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Congressman John Yarmuth

Host Bill Goodman talks with U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth, D-3rd District, of Louisville.
Season 9 Episode 36 Length 28:27 Premiere: 10/01/14

Yarmuth Says Congress More Debating Club Than Legislative Body

When asked to describe the current Congress in one word, Rep. John Yarmuth doesn’t hesitate with his response: frustrating.

The four-term Democrat serving Kentucky’s 3rd Congressional District says the body is six times less productive than the infamous “Do-nothing Congress” under President Harry Truman in the late 1940s. He fears partisan divides have made the group more of a debating society than a legislative body.

Yarmuth appeared on this weekend’s edition of One to One with Bill Goodman to discuss current political issues. He is seeking reelection in a campaign against Louisville surgeon Dr. Michael Macfarlane, who will appear on the program next week.

The Democrat blames the lack of productivity in the U.S. House of Representatives on what he calls extreme elements of the Republican Party. Instead of getting the opportunity to vote on legislation that would address significant issues, Yarmuth says representatives only get “messaging proposals” that are designed to score political points but have no chance of becoming law. He cites the House’s 53 votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act as a prime example of this strategy.

Battling Islamic Militants in the Middle East
Yarmuth voted for President Obama’s plan to train and equip Syrian rebels to fight Islamic State (ISIS) militants in that country. He acknowledges he has serious questions about the plan and whether there are enough rebel fighters to effectively fight ISIS. But he says he didn’t want to undermine the work Obama had done to build a multi-national coalition against the extremists.

“I don’t think anybody has an idea that they are confident will work,” Yarmuth says of combating the threat posed by ISIS. “There are no good answers to this problem, so we do the best we can.”

Yarmuth says he is pleased that the president’s plan also includes targeting ISIS communications and financial operations to help debilitate the jihadist network. Even as Obama pursues airstrikes against ISIS without full Congressional approval, Yarmuth hopes that after Election Day, Congress will have a full debate and vote on U.S. military involvement.

Domestic Issues and Economic Policy
Earlier this year, House Democrats released a plan called the Middle Class Jumpstart. Yarmuth describes it a series of policies Democrats would enact if they are given control of Congress. The plan includes increasing the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour, reinstating extended unemployment benefits, refinancing of student loans, and investing in early childhood development, and infrastructure projects.

Yarmuth discounts the contention that increasing the minimum wage would hurt the economy. He says the locales that have already raised worker pay have experienced job growth and better standards of living. Plus he contends that taxpayers end up subsidizing business that don’t pay a living wage because their employees are more likely to need Medicaid coverage, food stamps, and housing subsidies.

On infrastructure development, Yarmuth says that never used to be a partisan issue because both Democrats and Republicans liked to have their pictures taken at ground-breakings and ribbon-cuttings for projects they helped fund. He argues that road and bridge projects create jobs and boost commerce, and that now is a good time to make those investments because interest rates on bonds are so low.

“There’s really not a good, solid economic argument against this,” Yarmuth claims. “There is a philosophical argument against it, and that’s what the opponents make.”

Another economic issue conservatives often cite is the contention that high business taxes in the United States result in companies sending factories and jobs overseas. Yarmuth says he’s willing to explore a reduction in the 35 percent corporate tax rate, but only if that’s coupled with closing the loopholes that allow many companies to not pay the full rate in the first place.

Finally, Yarmuth sees little chance that the Affordable Care Act will be repealed even if Republicans gain a majority in the U.S. Senate. Yarmuth contends that as Majority Leader, Sen. Mitch McConnell still wouldn’t have the 60 votes needed to execute a full repeal. Plus, McConnell would have to answer to more than 500,000 Kentuckians who have gotten insurance coverage through the state health exchange, Kynect.

“There are protections under the Affordable Care Act that virtually every Kentuckian benefits from,” Yarmuth says, “and he’s going to have to explain to those people, if he wants to repeal it, why he wants to take away those benefits.”

The Remaining Years of the Obama Administration
Yarmuth says he wouldn’t want to be in Obama’s shoes during the last two years of his presidency, especially if the GOP takes control of the Senate. Yarmuth fears the biggest result would be that Republicans will further limit the president’s ability to make appointments to his cabinet, federal judgeships, and the U.S. Supreme Court.

While admiring Obama’s intelligence, Yarmuth says he wishes the president would take more decisive actions rather than always studying the nuances of every argument.

“George Bush, when he was president, had very little knowledge and total conviction,” Yarmuth explains. “I think President Obama has total knowledge and not enough conviction. Sometimes you just have to go with your gut.”

On the Oct. 6 edition of Kentucky Tonight, Yarmuth will discuss issues in the 3rd Congressional District race with his Republican challenger, Dr. Michael Macfarlane.

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Season 9 Episodes

30th Celebration of Leadership Kentucky

S9 E47 Length 28:11 Premiere Date 12/14/14

Peter Van Buren and Kris Kimel

S9 E44 Length 28:16 Premiere Date 11/27/14

Roger McNeil and Ben Malphrus

S9 E43 Length 28:31 Premiere Date 11/18/14

John Thelin

S9 E42 Length 28:01 Premiere Date 11/11/14

Congressman John Yarmuth

S9 E36 Length 28:27 Premiere Date 10/01/14

Ron Leach

S9 E35 Length 28:02 Premiere Date 09/23/14

Jack Conway

S9 E34 Length 28:31 Premiere Date 09/13/14

Hal Heiner

S9 E33 Length 28:06 Premiere Date 09/06/14

Mike Duncan

S9 E31 Length 28:01 Premiere Date 08/23/14

Steve Beshear and Hal Rogers

S9 E30 Length 28:01 Premiere Date 08/16/14

Sen. Rand Paul

S9 E29 Length 27:01 Premiere Date 08/09/14

Chuck Todd

S9 E28 Length 28:01 Premiere Date 08/02/14

Naomi Judd

S9 E27 Length 28:23 Premiere Date 07/26/14

Jason Howard

S9 E26 Length 28:01 Premiere Date 07/19/14

Roy Hoffman

S9 E25 Length 28:06 Premiere Date 07/12/14

Karen Mann

S9 E24 Length 28:02 Premiere Date 07/05/14

Dr. Shawn C. Jones

S9 E23 Length 28:00 Premiere Date 06/27/14

Kentucky State Auditor Adam Edelen

S9 E22 Length 28:03 Premiere Date 06/21/14

Stephen Chung

S9 E21 Length 28:01 Premiere Date 06/14/14

Jean Cochran

S9 E20 Length 28:01 Premiere Date 06/07/14

Bob Marino

S9 E19 Length 26:17 Premiere Date 05/31/14

Diane Ravitch

S9 E18 Length 28:16 Premiere Date 05/24/14

Al Cross - 2014 election primary

S9 E17 Length 28:01 Premiere Date 05/17/14

Owsley Brown III

S9 E16 Length 28:22 Premiere Date 05/10/14

Eugenia Toma

S9 E15 Length 28:01 Premiere Date 05/03/14

Dr. Wayne Andrews

S9 E14 Length 28:01 Premiere Date 04/26/14

Dr. Otto Kaak

S9 E13 Length 28:01 Premiere Date 04/19/14

Commissioner of Agriculture James Comer

S9 E12 Length 28:01 Premiere Date 04/12/14

John Williams

S9 E11 Length 28:01 Premiere Date 04/05/14

Jimmy Rose

S9 E10 Length 28:01 Premiere Date 03/29/14

Dan Gediman

S9 E9 Length 26:36 Premiere Date 03/22/14

James Hurley

S9 E8 Length 28:01 Premiere Date 02/23/14

Dreama Gentry

S9 E7 Length 28:00 Premiere Date 02/16/14

Geoffrey Mearns, president of Northern Kentucky University

S9 E6 Length 28:01 Premiere Date 02/09/14

Terry Brooks, Director of Kentucky Youth Advocates

S9 E5 Length 28:01 Premiere Date 02/02/14

Ben Chandler, Former Congressman

S9 E4 Length 28:01 Premiere Date 01/26/14

Dr. Christine Riordan

S9 E3 Length 27:31 Premiere Date 01/19/14

Governor Steve Beshear, January 5, 2014

S9 E1 Length 28:01 Premiere Date 01/05/14

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