Congressman James Comer, R-District 1, told an anecdote on the difference between Frankfort and Washington, D.C., during his noon address Wednesday to the Rotary Club of Paducah.
“I met with Paul Ryan,” Comer said, referencing the then-Speaker of the House in September 2016. “He said, ‘You’re gonna be a good member and pay your dues.’ I didn’t know what he meant; he kept saying it.
“Now, it’s January 2017, I’m a House member, and we have this weekly meeting. I’m sitting here, and there’s this chart — Democrats do this, too — and every member’s name has an assigned dollar amount. I’m like, ‘What is this?’ … Then it dawned on me: I had to pay my dues. He meant actually paying money.”
He mostly brought Washington-sized topics to Paducah on Wednesday at The Carson Center, where the Rotary Club greeted him enthusiastically.
“The Inflation Reduction Act — I don’t see how it does anything but increase inflation,” Comer said. “If you want to increase more money, then print more money and have the government spend it unnecessarily.”
He referenced President Joe Biden’s 2021 executive order to halt the border wall: “Stacks and stacks of (supplies) on the ground, all the way from New Mexico to Tijuana, with construction equipment shut off. We paid for that, those projects have bidded, and the supplies have been purchased.
“We’ve gotta reform and bring order back to Congress,” he said.
Comer, now in his third term, would become the House Oversight Committee’s chairman if Republicans take the majority in November. He’s currently the ranking member.
If it happens, he’s expressed interest in investigating Hunter Biden’s dealings and COVID’s origins.
“People have a lot of questions: Where COVID dollars have been spent, the origins of COVID-19, tax dollars sent to the Wuhan lab, what those research projects were supposed to be doing (and) whether American companies were involved in that,” Comer said. “We’ll have (Dr. Anthony) Fauci and ask him if American companies were trying to create a virus so they could sell a vaccine. I’m not saying there was wrongdoing, but I’ve learned a lot of American companies do research in China because of liability, so we’ve got to fix that.
“And for the Hunter Biden situation: As one of the few who’s seen his hard drive, there are serious problems there.”
The representative hammered on Russia, calling the country a bad actor: “They constantly try to hack into our energy sector. They try to get into the Pentagon. We’ve fallen behind in technology and in the cyberfront.”
He criticized America’s rampant outsourcing and backed the CHIPS Act — a $52 billion bill to bring semiconductor manufacturing back to the states — raising concerns about Chinese hardware in military and law enforcement drones.
“We have outsourced a huge percentage of our technology, and we’ve become vulnerable,” he said, holding up his phone. “We’ve gotta focus on bringing tech manufacturing back. China’s a communist country, they passed a law saying any company in China must work with Chinese intelligence agencies.”
A focus on stateside manufacturing and cybersecurity is a better priority than focusing on the New Green Deal, according to the congressman.
“The private sector is creating that. There’s a movement from younger consumers to drive electric vehicles; the government doesn’t have to push it.”
Stateside, Comer addressed spending and bureaucracy, opposing billions in aid sent to Ukraine since March.
“I asked where it was going to, (they said), ‘Well, it’s arms and humanitarian relief,’ ” Comer said. “OK, who’s getting the arms? Where are we buying the food from? ‘Well, I don’t know.’ That’s not being good stewards of your hard-earned tax dollars.”
He called in-house activists sincere but misguided.
“We have a lot of activists in these bureaucracies — the EPA, OSHA and Department of Labor. They may have their heart in the right place, but they’ve obstructed business,” he said. “Energy, financial services, the health care sector … you’ll see Hunter Biden and Dr. Fauci on TV, but you won’t see heads of agencies sitting alongside industry leaders and talking about impediments to increasing jobs, wages and U.S. manufacturing.”
Amid more national concerns, he congratulated West Kentucky Community and Technical College on 30 recently graduated nurses amid crucial job shortages.
“That’s great, it shows you have a community college here that gets it,” he said. “Unfortunately, a lot of colleges aren’t trying to talk kids out of worthless degrees.”
He praised Computer Services, Inc. for its $1.6 billion private acquisition and lucrative closure for shareholders.
“I wish I could get in on that, but unless you’re married to Nancy Pelosi, you can’t trade stock,” he joked, referring to July media coverage of the House Speaker’s husband exercising call options for Nvidia stock before the bill vote.
One question from the audience addressed funding for the U.S. Department of Energy’s former Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant’s ongoing deactivation efforts. Comer called it the “biggest appropriation in my congressional district by far,” adding how calls from leadership, contractors and unions aren’t uncommon.
“We support full funding. I know the economic impact the plant’s deactivation has on this area; we’re gonna continue to work with (contractors) and strongly support the project,” he said, complimenting Paducah Area Chamber of Commerce President Sandra Wilson, and noting that she “will call ya if Paducah needs anything; she does a great job at the chamber.”
Another question inquired about Comer’s stance on nuclear energy.
“Nuclear should be an important part of our energy portfolio,” he answered. “I support coal, and I strongly support nuclear. I think we’ve gotta have a diverse energy portfolio. I (also) support wind and solar, but it’s a pipe dream in respect to New Green Deal policies.”