"Inside Politics" Interview: Rep. Bob Livingston
March 23, 1998
REP. BILL PAXTON, (R) NEW YORK: The only certainties that I believe are: one, Newt Gingrich is going to run for president, and vacate the speakership; two, there will be a campaign for his replacement, that's already begun; three, you can't unring a bell. The horses are out of the barn.
I think Bob Livingston has a realistic chance of being Speaker. I think it will be a competitive race, at this point, between Bob Livingston and Dick Armey. But, you know, it's a year and a half away and anything can happen and undoubtedly will.
BERNARD SHAW, CNN: That was Congressman Bill Paxon, the New York Republican, once touted as a potential successor to Newt Gingrich. No more, of course, Paxon's retiring at the end of this term.
Two Capitol Hill publications have been taking head counts in connection with a possible speakership race. Last Monday, "Roll Call" reported Congressman Bob Livingston's allies said he has 77 votes in his pocket. Two days later, "The Hill" put the tally at 80 votes, plus.
Livingston, Dick Armey, or whomever, would need support from 114 of the House's 227 Republicans to nab the speakership. Congressman Livingston, Chairman of the Appropriations Committee, joins us now.
And I must ask you why are you doing this?
CHARIMAN BOB LIVINGSTON, (R) LOUISANA: Well, Newt Gingrich last year said that he might run for the presidency. I have known him for a long time and I think he will. Whether he does or not, I support him for the speakership as long as he wants to be Speaker, and I may well support him, and probably will support him if he were to run for president. So this is not intended to undercut Newt.
It's simply saying if he leaves office in the next term or so, that I'm very interested in taking his place.
SHAW: Now some of our viewers on INSIDE POLITICS might be confused. When this new year began there was word that you were going to retire and that you were going to take a post here in Washington as a high-paid lobbyist lawyer. What happened?
LIVINGSTON: About five weeks ago, Bernie, I was definitely leaving. My constituents weighed in with me and told me in no uncertain terms: "look, you've got another two years as Chairman of the Appropriations Committee at very least.
Please stay around and do your job, and you can be of help to us, and to the state of Louisiana, and hopefully, to the nation as well." I finally succumbed, particularly after our retired archbishop weighed in with me and I couldn't tell him no. I decided to stay for two years and if within that time the speakership opens up I'll take a shot at it as well.
SHAW: Quote, "I can sew it up," unquote -- your words. But Majority Leader Dick Armey also has a needle, he also has thread, he's after this.
Can you beat Armey for the speakership?
LIVINGSTON: There may be other candidates and, of course, this thing is far from over. In fact, it's not really begun until...
SHAW: Can you beat Armey?
LIVINGSTON: I think I can -- if I have to. But the important thing is that the race has to start. I have got a good start in counting votes, and I think we'll just have to wait and see when the race begins, who has the most votes.
SHAW: Are some of Armey's lieutenants bad-mouthing you on the Hill?
LIVINGSTON: There's been some interesting comments, but as far as I'm concerned we shouldn't be picking at each other, and our supporters shouldn't be picking at us.
We should be moving the agenda forward. We should be keeping a Republican majority number one, and advancing the principles of the party so we can get less government: less costly government, less intrusion in the lives of the American people, and hopefully make sure the American people will remain prosperous for generations to come.
SHAW: But Bob Livingston you know some people what you're saying is doing that you're unseemly, and selfish, and threatening the party's agenda on the Hill, which was the thrust of the letter signed by 16 committee chairman from your party.
LIVINGSTON: Bernie, some of those 16 are actually supporting me -- quietly. The fact is, that the race is out, as Bill Paxon said, "the horse is out of the barn." Once the race begins if you don't get the votes as quickly as you can you're likely not going to be in the race.
SHAW: You're big with moderates. How do you lure conservatives, what do you trade? What do you give up for their votes?
LIVINGSTON: I don't give up anything. I'm not going to trade. I am a conservative.
SHAW: People aren't going to vote for you for nothing?
LIVINGSTON: You have to look at my record. I'm probably as conservative as anybody in the House, but I also know how to gather votes. I've been the Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee for the past three years...
SHAW: A powerful post.
LIVINGSTON: ... And I've been able to reach touch people of all sectors and bring them in, get a majority of the votes, and sent them to the president, and make sure that he signs our bills.
I want to take that as our same approach to the American people and lead the Republic forward. I want to make sure we have a majority well into the future.
SHAW: Chairman Livingston, we have to go.
We'll watch that race very closely.
LIVINGSTON: Thank you.