Decisions on Syria, U.S. budget, await returning legislators
By Pat ShermanDuring the home stretch of Congressional representatives’ August recess, La Jolla resident and Congressmember Scott Peters (D-52nd) spoke with
La Jolla Lightabout 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.”
The former two-term San Diego City Councilmember said he was saddened by the sexual harassment scandal that led to last month’s resignation of Mayor Bob Filner (he reportedly left a phone message for Filner early on, asking him to resign with a modicum of dignity).
“Clearly, I think everyone wished he’d called me back,” Peter said, while expressing his confidence in the city’s newly appointed chief operating officer, Walt Ekard, and Interim Mayor Todd Gloria.
Peters said he’s weighing the field of potential mayoral contenders in the upcoming special election.
“I expect to be engaged in helping to find the right mayor,” he said. “It’s important for the city and I’ll probably get involved with a candidate in the next couple of weeks.”
Though former city councilmember Carl DeMaio was considering dropping his intended challenge of Peters’ congressional seat to run for mayor (he made it to the general election in last year’s mayoral race) DeMaio announced Sept. 3 that he will instead remain in the race for Congress (Republicans are backing Councilmember Kevin Faulconer in the Nov. 19 mayoral special election).
At press time, asked if Peters would rather see DeMaio challenge him, or vie to take San Diego’s mayoral reins, Peters chuckled, “I’m enjoying watching him go back and forth like everybody else.”
Peters said he is sticking by his campaign promise to be a public servant who builds bridges, and eschews hard-line partisanship.
“I’m the fourth most independent Democrat, according to the
National Journal,” Peters said.
“We take for granted the California culture of collaboration and cooperation,” he said. “It’s very common for us to sit around the table and figure out problems without regard to rank or hierarchy.
“When you go to Washington, D.C. you really notice how they could really use a dose of our leadership style … (being) less worried about what your title is than what your idea is.”