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Blake Moore and Republican challenger in Utah primary debate federal budget and aid to Ukraine

In the Republican primary for Utah’s 1st Congressional District, incumbent Moore is running against political newcomer Paul Miller.

(Chris Samuels | The Salt Lake Tribune) Paul Miller, left, and Blake Moore during a Republican primary debate for the 1st Congressional District at the Eccles Broadcast Center in Salt Lake City, Monday, June 10, 2024.

During the first and only debate between the two Republican candidates for Utah's 1st Congressional District, Rep. Blake Moore and 2024 primary challenger Paul Miller sparred Monday over runoff spending and aid to Ukraine.

Miller, an electrician and first-time candidate, said his goal in running for Congress was to represent the middle class and took a swipe at Moore, calling him a member of the “uniparty” – a term coined by Senator Mike Lee for both Republican and Democratic members of the Washington establishment – and accusing him of voting for budget bills that would increase the national debt.

“I'm not going to say I'm going to reduce the deficit and then vote for every spending bill that comes my way,” Miller said. “We need real change in Washington, and we need it now.”

Moore countered that he opposed the Democrats' budget proposals when the Republicans were in the minority, but when the Republicans took control of the House, they had to pass a budget.

“It's easy to vote no when you're in the minority,” Moore said. “But when you're in the majority, you have to take the lead.”

The budget passed by Republicans, Moore said, provides funding for the Pentagon, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Department of Homeland Security and Border Security, but cuts other government spending by $2 trillion over the next decade.

Miller particularly criticized Moore's approval of a $1.5 trillion omnibus spending bill for 2022 that prevented a government shutdown.

[READ: How Blake Moore and GOP primary challenger Paul Miller view immigration and federal water policy]

In addition, Moore, a member of the House Budget Committee, voted for two combined budget bills that passed in March, and last year he voted to suspend the federal debt ceiling. In April, he also voted for a bill that provided military aid to Ukraine for its ongoing conflict with Russia – an issue on which the candidates also disagreed.

(Chris Samuels | The Salt Lake Tribune) Paul Miller speaks during a Republican primary debate for the 1st Congressional District at the Eccles Broadcast Center in Salt Lake City, Monday, June 10, 2024.

Miller argued that it is “not our job to protect democracy around the world. If that were our job, we would be bankrupt.”

In an interview after the debate, Miller said he would “like to see Putin defeated” and that that would probably be in America's best interests.

“But should we, you know, fund the war for that?” he said. “We shouldn't borrow money from China to fund another country's war. We have our own problems here at home.”

(Chris Samuels | The Salt Lake Tribune) Blake Moore speaks during a Republican primary debate for the 1st Congressional District at the Eccles Broadcast Center in Salt Lake City, Monday, June 10, 2024.

Moore countered that it was in America's interest to keep Russia in check so that Vladimir Putin would not attack a NATO ally and thereby force the United States to respond.

“The costs of a full-scale war with Russia are far greater than anything we have had to do today,” he said.

“You can't deter Russia without preventing it from invading Ukraine and taking full control. In this situation, you can't have it both ways,” Moore said. “Russia could easily take its tanks and invade Kiev. [the Ukranian capital]. And I hope that no American – no matter what they think of our support for Ukraine – I hope we all agree that we do not want Vladimir Putin and Russian tanks to invade Kiev.”

The candidates tended to agree that cuts to Social Security and Medicare should at least be considered in order to bring the deficit under control and maintain the solvency of the Social Security Fund.

Anna Harden

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