EXCLUSIVE: Republican Rep. Don Bacon, who was re-elected to represent Nebraska's 2nd Congressional District on Tuesday, wants to improve the lives of veterans and active duty service members if the GOP wins back control of the House.
In an interview with Fox News Digital on Friday, Bacon — who defeated his Democratic challenger, Tony Vargas, in Tuesday's election and served as a brigadier general and wing commander during his time in the Air Force — spoke about his efforts to enhance financial protections for junior enlisted men and women in the military.
"We're seeing that our junior enlisted, because they're married, have to go on food stamps or [Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program] and I think that's a travesty," Bacon said. "I hope in the next Congress I can be part of the team and work with [House Armed Services Committee ranking member] Mike Rogers to build that consensus. We have to adjust our enlisted pay because if pay is not keeping up with our junior ranks they're going to get out right away or just not get in."
"As Americans, having your junior enlisted on food stamps or SNAP, I think most people would say that's damn ugly," he added. "We don't want it, right? We have to protect our junior enlisted and do a better job on it."
Bacon identified the junior enlisted members are the "backbone" of the armed forces, and are the "ones who run the military."
"They put the bombs on the airplanes. They're the guys that are infantry and special forces, by and large," he said. "There's no reason they should be on SNAP."
Bacon, who said he plans to lead efforts to increase pay for the junior enlisted if Republicans take back the House, insisted the fact that military men and women are relying on programs like SNAP and food stamps is "an embarrassment for the greatest military in the world — the greatest country in the world."
In a Veterans Day message, Bacon praised the American way of life but warned that the freedoms enshrined in the nation must be secured.
"We live in the greatest country in the world. We are so blessed with the freedoms that we have, the opportunity to climb that ladder of success. We're a nation based on law, the rule of law and inequality under the law. We're imperfect because we're human, but because of freedom of the press, freedom of speech, freedom to petition the government and assemble, when it's not right, we can make changes."
"War is not done. There's bad people out there — this will be a fact of our life until God returns," he added. "We've got to have a good military, a good State Department. We've gotta be prepared for war. The more prepared you are, the less odds you have of having war."
In 2021, Bacon supported vote on an infrastructure bill that was favored by Democrats, and he got pushback from most Republicans — including former President Donald Trump.
Discussing the experiences he learned after the vote, Bacon, who was one of only 13 GOP House members to vote in favor of the measure, said: "Do what you think's right. I had so much pressure to buckle, but I think it was the right bill."
"You gotta remember, Deb Fisher, one of my best friends, she voted for it in the Senate. [Iowa Republican Sen.] Chuck Grassley, who admire tremendously, voted for it," Bacon said. "I thought it was a good bill. Now, there were some things added to it when we were in the minority. I think it went from an A bill to a B bill. But the reason I say that is because I was working on this when Trump was president — it was one of Trump's priorities, it was one of his bills. Just because it was good for President Trump and then ‘bad’ when Biden does it, I don't follow that. I'm an American first. I want America to succeed and this bill was good under Trump, it was good under Biden as far as I'm concerned."
Despite the additions Democrats made to the measure, Bacon said the infrastructure measure "was still 95% a great bill" and that he believes his district "liked it."
Discussing Trump's influence over the Republican Party, Bacon said he believes it's about the policies and not so much about Trump himself.
"What I see too much is ‘you got to love a man 100% or hate him 100%.’ Well, that's those are false choices," he said. "I think it's fair to say I like [his] policies, but we need someone who's going to be respectful and decent and be a consensus builder."
"People are attracted to President Trump… because he delivered on a lot of the policies and I think there's truth to that," he added.
Bacon wouldn't commit to supporting Trump if he runs for president in 2024 and suggested that he's going to be "involved as I can in the primaries to get the right person" and that America needs someone with "presidential temperament."
Asked about those he favors within the Republican Party, Bacon said: "I find myself close to Vice President Mike Pence. I've always enjoyed, liked him, and admired him. But I also think we have many folks. [South Carolina Sen.] Tim Scott is, I think, outstanding. He's got a national future ahead of him, I believe. And [Florida Gov. Ron] DeSantis has delivered. I think he's got self-control."
"Conservatives want to see someone who's been successful and can win a second term," Bacon added. "DeSantis has shown that. I think we have some great folks out there."