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The Journal Gazette

  • Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette U.S. Rep. Jim Banks talks with, from left, Lisa Olinger, Ron Kohart and City Councilman John Crawford on Wednesday at Allen County's GOP headquarters.

Thursday, November 08, 2018 1:00 am

Banks sizes up coming term in minority

BRIAN FRANCISCO | The Journal Gazette

For the first time since taking elected office in 2009, Jim Banks will find out what it's like to be in the minority party.

The Columbia City resident won re-election Tuesday in northeast Indiana's 3rd Congressional District, but Democrats grabbed control of the House for the first time since 2010 by capturing at least 222 of the chamber's 435 seats. Republicans retained and likely grew their Senate majority.

Banks has been a member of Republican majorities the past two years in the U.S. House, the previous six years in the Indiana Senate and the previous two years on the Whitley County Council.

He predicted Wednesday that Republicans will return to power in the House in the 2020 election.

“Democrats are going to do what Democrats do: They are going to overreach these next two years, and they are going to show the American people that they are as dysfunctional as those of us in Washington, D.C., who are serving and have served over the past couple of years, know that they are,” Banks, 38, told the audience at the Allen County Republican Party's traditional post-election lunch.

But later, during media interviews at party headquarters in downtown Fort Wayne, Banks said he works well with his Democratic colleagues on the House Veterans' Affairs and Armed Services committees, panels that he described as “very bipartisan.”

“There will be opportunities to still get things done on the issues that I care most deeply about and the issues that matter to the district,” he said. The 3rd District is home to a VA medical center, an Air National Guard fighter wing and various defense contractors.

The Veterans' Affairs Committee formed the Subcommittee on Technology Modernization in July and named Banks as its chairman – a post he will lose when Democrats take over in January. The subcommittee is overseeing the nearly $16 billion upgrade of the Department of Veterans Affairs' medical records system.

“I speculate I'll still be the ranking member of that subcommittee, ... if the committee still exists,” Banks said.

He figures the ranking Democrat on the five-member subcommittee – Rep. Conor Lamb of Pennsylvania – will become the chairman if he wants the job.

“We've worked very well together in setting up the committee,” Banks said about Lamb. “That's an oversight committee, and I don't believe that committee and its mission will change one bit if the new (Veterans' Affairs Committee) chairman wants to keep it around. It's too important to get rid of.”

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, founder of the ultraconservative Freedom Caucus, announced their candidacies Wednesday for minority leader in the next session of Congress. Banks said he prefers McCarthy.

“If it weren't for him and the hard work that he put into this election cycle, I think our minority would have been a lot deeper,” Banks said about McCarthy, who spoke at last year's Allen County GOP Reagan Bean Dinner at Banks' invitation.

Banks said he has no plans to join the Freedom Caucus and will remain active with another, larger conservative caucus, the Republican Study Committee. He has been a member of its steering committee, which decides what legislation the caucus should take official positions on.

Banks received roughly 65 percent of the vote Tuesday to defeat Democratic challenger Courtney Tritch and win a second term in the House. The unofficial tally in the 12-county district is 158,655 ballots for Banks and 86,420 for Tritch, according to the Indiana secretary of state's office.

About 75 people attended the local Republican Party's lunch, which featured hot dogs from Fort Wayne's Famous Coney Island next door. Many of the diners were GOP candidates who won election a day earlier, including state Auditor Tera Klutz.

Among the crowd were the two announced candidates for the Republican mayoral nomination in Fort Wayne next year: City Council member and oncologist John Crawford and MedPro Group executive Tim Smith.

bfrancisco@jg.net