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Armstrong finds North Dakota connections in hot topic federal initiatives

Rep. Kelly Armstrong, R-N.D., met with the Grand Forks Herald Editorial board Thursday to discuss his first few months in the U.S. House of Representatives. (Photo/ Emily Allen, Grand Forks Herald)

Freshman Congressman Kelly Armstrong, R-N.D., said he has spent his first few months in U.S. House of Representatives learning how to utilize his experiences from the North Dakota Legislature.

Armstrong, formerly a state senator serving the Dickinson, N.D., area and a private attorney, was elected in November to take Sen. Kevin Cramer's former seat in the House. He joined 199 House Republicans after the Democratic Party gained 40 additional seats, giving the latter a clear majority in Armstrong's chamber.

"There's a lot of guys coming from state legislatures in conservative areas, and now we're the minority, so it's trying to work through those things," Armstrong said.

Armstrong joined the Herald Editorial Board on Thursday to discuss upcoming votes in Congress, President Donald Trump and important federal policies.

The 'Green New Deal'

Armstrong said he's keeping tabs on a young congressional resolution meant to tackle climate change and economic inequality from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and Sen. Edward J. Markey, D-Mass., known as the "Green New Deal."

"It's absolutely detrimental to North Dakota in (agriculture), energy, coal and oil issues," Armstrong said.

The congressman went on to suggest the deal is more indicative of a new socialist lean to the Democratic Party.

"If you've read the resolution of the Green New Deal—I don't know what your definition of socialism is, (but) that's mine," Armstrong said.

Immigration and shutdown

Armstrong called for reform in both the process for obtaining citizenship and border security.

"It's been a 25-, 30-year problem that has never been touched by either side," Armstrong said of federal immigration policy. "I thought that if there was ever a chance when you could get real border security and a fix for (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), it would've been during the shutdown. It would've been air cover for a lot of people on my side to support a DACA fix, (even) if they might not normally support the stand-alone bills."

While most of the national attention to immigration has zoomed in on the U.S.-Mexico border, Armstrong said there's also a clear need for reform in North Dakota, where immigrants fill the state's workforce in several sectors.

"It doesn't matter what profession you talk to," Armstrong said. "Whether it's contractors in west North Dakota, farm laborers in the middle of the state, oil and gas, nurses, doctors, grad students, I mean ... we have visa issues."

As the House prepares to file a resolution to oppose the president's declaration of a National Emergency to fund a border wall, Armstrong said it's too soon to promise how he will vote.

"I probably will not vote for it, depending on how it's written," he said.

Of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who is supporting the resolution from a Texas Democrat, Armstrong said he believes she's "confusing the fact that Congress is a co-equal branch of government with her being co-equal with the president."

Trump and trade

Armstrong said he suspects Congress will consider ratifying a new trade agreement in July, referring to the U.S.-Mexico-Canada deal President Trump signed in November with the Canadian prime minister and Mexican president.

"It concerns me that the president is saying he might start the clock on NAFTA; that's a terrible idea," Armstrong said. "You want criticism of the president? He cannot start the clock on NAFTA until we have an idea where U.S.M.C.A is at. I mean, that would be absolutely destructive."

Armstrong also cited concerns with shifting alliances and an unclear conclusion, and a need for a better agreement with Pacific Northwest trade partners who work mostly with North Dakota producers.

"People who were on one side of trade agreement deals might not be on the same side anymore," he said. "And when all of that happens, it takes D.C. a long time to figure out where people are at."

Emily Allen

Allen joined the Grand Forks Herald to cover local government and politics May 2018. Call her at 701-780-1102, email her at or follow her on Twitter, @Emily_theHerald.

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