HENDERSON, Ky. (WEHT) – Congressman James Comer of Kentucky’s first district spoke with Eyewitness News’ Jake Boswell Friday morning on Daybreak. The Congressman discussed the Federal response, Kentucky’s plans to reopen, and what he believes responsibly getting back to normal looks like. You can read a full transcript of the interview below.
JB: We’re joined by a member of US Congress, it’s congressman James Comer from the Kentucky first district. Congressman, thanks for joining us today to talk about I guess these uncertain times we’re living in.
JC: Well, thank you for having have me and we are in unprecedented times. There’s no rulebook or owner’s manual that tell any governor or any member of congress how to proceed. But we’re all trying to do our best and and I think we’ll learn some valuable lessons, in case this ever happens again.
JB: And my first question for you, Congressman is obviously you’re in Kentucky right now, and most representatives and senators are not in Washington. How are you guys working? I guess what are you doing right now to try to get get everyone through this. And obviously, a lot of a lot of things are moving and parts are moving right now with this. What are you guys doing right now?
JC: Well, it’s business as usual. All my employees are working from home. I’m here in my district office in my hometown. I’ve been here all morning. We’ve had meetings that we would normally have in person or in Washington, DC, I’m having over the phone conference calls. just did a Facebook Live Town Hall event with a state senator here in the office. So we’re trying to stay informed with the way The voters and our phones are ringing off the hook from constituents that have questions and, and opinions. So it’s business as usual for me, it’s just instead of operate in Washington or traveling the district. I’m doing it here from home.
JB: What about the federal risk response? At this point? Obviously, there’s there’s been some relief packages and money coming from the Treasury. There’s talk of another stimulus bill of some type. When you when you hear about this, and you see this, what are your thoughts on how things have gone? And what we may need more of here in the near future?
JC: Well, I think the federal response has been as good as it could possibly be. Again, there was no owner’s manual, there was no policy book or rulebook on how to attack a situation like this. I think the President’s done a good job. Obviously, there are mistakes that have been made by the federal level and the state level and local level, but I think everybody’s learning and working together and communicating and trying to move forward. We’ve spent a lot of money in Washington and try to help our businesses who are struggling or unemployed workers are frontline health care workers. But we can’t continue to spend money. And I’ll be honest, we’re going to have to focus on reopening the economy. I think the steps that we’ve taken had to be taken. It’s come at a detrimental cost to the deficit and to the economy. But having said that, I don’t think we had much choice but now we have to focus on reopening the economy.
JB: and focusing more on Kentucky Congressman, Governor Beshear obviously is giving daily briefings and just earlier this week released a kind of a plan to reopen the state in phases. Have you been able to look at that plan? What do you think about it Kentucky’s specific plan here in the state to reopen phases.
JC: I’ve looked at his plan and the phases were predominantly on reopening medical practices and healthcare. I think that instead of being open in phases needs to be open now probably a week ago. Because we have a lot of rural hospitals, I have 30 hospitals in my congressional district that were were told they couldn’t do any elective surgeries, but they had to be on on standby waiting for a big rush of COVID-19 patients. Well, very few hospitals ever saw that big rush. But every hospital suffered because of their cash flow and things like that Do they have to do to pay the bills. So the electric surgeries need to start back now in Kentucky, and we have to come up with a quicker plan in Kentucky to reopen the businesses. The federal government cannot continue to bail out. Small businesses cannot continue to bail out. unemployed workers that are unemployed because of government for shutdowns. We’ve done what we had to do and we had to do it. But moving forward. We can’t continue to spend money at the pace that we’re spending it and we have to get serious about reopening the economy.
JB: Do you think balancing the fiscal aspect and economic aspect of this with with the health concerns is something though that needs to be looked into or do you think that we should just reopen everything as best we can with some precautions?
JC: No, we have to be cautious as we proceed. But we need a plan now in Kentucky to reopen at a faster pace. I think we’ve done a great job and Kentucky The governor has done a good job I taken it very seriously got a good job of informing the people of what’s going on. But if you look, we have flattened the curve, we’ve had great success and that we’re never going to completely eliminate it. We understand where the the hotspot areas are anywhere where you work like the food processing plants in your viewing area that are shut down because of COVID outbreaks, that certainly those are areas that need to be addressed. Social distancing, of course, but a lot of those cases probably were contracted through carpooling and things like that were that they just weren’t observing social distancing at home. So, we’ve got to continue to enforce strict social distancing rules, we should be required probably to wear masks everywhere. But we can’t continue to keep businesses shut down. I think Americans understand the seriousness of this. And I think Americans will respond by taking this seriously using hand sanitizer and observing social distancing rules and and everything they can to prevent any outbreak or spread of the disease. But But at the end of the day, the federal government cannot continue to spend money at the same pace to prop these businesses and employees open when they could be open.
(This story was originally published on May 1, 2020)