Ben McAdams bucks party on COVID-19 relief bill, as GOP ads complain he follows Dems in lockstep

As Republican ads continually attack Democratic Rep. Ben McAdams for supporting liberals too often, he bolted from his party’s leaders again to oppose a pandemic relief bill that Democrats passed Thursday.

McAdams, D-Utah, was one of 18 Democrats who joined all House Republicans to oppose the $2.2 trillion stimulus bill, which has been the subject of stalled negotiations for months. It passed anyway on Thursday by a close 214-207 vote. It has virtually no chance of passing the Republican-controlled Senate.

The bill “is a step in the right direction but is still weighted down with partisan wish list items, unrelated to the COVID crisis,” McAdams said in a statement after the vote.

“I am frustrated that the bill before us today is an exercise in futility while we should be focusing our energy on passing bills that will get relief to the millions of struggling Americans during this economic crisis,” he said.

McAdams urged all House members to work together to pass needed relief.

“I call on all sides to come together, put partisanship aside, and present a measure that will get Democratic and Republican votes — a smart plan that responds to the ongoing public health and economic emergency facing us,” he said. “There’s a deal to be made. Put partisanship aside and make it.”

The step comes as McAdams — who won his seat by less than 700 votes two years ago — has faced a series of ads by Republican political action committees and his opponent, Burgess Owens, asserting that he follows Democratic leaders in lock-step and only claims to be a moderate.

For example, one by the Congressional Leadership Fund — a super PAC closely association with House GOP leaders — says, “Ben really changed when he got to D.C., voting with [House Speaker] Nancy Pelosi 85% of the time.”

An online tool by ProPublica — which figures how often a House member votes with any other member — showed that as of Friday, McAdams has voted 86% of the time the same way as Pelosi during the current two-year Congress.

He also has voted 44% of the time the same was as Utah GOP Rep. John Curtis, 43% of the time with Utah Rep. Chris Stewart and 41% with Rep. Rob Bishop.

Other measures show that McAdams is one of the most moderate Democrats in the House.

FiveThirtyEight.com shows that McAdams votes for positions favored by President Donald Trump the second most often of any House Democrat, behind only Rep. Collin C. Peterson, D-Minn., one of the founders of the conservative Blue Dog Coalition, who serves in what is considered a Republican district.

Still, it reports that McAdams voted for Trump positions only 20.2% of the time, less than any House Republican. (Bishop voted with Trump 94.9% of the time; Curtis 95%; and Stewart 96.4%).

McAdams also ranks as the 13th most conservative Democrat in the House on an “ideology score” by GovTrack that is not based on votes, but instead on legislation that members sponsor or cosponsor.

A separate ad from the Congressional Leadership Fund that began airing this week criticizes McAdams for missing “more than half the meetings” of the bipartisan Congressional Executive Commission on China.

“Brutal crackdowns on religious freedom, people of faith silenced and jailed by a communist regime. But when Ben McAdams had the chance to help, he was missing,” the ad states.

The 30-second segment, which the Congressional Leadership Fund has said will run on a mix of broadcast, cable and digital platforms, ends by accusing McAdams of failing to show up when victims of “assaults on religious liberty and human rights” “needed help most.”

McAdams' campaign, in a statement responding to the ad on Thursday, said it represented a “new low” for the Owens campaign and its “D.C. allies."

“Apparently unwilling to discuss the merits of his support for resuming explosive nuclear weapons testing and eliminating protections for preexisting conditions, they’ve resorted to simply making stuff up, in an onslaught of new TV ads,” said Andrew Roberts, McAdams' campaign manager. “Ben’s record is clear and Utahns will see right through the deception.”

The campaign said McAdams has participated in a number of hearings and panels focused on Chinese human rights abuses and has voted for several measures against the Chinese regime, including supporting the Hong Kong Autonomy Act, the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act and the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act.

Included in the news release from the McAdams campaign was a statement from Congressional Executive Commission on China Chairman Jim McGovern, D-Mass., who called the ad a “false partisan attack that trivializes the seriousness of the challenges our country faces from the Chinese government.”

He said that McAdams has attended “most of our hearings for the last two years” and has played a key role in supporting legislation to hold the Chinese government accountable.

Reporter Taylor Stevens contributed to this article.