On the face of it, there is little that separates U.S. Reps. Ben Quayle and David Schweikert on policy matters, and both have maintained fairly conservative voting records.
But the two freshmen GOP congressmen, who are battling in Arizona’s 6th Congressional District, say there are important distinctions on where they stand on several key issues. And both tout their credentials off the House floor, where they say their particular styles and behind-the-scenes moves make them better suited to represent the Scottsdale and north Phoenix-based district.
Quayle, the son of former Vice President Dan Quayle, is often viewed as ally of GOP leadership figures such as House Speaker John Boehner, while Schweikert, a longtime fixture in Arizona Republican politics, says he represents the “reformers” who will stand up for conservative principles, even if they have to fight their own party to do it.
What separates you and Quayle on the issues? It seems like your records are pretty similar.
In some ways they are similar. In a lot of ways they’re dramatically different. One of the great frustrations is people don’t see all the things that go on in Congress, other than that final vote. They don’t realize those of us who work in the conservative group trying to move the legislation, when we did cut-cap-and-balance or a lot of these other things.
There’s sort of this battle between the reform conservatives and the institutional folks, and my guess is this is going to be a proxy battle. This primary is very much going to be a proxy battle between … the establishment … and the reform.
What are some specific areas where you and Quayle disagreed?
The payroll tax vote is even more than just do you raise people’s taxes 1,000 bucks a family in this environment. It was also, we made promises that we were going to do doc fix (suspensions of cuts to Medicare payments to doctors). That was part of it. We made promises we were going to reform the unemployment, and that was part of it.
As a conservative, I believe in having people keeping their own money. I wasn’t thrilled in the two-steps off mechanics, but it still was taxpayers keeping their own money.
But there’s other things (that separate us) — understanding the local economy. We’ve done a series of reforms to flood insurance. I’ve been pushing that forward. He’s voted against it.
There’s 50,000 parcels in this community that if we don’t get that extended, they’re not going to be able to sell their homes. There’s lots of these sorts of mechanics that I think come from being here, being part of this community and understanding that people live here.
What else separates you and Quayle?
I’m obviously less comfortable with big government than he is. … Look at the SOPAs (Stop Online Piracy Act) and the CISPAs (Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act) and these other things.
You’re either comfortable with the government and its growth, particularly in a privacy aspect, or you’re not.
Do you believe you’re more conservative than Quayle?
It’s more than that. I think I’m the one who’s willing to do whatever’s necessary to save the country. And if it means not being re-elected, I’m fine with it. This isn’t the family business.
So does the difference come down more to style than policy?
No. When that vote is finally on the board, the battles have pretty much already happened. How much happened in caucus? How much happened walking down the hallway? How much happened visiting each other’s offices?
There is also some of the other reality — I’m the guy that has his home phone number listed, that knocks on doors constantly, puts up a whole bunch of his own yard signs and then knocks on the door and then talks to people. It’s, are you actually part of this community?
Do you elect someone who’s actually from the community, or someone who was just dropped in from political royalty and said, ‘Elect me because you know my dad’s last name?’
Are there many differences between you and Schweikert on policy or votes?
I think there’s some key distinctions. There’s been some key votes that we differed on. One was the payroll tax bill.
He voted for it. I voted against it because it wasn’t paid for. It cost $100 billion. And we were going to be taking that from the Social Security trust fund, which would have to be backfilled by the general fund.
That was one vote. I think there are others out there as well, on national security issues, whether it be CISPA, which I think is a really good bill that deals with cyber-security threats in a way that is constitutionally sound, that allows companies to voluntarily provide cyber-attack information that they’ve received so they can share it.
Is one of you more conservative than the other?
National Journal says that I’m more conservative. Same for the Club for Growth rankings.
Looking at records, based on our voting history I think I’m a little more conservative on a lot of issues. But we share a similar voting pattern on spending issues as well.
To the average CD6 voter, why would you tell them they should support you over Schweikert?
I think it comes down to leadership capabilities and being able to be a leader within the conservative movement to make sure that the mantle is held high and expanded as well so that people don’t think that conservative views and conservative ideas are relics of the past, but really the pathway to future prosperity.
And I think that I’ve already been able to be a leader on key issues, whether it’s holding Eric Holder accountable and the DOJ for Fast and Furious, whether it’s regulatory reform and spending issues as well.
I think I’ve been able to lead on those issues as a freshman and we’ll continue to build upon that, and I think that’s what it really comes down to, getting somebody who’s going to be able to lead and expand the conservative cause in Washington.
What are some examples of that leadership?
On Fast and Furious especially, recently I was able to get other freshmen in the Judiciary Committee to sign onto a letter to urge leadership to stop dragging their feet on contempt proceedings.
On other issues, on leading the fight for the REINS Act (Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny) through the Judiciary Committee, which is a regulatory reform bill where any rule that has an economic impact of $100 million or more will come to the House floor. It’s a great bill. It’s a great bill that will start to pull back some of the authority that we’ve ceded to the agencies.
Schweikert describes the race a fight between the establishment and reformers. Do you agree?
I don’t even know what they’re trying to say with establishment. If you look at my voting record and you look at the votes that I’ve taken to go against leadership and what they were trying to push when I didn’t think they were conservative enough.
(I voted against leadership on) various continuing resolutions, the omnibus, the payroll tax bill. … Debt ceiling. The list really goes on and on. I don’t ever think it’s leadership versus something else. It’s just, look, I stand up for what I believe in. And they happen to be conservative policies and positions that I hold dear to my heart.
You’re viewed as being close to House GOP leadership. How close are you?
I try to have a good working relationship with a large portion of the Republican conference, try to get the conservative ideas out in the forefront. I think that’s important to be able to develop those types of relationships if you’re going to be able to get anything done. You’re one of 435.
Schweikert criticized your vote on a flood insurance bill. Why did you vote against it?
That bill is terrible. It’s terrible for Arizona. It continues to have mandates that are very similar to Obamacare mandates for people who get conforming loans to actually have to, it requires them to purchase flood insurance.
It basically makes Arizona homeowners subsidize those who live in high flood-prone areas.