A Conversation With Utah Rep. Blake Moore
The Republican freshman looks back on his first year in Congress.
Good afternoon from the Uphill team. We hope you have a restful week ahead.
We’ve been doing a series of interviews with new members of Congress over the past few months about their first year on the job. Today, we have an interview with Rep. Blake Moore, a Utah Republican who represents the state’s 1st Congressional District—which is home to one of the biggest military bases in the country, Hill Air Force Base. The congressman is on the House Armed Services Committee, where he worked on the annual national defense authorization package. He is also on the House Natural Resources Committee.
Moore’s tenure as a congressman started like everyone else’s did this year—experiencing the January 6 attack on the Capitol. Moore was one of the Republicans who did not support GOP objections to state results. He said President Trump’s response at the time “troubled” him more than anything. Later, Moore was one of only 35 House Republicans to support a bipartisan commission to investigate the January 6 riots. That commission was subsequently blocked by Republicans in the Senate.
As he says in the interview, a piece of legislation he helped pass this year was the National Medal of Honor Monument Act. The bill authorizes the construction of a memorial in Washington, D.C., to honor Medal of Honor recipients.
Moore and his wife recently had their fourth baby, Franklin, who came earlier than expected. Moore said after successful surgery last Thursday, the baby is recovering nicely.
The interview transcript has been edited for length and clarity.
Ryan: Congressman Moore, how's it going?
Rep. Moore: It's going exceptionally well. It's great.
Ryan: I hear you are a new dad, again, for the fourth time, correct?
Moore: The second time I became a dad three times, with twins. So, in a way it’s kind of like a third whammy, but twins felt like six kids.
Ryan: Congratulations. That's awesome.
Moore: We're really excited. He still hasn’t gone home yet. He’s had a few bumps in the road, but we’re working through it all. He had a big surgery last Thursday and he's recovering. We're excited about his prognosis.
Ryan: Good. You guys are in my prayers.
Moore: Well thank you.
Ryan: Let’s get this going. You've been doing this, we’ll round up, about a year. How's it going? Do you like the job?
Moore: You know, I can look back to this year and you can choose what you want to remember, right? And what we're on right now, of all of the bills that have passed in either house of Congress, less than 100 of them have passed both houses. And we are now among that with our Medal of Honor bill. And I don't know what my political future holds, to be honest with you, Ryan. I don't really get to choose that. I get to work hard, but I don't get to choose that. What I’ll always be able to tell my kids was that I was a part of establishing a Medal of Honor [Monument] in D.C., hopefully it’s going to go on the National Mall. And that's something that I'll always have.
Ryan: What has surprised you the most about working in Congress?
Moore: Well, I get that question from constituents all the time. I boil it down into two big things. One, how quickly the media on the right and the left can spin a narrative. And they can take information that I am intimately involved with, and it’s communicated so disingenuously. Maybe, at best case scenario, disingenuous; maybe there's a more devious nature to it. And this is not me calling out a liberal media as a member of the Republican Party. This is both. We’ve had to navigate both and try to communicate things to people. So that's been a big surprise. And then, candidly, how much legislation gets done that has no chance of passing. The limited interaction that we have with the Senate. We're 100 yards from each other. One little rotunda away from each other. And there's no interaction. There's no collaboration. Sometimes a member of the Senate will come over and present to a lunch that I'm at, a conference, or I'm on some bipartisan groups that senators will interact with. And other than that there’s none. So we’ve passed so much legislation that’s not going to go anywhere. What’s the point? What is the point?
Ryan: Yeah, I want to go back to the media thing. I think that's really interesting. You don't hear a lot of people on the right calling out the media on the right. Are there any examples specifically that you're thinking of where you have been, I don’t want to use the term victim, but, have you been on the receiving end of the wrong narrative?
Moore: Yeah. I mean, H.R. 550. The one that's most recent. … It reduced spending from President Biden's American Rescue Plan, and congressional Democrats’ American Rescue Plan. We reduced the spending, we put parameters around what that was, and then it got communicated from both from some members as well as media parroting it that it was some vaccine database that's going to track everybody. And I’m just like—the entire Utah delegation voted in favor of that one, and all of a sudden we get people saying the craziest things.
Ryan: I want to shift a little bit here. We're coming up on the January 6 anniversary. And I've read a lot of your account from that day and heard a lot of your account from that day. How did that day shape the way you went about your first year in Congress?
Moore: What I saw was everybody having a constitutional argument for the way they were going to make their vote. And I firmly fell in the camp of unless a state sent two slates of electors, we don't have a role there. Our role was to count the ballots. And if we don't establish that, I think this can only spiral more and more going forward. That's the way I view it. That's the way I see that vote. Now, others can look and say they don't believe that the states followed their own constitutional laws and they made their vote that way. And Republicans aren’t the first to do this. And you've seen previous elections where Republicans won and Democrats did the same thing. They obviously didn't get highlighted or they didn't take it to the extent that we did that.
I think it's shaped, who in Congress, who in my party, that I really, really value their opinion. I've worked with everybody, no matter what vote they took on January 7. And I’ve built great relationships with everybody across the board, from leadership on down. But I really gained understanding, you know, I could go to Patrick McHenry and I can go ask him some questions from his experience, and I really, really trust that guy. And then you could name several others, and I think that's one of the things that I've learned from that. It kind of put you in the fire quickly. It was quite a vote to start your third day.
Ryan: I would imagine. On the same subject. I want to ask one level setting question that'll set up another one. Do you believe Joe Biden was lawfully elected president?
Ryan: Great. What do you think it says about the state of affairs that I even had to ask that question and I wasn't totally sure of the answer, not because of you personally, but because of the state of the party?
Moore: We missed an opportunity to really highlight areas that people are concerned about with respect to election integrity. Utah is a state that implemented mail-in balloting many years ago. Maybe like six or eight. We went through iterations. And I've dug in with my county clerks, and I have a firm understanding of how they do it. And I'm very, very comfortable with it. And I'm proud of the way Utah does their elections. Now jumping right into that, during a pandemic, and changing up certain voter laws, maybe haphazardly? We missed an opportunity to make it just about the six states that Trump lost that were close, and not make it a more broad perspective. And I've said that from January 6 on. I think that we missed an opportunity because we're pushing back heavily against H.R. 1 and H.R. 4, which federalizes a lot of it. And January 6 was probably taking too much control and overturning states’ elections. I’m not saying those states didn't have issues, but you know, we missed an opportunity to really address election integrity.
I love Tim Scott, the way he communicates it too, so I’m going to steal something he says: easy to vote, harder to cheat. That’s Utah’s opinion, and I would love to be able to have the credibility to go and really push that and show people how you can do it.
Ryan: I want to talk about the select committee. I know you voted for the bipartisan commission, and then against the select committee. Do you think the committee is doing important work?
Moore: From my understanding, the chairman of the committee, Bennie Thompson also objected to elections previously. I have not pulled up his actual votes. It's my understanding that is the case. Everything Democrats are complaining about us for January 6, like they've done before. And like I said, they didn't do it to the numbers that we did. And they didn't have as many senators on board. I totally admit that. I'm critical of that.
Moore, cont.: The members that McCarthy selected—and I get like, Pelosi might have a tough time with Jim Jordan. Jim Banks included in that as being rejected? Jim Banks, Jim Jordan, Kelly Armstrong, Rodney Davis and there was one other. ... Whether you like it or not, Speaker Pelosi, that's a representative sample. You have the Freedom Caucus. You have a member of the sort of like moderate Republicans. People that certified, people that didn't certify. You have a group of people that represents the Republican conference right now, and just because you don't maybe like Jim Jordan's perspective, to kick him off immediately made it so it just wasn't going to happen. …
And again, I was supportive of the bipartisan one. I don't think any members should be on it. And this should have been done by the end of the year. And I think we missed an opportunity to do a 9/11-type commission, and I'm a big fan of the 9/11-type commission.
Ryan: What do you hope the current committee finds in their final report? What are you looking for in that report?
Moore: I heard some rumblings about this potentially being part of it: a clear explanation as to what our role as Congress is on a January 6 vote. I would love if we could come to an agreement. If a state sends two slates of electors, we then have a role to debate and certify or not certify. But in the absence of that, our role is to count. I would love us to be able to kind of get to that conclusion or make clarity on what that ultimately is.
Ryan: Okay, different topic. You voted against the bipartisan infrastructure bill because you said you “simply cannot take the risk that my vote for this infrastructure bill in the House would help advance Speaker Pelosi’s fiscal tragedy in any way.” You said the bipartisan bill was linked to the larger reconciliation effort. Knowing what you now know, that Build Back Better might be dead, would you have voted for the bipartisan one?
Moore: If I had confirmation from three more of my House Democrat colleagues, I would have. And I communicated this for several months and even in media interviews, that if I had confirmation that [Rep. Jared] Golden voted no, if three others were willing to vote no [on BBB] and essentially do what Manchin did in the Senate, then I think you would have had 50-plus Republicans. And there's a high, high likelihood I would have been in that group. I work on the Problem Solvers Caucus. That doesn't take an ounce away from my conservativism. I think that our governor was supportive of the infrastructure bill on its own. And I’ve spoken with Senator Romney several times about this. And there was a nuance of having House members support it will help Manchin and potentially Sinema, but you just don't have any guarantees. … I guess you could say I was pretty confident that whatever Build Back Better plan came up in the House, then everybody would ultimately jump on board and maybe Golden and one other member from Problem Solvers would back off. If we had a firm four to five no votes in the House among Democrats, and we knew that and we had some way to believe them and be confident—Infrastructure is a great bill then, and a lot of people and a lot more of my Republican colleagues would agree.
Ryan: Do you think Leader McCarthy does a good job?
Moore: Leader McCarthy has a hard job.
Ryan: That’s what everyone says.
Moore: Yeah, everybody says that. I have seen him navigate some really difficult situations, and I look after a full year and maybe I was frustrated at the bipartisan January 6 commission, but on other things, he's definitely shown that he's very pragmatic, a big picture thinker. And, you know, look at infrastructure. There's a lot of members that were mad at those that voted for it. I don't know how they feel now. Because if they were to really see how bipartisanship, collaboration helps us with the bad stuff, I think they’d think a little differently. But you know, he takes some fire for others.
You have to navigate tricky waters, and I’m very supportive of his overall performance this last year and confident that he'll be able to navigate that continually to get us back in the majority.
Ryan: You would support him for speaker next time around.
Moore: Yeah, yeah. Yeah. I mean, if we're in a position to win the majority, it will largely be for his ability to keep us going and keep us going in the right direction.
Ryan: Do you think he does enough to combat some of the radicals in your party? The Boeberts, the Marjorie Taylor Greenes, the Gosars? I mean, they're saying and doing some pretty crazy stuff.
Moore: And I have seen what he tries to do within the party, and I do believe he's trying to do everything that he possibly can. And you think about, you know, the Marjorie Taylor Greene vote to take her off committees, all that stuff that happened. He didn't even know who she was. Like, that was before she got to Congress. … He’s been reasonable, asking to take the [Gosar] video down and for doing an apology, that kind of stuff. The way he gets portrayed in the press is very different than the way I see him navigate. Let me give you one quote that he said. He pulled all the freshmen together after a pretty tumultuous first month. He pulled all the freshmen together and he said, “Hey, folks, if you're tweeting more than you're drafting legislation, you're doing it wrong. If you're talking to the press more than you're talking to your constituents, you're doing it wrong.”
Ryan: Has he ever said that again? I mean, that's a good quote. But has he ever said that again?
Moore: You know, I wish he said it loud and clear on a big huge CNN interview. I don't know why he doesn't engage that more. … But you can't control the narratives all the time. So he's probably seen over his time that no matter what I do, I can’t control the narrative sometimes. But I would love it if he did that more. That's up to him and his team as to why he doesn't. I see a lot of that inside our conference. That makes me pretty proud and I look at him as a leader that's willing to address that.
Ryan: Okay, two more questions. What piece of legislation that you have worked on are you most proud of?
Moore: That’s the hardest question you’ve asked. Right off the tip of my tongue I'm going to go with the Medal of Honor. It just passed the Senate. It's our first bill. In my first year as a freshman with a low priority on the Armed Services Committee, we got eight of our top 10 priorities in. … We worked really hard on that NDAA and all that stuff, is dual purpose, meaning it's great for our country and it's great for my district. The Afghanistan Accountability Act. We were the first office to draft legislation. That also got layered into the NDAA. And that's pretty cool as a freshman.
Ryan: Finally, you are a football guy, having won the high school Heisman and played a little bit in college—congratulations to your Utah State Aggies for their bowl win. Any predictions for the college football playoffs?
Moore: Who cares? The only thing that matters is the Rose Bowl. We’re going to stomp those Buckeyes, and I texted Rep. Anthony Gonzalez about it the other day. I played football at Utah State and I graduated from the University of Utah, so it's a pretty good year for me. … Let’s see, CFP: I think Georgia’s going to claw back. I would love to see that.