Luetkemeyer: Syria not winning idea; Congress stuck on several issues

U.S. Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer doesn’t think the United States should get involved in Syria, but also thinks letting the Russians propose an international solution hurts America’s long-term worldwide influence.

Luetkemeyer, R-St. Elizabeth, made those comments during a half-hour visit Monday with a Jefferson City Rotary club.

Other topics during his speech and a question-and-answer session included the nation’s budget, farm bill, food stamps and complaints about Congress and President Barack Obama.

Luetkemeyer is in his third term in Congress.

He said he waited until hearing the classified briefing about Syria and its use of chemical weapons on civilians, before making a final decision on supporting or opposing U.S. military involvement there.

But, he told the Rotary members, he had a pretty good idea even before that briefing, and the briefing didn’t add much information.

“I didn’t see an imminent threat that was posed (to the U.S.) by the Syrians, with their chemical weapons, since they’re fighting among themselves at this point,” he explained. “And I didn’t see a way to get out of the mess, once we got in it.

“I didn’t see a plan by the president.”

Luetkemeyer said the Obama administration has done little to keep good relations with long-time U.S. allies in the region — and what the president has done has hurt U.S. interests.

“Unfortunately, my view is, if the credibility (of the United States) was there, Syria wouldn’t have done what they did” when they turned chemical weapons on their own people, Luetkemeyer said. “Our credibility already is zero around the world. I think the only way we’re going to get it back is if we had a different president.”

Among Obama’s failures is not working more with Israel on the Middle East issues, Luetkemeyer said, or working with Congressional leaders.

“You know, the previous president had a weekly meeting with both parties’ leadership,” Luetkemeyer noted. “When you have a crisis like this, there’s no trust, there’s no relationship, there’s nothing there on which to form a basis on which to make a good judgment.”

Letting Russia be the broker for the Syria situation may have avoided a U.S. invasion, the congressman said, “but we have now just raised the stakes, I believe, to make (the world) a much-less-safe place.”

Congress has its own problems with the president, Luetkemeyer said, including no final budget for the business year beginning Oct. 1 and no agreement on how to fund a continuing resolution until there is a budget plan.

But there also are disputes between the House and Senate.

“(The House) passed a budget back in March that cut taxes and cut spending,” Luetkemeyer reported. “But (the Senate) budget has a trillion-dollars worth of tax increases and they have more spending.

“As a result, our budgets are so far apart there’s not enough ground to even go to conference with (and) right now, there’s not a consensus on anything, from anybody.”

A similar disagreement exists on immigration, he said, where the Senate’s bill “isn’t going to go anywhere ... we call it ‘amnesty light,’” while the House wants to “take a very step-by-step approach, starting with border security” and with an improved, streamlined visa policy.

Luetkemeyer is a member of the U.S. House Financial Services Committee, and told the two dozen people attending Monday’s Rotary luncheon that efforts to rein in the government’s support for home mortgages through the Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and FHA (Federal Housing Administration) agencies still will leave a major financial hole taxpayers likely will have to fill.

“They’ve lost over $200 billion, and we’re on the hook, as taxpayers, for $6 trillion that they’ve guaranteed,” he explained. “If you just take a 1 percent loss, look where you’re at.

“We’re not out of the woods on this one, yet.”

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