The congressman touched on a range of policy issues at the local Chamber of Commerce breakfast before offering some predictions about the 2020 presidential election.
“We waterski across thousands of issues, but you have to stop the boat sometimes and put on the scuba gear,” he said.
Standing in front of windows offering views of Spring Lake, Huizenga said PFAS contamination and restoration of the Great Lakes are among a handful of issues that bring both political parties together.
Huizenga, who serves on the bipartisan Congressional PFAS Task Force, called the discovery of the substance in the well water at Robinson Elementary School in November 2018 a “wakeup call.” Huizenga suspects the current knowledge of PFAS is “the tip of the iceberg,” he said, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s lifetime health advisory limit of 70 parts per trillion may need to be lowered.
Huizenga said he has worked with Democrats to fight cuts to the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, proposed under President Obama and “zeroed out” in President Trump’s first budget. He anticipates bringing the funding back to the $300 million annually that is needed to protect the lakes.
Huizenga also breaks with the Trump administration on tariff hikes imposed on China, which he said impact local industries “from office furniture to automotive.”
“My fear is they’re trying to recapture a world that doesn’t exist anymore,” he said of the administration’s position, calling President Trump a “protectionist.” He said the administration lacks consensus on a looming trade war Huizenga characterized as a “skirmish.”
Grand Haven Mayor Geri McCaleb asked Huizenga if work is being done to protect U.S. Coast Guard service members in the event of another federal government shutdown. She said the guard is “absolutely” an essential service.
Huizenga suggested offering bonuses to those who have to receive back pay, but said the best-case scenario is avoiding another shutdown. He voted in February not to open the government unless U.S.-Mexico border security was adequately funded. He called U.S. immigration policy “broken.”
Huizenga said he supports Trump’s 2020 campaign for his picks for the Supreme Court, his pro-life position and growth in the economy. He expects a few Republican challengers to Trump, but says such efforts will “fail miserably.”
“This is a well-tested path and it rarely works out for the challenger,” the congressman said. “I fully expect Donald Trump will be the candidate for the Republicans, if he chooses to.”
Already challenging Trump for next year’s race are dozens of Democratic hopefuls. Huizenga said a crowded field including many “unknowns” for the Democrats — and the party drifting further toward its base — are mistakes Republicans have dealt with in past elections.
Democrats like freshman U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York — who Huizenga called “the person with three letters,” commonly referred to as AOC — have drawn the party into what he calls a “race to the left.” He criticized Ocasio-Cortez calling capitalism “irredeemable” — “I’m not sure that’s a winning strategy,” he added.
Huizenga was re-elected to represent Michigan’s 2nd Congressional District last year and is currently serving his third term in Congress. Democrats took the majority in the House last year, and Huizenga said he expects divisive political campaigning — and policymaking — will escalate into the election.
“It’s going to be fascinating,” he said. “The political scientist part of me is fascinated sitting back and watching all of this.”
Consumers Energy sponsored the event, while officials from Grand Haven’s Board of Light & Power, Loutit District Library and numerous businesses attended the breakfast meeting.