Rep. Susan Davis On Syria, Sequestration And The Resignation Of Mayor Bob Filner
August 27, 2013 1:38 p.m.
Representative Susan Davis (D-53rd)
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Congresswoman Susan Davis talks about possible intervention in Syria and shares her thoughts on the Filner resignation. This is KPBS Midday Edition. While Congress is in recess we are hoping to speak with all the members of our congressional delegation. Today Democrats Susan Davis will give us an update on the top issues facing the house the gender gap in science and technology persists. We'll hear what women with high-tech careers in San Diego are doing to encourage girls to pursue high-level STEM courses. And we take a trip back into radio history and hear some of the classic bits from the legendary comedy duo Bob and Ray. I am Maureen Cavanaugh. KPBS Midday Edition is next. First the news. Will Pres. Obama authorize a strike against Syria? Congresswoman Susan Davis will give us her opinion on military intervention. And San Diego women in technology want to help more girls enter the high-tech field. This is KPBS Midday Edition. I am Maureen Cavanaugh. It is Tuesday, August 27th. Here are some of the San Diego stories we're following in the KPBS newsroom. As you heard on NPR, fire crews say they've gained some ground today with the rim fire burning in and near Yosemite Park. Containment is now estimated at 20%. Kristin Rossan, former San Diego medical examiner's employee convicted of murdering her husband with the pain killer phentanyl, is asking that tissue samples from the autopsy be retested. Rossan, who is serving life in prison without parole says the test could determine if the tissue samples were contaminated. And sports organizations in San Diego have introduced a fan code of conduct. The proposals which were unveiled today at the San Diego Hall of champions include no smoking, no drinking and no swearing at sports events. Listen for the latest news through the day here on KPBS. Our top story on Midday Edition, Congress is in recess and members are visiting their home districts. So we've invited all the members of San Diego's congressional delegation to come on the show. Today we welcome Congresswoman Susan Davis, a Democrat representing San Diego's third congressional district and Susan welcome to the program.
SUSAN DAVIS: Thank you very much Maureen it's always good to be with you.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now, when you get back to Washington you have a long list of legislation that needs attention, but the issue of Syria is dominating the headlines. What do think the US response should be since now we know that Syria's using chemical weapons on its citizens?
SUSAN DAVIS: As we all can imagine this is very very difficult. And I think someone said trying to really do something here that will underscore international norms, but at the same time at the same time, not be an open-ended kind of action. And I'm sure that is what the president is really grappling with right now because along with the Arab League and actually one of the spokespersons for serious said that it's unconscionable for a government to use chemical weapons against its own people so this clearly is something that I believe the international community doesn't want to be impotent in the face of this and at the same time, we know that you always have to ask what comes next. Very limited kind of strike or something far more extensive?
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: what do you think our options are?
SUSAN DAVIS: Well they are not good options. We really have good options when it comes to this kind of activity. It's a very difficult thing to assess all of the dynamics here. We do know that we have UN inspectors on the ground. That is important and yet we are still kind of waiting for some of those assessments. Certainly the president is working with the international community. This is not something that I believe the US should go it alone. That is not where we want to be. At the same time, it's not clear what happens down the line. I just think it is very hard for it to be a limited strike. And for that reason, I'm actually very concerned that we are not in Washington right now. That we are not there engaged in these discussions and as a member of the armed services committee I would expect that we would be far more active right now. I know that the president is consulting. I suspect that members would like very much to be more engaged and involved there. The speaker has not called for members to come back. Are have some of our international partners are maybe looking to bring some of the parliamentarians back. I think there are people are being consulted but it's a very difficult issue. We don't want to continue to see this happen. You know we want to be able to make a very strong statement and as I said to underscore the national norm. But at the same time, it can't be open-ended and partly because I don't think that there is any sure answer out there. And to leave the country you know, in this open-ended mess is not something that we want either because the outcomes are not anything that would be in the US interest, nor in the international community's interest and that is where we are right now.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Congresswoman Davis, would you want the president to ask for a vote from Congress before authorizing a strike against Syria?
SUSAN DAVIS: I think there are some limited strikes that historically the president could order and that's been done in the past. If this were a major call for troops on the ground and a major effort on behalf of the country then absolutely I think that that's critical.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Polls show that most Americans do not want any military intervention in Syria how are you going to make that our you and all the members of Congress and the president going to make the case to the American people who seem pretty tired of wars in the region?
SUSAN DAVIS: I'm not prepared to make that case yet I don't believe that we are necessarily at that point but I also think that this is a very tough juncture that we are at right now and we don't have, here in the district we don't have the ability to be together and to be sitting whether it is some confidential talks were not as a committee to that is a tough spot to be in the president has the ability to do some of that at the same time the Congress is going to be very eager to be part of this decision if in fact we make a decision that creates the necessity I think for a vote of the Congress and I agree that the public is not interested and I don't think we let alone have an entry plan we don't have an exit plan and that is critical for any kind of movement. It's not an easy decision for the president right now.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: One last question about this. You make the point that you want to see the US go into anything alone. That this would be sort of an unpopular kind of a move in any case of the president authorized a strike it seems from the recent polling. Is it possible that the United States could just let this go, without any kind of response?
SUSAN DAVIS: I think what we are faced with again, is this international norm that says that countries do not do this. And we may choose continue to stay uninvolved in a larger way. There are some ways that we can be helpful, but we have never been absolutely clear on who the opposition leaders are, nor what they need. That is part of the difficulty here. We are not dealing with the same Cold War mentality where we know what the issues are. Clearly we know who is acting against our interests. That is not really clear, here and I think that all of our partners are struggling with this issue as well.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: let me move on to another subject. President Obama is presenting his budget next month to Congress and Republicans say that they will push to keep the sequester cops and they will push to define Obama care and they are willing to risk a government shutdown in the process. You see therefore any areas of compromise on the budget?
SUSAN DAVIS: Members of Congress saying we should be involved in the debt, we've seen it happen before. We have people who were really not interested in seeing the sequester, about and yet here we are and we are looking for some reality here which looks at the effects that these furloughs have had and what these cuts mean. We know there are significant when it comes to defense but in some ways defense was protected so we also do not want to have this kind of imbalance where we are willing to cut willy-nilly all over the place in every other area, but we need to protect our defense as well. I'm all for our national security but I don't believe that even our national security leaders want to see programs cut throughout the country that impact the men and women who serve our country. They are all part of this together. And I hope I certainly have hoped, and I do my part, I believe to speak with my colleagues and sort of talk about what are the real consequences here for the American people? We do know that there are a lot of jobs that have been cut as a result of the sequester. We know that there have been furloughs. That means our women men and women here in San Diego are not able to gauge and the economy in the way that they would like. That is a big deal and we need to find ways that we can create a situation where we can basically get out of the sequester momentum. I mean, that doesn't make sense. Nobody likes it. And what we need to do is we need to have appointees to the conference committee where we have a coming together for one budget, parts of one project or another. And unfortunately in the Orion budget today we still have the sequester built-in and that is going to totally impact and actually it's going to impact defense to a greater extent if we continue on the path that we are on.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: So do you see any way considering that the house is now a Republican majority that the sequester cuts can be stopped? I want to tell you Susan Davis we had US attorney Laura Duffy on this show last week she was talking about the impact of sequestration on the federal justice system. We have heard have start having to cut 70 children from the program, biomedical and scientific research in San Diego and other places are hurting because of this. As you mentioned the furloughs in the military. So many people are hurting. Is this just a done deal? Are we going to see these cuts take effect no matter what?
SUSAN DAVIS: I certainly hope not and my belief is that when people come back together in the Congress we will be able to be very realistic about what the cuts have meant to and they have an effect on all communities equally. So you probably do have members who come back and say well the sky didn't fall and we are still doing the things that we have always done. While in some communities maybe they haven't seen the impacts. We've certainly seen them in San Diego. Could they be greater? Absolutely. We were able to cut back on some of those days but we also know that we need to be realistic about this and I believe that if you can balance these cuts, and you can target them in a way that you create over the course of the next 10 years some realistic way of cutting the budget, it's okay. You know, there are some areas where we really don't need to be today. But, on the other hand it's got to be done in a way that really people can come together and say this is realistic, know this is crazy, this doesn't make sense because our economies will be affected by these cuts.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Let me take you back to old turf for a moment if I may and ask you about the big story here in San Diego, Mayor Filner's resignation what's your reaction to that?
SUSAN DAVIS: Well in many ways I think this was something that brought San Diegans together because no matter whether people were Democrats Republicans independenta, paying attention or not, people paid attention to this and it brought about a level of activism and certainly concerned that we probably have not seen in a lot of ways. It is not something that San Diego's would have liked to be excited over, actually. There are so many things that I believe San Diegans want to come together around whether they are rooting for the Eastlake team really from Chula Vista and I'm honored that they are part of my district, now. There are so many ways he can do that. This was not something that we sought for, but on the other hand I think people did react and now we have an opportunity because we do have in Todd Gloria I think we have a leader who is taking over in this interim period. And trying to look at where do we need to be? I mean we know that there are many things that did not need to happen at the same time I think there's a progressive vision for the city. We want the neighborhoods to be the focus. We want to make the right kind of decisions for Balboa Park. We want to provide the kind of infrastructure. One of the areas that we as a city partnering with our neighbors to the south in the South Bay we need to deal with the ports of entry as it relates to the immigration question. Those are important issues for us in San Diego because that will create, we could get some things moving, even at the immigration reform bill, we could be looking at at least 77,000 jobs created here in San Diego and those are all important issues.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Susan Davis, you had a long affiliation with Bob Filner. You served on the school board together--
SUSAN DAVIS: Actually I took his spot, so we did not serve at the same time
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: You're in the congressional delegation for San Diego for over 10 years what did you think he was like to work with?
SUSAN DAVIS: I think there were times that we could work together and other times that quite frankly it was not easy. And I certainly was open about that as I called for his resignation. That we had some difficulties in doing that. And in working in partnership and what I see now because I have different colleagues that I'm working with is that we are working very hard as a region, we are working hard and partnership and that is the way it should be. I'd like to see us come together even more. Obviously there are some differences philosophically among the five delegates here from the San Diego region, but I think we have a working relationship and that is important. As we move forward and try to deal with the sequestration issue and the debt limit I would love to see us look at the area and talk to the people who matter to us. Our own constituents. To the business community. To the farming community here in the region. To our, the people who work with our oceans and are environment on helping to open our new Noah center this afternoon. Those are the areas where we are seeing such great progress. We provide this wonderful cluster activity in San Diego whether it is biotech or bio com, the military, defense, the border region. There are so many areas that we have seen amazing growth in our community and I want that to continue. Innovation is part of what San Diego is and I'm very hopeful that the next mayor of the city can help us.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: One more question about this the problems going on in San Diego and there were allegations of harassment against Bob Filner which remain and they remain allegations as well there was commentary here that as a Congressman, Congressman can get away with things that people can't get away with when they become mayors of cities and I was wondering, can congresspeople get away with issues like harassment and terrible bad behavior to their staffs, and you see that a lot in Washington DC?
SUSAN DAVIS: It's very easy for people to bring a complaint to Congress, to the ethics committee, and to the Congress as a whole. We see the ethics committee working to try to support members who have had difficulties and when I say support against a colleague in many cases. So I think that the mechanisms are there but often it is very difficult as we saw in this case for people to report. I've been dealing with sexual assault in the military. We know how hard that is. When you believe that your future, your career is based on your relationship with someone above you it is very hard to come forward. No woman or man for that matter, and we know that many men in the military as well as in the working environment, at our city and in other occupations wherever they are, that people don't feel comfortable doing that because they don't want to be defined by this kind of harassment or assault. It's not easy to do and I think that's why the fact that we had a number of women coming forward, not who all had experiences that would rise to the level of the legal challenge, but who had some very negative experiences and I think in many ways it is sad. I think there are a lot of people who saw that in a progressive Mayor there was a better future for their community. And I think we have to celebrate that we must move forward with that kind of vision. And I certainly hope that we people can be thinking in that way, could be thinking of a lot of areas in which they want to see the Mayor be prepared to work as an executive for the city, but also with the kind of humility that is required I think to do a good job and to be an inclusive leader for San Diego.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I am so sorry to tell you I'm over time. I'm not just out of time, I'm over time. I want to appreciate so much that you came by and thank you so much, Congresswoman Susan Davis.
SUSAN DAVIS: Thank you, Maureen.