Jim Banks with Natalie DeWitt

U.S. Rep. Jim Banks chats with Auburn City Councilwoman Natalie DeWitt at Jeremiah’s coffee shop during his Tuesday visit to Auburn.

AUBURN — If he wins reelection to a third term on Nov. 3, Rep. Jim Banks looks to play a key role in Congress.

Banks is running unopposed to become chairman of the Republican Study Committee, the largest conservative caucus in the House with approximately 150 members, he said Tuesday in Auburn.

“It’s really an opportunity for me to take a leadership position and represent the conservative values of our district on a national level and take more of a national role advocating for conservative principles of balancing the budget, fiscal responsibility, a strong national defense, keeping taxes low and fighting for the American way of life,” Banks said.

First, Banks must win reelection over Democratic challenger Chip Coldiron of Ossian. Banks won his first two election races in 2016 with 70% of the votes and then in 2018 with a 65% majority.

Banks said he is “working hard to earn the support of the district for another two years and looking forward to the opportunities that another term will provide for me to step up the ladder and do more — be a bigger leader for the district on a national stage.”

Past chairs of the Republican Study Committee include current Vice President Mike Pence, Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan and Louisiana Rep. Steve Scalise, Banks said.

As one of its top priorities, the Republican committee each year comes up with a conservative, balanced-budget proposal, he said.

“The longer we go, the harder it gets to truly balance the budget. After the pandemic, where we just added $3 trillion to $5 trillion more in spending, our budget deficit is the highest it’s ever been, exceeding GDP for the first time since World War II,” he commented.

“When it comes to fiscal responsibility, we’ve completely lost it, and the Republican Study Committee is the engine in the House that puts out a fiscally responsible budget proposal every year. That fight’s going to become even more important over the next Congress. I’ll be leading that effort and trying to bring a sense of fiscal responsibility back to our country at a time when we need it.”

Banks said he sees little chance of passing another economic stimulus package in the next two weeks.

“I doubt there’ll be a vote before Election Day. Election-Day politics is going to get in the way, sadly, but the president has made very clear that he’s willing to continue to negotiate,” Banks said. “To pass something that’s truly bipartisan and can get through the House and the Senate for the president to sign is probably going to come after Election Day, not before.”

If Banks could design a stimulus bill, he said, “I would help those who need it and avoid wasting more of our tax dollars on efforts that have nothing to do with the pandemic.”

He complained, “The Democrats are hell-bent on bailing out states like Illinois and California on the backs of Hoosier taxpayers. Indiana, with our triple-A bond rating and our low tax rates — we carry a budget surplus in our state. Why should we bail out a state like Illinois that for decades has been irresponsible and had budget deficits? That’s exactly what the Democrat bill would do — it would bail out blue states like Illinois and force Indiana to pay for it.”

In any new stimulus package, he said, “We should avoid passing anything that would incentivize people to stay home and not work.

“What we should do is extend the PPP program, efforts like that,” he said about the Payroll Protection Program included in the first stimulus bill.

“I hear from so many small businesses in the district that tell me that PPP was a lifeline that kept them alive during that pandemic,” Banks said. “There are some areas where we can extend it and forgive loans for small businesses that would allow them to stay open and keep people employed. If we don’t, the unemployment numbers are going to skyrocket when these businesses realize they can’t pay back loans, or they can’t extend programs that have kept them alive. That would be very damaging to families that would quickly find themselves out of work.”

After spending his first two years in Congress as a member of a Republican majority, Banks experienced the past two years in the minority. He said the difference is like “night and day.”

However, he said, “The last couple years in the minority, I’ve still been able to be productive and accomplish many things for the district, especially in the areas where I’m focused — on veteran-related issues and on the Armed Services Committee, continuing to rebuild and modernize the American military to confront the challenges and threats that we face now and, we believe, into the future.”

Banks added, “I’ve been a leader on efforts to confront the China threat, economically and militarily, serving on the China Task Force — we just completed our report — and the Future Defense Task Force, which is related to how we modernize our military to confront China’s military to keep up with emerging technologies, to confront that threat.”

Banks recently said he sees countering Chinese aggression as the No. 1 goal for the United States. He said he believes northeastern Indiana residents agree with him that the U.S. is threatened by China stealing intellectual property and jobs, and “developing sophisticated weapons and technologies that exceed our capabilities in some places.”

Banks said, “I think often about President Reagan’s mantra, ‘peace through strength.’ The most effective way to avoid a confrontation with an enemy is to project strength, and we’ve fallen behind in many areas. That limits our ability to do that when it pertains to China. That’s why the Future Defense Task Force that I co-led with a Democrat member from Boston, Seth Moulton, we laid out a plan to modernize the military and develop sophisticated, emerging technologies that compete with where China is today. That effort is something that will dominate my time in Congress, I believe, for the rest of my time there.”

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