Comer updates local leaders on legislative issues

U.S. Rep. James Comer (right) speaks to local leaders in Marshall County at the Chamber of Commerce's "Coffee With Your Congressman" event Wednesday morning at the Marshall County Public Library's Benton branch. Comer touched on difficulties passing bipartisan legislation, regulation burdens on farms and businesses, election security and immigration.

Gridlock and partisanship were two areas U.S. Rep. James Comer said were keeping wheels from turning in Washington when it comes to passing needed legislation.

The congressman from Kentucky’s 1st District made those remarks at the Marshall County Chamber of Commerce’s “Coffee With Your Congressman” event Wednesday at the Marshall County Public Library’s Benton branch. Chamber members and local leaders attended the gathering where Comer provided an update on legislative efforts in the House of Representatives and U.S. Senate and also addressed questions from those on hand.

Comer told the Tribune-Courier afterward that compromise is seen as bad policy in Washington. “Hyper-partisanship makes it difficult,” he said, including President Joe Biden’s administration as part of the partisan issue. “(The administration) met with a few senators on infrastructure but for the legislation to pass, and Joe Biden should know this, it takes both Democrats and Republicans. For that to happen, they’re not going to be able to pass very liberal legislation. It will have to be closer to the middle than the far left.”

Last month, President Biden and a bipartisan group of 21 senators agreed to a $1.2 trillion bill with less than half aimed at physical infrastructure. Biden said he would only sign it if it also included “human infrastructure” programs such as child care subsidies, home care and climate change.

However, how to pay for the plans has also come under scrutiny. “Biden proposed a lot of tax increases that would probably not be good to implement at this time with the economy trying to recover from COVID,” Comer said. “We’re still trying to agree on methods to pay for it, but without a shadow of a doubt there is overwhelming support to pass a bipartisan infrastructure bill.”

Some partisan head-butting has even come from within the two parties, themselves. With Republicans dealing with matters pertaining to former President Donald Trump and events following the January 6 storming of the U.S. Capitol, more notably with Reps. Liz Chaney, Marjorie Taylor Greene and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Comer said on the Democrats’ side House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Biden are contending with progressive pushes by a group of six House members known as “The Squad” – Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley, Rashida Tlaib, Jamaal Bowman, and Cori Bush.

“They’re really a thorn in the side of Pelosi right now because they’re recruiting candidates in these really Democrat districts to run against Democrat incumbents,” Comer said. The reasoning, he said, was the incumbents were not as progressive as the candidates being recruited. Comer also noted Kentucky State Rep. Attica Scott had filed to run against Democratic U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth of Louisville.

“It took my breath away when I read that,” he told the Chamber crowd.

Comer also shared his opposition to increasing the minimum wage to $15, suggested Kentucky opt out of enhanced unemployment, what he termed “burdensome regulations” such as defining “waters of the United States,” and opposing HR1 known as the “For the People Act” on grounds of election security.

On immigration, Comer, a former Kentucky Commissioner of Agriculture, said guest workers are needed for tobacco fields, poultry houses and construction. But, he said, amnesty arguments tend to tie up efforts at immigration reform.

“Any time there’s an immigration bill and people like me advocate for more H2A (temporary agriculture workers), there are liberals who advocate for more amnesty,” he said. “I don’t have a lot of confidence in immigration reform passing. We’ve got a shortage of workers and we’ve got to have workers in agriculture in this district.

“Agriculture in California and Florida with fruit and vegetable production, nobody is signing up to do those jobs,” Comer added. “A good guest worker program is good for everybody. It’s good for the people from other countries to provide for their families, it’s good for American businesses, it’s good for consumers, but it gets politicized with amnesty and it’s a poison pill.”

Comer later toured Calvert City’s Arkema site before making stops in Caldwell and Christian counties.