WASHINGTON – For 24 years Cliff Stearns served our country in Congress. Now he wants to give Americans an inside look at what Capitol Hill has become and how to preserve our democracy.
Abigail Robertson sat down with Stearns to discuss the major issues facing our country.
Irresponsible spending, outrageous campaign budgets, and an almost complete loss of bipartisanship – these are just a few things former Congressman Cliff Stearns warns are threatening our great republic.
"In Georgia, the seat to replace Tom Price cost $40 million," Stearns told CBN News. "The salary is $174,000 a year."
Strong Faith Critical for Lawmakers
In his new book, Life in the Marble Palace: In Praise of Folly, Stearns gives readers a behind the scenes look inside Capitol Hill during his 24 years in Congress and explains why a strong faith is so critical for a lawmaker.
"It's very important because lots of times you're not sure where the righteous legislation is or whether what you're doing is according to what you believe, and so you have to search yourself pretty carefully," says Stearns.
"I Never Voted Against My Faith"
While he says some of his votes were regrettable, he never voted against his faith, and stayed close to God by attending bipartisan Bible studies held weekly inside the Capitol.
"Often times it was really refreshing because it brought you back to your faith and made you remind you of the larger picture," continued Stearns.
Regularly seeking the Lord also helped assure the Florida congressman he wasn't just relying on himself, "without an understanding or belief that you have a responsibility to do good and to fear the Lord, and without that fear, you have a belief in man rather than a belief in God."
In the book, Stearns hopes to help current and future lawmakers avoid some of his mistakes by sharing some advice.
Advice to Lawmakers: Don't Neglect Your Family
"I'd say obviously go back to their district, most importantly take care of your family because there's so much stress many members forget their family and don't spend time with them," advises Stearns. "I think like every other member I wish I'd spent more time with my children in their growing up years."
While Stearns weathered rough times under multiple presidents, he feels the current atmosphere is much more controversial than he's seen before.
"What we have now is an individual who is not, shall we say, feeling any kind of closeness to anybody in any party," says Stearns. "He feels sort of like he's going to do what he wants, and sometimes in Congress you have to build loyalty and you have to work across the aisle."
Washington's Unstable Atmosphere
Stearns does see positive accomplishments from President Trump like the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, but he doesn't see a stable political atmosphere.
"I think in his book he talks about creating chaos to help in his negotiation, but I think when you're talking about the most powerful country in the world there's got to be a feeling of confidence as well as stability so you know you can feel comfortable in the activities out of the White House," comment Stearns.
That's why he hopes the staff turnover at the White House doesn't become worse. He also wishes the media would cover the President more objectively.
"I try to look at this objectively but any news story that I get out of the mainstream media is negative on Trump and they do not in any way try to show his accomplishments and what he's trying to do."
One perk of being a Congressman he misses most: the overseas travel.
"A Congressman preempts a four-star general, so if you come into a country you can see the president of the country, you can meet the ambassador," explains Stearns. "That opportunity is extremely unique, and no matter who you are on the outside world, you will not have that kind of protocol."
Stearns Calls for Major Campaign Finance Reform
A key point Stearns addresses in the book is the future of our country and changes he feels must be made. First, he calls for major campaign finance reform due to the "deplorable" amount of money spent on elections.
"Money is too influential, they spend too much time doing that – lot's of times that money influences whether subtly or indirectly, how a member decides on an issue," says Stearns.
From his standpoint, fundraising for the party has become the main qualification for leadership positions and committee chairmanships, not who does the best the job.
"Congress men and women spend an inordinate, too much time fundraising, going over to their respective party headquarters just getting on the phone and raising money," reveals Stearns.
He wants major caps across the board.
"If you limit the amount of money, and limit the amount of time, then that makes the whole focus on the issues and not on the money," says Stearns. "Then the media and everybody knows what you believe, it's a short campaign and you don't spend a lot of money."
Address Country's Problems, or Face Collapse
Stearns says if we don't address some of the problems facing the country, they could eventually lead to a collapse.
"Obviously the debt, this year we're going to do, or last year we did a trillion dollars worth of debt under the Trump administration," Stearns told CBN News. "The debt can't go on forever and we could end up like Greece if we just continue to do that."
Stearns concludes by pointing out he never witnessed any administration offer a real, balanced budget over his 24 years in office. He warns colleagues that continuing to grow debt that future generations must pay off – could destroy our country.