In Nevada, after 458 days of stonewalling Nevada’s top political reporter, embattled Congresswoman Shelley Berkley finally sat down with Jon Ralston last night to discuss her on-going ethics scandal and Berkley quickly found herself on the defensive. It’s 458 days since Congresswoman Shelley Berkley graces us with her presence. The count ends today. She’s in a contentious race for U.S. Senate against Dean Heller and under the microscope of an ethics probe. Shelley Berkley breaks her silence.
Shelley Berkley Defends Her Poor Ethics Record On Ralston:
Full interview followed by transcript:
VOICEOVER: it’s 458 days since congresswoman shelley berkley grades us with her presence. the count ends today. she’s in a contentious race for u.s. senate against dean heller and under the microscope of an ethics probe. shelley berkley breaks her silence, next.
JON RALSTON: welcome to face to face. we’ll bring you newsmakers and commentary you won’t find anywhere else. the house ethics committee said they would decide by july july 29 whether shelley berkey broke rules. she is hoping to unseat very nice to have you back.
REP. SHELLEY BERKLEY: thank you, jon, i thought it would be worth the wait.
RALSTON: we shall find out. i do want to talk to you about really pressing issues like immigration and the affordable care act and an ad against you. i do want to ask you a few questions. obviously, i know a lot about these issues, your husband is a kidney doctor. i have seen one of his partners before. you did what some with the help of your colleagues save the program. first, let me show you what you said at a february 2,011th february 2,011th budget ways and means. you were talking about the stainable growth rate, of sgr.
REP. BERKLEY: well my husband is a doctor, my daughter is a doctor. we do health care, you caused your own program. my income is dependent on health care. then you’re advocating things that people see that would help your own income. i was advocating for things that i was trying to explain in this statement, and i disclose disclosed that this is something that i know a great deal about. i have never advocated for anything that was not in the best thing for patients and patient care.
RALSTON: some of these may have helped patience and constituents in addition to your husband. let’s focus on a couple of letters being one was to congressman pete stark. and “the new york times” reported that they are closely aligned at times. in early february miss berkley received the first $1,000 from amgen and then $2,000 by kidney partners and then $3,000 from davida. the day that two of those checks were delivered, ms. berkley sent a letter to pete stark who was then chairman of the house and ways committee, echoing concerns raised by the industry, the congresswoman said she worried that patient access to care could be affected. here’s the quote: you wrote in that letter to pete stark without disclosing your husband’s interest. here’s the question “the new york times” raised to you, is it proper for you to have taken flown these player so closely given your husband’s position in the political action committee?
REP. BERKLEY: no. my only motivation, my constituents got the best possible health care. that was the only motivation that — that’s the only thing motivated me. the letter to pete stark — i sit next to pete stark — because we both sit on the ways and means committee and the public health care committee. the second thing and the thing to keep in mind that all of this had to do with patient care and ensuring that the patients, especially those on dialysis — because that was the issue we were talking about — got the best possible health care in this country. that was it.
RALSTON: you have been around politics most of your adult life. here’s a person, shelley berkley, takes money from people have a direct interest. your husband sets up a pac to receive the money. and then you write a letter to pete stark, saying this will help patients and it would help your husband’s income and, therefore, your income.
REP. BERKLEY: the only thin that concerned me was patient care in nevada.
RALSTON: you don’t deny it would have benefited your husband, do you?
REP. BERKLEY: it wasn’t my motivation, and i don’t know. what i do know, the people of the state of nevada need an outspoken advocate.
RALSTON: you didn’t talk to your husband before you wrote a letter like that?
REP. BERKLEY: probably not. i think it is important for me to explain i am married to a wonderful guy, as you know. i’m very proud of him. he’s one of the leading kidney specialists in the country. he saves lives for a living. that’s a very important thing. and i’m very proud of him. i tell everybody what he has done what he has accomplished and what he does to save people’s lives. that is what my concern was. now, i — there is nothing untoward and i do talk to larry about a whole host of things, we’re married, we talk like every other married couple.
RALSTON: seems like you got around the house ethics rule because your husband never registered as a lobbyist.
REP. BERKLEY: he is not a lobbyist.
RALSTON: he helped set up a pac. he acted as a lobbyist without setting up –
REP. BERKLEY: i reach out to doctors all over this community when there are health issues that would affect them. larry was treated no differently than any other doctor in this state. and there are certain things that i voted on that are not good for larry and not good for doctors.
RALSTON: no. because i want to hear about the phone conversationses with him after that. you cosponsor at least six pieces of kidney care things. kidney care quality and education act. kidney disease educational act. the immunosuppressant — kidney, kidney, kidney — any other special interest you’ve taken an interest in?
REP. BERKLEY: glad you asked, jon. you talked about since pieces of education that affect kidney care, which is quite big in this country. if you take a step back and look at my record, i have sponsored over a 100 pieces of health legislation. osteoporosis, kidney disease, a number of other diseases — i.
RALSTON: six piece of legislation besides kidney?
REP. BERKLEY: yes, at least.
REP. BERKLEY: again. let me repeat this. there’s a great breadth of commitment to patient care. i work very hard to make sure the people of the state of nevada have the best health care in the country. osteoporosis, breast cancer, you’re talking about heart disease, lung cancers and you’re talking about keuz any disease.
RALSTON: all right.
REP. BERKLEY: no — i joined — i shouldn’t say join, just like my opponent, i have worked to ensure that — that medicare reimbursement is — that we are able to provide medicare prei am pursement for doctors that are providing patient care.
RALSTON: they are getting cut, it cost shelley berkley family’s money
REP. BERKLEY: that. isn’t the issue. these doctors that provide the services, they need these payments –
RALSTON: i don’t want to continue with these issues. one more question. we’re going to come back from the break and then i want to talk about immigration.
REP. BERKLEY: what is the question.
RALSTON: we’re going to go to break first or they are going to kill me. we have to go to some ads. there’s probably a shelley berkley ad — [laughter]
RALSTON: welcome back across nevada to face to face. she’s back. congresswoman shelley berkley is back on the program, we’re wrapping up discussion of her ethics matter and then we’ll move onto education, health care and more. stick around. in that “new york times” bees, the director and center for educational studies, the house is supposed to announce something in july. this is a very serious conflict of interest, he said, the former congressional aide who has revised ethics rule. there is an official use of power to help him and the family and i think that is unethical. let’s show people what the house ethical manual says it. says they need not be denied phone they receive incidental benefit. only when members actions would serve their own narrow financial interest distinct from constituents — you said you help constituents. you said you wrote two letters, someone the cabinet secretary, kathleen sebelius –
REP. BERKLEY: uh-huh.
RALSTON: you don’t think it could be seen by some people — no one knows what is in your heart that you are pursuing a narrow financial interest in pursuing these?
REP. BERKLEY: . no. number one, there are millions of kidney patience throughout the united states. and kidney doctors. i know you don’t want to talk about u mc, but i think that’s the comment essential issue here. would i have really stood back and done nothing when i knew there was a possibility that the only kidney transplant program in the state of nevada was going to be closed? at the time it was going to be closed, there were 200 nevada patients waiting for a kidney transplant. this is a life-saving operation. now, they might have survived or had to go to california or arizona to get their kidney care. that’s my job, to make sure the people that i represent get the best possible care –
RALSTON: when you did all that, i see this could affect larry –
REP. BERKLEY: i wasn’t thinking about the politics of it.
RALSTON: it suspected about the politics, it is the financial benefit side of it.
REP. BERKLEY: that did not concern me. my only concern was to provide good health care in the state of nevada for the people that live here. that’s it.
RALSTON: i know you want to talk about this subject for the whole program. but let’s move on. you haven’t heard anything from the ethics committee or your friends the democrats there?
REP. BERKLEY: no.
RALSTON: let’s move onto immigration, the big story of today with the supreme court decision, you said you’re deeply disappointed the supreme court didn’t validate the entire reform law. they did three out of four parts. berkley said it emphasizes the need for congress to pass an overhaul with a pathway to legal status for those that go to the back of the line, pass english and then pass a criminal background check. you also said it would force even more people into the shadows. how?
REP. BERKLEY: look, i was always opposed to the arizona law and i thought it was unconstitution wha l it was first passed. i’m very glad the supreme court three out of the four provisions of this law are unconstitutional. and i will bet money — i will bet money — they little amount, that these lawsuits that are bubbling up, once they get to the supreme court, the fourth one will be invalidated.
RALSTON: the fourth provision, if someone is arrested for another crime that they can then check their immigration status. now, this is — this has been going on already. the federal and state governments have these things called security communities programs where they do this all the times. i read a piece in the national journal where they do this all the time. they gutted the law and you don’t care.
REP. BERKLEY: because i think the entire law deems the whole law should be unconstitutional.
RALSTON: i should have said detained, not arrested.
REP. BERKLEY: y? because you look different? that’s the sole recent you mentioned it in your intro. the fact of the matter is we need to pass comprehensive immigration reform on the federal level or we’ll have 50 different states with 50 different laws. now, my opponent is opposed to comprehensive immigration reform.
RALSTON: is he?
REP. BERKLEY: he isn’t — you can see where heller — he’s opposed to the dream act, opposed to the comprehensive immigration reform. he thinks the arizona law is great and should be here. we have dramatically different thoughts on these issues.
RALSTON: i want to talk more about immigration because i want to talk about the president’s decision last week. we’ll talk more with congresswoman shelley berkley, she hasn’t been here for 458 days, and i think she wants to stay
RALSTON: welcome back across nevada to face to face. congresswoman shelley berkley is running against dean heller for u.s. senate. she is here to talk to us. aren’t you disappointed in the president on comprehensive immigration reform?
REP. BERKLEY: in what way?
RALSTON: he said he was going to do something about his campaign. what has he done? he never made it a priority, did he congresswoman?
REP. BERKLEY: i think –
RALSTON: no, tell me.
REP. BERKLEY: i think the president is very much on record –
RALSTON: on record? but what has he done? tell me about the bills he introduced.
REP. BERKLEY: the president doesn’t introduce pieces of legislation –
RALSTON: the — you know what i mean. he has not made this a primary — until five months before the election he flouts article 2, section 3 of the u.s. constitution and says i’m going to do this. didn’t he pander to the hispanic community?
REP. BERKLEY: absolutely not. the republicans have blocked every effort in the united states congress on the dream, a comprehensive reform in order to get something passed. then they cry foul when the president decides he’s going to move forward. so no, the president is on record, the democratic party is on record by supporting the dream act –
RALSTON: the dream act?
REP. BERKLEY: 2010.
RALSTON: you’ll go through this again –
REP. BERKLEY: of course.
RALSTON: the dream act was 2010, and then the president wakes up and says, look, i can do this –
REP. BERKLEY: what has changed?
RALSTON: what has changed?
REP. BERKLEY: the republicans refuse to address the dream act. i am on record in opposing it. what do you want us to do, continue voting on legislation that has no hope in passing? because the republicans won’t work with the democrats?
RALSTON: you really think this was a policy decision by the administration?
REP. BERKLEY: i think it is a good policy –
RALSTON: really, to take a very complex issue and say, i said i couldn’t do this a year ago but now that it will affect my reelection, i’ll do it.
REP. BERKLEY: look, let me give you an idea of what is happening on the ground. we have young people that were brought to this country by their parents and had no say in it. some of these kids have been here since they were six months old, a year old, they go through our schools, graduate successfully. you’re telling me now these youngsterred ought to be deported? and what about these young men and women who volunteer for our services, they make tremendous sacrifices, they come back to the country they love and are willing to die for and we’re going to deport them? not only is it cruel, it is bad for the united states of america. that’s what the president was correcting.
RALSTON: we have to take a break, she’s on a roll, better get her another sip of coffee in the break, congresswoman shelley berkley to talk about the affordable care act, obamacare. stick around.
RALSTON: welcome back across nevada to face to face. congresswoman shelley berkley is running against dean heller for the first district. i want to talk about health care reform, obamacare and a controversial statement your old friend told fox’s neil cavuto about a conversation he had with you about obamacare.
[VIDEO CLIP] STEVE WYNN: i supported a democratic congresswoman named shelley berkley. i called her during obamacare. i said, shelley, what are you doing? this is killing us. she said to me, quote — quote, this is not here say — she’s running for the senate. steve, i know it is terrible, my husband’s a doctor. he hates it too, but if i don’t vote for it, she will punish me — she being nancy pelosi. [END VIDEO CLIP]
RALSTON: you said that, didn’t you? he said that was here say. did you say it?
REP. BERKLEY: i remember the conversation. i do not remember it the way that he remembers it –
RALSTON: how do you remember it?
REP. BERKLEY: so, obviously, it is different. we discussed the health care bill, we hadn’t voted on it yet, talked about the pros and the cons, and in the end, it wasn’t nancy pelosi and wasn’t my husband and wasn’t anything else but weighing what was good in the bill, what was so good in the bill and deciding that in balance, it was a good bill for the people that i represented. there are 600,000 nevadans that have no health insurance whatsoever.
RALSTON: your husband hated a that bill, didn’t he?
REP. BERKLEY: actually.
RALSTON: and you told steve win that –
REP. BERKLEY: no, i didn’t.
RALSTON: was your husband opposed to that bill?
REP. BERKLEY: no.
RALSTON: are you proud of voting for the affordable care act?
REP. BERKLEY: well –
RALSTON: are you proud of it?
REP. BERKLEY: i’m proud i’m in a position to help patients get the care that they need in this country. there are almost 40 million american that is have no health insurance whatsoever, 600,000 right here in the state of nevada. doesn’t mean they don’t get sick, but they get really sick and end up using the emergency room –
RALSTON: why –
REP. BERKLEY: because there were parts of it that i thought were wonderful. let me tell you when we reigned in the worst abuse of insurance companies, that’s a good thing. you know what, that was important –
RALSTON: so –
REP. BERKLEY: to millions of americans that have a preexisting condition.
RALSTON: there’s an ad attacking you for voting for the stimulus, are you proud of voting for the stimulus? was that a right thing to do?
REP. BERKLEY: let us take a step back and remember what the country was going through –
RALSTON: why will democrats never say i’m proud of –
REP. BERKLEY: my record is — let me explain it. the country was in the worst economic crisis since the great depression. the country was hemorrhaging 700,000 jobs a month. this was a good first step. wasn’t silver bullet but necessary to help the economy –
RALSTON: did it help nevada?
REP. BERKLEY: look, anything we can do to create jobs in the state of nevada when we have the highest unemployment rate in the country –
RALSTON: we certainly do.
REP. BERKLEY: but it is not 15% any more. we’re moving in that direction.
RALSTON: shelley berkley a pleasure to have me back on the program.
REP. BERKLEY: have me back sooner, next time –
RALSTON: we’ll try. we won’t lose your phone number the next time.