Sullivan Discusses Biden’s Upcoming Speech, John Kerry Allegations on Bloomberg TV
WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) joined David Westin on Bloomberg TV’s Balance of Power today to discuss what he wants to hear from President Joe Biden’s upcoming address to a joint session of Congress, the status of negotiations on a large infrastructure package in Congress, and the recent allegations that John Kerry, the former secretary of state and current special presidential envoy for climate, disclosed covert Israeli attacks against Iranian interests in Syria to Iran’s foreign minister.
Westin: President Biden addresses a joint session of Congress tonight, speaking to Republicans and Democrats alike, although fewer of both, because of COVID restrictions. For a view of President Biden's ambitious agenda from the Republican side, welcome now Senator Dan Sullivan, of Alaska. Senator, welcome back. Great to have you here.
Sullivan: Good to be on the show, David.
Westin: As you listen to this tonight, what are you particularly going to be focused on that President Biden is saying?
Sullivan: I think, in some ways, we're kind of beyond words, because the President gave a speech about unity for his inauguration speech but did not act in that manner at all. So what I'm really focused on are his actions. One issue that's really important to me—I highly doubt he's going to raise it—is to kind of call a cease-fire on the war on Alaska's working families and our economy. We've had over nine executive orders from the Biden administration just singularly focused on Alaska, almost all of them to kill jobs, and restrict our economic growth. It's obviously something we don't want. I'd love a cease-fire in the war on Alaska.
I’d also welcome him finally discussing securing the border. I was down on the border—it is a crisis—with several senators recently and yet the President and Vice President, they don't talk about it. They don't go down there. People should go down there, listen, learn and see what's happening on the border. I'll be surprised if he talks about that, but he needs to.
Then, I'm sure he's going to talk about climate, but, you know, a central element of his climate plan right now is to restrict the production of American energy, kill jobs [while] promising good jobs two decades in the future. That's not working for my state. I don't think it's working for the country. We're going to be putting forward our own climate, environment, jobs and economic growth strategy soon. It’s going to be much better, much stronger, and I think accepted by the middle class of America here soon. But these are all issues that I think are important and I hope he acts on them.
Westin: Senator, one of these has caught a lot of attention for people on the Bloomberg terminal, watching Bloomberg, listening to Bloomberg—some of the proposals about tax increases. What is your reaction to what you're hearing?
Sullivan: We've had good discussions on the infrastructure bill that the Republicans are putting forward. There's actually been good discussions with Democrats and even the White House on the opportunity to expand the base with regard to user fees, possibly on infrastructure. But there's not an appetite on our side to look at raising taxes more broadly on families, on middle class families or small businesses across the country, when we're still in a recession. We actually think that the 2017 jobs and tax cut bill that we passed did exactly what we predicted. It created an enormous surge of good-paying jobs, and strong economic growth that stopped the inversions that were driving capital offshore. It brought hundreds of billions of dollars back to America. We think that was working before the pandemic. So there's not a lot of appetite from our perspective to change those numbers, particularly as we're still getting out of a recession.
Westin: Senator, you mentioned small businesses, which has been a concern throughout this pandemic. As we know, small businesses generate a lot of the jobs in this country—a disproportionate share, frankly. But, at the same time, most of the small businesses are not Subchapter C, right? They are passed through Subchapter S partnerships and they would not really be affected, would they?
Sullivan: The details are what matters, or what will matter. As you know, what the President has proposed—there's a lot of focus on the corporate tax rate, but we need to see the details. He talks about, you know, we won't touch middle class family [rates]. Again, how do you define that with two earners? So we need to see the details. But, again, David, the broader discussion right now is, we are not supportive of major tax increases, given where our country has been in this pandemic and, as you know, a lot of times there will be discussions about taxes and they have a way to kind of drift down onto middle class families and on small businesses. So I'm a skeptic.
Westin: As a practical matter, you're in the Senate. There is the filibuster rule there. If he moves forward on these, can he avoid the filibuster rule? Can he do it by reconciliation?
Sullivan: Well, look, it depends on what the issue is. There's a lot that's in their infrastructure bill that clearly would not be able to move forward with regard to reconciliation. The parliamentarian makes that call. But I think that, in the Senate, there's been a lot of Democrats who are pushing for getting rid of the filibuster. It's ironic. Three years ago, over 60 senators wrote the leadership of the Senate saying, “Don't get rid of the filibuster.” That's when President Trump was president and the Republicans were in the majority. But it will depend on what the parliamentarian rules with regard to the specific provisions you're talking about.
Westin: Senator, I want to touch on something that's a fairly unusual story coming out of Iran where there apparently was some sort of recorded oral history purportedly with the foreign minister, Mr. Zarif, with John Kerry, who is of course, the former secretary of state. You have reacted very strongly to it. Give us what you take away from that recording. Assume it's right, because we don't know that it's right. Goodness knows there are things coming out of Iran that we can't rely on. But assume it's true.
Sullivan: Well, look, David, what I did, I went down to the floor of the Senate on Monday. And, by the way, I've never done this before. I've never asked for any official—Biden administration, Trump administration, Obama administration—during my term in the Senate, to resign. I've been tempted, but I haven't. But I asked for the resignation of John Kerry and if he doesn't resign, he should be fired, if this is true. Now, we have to figure out if it's true. I think it certainly looks like it's true.
But here's what he did. If he told the foreign minister of Iran, Foreign Minister Zarif, about secret information on Israeli operations against the Iranians in Syria, one of our most important allies in the world, Israel, to the largest state sponsor of terrorism in the world, Iran, a country with the blood of thousands of American soldiers on its hands, this is a treasonous act, in my view. And I don't say that lightly. So, to me, it would be unacceptable to sell out one of our most important allies. And doing it with certainly the largest state sponsor of terrorism in the world. If that happened, he needs to resign or be fired immediately. I'm going to be sending a letter to the President later today with several senators saying, “Mr.President, you need to look into this. You need to get to the bottom of this. And, if it happened, he's got to go.”
Westin: Senator, you were in the military, you've had some dealings with Iran and you know, you’ve got to be very careful because it's not always what it appears. Mr. Zarif supposedly was going to run for president. You wonder who leaked this for what purpose there may be sort of internal political reasons that may motivate this, that may undermine the credibility of it.
Sullivan: There's a lot that we need to find out about this, and I don't disagree with you. You certainly can't trust the Iranians. But if this tape is true, and even on that tape, Zarif says he was astonished that John Kerry would tell him something like that—so even he's admitting how really outrageous this is. If it's true, and we got to find this out, Kerry needs to go, he needs to resign. He needs to be fired.
Remember, he is currently a member of the National Security Council in the Biden administration. He holds an important job. And here's something else on this, David. If this is true, think about how many allies are going to want to work with John Kerry. The answer is none. So, again, his effectiveness will be zero. I think this is an act that borders on treasonous if it's true, and he needs to be fired or resign.
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