Over his first five months on the job, Congressman Chris Pappas has experienced the country’s longest government shutdown and a spiraling controversy around President Trump.
“This president operates like no other president in history,” Pappas said this week on The Exchange. “He flouts the law, flouts the conventions of our democracy. And I think it's really important that he doesn't set a precedent for future presidents to be able to conduct themselves in a similar fashion.”
Pappas said FBI Special Counsel Robert Mueller should testify before a congressional committee on details of the report. He did not say the House of Representatives should pursue impeachment articles at this time.
(You can hear the full Exchange conversation here.)
Congress has an important Constitutional role to play in resolving certain questions about the President, said Pappas, a Democrat from Manchester. “And we can do that while still focusing on the needs of the American people, which I hear about each and every day when I'm back here in the district.”
When it comes to addressing those needs, Pappas said one term representing the 1st Congressional District isn’t enough.
“I certainly will be running again in 2020,” he said. “Two years isn't long enough to be able to ensure that we're moving things in the right direction. And I hope to continue to lean into issues around veterans’ health care and transportation and ensure that I'm being responsive to the needs of the people of New Hampshire. So, I hope once all is said and done, at the end of this two years, that I'll have another two to begin to make a bigger difference over time.”
As for the seemingly ever-growing field of Democratic presidential candidates, Pappas said:
“I don't think we're hurt by there being a lot of voices in the discussion, because, ultimately, if Donald Trump is going to be replaced in 2020, we're going to have to ensure that there's the strongest Democratic nominee possible who can build the broad coalition we need to win. And ultimately that's what it is going to come down to -- who can go the distance, who has got what it takes.”
Pappas said he’s looking for a nominee who can appeal to a broad range of voters, especially to voters “in the middle.”
“We have a lot of independent voters here in New Hampshire -- 40 to 45 % of voters are independents. They pick and choose based on the individual, not based on the party. So, we have to talk directly to their needs. So I think it's got to be a candidate who is solutions-oriented, who can demonstrate an ability to build a coalition and to win.”
He does not yet have a short list. “I have a really long list,” he said.
Despite tumultuous times, bipartisanship is alive and well.
Congress is more collaborative than media coverage suggests, says Pappas. That’s been his experience on the committees he serves on -- Transportation and Infrastructure and Veterans Affairs. Among the bipartisan solutions now under consideration: bills addressing veteran suicide.
Also, infrastructure appears ripe for bipartisan agreement, he said.
“There's really strong bipartisan support to get something done in both surface transportation and the bigger infrastructure bill. And I think Congress -- if left to its own devices -- is going to come up with something. I'm hopeful the President will rejoin the negotiations and really be a part of a permanent agreement. He needs to be, in order to make this work.”
Pappas says he has not yet met President Trump in person. “I think if I did have the opportunity to talk with him, I would tell him about the opioid crisis that continues to rage in New Hampshire; I'd talk to him about the struggles of some of our Main Street businesses, especially as they look to recruit and train workers. I would talk to him about the groundwater pollution that we're seeing in communities across our state. So there's a lot that I'm focused on, and I'm willing to work with the President on anything where I think he can be a constructive partner.”
Pappas and the President, however, appear to be worlds apart on at least one major matter: climate change.
“It's a threat to our national security and it's the most pressing international issue that we face,” Pappas said. “And we've got to be a part of the conversation. That's why the House recently passed H.R. 9, a bill that would put us back into the Paris agreement that the Administration wants to pull us out of -- although that decision doesn't take effect until just after the next presidential election. So there's time to do a course correction there.”
In addition, Pappas said, “I think we should be not just looking at proposing some new environmental regulations but talking about how we can create the good paying jobs of tomorrow to make sure that our economy and our climate are pointed in the same direction. “
When it comes to Medicare for All – supported by some Presidential candidates -- Pappas favors instead building on the Affordable Care Act.
“I'm signing onto legislation that would create a public option on the exchange and also legislation that would lower the eligibility age for Medicare,” he said. “I would like to see people that are near retirement age be able to buy in to the program. “
As for the largest national security threats facing the country, Pappas singled out Russia and China.
“We have a nation in Russia that is looking to subvert American democracy here at home and around the world. We have a nation in China that is ripping us off in terms of trade agreements and our intellectual property and is a nation that poses a long-term strategic threat to the United States. So we need to make sure that we're working with our allies and partners on the world stage, that we're leaning into alliances like NATO.”