Decisions on Syria, U.S. budget, await returning legislators

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Congressmember and La Jollan Scott Peters (D-52nd)

By Pat Sherman

During the home stretch of Congressional representatives’ August recess, La Jolla resident and Congressmember Scott Peters (D-52nd) spoke with

La Jolla Light

about his focus upon returning to Washington this week.

At the top of his to-do list will be a briefing on the situation in Syria (Last Friday, a “war-weary” President Obama said that while the U.S. should hold Syria accountable for a chemical weapons attack that reportedly killed more than 1,400 of its own citizens, he is leaning toward a limited response).

“People are horrified by the notion that a government might be gassing its own children to death — and that’s something that deserves serious attention,” Peters said, adding that, if the United States gets involved, it should “not act unilaterally.”

“I don’t think it would be appropriate to go it alone,” Peters said. “To the extent that we (take) any action we have to be absolutely certain that it is the government that’s using chemical weapons. We also want to be certain what the mission is and how we exit.

“I suspect that people, like me, while they’re concerned about the situation, have a lot of questions about what the objective would be and what success would look like if we were to take any kind of action. … I don’t think anyone’s proposing an extended boots-on-the ground kind of campaign.”

Peters and his colleagues will also grapple with the budget and sequestration, hoping to broker a compromise between the House and Senate.

“So far the House leadership has refused to appoint negotiators,” Peters said. “I don’t expect to be appointed a negotiator as a freshman, but I think one of us could put together a deal that would make sense and end the sequester.”

Congress will also revisit the Senate immigration reform bill.

“It’s not perfect,” Peters said, “but it would do a lot for San Diego and for California. I’d love to see (us have) a chance to talk about that. … I think the Senate gave us something that we can work with.”

Then there’s the student loan rate compromise Congress struck this year (a previous deal would have fixed the student loan rate at 6.8 percent after a temporary reprieve rate of 3.4 percent had expired).

“I, along with a lot of people, thought that that was awful high,” said Peters, who himself made his way through college on student loans. “The (recent) compromise was that loans will be able to increase with market rates, but within certain constraints, so families would be able to plan for their kids’ education without facing drastic changes in the rates and payments.

“For my part, I think we are underemphasizing the affordability of college,” Peters added.

“Part of it is trying to hold down increases in costs at colleges and universities, which has exceeded the rate of inflation. I’d love to see us take that up as part of our budget negotiations, but have a bigger discussion about how to make sure that college is affordable for every American kid who qualifies.”

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