Utah Rep. Ben McAdams bucks fellow House Dems as they pass big spending bill

(Rick Bowmer | AP file photo) Utah Rep. Ben McAdams speaks during a news conference on Dec. 16, 2019.

Rep. Ben McAdams, Utah’s lone Democrat in Congress, was one of just 12 Democrats who voted against his party Friday as it pushed through a $1.3 trillion package of spending bills for the new fiscal year that begins on Oct. 1.

The package, which now goes to the Senate, passed 217-191. McAdams joined all of the House Republicans who were present to oppose it — including Utah GOP Reps. Rob Bishop, John Curtis and Chris Stewart.

The package bundled together what normally would have been six separate spending bills for defense; labor, education, health and human services; commerce, justice and science; energy and water; financial services and general government; and transportation, housing and urban development.

“Another day, another enormous deficit-growing bill that lacks accountable budget decision-making,” freshman McAdams said to explain his vote against the bill and his party.

“Hard choices on how and where to economize must be made,” he said. “Additional emergency spending to provide relief for Utah families [who are] still staring down a public health and economic crisis may be needed soon, and that crisis requires us to be laser-focused on spending priorities.”

McAdams, of course, is in what is expected to be a close race for reelection against GOP nominee Burgess Owens. McAdams won his seat by a slim 694 votes two years ago.

House passage of those bills came as Congress left town for the weekend without agreeing to extend emergency pandemic aid spending that expired Friday — such as the $600 per week extra in unemployment benefits Americans have been receiving.

While McAdams voted against the spending package, he celebrated that it included several amendments that he had pushed.

That includes a ban on any spending to prepare for or conduct new explosive nuclear weapons tests — an amendment that was opposed by all of the Republicans in Utah’s House delegation.

“Explosive nuclear testing causes irreparable harm to human health and to our environment and jeopardizes the U.S. leadership role on nuclear nonproliferation,” McAdams said on the House floor when it adopted his amendment on July 20.

(Lee Davidson | Tribune fie photo) Rep. Ben McAdams, D-Utah, speaks against renewed nuclear testig during a news conference on July 6, 2020 at the Utah Cultural Celebration Center. Next to him are pictures of the "Sedan" test in Nevada exactly 58 years earlier.

The Trump administration has discussed resuming nuclear weapons tests as an attempt to push China and Russia into negotiations to regulate nuclear weapons. McAdams said tests in Nevada spread radiation and cancer downwind in Utah, and adamantly opposes resuming them.

McAdams said other amendments he pushed that are in the bill included additional funding for the National Suicide Prevention Hotline; for the Central Utah Project that delivers water to the Wasatch Front; for the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force; and for the Children’s Justice Centers.

McAdams said his amendments were funded by reductions to other spending in the bills. “Drawing the line on spending isn’t easy, but it’s necessary to start us down a path of restoring fiscal sanity when it comes to the federal budget,” he said.

Among some of the provisions in the spending package are:

• $1 million for the Army to rename bases and other assets that were named for Confederate leaders. The bill also blocks military spending for President Trump’s border wall.

• Nearly $600 million is provided to implement several law enforcement reforms in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd.

• $500 million is provided for election security.

• It would block a Trump administration rule to bar undocumented immigrants from public housing, and mandates masks on public transit during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This package prioritizes the lives and livelihoods of the American people, and makes the strong investments needed to build a stronger future for every person,” said House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey, D-N.Y.