By Janet Jacobs
U.S. Rep. Joe Barton (R-Ennis) has said he will not vote in favor of allowing air strikes on Syria when congress reconvenes in regular session on Tuesday.
Barton sat down for an interview with the Corsicana Daily Sun on Wednesday to talk about the upcoming session and his goals.
President Barack Obama asked congress to give him approval for the Syrian strikes. Under the 1973 War Powers Act, the president can take military action without prior congressional approval, but he has to request it within 90 days if he intends to continue beyond that.
Barton predicted that it would pass easily in the Senate, which has a Democratic majority, but would be a closer shave in the House, which has a Republican majority.
“I’m going to vote ‘no’ unless there’s some amazing revelation in the classified briefing,” Barton said. “I’m predicting it will pass the House, but not overwhelmingly.”
Barton admitted that he doesn’t completely trust this president, which is part of his reasoning. He also said he has visited Afghanistan, Iraq and Kuwait and doesn’t think another conflict in the Middle East is worth American lives or money.
“I absolutely don’t see any national interest,” Barton said. “The rebels are no more our allies than President Assad.
“I think it’s whistling Dixie to say you can have limited drone or air strikes that can do anything but inflame Arab opinion against us,” he added.
In addition to the decision on Syria, the 113th Congress can expect to deal with the debt ceiling, which is looming, and the continued progress of the Affordable Health Care Act, also called Obamacare.
Barton had an L-shaped mark on his brow this week, the result of having had a mole removed. Barton said he wanted to get some things done before the new health care rules kick in. Barton currently has Blue Cross/Blue Shield through his federal benefits package. As of next year, Barton will be under the same exchange as any other Texan, he said.
“Next year, I have to be in the exchange. I hope Blue Cross/Blue Shield will have a plan,” he said.
Barton has said in the past, and he reiterated this week, that he believes the federal requirement that every American have health insurance will go away.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry has resisted cooperating with the upcoming system, and while Texans are supposed to have a website where they can find insurance plans to meet their budgets and needs, that hasn’t been set up. Barton said that if the state’s leaders won’t establish the exchange, the federal government will do it.
It’s supposed to be up by Oct. 1, he said.
When Barton was last in Corsicana, immigration reform advocates held a rally outside city hall where the congressman was speaking. About 200 people attended the rally, and leaders said they would attend all of his subsequent town hall meetings. Barton said there were a handful of people at two other locations, but nothing like the Corsicana attendance.
Barton said the rally didn’t change his opinion on immigration reform, although it certainly “validated my position,” he said.
“I want to solve the problem,” he said.
Barton’s proposal for immigration reform is to put illegal adults on the path to legalization, and put children who were brought here illegally on the path to citizenship. Everyone would have to pass a criminal background check.
He believes it’s something that could pass muster both with conservatives in congress and with immigration reform advocates.
Another issue, and one that Barton believes is being downplayed by both the president and the Republican leadership is the debt ceiling crisis. The debt ceiling is simply the amount of money the country is allowed to borrow to meet its obligations. Raising it doesn’t give permission to spend more, it gives the country the ability to pay the bills without cutting into programs.
“Only in Washington is it good news when the deficit is $800 billion,” he said.
Barton said that the solution to the budget is to do what experts have recommended for the last 20 years — be more careful with money, don’t rely on formula, cut discretionary spending, change entitlement programs so that they are within their means, extend controls and deny the status quo.
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