The House Freedom Caucus, a group of conservative lawmakers in the House, has new leadership: Arizona Republican Andy Biggs. Biggs joins the podcast to discuss Rep. Justin Amash’s departure from the House Freedom Caucus, how the group can be effective in a Democrat-controlled House, and what policies he intends to prioritize. Biggs also shares about his trips to the border, and why he’s concerned illegal immigrants are bringing diseases like mumps and measles to the United States. Read the lightly edited interview, pasted below, or listen on the podcast:

We also cover these stories:

  • Benjamin Netanyahu’s time as leader of Israel may soon be at an end.
  • Vice President Mike Pence gives a speech on USMCA trade policy at The Heritage Foundation.
  • Arizona Supreme Court sides with Christian artists in 4-3 ruling.

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Rachel del Guidice: We’re joined today on The Daily Signal Podcast by Congressman Andy Biggs of Arizona, who was recently elected as the new chairman of the House Freedom Caucus. Congressman, congratulations.

Rep. Andy Biggs: Thank you. It’s good to be with you.

del Guidice: Well, thank you so much for being with us today.

To start off, last week you were elected the new chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, the most conservative caucus in the House. What was your initial reaction to finding out that you were elected chairman?

Biggs: My initial reaction was, “I voted for the other guy.” I’m just teasing you. I’m overwhelmed, quite frankly.

This is the most conservative wing of the Republican Conference. It’s filled with very capable, articulate, intelligent men and women who have had great success in the private sector. They’ve had great success here in Congress. Many of them are on important committees. They do good work. They’re bright. So it’s really awesome to work with them on a regular basis.

It’s the only place, quite frankly, that I’ve been in Congress where we actually debate the bills in detail and actually infuse constitutional principles and discuss how this impacts the Constitution as well. So it’s an awesome group to be with.

And then you consider who we had before. You have Jim Jordan, who was the first chairman, and Mark Meadows, and then my own predecessor in Congress, Matt Sam, was one of the original founders. There’s just so many great people who’ve done some great things. These are big shoes to fill and broad shoulders to try to stand on.

del Guidice: What would you say is the role of the House Freedom Caucus in a Democrat-controlled House right now?

Biggs: I’d say there are several things that we need to do. No. 1, we need to continue to articulate and advance the conservative cause. You’ve got a president who’s been elected to be a disruptor of the swamp and he’s also advancing his position. We need to advance our position as well. …

We’re always going to be the conservative conscience. And so we have to do that. …

I guess the last one, which is really important as well, is we have a Democrat body that is trying to undermine the will of the voters and oust President Trump. And they’ve been wanting to do that for what, two and a half, three years now. Actually, since the day after the election.

So it was the Freedom Caucus with a couple others, I give Devin Nunes some great credit there, but Devin and the Freedom Caucus were the ones that were in there trying to stand in the breach all along.

So … with Devin and the Freedom Caucus, we’ve actually fought the Democrats and exposed the fraud, which is their Russian investigation, the Russian narrative. So we have to continue to articulate our narrative out there.

Then one more thing, Rachel, as long as we’re talking about stuff, is the Democrats have gone so far to the left. You look at the presidential nominees and we see that that’s reflected in Congress. This notion of whether it’s socialism—which, let’s define it what it is, it is an authoritarian brand of government where they want to get in control virtually every aspect of your life.

That’s really where they are and we have got to stand in the breach against them and fight back and remind people the reason that we are an exception to the world is the ability to make choices and be accountable for those choices.

That’s why you see the economy booming today, because President Trump and the [congressional] Republicans, when we had the House, we changed the tax code to let people keep more of their money. In this instance, businesses. We’ve deregulated and this administration’s deregulated.

That has allowed people to feel freer and actually become freer. If we could get the House back, we can do some more tax relief, which would actually explode this economy, take it way over the top.

I’m talking about a repeal of capital gains. I’m talking about lower the tax rate on the middle class and and make sure that they’re participating fully in the economy. I’m talking about making sure that small businesses get the pass-through type of benefits that we gave big business.

These types of things would really make this economy grow. It would lead to further deregulation. We would become, in fact, once again the juggernaut of the world economically. In fact, we’re the only economy growing in the world today, but we would be what people thought the Chinese economy was 20 years ago except for ours would be built on a foundation that would last and be solid.

del Guidice: A few minutes ago you mentioned that there are lawmakers, especially Democrats in the House, that want to oust Trump and they’re continuing on that drum beat. Congressman Justin Amash, he made headlines a few months ago earlier this year, you’re saying that he was leaving the [House Freedom Caucus] over his disagreements with President Trump.

Do you think that changed the House Freedom Caucus at all and what would you say is the relationship between House Freedom Caucus members and the president?

Biggs: Justin is a good friend and I was sad to see him go and I’m sad to see that he’s basically taken on the president and has been so critical. My big belief is there’s so many people on the other side that are critical of everything this president does, we don’t really need to jump in on that. We need to find the commonalities and emphasize that.

Then I would say that the Freedom Caucus has a great relationship with the president. It was solid when he was campaigning. Then that initial health bill, if you’ll remember, was a horrible bill. He was getting bad advice from people that he’s now come to call out, like former Speaker [Paul] Ryan, but they wanted him to sign onto just a horrifically bad bill. And the Freedom Caucus said no and took a stand. We did it with respect, understanding he wanted to keep his promise, but we just articulated the facts.

Since that point, he understands, he trusts us, we trust him. And there’s a really good relationship between the Freedom Caucus and President Trump. And he understands that the Freedom Caucus is the body that has stood in the well against these guys that are trying to take him out. …

They wanted to impeach him. They’ve been trying to impeach him. They have nothing to impeach on. It was the Freedom Caucus that basically came in and defended his position and defended him against these attacks.

del Guidice: So looking forward, what kind of legislation do you see the House Freedom Caucus pursuing during the next year?

Biggs: Well, we’re going to continue to do things on everything from immigration. We’ve come up with ways to fund the wall and we’re going to continue to try to advance those.

Our problem is in the House, we don’t have the majority, so the majority is always going to be against us. But we are going to continue to advance this because I think one of the things that the Freedom Caucus needs to do now, and if we had people that were forward-thinking doing this, we need to put some policy positions in place, articulate and narrate those positions for when we take the House back. We want to make sure that we’re ready.

So whether it’s immigration, whether it’s the tax policies—which I’ve previously iterated—whether it’s balancing the budget and attacking this relentless spending problem that we have that’s growing like crazy … and talking about the procedures and the processes that need to be in place.

For instance, there’s no reason, and I’m going to keep beating this drum on this, that we should be having two committees, a Budget Committee and an Appropriations Committee.

The Budget Committee comes in and says, “OK, you need to do this and we’re going to balance. And 10 years ago, it was in five years.” Anyway, we’ve never balanced according to their plan because the Appropriations Committee doesn’t adhere to that plan. So it’s just ridiculous and gives needless work and actually defuses power, where in this instance, we would be better served having this in one where they can actually step in and start balancing the budget.

So we’re going to advance those positions, everything from process to policy, and be ready. But we’re also going to recruit and we’re going to campaign for people to get them elected to the House.

del Guidice: You just mentioned spending and the budget. The House Freedom Caucus opposed the huge spending deal that happened over the summer. What do you all plan to do on spending going forward as Congress is continuing to look at resolutions and individual appropriations bills?

Biggs: … First of all, we’re going to scour these bills to make sure there’s no poison pills and point them out. For instance, I would be surprised if the Democrats didn’t insist that there’s no money in this continuing resolution they’re going to propose to go to the border wall. I mean, that’s just not going to happen. So we have to acknowledge that that’s the case. We’re going to talk about whether we’re still funding abortions anywhere with federal dollars. …

So those are some examples of poison pills. But at this other time, we are going to continue to fight to balance the budget. This is just ridiculous that we can’t get together and pass budget bills that work. And we don’t.

del Guidice: House Democrats, among many other things, are … continuing to push as well for gun control measures in the wake of the mass shootings we’ve seen. What do you think of this drum beat and what do you think lawmakers should do on this issue?

Biggs: … I’m not speaking today from the Freedom Caucus because these are all Andy Biggs’s ideas and thoughts. We haven’t voted on these things and I should give that disclaimer. I’m not used to having to give that disclaimer.

The problem is all of the bills and policies and legislation that Democrats are introducing and those that want to do gun control, they would have had no effect whatsoever on any of these three shootings that, really, they’re using as the catalyst to go forward. And we’re talking about the two in Texas and in the Dayton.

The reality is we have a Second Amendment to protect us from a tyrannical government. They want to turn our government to tyrannical government and at the same time that they want to take away your guns. And they really do want to take away their guns. Beto O’Rourke as been very clear on this and nobody else popped up and said, “Oh, no, no, no. We disagree with Beto. We don’t want to take those.” They do want to take those.

Sheila Jackson Lee gave a pretty strong indication of that last week in our hearing and in the Judiciary Committee.

The bottom line is they’re going to create a narrative. So she’s going to start calling these weapons of war. Nobody’s going to use in a AR-15 in war because why? They don’t have a range, right? They’re not shooting the right ammunition. So she said she held one once and I thought, “Oh my gosh. This is who you have making policy on gun laws? This is someone who’s obviously afraid of a gun, to hold a gun. And you should have a healthy respect for a weapon, but you should also come to understand it.”

So leaving that aside, we also have to bring up the narrative, which I was trying to bring up in the Judiciary Committee, of how many times people use firearms to protect themselves. They do on a regular basis. The estimate is in the hundreds of thousands every year in this country.

Well, leave that aside and say, “Well, what happens in Baltimore, for instance, where they have very strict gun laws?” Well, the bad guys have guns, the good guys don’t. And so they have these high crime rates in Baltimore and Detroit and Chicago where you have these tighter gun laws. …

I remember reading a few years ago in China where they have absolute no gun ownership in private hands. So what do they do? A guy goes crazy on a train and stabs dozens of people with a knife and kills dozens of people. And we see that in Europe and we see the use of cars, we see the use of other weapons such as bombs even.

del Guidice: You represent a border state. In April, I actually joined you on a trip to the border, which was really fun.

Biggs: She did.

del Guidice: And you’re back at the border this summer observing the realities of the humanitarian crisis that’s happening right there right now. What are some of the things you witnessed on this latest trip?

Biggs: I went to the border three different times, everywhere from McAllen, [Texas,] to Yuma, [Arizona,] during the recent work period and a couple of things: No. 1, you were there during the surge, right? So we had just an incredible humanitarian crisis as well as security crisis.

We still have that problem because the actual number of everyone apprehended or interacting with the Border Patrol was 62,000 last month. That’s still three times what would be in a normal same time period. But we’ve got some new facilities that can house some of these people.

So the humanitarian side is not as dire as it was and we’re preparing for another surge because we anticipate at any time the potential for another surge.

So the humanitarian thing calms down a bit, but it is still real. And even with the lack of the surge, we got to one place at a port of entry where they had had 250 people dropped off during the night for processing. This is one of the most remote ports of entry. And what happens is the only way to get there is to be bused in.

So the cartels were busing these people in. They do it a couple times a week. Those people get out. … That port of entry is only open something like 9 to 4 or something like that. But we have a Border Patrol agent living on or near the facility. They literally walk up to his house, call him by name, and say, “We are here to surrender.”

That’s still going on on the borders today. The agent there, we were talking to the customs agents, say, “What can you tell us?” And we were told that … in the last month or two, he’d been exposed to hepatitis A, B, and C, of course measles, of course, mumps.

And we start talking about measles. And think about this. Nationwide, I think we have 1,000 cases of measles, but our people are getting exposed and people are bringing measles over. Measles, mumps, lice, scabies, some of the others, which I can’t remember. But the one that I do remember is a flesh-eating bacteria that they had not been able to identify yet.

So we are talking literally of disease coming across. We’re talking groups of people still coming across. The drugs are coming across. You still have some places where you have groups of people surrendering, but you have other places like the Tucson sector and South East Arizona, very remote, rural area where drug trafficking has picked back up.

del Guidice: Wow. That is incredible that they know this Border Patrol officer by name. …

Biggs: Yeah. Isn’t that something? And I said, “Well, how does this work?” And they said, “Well, sometimes whoever’s kind of the leader of that group will have it all written down on a paper: “Agent so-and-so, agent so-and-so, we claim asylum in the United States. We have credible fear.” It’ll be all written down and they’ll say that. And on behalf of the 200, 250 people that are there.

del Guidice: Yeah. You never hear stories like this reported.

Biggs: No, you don’t. …

I think we surprised the heck out of them because we had notified them that we were coming but it didn’t get passed on down. Then all of a sudden you’ve got all these members of Congress and their staff pop in. Here we are. And I think they were surprised. But it was good to be there and see this firsthand.

del Guidice: Were there any other things you witnessed during any of these trips that essentially counter rhetorics we see reported in the media or elsewhere about the conditions at the border or what happens when you’re there in person and you can say, “Wow, this is actually not the case”?

Biggs: Look, every time I’ve been down to the border, what I can tell you is that the Border Patrol facilities themselves are not designed to be holding facilities. They are processing facilities with some holding cells there. Even if there’s some crowding in those cells, they leave the doors unlocked. So people can come in and out.

There are tables with water cans, five or 10 gallon water cans, all over the place. They fill them up with ice and water as often as necessary. There’s juice boxes, there’s snacks. One of the places that now is a facility in El Paso, [Texas,] they’ve added these soft-sided tents. These are huge and they’re wide open and there was virtually nobody in there when we went. They were just opening that facility.

There are food stations everywhere. There’s hygiene products everywhere. There are supply rooms everywhere we go with clothing and hygiene products. So if somebody comes in, they’ve got torn and dirty, filthy clothing, they’ll take them off, they’ll give them new clothes after a shower. They will wash their old dirty, filthy clothing and return them to them. That is what’s going on.

It’s just such a lie what we hear from the other side. I don’t know what they see when they’re going down, but we’ve been down multiple times and as I say, sometimes catching them off guard a little bit and we don’t see anything that they’re talking about.

del Guidice: It’s so interesting. Thanks for sharing that.

We were talking a few minutes ago about how Democrats are going to impeach the president and this week [Rep.] Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the freshmen from New York, she’s all on the drum beat of wanting to impeach Justice [Brett] Kavanaugh. This has come up in the news again and I was just wondering if you have any thoughts on this … in your own personal capacity or as speaking for [the House Freedom Caucus], either way. I was just curious if you have any thoughts on this latest Kavanaugh situation.

Biggs: Well, my personal thoughts with regard to Justice Kavanaugh, [is] what a sham The New York Times is. They put out a story and then they forgot or something that the alleged victim said, “Well, gee, I don’t remember anything. I’m really not a victim. I have no awareness of this.” Well, good grief.

When you think about that, that, even for a public figure like Justice Kavanaugh, almost becomes libel per se. They have shown a willingness, a willful mind. I saw today that the same author there had tweeted out horrific things in the past.

So these people are unhinged. They’ve got Trump derangement syndrome. You know what it is? Ultimately, the Supreme Court has too much power and that’s why you see these massive fights for Supreme Court nominations today. They legislate from the bench. They overturn. They’re not applying the law anymore. They’re trying to interpret and in interpreting, they’re creating law.

And the Democrats know they cannot win on policy issues to the American public. The American public doesn’t want socialism. The American public doesn’t want the government in every aspect of their lives the way the Democrat leadership here in Congress wants. So they resort to the courts.

For them, abortion is the cause. They think that Roe v. Wade could be overturned. If Roe v. Wade could be overturned, they’re going to do anything they can, they’re going to go after Justice Kavanaugh. I view this as blatant libel. And I think Ocasio-Cortez is … Can I mention her name? Why not? She’s out there saying things. That seems slanderous to me.

So when you go forward like that, I just think they’re unhinged and they’re unhinged because, in a rational way, they understand that they can’t win on the policy debates. They have to win in court.

They understand with President Trump appointing these justices and these judges, 150 federal judges now, that they are losing some of their grip that they’ve held over the courts for 40 years.

And with Justice Kavanaugh, in my opinion, it’s outrageous. You’re not going to see an impeachment go on Justice Kavanaugh. It’s just not going to happen. But they’re going to continue to try to torment this guy. And in so doing, I think they’re trying to deter any other conservative nominee in the future.

Basically, if you thought the Justice Kavanaugh thing was an outrage, just imagine if President Trump is allowed to name another replacement for a Democrat-held seat on the Supreme Court.

I’m just saying, just think about that. We’re now talking in the terms of left wing, right wing on the court. We talk in the terms of Democrat, Republican on the court. That is too much power in the court. But I’m just going to tell you the next nominee is going to go through hell. If there’s seven circles of hell, as Dante said, then Kavanaugh went through probably three or four of them. The next one will go through all seven.

del Guidice: Wow, that’s true.

So final question, how would you rate conservative lawmakers, leadership, and accomplishments in this Congress this far? And how would you say we can do better?

Biggs: Well, I’d give us solid grades. I wouldn’t give us an excellent. Maybe we’re a B, B-. What the conservatives have got to do is we’ve got the narrative we’ve got to get out. We’re doing OK at that, I think.

I think we’re working hard at protecting and preserving the promises we made and trying to keep those. That means that in some instances you’re going to have to support the president and make sure that he’s protected because of what he’s trying to get done on those promises. So that’s good.

I think what we need to do is we have to be better at getting our narrative out. We don’t tell good stories. The Democrats always tell stories. So when I was trying to, in the Judiciary Committee, tell stories about how we defended ourselves, they bring in stories that, quite frankly, I think are blatantly false sometimes. And we have got to bring in stories and we have to revere and respect as we always do.

… Conservatives, best thing we do is the United States Constitution. So when the Freedom Caucus says we’re going to stand there in the breach and we’re going to represent the unheard voices, people who feel they’re not heard in Washington, D.C., we’re going to defend the United States Constitution. And as we do that, people will be freer.

del Guidice: Congressman Biggs, thank you so much for joining us today.

Biggs: My pleasure. Thank you, Rachel.