During his second congressional debate, Congressman Steve Knight (R-Palmdale) spent a lot of time trying to convince the audience that he’s an independent voice in Congress — even though he has supported the Trump agenda 99 percent of the time.
SoCal Daily viewed a leaked video of the debate, which was not allowed to be recorded on video or audio despite objections from constituents who couldn’t attend live.
As she did in their first debate, Democratic challenger Katie Hill reminded constituents that Knight is one of Trump’s most loyal acolytes in Congress.
“Unfortunately, Congressman Knight has voted with his party and with Donald Trump 98.9 percent of the time,” Hill said. “So he likes to talk about being bipartisan, but unfortunately his votes don’t track with that.”
Hill got this figure from a regularly updated data journalism feature at FiveThirtyEight.com, Tracking Congress in the Age of Trump. The well-regarded reporting project tracks how often members of Congress vote with or against Trump.
Of the more than 430 members of the House of Representatives, only two current members vote for the Trump agenda more consistently than Knight: Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) and Rep. Michael Cloud (R-TX). And Cloud has only been in Congress since July 2018.
On arguably the two biggest votes in Congress over the past 18 months — repealing the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and the Republican tax bill benefiting wealthy corporations — Knight sided with Trump and Republican leaders to ram through partisan legislation with no Democratic support.
During the first debate, Knight completely avoided discussing his vote to repeal the ACA. And in the second debate, he did everything he could to avoid talking about just how devastating his vote would have been for Americans.
Knight wholeheartedly embraced the American Health Care Act (AHCA), the failed GOP bill that would have repealed the ACA and caused 23 million people to lose health insurance. Knight also campaigned regularly against the ACA, which has made health insurance affordable and accessible to millions who were previously uninsured.
If the AHCA had become law, it would have undone the ACA’s popular protections for people withpre-existing conditions — which would have denied insurance or dramatically hiked premiums for cancer survivors, individuals suffering from asthma, women who have been pregnant, and millions of other Americans with common, treatable health conditions.
When the debate moderator asked Knight directly about pre-existing conditions, however, Knight talked around the issue and avoided reminding the audience of his disastrous vote.
“Between the ACA and the AHCA, there are issues with both of them,” Knight said. “It [health care] is a very intricate system, and you’re going to do it in steps. The ACA was not the step, the AHCA might not have been the step.”
One of the most heated moments of the debate came when Knight sought to mischaracterize Hill’s words.
Both candidates were asked how to bring back a spirit of bipartisanship in Congress. Hill told a story about her father being a lifelong Republican (his first vote for a Democrat was a vote for Hill in the primary), and her willingness to work with both Democrats and Republicans, including neighboring Republican Rep. Kevin McCarthy.
But Knight responded, “During these two debates, I’ve heard a lot of things about ‘Republicans are bad, Republicans have done this’. Remember, Republicans are 40 percent of this district.”
Hill quickly reminded Knight, and the audience, that she never said anything negative about Republican voters — simply Republicans in Congress, such as Knight.
Knight pressed on undeterred, continuing to misrepresent Hill’s views and insinuate that she had insulted 40 percent of the voters in the district — even though Hill had talked warmly about her own father being a lifelong Republican.
Knight was also wrong on the numbers. Republicans make up 34 percent of voters in the 25th Congressional District, Democrats make up 38 percent, and no party preference makes up 23 percent, according to the California Secretary of State’s office.
Yet somehow — despite his voting record, despite the fact that Knight voted for Trump in 2016, and despite his partisan outrage on behalf of Republicans — Knight still insisted during the debate that he is not a partisan.
Knight claimed that he had attempted to secure bipartisan support for the bills he has introduced, but he never once refuted the fact that he votes with Trump nearly 99 percent of the time.
If Knight is reluctant to be tied to Trump, that may have something to do with Trump’s low approval rating. In Knight’s district, only 43 percent approve of Trump and 52 percent disapprove of him, according to a recent poll.
Polls show a close race between Knight and Hill. Their next debate is scheduled for October 13.
The leaked video of the second debate is available here.