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News-Sentinel.com Your Town. Your Voice.

All politicians make promises, but Banks insists it will be different this time

U.S. Rep. Jim Banks, R-3rd, speaks on the House floor last week. (Courtesy photo)<br />
U.S. Rep. Jim Banks, R-3rd, speaks on the House floor last week. (Courtesy photo)
Tom Henry
Tom Henry
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.The Associated Press
Tuesday, January 17, 2017 05:13 am
As Jim Banks was sitting with his family waiting to be sworn in last week, a fellow congressman shared some peanut M&Ms with his daughter — who promptly spit the chocolate candies all over his shirt and tie. A quick change of clothes solved that problem, but Indiana's new 3rd District U.S. representative knows other looming challenges will be more difficult to redress despite Republicans' control of Congress and the White House. And as a result of that newfound muscle, Banks also knows his party has no excuse should it fail to deliver on its promises. It's an opportunity and obligation he embraces.

"We're going to be promise-keepers," Banks said, echoing words spoken to the incoming GOP caucus by President-elect Mike Pence, former Indiana governor. One of those promises was to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, which the House began to dismantle when it passed a budget resolution by a mostly party line 227-198 vote. Banks said he is optimistic a new health-care bill can be passed by Feb. 20 — one he believes can offer better coverage at lower cost through the use of tax credits, increased competition and other incentives while eliminating provisions that compel religious organizations to violate their beliefs. Banks has also co-sponsored a bill to repeal the federal tax on medical devices, many of which are manufactured in northeast Indiana.

Republicans have also promised to expand and modernize the military, and Banks' appointment to the Armed Services Committee provides him an opportunity to benefit not only the nation but Fort Wayne as well.

"I want to be a forceful advocate for the 122nd," Banks said, referring to the Air National Guard unit headquartered at Fort Wayne International Airport. The wing currently flies aging A-10 ground attack planes but Banks said he will seek an upgrade to new F-35 "joint strike fighter." Banks will also serve on the Science, Space and Technology Committee — topics also important to northeast Indiana because of its concentration of military contractors. And he hopes to use his seat on the Veterans Affairs Committee to make good on a pledge to improve health care for America's servicemen and women.

Can the federal government really improve health care, beef up the military, build a wall along the Southern border, address Social Security solvency and cut taxes as President-elect Trump has proposed without ballooning a debt that is already nearing  $20 trillion? Banks is optimistic, believing tax cuts would stimulate the economic and boost government revenues. That's theoretical, but the House did take one concrete step in the right direction. Banks' first vote was for the so-called "Reins Act," which would require any executive branch rule or regulation with an annual economic impact of $100 million or more to come before Congress for an up-or-down vote.

"We have a unique opportunity in American history, and we have two years (to get things done before the next election)," Banks said. But even if Republicans can keep their promises, the resulting legislation could be eroded should the party fail to place new conservative judges on the Supreme Court. Trump has vowed to do just that, and Banks indicated he would support the Senate's use of the so-called "nuclear option" to approve justices by a mere majority vote should Democrats attempt to filibuster a Trump nominee.

Although Banks does not share Trump's position on every issue — trade, for example — he insists Republicans are unified and optimistic as Trump prepares for his inauguration Friday. And even though he's a rookie congressman with just one of 435 votes, Banks said he'll work hard to make his voice heard through the commotion sure to follow.

That's a promise.

Sneak peak

Mayor Tom Henry billed his speech to the Downtown Rotary Club Monday as a test for his forthcoming State of the City address. "If it gets a laugh, I'll keep it in," he said.

Henry mostly offered optimistic and familiar themes of neighborhood investment, downtown development and job growth. But there was nothing funny about his discussion of the "most pivotal point that moves a city forward." That would be crime, or the lack of it, and although Henry said the rate of many crimes was reduced in 2016 he also acknowledged the county's record number of homicides. With three already this year, that record is on pace to be shattered.

Henry has scheduled a news conference for Tuesday to discuss public safety, but the State of the City address would be a good place to present an aggressive plan to keep that record intact, even if it failed to elicit even a chuckle.

This column is the commentary of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The News-Sentinel. Email Kevin Leininger at kleininger@news-sentinel.com or call him at 461-8355.



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