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Congressman Scott Peters Discusses Syria, Immigration, Sequestration

September 2, 2013 1:31 p.m.


Scott Peters, U.S. Representative, (CA-52)

Related Story: Congressman Scott Peters Discusses Syria, Immigration, Sequestration


This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

TOM FUDGE: The vote on Syria is yet to come but at least one San Diego congressmen is skeptical of approving US airstrikes. This is KPBS Midday Edition. Congressman Scott Peters is not sure he can justify military action against Syria to his constituents. We will talk about and when the on other issues on the front burner ovarian cancer is called the silent killer but does it have to be we will hear from some people who are looking for a better way to spot it so more women can survive it. Beth Accomando introduces us to two San Diego State grads who have created the hot indy film short-term 12 it's Labor Day but take it easy. Stick around for Midday Edition. I am Tom fudge in for Maureen Cavanaugh. The news is next. One San Diego congressmen tells what he thinks of military strikes in Syria. What does it take to know if you have ovarian cancer and we will talk about the hit indy film from two San Diego State grads. This is KPBS Midday Edition. Today is Labor Day, Monday, September 2nd. I am Tom Fudge in for Maureen Cavanaugh. Here are some of the stories we're covering in the newsroom today. The U.S. Navy has come out with two reports that acknowledge that bomb testing and sonar use over the next five years will likely kill hundreds of marine mammals. The Navy says the collateral damage to marine life is unavoidable given the need for the tests. The environmentalists want the Navy to do more to lessen the damage to whales and dolphins. Interim San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria will tour beaches this Labor Day to kick off his first week of being San Diego's chief executive. He will take questions from reporters about the task of taking over when Mayor Bob Filner resigned last week following accusations of sexual misconduct. And Tijuana has lost one of its finest humanitarians. Michaela Salcedo was an advocate for thousands of people who ended up homeless into one each year after being deported from the US. She ran a deportee shelter near the border fence. Salcedo died Saturday night following a battle with cancer. You are listening to Midday Edition this Labor Day on KPBS. Congress is on hiatus right now but the tough issues it faces are going way. A taste of that this weekend when we heard Pres. Obama will ask Congress to vote on his plan to hit Syria with the punitive airstrikes following news the regime has hit its people with chemical weapons. KPBS has invited each member of San Diego's congressional delegation to join us in studio for a debrief on the issues and today we are joined by Congressman Scott Peters. Peters represents San Diego's 52nd congressional district, which resides in the Central and North coastal parts of San Diego County. If you are looking at a map, the 52nd stretches from Poway through La Jolla, Clairmont, downtown San Diego and Coronado. I began my talk with Peters by asking him whether he supports airstrikes against Syria. He described his views of using military action as skeptical.

SCOTT PETERS: You know obviously we are fatigued from Iraq and Afghanistan. We know that we have limitations on how much we can do at the same time we don't want to be involved in a crack buyer in Syria at the same time it is hard for us as Americans to watch children get cast by their own governments and I think we are called upon to pay attention to that. So what I would be looking for before we took any action was a sense of what the plan of can we get support from the international community, are we going to be able to get out or are we committing to something longer if we are committing to something longer obviously we have to wait have seriously.

TOM FUDGE: You mentioned international support. So far none of America's European allies have said they would participate in airstrikes or any other action against Syria. That includes our closest ally, Britain.


TOM FUDGE: you took use the word skeptical when you talk about action towardserial what are you skeptical of?

SCOTT PETERS: I'm skeptical, what I have to make sure what the certain that the once again the chemical weapons have been used and I've only, I think I was telling you before I think I heard on the news I would be more I think it would be more comfortable if I had a briefing on that. Second I want to know what does that mean in terms of the reaction against what are we getting ourselves we have to ask ourselves honestly get answers for before we take any kind of military action.

TOM FUDGE: And when it comes to public opinion stories I'm wondering if you are prepared to (inaudible) of the issue of Syria?

SCOTT PETERS: I first heard of along the lines of what I just said, I did get an e-mail from my father who really does not want us to go to Syria

TOM FUDGE: Is he a constituent?

SCOTT PETERS: He is not a constituent but he does have my personal e-mail and he does express concerns that a lot of people expressed that we just cannot take on every battle in the world and I understand that. We know that people wish we had gotten involved in some of the atrocities back then in Europe, earlier. We know there have been genocides around the world in Rwanda and things like that and we often look back on that and say we wish we'd done something. I say let's get the facts, figure out whether there's a plan is workable but let's know all the answers before you get ourselves involved to not have another situation where we go in on that information.

TOM FUDGE: Okay let's shift gears from international to the domestic and let's talk about immigration. The Senate has passed a bill that provides a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants. Now is there any sign the house will be voting on any kind of immigration bill anytime soon?

SCOTT PETERS: I hope so. I must say. I mean I've only been in Congress for a little less than eight months and I have not been encouraged about the role of rationality in some of these discussions the Congressional Budget Office that if we enacted the Senate bill that we would improve economic growth, we would reduce the budget by about $300 billion over 10 years and we would help Social Security get back on its feet because a lot of people who are doing the work would be paying in. We also know that for San Diego one of the most important issues we have is in the business and they would tell you that their most important priority is to do at the border crossing and trade across the San Ysidro border which has been caught up in this immigration politics in a way that's been really unproductive. We know that there are 11 million people here doing the work of America in a lot of low-paying jobs who are not paying taxes that were not going to be deported we also know a lot of technology company is in San Diego and across California in particular technical workers tend to work we need to do if we don't employ them here we are going to put in London, Prague, under places, doesn't make any sense not to fix the problem.

TOM FUDGE: What do you say to the people who say an amnesty program would create a drain on our schools and our welfare system?

SCOTT PETERS: I just don't think that is true. I don't think that there is any evidence for that. I said the Congressional Budget Office says that the economic effects of doing this are just the opposite. I've often had a problem with Congressional Budget Office. I think they're very conservative in a number of ways but here's an instance where they are saying this is the kind of policy that makes sense for our economy, make sense for growth and job creation and certainly make sense for San Diego the system we have today is indefensible it does not make any sense.

TOM FUDGE: Just in case people don't know you are a Democrat and the congress in which you serve is controlled by the GOP.

SCOTT PETERS: I heard that, I did understand that.

TOM FUDGE: I just wanted to make sure you understand given that. What does a bill passed by the House need to include in order for you to support it?

SCOTT PETERS: The Senate bill is a compromise already and I would say the Senate bill spends a lot of money we don't have to spend on border security. For instance, they want to build a fence on parts of the border that have almost no traffic, that are virtually impassable by pedestrians and it would be impossible to build the fence there we want to double the size of the border patrol which you will have a copy every thousand feet along the border as I understand it. I would change that up a little bit, focus a little bit more on trade, so think of the doorway (inaudible) as part of the wall, and think about finishing off our boarding crossing and was about some of those people with sidearms, border patrol agents to custom agents who have ledgers and can help us get trade through in a safe and secure way. I understand and I went to Congress think it's important for us to compromise it's important for me not to go in the corner and rail against this law. If we can get progress, we articulate. So I am not in love with it. Certainly would be an answer I could support if we could vote on it

TOM FUDGE: Would you support something that's akin to what's been passed by the Senate.

SCOTT PETERS: I do like Sen. Feinstein's amendment to do things I talk about emphasizing trade as much as security but again if this is the best we can do it is way better than what we have today.

TOM FUDGE: You know, Congressman Juan Vargas, Vargas is a supporter of the path to citizenship told KPBS he would like the Republican-controlled House to pass something even if it is not great, to dedicate to the House-Senate Congress committee and do the real work there. What do you think about that?

SCOTT PETERS: I think it would be great. Listen to one a lot on this because he's a veteran of the state assemblies and state Senate he's got a lot of experience on this and obviously he's a regional leader for us on the immigration question and I to support the path to citizenship. I do think if we pass something it would be productive. I do caution know that it is hard to imagine that something would get passed by the whole Congress and signed by the president that was not a compromise that included a lot of the components of the Senate bill.

TOM FUDGE: You are listening to Midday Edition on KPBS and my guest is Congressman Scott Peter C represent San Diego city second Congressional District. Congress is on hiatus and we've invited all members of Congress in our region to come in to talk about what is going on. And now Scott peters let's talk about the budget and sequestration president Obama presents the budget to Congress next month he says he will try to keep the sequester cuts and defined Obama care what you think about that?

SCOTT PETERS: I think this is really a shame we ought to know better than to do this. All over town, whatever sector you are in, the military, the Navy Admirals trying to plan their bases and our military contracting or scientific research were federal employees trying to do work, the semester is having this really tough effect on the economy and the frustrating thing is even if we could agree in concept we need to make cuts haircuts unrelated to the mission, across-the-board stupid that's that's why we came up with the problem of meatpacker, meat inspector air-traffic controllers, we put Band-Aids on them and the duct tape budget until October.

TOM FUDGE: Are they stupid because they are across the board?

SCOTT PETERS: They're stupid because they're across the board does not only to build deal of military for instance if you want to make cuts in the military we have to do around military strategy, not across the board cuts that cuts the Gardner as much as it cuts the Navy. It doesn't make sense. So I think what we should do, and what everyone that I talked to said we should do is we should appoint negotiators to make a compromise between the House budget which is a Republican budget in the Senate budget which is a Democratic budget that balances the need to raise revenues and to make cuts. The sum symbols plan the bipartisan plan that Obama commission plan that Obama commission had a lot of workable thinks it's not like we need to rework the wheel but we need to sit around the table that we were hired to do.

TOM FUDGE: Just a couple more questions for you shifting gears again shows us that the Obama administration close to, loopholes in the way guns are sold in the US. Just to briefly mention the of Justice Department will soon require background checks for people who register machine guns through a trust or a corporation. That was one loophole, one way people got around regulations. The administration will also stop allowing the import and sale to individuals of surplus military firearms. Where do you stand on those two measures?

SCOTT PETERS: I think they are eminently sensible and I think it's a shame that we are not allowed to vote on the other proposals that the president put forward. Ideally we would do this in the legislative context. I think the president is trying to do the best he can to have reasonable restrictions on gun sales.

TOM FUDGE: And he's doing this administratively.


TOM FUDGE: It seems like that controls going to come up again in the Congress?

SCOTT PETERS: I don't have any sense of the House of Representatives that that is on the agenda right now. I think if we could get through the budget immigration and maybe tax reform that would be ambitious.

TOM FUDGE: Well let's talk about one mobile issue. Former Congressman Bob Filner has resigned as Mayor of San Diego following weeks of accusations of sexual harassment and sexual impropriety. I guess at this point looking back, how would you like to reflect on what we've all been through with this?

SCOTT PETERS: Well it is a shame. First of all. I called Bob when I heard that this was about to unfold, one of the women who I was friends have told me what she was going to say the following work and I said Bob I left him a message I said this is going to work you should resign the student with it signified honors reservist gets you the help you need and this will not be sustainable I feel so bad he did not take me up on that offer. Never got a call back from him. I issued my call for his resignation which went into a pile that got bigger and bigger and all these poor women had to come out and share the stories which was really, stories of pain that was no fault of theirs and I think it was awful. So I'm sorry that they had to go through that I think from the city's perspective we will survive it and we will move on and I think finally prompted the right thing by stepping down.

TOM FUDGE: We will move on in fact we are still waiting to hear who will run to replace Bob Filner. You have anyone you'd like to support at this point, or anybody like to encourage to run for the office?

SCOTT PETERS: I'm not running.

TOM FUDGE: Okay, you heard it here.

SCOTT PETERS: The one person who's declared a good friend of mine Nathan Fletcher who I see is a real, has some outstanding qualities and would make an outstanding mayor and I suppose in a few days I will make a decision about whether to support a particular person.

TOM FUDGE: All right, and finally Congressman Peters, a recent poll shows that Congress has only 15% approval rating with the American public. Maybe this is a question you've answered before, but what's going on?

SCOTT PETERS: I don't know the 15% are, Tom, that's my question. To me it is an unbelievable derogation of our duty that we are not getting more work done and I often say to people in Washington DC that I'm, I would like to get something done I'm from San Diego, I don't come here for the weather. And you know it's absolutely true that Congress is a great institution. We've done some great things in the nation's history we need to get back to work and that's why I get on the plane every week.

TOM FUDGE: I we've been speaking with Congressman Scott Peters and he represents the 52nd Congressional District of San Diego County. He's here in town, in San Diego during the congressional recess. Thanks very much for coming in.

SCOTT PETERS: Thank you, Tom.