LINCOLN — Seeking re-election for an eighth two-year term, U.S. Rep. Adrian Smith, R-Neb., is emphasizing his work on tax relief and foreign trade as he campaigns for votes in the state’s vast, 3rd Congressional District.
In an interview with the Nebraska Examiner, the 51-year-old Republican defended his vote against certifying results of the 2020 presidential election, saying that President Joe Biden was the winner and “it’s time to move on.”
Smith also applauded the striking down of Roe v. Wade by the U.S. Supreme Court. He called Nebraska’s current ban on abortion after 20 weeks as “something that is reasonable.”
That last comment about abortion would seem to conflict with Smith’s past stances and action on the issue. For example, Smith co-sponsored a bill that would declare that life begins at conception. And in May, he wrote a column stating it was sad the U.S. was among the countries that allowed elective abortions after the 15th week.
Abortion stance unchanged
A campaign spokesman said that Smith’s view that abortion should be banned, except when it threatens the life of a mother, has not changed and said the congressman was likely making an observation about what Nebraska has done, not what he supports.
Smith, who has a shot at becoming the first chair of the powerful Ways and Means Committee from Nebraska, would appear to be a shoo-in for re-election.
Easy re-election wins
Except in his first run for Congress in 2006, when he ran against Democrat Scott Kleeb for an open seat, Smith has easily rolled to election victories.
He has claimed more than 70% of the vote in every re-election bid in a district where Republicans outnumber Democrats by more than 3-to-1.
This year, he faces two opponents, who have mounted nominal campaigns: Democrat David Else, an Overton farmer, and musician/businessman Mark Elworth Jr. of Omaha, a leader of the Legal Marijuana NOW Party.
“He sort of embodies the characteristics of the 3rd District citizenry. He presents himself as sort of a humble servant — he’s like one of your neighbors,” said Peter Longo, a political science professor at the University of Nebraska at Kearney.
Good staff, constituent services
Smith also has a good staff and responsive constituent services, Longo said.
The congressman’s endorsements include those from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Rifle Association, the National Right to Life Committee and the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste, which gave him a 100% rating as a “taxpayer hero.”
He has raised and spent about $1.6 million in his re-election bid and has been traversing the country campaigning on behalf of other Republicans.
Smith’s top financial supporters include Tenaska Energy, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, Hawkins Construction, Sandhills Global and the Blackstone Group, according to OpenSecrets.com, which tracks campaign spending.
Smith is one of three candidates to become chair of the Ways and Means Committee, which has jurisdiction over tax policies and Social Security. If he is chosen — he would be the first Nebraskan to get that post — Smith said it would enhance his ability to seek favorable trade policies for Nebraska agriculture products.
Of the three candidates, he has been labeled the “policy wonk” of the trio, a title Smith embraces. “I may be the policy wonk, but I like to have a good time, as well,” he said.
Smith said that if re-elected, he wants to make the tax cuts passed in 2017 permanent. Right now, the cuts are scheduled to expire in 2025.
He defended his vote against President Joe Biden’s infrastructure bill, saying that the legislation had been paired with proposals he opposed and that an amendment he sought, designed to assure more competitive bidding on infrastructure projects, was not adopted.
‘It’s time to move on’
Smith also defended his vote against certifying the results of the 2020 presidential election in two states.
That vote, which differed from how others voted in the all-GOP Nebraska delegation, was interrupted by the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, which Smith termed “unacceptable and not constructive.”
“I had concerns about some of the reports on how ballots were counted — the process,” he said. He cited Pennsylvania, where the governor, rather than the State Legislature, changed how the election was conducted.
Biden won the election, Smith said.
“It’s time to move on. The courts have spoken, as well,” he said, adding that he supports requiring voters to present identification as one step in moving forward.
Would vote for Trump
When asked, Smith said he would vote for former President Donald Trump in 2024, “if he is the nominee.”
The congressman sidestepped a question about who should be appointed to fill the vacancy in the U.S. Senate if Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., resigns, as expected.
Smith criticized Biden’s student-loan debt relief program, saying Congress should have been allowed to vote on such a plan before applications were accepted. Smith said even Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has said the president lacked the power to enact such a program.
“I think it’s one of the most fiscally dangerous things for our country. It hurts the presidency and it hurts our country,” Smith said.
Six Republican-led states, including Nebraska, are attempting to legally block the debt-relief program, raising the same argument, that Congress must approve such a plan.
Smith pushed back on a suggestion that congressional representatives don’t work across party lines anymore. The news media, he said, often doesn’t report on issues that get bipartisan backing.
“I often makes the point that there’s more collaboration and cooperation across the aisle than people see,” he said. “The more polarizing figures get more coverage.”