President Donald Trump’s hardline approach towards foreign policy involving China and North Korea “hasn’t been popular” in Kentucky’s First Congressional District, Congressman James Comer said during Tuesday’s town-hall event in Fulton. But it’s an approach that Comer said he believes will benefit the region in the long-run if things go as the president plans.
“Most of the workers in the First Congressional district share my opinion that China has had a competitive advantage, ” Comer said.
He explained that businesses have “moved to China because they have infrastructure, they have a more stable government, they also don't have any environmental laws [...] not only that they aren't abiding by our trade laws.”
Comer said the Chinese government creates an uneven playing field by underselling products and then buying organizations that go out of business because they can’t compete.
“No president in the past really did a lot about it,” Comer said. He said he believes Trump has about a 50 percent chance towards changing things for the better.
Comer highlighted several federal issues that he said would affect the state positively, including upcoming votes on immigration policy, the farm bill and his personal mission to limit political candidate term limits and target campaign finance reform.
A room of more than 50 west Kentucky residents -mostly white men and women over the age of 50- filled the Meadows Hotel Events Room and asked the Congressman whether or not their 2nd Amendment rights would be protected along with concerns for funding local infrastructure; highlighting a need to repair existing roads before jumping into new projects.
Comer said any talks involving the 2nd Amendment in Washington translate into discussions surrounding school safety, because of the number of school shootings that have taken place across the country.
“We aren't far from Marshall County where they had the school shooting,” Comer said and added he still communicates with the parents of the two children that were killed during the January incident.
“We passed legislation that's going to provide money or grant pools to the schools. If Fulton County or Fulton City wants to apply for a grant for a resource officer and they want to fund that through the school system then they can do that. If they want to apply for metal detectors they can do that,” Comer said.
He said he is also working on a pilot project with State Representative Bam Carney that involves an app that will be used as a safety alarm. Comer said that Marshall County plans to be part of the project. “If a kid makes a threat, if a kid makes a comment about going to shoot somebody or blow up the school or whatever, they can immediately hit that app and authorities are notified.”
Comer said he has been careful to separate the 2nd Amendment from issues related to school safety.
Another member of the audience asked where Congress stood on the president’s infrastructure bill. Comer said the success of the legislation largely relies on the outcome of the new tax plan, which he says could take another year or so before industry can calculate returns.
"With respect to infrastructure, I think the president made a mistake when we cut taxes, corporate income tax, I think that would have been the time to look at the infrastructure bill because you could do public private partnerships on the airport and the subway and all the things in the big cities [...] but if you start talking about public private partnerships in places like Fulton County there are no private companies going to come in because there isn't enough traffic," said Comer.
Comer was asked to rate Trump’s overall approach to policy. He said the administration “is doing great.”
Comer said that successful legislation like revoking Waters of the U.S., recent Community Bank reforms and the passing of the National Defense Authorization Act get overshadowed by the president’s tweets, but that “the economy is strong and we are headed in the right direction.”
Moving forward, Comer said he anticipates a vote on immigration policy within the next two weeks, with his support towards Bob Goodlatte’s guest worker bill.
“It’s named after the sponsor of the legislation. Bob Goodlatte is the former ag committee chairman and now he is the current judiciary chairman. The legislation ensures that we secure the border, it ensures that we are not spending taxpayer dollars on sanctuary cities. It tries to document the people that are over here illegally. It focuses on building the wall, something that the President campaigned on but it also provides access to legal workers.”
Comer said he anticipates as many as four separate immigration bills will be discussed on the House Floor but he doesn’t believe any have enough support to pass.
“We voted on the Farm Bill, three weeks ago.It failed because there are bunch of members, conservative and moderate that were protesting Paul Ryan because we haven't had an immigration vote in the House. The deal was, we will vote for the Farm Bill after we vote on an immigration bill,” Comer said.
As it stands, Comer said the Farm Bill policy remains the same and that when the vote happens again, it will be for the same legislation voted on previously.
This is Comer’s 40th town-hall. He said in spirit of public discourse he plans to debate Democratic challenger Paul Walker on Kentucky Educational Television ahead of the November midterm election.