Tony Perkins: Fiscal matters are front and center here in Washington, at least recently. And a few seem to be on the same page. Now last week House Representatives passed a Continuing Resolution, which the Senate is now considering, and Paul Ryan released his budget proposal yesterday, as we talked about just a few moments ago. The White House and its allies in Congress clearly refused to take the fiscal state of the nation seriously. But there is a growing number of conservatives in the House who are saying “enough is enough!” And one of those leaders is Congressman Matt Salmon. Congressman Salmon was elected to represent Arizona’s 5th district in November. But, it isn’t his first time here inWashington. It’s not his first rodeo. He previously served 3 terms and left Congress in 2000, honored a self-imposed term limit. After the passage of the Affordable Health Care Act and the expansion of government regulation during an economic crisis, Congressman Salmon answered the call to serve and we’re grateful that he did because he’s stirring things up and he’s joining me now to talk about that right here on Washington Watch. Congressman, welcome to the program.

Rep. Matt Salmon: Tony, it’s an honor beyond measure to be on your show, thank you.

Tony Perkins: Well, thank you and let me tell you what a breath of fresh air you are and you’ve given your experience, I’ve just seen it as I’ve talked to other freshman and even sophomore members who, you know, kind of kept at bay by not knowing the system. You’ve come in and you’ve provided a little context and experience and I’m beginning to see some stuff gel…

Rep. Matt Salmon: Oh, you will…

Tony Perkins: And I think, I think folks need to hear this because to me it’s encouraging. Tell us what’s happening.

Rep. Matt Salmon: Well, what’s happening is for the last couple of years I think that the cadre of new recruits that came into Washington D.C., most of them via the Tea Party, came in ready to change the world and stand up for conservative principles across the board.  And what they quickly found was that many times they would vote by their own Republican leadership on a lot of things but, more particularly on fiscal issues, and I’ve just kind of tried to let them know unequivocally that it doesn’t have to be that way. When I was in Congress before, we were very vocal about fighting for Conservative principles and when our leadership strayed, we did everything that we could to pull them back into the fray and that included sometimes voting against bad rules. Let me explain that, Tony, because what most Americans don’t understand, it becomes very much an inside the insider’s game or inside the beltway dialogue. But I want people to understand that every bill that comes to the U.S. House floor has to first have a rule passed by the Rules Committee when the bill can come to the floor. The rule determines what amendments can be available or allowed, if any. It determines the length of debate, determines the rules of engagement. And what happens all too often is that a rule has passed that basically ensures that the bill is going to stay a certain way and so what members will do because it’s kind of sacrosanct almost that you just don’t vote against Republican rules, that you just don’t do that. And so they vote for the rule and then vote against the bill. Well, why do that? We should, if we have an opportunity to kill the bill by voting against the rule and it’s a bad bill, then let’s use every tool in the tool box to stop bad legislation from happening.  Last week, an example was the Continuing Resolution. There were a lot of good things about the Continuing Resolution, but one of the things we conservatives wanted to offer was an amendment to that Continuing Resolution which would have defunded ObamaCare. And that was disallowed. In fact, the rule that was passed in the Rules Committee basically was a closed rule which disallowed any amendments and so now Ted Cruz on the Senate side is picking up the fight and trying to fight against funding ObamaCare in the Continuing Resolution, but we conservatives in the House never even got an opportunity to vote. Now I’m going to tell you, Tony, had we got a chance to vote for that amendment it would have passed overwhelmingly and we would have sent to the Senate a bill that defunded Obamacare and we would have, I think, advanced the debate that all, pretty much all of our congress believes in and if we’re going to win, you have to be on the offense, you can’t play defense and win a basketball game or a football game or anything. It’s the same in Congress, if you’re not on the offense, you can’t win and we’ve got to show the American people that we’ve got heart, we’ve got backbone, and that we stand for what we believe in.

Tony Perkins: You’re absolutely right and you wrote about that in an op-ed that was published this past Monday in Washington Times. I thought it was great. I thought it was a bold declaration long-overdue to get this out there. Most people don’t, as you said it’s kind of inside baseball. There’s so many instances like that that have occurred. There was previously…well let me stop for a minute. I want to get your take on this because I often say this on this program because many of your colleagues up there have been good friends of mine over the last 10 years and I think we have, in terms of the membership, we have one of the most conservative Congresses…

Rep. Matt Salmon: We do!

Tony Perkins: In our history…

Rep. Matt Salmon: We do. In fact, it’s far more conservative than the Republican House that I served in back in the 90’s and even with that Congress we balanced the budget for the first time in 40 years. We were able to pass meaningful welfare reform that has cut the roles of welfare by over 50 percent. I mean, good things were accomplished, but by and large I think that the Congress now is far more conservative and that’s why it’s so quizzical to me that they’re not willing to fight on some of these rules. Because, we’re going to keep getting bad stuff if we don’t stand up and tell the leadership unequivocally “We are going to stand for limited government. We are going to stand for Republican conservative principles and if you’re not going to adhere to that, then we’re going to take the rules down.” And that’s the op-ed that I penned on Monday with the Washington Times and I’ll tell you, Tony, it’s gone viral. I mean, all these different conservative groups acrossAmerica said, “Finally, you know, we’ve got an idea that we can all get behind.” So, in fact, several groups have said “In our endorsement process, we’re going to ask them: Do you support that concept?” They’re now calling it the “Salmon Rule.” I don’t care what it’s called, but the idea is: “Are you willing to have a backbone and stand up for conservative principles?” Because the American people that got us here, they’re not partial to the elephant over donkey, they are partial to what we stand for and if we don’t stand for that, they’re not going to put us back in office again.

Tony Perkins: I agree 100 percent with you. Let me ask you though, what’s been the response on the Hill from your colleagues a, and b, the leadership?

Rep. Matt Salmon: Well, the leadership, predictably, is not too excited about it.

Tony Perkins: (laughing)

Rep. Matt Salmon: You know, [they] don’t like to have to take their medicine. We’re practicing a little bit of “tough love” here. But the rank in file, I’ve gotten extremely positive comments. In fact, on the Continuing Resolution last week with a very minimal effort we were able to get sixteen “no” votes on the rule. One more vote, 17, and we[’d] beat the rule. And so I think this is going to reach a critical mass. I think, Tony, if groups like Family Research Council and other conservative groups out there start telling the members of Congress: “Get behind this idea. We need to change the way things are inWashingtonD.C. We cannot let President Obama keep advancing his agenda. We’ve got to stop it at every turn. You are the last bastion of freedom for this country and we’re counting on you, so use every tool in your toolbox.”

Tony Perkins: Yeah, what I have seen is that the Republicans seem to be too concerned about keeping the majority than using it.

Rep. Matt Salmon: And you know, if that’s where we’re at, then you will lose it. And the Parable of the 10 Talents in the Bible, the one that buried up his talents and was afraid, you know, that he would lose them, you know, lost everything in the end.  And that’s the way we do anything in life. If we’re not willing to be bold and stand on correct principles and do whatever it takes, then we lose. And if we’re not willing to risk… You think about what the founding fathers risked when they started… There are a lot of examples, but the founding fathers, when they went in and signed the Declaration of Independence, they risked everything that they had. They risked their life, their liberty, their families, their possessions, everything that they had for what they believed in. If all that I have to risk is losing an election, that’s nothing compared to what they had to risk. And the last thing that I’d like to say is that you never win when you play “just to not lose.”

Yesterday (Thursday, March 14), Rep. Matt Salmon (R-Ariz.) joined FRC President Tony Perkins for the Washington Watch with Tony Perkins radio show.  Below is a transcript of the interview.

Tony Perkins: Absolutely, I’ve said that so many times. What I see in Congress right now, going back to what we talked about a few moments ago, about how this is the most conservative Congress, in terms of the membership-House in modern time. It’s like there’s been new wine put into old wineskins, and there needs to be a change and I think what you’re doing is sparking either a course correction from the leadership or possibly a change of leadership. And I just, I think that people are frustrated all across the country and when they hear folks like you, and I can tell you our phone lines are lit up because when they hear folks like you they get encouraged and it gives them a reason to stay engaged and stay involved so I want to send you kudos from all of our folks across the country.

Rep. Matt Salmon: Tony, it’s their prayers and their goodness and their kindness that keep us going here in Congress more than they know and I’ve been approached many times at conferences and speeches and people set in place, and I want them to know that there’s nothing more powerful in the entire universe than the power of prayer and we appreciate it.

Tony Perkins: Let me, speaking of speeches, let me extend to you an invitation to join us in October at the Values Voter Summit here in Washington where we’ll have a few thousand conservatives from across the country gathered here and I think they need to hear your message because I think they will be energized and it will cause them to get more engaged.

Rep. Matt Salmon: I will be honored to do that. You can count on me.

Tony Perkins: Alright. Matt, thank you so much for being with us and, again, thanks for your leadership on Capitol Hill.

Rep. Matt Salmon: Thank you.