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Beyond the rules 

The focus of our recent interview with Representative Louise Slaughter was her work as the incoming chair of the House Rules Committee. But the conversation touched on everything from the war in Iraq to Renaissance Square (which she has fought, vigorously). Among her comments:

On this fall's elections:

I think it means that we're going to get our government back. I've really believed and said often and meant it to the core of my soul, that if we didn't win this November, it was over. We wouldn't have another chance. We've been losing the Bill of Rights; we've been losing the constitutional rights that we have. We've been handing over all kinds of power to the president and just backing off, and it's been awful.

We were losing our democracy. I mean, we were wiretapping people and putting them in protective custody or whatever the hell. And it wasn't really much of a relationship to the America we believed we lived in.

It was really alarming to me, because I made an agreement a long time ago, before I ever got there, I would never do a thing to hurt the Constitution or the bill of rights. And I never have. Not for guns or flags or any of that.

On the war in Iraq:

One of the things obviously we have to deal with very early on here is the war. We've got to start talking to everybody in sight over there. Everybody. And try to come up with some plan that's doable and do it in a hurry.

On other Democratic priorities:

We've got to build the economy back. The war is costing $10 billion a month, borrowed, for the most part, from China. Now we can't sustain that forever. We've got to get our own economy set back up and ready to go so that young people have a place to go to work. It breaks my heart to think of the young people who have to leave here when they want to be here with their family and live here and bring up their kids.

On Renaissance Square:

That's still the biggest boondoggle I ever saw. They're not going to have enough money to operate the thing, and they're going to have to go begging from the city and county governments, and I hate to see it coming. There was so much they could've done. They could've redone Sibley's old department store there into a bus station. And they could've had restrooms and places to come in off the street and to stage people off of Main Street, not piling everybody there like they're going to. It wouldn't have cost much of anything. But they wouldn't hear it. And the reason is that the contractors run the place.

On contractors running the place:

It's like when I was talking to you a while ago about members of Congress writing legislation for themselves. There's not much difference when the contractors here write the legislation and make the plans and get the jobs and decide what Rochester's going to be. It won't work.

Anything else?

No, but I'm hell bent on that one, I'll tell you.

And I watch it over and over again: it's the same thing. Contractors come to all the dinners and pay big money. They sit on all the boards, and then they decide they're going to reform the government. And so they're reforming the government, and all the time they got their hand out for some project they want to do to benefit themselves. And I'm just not playing that game.

If you're in this making a profit and you want public money to benefit yourself, don't come to me. It's unfair to competitors. It's unfair to the taxpayers. And it certainly doesn't get us much bargain for the buck either, I'll tell you.

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