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Kinzinger 'evolves' thinking on tariffs

Congressman talks opioid epidemic, wind farm, other topics during editorial board meeting

U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger talks with the Shaw Media Editorial Board on Tuesday at The Times office in Ottawa.
U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger talks with the Shaw Media Editorial Board on Tuesday at The Times office in Ottawa.

OTTAWA – U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger has served the 16th Congressional District since 2013 and has been in Congress since 2011 and in that time he’s learned to not be afraid to shift his perspective on issues.

In a meeting with the Shaw Media Editorial Board on Tuesday at The Times office in Ottawa, Kinzinger, R-Channahon, said specifically he’s “evolved” his thinking on tariffs and while he doesn’t support all tariffs he does see value in some of them.

“I initially recoiled at the thought of any version of a tariff anywhere,” said Kinzinger. “I’m a free trader and I’m a believer that American products on the market can crush anyone else’s.”

Kinzinger faces a challenge this fall from Sara Dady, a Rockford Democrat and immigration lawyer. The 16th District covers all of Lee, Ogle, Bureau, Boone, Grundy, Iroquois, LaSalle, Livingston, and Putnam counties, and parts of DeKalb, Ford, Stark, Will and Winnebago counties. President Donald Trump carried the district by more than 17 points in 2016.

A future meeting is scheduled with Dady.

Kinzinger said he originally opposed all tariffs considered by the Trump administration, and although he still opposes some, such as on steel and aluminum from places such as Canada and Europe, he now sees the need for using them to put the squeeze on China.

Kinzinger said throughout his visits in the district that he’s heard about American businesses struggling over targeted tariffs from China designed to drive prices down, ploys to steal technology used in manufacturing products there, and other government interference.

“That’s unfair and right now I think our best way to push back against that is through using our economic system, especially because the Chinese system is very tenuous,” Kinzinger said. “So, while I’m nervous about it – and frankly I don’t know if I’d do the additional $200 billion in sanctions – I certainly hope the president is successful.”

Health care reform

Kinzinger said health care reform was one area where partisan politics were impeding progress in Washington. Kinzinger voted to replace the Affordable Health Care Act with The American Health Care Act, which ultimately failed by one vote, with all Democrats opposed.

He said his hope is that Congress will work toward making health care accessible and affordable for the poor, middle class and wealthy.

“I don’t think your pocketbook should be a determination whether you live or die,” Kinzinger said.

He hopes to do this by working to bring costs down and finding a way to encourage transparency in billing so consumers recognize cost differences from hospitals and clinics as well as generate competition between institutions. He added he would like to see protections for those with pre-existing conditions included as well as penalties for people who try to game the system by picking up insurance when they’re sick and dropping it when they’re not.

Kinzinger admitted that it’s difficult to bridge the gap between Republicans and Democrats when Trump continues to divide the parties with Twitter attacks.

“I think if you talk with most Republicans, they’re conflicted with policies we agree with and a tone we don’t,” Kinzinger said. “So, I’ll just continue to be a counterexample.”

He added he’s supportive of Trump’s actions to this point and credits him with the recent economic upswing, but he is reminded a new generation of Republicans will be quick to succeed him.

“I hope he’s president for another 6 years, but he’ll be done at some point and there will be this generation that’s my age and younger that’s going to define what the Republican party looks like,” Kinzinger said.

“Whether I’ll be in this job or not by then, to the extent that I can have a piece of that conversation now is essential,” he added.

Opioid epidemic

Kinzinger said grassroots campaigns are vital to combating the opioid epidemic, but noted there are some potential regulatory aids that can assist.

He said treatment facilities are sometimes limited in the number of beds they can have by federal regulations that were imposed decades ago and were meant to prevent people from becoming institutionalized; these regulations should be revised, he said.

He added alternatives to opioid painkillers should be used, including medical marijuana, which he supports. He said he supported a measure allowing Veterans Administration doctors to prescribe medical marijuana in states that allow it.

Kinzinger also said for some it’s up to others to be aware whether they have prescription medications within reach of children as some pick up the habit through finding pain relievers at home.

Town halls

Kinzinger rejected the criticism that he’s not easily accessible to or engaged with his constituents, calling it a line of attack in the Democrats’ “playbook.”

He said he had two town halls last year, but was criticized for them not taking place in the right venue or setting. He said he’s open to “legitimate” town hall discussions and public forums that discuss issues, such as human trafficking, but not those created by the Democratic party designed to favor one party over the issues.

Earmark spending

Kinzinger said one of the larger frustrations in his position is he is unable to direct spending to specific issues in the district.

The spending, known as earmark spending, was temporarily banned in February 2011, which prohibits lawmakers from using Congressional funds for specific local projects.

Kinzinger said he hopes to restore earmarks in a new, reformed system that prevents abuse so he can divert money to his district.

Wind farms

Kinzinger said he thinks wind power is important but understands the frustrations of some that say they’ve become too prevalent.

He said the government should encourage a level playing field and occasionally should step in to give advantages to new technologies to help get them off the ground and be able to rely on them. Now, wind power provides a great deal of power and the government is phasing out its tax credits to farms.

“I think wind power is important. I share the frustrations of a lot of people that when I drive or fly my little plane and I see nothing but wind turbines it can be a bit of an eyesore, so it’s a give and take, but I think the federal government helps to stand up technologies but it needs to walk away too, and that’s the role we’re playing right now,” he said.

Kinzinger supports Mueller investigation, hopes it reaches swift end

OTTAWA – U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Channahon, says he supports special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, but hopes it will wrap up by year's end.

“I want it to be done soon. I believe I was one of the first to say let’s send this to a special counsel because this is becoming too political and well the Mueller investigation is becoming too political,” Kinzinger said during his meeting with Shaw editors Tuesday.

Kinzinger said the investigation has gone on for a year and a half, and while it has uncovered some wrongdoing, it has yet to show any evidence of collusion between President Donald Trump and the Russian government.

He added that it had created a culture in which “it’s cool to say in politics” that Trump isn’t a legitimate president. He added he would never say the same of any other president, regardless of their party or personality.

Kinzinger said the president has been more “hawkish” on Russia than any in two decades and cited actions such as the administration's sanctions for election meddling and American bombing attacks on Syrian military targets in response to the use of chemical weapons, despite the objections of Russia.

He hopes the investigation concludes before the start of another presidential election cycle. Even if the investigation isn’t over by then, he has no plans to get in its way.

“I don't believe in ending it as Congress. I don’t believe the President should end it,” he said.

Kinzinger also said he would not support any impeachment vote without any strong evidence of collusion.

“You can despise President Trump," Kinzinger said, "but to impeach him because you don’t like this tone – I don’t like his tone on certain things – it’s a dangerous precedent.”

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