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Utah Rep. Blake Moore and GOP primary election challenger debate Ukraine aid and U.S. debt

Incumbent Moore faces political newcomer Paul Miller in Utah’s 1st Congressional District Republican primary election.

(Chris Samuels | The Salt Lake Tribune) Paul Miller, left, and Blake Moore during a 1st Congressional District GOP primary debate at the Eccles Broadcast Center in Salt Lake City, Monday, June 10, 2024.

Rep. Blake Moore and 2024 primary election challenger Paul Miller sparred over runaway spending and aid to Ukraine during the first and only debate on Monday between the two Republican candidates for Utah’s 1st Congressional District.

Miller, a first-time candidate and electrician, said his goal in running for Congress is to represent the middle class and took a shot at Moore, calling him a member of “the Uniparty” — a term coined by Sen. Mike Lee for both Republican and Democratic members of the Washington establishment — and accused him of voting for budget bills that grew the nation’s debt.

“I’m not going there to say that I’m going to reduce the deficit and then vote for every spending bill in front of my face,” Miller said. “We need real change in D.C. and we need it right now.”

Moore countered that he had opposed the budgets put forward by Democrats when Republicans were in the minority, but when GOP took over the majority in the House, they needed to pass a budget.

“It’s easy to vote no” in the minority, Moore said. “When you’re in the majority, though, you’ve got to lead.”

The budget Republicans passed, Moore said, funded the Pentagon, the Departments of Veterans Affairs and Homeland Security, and border security, but reduced other government spending by $2 trillion over the next decade.

Miller in particular criticized Moore for voting for a $1.5 trillion omnibus spending bill in 2022 that averted a government shutdown.

[READ: How Blake Moore and GOP primary challenger Paul Miller view immigration and federal water policy]

In addition, Moore, a member of the House Budget Committee, voted for two combined appropriations bills that passed the chamber in March and last year voted to suspend the federal debt ceiling. In April he also voted in favor of legislation that provided military aid to Ukraine for its ongoing conflict with Russia — an issue where the candidates also disagreed.

(Chris Samuels | The Salt Lake Tribune) Paul Miller speaks during a 1st Congressional District GOP primary debate at the Eccles Broadcast Center in Salt Lake City, Monday, June 10, 2024.

Miller argued that it is “not our job to protect democracy around the world. If that was our job, we’d be bankrupt.”

In an interview after the debate, Miller said that he would “love to see Putin defeated” and it probably is in America’s best interest.

“But should we, you know, be funding the war for it?” he said. “We shouldn’t be borrowing money from China to fund some other country’s war. We have our own problems here at home.”

(Chris Samuels | The Salt Lake Tribune) Blake Moore speaks during a 1st Congressional District GOP primary debate at the Eccles Broadcast Center in Salt Lake City, Monday, June 10, 2024.

Moore countered that it is in America’s interest to keep Russia in check so Vladimir Putin doesn’t invade any NATO allies that would force the United States to respond.

“The cost associated with going to full-scale war with Russia is far worse than anything we’ve had to do today,” he said.

“You can’t deter Russia without keeping them from invading and taking full control of Ukraine. You can’t have it both ways in this situation,” Moore said. “Russia could easily take their tanks and walk into Kyiv [the Ukranian capital]. And I hope that no American — no matter where you feel about our support for Ukraine — I hope we all can agree that we do not want to see Vladimir Putin and Russian tanks entering into Kyiv.”

The candidates were more aligned in their support of at least considering cuts to Social Security and Medicare in order to control the deficit and keep the Social Security fund solvent.

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