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San Diego's reps hit hot-button issues at chamber congressional event

It was a congenial round robin at the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce’s Congressional Luncheon Friday, where all five of San Diego’s representatives had the opportunity to give sound-bite answers to some of the important questions facing us locally and in Washington.

Some of the more pressing topics included each representative’s budget priorities, San Diego’s water quandary, health care, immigration reform, the Department of Defense acquisition process and thoughts on splitting California into six states.

On that last topic, Rep. Susan Davis of the 53rd Congressional District and Rep. Juan Vargas of the 51st agreed that proposals of splitting California into six states aren’t a good idea, with Davis saying they detract from a focus on working together and Vargas saying it has no place in modern times and is simply not a good idea. Rep. Darrell Issa of the 49th District didn’t give a clear yes or no, but pointed out the imbalance in the Senate resulting from a state as large as California having the same vote as one with as little population as Alaska, and suggested that California is too big to manage. Rep. Duncan Hunter of the 50th District said Issa and Davis had answered the question well enough, though they essentially had opposing answers, and Rep. Scott Peters, 52nd District, simply said he doesn’t think about it.

On the funding front, Davis outlined her top priorities: National Institutes of Health funding, the San Ysidro Port of Entry, universal quality preschool education, and finalizing a solution to sequestration. The San Ysidro funds earmarked in the federal budget were praised by all five reps as an example of what working across party lines can accomplish.

Vargas also said San Ysidro was a main priority for him, especially given his district’s location along the border, and said he would like to see the government get involved in the biotech process in some way to help companies cross the “valley of death” between promising technology and validation studies.

Peters added funding for basic scientific research to the mix, and echoed Davis’ comments on getting a clear and actionable final answer on sequestration.

Hunter’s top priority was national security spending, which he said needs to be increased. He said his other focus is on transportation and infrastructure.

Issa said he agreed with Hunter on the need for more stable and predictable military funds, and said his other focus is on finding ways to spend less as a nation, and reduce redundant programs.

On a more local level, the dire straits of San Diego’s water sourcing drew some opposing answers, with Issa saying he thinks the drought is overblown and the main problem is San Diego and other parts of the state not receiving water they had paid for after a mandate to cut back. He suggested finding creative ways to channel the water from where it’s being cut off to where it’s needed, which is what has made a small drought worse.

Vargas disagreed, saying he thinks the drought in and of itself is a problem, and said San Diego needs to ramp up its potable reuse efforts, which have been in the works for years. He and Peters also stressed the importance of finding above-ground storage solutions for the water and snow in the Sierra Nevada and other Northern California fresh water sources, which are currently running out into the ocean without appropriate storage options.

On immigration, Vargas, Peters and Davis stressed the importance of pushing reform through the House, particularly considering the economic benefits that come with it, with Vargas saying he hopes to see this happen this year.

Unsurprisingly, health care and the Affordable Care Act had the legislators split down party lines. Republicans Issa and Hunter said they see the bill has been a disaster that needs to be revoked or seriously altered, with Hunter saying he’ll continue to vote to repeal it. Davis, a Democrat, pointed out that there are now 40 percent fewer uninsured people in San Diego after the ACA took effect, and said it’s important that legislators realize the bill is here to stay and work to make it better rather than attempt to repeal it.

Hunter and Peters were vocal in supporting a re-working of the Department of Defense acquisition process, which they say is too long and cumbersome to stay ahead of the curve.

Peters also spoke to his closely watched and highly anticipated campaign to retain his seat over challenger Carl DeMaio. He stressed that his promise has been to work across party lines for the people of San Diego and serve as a unifying, not divisive, force.

Differences of opinion on some issues aside, the five representatives repeatedly spoke highly of each other, recalling times when they’ve worked together to achieve what was best for San Diego, and the positive, collaborative relationship the group has.

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San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce

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San Diego, CA 92101

San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce Executive(s):

Jerry Sanders

  • Chief Executive Officer, President

Ruben Barrales

  • Chief Executive Officer

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