Banks touts benefits of tax bill, increased military spending

U.S. Rep. Jim Banks officially kicked off his first re-election bid Monday in Fort Wayne with a hefty embrace of President Donald Trump’s top accomplishments.

The first-term 3rd District Republican was in Warsaw early Monday before a campaign event in Fort Wayne, and touted Trump’s top achievements.

After brief meetings with Warsaw Mayor Joe Thallemer and then a local anti-abortion group, Banks offered his impressions on his work in Congress and what lawmakers have been able to do with Trump at the helm.

He said he’s especially pleased with passage of the tax overhaul bill that slashes taxes, and the recent budget bill that dramatically hikes military spending.

The tax cuts – both corporate and personal – “have ushered in an era of economic growth and prosperity that we haven’t seen in my entire lifetime,” he said.

He credits the bill for creating the lowest jobless claims in 40 years and historically low unemployment in Indiana.

“It’s all attributed to tax reform,” he said.

The $1.3 trillion budget deal passed last week helps restore the strength of the military and reverses the “disasterous cuts” seen under Barack Obama.

Other signs of progress, he said, were the repeal of the medical device tax and repeal of the health care mandate, which he says will begin the process of unraveling “the mess that’s been created by Obamacare.”

Banks gives Trump much of the credit. “He’s created the environment in which we can succeed and get things done,” he said.

“We’re proud of those accomplishments, but we have a lot more work to do and that’s why I’m running again.”

Banks supported the $1.3 trillion budget plan even though he calls it “a very imperfect deal” because of the growth in spending.

He said he supported it because of the increased spending in defense.

“The process stinks. I don’t like voting for something like that, but at the end of the day, what it does do – to restore our national defense – was most important. That’s why I voted for it.”

While some worry about the combined effects of the tax cuts and increased spending, Banks countered, “We’re never going to seriously put a dent in deficits and debts until we address non-discretionary spending, which had nothing to do with the deal last week.”

Banks, though, does not support Trump’s establishment of tariffs on steel and aluminum, but appreciates some of the carve-outs included afterward by the administration.

He said he considers himself a free trader and has concern over how such moves could impact the district’s large manufacturing base as well as farmers.

“We have a lot at stake when it comes to manufacturing jobs,” Banks said. “The progress we’ve made economically with tax cuts – this has the potential to reverse that.”

On a personal level, Banks said he’s proud of his first two legislative efforts.

Banks is a member of the House Armed Services Committee and the Veterans Affairs Committee, and was able to see passage of two legislative efforts related to military veterans.

Trump recently signed into law legislation authored by Banks that corrects existing law regarding headstones provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs to the spouses and dependent children of veterans whose remains are never located.

Existing law had left open the chance a child of some veterans might not be eligible to be covered by the benefit. Banks’ bill clears up the inconsistency.

The headstone bill, he said, might be “a minor issue to most people, but one that is significant to those who are impacted.”

The other legislation makes permanent a pilot program called VetSuccess on Campus, which places counselors on college campuses to assist veterans in navigating their G.I. benefits and charting their higher education path.

On other issues, Banks:

• Said he thinks Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s role in the 2016 election should be allowed to play itself out, but hopes it wraps up “sooner rather than later.”

He said he’s seen no evidence that Trump is moving toward firing Mueller.

“He’s been explicit in stating that he’s not going to fire Mueller, and I think that’s wise, and I hope the president keeps his commitment to that – to allow the process to work,” he said.

• Declined to support any gun reform measures currently being discussed, including the ban of bump stocks, which Trump has taken action on.

He said he thinks existing gun laws should be enforced and supports measures to improve school safety.