United States Congressman Jim Himes attended the bi-weekly breakfast at the Sugar Bowl hosted by the Darien Times to talk about issues on the minds of his Darien constituents. Himes sits on the House Intelligence Committee, which has been in the news recently as part of investigations into Russian interference in the most recent presidential election. Himes also spoke about issues brought up by community members in attendance including the media, regulations regarding the EPA, and the recent events in Syria.
Himes answered questions about the media early in the breakfast, as one attendee asked Himes who he believes does the best job covering the news as it breaks. Himes pointed out that the New York Times and Washington Post have incredible sources, as they are able to get information, in some cases, even before the intelligence committee can. These sources occasionally even break the law in the course of leaking information. Himes was also asked about White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, and about Spicer’s comments week which said that Hitler did not use chemical weapons and used the phrase, “Holocaust centers” to describe camps where millions were exterminated. “I am worried a bit about the erosion of truth,” Himes said.
Himes also talked extensively about the desire to hear Carter Page and Paul Manafort speak in front of the intelligence committee. Page was in the news this week as it was revealed that a FISA warrant had been obtained to monitor his communications, which is typically only given when probable cause exists that the person being monitor is acting as a foreign agent, in this case for Russia. Page has not been charged with any crime. Himes pointed out that, to this point, “we know [Russia] hacked the DNC, hacked John Podesta, and hacked the RNC” and that those efforts were made to damage the Clinton campaign. Possible connections to President Donald Trump or members of his campaign staff are still being investigated, and Page and Manafort are part of that investigation.
Himes also spoke about the recent strike against Syria. Himes said he was, “of two minds,” about the strike itself. Himes said he was opposed to the response by former President Barack Obama. This week President Trump ordered a strike against an airfield in Syria, and “if that’s twenty fewer planes dropping gas on Syrians, that’s a good thing,” Himes said. At the same time, Himes cautioned that this is issue is a slippery slope. Himes, and others, are not in favor of being drawn into another land war in the Middle East, as Himes pointed to efforts in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya as evidence that the United States is not great at these sorts of campaigns.
There were questions about the proposed removal of regulations regarding environmental protections for clean water and air as well. Some at the breakfast expressed concerns that the damage to the environment by removal of regulations regarding the dumping of waste far outweigh any economic benefit. Himes agreed that protection of the environment is an important issue, and that it was easy for a democrat to support issues like environmental protection. Himes did also say that republicans in some states are starting to sway a bit. Himes pointed to the recent result in the special election in Kansas fourth district as evidence that, “the pendulum is starting to swing back.” The fourth district in Kansas is one of the most republican leaning in the nation, and was one by Donald Trump by a very large margin, however earlier this week the republican candidate won by a significantly smaller margin. The result has many beginning to wonder about the mindset of the American voter. Himes did caution that, “you really can’t take all that from just one district.”
Himes also spoke about other issues that he hopes to get to work on as soon as possible. Tax reform and infrastructure have long been issues that Himes sees as in dire need of attention. More than that, Himes sees these as non-partisan issues. “I plan to work with the President on infrastructure,” Himes said. Some Democrats in Washington have said they refuse to work with President Trump on anything as a matter of principle, but Himes does not see that as reasonable. Himes said this sort of thinking was no way to get anything done, as members of both parties sit in traffic on roads that need repair, or send children to schools that need improving.
On a related note, Himes was asked about the recent filibuster and invoking of the “nuclear option” when it came to the confirmation of now Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch. Himes said that while ideologically the two differ, “Gorsuch is undeniably a qualified jurist”. Himes then spoke about the filibuster as a response for what was deemed unfair treatment of Obama nominee Merrick Garland. Himes said the problem is that this debate just was constantly going backward, and needed to go forward. Again, Himes iterated the need for lawmakers to understand when to be partisan for certain issues, and when a bipartisan approach is the best approach.
Himes attended the Sugar Bowl breakfast as part of a series of local appearances he is making, more of which are available on his website. Himes represents Connecticut’s fourth district, which covers Fairfield County and some of New Haven County.