Commonwealth Journal

September 4, 2013

Rogers weighing options on Syria

by Chris Harris
Commonwealth Journal

Somerset — Sen. Mitch McConnell was supposed to have been in Somerset yesterday. However, he had work to attend to regarding another place on the map:

Syria.

Thus McConnell’s scheduled appearance at the September luncheon of the Somerset-Pulaski County Chamber of Commerce Tuesday had to take a back seat to the biggest developing news story in the world, as the Senate Minority Leader had to stay behind to serve his Congressional duties.

Terry Carmack, state director for McConnell, appeared in the senator’s place, along with his fellow Republican, Somerset’s own Congressman Harold “Hal” Rogers — who noted that he would soon need to return to Washington to address the Syria situation as well.

(Carmack noted that McConnell was still expected to make a scheduled stop in nearby London, Ky., later Tuesday afternoon.)

“I can assure that that Sen. McConnell would rather be at Somerset today than at the White House,” said Carmack to the crowd gathered at The Center for Rural Development. “... We’re about to have a big debate in this country about some very important issues, and I know you all will be paying close attention to that. Ultimately, it’s our men and women in uniform whose lives will potentially be at stake.”

Carmack added that the senator typically “looks forward to being in Somerset” and “has a lot of friends here.” He also said that McConnell’s favorite part of visiting Pulaski County is “telling you what you already know, which is how lucky you are to have Congressman Hal Rogers as your representative in Washington D.C.”

As the first chairman of the nation’s Subcommittee on Homeland Security, Rogers has played a vital role in matters regarding military action and the Middle East. Now he’s faced with answering the question of whether or not the United States put itself into a middle of a Syrian civil war where chemical weapons have allegedly been used against civilians by President Bashar al-Assad.

“I’ve got great reservations,” Rogers told the Commonwealth Journal when asked if the U.S. should get involved. “I don’t want to dismiss it out of hand, I want to see what the language is first (in any proposed resolution of action). It’s being drafted now, and may not be ready until next week.

“If Iran, for example, sees us being weak in regard to Syria and weapon of mass destruction, Iran may be more bold in developing nuclear ones,” he added. “There’s a lot of pros and cons on each side of the issue. I worry about the tinderbox that the Middle East is, with the U.S. involving itself again in a Middle Eastern country that hates us anyway, and next door neighbors to Israel, Lebanon, and other friends of ours in that region.”

Rogers’ comments to the luncheon crowd on Syria followed along much the same lines, adding that he’d discussed the matter on a secure conference call with the White House last Saturday.

“Over the last two years, 100,000 citizens have been killed,” said Rogers of the Syrian conflict. “... What (the resolution) authorizes specifically will be of great interest of mine.”

Of course, speaking before the Chamber of Commerce and a crowd of local business people, Rogers also tackled the familiar subject of “Obamacare” and its ramifications for the small business community. Rogers has long been in opposition to the Affordable Care Act, and took the opportunity once again to list numerous points in which Rogers feels the plan hurts the American people.

“There’s nothing affordable about the so-called ‘Affordable Care Act,’” said Rogers. “... For a small state like Kentucky, there are some real shocks.

“The number one shock (is that) small businesses in Kentucky can expect to see one of the nation’s largest increases insurance premiums, somewhere, they say, between 65 and 100 percent,” he continued. “Number two, the government will get between you and your doctor. You may not get to keep your family doctor.

“Number three, employers are already starting to cut hours,” continued Rogers. “The mandate is for employees that work over 40 hours. So many employers are cutting full-time workers back to part-time to avoid the mandate.  That means that employee not only will be getting insurance coverage from their boss, but he or she will be getting less pay. I don’t understand why that’s good.”

Rogers noted that the number of part-time jobs in the U.S. jumped to all-time high last month, at more than 28 million. He also said he recently heard from regional Wildcat Harley Davidson Store owner Shane Richardson in London who, Rogers said, had wanted to expand, opening a store in Somerset, but “all those plans are on hold” until the full costs of health care reform become clear.

“The biggest hurdle you have as a business owner is the unknown, not knowing what’s coming up next,” said Rogers. “... We don’t need to reform health care on the backs of our small businesses, and that’s what Obamacare is doing.”

Rogers also lamented what he calls Obama’s “war on coal” and the jobs it’s cost the energy industry that serves as the backbone of Rogers’ Fifth Congressional District in eastern Kentucky.

Then he recalled McConnell’s rise as a freshman Congressman in 1985, and how he could see the senator even then “building contacts, building power, building relationships” on his way to his current prominent position in Washington. McConnell is preparing to defend that seat against Democrat challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes and Primary Election challengers in 2014.

“We’re a small state, as states goes, and it’s very tough for a small state to gain the kind of power and influence that Mitch has done,” said Rogers. “It shows skill,  smarts, diligence, 24 hours a day here and there, and he has served this state so well.”