SOUTH WHITLEY — Congressman Jim Banks offered reluctant support for President Donald Trump’s declaration of a national emergency as a way of providing more funding to expand construction of a wall along the southern border.
The topic came up at a town hall meeting hosted by Banks at the South Whitley Community Public Library Thursday afternoon when a woman asked what he thought about Trump’s decision to “bypass Congress” to further fund the wall.
“I understand why he did it, but I don’t like it,” Banks said. “I do disagree with it fundamentally.”
But, he added, “There is a precedent for what he did. Jimmy Carter did it twice, Ronald Reagan did it six times, George H.W. Bush did it five times, Bill Clinton did it 17 times, George W. Bush did this 13 times, Barack Obama did it 12 times and so far, Donald Trump has declared three national emergencies.”
He brushed aside the idea that Trump’s latest move is different in that past instances did not come after a legislative dispute with Congress.
He added, “I would much rather prefer for the government to work in a way our founding fathers wrote the Constitution and envisioned that it would work.”
The two-term Republican from Columbia City who represents Indiana’s Third Congressional District said he thought Trump was open to negotiations with lawmakers during the recent government shutdown and that he was open to more aspects of improving border security beyond just building the wall.
He said he believes there is a humanitarian crisis at the border and doesn’t have “too many complaints” about the movement of money away from other areas to help construct more of the wall.
He blamed the porous border for the flow of illegal drugs that are “crippling families.”
“There’s a lot of good reasons to do what the president is trying to do,” he said.
On another issue, a constituent suggested the growing national debt — currently $22 trillion — is due to Trump’s tax reform legislation that benefited the wealthy.
“I completely disagree with the notion. The debt comes from spending,” Banks said. “We have a spending problem.”
Banks said he will introduce a balanced budget bill that would help drive down the national debt.
He said tax cuts have helped fuel “a tremendous economic comeback for our country” that he is proud of.
Banks was asked what might be done to revamp or improve upon Obamacare. In turn, he said he supports protecting coverage for pre-existing conditions and that claims from “the left” that Republicans want to do away with that protection is “blatantly false.”
He said he has a bill that would address hospital consolidation that has eliminated competition in the marketplace and driven up healthcare costs.
He said the chances of repealing Obamacare, which he termed a “complete failure,” is next to impossible because Democrats now control the House.
Banks was asked of his opinion on Trump’s establishment of tariffs, which have had an impact on Indiana soybean farmers.
“I’m not a fan of the tariffs,” Banks said. “I’m concerned about the effect they have on area agriculture and other businesses.”
Banks was part of the U.S. delegation that traveled to Munich, Germany for a world security conference last week with Vice President Mike Pence. He was asked about the apparent awkward silence when Pence offered greetings from Trump in a speech that was then met with momentary silence.
Banks bristled at the idea it might have been an embarrassing moment and said the issue was overblown by leftwing media.
“I was in the room and I got a laugh out … CNN and MSNBC running these stories trying to embarrass the vice president,” Banks said. “There was not a lot of applause for anything,” Banks said. “This was a summit of world leaders in a room listening to political speeches. This was not a Donald Trump campaign rally.”
In his speech, Pence reiterated Trump’s belief that NATO allies provide more financial support.
“I thought it was a powerful speech … I thought he was spot on. A speech about tough love with our European allies. America cannot continue to step up and pay to support and protect the rest of the world to the degree we have in the past, while our allies fall way short.”
Comparatively, Banks said he was offended by former Vice President Joe Biden’s comment the next day at Munich in a speech when Biden said Americans are embarrassed with the current administration’s approach to refugees and child separation at the border.