HELENA – Former state Sen. Ryan Zinke, a Republican from Whitefish, said he wants to be Montana’s next congressman to focus on getting things done to rebuild America.
Zinke said he has a unique track record as a candidate, as a third-generation American who spent 23 years as a Navy SEAL and was commander of SEAL Team Six.
“My desire is to fix Washington and restore America,” he said. “I firmly believe that we can rebuild America. But it is time for less politics and more leadership.”
He added, “I’m a Montana conservative. I like infrastructure.”
Zinke, 52, is one of five candidates seeking the Republican nomination for the House seat now held by U.S. Steve Daines, R-Mont., who is running for the U.S. Senate. Two Democrats are vying for their party’s nomination.
One of his top priorities is to promote energy independence for America, which he called “a global game changer.”
He said this will allow the United States to reposition its military forces more appropriately, out of the Middle East, and bring back energy-intensive domestic manufacturing that can use natural gas, such as the Columbia Falls Aluminum Co. and timber mills.
Zinke also said he wants to look at federal rules “inflicted mostly by unelected bureaucrats.” He cited a study that estimated that federal rules cost businesses $3.4 trillion in 2012, which is about the size of the federal budget.
“It’s almost an assault on free enterprise, innovation and the ability to produce out-of-the-box solutions,” he said, vowing to try to restrict agencies’ power to enact regulations without congressional approval.
He said he differs from his primary opponents.
“I tend to read the bills or even the (party) platform,” he said. “Fiscally, I think you can trim and you can cut back, but you can’t cut enough or tax enough to get out of the hole.
“We’re going to have to grow our way out. The only way to grow really is to get government out of business to where the economy can grow, and that’s protecting innovation, it’s protecting the ability to think out of the box. We need more Montana in Washington and a whole lot of less of Washington in Montana.”
The candidate called the Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare,” unworkable as it is.
“I think you can empower the states to find a better solution,” Zinke said. “The consensus of the experts is that one side doesn’t fit all.”
He said Montana, North and South Dakota, Wyoming and Idaho could come up with a regional plan that would allow people to keep their existing doctors and insurance, address tort reform, create cooperatives and provide “low-cost” share clinics.
He called the House-passed budget by House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan “a reasonable framework going forward.”
“It balances the budget in 10 years,” he said. “It wasn’t quite as aggressive as I would like. At last I think there is a Republican vision on the deficit that I think has some clarity to it.”
As for taxes, Zinke said Americans are overtaxed now. Any tax reform should be to the benefit of working families.
On immigration, Zinke said the Republican Party must develop a vision, separating the northern and southern borders. He called for closing the southern border and offering work visas to find out who is here.
Zinke said he believes in “earned citizenship,” with illegal immigrants who have served in the U.S. military first in line. In addition, those who are granted citizenship should speak English.
Here is where Zinke stands on some other issues:
• Keystone XL pipeline. Zinke said President Barack Obama should immediately approve it. The United States should have accelerated the infrastructure to export liquid natural gas to Europe and relaxed the restrictions on sweet crude.
“(President Ronald) Reagan had it right,” he said. “In order to check Soviet expansion, you hit them square in the face with the free market.”
• Campaign finance change: He said the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which prohibited the government from restricting independent election spending by corporations and unions, won’t affect his campaign. Zinke said he believes in transparency, saying, “I just want to know, by name, who’s giving money.”
• Minimum wage. He opposes Obama’s proposal to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour from the current $7.25 rate. He said he prefers to leave it up to the states to set minimum wages based on the local economy.
• Changes to improve Congress. Members of Congress need to restore trust with the American people, he said.
“Anything that affects we the people should affect Congress the same way,” Zinke said. “That means no special deals for congressmen, no special health care benefits, no special retirement benefits.”