U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt may currently be Missouri's freshman senator but he has worked in the Capitol since 1997. Early in his career, he served as chief deputy whip for the GOP, eventually becoming House majority leader in 2005 and 2006.
Now, though, Blunt is locked in a tight re-election bid that has gotten the attention of politicos from all over the country. With the odds tipping against Republicans hoping to keep control of the Senate, every contested seat is critical. At a recent campaign stop in Branson, Missouri, Blunt himself acknowledged the tough race saying, “the odds are pretty high that if I get elected, I’ll be the 51st Republican vote in the Senate,” as reported by RealClearPolitics.
Blunt spoke with Up To Date host Steve Kraske to defend his record on the Second Amendment, his continued support of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and his career in the U.S. Senate.
Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander, who is running against Blunt, appeared on Up To Date on Friday, Oct. 21. Listen to that conversation here.
On protecting the Second Amendment and background checks
"I have supported background checks. What I don't support is a list that the government can put you on that you don't have any appeal process to get off of. That's not who we are. There are governments in the world that, on their own, make lists that you may or may not know about, and things happen to you and your family because you're on that list. You have to have an appeal to prove that you're on a list.
"Jason Kander in the legislature got an 'F' from the NRA. Fewer than 10 percent of the members got an 'F.' You had to work hard to get an 'F.' This group, that's a big defender of the second amendment in our country and is really focused on that, I have an 'A' with them, he has an 'F.'
"I'd support enforcing the laws we have more vigorously ... You have to be very careful not to begin to take people's rights away, whether they're the First Amendment rights to free speech and religious freedom or the Second Amendment rights that people have under the Constitution."
On illegal immigration and securing the border
"I think there are three different problems to be solved in this area. One is, how do you secure the border? Two is, what are the legitimate workforce needs of the country? And three is, what do you do with people who came here or stayed here illegally?
"I think you have to secure the border first. I think people would be very forward-leaning in solving those other two problems if they feel like the government has first met its responsibility to secure the border ... The comprehensive solution is not going to be the way to solve this problem.
"You've got many [undocumented immigrants] here who have a work record, a family record, you see them at church, you see them at school, for whatever reason they have wound up here in ways that they may not have anticipated. People ... won't want to deal with that unless they feel like the government has met its responsibility to secure the border. So I'm not for amnesty. I'm for securing the border first, and then I'm for dealing with those other two questions as specific, individual challenges that deserve a specific, individual debate after the border's been secured."
On Supreme Court nominations and Obama nominee Merrick Garland
"I actually know [Merrick Garland]. He's a perfectly nice man. He has a, in my view, a perfectly bad record as a judge. The bigger issue here really is, should you fill a vacancy — a lifetime vacancy in the court — that occurs within the last year of a president's term?
"[Barack Obama is] still the president, but the long term history of the country — and remember I'm a history teacher not a lawyer — is that these late appointments are almost never approved by the Senate. The Senate is an equal partner in this process of whether somebody gets on the court for the rest of their life or not ... This is well within the way we've always looked at these appointments. Voters get a chance to be heard. I think they should be heard and they will be heard [on Election Day]."
On his career in the Senate
"I've been able to get some things started in the Senate that, frankly, I don't think would have happened if I hadn't been there ... like health care research. [We had] 12 years of zero increase in health care research until I started to chair a committee that funds that, and for two years in a row we've made a big advance in health care research.
"The Victims of Child Abuse Act ... Senator [Chris] Coons, a Democrat from Connecticut, and I were able to get that law extended. For reasons that neither of us have ever really understood, the Justice Department didn't think it was important to continue to have the federal encouragement for centers where kids who were the victim of a crime or the witness to a crime get that forensic interview out of the way for prosecutors, and begin to get right on with the healing process.
"We're at the transportation intersection of the country — river, highway and railroad. How do we take advantage of that? The five-year highway bill that I worked for; in that bill, and in the short term extensions of the highway bill, Senator [Bob] Casey from Pennsylvania, a Democrat, and I did things like the bridge-sharing program.
"In our state, that I think has more local government bridges than any other state in the country, they couldn't take care of those bridges unless that bridge-sharing program continued. It was never in the basic, base bill. A Democrat and Republican worked to be sure it was in the final bill."
On the presidential elections
"I think there are real problems in the country that have been created over the last eight years, starting with the out of control regulators, the rolling disaster of Obamacare and the foreign policy is terrible. I think Mrs. Clinton represents a third Obama term, and I'm not for a third Obama term, so I'm supportive of Trump and Pence.
"There are two choices here to make; I'm not for her. I'm not for somebody that says half of the people that support Donald Trump, and maybe even who knows how many percentage of people support me, are deplorable and despicable and unredeemable. That's pretty harsh language, too."
On the comments Donald Trump has made about women
On Jason Kander's record as a public employee
"Jason Kander has run for three political offices in seven years. His two terms in the [Missouri] General Assembly, he didn't get a single bill passed. His time as secretary of state, it seems to me, he's totally uninterested in the secretary of state's office.
"I think his views that he purports to have today appear to be, in many cases, dramatically the opposite of what his views were when he was voting in the Missouri General Assembly. He said, until he started running for the Senate, that he was for a government option which Mrs. Clinton is for. Now he says he's not for a government option. I think he is for whatever he thinks would allow him to get elected.
"I think the mistake that he's made is not being interested in the job he has, and being interested in the job that comes next."
Luke X. Martin is a freelance contributor for KCUR 89.3 and an associate producer for 'Up To Date.' He can be reached at email@example.com.