Rep. Chris Stewart complained that Democrats in Washington are freezing Republicans out of the legislative process during a tele-town hall on Tuesday night, adding that the current spate of legislation in Washington is some of the worst he’s ever seen.
“None of these bills are bipartisan. The Democratic leadership made zero effort to include any Republican ideas,” said Stewart. “Every one of these bills passed with zero Republican votes, and we wanted to work with them on some of these things. We still do.”
Stewart focused his ire on HR1, a massive election overhaul bill that passed the House earlier in March but faces opposition in the Senate, claiming the legislation bans voter ID requirements across the country. Sen. Mike Lee hyperbolically said the bill was “written by the devil himself.”
“You can’t buy cigarettes or liquor, you can’t fly without ID,” said Stewart. “There are dozens of things you can’t do without ID. Yet we’re saying you can vote without proving in any manner who you are? My fear [is] this bill is written to really cement Democratic power in Washington, D.C., to make it a one-party nation.”
Stewart’s claim that HR1 does away with voter ID laws is not quite true. The bill offers a workaround for voters who don’t have the means to obtain ID.
He also said HR5, also known as the “Equality Act,” which bars discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, will not pass because it tramples on religious freedom. Instead, as an alternative, Stewart is pushing the Fairness for All Act, which he says offers those protections while protecting religious freedoms.
“I’m much more optimistic than I used to be. The Senate has indicated they won’t pass the Equality Act, and many of them are looking at our bill as a good alternative. We’re very close to having some Democratic co-sponsors in the Senate,” he said.
Stewart also sounded the alarm about the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 rescue package that flew through Congress in March, warning that massive spending is unsustainable.
“I’m telling you we’re not going to be able to kick the can down the road if we have a five or six trillion-dollar economic catastrophe that every one of us will pay the price for,” said Stewart, who voted in favor of the nearly $2 trillion tax cut pushed through Congress in 2017 without a single Democratic vote.
Responding to a question from a caller, Stewart worried that the bill could do irreparable damage to the economy, saying, “There’s no way this can’t lead to inflation. We’re already seeing it. People just don’t realize just how dangerous this is.”
The U.S. inflation rate in February was 0.4%, with the year-over-year core inflation rate sitting at 1.7%. That’s below the 2% target rate the Federal Reserve says is needed for a healthy economy.
One caller took Stewart to task for not coming to Sen. Mitt Romney’s defense when he broke with the majority of Senate Republicans in February, voting to convict former President Donald Trump in his second impeachment trial for inciting the attack on the U.S. Capitol.
“He was standing up for what I thought was right, yet you did not stand up for him,” scolded the caller named Carrie, who claimed to be a lifelong Republican voter. “That is not being a leader. Why would I think you would stand up for the rest of Utah when you wouldn’t even stand up for one citizen.”
“Mitt Romney doesn’t need me to stand up for him,” said Stewart, who voted against impeaching Trump in both his first and second impeachment proceedings. “It’s not my job to defend him any more than it’s my job to defend the governor, and I don’t expect them to defend me.”
When asked about the perceived bias against conservatives on social media, Stewart stunningly suggested that social media companies, which are privately owned, could be forced by the government to not kick people off of their platforms, a blatant disregard of protections established by the First Amendment.
“Those private companies have now entered the public square, and they have a responsibility to allow people to speak,” argued Stewart. “We would allow for someone to say, because they’ve said something that the CEO of Twitter disagrees with, they shouldn’t be shut down.”
Conservatives have complained that large social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook routinely silence voices on the political right, but studies show several right-wing media outlets enjoy some of the biggest online audiences.