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Politics & Government

Sen. Sherrod Brown Leads Democrats In Opposition To Trump


So the Republican Party is united. Are Democrats? As we heard at a rally before the Supreme Court earlier this week, progressive activists like Dawn Southhard told us Democrats need to do more.

DAWN SOUTHHARD: I'd like to see them stop all the nominations - all of the nominations until they revoke this executive order. That's what I want to see.

CORNISH: Democrats trying to respond to that wish include Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown. He joins us now. Welcome to the program.

SHERROD BROWN: Good to be back. Thank you.

CORNISH: Now, to start, you actually helped lead a democratic boycott at the Senate Finance Committee, and that just resulted in the Republicans today changing the rules and approving Steve Mnuchin for Treasury and approving Tom Price to be health secretary. So now those nominations go to the full Senate anyway. I mean what was it that you were trying to achieve there, and what do you do now?

BROWN: We had two nominees in front of us who clearly lied to the committee. And what Mr. Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary designee, lied about was whether or not his bank did robo-signings, throwing hundreds, at least, of Ohioans out of their homes, people...

CORNISH: I want to jump in here because Steve Mnuchin has denied this. But I think the real issue is his nomination is going forward. It's going to the floor, and you don't have the majority to stop it. So what now?

BROWN: Well, I would think that the committee would be a little embarrassed for breaking the rules.

CORNISH: Senator Hatch says they've suspended them.

BROWN: OK, they suspended the rules, which is (laughter) an interesting way of saying they changed the rules or broke the rules. Fundamentally, it's distressing because this this is going to affect people's lives - have somebody secretary of the Treasury who has had a history of making a lot of money by imposing hardships unfairly on people, particularly sort of moderate-income people who might be struggling anyway.

CORNISH: You know, I want to also talk about President Trump's nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. Here's one of your fellow Senate Democrats, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, on MSNBC today.


JOE MANCHIN: Let's give the man a chance. To talk to him. My goodness, don't shut it down before we even get started. And two wrongs don't make a right.

CORNISH: Now, the wrong he's referring to is the Republican refusal to consider President Obama's nominee Merrick Garland who is also very well-respected. But essentially that paid off for Republicans, didn't it?

BROWN: If it's all about power and amassing political power for a political party and for a majority leader, I suppose it paid off. It didn't pay off for the country because it set a terrible precedent. My opposition to Judge Gorsuch - it's because he subscribes to the theory that corporations are people.

Fundamentally, he's saying that corporations have more rights than individual people do, and it's - shows on decisions on the environment. It shows on campaign finance and dark money that is now overwhelming the political system. It's very out of the mainstream of what this country stands for.

CORNISH: You know, Donald Trump actually won your state by eight points (laughter), which you know. You've got a pretty popular Republican governor there in John Kasich. You know...

BROWN: Who didn't support Trump, I would add.

CORNISH: Right. It's a wide part of...

BROWN: Yeah, OK (laughter).

CORNISH: ...Basically - Republicans backed Trump.


CORNISH: So do Ohio voters want someone who leans to the left as far as you do?

BROWN: I don't think Ohio voters voted for Donald Trump because he wants to raise the eligibility age for Medicare. I don't think they voted for Donald Trump because they want a Supreme Court which believes that corporations are people. And I don't think they voted for...

CORNISH: But didn't they? I mean he said these things on the campaign trail. Like, they were aware of who they were voting for.

BROWN: I don't think he ever - he never - he said the opposite of raising the eligibility age for Medicare. He said the - I don't think he ever said corporations are people, too. I do not believe that's what voters in Ohio said in November.

CORNISH: Earlier, we played this clip of Dawn Southhard at the Supreme Court, and she's among those activists who say, we're not sure Democrats are doing enough; we want you to push harder. What's your response to that?

BROWN: I don't think my voting against every nominee is the best way to do that. There is no nominee I've been thrilled with. There are a couple that I find acceptable, a few more I voted for that I believe will serve as best as we can expect with a president like this.

CORNISH: Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio, thank you so much for speaking with us.

BROWN: Glad to do it. Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF EL-P SONG, "TIME WON'T TELL") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.