN "American Morning" - Transcripts


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ROBERTS: Congressman Minnick joins us now from Washington. Congressman, great to see you this morning. So you're on this list of approved candidates, the lone Democrat who is on the list along with such luminaries as Joe Wilson of South Carolina, of course, who famously shouted out, "you lie," during the "State of the Union," and Michelle Bachmann from Minnesota.

How does it feel to be on that list, first of all? And do you agree with the tea party and its agenda? REP. WALT MINNICK (D), IDAHO: Well, they are just ordinary folks who think the government ought to balance its budget. There's nothing very radical about that. So I'm pleased to have their endorsement.

ROBERTS: But how do you feel about being on that list along with Joe Wilson and with Michelle Bachmann?

MINNICK: Well, I'm pretty independent and I have got friends from - Michelle Bachmann and I know each other, we're good friends. You can be friends and disagree on things. And that's what makes for politics. So there will be some folks I won't vote with, but doesn't mean they aren't good folks.

ROBERTS: All right.

CHO: Well, congressman, you know, you voted no to the stimulus. You voted no to health care but you are a card carrying Democrat. So I wonder, I mean, are you a little concerned that this tea party endorsement support might alienate your base of Democratic voters?

MINNICK: Well, not particularly. I'm not 100 percent on anybody's list. I'm a real independent. I spent 35 years as a businessman. We had to balance our budget. I think that my state supports independent people who do what's best for our constituents and good ideas come from both political parties.

ROBERTS: You're a blue dog Democrat, of course. You're a fiscal conservative. As Alina mentioned, you voted against the stimulus bill. You voted against the health care bill and a couple of other things in there as well. Clean energy and security act was among them. Significant departure from your colleagues in the Democratic side of the fence. But 70 percent of the time you also do vote with Democrats. The tea party as they seem to have to some degree with Senator Scott Brown of Massachusetts, may have well buyer's remorse from time to time for endorsing you?

MINNICK: Well, I don't think so. I just introduced a bill to ban all earmarks forever. And I think that's right in line with what most fiscal conservatives of both parties believe. And that's something tea party believes. I also, am an original co-sponsor of a constitutional amendment to balance the budget. So I think in terms of fiscal conservatism and smaller government, I line up very well with most of the folks that associated with tea party.

ROBERTS: But as we saw with Scott Brown, tea party supporters did not like a couple of his votes and some of them turned on him, expecting that you might get some blow back from time to time?

MINNICK: Well, I think there will be some tea party folks that don't agree and there will be some Democrats, but as I said, I do what's best for my state. I'm independent and I think the majority of my voters respect that.

CHO: Congressman, you were the only member of the Idaho delegation to attend a tea party town hall back in August. I found that surprising, really at the height of the health care debate. You know, I'm wondering is there a message for your fellow Democrats, reach out across the aisle to Republicans, independents and tea party supporters and you might just win a re-election?

MINNICK: Well, in fairness Senator (INAUDIBLE) called into that, he was out of town. But I accept invitations from every political group, liberal, Democrat or conservative Republican, I'd like to hear what the full set of views of my constituents. And I don't know that that might anger some people. But, boy, if you get - if you understand the range of political views, I think you make better decisions and I try to be - I try to be the voice of my constituents who tend to be real independent. I like to say I'm as independent as Idaho.

ROBERTS: Right. You know, congressman, when you look at the party affiliation makeup, this is based on a recent "New York Times" CBS News poll of tea party supporters, 54 percent say Republican, 36 percent independent and only five percent say they are Democratic. But you know, they are trying to present the appearance here that they are representing all of America, tea party organizers say you just can't be a Republican organization, you need to be an influential force in both parties.

Do you think that their endorsement of you is genuine or might you just be a little bit of window dressing here?

MINNICK: Well, I think the Idaho tea party people, they don't like earmarks. They want to balance their budget. And I get a lot of support from, you know, people both Democrats and independents, tea party and non-tea party -


ROBERTS: But they also are - tea party supporters though in Idaho are also sort of scratching their head over your inclusion. Why didn't they support a Republican?

MINNICK: Well, I think some tea party people will be with me, some won't. That's democracy in action. And I think they think I was a better candidate to better represent Idaho.

CHO: Congressman Walt Minnick of Idaho, a Democrat with tea party support, we thank you for joining us this morning.

MINNICK: My pleasure.


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