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Rep. Mace talks cannabis legislation, inflation, Russia-Ukraine war, and midterm elections

Rep. Nancy Mace joins Yahoo Finance Live to discuss cannabis legislation, inflation, midterm elections, and the outlook for the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war.

Video Transcript

JULIE HYMAN: Well, there's another category that maybe you could consider memed at one time or another, and that's cannabis stocks. And the House is set this week to vote on and likely approve a bill decriminalizing marijuana. But if you're a cannabis bull, don't get too excited. A similar bill passed before, only to stall in the Senate.

South Carolina Republican Congresswoman Nancy Mace has been supportive of efforts to legalize cannabis, and she is joining us now. Congresswoman, thank you so much for being here. Most of the folks we've been talking to are saying it's likely not to happen this year-- a broad-based bill to legalize marijuana on the federal level. What are you hearing in Washington and on the ground?

NANCY MACE: And I tend to agree. And I wish it were going to right now. The MORE Act I do see passing this week. But the lack of bipartisanship there, then it will stall in the Senate again. And so I've been working on cannabis reform for a number of years, even when I was a state lawmaker trying to get medical done in South Carolina, and now looking at, how do we do this comprehensively? How do we do it in a bipartisan way at the federal level?

And to do that, you really need to respect the rights of states, who've done it in 47 to 50 states to some degree or another, and really try to reach across the aisle and work together. And I'm looking at trying to do some amendments on MORE if they open it up in the rules committee to see if we can find some blend, some sort of consensus in a bipartisan way to try to meet that need across the country. But we'll see.

JULIE HYMAN: Yeah. And on your efforts to sort of also focus on the states, their efforts to legalize marijuana on a state by state basis-- that sort of being endorsed in some way legislatively, are you seeing any progress either on that front or also on the Safe Banking Act, which are another couple of efforts that I know are on the Hill?

NANCY MACE: Yeah, we're hearing that Safe Banking may get passed for a seventh time out of the House and go to the Senate. The lack of consensus-building-- Safe Banking should be so easy to do. But for some people, it doesn't go far enough. And so we've got to find ways, whether we do this in a comprehensive bill with the States Reform Act, which is my legislation, or if we do it part and parcel, really trying to make sense of it all.

But in the Senate, I was encouraged just a couple of days ago that they passed a measure to open up and broaden research for medical marijuana, medical cannabis. That has to happen too. So we're looking at can we amend that to the MORE Act? Can we follow that as a companion bill in the House? So looking at ways where we can find consensus in the Senate, then we should be going after that in the House too. And that really should be a priority for us on the House, since the Senate just did that in the last day or two.

BRIAN SOZZI: We're getting a lot of mixed reads on the economy here. When you talk to your constituents, are they more concerned about food inflation, gas prices-- what are you hearing from them right now?

NANCY MACE: It's inflation all of the above, because we're seeing it when you go to the gas pump. You're seeing empty shelves and higher prices when you go to the grocery store. In fact, I just made a trip to the border of Ukraine a week ago and I came back to get groceries for me and the kids-- I just couldn't believe I spent $350. And other than toilet paper and paper towels, I don't know what else I got for that.

So every household is seeing that. They're seeing utilities go up when they're heating their home this winter. They're feeling that pain. But I will tell you, in every event that I go to, every town hall that I host, the number one issue right now is Ukraine. And everyone is talking about it because it also affects-- as you all mentioned when you were talking about commodities-- it affects the supply chain, it affects pricing.

Ukraine has an abundance of natural resources from lumber, to neon, to palladium, to rare Earth minerals, neon, for example, that goes in semiconductors and chips. And so it's top of mind from that perspective, the humanitarian crisis. And of course, no one wants World War III.

JULIE HYMAN: So on that front, congresswoman, then if people are talking about Ukraine-- obviously, you said you traveled to the border and you're supportive of the US' support of Ukraine. Do you find, then, that constituents are-- while they are upset about inflation, that they are willing to put up with a certain amount for a certain time if they see it tied to the conflict?

NANCY MACE: And for the humanitarian reasons, right? So I think Americans are willing to try to assist in a way and understand that that might cause a little more pain until we can come up with solutions to import and, obviously, produce more wheat and barley in our country or import it from Canada. But until we get some resolution on those supply chain issues, I do think that people are willing to be patient about it for a limited period of time.

Folks want to help in the humanitarian effort in Ukraine, but they also want to make sure that Ukraine has the lethal aid that they need to defeat Vladimir Putin. And they don't want World War III. And so that's where most people are in South Carolina when I talk to folks. But in the meantime, we need to make sure that we're supporting our farmers, that we look at trade with other countries to ensure we have the imports that we need to feed our communities across the country as well.

JULIE HYMAN: On the Russia-Ukraine issue, even though we are getting some tentative headlines that maybe there are some progress on negotiations, what do you think the US needs to be doing to support Ukraine? Or do you think we need to be doing anything differently than what we're doing right now?

NANCY MACE: We need to continue along the path that we're doing. I would like to see more sanctions against the oligarchy around Putin. I would like to see every company pause and put a moratorium on doing business in Russia, because it's working.

We also need to ensure that we continue supporting them from a lethal aid standpoint, us and our allies. People often forget that it was other countries in Europe that gave the Colonial Army muskets, and gunpowder, and uniforms to fight back against the British and found the United States of America. And you sort of look at Zelenskyy as George Washington and the United States as the French who did that for us and helped us fight for freedom, fight for democracy, and start our country.

And so we're seeing the fruit of that labor now because Ukraine is being able to push back and take back suburbs in Kyiv, for example. You're seeing Vladimir Putin readjust tactically on the ground looking at the Donbass and Donetsk region now, instead of the entire country of Ukraine. And so the fruit of that labor is working.

And the Ukraine is able to defend its country. And in that way, we can prevent World War III from happening. And coming back on the heels of that trip, I'm encouraging every member of Congress, whether Republican or Democrat, to be mindful about how we tweet about what's happening, and to ensure that we're not putting more lives in danger, and that we're not escalating the rhetoric to cause nuclear war or anything beyond that.

BRIAN SOZZI: Congresswoman, when this crisis cools down a bit-- and eventually, it will-- where do you think Vladimir Putin's standing in the world will be?

NANCY MACE: It will be much smaller than it is today. Certainly, you're seeing world leaders-- and some world leaders are taking longer than we would like [INAUDIBLE] others, but people are coming around to the fact that war is not what's wanted, that genocide has is happening, that war crimes are being committed. And I hope that he will be tried for war crimes when this thing is over with-- and those who have killed innocent civilians and kids.

I mean, they've been bombing schools, and churches, and places of worship, and where women and kids are sheltering in place. And so he will be held accountable. I'm very confident in that.

And I'm confident in what we are doing so far and will continue to do-- that China is watching, and they're paying attention, and seeing how the world is coming together in defense of Ukraine. And that's really important, I think, in history right now.

JULIE HYMAN: Congresswoman, I want to switch gears a little bit because you are up for re-election. We were earlier talking with a DC analyst about what's going to happen with the midterms. And it feels like your reelection and the campaign there in South Carolina is sort of a mirror of what is going on in the Republican Party writ large-- that is former President Trump has endorsed your opponent.

And you have been sort of outspoken, if you will, about what had happened on January 6. So there's this sort of split in the party. How do you think that's going to play out in your campaign and then also more broadly for Republicans?

NANCY MACE: I think you're seeing those divisions, both within the Republican and Democrat parties as well. And you're seeing divisions across the country. I believe he's been given bad advice. In fact, my opponent, when President Trump was lowering taxes, she was raising them.

And I've never voted to raise a single tax on South Carolinians in my history as a lawmaker, both at the state and federal level. My opponent had her security clearance-- top secret security clearance-- revoked by the US military. And they said that she put our US national security in grave danger.

And so when you look at our record, it's very clear who represents the low country and South Carolinians. And I'm working really hard. We're going to have a great quarter in the first quarter. And so all those things matter.

And I supported President Trump in '16 and in '20. In fact, I had one bill signed into law as a state lawmaker, which was a prison reform bill, that he signed into law-- was modeled after the First Step Act that was signed into law during his administration in December of 2018. And so I am working very hard for the low country and South Carolinians. And I know that work is being recognized and will continue to do so.

JULIE HYMAN: Well, congresswoman, we'll check back in with you as that's ongoing and as we continue to watch developments in cannabis legalization and decriminalization. Thanks so much for being here. Appreciate it. Congresswoman Nancy Mace of South Carolina, appreciate it.