7 things to know about Republican US Rep. John James

US Rep. John James (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

By Kyle Kaminski

May 30, 2024

Republican US Rep. John James has a history of opposing abortion rights and recently signed onto a proposal that would make cuts to Social Security and Medicare.

MICHIGAN—This year, Republican US Rep. John James is asking more than 600,000 Michiganders to send him back to Congress, so he can represent them in Washington, DC.

In August, James will slide unopposed into the Republican nomination for a second term to represent Michigan’s 10th District—which comprises parts of Macomb and Oakland counties.

And in November, voters in southeast Michigan will decide whether James gets to continue representing them in Congress, or whether he should be replaced by a Democratic candidate who could play a key role in flipping control of the US House, where Republicans have control.

But with less than six months until Election Day, Michiganders won’t find much information about James’ political agenda on his campaign website. As of this week, it didn’t feature a single detail about any of his legislative priorities beyond a short video, a one-liner about how he’s “fighting for the American dream,” and several opportunities to donate to his fundraising committee.

And while a review of a candidates’ voting record would typically provide at least some insight into their views on key issues, James doesn’t have much of a record to bring to the table.

Of the 29 bills sponsored by James to date, none of them have been signed into law, and only one—dealing with safety standards at the Soo Locks—has managed to pass the US House.

So, to help fill the gap, here are seven things to know about James as he runs for reelection:

1. James won’t stop fighting to ban abortion.

He said so himself, on his Twitter page, when he was running for US Senate in 2018:

7 things to know about Republican US Rep. John James

“I am 100% #ProLife because I believe life begins at conception and ends at a natural death. We will not stop fighting until we end abortion, for it is our sacred duty to protect the most vulnerable among us; the unborn,” James posted to his Twitter account in January 2018.

James has also said that he opposes access to abortion in cases of rape and incest, according to reports from MLive. At a campaign event in 2018, he even compared abortion to “genocide.”

Anti-abortion groups like Right to Life of Michigan, in turn, have endorsed and spent tens of thousands of dollars to support James’ failed congressional campaigns in both 2018 and 2020.

Since Roe was overturned, polling has shown that most Michiganders support abortion access.

That was also reflected in the 2022 election when voters overwhelmingly approved Proposal 3, which enshrined guaranteed rights to reproductive health care into the state Constitution.

James, in turn, has attempted to soften his stance on the issue. Last year, he told reporters at the Detroit News that he supports exceptions for abortion in cases of rape or incest. In another interview, he also suggested that he would no longer support a bill to ban abortion nationwide.

“The people of Michigan have spoken and I … I said from the very, very beginning that we need to have compassion for women, and we need to listen to women, and women have made their voice heard loud and clear,” James said last year in an interview with WDIV. “Now that people in Michigan have made their decision, it is my job as the representative to represent my district.”

Still, after Proposal 3 passed, James continued to uphold his so-called “sacred duty” to rip away reproductive rights for women. Last year, he voted against congressional efforts to pass the Women’s Health Protection Act, which sought to codify abortion access into federal law, and has reportedly voted in favor of other anti-abortion bills that have come to the House floor.

That includes voting in support of legislation that would’ve restricted pharmacies from dispensing mifepristone, the nation’s most commonly prescribed form of medication abortion.

7 things to know about Republican US Rep. John James

US Rep. John James hugs House Speaker Mike Johnson. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Last year, James also joined every Michigan Republican in the US House of Representatives to elect US Rep. Mike Johnson as the Speaker of the House, elevating a politician with an extreme, anti-abortion, and anti-LGBTQ track record to the most powerful position in the House.

2. James wants to cut Social Security and Medicare benefits.

More than 2 million Michiganders rely on Social Security and Medicare benefits.

James is part of the US House Republican Study Committee (RSC), a group of conservative House members that includes about three-quarters of House Republicans, which released a budget Congressional proposal in March that would’ve made cuts to Social Security by raising the retirement age, as well as raised out-of-pocket costs for seniors by restructuring Medicare.

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Last year, five Michigan Republicans voted in support of federal legislation that threatened to take away Medicaid coverage from nearly 1 million Michiganders. With Democrats in control of the Senate and President Joe Biden in the White House, that bill isn’t going anywhere soon. But with less than eight months until the presidential election, it helps illustrate what healthcare could look like under Republican control.

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The proposal called for Social Security benefits to be reduced for those who earned a “higher salary” before retirement, but didn’t specify a threshold. It also called for making cuts to Social Security by raising the retirement age, though it didn’t say what that new age would’ve been.

The RSC budget also proposed converting Medicare to a “premium support model,” where seniors would receive a subsidy they could use on private plans competing against traditional Medicare. This could lead to thousands of dollars in additional out-of-pocket costs for seniors across the country, and would essentially siphon Medicare to fund private insurance companies.

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Last year, five Michigan Republicans voted in support of federal legislation that threatened to raise healthcare costs for thousands of Michiganders. With Democrats in control of the Senate and President Joe Biden in the White House, that bill isn’t going anywhere soon. But with less than eight months until the presidential election, it helps illustrate what healthcare could look like under Republican control. Political correspondent Kyle Kaminski explains:

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Nancy Altman, president of Social Security Works, an organization that advocates for protecting and expanding Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, has criticized the Republican proposal.

“It would make annual cost-of-living increases stingier, so that benefits erode over time. It would slash middle class benefits,” Altman said in a statement in March. “Perhaps most insultingly, given the Republicans’ claim to be the party of ‘family values,’ this budget would eliminate Social Security spousal benefits, as well as children’s benefits, for middle class families.”

3. James supported tax cuts for the rich.

Last year, through the Republican Study Committee, James joined more than 70 Republican lawmakers to introduce bills that would’ve effectively made ex-President Donald Trump’s 2017 tax cuts for individuals—which primarily benefited the super rich—permanent in federal law.

7 things to know about Republican US Rep. John James

The budget plan would have provided the wealthiest 1% of Americans with a tax cut of $49,000, while only reducing taxes for the bottom 60% by about $500 per year. Had it passed, the budget would’ve also spiked the national debt by about $2.2 trillion, according to a federal analysis.

A Tax Policy Center analysis estimated the plan would have delivered a tax cut of $175,710 to the richest 0.1% of Americans. The Republican budget proposal also aimed to eliminate the federal estate tax, which only impacts those who inherit assets worth at least $13 million.

4. James tried to ban free meals at public schools.

It’s hard to learn on an empty stomach. And over the last two years, state lawmakers in Michigan have recognized that by earmarking millions of dollars in the state budget to provide all 1.4 million public school students with an opportunity to have free breakfast and lunch.

This year, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s latest budget proposal aims to keep the state funding flowing—saving Michigan families more than $850 per child over the course of the school year.

James and other House Republicans, however, have tried to put a stop to these measures.

In recent years, the Republican Study Committee budget has proposed eliminating the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) from the National School Lunch Program, which is reserved only for qualifying school districts located in low-income pockets of the country.

The program allows children from low-income backgrounds to eat during the school day, without schools having to collect household applications or limit eligibility based on household income.

Republicans have proposed adding new requirements to limit eligibility for those meals. That process—known as “means-testing”—has been shown to inadvertently exclude people who are eligible for certain programs, largely due to the red tape that is created through setting limits.

And as Vox notes, “means testing has also long been associated with a moral argument that some segments of the population are deserving of government benefits, while others are not.”

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Ahead of the presidential election, Michigan educators—like Jocelyn Howard—are growing concerned about what the future might hold for public schools if ex-President Donald Trump and Republican lawmakers are put back in charge of the federal government. “Our students are vulnerable. They can’t vote. They’re depending upon us to do the right thing,” she said. “And if we are not taking that into consideration, then we’re failing at our job.” #education #teachers

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Jocelyn Howard, a turn-around school specialist at The Citadel, has worked with Michigan students for nearly two decades, helping those who are dealing with social and emotional issues, or those who have fallen behind in class. James is her representative in Congress.

In an interview with The ‘Gander, Howard said the Republican budget plan would’ve been devastating for her students—and their potential to graduate and find good-paying jobs.

“When we heard about the bill, I knew that those legislators weren’t connected to the work that we’re doing, that they have no clue as to how a child learns, and more importantly, that we are now preparing the next generation,” she said. “This is our most valuable commodity … You have to be aware and you have to be in the schools. You have to come and see what’s going on with your constituents. And if you’re removed from that, then that presents a problem.”

5. James supported efforts to send older adults back to work.

James and the rest of the Republican Study Committee have also repeatedly called for new work requirements in order to access certain federal benefits—like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)—including for beneficiaries between ages 55-64.

Instead of addressing physical or mental health issues that could contribute to why fewer people in that age group are working, the Republican budget plan James endorsed had proposed having older Americans work more to qualify for benefits they use to put food on the table.

The budget also proposed converting SNAP into a “discretionary block grant,” given to states based on rates of unemployment, poverty, and the length of time beneficiaries receive aid.

While Republicans have long embraced block grants, economic experts have pointed out that they lack flexibility to increase funding to respond to recessions, natural disasters, or simple increases in demand for a program because funding levels for block grants are typically fixed.

For example, if states’ SNAP programs were funded via block grants during the pandemic—when millions more families needed food aid and relied on the program—it would have made it more difficult for the government to actually respond to the crises by boosting SNAP benefits, as they did. In a scenario where SNAP was funded via block grants, states would have either had to cut eligibility or benefits, or take on the burden of higher costs.

6. James tried to weaken federal environmental protections.

While smoke from Canadian wildfires enveloped the East Coast last year, Republicans in the US House (including James) pitched a budget plan to reinstate Trump’s deregulatory executive orders—which included a range of orders related to environmental protection.

For example: The Republican Study Committee last year proposed reinstating a Trump administration rule which would’ve peeled back federal guidelines for greenhouse gas emissions that were set under former President Barack Obama’s Clean Energy Power Plan.

An analysis conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found that reverting back to Trump’s “Affordable Clean Energy” rule would drastically increase CO2 emissions by 2030.

The Trump administration also lifted oil and natural gas extraction bans, as well as weakened the Coal Ash Rule, which regulates the disposal of toxic coal waste. Without regulation, coal waste can pollute waterways, ground water, drinking water, and the air, according to the EPA.

The Republican budget proposed that these environmental risks, and many more, be reinstated.

7. James isn’t your only option in November.

James is running unopposed in this year’s August primary election for the Republican nomination. But in the November general election, he’ll face off against one of four Democrats who have filed to take his place: Emily Busch, Carl Marlinga, Tiffany Tilley, or Diane Young.

7 things to know about Republican US Rep. John James

Carl Marlinga (Jeff Kowalsky/AFP via Getty Images)

Marlinga is a former Macomb County Judge and prosecutor. In 2022, he beat out four other Democrats to win the Democratic Party’s nomination for US House, but lost to James by half a percentage point in the general election. In seeking a rematch, Marlinga said that he plans to focus on growing the economy, protecting the Great Lakes, and standing up for abortion rights.

Young, a financial planner from Macomb County, has also secured several endorsements in her bid for the Democratic nomination—including from state Sen. Mallory McMorrow (D-Royal Oak).

Two other Democrats who filed to run for the seat—Anil Kumar, a member of the Wayne State Board of Governors, and Rhonda Powell—were found to have an insufficient number of signatures on their nominating petitions, which is a requirement to appear on the primary ballot.

READ MORE: Michigan Dems line up to replace Republican Rep. John James

For the latest Michigan news, follow The ‘Gander on Twitter.

Follow Political Correspondent Kyle Kaminski here.

Author

  • Kyle Kaminski

    Kyle Kaminski is an award-winning investigative journalist with more than a decade of experience covering news across Michigan. Prior to joining The ‘Gander, Kyle worked as the managing editor at City Pulse in Lansing and as a reporter for the Traverse City Record-Eagle.

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