The Reader Interview with Don Bacon

The Republican Congressman is running for reelection on Nov. 3 against Democrat challenger Kara Eastman.


The Reader interviewed Republican Congressman Don Bacon on Oct. 17, 2020 about issues ranging from racial inequality, COVID-19, climate change and the race against his Democrat opponent, Kara Eastman. The matchup in Nebraska’s Second Congressional District a rematch from 2018 where the Congressman won by a slim margin.

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Chris Bowling:

I want to just start off by asking about racial inequality, because that’s been a big topic, obviously, this summer. And in Omaha, there is a lot of racial inequity here. You look at whether it’s race or where someone lives, you just have different access to education, healthcare, job opportunities, all that sort of stuff. So I guess I’m just wondering what you feel like your responsibility as a congressman is to address those issues, what sort of things do you feel like the government should be doing for people, what sort of things have you gone after, or things that you want to go after as a congressman?

Don Bacon:

That’s a great question, Chris. There is longterm inequality in incomes, incarceration rates, health outcomes, unemployment, education outcomes. You could look at it 10 different ways and there is inequality. And I do believe we live in the greatest country in the world. I’m an American exceptionalist. I love our history. But great countries don’t look past known inequality that’s been there for a long time. So we have an obligation to deal with it. I do think we can’t just say “Do something,” though. You got to have a thought-out plan that helps.

Don Bacon:

So this has been my … And I’m thinking about it seriously. I’ll put my cards on the table. I’m a Christian. I believe we have an obligation to deal with this. And part of it’s a federal issue or a government issue, but part of it’s a personal issue. What are we doing as individuals? So here’s been my strategy. Economically, I supported Opportunity Zones. For North Omaha, that’s amounted to about $500 million in investments in North Omaha, hundreds of jobs. Now, that doesn’t necessarily always go to African-Americans. But those jobs help create more income in North Omaha. And whether it’s a North Omaha person hired or someone commuting there, they’re spending money at the supermarkets, the gas stations, the restaurants. It creates more wealth in North Omaha. So I think Opportunity Zones is a piece of the puzzle.

Don Bacon:

I support small business association targeting minority entrepreneurs. The hardest thing about starting a business is getting capital. So I think our minorities need an advantage when it comes to getting access to loans that help get a business started. I support CTE, continuing technical education, and trades. Our 21- and 22-year-olds could get jobs at $50,000 a year, welders, carpenters, truck drivers, with health insurance. And there’s a huge shortage in these jobs. So I think we need more CTE in our high schools and trade opportunities that are for minorities.

Don Bacon:

I supported justice reforms, juvenile justice reforms. I voted yes on both those bills. That made a difference when it comes to incarceration rates and helping people re-enter better. I was an advocate for low- and mixed-income housing. So we got a $25 million grant into North Omaha that had a matching state and local money, so it’s really a $50 million project that we’ve been able to kick off up in North Omaha.

Don Bacon:

Here’s some other things that are unique to me, I’ll just say. I’ve been the Republican leader to pass anti-lynching legislation. For 100 years, we’ve tried to pass it. So leaders in North Omaha asked me to take this on, and I said, “I’ll do it.” So I’ve been able to get a bill passed out of the House. Unfortunately, if you want to know more detail, I can go into it, the Congressional Black Caucus didn’t want me to get credit for it, so they changed the title, and they passed it. But now we have a bill in the Senate, a bill in the House. They’re identical. It was my bill, but they have different titles. So I didn’t get credit, and we still don’t have it in a law. So I’m hoping after the election, I can have somebody … We just got to pass the damn bill with the same title. We’ve got to get this thing passed.

Don Bacon:

And finally, I’m the Republican leader for changing the Confederate base names down South. There’s 10 bases named after … And I have a master’s degree in Civil War history. It bothers me to have bases named after generals who led a revolt that cost 600,000 people’s lives. And some of those guys became KKK members after the war. We should name these bases after Medal of Honor recipients. I’ve taken a little heat from people in our party on this, but it’s something I believe strongly in. My great-great-grandfather and his dad were from Virginia and fought for the North. I have no sympathy about naming a base after a Confederate general.

Chris Bowling:

Sure, yeah. Yeah. We’ve also heard a lot of people calling to defund the police and things like that. And mostly the conversations are geared toward wanting to reinvest dollars that we’re spending on things like the police, which in Omaha, it’s the largest expense for the city, and then reinvesting them into community programs, I mean, a lot of the programs you’re probably talking about, but spending even more money on it. And I guess I just want to get your thoughts on that. I know that you’re not a fan of the phrase defund the police, but what you think about the idea of rerouting dollars from police departments in the cities and routing them toward these sort of community programs that we all agree are beneficial…

Don Bacon:

I agree that some Democrats say what you’re saying. There’s others that say defund the police means defund the police. AOC said that. AOC says, “When I say defund the police, I mean it.” So there are some people in the Democratic party that really do want to defund at a drastic level. You see it in Minneapolis. Some of these folks really want to…the police there until their own house is threatened. So I am not a fan of it, defund light or defund heavy. I think our law enforcement’s appropriately funded in Omaha. And I think our guys do a great job. I mean, they’re human, so there’s … I was in the Air Force for 30 years. I think 99% of the Air Force guys I worked with are great. Every once in a while, you come across a bad one, you got to kick him out or hold him accountable. Same with our police. Our police protect us, they take a lot of abuse themselves. They live in a high-risk job. I mean, you look at the number of police killed this year.

Don Bacon:

So I do support reforms. I like the body cams, making them mandatory. I think there is a need for a registry that if someone breaks the rules, breaks the law, it goes in a registry. Because you just can’t go from Omaha and then get a job at Grand Island without people knowing. So there’s some things, yes, that we could do better, and I support those reforms. But this attack on police is not healthy.

Chris Bowling:

I guess how do you imagine being able to bring both sides to the table? Because it seems like the feelings between people who are still out protesting and people who are sympathetic to protestors, the sort of institutional feeling toward those people is, “Well, they’re riding this national wave of anti-police, anti-establishment, so they’re not really here to actually want to help make change.” But I talk to these people and they do care about their community and their concerns are coming from a real place. So I guess I’m just curious from your standpoint, and obviously you have the local and the national view of things, so how do you bring those sides together?

Don Bacon:

Well, I do think there has to be some candor. And some of the folks on the other side of the aisle are throwing gas on the fire. So I’ll give you an example. My opponent in one of the debates said that the police are the fifth leading cause of African-Americans getting killed. That is an out and out not truth, but people hear that … And we need to have some transparency and some honesty in this discussion. There are some bad cops. They should be held accountable; kicked out. If they break the law, they go to jail. But to say it’s the fifth leading cause … Then she corrected it and said it was the sixth leading cause. Well, that’s not accurate either.

Don Bacon:

So I’ll just peel into that number. This comes from a database, I think from the University of Michigan, but don’t quote me on that part. I can’t remember. But I think it came from that study. They included things like people committing suicide and attributed that to the police. Or let’s say that you’re an assailant and I come to arrest you and you kill two people before I can arrest you or shoot you in the process in self-defense; they counted the murders of the assailant against the police. So in Omaha, they attributed 10 killings by police in the study that Kara Eastman used. Only three were actually killed by police, and two were in self-defense, where the guy was shooting at the police. Five were suicides; somebody knocks on the door and they don’t want to give up so they just kill themselves, as an example. And two of them were murdered by the assailant.

Don Bacon:

So the police feel maligned with stuff like that. I just think we need some honesty. Like what happened in Minneapolis was wrong. That guy deserves to go to jail. He’s going to be probably held under a manslaughter charge, I would assume. But there have been other situations where we have to be candid that the police were acting in self-defense, but people are afraid to say it. And I don’t know, I’ll just go back to my main point. The police, there are some reforms that we can do, and that most people agree to. But I think my opponent’s side, I think she goes too far. I would say she kneecaps the police by taking away qualified immunity. If you take away qualified immunity, you will not get police recruitment and you will not have police retention. You will have a hollow police force. And she misconstrues it when she says, “Gee, you hold plumbers accountable, you hold coaches responsible.” The qualified immunity is if a policeman’s following the rules, following the policies, then he gets that protection. If he’s not following the rules or breaking the law, now that person’s liable for a lawsuit. I think it’s a fair compromise for what we have our police doing day in and day out.

Chris Bowling:

Sure. I guess this is more time than I thought we’d spend on this aspect, but that’s okay. I did a story on police oversight and how in Omaha, citizens don’t really have that much power in what goes on with the police, or decisions. If someone complains to the police, more often than not, it’s the police handling the complaint. The citizen [crosstalk 00:10:57] doesn’t really see a whole lot. So I guess I’m curious, because here in the city, it doesn’t seem like leaders are … They don’t want to have a more powerful citizen oversight [crosstalk 00:11:09] that. But a lot of other cities do that. So I guess I’m curious what you think about citizen oversight and [crosstalk 00:11:17]

Don Bacon:

I actually sort of like that. In the Air Force, we had something called the inspector general. So when I commanded 8,000 people, I commanded 7,000 people at a different job, if someone made a complaint against me, it would go to a neutral person and they would investigate. And I think there needs to be … What that does, that gives a sense of fairness and I think when you get the outcome, you don’t think it’s the police investigating themselves. So I like an AG concept where a neutral person looks at a complaint and then says yes, it’s valid or no, it’s not valid, or it’s somewhere in the middle. I think there is a need for that and that’s how you get transparency.

Chris Bowling:

Sure. I wanted to move on to climate change. So we see the effects of climate change, even here in Nebraska, obviously with the floodings. We’re seeing more precipitation in the eastern part of the state, a little bit less precipitation in the western part of the state. So I’m just curious about your plans around climate change. Do you believe in climate change? Yeah, what are your plans around it?

Don Bacon:

Well, I do believe in climate change. But there’s a lot of questions like how much do you put … If we did everything in America that we’re supposed to, does it make a difference or not? So there’s a good debate … At what point do you actually get an effect that you want? Here’s what I want to do. I want to have a planet that’s cleaner for my kids, my grandkids, when it’s all said and done. So I don’t believe in punishing behavior that you’re trying to strive for. So in other words, I don’t like carbon taxes. I don’t think we should be jacking up gas tax or airfares or the utilities when you want to heat your house. And that’s what a lot of folks on the other side of the aisle want to do. They want to raise these taxes to shape behavior. And I think in the end, it hurts poor people the most.

Don Bacon:

So I’m more a bit into incentivizing behavior. So I was the leader to get the wind tax credit put back in the tax reform. It was taken out. I thought it was wrong. Of course, Omaha has about 40% renewable energy, and wind is the majority of that, right? So I got the wind tax credit put back in, and then we got geothermal and solar put back in. And I’m proud of that because that’s part of our portfolio for becoming energy independent. So today, America is the largest energy-producing nation in the world. We’re exporting energy for the first time since 1949. I’m proud of that. And we’ve cut emissions by more than the next 12 countries combined. Part of it’s because we’ve got this great renewable portfolio, but another part is fracking, believe it or not, has produced a huge boost in natural gas, and natural gas burns cleaner than coal and other carbon fuels out there. So actually, natural gas has been a good part of our energy portfolio. And actually, it’s a cleaner-burning fuel than other options out there.

Don Bacon:

So we’ve really had some good results on really cutting our emissions. But here’s some other things that I’ve supported. I support carbon capture technology. So I’m one of the leads on that. I think it’s called the USE IT Act, but I’d have to double-check that to make sure I gave it the right number. But it’s to invest in technology that catches the carbon as a generating plant’s producing energy. And it helps us to keep our standard of living, but it keeps our air cleaner in the process. I support battery research. I’m been one of the leads on that as well. So I was named one of the two Republican champions for renewable energy in the House. And there was three Democrats, and Speaker Pelosi was one of them.

Chris Bowling:

I wondered if you could go into a little bit more why you don’t think carbon taxes are a good idea. I mean, in my mind, and I think probably a lot of people’s mind, the idea of having a carbon tax can really help, yeah, shape behavior, can push people in a different direction rather than … Maybe you’re a little bit more incentivized to not do something if it’s going to hurt you than do something if it’s going to help you.

Don Bacon:

I think it hurts poor people. When you tell a poor person, “We’re going to charge you another five bucks or 10 bucks to fill your gas tank,” I think it’s wrong. And when you tell a poor person, “Hey, you got to spend $200 to heat your home during the cold part of January and February when it’s zero degrees out, and we’re going to add another 50 bucks to your utilities,” I think that’s wrong. And who does it affect airfares, when they’ve got to pay another $100 for an airfare to see their mom or dad or a grandkid? The poor person suffers the most on that. So I don’t like it. I think it hurts our economy. Like I said, we need to incentivize behavior. We’ve got results. We’ve cut emissions more than any other country in the world in recent years. We’ve done it through incentives but we’ve also done it through technology. Our technology’s also helped out with that.

Chris Bowling:

Yeah. What about carbon taxes, though, for larger corporations? I mean, why not just for a larger corporation, and keep it the same for poor people, or whatever?

Don Bacon:

Well, I think right now, corporations are coming a long way. I mean, look at Facebook. Here, they built this big facility in, I think, Sarpy County. I think it’s right on the line of Douglas and Sarpy. But they’ve used almost all renewables. And I would say Google has done the same. So companies are already automatically doing it because there’s a desire out there. I am not a fan of carbon tax. I will never be a fan of carbon tax. I think in the end, I’m more into incentivizing behavior versus punishing behavior. That’s my philosophy.

Chris Bowling:

Got you. All right. So you’ve always been a staunch opponent of the Affordable Care Act, but you’ve also said that you want to keep parts that you like, specifically protecting people with preexisting conditions and kids being able to stay on their parents’ healthcare until they’re 26. So I’m just curious if you can go through your plan for how you want to take apart the Affordable Care Act but keep those things you like, but not hurt the thousands of people just in Nebraska who are probably benefiting from it right now.

Don Bacon:

So, there are some people being helped by ACA, absolutely. There’s also a lot of people being hurt by ACA. If you’re on the market yourself, and you’re earning over that level that you get financial aid, if you’re earning $60,000, $70,000 a year, I’ll just say it that way, so you’re not getting any of the support money to help pay for the premiums, these people that are 40s and their 50s are paying $20,000 for premiums, and another, typically, $8,000 to $10,000 deductible. So it’s really only good for catastrophic care. So I’ll just come back to you and say some people have been helped, particularly at the lower end of the income levels. And I totally understand that. But people that are at the median and a little higher, they’re paying $20,000, $30,000 a year. It’s breaking their backs: real estate agents, farmers are really suffering under this; small business owners, too, as well.

Don Bacon:

So I would also just say that I’ve had to adjust my position. Four years ago when I was elected, the voters overwhelmingly wanted big change. I mean, that’s why we got a majority in the House, the Senate, the president. ACA was very unpopular four years ago. But I would say over time, the voters now are saying, “We want smaller change. We want incremental change. So we want to keep the system we have but keep improving it. Make it better.” The majority of Americans today say they want to improve the system we have and fix those things that aren’t working. They don’t want a drastic change.

Don Bacon:

So I acknowledge that. So the things that I want to do is try to make things more affordable for folks who are on the market. So for the most part, Nebraska only had one healthcare insurance plan, Medica. We just added a second one this year. I want to add associational pools, which are not allowed under ACA right now. So if you’re, say, a real estate agent, you should be able to, under the real estate agency, band people together into these pools and form an associational pool. Or you can do small businesses through NFIB or farmers through the Farm Bureau. But today, that’s not allowed. And we have found that does lower cost. It offers a lower premium when we do these things. The farmers had an associational pool two years ago, and it was found not compliant with ACA, so they had to get rid of it. But the farmers were saving money when they had it.

Don Bacon:

So I would like to get that on there. I would like to see maybe some co-op options added in. And if you like Iowa’s healthcare plan better, why can’t you buy into that? So I want to give you options so you can have five, six, seven options out there. I support price transparency. That works for CT scans and MRIs, it lowers costs. Surprise billings; I don’t know how familiar you are with the surprise billing? You got two different bills out there, you got a hospital one, you got insurance one, and they’re fighting over each other. I think we should be able to maybe compromise between them and share the risk between them and get a bill that’s in the middle on that.

Don Bacon:

I support H.R. 19, which is a pharmaceutical plan that caps costs for those on Medicare and gets generic drugs on the market faster. It stops pharmaceutical companies from buying out competition, because we need competition. The Democrat bill that my opponent likes does price fixes or price controls. The problem is, the CBO says that money comes out of research and development. And America leads the world in R&D for drugs, for cures. We don’t want to cut our R&D budget for that. That’s how you save lives. So anyway, those are some of the ideas. So, I want to improve upon what we have and make some fixes, which is different than what I was saying four years ago. I get it, but the voters wanted something different four years ago, too. And I’ll just tell you, today, they want a more minor change. Voters do not support Medicare for All. When you explain it to them what it is, if you say Medicare for All, it polls 50 to 60. When you say, “So you mean a person loses their healthcare plan and go under a government plan,” that polls at 25%. So folks don’t want a big change.

Chris Bowling:

Sure, sure. Now I want to just switch to talking about the coronavirus. So as of right now, it’s infected nearly 8 million Americans and killed more than 217,000. And many states are showing increases in cases. Nebraska is well above the worst it’s ever been; Douglas County, same deal; Sarpy County, similar deal. We’re at a really pivotal point with the pandemic, especially as we’re getting into flu season, as hospitals just in our area are reaching capacity. So I’m just curious, what do you think we can do right now? In your role as a congressman, and if you were to be reelected in the months to come, what should we be doing right now to [crosstalk 00:23:02]

Don Bacon:

One thing to just point out, Chris, too, England just shut down, the last two weeks. They went back into … I can’t remember the term, but shelter in place kind of thing. Paris is shut down. Israel is shut down. This is a problem the entire world is struggling with. It’s hard. It’s a hard problem, and it’s not just an America problem. We’re all grappling with it. And we really don’t know how bad it’s been for Russia or China because they don’t have free press. They don’t have a whole lot of readers asking these questions, right?

Chris Bowling:

Sure.

Don Bacon:

So the most important thing we can do is produce a safe and effective vaccine. That’s the ultimately answer. That’s what’s going to give people some security on this. And we’re not cutting any corners on the testing. Where the corners have been cut is on all the bureaucratic applications and the inboxes. Our vaccine development has no inbox. It goes from one right to another person, and [crosstalk 00:23:59] expedite through the bureaucracy. But no tests have been short-circuited. Ultimately, we’ve got to get a vaccine. I helped fund it. I put $8 million towards a vaccine development, and I’ll be the first to take it, just… I told them, “I’ll take it either arm or either cheek.” I’m an old Air Force guy, so we’ll just … And I think that’s the most important thing we can do. We’ve made some improvements in therapeutic care for those who do get it. There’s some cutting-edge stuff out there. I think the president, you can see some of the care that he received. It’s really come a long way.

Don Bacon:

We have one of the higher infection rates, but we have one of the best fatality rates, the lowest per infections. Our therapeutic care is leading the world, which is a good thing. So one of the things that we need to do better at is testing. I’m going to just say it: this bullshit about waiting four days to get a test result, that’s unacceptable. America can do better than that, I believe. So I think we should be able to produce a near real-time test mechanism.

Chris Bowling:

Yeah. Would you ever consider … I mean, I don’t know what role that you could play in this, but lobbying for more restrictions? I mean, maybe not going toward a lockdown, but in Nebraska right now, like I said, we’re at well over the highest daily case load, on an average, that we’ve ever been at. Yet we’re still in phase four of reopening where I can go into a bar and a restaurant. I mean, I got to wear a mask, but I can be around people. There’s not a whole lot of restrictions left. So would you ever lobby for something like that, increasing any more restrictions, doing anything right now before … Because we don’t even have a definite date on the vaccine, so.

Don Bacon:

Yeah, right. Well, I think they already have vaccines for … They’re in the final phase of trial testing. I think we’ll have vaccines January timeframe, I believe, February. And it should go to the oldest, most vulnerable people first. I think that’s the right way to go. I don’t want to roll back our economy because, in the end, there’s more than just the infection rate to deal with here. People are unemployed, they’re struggling financially. That’s a stress. I have an 88-year-old father-in-law that’s suicidal right now because nobody can visit him. So these older people, they want to hold somebody’s hand and they want to feel somebody’s warmth, and they want a hug. And my father-in-law, 88-year-old guy, you can talk to him through a window.

Don Bacon:

So I just think either way you do this, it’s not perfect. There is a public cost involved here. And I just think that there’s not a perfect solution. I do think that we should take precautions in public. I don’t criticize the mask-wearer, frankly. I think if that helps open up the economy, let’s wear a mask. If that helps lower the infection rate, that’s good. And I’m in a tough job for that. I have to meet people, and I don’t know if I got it right at times, trying to grapple between safety versus hearing from constituents. I do a lot more Zooms. But I don’t have a good answer, Chris. It’s not an easy one. I do support smart safety measures. And I think wearing masks, and I think Dr. Birx … I’m sorry, I can’t … I think I screwed up her name, the lady that’s running our county health thing here in Douglas County, I think she’s trying her very best and we should take her advice.

Chris Bowling:

Yeah, for sure. You talked about the vaccine and who should get it first. I feel like as much as we’re in a lot of pivotal points in our society, once the vaccine comes out, that could also be a pivotal point to sort of address a lot of the sort of social and racial inequality that we’ve been hearing people talk about. And especially when we talk about sort of frontline workers, people that were in meatpacking plants where that’s where the virus really hit first in Nebraska, I’m curious what you would do to make sure that the virus was able to get out to people who needed it most and not just the people who could afford and…

Don Bacon:

Well, we’ve already paid for it. We paid for testing, or to give out vaccines. We’ve already funded it. There’s money there. I think the way it’s funded right now is if you have insurance, your insurance will pay for it. If you don’t have insurance, it’s already funded through the supplemental bills we passed. So I don’t think anybody’s going to have to pay. The way I believe that we’ve done it through the supplementals, no one should have to pay out of pocket for the vaccine. It’s either insurance or it’s already paid for by the supplementals that we passed. So it’s already funded, and that’s good. And I think that you can’t mass produce 330 million like that, right? So it’s going to be coming out incrementally [inaudible 00:29:13] going to be all elderly, those with maybe a preexisting condition that makes them more vulnerable, if you’ve got asthma or diabetes or things like that. So I expect a more targeted approach, but income level should not be a burden at all in this case. It’s already funded.

Chris Bowling:

Yeah, for sure. Also, to talk about the economy, while it’s been recovering and I think Nebraska has if not one of the best unemployment rates, it’s in the top five or something, but-

Don Bacon:

…90%.

Chris Bowling:

Yeah. But even in that, there’s people who were living paycheck to paycheck before the pandemic, it’s not any better for them now. It’s gotten worse. I mean, there’s still long lines of cars on Leavenworth Street for people that are getting food from different nonprofits. And if you look at the unemployment data, while the share of unemployment across different races was pretty equal when the pandemic started, now Black Nebraskans are like five times more likely to be unemployed than a white Nebraskan, a Latino Nebraskan, things like that. So there’s clearly still inequities and there’s problems to be dealing with. And I guess the main question I guess I’m trying to ask is what do you think that we can do to still help people that have the least, who are still struggling with this? I mean, we had one stimulus plan, now the other stimulus plan seems to be stalling. So I’m just curious what you think should be done.

Don Bacon:

Well, we’ve done four supplementals so far. So the fifth one you’re talking about is the one that’s…stand up on there. And I think we need a fifth supplemental. But maybe if we could back up just a hair, prior to COVID, we had the largest increase in median wages seen in the history of our country. In 2019, the average wage increase for the median income was 6.8%. The highest in our history. And for African-Americans, it was 7.9%. So we had the lowest poverty rate in the history of our country in 2019. I wish we could still say that. COVID put us backwards. So we have 10.5% poverty rate. That is the lowest it’s ever been. So we had things going the right direction prior to March. But yet, you’re right. COVID set us back. In Nebraska, for every five jobs lost, four are back. But we still have that fifth person that doesn’t have a job. And some people are getting paid less.

Don Bacon:

So I’ll just take some industries as an example. Our playhouses; they’re not going to have a play for 10 months. So all those people, the actors, the vendors, all the ushers, they’re out of work right now. Our touring buses; nobody’s chartering buses right now. They’re about ready to go under. Our airline industries are at 40% use. They’re going to go under if we don’t do something. So I support a fifth round targeted towards those industries to help keep the afloat until we can get them back. I want a theater. I want to see Hamilton again. I love it. It’s my favorite play.

Don Bacon:

So I support a fifth round. And we need it. And by the way, for the unemployment, the CARES bill did $600 a week federal augmentation to the state, and that worked out to $24 an hour when you added the state and the federal together. $24 an hour for unemployment. Now it’s $400. It’s $300 federal and $100 matching from the state. So there is added unemployment money right now going out to folks who are unemployed. It’s not $600, but it’s $400 a week, plus what the state provides. Typically, it’s $300. So there is support there. And my goal is we got to help out the various industries that are still not healthy.

Don Bacon:

So what is the problem right now? Democrats and Republicans both want to help out these industries. And to be brutally honest, Speaker Pelosi wants to get between $500 billion and a trillion dollars added to bail out New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, these cities that were suffering prior to COVID. These were economic issues before COVID. And they’re trying to use this as a way to prop up their budgets from what happened before COVID. Now, we’ve already supported money to go to Chicago, New York, and L.A. for COVID-related costs. We’ve already covered that. But they want to do things that were before COVID. So Speaker Pelosi will not compromise unless she gets a big city bailout. That’s what’s going on. That’s the debate right now. And I think she’s wrong.

Don Bacon:

I don’t know if you heard her interview yesterday with CNN? It was atrocious. Wolf Blitzer was calling her out on it, called her a Republican apologist; Wolf Blitzer. But there’s been offers on the table for a $1.5 trillion bill. She says no. The president offered $1.8 trillion this week and she said no. I think it’s wrong.

Chris Bowling:

Got you. Along with that, Paul Allen from Mind and Soul wanted me to ask you a question about the Save Our Stages movement when you’re talking about industries that are still struggling. He wanted to ask you, there’s three bills, I think, that might deal with this sort of initiative, the RESTART Act, Save Our Stages, and the ENCORES Act. And he was just wondering if there were any bills that are on your radar as far as that…

Don Bacon:

That whole community has helped me out with that, with their advice. So I can’t speak for sure on the ENCORE Act, off the top of my head, but I’m on the other two bills already, because of them. They reached out to me and I totally get it. We have no bands playing. We haven’t had any playing since March, and you can’t get them scheduled until at least January. We need to find a way to help out this community. It’s not just the bands or the live venues. It’s the places around it, too, that are struggling, like the restaurants near them. So I may be on all three. I don’t remember the ENCORE one. I’d have to double-check. But the other two, I’m on it because of their advice.

Chris Bowling:

Yeah. For sure. I mean, do you feel like…

Don Bacon:

They’re good. They were very helpful, these folks. I appreciate it.

Chris Bowling:

Do you feel like the relief is in sight? Does it seem like this is going to be an easy bipartisan thing to pass through, or …

Don Bacon:

Well, it should be easy because Republicans and Democrats agree, we need to save our stages, we need to save our theaters, we need to save our airline industry. I don’t think we give them money, but we give them loans to get through this. But the world’s strongest country needs an airline industry. But I think even Nancy Pelosi would say, “Yes, we need to do that,” but she will not bring it to a vote unless President Trump and the Republicans agree to bail out New York. And I got to tell you, Nebraskans don’t like it. We run a balanced budget. And our cities run balanced budgets. Why are we bailing out bad financial decisions in New York that dates back a decade or two decades? And that’s what’s going on here. So the Midwest politicians, by and large, do not want to bail out New York and L.A. That’s a separate issue. But we all agree that we need to save our stages, we need to save our airlines, and things like that. But it’s being held hostage by Speaker Pelosi.

Chris Bowling:

Sure, yeah. I wanted to switch gears just to talk a little bit about this race, you and your opponent. You talked a lot at the congressional debate about how you’re rated as a very bipartisan member of Congress and all of that. However, some sights like 538 shows that you vote with Trump 92-point-something percent of the time so what would you say to a voter who thinks that you’re too in line with Trump?

Don Bacon:

Well, I have campaigned honestly what I believe in. And I won elections in two Democratic years. So in 2016, the Democrats picked up six seats. I was the only Republican to defeat an incumbent that year totally, in the House or Senate. Then we lost 41 seats, I think it was, in ’18. I outperformed Republicans, by the way, by 10 points, nationally, here in the district. Or you could say my opponent underperformed by 10 points, however you want to look at it. But the thing is, I campaigned honestly what I believe in. I campaigned on tax policy, environmental policy, energy policy, foreign affair on military beliefs. And I have done exactly what I’ve committed to do, and that’s what I was elected to do.

Don Bacon:

So some people think bipartisanship is I’m going to vote half the time here and half the time there. I don’t think that’s the way bipartisanship should be viewed. This is how I believe bipartisanship is: it’s how you write bills. So if I want to work on an immigration bill and I craft a perfectly Republican bill, do I expect Democrats to vote for it? No. And that’s what’s going on right now. But whoever the majority is, they’re crafting their perfect bill and they lose the other party because they don’t even bring them in the tent to make a deal as you’re drafting that legislation. So the right way to go is for me … Let’s say you’re a Democrat and I’m Republican on immigration. You’ve got 10 goals, I have 10 goals, but only five match; let’s work on those five and build a goal around that. That’s why I’m rated in the top seven percent, because I’ve been writing bills with Democrats where both of our names are on it and we build a coalition. That’s what the Georgetown University rates me on.

Don Bacon:

Now, if you’re going to rate me on am I going to vote for a Nancy Pelosi super-partisan bill half the time, I’m not. I didn’t campaign to do Congressional funding of elections. I didn’t campaign on a carbon tax. I didn’t campaign on raising taxes. I didn’t campaign on pro-choice. I campaigned on being pro-life. But we can write bills in ways that find consensus, and that’s how you rate bipartisanship, and that’s what I do.

Chris Bowling:

Sure. You talked a little bit about the values that you campaign on. And one thing, if I’m being honest, the most common thing I’ve seen of your campaign this time is a particular ad about Kara Eastman where you talk about the fact that she went to a liberal school, that she wants people to stop eating steak, and there’s a line that’s like, “You better like that tofu,” kind of thing. I guess I’m curious, I see it on Hulu, I see it when I’m at the laundromat, I see it … Why is that the message that you want to share about your opponent?

Don Bacon:

Well, it’s not my ad.

Chris Bowling:

And it doesn’t say you support it or anything at the end?

Don Bacon:

No, it’s not my ad. It’s an ad from CLF, they call themselves, the Congressional Leadership Fund, did that ad. So I’m not allowed to coordinate with these guys on anything. It’s illegal. So it’s not my ad. My ad right now, I have one where I’m looking into the camera saying, “I served my country for 30 years, deployed four times into combat. Attack ads don’t bother me. But I am committed to preexisting conditions.” That’s my ad. So the ad you’re talking about is a CLF ad. And she’s also mad about a Main Street Republican ad. It’s a different group; not my ad. That she’s on video saying, “I’m a radical socialist,” so she’s really mad about it because she says it’s taken out of context. Not my ad either.

Don Bacon:

But if you peel it back, she is a supporter of the Green New Deal. So if I’m in a debate, I’m going to say, “Well, it’s not my ad, but you do support the Green New Deal,” which is the most conservative estimates, that’s $5 trillion a year. Our budget is $4.5 trillion. And I’m going to go after my opponent on the Green New Deal. I think it’s not a good policy. I think it’s an extreme policy. If you want to talk about Medicare for All, I’m going to go after her because I know 25% of the people in our district support what’s in the Medicare for All bill. But those aren’t my ads, but I’ll go after the higher …

Don Bacon:

And here’s another one she’s made about. She says, “I’m not a Democratic socialist.” So I’ll return it and I’ll say this, “You said you loved Bernie Sanders and that your ideas most closely align with Bernie Sanders.” She has said that, so that’s not debatable. Bernie Sanders calls himself a Democratic socialist. And I can’t think of a key issue at all that she disagrees with Bernie Sanders, so I’m going to make the case, “You align almost perfectly with Bernie Sanders, who’s a Democratic socialist.” AOC calls herself a Democratic socialist. She’s endorsed, or the Justice Democrats have endorsed, my opponent. There’s not a lick of difference in their policy positions, between Eastman and the Justice Democrats, who call themselves Democratic socialists. So I’m going to go after that because she aligns perfectly with that part of the party. Now, those aren’t my ads. I’ll go after the higher message here. I don’t defend … I guess I defend the overarching message, but I don’t defend some of the graphics and the way they go about it, I would say. I’ll defend my advertisements, how’s that?

Chris Bowling:

Sure. Yeah. I got you. Just as a closing question, I’ll just give it to you and say, why do you feel like you’re the best choice to represent Nebraska’s 2nd Congressional district. Why should people vote for you on November 3rd?

Don Bacon:

Well, I’ve delivered bipartisan results. I’ve had 11 bills signed into law. Not just out of the House. I got them through the Senate, signed by the President. 11 bills is a pretty impressive record for a sophomore in there, and especially half the time, I was in the minority party. So I think we delivered on results. And I’ve been rated in the top 7% of bipartisanship. The U.S. Chamber rates me the best congressman out of all 435. I got their perfect score, and the Small Business Association, the NFIB, rated me with a perfect score. So I think we’ve done well there. We’re a finalist for the Constituent Services Award in the House and the Senate, so we’ll serve in our district.

Don Bacon:

I’ve been endorsed by Brad Ashford, who would not support me if he thought I was an ideologue, right? Bob Krist, the Democratic nominee for governor, has endorsed me. Barry Rubin, who ran the Democratic party for Nebraska for three years, endorsed me. Joe Lieberman, the Democratic nominee for vice president, endorsed me, mainly because my opponent is perceived as being anti-Israel in some of her policies. But I have a litany of Democrats or moderate Democrats and some independents now that have endorsed my campaign. My opponent, conversely, does align with Bernie Sanders and the Justice Democrat wing of the party. That’s the [inaudible 00:44:14] edge of the Democrat party to the likes of Nancy Pelosi. So I’ve delivered bipartisan results, and my opponent is on the radical left. That’s the campaign, write short.

Chris Bowling:

Got you. Okay. Well, is there anything that I haven’t asked you about that you think would be good for voters to know between now and November 3rd?

Don Bacon:

It’s interesting. But your questions aligned with most of the polling priorities right now. Americans are most concerned about COVID. They want to get the economy back moving. That’s [inaudible 00:44:46]. National security rates about number five. Now in 2016, national security was the number one issue. So it’s just funny how it’s changed. But in three debates, we’ve only had one question on national security.

Chris Bowling:

Yeah. I thought about it, but I think just for the readers… audience and it being very high … And there’s so many domestic issues to care about. Is there anything about national security or things like that that you’d like to talk about?

Don Bacon:

Well, big picture, four years ago, our military had the lowest readiness level since 1977, coming out of Vietnam. So in the Navy, only half the Navy aircraft could fly. In the Army, they had 58 combat brigades; only three could deploy, out of 58. Our military was really struggling with Iraq, Afghanistan. They had budget cuts from the thing called the sequester, if you’re familiar with that term, that the previous administration had. It resulted in about 16% reduction in funding for the military. So we’ve really turned it around, and our military today is quite healthy. It’s not totally out of the woods, but they’re in a much better spot than four years ago.

Don Bacon:

And I feel like I led the way on that. I’m on the Armed Services Committee. And we’ve turned our military, an area where they were sick, the military was sick, to a very healthy state. And one of the reasons [inaudible 00:46:07] issue, we have made great strides. ISIS controlled a third of Iraq and a third of Syria when I came in in 2017. Today, they don’t own an inch of real estate. So there’s been a lot of good successes out there that I think maybe when [inaudible 00:46:24] I guess that means good things happened, right? We’re in a more secure spot. But I have to … That’s my wheelhouse. That’s what I did for 30 years. So I find it fascinating, three debates, one question on national security.

Chris Bowling:

Yeah. Yeah, definitely. Well, cool. Well, thank you so much for taking so much time to talk with me.

Don Bacon:

You bet.

Chris Bowling:

I know that we went over what we thought we were going to do. But yeah, I appreciate you sticking around [crosstalk 00:46:48]

Don Bacon:

I got to go to Millard’s airport tonight and give a speech here in a little bit. So I’m not late for that.

Chris Bowling:

Okay. Awesome. Sounds good.

Don Bacon:

Thank you.

Chris Bowling:

Thank you so much again for taking the time.

Don Bacon:

Have a great night.

Chris Bowling:

Yeah. You, too.

 


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