Former President Donald Trump took sides over the weekend in the Republican primary for North Carolina’s open Senate seat, endorsing Rep. Ted Budd. In Congress, Budd proved to be a loyal ally, but he did break with Trump on a handful of issues.
Budd voted for bills that had Trump’s support 91.5 percent of the time from 2017 through 2020, according to CQ Vote Watch. That’s slightly below the 92.1 percent average for all Republicans during that time, and below the 94.2 percent presidential support rate notched by another North Carolina Senate candidate, former GOP Rep. Mark Walker.
But that didn’t stop Trump from using his Saturday speech at the North Carolina Republican Party’s state convention to throw his support behind Budd, who, like Trump, arrived in Washington after winning election in 2016. The endorsement came after Lara Trump, the former president’s daughter-in-law and a North Carolina native, announced that she would not be running for Senate herself.
Budd, Trump said, is “a great politician, but, more importantly, he’s somebody that loves the state of North Carolina.” Trump also noted that the congressman has “always been with me, always been with Mark and Deb and all of us,” referring to Trump’s former chief of staff, Mark Meadows, and Meadows’ wife. Budd is a member of the hard-line conservative House Freedom Caucus, which Meadows previously led.
Trump said that he could not endorse someone who has “already lost two races,” an apparent reference to former North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory, who is also competing for the Republican nomination to replace retiring GOP Sen. Richard M. Burr. McCrory lost a race for governor in 2008, but won on his second attempt four years later. He lost a bid for reelection in 2016 to Democrat Roy Cooper, the current governor.
McCrory criticized Trump’s decision to endorse Budd, saying Budd “has done more to oppose the Trump agenda than anyone in this race.”
Budd voted against two spending bills Trump signed that included relief for the coronavirus pandemic. On March 14, 2020, Budd was one of 40 Republicans, including a number of Freedom Caucus members, to oppose a package that included funding for additional testing, food assistance and grants to expand unemployment insurance.
Budd said at the time on Twitter that the package was “deeply flawed in both process and substance. It was written in secret and sprung on House members at midnight with minutes to digest billions of dollars in new spending and regulatory impact.”
Budd was one of 50 Republicans to oppose on Dec. 21, 2020, another pandemic relief package, which included $900 billion in pandemic relief. He said in a statement at the time, “I wish I could have voted for a targeted COVID relief bill several months ago. We need to end economic lockdowns and support small businesses and their workers. But this package is a classic Washington shakedown game, and I’m not playing it.”
More spending bills
Like other members of the Freedom Caucus, Budd also opposed broader spending bills, citing concerns about government spending and increasing the national debt. He voted against four sweeping spending packages negotiated by Trump’s administration, as well as an agreement to raise the country’s borrowing limit.
“I voted against this kind of reckless spending, because it is not the kind of thing people sent me to Washington to support,” Budd said in a statement explaining his vote against a spending package in February 2018. “We can and must do better if we are serious about providing a better future for the next generation.”
Other breaks unclear
Budd broke with Trump on a handful of other issues during Trump’s four years in office, but he did not issue a news release or a tweet explaining those votes. A Budd campaign spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Budd’s other votes on which he opposed the president’s position.
In January 2018, Budd and 44 other Republicans voted against reauthorizing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The Freedom Caucus opposed reauthorizing the law, arguing that the government had used the measure to “collect/search Americans’ communications without a warrant.”
Budd also initially opposed a sweeping farm bill that Trump supported in May 2018. At the time, Freedom Caucus members reportedly opposed the measure as a revolt against a deal to vote on immigration and border security legislation after the farm bill. Budd then voted for a revised version that June.
A group of 112 Republicans, including Budd, voted in June 2018 against an immigration and border security bill that Trump supported. While Budd did not publish a statement explaining his vote, nearly half of the House GOP Conference opposed the bill, raising concerns about funding for a wall on the southern border and how the measure addressed undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children.
Budd was also one of 136 Republicans to vote in favor of a joint resolution disapproving of the Trump administration’s decision to ease sanctions on companies controlled by a Russian oligarch.
Ryan Kelly contributed to this report.