Offered as bonus material for the "We the People" collection, this full interview features Sen. Roy Blunt, (R) Missouri. The "We the People" videos are produced in collaboration with the U.S. Capitol Historical Society.
Bonus Material -- Sen. Roy Blunt (Full Interview)
Sen. ROY BLUNT (R-MO): I'm Roy Blunt. I'm a United States senator from Missouri.
I've been in the Senate, this is my second term in the Senate. I was in the House before I was in the Senate. So a combination of 14 years in the House and eight and now beginning a few little more than that in the Senate.
Well, you know, the House and Senate makes up the Congress. When you're a member of the Congress, whether you're a member of the House or a member of the Senate, though normally people think of the House as the Congress and the Senate as the Senate. And there's nothing wrong with that either. But it's Article I of the Constitution. It's Article I for a reason. That the Founders thought that it was the job of the Congress to set the course for the nation and the job of the president in Article II to execute the will of the Congress. And, you know, as things have gotten more complicated and more authority has been ceded particularly in foreign policy to the president, I think we're outside of what the Founders would have envisioned.
The Senate, unusual in that it has always functioned not as a simple majority institution. That our Constitution designed this two-party legislature, one representing of the states, not of the population. The other more representative of the full population. And that body that was representative of the states, the Senate, was designed so that the minority would always be heard. Now, it wasn't designed so that the minority would always have a veto over what happened. But it has been designed in a way that there are minority rights that are sure that all ideas are pursued. Now, the very fact that the Senate is only elected a third of it in every two-year election cycle, means that to some extent the Senate is a little more isolated and insulated from an immediate view in the country that something needs to change. It takes three full election cycles for that mood to run through the Senate, on election day at least. And often by the time you get through three election cycles, things-- the opinion of the public has changed. And so in a lotta ways the Senate was designed to be a disappointing institution. Not to be immediately reflective of what people wanted to do, but to-- when-- to make a decision at some point where it was truly the course that the country wanted to be on rather than the immediate thing that people thought was the right thing for the entire federal government to turn in a new direction and do.
Well, you represent the people you work for. I think the Senate's a little harder to do that because in a big, diverse state like Missouri, you have conflicting economic priorities. You have conflicting regional priorities. You have conflicting urban-rural priorities that often don't occur in a House district. So it's a little harder to do. But, you know, you represent the people you work for. But in my view, you also owe the people you work for your own best judgment. You know, the one reason they-- one of the reasons they send you here is to look into things in a detail and over a period of time that they don't have to do that. They have sent you to do that. And so I-- I think you don't just reflect whatever the popular will is at a given moment, but you try to use your own judgment as-- your own best judgment as a determining factor. And if people decide they don't like your own best judgment, there's an election out there where they can find somebody whose best judgment they like better. But you do represent your state. You do in most cases, I think you're able to look at the people that elected you, the interests of the state that elected you and find out that they really are very much in sync with those same things for the whole country.
Our Constitution is the oldest constitution in the history of the country, in the history of the world. The Constitution really came up with several unique ideas. One was that government could be designed in a way that balanced itself, that the judicial branch, the legislative branch, and the executive branch balanced themselves. Because there was no overriding authority except the first three words of the Constitution. It was the first document ever written that purported that that was who was the source of government. Wasn't "we the Barons of England." It wasn't "we the states of the Articles of Confederation." It was "we the people." And it was an earth-shattering, groundbreaking concept in 1787 that the people themselves were responsible for their government, the source of their government, which is exactly why every citizen should be concerned about both the rights, the privileges, and the responsibilities of the Constitution.