SD County Members of Congress Sound Off on Threats, Gridlock

NBC 7's Political Reporter Gene Cubbison has this analysis on the dealings of San Diego politicians in Washington, D.C.

San Diego County's Congressional members increasingly find themselves focusing on issues far beyond the timeless mission of "bringing home the bacon" to their constituents.

In an ever-more dangerous world, they’re thinking globally as well as locally – from the prospects of trouble that could rock the world, to the depths of California’s drought crisis.

The dangers to national security posed by rogue states and terrorists both foreign and domestic can take a toll on Beltway sleep patterns.

"In the face of all these new threats and expanding threats, we have to be really competent,” said U.S. Rep. Scott Peters (D-52nd District). “We're fighting new wars. We have to train cyber-warriors. We have to give attention to space that we didn't have to give before."

Peters and three of his four colleagues from the county's Congressional delegation -- representing the world's largest military-industrial complex -- spelled out some of the big challenges to a Monday luncheon audience of nearly 600, hosted by the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce members.

Much of the international affairs conversation involved how to deal shrewdly with both friend and foe – and when to say 'no.'

"We do have to rethink foreign policy,” said Rep. Darrell Issa (R-49th). “We have to stop being in a position in which everyone figures we're going to come in and fight their wars, train them, equip them -- and then they will take these guard posts so long as no one's shooting at them."

Cautioned Rep. Susan Davis (D-53rd): "When we ask people what do they need, and I think this goes for other countries that we're involved in, is finding the level of sharing intelligence that is appropriate. We're not going to share all the intelligence, and in fact they're not bringing all they know to us. But there are ways that we can better do it."

Referring to delicate diplomacy in the explosive Middle East, Rep. Juan Vargas (D-51st District) offered this observation: "ISIS, ISIL, Da'ish -- whatever you want to call them -- that's an issue, but they're not the existential threat to Israel and they're not the threat to us, ultimately. They are, somewhat, but they're not like nuclear Iran. And that's what I say we have to focus on and do a better job. Because I'm not convinced that we got the best deal we could've gotten."

Meantime, with sparks already flying in the 2016 presidential campaign, is Congress really going to get anything substantial done in the 18 months until the election?

The race for 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue figures to be a huge distraction in the halls of Congress – whose approval ratings are bottoming in single-digit trends, as episodes of partisan legislative gridlock abound.

But San Diego’s Capitol Hill delegation say there are still plenty of members with eyes on the prize of bipartisan measure that could be signed into law by the president.

"At this point, if we can get thing to his desk, it's our job to get them there,” Issa told NBC 7 in an interview Monday. “If he's unwilling to negotiate before they get there, if he insists on vetoing something because it's not perfect, that will be his decision."

Said Peters: "I don't go to Washington for the weather. I wouldn't get on the plane every week if I didn't think we could get something done. I think there's a lot of academic agreement about what we should do. It's just, politics is more difficult that the academics."

Vargas’ take: "It's in all of our interests to get things done. So I'm going to be hopeful. I don't think the presidential race will suck all of the oxygen out of the room. Now it could. But I hope it doesn't."

Schedule conflicts prevented Rep. Duncan D. Hunter (R-50th) from attending the Chamber luncheon --but if there's a consensus about the three Democrats and two Republicans representing San Diego, it's about the effective way they work 'across the aisle' to further mutual interests.

Davis and Issa are in their eighth term, Hunter’s in his fourth, and Peters and Vargas in their second.

Cynicism and squabbling among themselves seems at a bare minimum.

The last Congress was only marginally more productive than its predecessor -- which was the worst in history, in terms of “Do Nothing.”

As for the current, 114th Congress?

It hasn't given a real indication that it’ll produce anywhere near the 900-plus laws that the 80th Congress (1947-49) got signed by then-President Truman – the original “Do Nothing Congress” – whose output tripled that of the 114th.

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