Rep. Ben McAdams has the distinction of being the "most vulnerable" Democrat in Congress heading into the 2020 election.
McAdams joins Managing Editor Bryan Schott and Contributing Editor Bob Bernick to discuss his re-election campaign and his thoughts on whether Democrats should open impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump.
McAdams also talks about the deficit, which is projected to hit $1 trillion next year, abortion and if there are any gun control measures he could support.
Some highlights from our conversation:
Eight months into your term, what about the job has surprised you?
From the outside, when you look at Congress from a distance, which I did until about eight months ago, it looks incredibly broken from the inside. It's incredibly broken. So, you know, I think that was a little bit disappointing that it is, it is as bad on the inside as it looks from the outside. I think there are a lot of great people back there, Republicans and Democrats, people who are sincere in their desire to serve and to do good. But it's broken and I want to try and figure out how to fix it.
How does it feel to be the #1 “most vulnerable” Democrat in 2020?
The worst part about it is my wife going around saying you’re number one. So that's the worst part about it. It is a tough district certainly just based on the numbers. It is the hardest district in the country. Fortunately, this race isn't about the numbers. I think I wouldn't have won if it was just about the numbers. People know me, that I'm somebody who reaches across the aisle. I'm a pragmatist. I prioritize solutions over partisanship. I put people first.
How much will he need to raise for his re-election next year?
Well, I think last year I spent just over $3 million. My opponent spent I think over $6 million, which was close to double what I spent. I always resent when people say it was a $9 million race combined. I think our target is probably similar amount. I want people to know what I've done at this point and get our message out there. So ,we're looking probably similar amount.
Is Donald Trump morally unfit to be president?
I have concerns about ab lot of Donald Trump’s policies. I think there are some things he does that I have supported as well. But, I do have concerns about so of his judgement. I think the American people ultimately are the best arbiter of whether he’s fit to serve in office. That’s a decision that will be made in 2020.
131 of your Democratic colleagues have come out in favor of opening an impeachment inquiry into President Trump. The House Judiciary Committee says they have officially opened an impeachment inquiry. Where do you stand on that?
I’m on the record that I’m not in favor of opening an impeachment hearing. I think it’s important for Congress to continue to perform an oversight duty, but I think we know pretty much everything we’re going to know about what happened with the 2016 election now. I’m someone who prefers to look forward rather than look backwards.
I think you’ve got to always leave open the option that anybody, depending on what actions they do in the present and the future, any elected official should be subject to consequences for bad actions. I think that’s at the ballot box right now. That’s the best way to do it. I worry that impeachment will divide this country. We are 14 months away from an election. Let’s let the candidates make their case to the American people and have the people decide.
If you game this out to the end, you might have to take a really tough vote if impeachment comes to the floor. Have you thought about that?
I think we’ll have to take the facts as we see them. Utahns sent me to Washington because they want solutions to rising costs of healthcare, rising costs of prescription drugs, to preserve Social Security and Medicare. That’s what I’m focused on, to be honest.
I’m not saying oversight is not an important constitutional duty. But I want people to know I spend very little of my time involved in investigations or impeachment conversations. I spend my time working to solve problems, and I think that’s what the people of Utah want me to do.
How do you deal with the Democrats in your district who have their blood up and they don’t want to hold back on impeachment? How do you answer those people on the left? I imagine you’re hearing from them.
If you look at my Twitter feed, I hear a lot from them. I have done almost two dozen public and town hall meetings in the eight months I’ve been in Congress. I start almost every one saying my job title is Representative McAdams, which is also my job description. I’m here to represent the people of the 4th Congressional District. I’m going to be listening to the people who I represent and trying to factor in the information I’m given as a member of Congress through our committee hearing and reading and other things I do, then I’m going to make a decision. I want to hear from them.
You ran as a budget hawk. There was news recently that the federal budget deficit is going to climb to $1 trillion next year. I’m sure that number makes you itch. How do we fix that?
I think we need to be clear that this is a threat to our national security. It’s $1 trillion a year that gets added to the debt, which is almost $22 trillion. If Uncle Sam had a credit card, it would be maxed out now. I think we need to recognize this problem is bipartisan and it’s time to take it seriously.
The first bill I introduced was legislation requiring a balanced budget. I think until you hold their feet to the fire, Congress is not going to make the hard decisions that need to be made. I’m ready to make those hard decisions, but I don’t think my colleagues on both sides of the aisle are ready.
If they have the option of kicking the can down the road, they’re gonna do that, unfortunately. That’s why I think a balanced budget needs to be part of the picture.
When I was Mayor of Salt Lake County, we balanced our budget every year. It was hard. It took wrangling and debates and ultimately a bipartisan vote to balance the budget. That’s what it’s going to take. As hard as that process was, and as much as it would be a nice to just keep funding everything we want and do everything we want, that process of finding which dollars are most effectively spent and cutting where we can cut is valuable. I think that’s a healthy exercise for government and I think the federal government would benefit with evaluating what’s working and what’s not working and forcing them to prioritize spending.
Do you think Roe v. Wade to be upheld, or should it be sent back to the states?
I’m a person of faith and I believe in the sanctity of life at all stages. I also believe that the decision to terminate a pregnancy in early stages in special circumstances like rape or incest is best left to a woman, faith counselor, doctor or other people she trusts to help make that decision.
I would be concerned about anything that would take away that sacred decision in those early stages. I think we’ll need to look at modifications that protect the individual and protect the execptions for rape and incest and endangerment of the life of the mother. We need to recognize that people can be faced with some horrific choices.
Should gay marriage be allowed?
I support marriage equality.
Gun rights? Congress is headed back to Washington and one of the first things the House is going to deal with is gun safety legislation. What would you support when the vote comes up.
I’m a gun owner and I support the Second Amendment, but I also believe that with rights come responsibilities. I agree with keeping guns out of the hands of terrorists and domestic abusers, people who are dangerous, seems completely appropriate.
I support closing background check loopholes and background checks for individuals who are looking to buy guns. The analogy I give to friends who have concerns about background checks, I fly on an airplane twice a week to and from Washington. Everytime I fly I go through a security checkpoint. I’m not a lawbreaker. I have a couple of speeding tickets, but beyond that I’ve never broken the law. I’m okay going through a screening because I want my fellow passengers going through this.
What about “red flag” laws?
The devil is in the details. The concept is getting some bipartisan support. I look forward to seeing how that conflict develops. I think seizing guns from an individual is something we should take very seriously.
How about banning AR-15’s or military-style weapons?
I think legislation is taking shape on that. It’s something I’m willing to look at.
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