Interviews

Rep. Chaffetz discusses his decision not to seek re-election

House Oversight Committee chairman speaks out on 'Your World'

 

This is a rush transcript from "Your World," April 19, 2017. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: We are keeping an eye on what's going on in the State Department here.

We're also keeping an eye on a big sell-off today at the corner of Wall and Broad, and a lot of this propelled by comments the speaker of the House was making in London, when he sounded optimistic about eventually getting tax cuts done, but if it drifts off into the late summer or later this year, so be it. That's the gist of it.

But, of course, Wall Street quickly seized on that as a sign, boy, these guys are in no rush to get this thing done. And tax cuts delayed might, might, might be tax cuts denied, that and some scrunchy earnings news that hasn't been all consistently robust for a market that has Still advanced heavily here since the election of Donald Trump, but again priced for perfection here that has come down a bit from those highs reached little more than a few weeks ago.

All right, a man at the epicenter of all of this is the chairman of the powerful House Oversight Committee. He's been floated around as a possible Senate candidate. He says he's not interested in that, but he shocked the political world today by announcing he will not seek reelection at all in 2018.

Of course, I'm talking about Utah Republican Congressman Jason Chaffetz, joining me first on Fox.

Congressman, thank you for coming.

REP. JASON CHAFFETZ, R-UTAH: Oh, thank you.

CAVUTO: And what is all of this about?

CHAFFETZ: Well, look, I -- March 26, I turned 50 years old. I was there sleeping on a cot in my office, as I do when I'm in Congress.

Over the -- I'm in year nine of being in Congress. And I have been away from my family for more than 1,500 nights. And it is as simple as the fact that I just -- I love my wife and I adore my kids. And you kind of got to reevaluate your life when you're sleeping on a cot in your office and you just turned 50.

So, I preach that you want to get in, serve and get out. And that's what I'm doing.

CAVUTO: All right, it surprised a lot of folks, nevertheless.

And people forget the sacrifices that those in elected office make. But, in your case, it was deemed to be well worth it because you're deemed one of those rising stars whose name has even been mentioned for Senate.

I take it that is out, too?

CHAFFETZ: Well, look, I enjoy the work.

I like the issues that we're tackling and the work that we do. But I happen to love my family more. And I'm not going to run for any office in 2018. I said I was going to get in, serve and then I was going to get out. And that's what I'm going to do. And my life will be complete if I'm not a United States senator.

CAVUTO: What are you going to do?

CHAFFETZ: Look, I was 16 years in the local business community. I have my own corporate communications business. And now that I have made this announcements, then I can follow some other things. And I will figure it out. I don't know exactly.

CAVUTO: You know, Congressman, all of this comes at a time -- maybe it's the process, maybe how -- forget the long hours and what you deal with, but the grief and the back and the forth.

This tax issue is another good example, that divisions within your party on even getting to it the finish line here and even getting it proposed and done. Speaker Ryan in London today intimating it could be in the offing, but maybe not as soon as folks hoped.

Are you just tired of the process?

CHAFFETZ: Well, look, like I said, I love the work. And there are frustrations. And when you have 530 people who all want to be the decision-maker, things don't ever get done as fast as you want them to.

That really has not been the factor in Jason and Julie Chaffetz want to do with their lives. And so that wasn't the main focus. It really is more about the family. I have had contentious town halls. I have had a lot of disputes in Congress and the battle. I actually love that. I worry that I'm going to miss that part of it.

But I was a placekicker once upon a time in my life, so I don't mind the contention. But I do want to get things done.

CAVUTO: But you do go into the belly of the beast. And I have got a chance -- I have met your family. You have a beautiful family.

But, of course, these town halls are not beautiful events. And, of course, Republicans are teed up almost like pinatas at these things. But you went into the belly of the beast and several times you engaged the crowd. I don't know how that went for you. But that -- was that a factor in any of this?

CHAFFETZ: No.

Look, like I said, I was a placekicker college. So, I'm used to being in the heat of the spotlight and people yelling and screaming and throwing things at you. And I kind of thrive in that setting.

But, no, I do think the country needs to look in the mirror a little bit and figure out, why such volatility? We can disagree on issues, but we don't have to yell and scream and treat our fellow human beings with the lack of dignity that I see in those meetings. That was ridiculous.

But that really wasn't the driving factor in doing this. It's just -- it's really more of a family consideration.

CAVUTO: You're a power player on Capitol Hill. And for a lot of folks, that means a great deal and paves the way. You're still -- you talk about 50. That's still reasonably young. I'm older than you, so I will call that reasonably young.

But I do wonder whether the process of what's going on is changing here. Maybe it was the scare Republicans had yesterday in Georgia, that maybe you're getting out while the getting is good.

CHAFFETZ: Well, look, we have been talking about this for a few months. And it was really kind of my birthday where we really sort of made the final decision and then took a couple weeks to make sure it was the right decision.

It's good to go out on top. I have won five elections here in Utah, and won by the widest margin of anybody running at this level for the last four in a row.

CAVUTO: Well, that's why they said you could walk to that Senate job.

CHAFFETZ: Yes.

CAVUTO: Now, I know Mitt Romney's name has come up, that they're trying to recruit him for that.

How would you feel if he were to run for that slot?

CHAFFETZ: No, Mitt Romney, are you kidding? There couldn't be anybody better. I don't know that he would do it.

But there's a lot of good people who want to serve.

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: What if they come to you, Congressman, and just say, we just think you could do this?

CHAFFETZ: No, no.

CAVUTO: No, huh?

CHAFFETZ: No.

I think, if I wanted to run, I would be very competitive. But I don't know if Orrin Hatch is going to run again or not. But for me personally, people just, they almost don't believe me, but my family is more important, and I love them more than I love being a member of Congress or a member of the Senate.

And all the great things that you do get to do, even though there's a lot of negative, I just happen to love my family more. And think about that, 1,500 nights away. And I'm looking at the next 200 to 250 nights per year that you're away from your family. And I don't know that I want to do that right now. I may get back into politics at some point, but not...

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: But not now, not now.

CHAFFETZ: Yes.

CAVUTO: Let me ask you a little bit, if you don't mind to indulge me, while you are in there and this whole battle back and forth.

CHAFFETZ: Sure.

CAVUTO: I told you about the sell-off at the outset here and this growing concern that Republicans are coming out the gate in the new administration stumbling.

That's not a damning indictment. Many have come back from a bumpy start, but that the tax cut thing looks delayed, the health care thing was poorly executed. They might get it, better luck next go-round. Are you worried that the agenda here is in danger?

CHAFFETZ: Yes, I do. I do.

Look, Republicans -- I was critical of the Democrats when they had the House and the Senate and the presidency. I was critical of Republicans under Bush when they had the House, the Senate and the presidency. I thought they blew it.

We have but two main objectives, repeal and replace Obamacare and to engage in tax reform. And I really do believe those should happen in 2017. And we have only ourselves as Republicans to look in the mirror and figure out, how do we get that done?

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: They can't get it done. For whatever reason, Congressman, they can't get it done.

And the latest battle back and forth is over whether you have to pay for these tax cuts. And I know a number of supply-siders, many of those, like Art Laffer and Larry Kudlow and Steve Moore, co-wrote a piece today arguing saying, get over that fixation. Get to it. Get to a big tax cut. You might have a short-term deficit -- I'm paraphrasing here, sir -- but that longer term it will generate revenues and the growth will more than make up for it.

CHAFFETZ: Yes.

CAVUTO: Are you in that camp?

CHAFFETZ: Yes.

No, I believe in -- look, we need to stimulate the economy. And all ships will rise when you actually stimulate the economy and put people back to work, and people can get better wages and we're manufacturing things here in the United States of America.

So, if you can deal with the health care, which will really help the small businesses, the average Americans, the low-income Americans, that's where it will really help them. But then you also do the tax reform, so that our-- the United States of America can be competitive on the world stage. We have the highest corporate income tax in the world. We talk about it all the time.

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: I'm sorry.

But you would be OK with short-term deficits, in the hope that, whatever they call this, dynamic accounting, or the revenues that come in later, that that would make it worthwhile?

CHAFFETZ: Yes, I do.

Look, we run a definite now. When Republicans took office in the House, took control of the House, remember, the deficit under the Democrats, the annual deficit was $1.4 trillion. Then it comes down to the $400 billion to $500 billion range, still exceptionally high, but still a trillion dollars better.

We have a long ways to go, but you have got to stimulate the economy. The best thing you can do to the treasury is to have a vibrant economy. And we need to lower the taxes in order to be more competitive, put more people to work. I'm with Art Laffer and the others on this. I really am.

CAVUTO: All right, now, did you raise this idea that you wanted to step down with Speaker Ryan? Did you bounce this off the party leadership?

CHAFFETZ: I did talk to Paul Ryan yesterday. And he said, wait, wait, don't do that. And I said, no. Well, let's have a discussion first. And I said, well, I kind of already had this discussion -- or decision.

That's between me and my wife, not me and the speaker. So, I had a good conversation with him. I did with Kevin McCarthy. And I did with Reince Priebus over there at the White House and just said, look, this is what is best for our Chaffetz family, and, consequently, that's what we're going to do.

CAVUTO: And, by the way, that would include, when you mention Reince Priebus, who is the chief of staff over -- for President Trump, a White House job?

CHAFFETZ: No, I want to go back to the private sector. I want to reintroduce myself to my family.

There's a lot of exciting things I want to do. I want to engage in politics. I'm not going to totally walk away, but I'm not going to run for an elective office. I'm not looking for a White House gig.

I truly -- I don't mind traveling some, but, look, I don't -- to go out and spend 200, 250 days a year, my life changed. My kids are -- about to become empty nesters. I can't imagine night after night with my wife by herself in Utah and me on a cot in Washington, D.C. That's just not a formula for success in the Chaffetz family.

CAVUTO: All right, we will watch it very closely. We wish you well, regardless, Congressman. Thank you very much for joining us. We appreciate it.

CHAFFETZ: Thanks. Thanks, Neil.

CAVUTO: Jason Chaffetz from the state of Utah, a rising star in the Republican Party, if not already at that status, not opting to run for reelection. We will keep you abreast of that and those developments, how this could affect the debate on Capitol Hill for tax cuts and the like.

Of course, he's a central figure in that and on the Oversight Committee as well.

END

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