Curtis Smith Interviews Congressman Jim Banks

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This episode is part of a TV Series called Restoring Hope with Crosswinds Counseling. Restoring Hope With Crosswinds Counseling can be viewed in the Indianapolis Area on WHMB40 Thursday nights @ 9:30 pm.

Curtis Smith: Good evening everyone and welcome to Restoring Hope. I’m your host Curtis Smith. Thank you all so much for joining us tonight and as always a huge thanks to Our Community Partners Tesco, Shepherd Community Center, and Prime 47 Downtown. Without the support of these wonderful organizations, we would not be able to be with you every Thursday night at 9:30 right here on WHMB TV 40. Well as always, we have a great show for you tonight and we have a very special guest tonight as well.

Over the past several years U.S Congressman Jim Banks has become one of the most prominent figures in the National political landscape. Earlier this month, right before election day Congressman Banks sat down with us in Fort Wayne. Here is our conversation with him.

Curtis Smith: Congressman Jim Banks, thank you for sitting down with us. For those in the Indianapolis area that maybe don’t know you as well as Northeast Indiana, your home. Tell us a little about yourself. You’re married. You served in the Navy. You’ve got three daughters. Tell us a little bit about your personal life

Jim Banks: Well, [I’m a] native of Columbia City, a small town between Fort Wayne and Warsaw. I still keep my home there today. I served in Afghanistan. A few now, a few years ago, six-seven years ago [I] served in the State House. Prior to that [I] ran for Congress 2016. Right when I got home from Afghanistan my seat was open, and [I] uh kicked off a campaign for it. The last six years have flown by. I’ve served in Washington now for three terms. Just re-elected to my fourth term to serve in Washington for two more years. My wife and I have three daughters – 13, 11, and 9. so pray for us three girls at that age.

Curtis Smith: You’re on the cusp of some crazy years.

Congressman Jim Banks: Yeah, but we’re so proud to serve. My family serves with me. They go to Washington with me. We serve as a family and it’s the honor of our lives to represent Indiana and Washington D.C.

Curtis Smith: You’re speaking of serving in your family. Your wife actually stepped in and served for you, for what was it, about two years?

Congressman Jim Banks: Well when I was deployed to Afghanistan, I was a sitting State Senator at the time, and my wife was elected by the precinct to fill the time of service while I was away. Indiana, it turns out has a unique state law that when an elected official goes on active duty, military orders, like I did you can be temporarily replaced, and in this case my wife was elected to take my place. I’m told every day she was a lot better at it than me, and I believe it. She’s extraordinary in her own right and we take Public Service very seriously. It’s a calling for us. We believe that God called us to serve at such a time as this and with the big issues facing our nation, facing our culture, we’re both in it to make a difference. And when we look into the faces of our three daughters, we want America to provide them with the same opportunities that America has provided us.

Curtis Smith: Let’s talk about the state of America. We’re in a pretty political climate these days and boy there’s a lot to love about America, but there are a lot of things that I know you would like to see change. What are some of the top things on your mind as we get into this next phase of life, post-election here, that we’ve got to work on? That we’ve got to change?

Congressman Jim Banks: Yeah I mean the issues I hear about every day as I stump around Northeast Indiana is that what inflation, gas prices have done that make it harder for families to make ends meet, just to put food on the table, to fill up the gas tank. What inflation has done is just cost the equivalent of one month’s salary on average for every family in the state of Indiana, so it’s like giving up one month of your salary. Most people can’t do that, so we have to when we go back into – when the Congress goes back into session, and with Republicans, in the majority we have a duty we’ve been given, an opportunity by the American people, to solve the problems that matter most to the American people. But there’s a lot going on out there. I mean you look at, when I travel to communities like Bluffton or Kendallville or Angola, I hear about the drug epidemic in a way that I’ve never heard about before. I mean more drugs affecting and impacting families and communities. Fentanyl manufactured in China, being pushed over the southern border by the Mexican drug cartels and ending up in communities like ours resulting in 300 Americans every single day who die of fentanyl poisoning. Fentanyl is now the leading cause of death of Americans who are my age, so that statistic is more than a stat or more than a number. It’s real to most families that I talk to who have been affected by it, and we have to do more in Congress to solve that. To address those issues, and I tend to be a leader in doing that.

Curtis Smith: Wow, so the economy number one, drug issues, and I want to kind of set mental health aside for a second and talk about it in our second segment, but what else are you hearing from your constituents? The people out there as you connect and know, this time especially I assume, you’re hearing from and seeing so many people in this season, what else are you hearing from them?

Congressman Jim Banks: Well, I hear a lot of just simply about, ‘What is America?’ What America is what should it be, and what’s happened to America? The decline of America over the past few years is something, especially for those of us who have worn the uniform and served our country. It’s a shame to see America weakened to the point that it is. From inside out, so how do we restore America? How do we restore the greatness of America? I mean I think that that’s a question that whether you’re on the red team or the blue team or anybody in between, you should care about. I mean this is the greatest country in the history of the world and we need to restore it to what we all know that it should be. So that starts with fixing our economic issues, but it also has a lot to do with projecting American strength around the globe as a deterrent to our adversaries. Man, I serve on the armed services committee and I see an awakened and a resurgent China that wants to dominate America and the rest of the world. Russia invading Ukraine. China by the way wants to take over Taiwan. You have North Korea threatening to do things again. Iran acting out and the world is a far less safe place today than I think that it has ever been in my lifetime, and a strong America is the best way to solve it. And whether it’s solving problems at home and helping American families make ends meet, and pass on the American dream to the next generation, or playing the role that America should play around the globe, that I think a lot of people are struggling with that question. How did America get to where it is today? Weakened, declining in the way that it is? And how can we get America back on track?

Curtis Smith: It’s comforting as a Hoosier to know that we have a Hoosier who’s playing such a prominent role in our national and our federal government and you’re taking on such a leadership role these days. You mentioned the Armed Forces Committee. I know you’re the chairman of the Republican Study Committee. For those who don’t understand what the Study Committee does, tell us a little bit about the committee, your role there, and helping to shape kind of the national picture of the Republican party.

Congressman Jim Banks: Yeah, the Republican Study Committee. I’ve been proud to be the chairman of it. The leader of it for the last two years. I can only do it for one term, so I’m term-limited and have to give it up, but I’ve loved every minute of it because it’s the largest caucus in Congress. There are 163 Republicans who are part of it. I lead a weekly lunch meeting and we talk about policy, we talk about solutions to America’s problems. We’ve worked really hard the last couple of years on my watch to draft the agenda for Republicans when we take back the majority because it’s not good enough just to beat the Democrats and take over the gavels. And the majority. We have to have a plan. The American people have given us a charge, given us a duty to go solve the problems that face America. So we have to be ready to go with solutions, and the last couple of years the Republican Study Committee has led the way on Capitol Hill to draft that playbook, the agenda for Republicans to roll out come January, and I’ve been proud to lead that effort.

Curtis Smith: Awesome. Jim, thank you so much for joining us, and thanks for agreeing to have part two of our conversation. We’re going to take a quick break and we’ll be right back with Congressman Jim Banks.

Curtis Smith: We’re back with Congressman Jim Banks from the third congressional district in Indiana. Congressman, thanks for spending a few more minutes with us.

Congressman Jim Banks: Glad to be here.

Curtis Smith: I mentioned briefly mental health and obviously at Crosswinds Counseling, it is a huge concern for us. It’s our main area of focus, and I know as a congressman it’s something that you see on the minds of so many Americans. What do you see as you talk to your constituents, and what do you think we need to do to help the mental health situation of our country?

Congressman Jim Banks: Well, we have to do more, and our leaders in Washington DC have to make this a primary mission of one of the issues affecting America. Coming out of the pandemic mental health has been affected for so many Americans, for most Americans, and one way or another. At the same time we have a drug crisis in America. When I go visit addiction organizations or facilities [that] are trying to help people treat addictions, you know there’s sort of a – I often hear about the whether it’s the chicken or the egg? Does mental health cause people to become addicted to drugs or is it drug addictions that are causing mental health issues? It doesn’t really matter except for how they treat it, but at the end of the day this is an epidemic that’s affecting every family that I meet every, every community that I visit, and we need leaders at the national level, at the state level, at the local level who are providing solutions. So whether it’s more support coming from Washington DC, or more leaders at the local level who are helping people address mental health and addictions, I know that what you all are doing here is so important to that equation of solving these issues at the local level, and I strongly applaud what you’re doing here. But when I go back to Washington DC, I want to what I can do more to help you handle this issue at the local level.

Curtis Smith: We talk so much and hear so much about the stigma has gone away, or it’s getting better, maybe it hasn’t completely gone away, but a lot of people are more openly talking about their mental health struggles and their issues. Do you think that’s true in Washington? Do you think that the stigma is lessening and more lawmakers are embracing the fact that this is a real problem for millions of Americans? We have to openly talk about it and do something about it.

Congressman Jim Banks: Yeah, I believe that you know, whether the stigma is still there or not, it’s certainly not what it used to be, and we have leaders on both sides of the aisle in Washington who want to do more to address these issues, but at this point we need solutions. We need legislation and as a new Congress begins in January we have a duty to provide legislative support to support programs at the state and the at the local level. I mean it’s going to take leaders in Washington, the governor of Indiana, the state legislature and leaders of the local level, mayors, county commissioners, law enforcement, health care leaders, all of us working together to address the major mental health and addiction issues that are affecting our communities. I want to be, I want to do everything I can. I welcome the feedback of anyone who’s listening. Reach out to me and give me your ideas. Tell me what we can do at the national level to solve these issues because as you’ve already said, this is something that I hear about everywhere that I go. I’ve held roundtable discussions just in the last few weeks, in both Bluffton and in Auburn on these issues. I’ve traveled to different addiction treatment facilities and heard directly from those who are on the front lines, and I’m hungry for ideas. Hungry for solutions, and want to be a leader to do what I can to support those who are on the front lines.

Curtis Smith: Jim you mentioned both sides of the aisle and as we go into this new Congress, I’m curious how optimistic are you that in the new Congress, some political divisions, all the things that divide us can be set aside and that there can be some unity? There can be some collaboration and that Congress and our government even on a bigger scale can truly come together and help Americans? Is there reason for optimism there because we seem so divided sometimes?

Congressman Jim Banks: Well, the process, I believe can work and elections are wake-up calls. So this election gave Republicans a chance to be in the majority after we had one-party control of Washington and the White House, the House, and the Senate. So I believe there is a hunger on the other side now, especially after the election was a reminder that the voters wanted something different. Now, I think there is an incentive for a Democrat in the White House to work with a Republican majority in the Congress to work together, to solve problems. I can’t think of any problem that should provide more of a bipartisan opportunity to do something about it, but you take the border for example I mean fentanyl coming across, the vast majority of it, 90 something percent of fentanyl is coming over the southern border, so what can we do at the southern border to shut off the access and the supply of fentanyl that is flowing over the border? That’s something that we should find bipartisan support to do, to find ways that we can block it and then some more support for treatment at the local level too, should be something that should have broadband partisan support.

Curtis Smith: I’m curious, just from your personal perspective, of the semantics and the logistics of being a congressman, you’ve been in the role now for six years, you’re entering a new two-year stretch, I can’t even imagine how exhausting it is to run for office every two years. To try to keep your job but you had to learn a lot in that first, what is the learning curve, is it six months? Is it a year? Is it your whole first two years? What? And then what have you learned over the last six years that you feel like sets you up well here as you move into this new term?

Congressman Jim Banks: Yeah this is what I love about the job. I learned something new every single day about a different issue, or about the process, about my colleagues, and doing the job for six years, you get to know a lot of your colleagues, what’s important to them, what’s important to their districts, and if anything that I’ve learned over the last six years is that no one member of Congress can do something alone. That’s not how it works. I mean there are 435 of us in the house, and it takes a majority of us to pass anything, and you have. That means you have to work with others and in this case, with a Democrat in the White House and a Republican-led congress. It means that we will have to work together to solve problems, and that’s something that over the last six years I’ve learned sometimes the hard way, that you gotta reach out and build coalitions and work with others to pass legislation and address problems, and that six years of experience is going to lend itself really well to the next two years as we go, as I go back into the majority, back into a bigger position of influence to be able to get more down for Northeast Indiana.

Curtis Smith: Congressman Jim Banks thank you so much for spending time with us tonight. We really appreciate it.

Congressman Jim Banks: Thank you.

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