In a somewhat surprise appearance, U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt attended the annual Lincoln Day banquet in Washington Friday night to thank Franklin County voters for putting him over the top in his recent re-election bid.
Fresh off his duties as inauguration chair for President Donald Trump, Blunt and his wife Abigail were highly visible figures during the events leading up to and after the ceremonies Jan. 20.
Blunt shared a few of his observations from the historic day and said even though he has been in and around Washington, D.C., for many years, he was able to experience once-in-a-lifetime opportunities when he rode to the inauguration in the limousine with President Obama and President-elect Trump.
“Who else can say they got to do that? It was a great opportunity,” Blunt said. “I was the first person to announce President Trump at his first function as president.”
Blunt added during the planning period he and others were out on the temporary stage at the Capitol and the gravity of the event began to take hold.
“I started thinking of all the things that could happen,” Blunt explained. “We realized if everyone had to leave the platform quickly before Donald Trump was sworn in, we had to make sure the person directly behind him was the chief justice. That way the new president could be sworn in quickly in case he had to start making decisions immediately.”
As the peaceful transition of power took place, as it has many times before, Blunt said he began to wonder about the emotions for both men, but especially for President Obama.
“I wonder how that must feel to no longer be president,” Blunt said. “The only decision you have to make is which direction you are going when you leave the Capitol building. On the other side, to be the new president, and knowing it’s you that has to make all of the decisions now.”
Blunt then turned his remarks to the flurry of activity in Congress in the two short months since Trump took office.
Although Blunt and many others distanced themselves from Trump in the weeks before the election due to constant allegations being thrown at him and the senator himself facing a formidable opponent in Jason Kander, he now has thrown his support behind the new president.
Blunt’s remarks came just hours after House Speaker Paul Ryan pulled a hotly debated Republican bill to repeal the 7-year-old health care plan after members of the Republican Party failed to reach agreements on the bill’s contents.
“I think Trump is off to a good start,” Blunt said. “Now, we have to move away from the rolling disaster that is Obama-care and focus on other issues. Seventy percent of the current House members have never served in a majority. They are so used to being in the minority they need to get used to it.”
Blunt said several of the early weeks of Trump’s presidency have been spent dealing with more than four dozen Environmental Protection Agency and other regulations imposed by President Obama on his way out the door that if kept in place could cost U.S. businesses billions of dollars.
“The country did without them for 228 years before Obama,” Blunt said. “Obama did without them for seven years and six months. Now, we want to eliminate every one of them.”
Finally, Blunt spoke about arguably the most pressing issue which he and his fellow senators will face during this legislative session — the potential confirmation of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court.
“We have important work to do the next two weeks,” Blunt said. “Two of the greatest things Donald Trump has given us are Mike Pence and the list of judges he plans to nominate. It’s almost like Justice (Antonin) did us a great favor by leaving this Earth when he did and giving us this opportunity to fill his seat.”
Blunt added, Scalia, who was nominated by President Ronald Reagan, served on the bench for 26 years after Reagan left office.
He hopes the same will be true for Gorsuch since he is only 49 years old and Supreme Court nominations are for life.
“Gorsuch is a great selection,” Blunt said. “He will interpret the laws as they are written, and not his opinion on them. The justices are not supposed to be politicians in robes.”
Blunt added there are 104 other federal judgeships currently vacant and he hopes they can fill all of those positions with judges as much like Gorsuch as possible.
The Lincoln Day banquet is an annual event sponsored by the Franklin County Republican Central Committee. The banquet was held at the Washington Elks Lodge.