It’s past time to open schools, Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., says.
“The percentages for teachers or students is really, really low,” Biggs, chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, says of the risk of contracting COVID-19. “In Florida, they’re playing sports.”
“The flip side of it, of course, is this isolation, this online learning, this basic lockdown for these kids is producing greater suicide rates, higher depression rates,” Biggs says. “And something like half of all the adolescents and young adults have experienced some suicidal ideation that they had never had before. That’s a result of these school lockdowns, which don’t follow the science and they don’t make sense.”
The third-term congressman from Arizona joins “The Daily Signal Podcast” to discuss reopening during the pandemic, as well as to weigh in on the crisis at the southern border.
Rachel del Guidice: I’m joined today on “The Daily Signal Podcast” by Congressman Andy Biggs of Arizona. Congressman Biggs, always great to have you with us on “The Daily Signal Podcast.”
Rep. Andy Biggs: Great to be with you, Rachel. Thanks for having me.
Del Guidice: You just wrote an op-ed for the Washington Examiner about kids going back to school and why that’s important. And the op-ed [is] called “Let parents, not teachers, decide when children go back to school.” Can you tell us about the op-ed and why this is important?
Biggs: I wrote the op-ed in immediate response to the Chicago school union stuff. But it isn’t just that, we’ve been actually talking about schools reopening for many, many months. The data’s clear. It was clear from Europe. It’s clear.
We’re in Florida today and Florida has successfully been reopening schools. They’re playing sports. But a lot of people say, “Oh, we’re worried about the teachers.”
But the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] director, who’s now the CDC director, before she was the CDC director, said, “You can actually open up schools. They’re not petri dishes. They’re not these superspreader events. You’re not going to create a cataclysmic problem.”
And then when she became the CDC director, she said, “Well, now maybe we’ve got to have vaccines or something and all this.”
The reality is we haven’t seen anything like that at all. There’s no vector. The percentages for teachers or students is really, really low. In Florida, they’re playing sports.
The flip side of it, of course, is this isolation, this online learning, this basic lockdown for these kids is producing greater suicide rates, higher depression rates.
And something like half of all the adolescents and young adults have experienced some suicidal ideation that they had never had that before. That’s a result of these school lockdowns, which don’t follow the science and they don’t make sense.
Del Guidice: In the op-ed you make the point that President [Joe] Biden, in his best imitation of truth minister from “1984,” has deemed the in-person school for one day a week, even if it is not a full day, it means schools are “opened up.” Why is this not the case?
Biggs: You can’t say that meeting a half a day in person means that you have an open school. That’s just a lie.
And that was my point there, is that President Biden campaigned, “We’re going to open up schools.” And then when he found out that teachers unions didn’t really want to open schools and go back to work, he said, “Well, we’ve opened them up. … We’re going to call it good because some places have half day open.”
That’s ridiculous. And it doesn’t change the other negative factors that we talked about.
We’ve got students that have been out almost a year, and that may mean that they fall behind two, three, four years because they’ve lost the foundation. And especially, I look at two groups, [one being] the young kids because their ability to read needs to be cemented in by the time you’re in third grade.
That’s what they tells us, it becomes very difficult to learn to read after that. And then we’re basically pulling those kids out and really going to cause the massive problems, maybe lose a generation.
The other one is the adolescent-age kids who rely on socialization and peers to help them adjust as they’re getting ready to leave high school, move to college or trades, or whatever. They’re being harmed tremendously.
Del Guidice: Democrats have their $1.9 trillion COVID-19 bill. And I believe about 9% of it goes actually to COVID relief. … This is just an honest question that I have, is there money in this bill for schools to reopen?
Biggs: Well, there actually is. There’s about $6 billion for the schools to reopen. All the rest of the money that’s in for schools is out beginning of 2023 and forward. It’s not in this fiscal year.
Believe me, we didn’t need to do the bill that we did in the middle of the night last night because the previous five bills had a trillion dollars left over, including about $60 billion for public schools.
And I guess the third point to make it as if schools aren’t going to open up, why in the heck are we giving them more federal dollars?
Del Guidice: What else is in this bill that has nothing to do with COVID-19 since only 9% of it does go to COVID?
Biggs: Well, you have a huge amount of money going to bail out blue states and blue cities and towns who’ve mismanaged their pension funds or anything else.
And by the way, every state is going to get $500 million. That’s like the blank check portion of this thing. It’s insane. So, that’s where they’re starting out. Then you get bonuses and stuff on that based on having a high unemployment.
So think about it. If you’ve mismanaged your state, you’re going to get more money because you’re going to have more people that are unemployed. That’s in there. So there’s that.
You’ve got money for [National Endowment for the Arts], [National Endowment for the Humanities], for libraries and museums. That’s probably half a billion dollars just with that.
We’re sending $750 million overseas. You got $50 million for family planning, including abortions. You’ve got $400 million because we’re concerned, I say that facetiously, that some pets might be more susceptible to COVID. They’re going to go [to] an experiment on COVID.
So we get sending vaccines overseas, and we’re going to test animals to see if they might get COVID. This is the kind of garbage that is in this bill.
You got, [House Speaker] Nancy Pelosi’s getting a subway system out there, up in the Bay Area. And [Senate Majority Leader] Chuck Schumer’s getting another bridge in New York.
Rachel, they changed the name of it from the COVID-19 relief package to the America recovery plan, or something like that. It’s like, they went from global warming to climate change because it wasn’t accurate.
So you can’t say it’s COVID relief because it’s not. What it really is is this massive boondoggle of pork and buying our votes around the country. That’s what that’s about.
Del Guidice: Honestly, it came to mind when you were talking about that, when it comes to what Nancy Pelosi’s wish list says, as well as Senator Schumer said, it almost seems like earmarks. I feel like a case could be made, like, these are basically earmarks.
Biggs: Yeah. They’re they really are basically earmarks. Except for with earmarks, you could identify who the earmarks were going for, not always. But yeah, these were earmarks for sure. And they’re going to go straight into earmarks. You better believe it.
Del Guidice: Well, you voted “no” on Democrats’ Equality Act, and I want to talk a little bit about this piece of legislation.
There’s a lot to it, but one of the components of it is it will allow biological men who identify as women into women’s restrooms. It will allow boys who are biologically boys into girls’ locker rooms to disrobe. It will allow biological men or boys on women’s soccer teams or sports teams.
Can you tell us more about this piece of legislation and your perspective of it and how it’s going to impact women and just society in general?
Biggs: This may be the worst piece of legislation in the history of the United States of America. Quite frankly, what it does in the guise of equality, we actually heard people saying, “Oh, you shouldn’t vote. No, we just want to be able to love each other.” That isn’t what this is. This is control. This is actually attacking religious freedom. It’s attacking women.
So domestic violence shelters, if you have a woman who’s been abused by a man and they go to the domestic violence shelter, but some guy who is identifying as a woman that day, they get to come into their domestic violence shelter—any public accommodation, any public entity cannot basically control for biological men and women.
So a safe space for women might be that domestic violence shelter. It might be the women’s locker room. It might be the girls’ locker room at school. It might be the girls’ bathroom at an elementary school. If a 6-year-old kid says, “I’m really identifying as a girl today,” you cannot prevent them from going in there. That’s how ludicrous this bill is.
So you have all of that going on, at the same time you tell parents and physicians, doctors, and counselors, if a child—and a minor—says, “I really want to change my sex,” the parents might say, “We don’t think you’re ready to make that decision.” The counselor agrees. And then the physician says, “I agree that this should not happen.”
If you don’t allow the puberty blockers and hormone therapies that go with this, they can take your kid away from you. That’s what’s in the equality bill. And that’s just a small component of the equality bill.
When I said they’re attacking religion—we debated this last night. And the Democrats were saying, “We’re not attacking religion at all.”
There’s a provision right in there that says that RFRA, which is the Religious Freedom [Restoration] Act of 1993, that says, “You can have defense to some of these social issues if you have a sincerely held religious view.”
They specifically say, “It’s no defense,” because they’re criminalizing all these things. So if you don’t do these things, it becomes a criminal conduct and RFRA would have allowed protection for religious people of consciousness faith. They specifically said, “Nope, you can’t have those exemptions anymore. You can’t have those protections.”
They are attacking religious freedom, associational freedom, freedom of speech. And they’re interjecting the government between the parent and the child. That makes it the worst bill in the history of this country—in my opinion, unconstitutional.
Del Guidice: Given the attacks on religious freedom and now that these safety guards for people who have deeply held religious beliefs, that really those are not going to be available anymore, do you foresee people of faith or people with deeply held religious beliefs going to prison over this?
Biggs: They might. They’re trying to put all people of faith into a box.
Don’t forget, this week, while the equality bill was going on, in two different hearings in the House of Representatives, they were holding hearings basically declaring that if you voted for Donald Trump or if you’re Republican, you’re a racist xenophobe, white nationalist, domestic terrorist.
So at the same time, they’re trying to put people of faith in this box. They’re basically also saying, “And if you wander outside that box and express yourself, you’re a domestic terrorist.”
That’s where we’ve come. And so, I’ve been saying now for about a month and a half, two months now that we’ve moved into fascism.
We’re no longer just a soft socialist nation. We’re into fascism because you add the censorship that we’re all experiencing and that’s being done, not by the government per se, but with this federal government’s encouragement to go ahead and censor any kind of dissenting or opposing viewpoint.
The heterodox conservative viewpoint is being stifled while you are allowing the orthodox leftist view of collectivism and corporatism. That’s what’s happening in the United States today.
Del Guidice: Well, we do have a Democrat House, Senate, and White House. The Republicans aren’t the majority. But are there any ways that the Equality Act can be countered? Do you see any opportunity to address any of these issues?
Biggs: Whether it’s the Equality Act or even HR 1 or the COVID bill, we have to rely on the Senate because the Senate still has the 60-vote filibuster rule. So that’s their first line of defense.
And if the Senate can’t keep enough Republicans off these bills, or if the Democrats say, “We’re going to change the rules so we can ram it down your throat,” then we have to rely on two other places—the courts, and they’re notoriously unreliable, but there are some good places that we can rely on, and then the states. In particular, I think of the states’ attorneys general.
So, if HR 1, which is the election bill, gets through, we need the states’ attorneys general to immediately file the lawsuits to enjoin that so we can attack that. Same with Equality Act, they’re going to need to bring cases on that. Same with the immigration abuse, they’re going to need to bring the lawsuit.
Thus, the states’ attorneys general, they may need the state legislatures to—I’m trying to remember which state this week … passed legislation saying, “We don’t have to comply with President Biden’s executive orders.”
So, the state legislatures have a role to play in this. And I’ll just tell you, the governors, … they could step up and become the most important political force in this country today, if governors were courageous and would do this.
Del Guidice: Another item on Nancy Pelosi’s agenda is a $15 minimum wage. What is that going to do to jobs?
Biggs: The [Congressional Budget Office] has said that that’s going to eliminate 1.5 million jobs. I think they’re overly conservative. We have a lot of hidden jobs as well.
Restaurants are going to be decimated. Unskilled, low-wage people, which are mostly kids coming out and getting their first job, they’re not going to be able to get a job because there’s going to be fewer jobs available to them. So, not only will you have jobs lost, nobody’s going to be hired for these jobs.
You’re going to see a move to automation. We’ve already seen that at the fast-food places where you go in and there’s automated menus, etc. You’ll see more automation to replace folks like this.
But what exacerbates the loss of jobs is, at the same time that’s going on, this poorest border, these promises of amnesty, where you’re bringing in low-wage, low-skilled workers to compete with our low-wage, low-skilled workers, our American kids. That’s the problem.
Del Guidice: Actually, [that’s] one of my next questions. The Biden administration has said that they plan to give amnesty to 11 million illegal immigrants. Why is this a problem? What will this look like? What are the implications of the bill?
Biggs: First of all, that 11 million number has been used for 13 years. Now it’s really closer to 20 million, maybe even north of 20 million. So we have to be honest with that number. The number’s probably, I believe, twice as much as they’re saying. So that’s No. 1.
But the other thing is it provides a massive draw factor incentive. So you’re going to have lots of folks coming over. They’re already massing on the other side of the border.
Biden has told them specifically, “Don’t come yet. Don’t come yet. We’re not ready for you.” He’s telling them just to wait there, just on the other side of the border in Mexico, because when he gets his amnesty through, if he does get it through, then it’ll be time to come through. And that’s what he wants.
But what that will do is, we know that there’s already unaccompanied minors, not 6-year[-olds], we’re talking 15- to 17-year-olds. Oddly enough, MS-13 gangs fit that profile. I’m not saying all of them are, but we do know that there are gangs coming in.
We’ve got cities along the borders. A liberal Texas mayor said, “Mr. Biden, please, please don’t release these people into our community.” They’re starting to release them into the communities. Again, that’s going to bring crime, stress on the social safety nets of those communities.
All of these things that are going on, that’s what you’re seeing happening right now along the border because of Joe Biden.
Del Guidice: Well, lastly, I wanted to ask you about cancel culture. It’s something that’s really come up a lot recently when it comes to social media, different organizations, even nonpartisan organizations—like the Job Creators Network. Their Twitter has been taken down because of some alleged broken rule that they violated of Twitter’s.
First of all, I wanted to hear your perspective of cancel culture. And then secondly, I think the House Freedom Caucus had its own cancel culture moment, to a degree. So if you’re able to address that at all, we’d love to hear your thoughts.
Biggs: Cancel culture is the move to tyranny and fascism that I was talking about earlier. My wife will tell you I’ve harped on this for decades.
The left is inherently tyrannical. You can’t do socialism without coercing people. You can’t do fascism without coercing people. And America isn’t going to let you nationalize soda pops and stuff like that, or basically anything.
So, it becomes a fascism where you’re controlling through regulation. You’re controlling it through taxation and they start doing a bidding. That’s what canceled cultures become.
So all the social media outlets are basically doing the left’s, the hard left’s bidding at preventing the opposition from speaking. And they’ll cancel you. They’ll prevent you from doing stuff. I’ve had my social media taken down. All of this stuff, they want to erase you.
I just have to get this off my chest before I go to the HFC moment that you’re talking about. They want to have a unitary party. That’s what they want. Who has unitary parties? Authoritarian governments. We have, basically, an oligarchical fascism in the United States today.
I know I’m going to get hassled for saying that, but that’s really what you got. And you got to face the facts because they’re trying to constrain your freedom and who you are.
So, our moment, we were invited to come to an event called Conservative Members Conference in Florida. One of the big hotel chains in the country, the biggest hotel chain in the country had contracted with the host of that event, which wasn’t us. We were just invited to come. Freedom Caucus was invited to come.
When this hotel chain found out who was coming, they said, “We can’t host you guys. You’re a bunch of conservatives coming into this event.” And so they canceled a half-a-million-dollar contract, to my understanding of what that was, because they didn’t want a bunch of conservative staying at their hotel.
And what that means is the host of this event had to scramble to find another place. And by golly, they did find it. [It] was a great place and I’m leery to even say what the name of that place was because they might get canceled. Because that’s how obscene this is.
We’re seeing conservative actors fired. We’re seeing conservative athletes ostracized or cut. [We saw a conservative coach], for wearing a [One America News Network] T-shirt while he’s fishing with his boys, they forced him to apologize to keep his million-dollar-plus-a-year job. That’s the whole thing that we’re talking about. It’s not enough that Joe Biden was sworn in as the president of the United States.
I’ve seen this in Congress, where a chairman has said to a member of the House Freedom Caucus, “I want you to admit that Joe Biden is the legitimate president of the United States.”
“What do you mean?”
“No, he’s the legitimate president of the United States, I want you to admit that.
“He got sworn in. He’s sitting in the Oval Office.”
“I want you to admit [that.]”
That is how insane these people are. And that’s a committee chairman for the Democrats. We’re not talking some yum-yum who’s in the squad, we’re talking about the chairman of one of the most powerful committees in Washington, D.C. “You must admit that he’s the legitimate president.” To what end?
And my response to that is, I will admit he’s a legitimate president when you admit that you tried to delegitimize Donald J. Trump’s presidency for the last four years.
The point is they want obeisance. They want compliance. This isn’t about freedom anymore. This is about control and power and hatred. And that’s where the left is today, Rachel.
Del Guidice: Well, Congressman, thanks. Thank you for joining us. Thank you for running through all these issues. We appreciate having you with us all the time. Thanks for being here.
Biggs: You bet. It’s good to be with you.