THE 600-WORD INTERVIEW: Anti-Trump House Republican Adam Kinzinger on his uncertain political future and his appetite for a ‘$1 kajillion’ bill

Adam Kinzinger
Adam Kinzinger. AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin
  • Rep. Adam Kinzinger is one of 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump after the January 6 riot.
  • We talked national debt, Republicans in Congress who secretly loathe Trump, and his political future.
  • He called me from the Capitol. Our conversation was condensed and edited for clarity.
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Why should Republican primary voters support you when you oppose so much of what they believe in?

We have a decision to make as a party: Do we want to go down the road of conspiracy and lies, or do we want to get back to telling the truth?

If we want to be a party that lasts, that can compete nationally, we’re going to have to get back to truth telling.

You rode the tea-party movement into office in 2010. Didn’t the tea-party movement also give us Trump?

I do think that there was a kind of Trumpism prior to Trump. I think the Tea Party in 2010 was very different from what it became in 2012. In 2010, the focus of the tea party was to stop Obamacare. It was about government-spending concerns.

Then, in 2012, it became the tea party about “never raise the debt limit” and “shut down the government over Obamacare.”

Why are you so opposed to government spending? There’s an argument it puts money in people’s pockets, they go around spending it on goods and services, and it grows the economy for everyone.

When you have a $31 trillion debt, that’s a problem. Especially when you’re going to end up spending more on interest than you spend on defense. That’s going to require a raise in taxes.

If we believe that just simply directly printing money and giving it to people is amazing for the economy, we should do a $1 kajillion bill.

But the reality is there’s a fine line you have to walk there, and that’s the art of governance. I supported early on some of the COVID packages because we were in a moment where it needed to happen. The economy was slow.

But when you have a recovering economy, that’s where the free market takes over and provides those paychecks. So yeah, I mean, it’s not even a basic conservative philosophy. It’s actually really anything but a liberal philosophy.

What we’ve learned over the last probably five years or so, is that whatever that debt cliff is, the edge is probably further away than we thought.

If you’d have told me 10 years ago that we’d be $31 trillion in debt, I’d be, like, “Well, that’s completely unsustainable.” But the reality of debt is it’s sustainable so long as people believe in it. As long as people believe the US will pay their bills, as long as people believe that the debt we have is sustainable, then it will be OK.

But if people begin to believe that the US won’t pay its bills, the dollar quits being the reserve currency, inflation skyrockets, or interest rates skyrocket. That’s when you could run into trouble. But look, debt in and of itself is not evil.

What’s so great about being in Congress that Republicans who privately disapprove of Trump won’t say so in public?

Brother, if you can come to the answer to that one, please share it with me.

People have their identity built into what they do for a living. Right? It’s not fun facing a potential future where you’re not called congressman.

What’s your political future? You’re kind of getting squeezed. Right?

My plan is to just tell the truth and do the right thing, and if I lose, I will be at more peace than I’ve ever been in my life. If I win, it’ll have a big impact.