Utah’s freshman Democratic congressman, Ben McAdams, completed a tour of the state Legislature on Tuesday, visiting the majority and minority caucuses of the House and Senate in a series of public and private meetings.
Speaking to House Republicans, McAdams thanked the representatives for their collaboration with his former Salt Lake County Mayor’s office on Operation Rio Grande, and suggested they continue working together to advance Utah’s agenda in Washington.
“I think it can be good for our state to have leadership on both sides of the aisle,” McAdams said.
In response to a question about the national debt, which recently exceeded $22 trillion, McAdams said the nation’s deficit has been a bipartisan failure and that the debt is becoming a threat to national security.
“I think the place to go is a balanced budget amendment that requires Congress to sharpen our pencils,” he said.
The congressman, who was assigned to the House Financial Services Committee, focused on efforts to address the fraught relationship between banks and marijuana businesses. Banks are reluctant to deal with the cannabis industry because they’re concerned about running afoul of federal law, McAdams explained, so in many cases, marijuana businesses have operated on a cash-only basis.
“Banks are worried they could lose their federal charter because they’re essentially financing illegal drug dealing,” McAdams said.
He said Utah’s recent legislation on medical marijuana — which creates a state-run cannabis distribution system — is unique among legalization states, but could still run into issues with banking and financial transactions.
“It strikes a good balance as we move forward into kind of a new arena for our country,” he said.
McAdams told the Senate’s Democrats that his tenure in Congress got off to an interesting start, pointing out that he took office amid the tumult of a federal shutdown. And the turbulence hasn’t settled down yet, he said.
Now, although the government is on track to stay open for the near future, McAdams and his colleagues are dealing with fallout from President Donald Trump’s national emergency declaration, an action that could unlock funding for a border wall.
“We’re of course concerned about the emergency declaration," McAdams said. "One of the first items we’ll take up when we’re back in session next week is a resolution ... of disapproval of that emergency declaration.”
McAdams also invited lawmakers to stay in touch with him and said he was eager to work together on federal issues affecting Utah.
"Please let me know what I can do for you," he said.
“Win in ’20,” Senate Minority Leader Karen Mayne, D-West Valley City, quipped.
McAdams’ visit with Senate Republicans was private, as the chamber’s majority caucus does not open its meetings to the public or press.
The Democratic congressman later on Tuesday was scheduled to have a town hall meeting in Lehi and, on Wednesday evening, in Nephi.
Tribune reporter Bethany Rodgers contributed to this article.