Jones: Trump should get Congress' OK for military action
By Miles Layton
Thursday, April 20, 2017
EDENTON – Congressman Walter B. Jones says while he’s sympathetic to the victims of the recent chemical gas attack in Syria, he believes President Donald Trump should have gotten congressional approval before launching missile strikes on a Syrian airfield in response.
The congressman, who represents North Carolina’s 3rd Congressional District, says he’s hopeful President Trump will seek Congress’ approval before deciding U.S. military action is necessary against the rogue state of North Korea.
Jones, who spoke to both the Edenton Rotary Club and local Chowan leaders on Thursday, has concerns about the U.S.’ increasing tensions with North Korea, which, according to its state media, threatens to “turn the US to ashes with a super-mighty preemptive strike.”
Jones noted that President Trump met recently with China's President Xi Jinping to attempt to defuse the situation.
“The hope to me is that when President Trump met with President Xi a couple of weeks ago that they had a private conversation about what could China do, if anything, to influence North Korea,” said Jones, a member of the House's Armed Services Committee. “To me the hope is, and maybe I'm putting too much hope on China, that they could have some influence with that situation.”
Though Jones places his faith in diplomacy, he said, if force is necessary, he hopes Trump will seek congressional approval for the authority before taking any action.
“You've got to try everything you can do through diplomacy,” Jones said. “If by chance it became necessary to take out the sites, then I would hope and believe that President Trump and Secretary of Defense (James) Mattis would have confidential conversations with leaders of the House and Senate before any action was taken. I would hope that President Trump would come before Congress and the American people and say that this situation in North Korea is so uncertain but also so dangerous that we need to have the authority to take action.”
Jones has introduced House Bill 1666 which aims to revisit whether the nation should continue to pursue its ambitions in Afghanistan — 16 years after hostilities started following 9/11.
“After 16 years in Afghanistan, it's time to review the policy for Congress to have another debate of whether we need to be in Afghanistan or not,” he said. “There needs to be a new authorization of military force if we need to stay there.”
Jones also discussed Trump’s use of U.S. military forces to bomb a Syrian airfield in direct response to the chemical gas attack believed to have been launched by President Bashar al-Assad in early April — an attack that killed nearly 100 people, including children. Jones said while he is sympathetic, he is critical of Trump's decision to use force without consulting Congress.
“To me, I wish that Mr. Trump had (consulted Congress) — and I know the situation was horrible when it happened to the children and the adults — but a lot of horrible things happen during wartime,” he said. “We have a Constitution and international law that we are supposed to follow as well. There was nothing threatening our national security. Nothing. Was it morally unacceptable what happened by Syrian President Bashar al-Asaad if he did it? Yes, it was unacceptable. But when you start going into other countries, taking out their leadership and sending missiles into that country and did not come to Congress, I think you are making the wrong decision.”
Jones also discussed Trump’s proposed spending plan that seeks to cut more than $1 billion from the U.S. Coast Guard's budget.
“I was very publicly outspoken on that $1 billion dollar cut to the Coast Guard. It's unfair,” he said. “The Coast Guard needs every penny that they can get. I think that when we get into the budget process, that we will have a number of members from both parties that will protect the Coast Guard's budget. I believe the Congress will not support the recommendation by the president to cut $1 billion dollars – both parties will not support it.”
Funds cut from the Coast Guard's budget may be used to pay for a border wall with Mexico. Jones does not support building a wall on the U.S.’ southern border.
“I'm not for building a wall down by Mexico. I don't think it will do what they think it will do,” Jones said. “Even (Department of Homeland Security) Secretary (John) Kelly has said 'I don't think the wall is the answer and there are other things we can do that would be better protection.' (As for the wall) are you giving the taxpayers the best result for their money? That's what we've got to be sure that we are doing.”
Jones also addressed health care and Republicans’ efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare.
“It is such a complex issue that there are aspects of the Affordable Care Act that are not working, that are not paid for,” he said. “I think there has got to be a complete review and a complete re-working of the Affordable Care Act to make health care insurance more accessible and affordable for the American people. When you get much further than that – we have not seen since the first bill that went in a month ago anything from the leadership.”
Saturday, House Speaker Paul Ryan will be discussing plans about what to do next. Jones said though he was a”no” vote earlier, he is willing to be open minded to any changes that are in the best interest of the people of North Carolina.
“I think the conference call will (feature) Mr. Ryan laying out the next 30 days in Washington,” he said. “At that point, if they are going to bring back a bill that has been restructured, then he'll probably tell us. I think that at some point in time the cost of (premiums under) the Affordable Care Act has gone up in our state roughly between 25 to 30 percent, with (the cost in) some other states (going) as high as 60 percent. We've got to get better control of how this health care system is going to work than what we have now.”
Jones supports allowing young adults to remain on their parents’ insurance plans as well as barring insurance companies from denying coverage to anyone with a pre-existing condition.
“Both parties and the majority of the members in the House, moderate conservatives, would say that those two aspects of the Affordable Care Act make good sense,” he said. “The individual and the family, if they want to take care of someone until they are 26 years old, can do so. Anyone with pre-existing conditions should not deter an insurance company from providing services or protection.”
During town hall meetings in other congressional districts across the country, members of Congress have come under fire for their positions on various issues. Jones said he hasn't had any problems, but his strategy has always been to speak to civic groups whose members are knowledgeable about the issues.
“Since being sworn in, I try to make myself available at primarily civic club meetings because the people there are willing to know the issues or they have their own issue they are interested in,” he said.
Jones said he plans to hold a town hall meeting in June perhaps to discuss any health care law that may be introduced.
“I would rather have a town hall meeting when we know what the health care bill — if there is a new bill — what it's going to do then I am better informed to speak and to listen to the people,” he said.
Asked whether President Trump should release his tax returns, Jones thinks it would be better if they were made public.
I believe President Trump — as with any president — should be willing to release their tax returns” he said. “I think the American people have a right to know, prior to any individual becoming president, their business relationships both national and international. I think that if there are questions about business relationships with Russia, sunlight will be on that. If by chance there are none, sunlight will also be put on that — no relationship.”