Congressman Raul Grijalva (D-CD3) visited Zona Politics with Jim Nintzel during the August congressional recess. This is a condensed and edited excerpt from that interview. The entire conversation can be seen at zonapolitics.com.
You introduced Elizabeth Warren at the July NetRoots Nation conference in Phoenix. What did you think of her calling the Democratic nominee to stop of a revolving door between Wall Street and the agencies that regulate the financial markets?
She said it before but in a platform like that to say it, with the kind of national attention associated with Elizabeth, I thought it was really important and really necessary. One of the frustrations that we feel in Congress is that we're dealing with policymakers—particularly on the financial side, on the tax code side—who are coming from the financial services institutions into the White House. This was with Obama, this was with Clinton, this was with Bush and so on. Even the stimulus bill, the first part of it, dealt with the bailout, it didn't deal with jobs and other things like infrastructure.
A lot from the activists at Netroots Nation were concerned that Hillary Clinton has been too close to Wall Street. Folks were really rallying behind Bernie Sanders. Are you on Team Bernie?
No. I'm on Team Bernie philosophically. I'm on Team Bernie because we've been together in the House and now we he's a senator. But in terms of the campaign, no. And, we'll get to that point soon, but at this point it's wanting to see all of the candidates. Bernie's not the issue, but how are they going to move on some of the issues—economic issues, some of the social issues that are going to be important for the American people, and some of the investment issues, like education and health care. That includes Hillary, that includes anybody else that's going to be running, but I'm not on Bernie's campaign team. I think at this point, to wait and see is probably the best attitude I can have.
I heard a lot about the Trans-Pacific Partnership at the NetRoots conference. You've been someone who was has spoken out against that potential agreement.
Yeah, and now we're down to a yes-or-no vote. The whole deal with wanting and needing to stop fast-track authority is that it would have re-involved the American people, and involved the members of Congress, so that we would have an opportunity to look at the effects on job loss in this country. Look at the effect of trade policies currency manipulation, all of the factors that go into trying to retain jobs, and also—not only for us exporting but also for importing nations—to have the kinds of environmental and labor protection important to their workforce and to the people that live there. You know, for Vietnam to have the lowest pay scale in manufacturing in the world and to be a prime candidate for some of the moving of manufacturing jobs because of the wage issue is a sad commentary. That wasn't just a protection for American workers, but it was also an intervention in trying to protect foreign workers, as well. We lost that fight, and now we're up to a yes-or-no vote and, unfortunately, many of us who feel that that treaty as it's being discussed doesn't include the right protections. We are repeating the mistakes we made in NAFTA, the mistakes we made in CAFTA, and we're kind of reconciled to having to vote "no" when we had an opportunity to craft a trade legislation that was fair.
What kind of grade do you give NAFTA all these years later?
All these years later, the ups and downs the broken maquiladoras, the disappearing maquiladoras, the coming back of maquiladoras—I still think that, not only was it the job loss, but what it did to the borderlands, in particular that it depressed the economic development in many of those nations because it became more of a trade issue instead of an economic development issue, on both sides of the border. You look at Nogales, which continues to have the same population, 28,000 or 29,000, and you cross into Nogales, Sonora, and at one time they were similar size, but since NAFTA, the population in Nogales, Sonora, has gone up to 700,000, and unemployment rate is huge. The pressure to migrate for economic reasons is huge. You know their environmental protections are non-existent, as we saw with Grupo Mexico and the spill that incurred on the (Bacanuchi) River. I give it, if I'm being generous, a C- or a D.
There's a new push to de-fund Planned Parenthood in the wake of these so-called sting videos that were released. You've been a very vocal defender of Planned Parenthood. What do you make of this episode?
Seven million women last year went for Planned Parenthood services. Ninety percent of those women went for cancer screening, preventive health, STD screening and testing, family-planning consultation, prevention medical support counseling. Ninety percent. And those women are the women that cannot afford or who fell through this whole health system of ours. I believe it was a contrived hit, because you see how these videos were dribbled out, and if it was such an issue the whole package should have been presented, but it's a contrived hit. There have been numerous efforts to defund Planned Parenthood since 2011. Now there's a threat of a shutdown if we don't defund them. This goes directly at the heart of the issue, which has been this campaign to defund and undo Planned Parenthood as a whole. And that's why I think that this campaign around the videos is a smear campaign and more of a contrived political hit than it is a real wrongdoing on the part of the conversation that was being had there.
What are your thoughts on the proposed nuclear deal with Iran?
I agree with the president. We were down to one option. We're still trying to get ourselves out of the quagmire that we're in the Middle East and particularly in Iraq, and the whole thing going on in Syria, a quagmire which cost 5,000-plus lives almost $2 trillion. Here we are with an opportunity. And I'm not naive, Iran is not a good player, they're not the sweet little innocent person in the Middle East, and they've shown their behavior all over. But the fact that we have P5+1 nations behind this treaty, that there's verification, and that it limits the option for the long haul of them having nuclear weapons. Fifteen years, 25 years, it is more than a risk worth taking. The other option is to prepare for war, to prepare for another major intervention into Iran as a means to try to end any nuclear development. I think that the sanctions stopped it, and this treaty adds the permanency to it.