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Comer Touts Bipartisan Infrastructure, “Cautiously Optimistic” About Meatpacking Reform

Congressman James Comer speaks to an audience at the Marshall County Public Library in Benton.
Liam Niemeyer
Congressman James Comer speaks to an audience at the Marshall County Public Library in Benton.

Republican Congressman James Comer says there is still bipartisan support for a federal infrastructure package. Congressional leaders have been negotiating a final version of President Joe Biden's proposal for months.

During an appearance at Marshall County Public Library on Wednesday, Comer said he disagrees with Democrats' plan to include money for climate resiliency and child care in the plan.

“Daycare is important. I do not diminish that. But that is not infrastructure. And we need to pass an infrastructure bill that's about infrastructure,” Comer said.

Comer said investments into broadband, roads, bridges and ports can get agreement from both parties.

A deal made by President Joe Biden and a group of bipartisan senators last month included tens of billions of dollars for broadband, transportation projects and waterways. Funding for the deal would come from increased federal tax enforcement, repurposed COVID-19 relief funds and other sources. A bipartisan group of House members, not including Comer, endorsed the plan this week.

Biden is facing calls from some climate activists to include more funding to fight the effects of climate change in a larger package being put together by Democrats.

Comer also said he’s “cautiously optimistic” that bipartisan reform can be reached on antitrust regulations in the beef cattle industry. Federal lawmakers have proposed bills to add oversight to the industry amid allegations that major meatpacking companies have manipulated prices to the detriment of farmers.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said this week an upcoming executive order would "fight back against abuses of power by giant agribusiness corporations,” including stronger enforcement of federal beef cattle regulations.

Comer said large meatpackers' control over industry prices needs to “be broken up a little bit,” but he would rather see reform come through Congress.

“I do think that there's bipartisan support. Just about every state has cattle producers, and no cattle producers are happy right now,” Comer said. “I would like to see legislation because that way you debate it through the process, you debate it in the public, it's transparent and if something arises that someone sees as a problem, you have time to fix it.”

Comer expanded on his previous opposition to critical race theory, an academic framework that examines how systemic racism is maintained in society and legal institutions.

Comer called critical race theory "liberal indoctrination" and said he doesn’t believe banning schools from teaching it would infringe on First Amendment rights.

Kentucky Education Commissioner Jason Glass called two recently proposed bills that would ban critical race theory “educator gag and student censorship bills” during a legislative hearing this week.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell also discussed critical race theory in Kentucky this week, saying he supports legislation that would cut funds from schools that teach it.

Comer’s congressional district includes a wide swath of western Kentucky, which has counties with some of the lowest COVID-19 vaccination rates in the state. Comer said he’s continuing to encourage Kentuckians to get vaccinated, but his priority is reopening the economy.

“I think that the government needs to focus on making sure our economies reopen, our schools reopen,” Comer said. “I don't want to see a scenario where we mandate people to be vaccinated.”

"Liam Niemeyer is a reporter for the Ohio Valley Resource covering agriculture and infrastructure in Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia and also serves Assistant News Director at WKMS. He has reported for public radio stations across the country from Appalachia to Alaska, most recently as a reporter for WOUB Public Media in Athens, Ohio. He is a recent alumnus of Ohio University and enjoys playing tenor saxophone in various jazz groups."
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