Now is not the time for Washington to stop spending money to stimulate the economy, U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler, D-Versailles, said Friday while taping a television program.
Despite concerns about the growing budget deficit, Congress should keep providing billions of dollars for extended unemployment benefits and aid to state governments, Chandler said during a taping of WKYT-TV'S Kentucky Newsmakers program. The show will air Saturday at 11 a.m.
Republicans in the House and Senate recently blocked such measures, arguing that it's time for the federal government to dramatically cut spending.
"Before we can even begin to think about the deficit, we have got to get the economy moving again," Chandler said during the taping.
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In an interview afterward with the Herald-Leader, he added: "Show me any circumstance where you take money out of the economy and the economy gets stronger as a result. I just don't believe that. If you pull money out of the economy now, the economy will lose jobs."
Chandler is being challenged for re-election this year by Republican Garland "Andy" Barr, a Lexington attorney. Chandler said he doesn't know Barr but expects to meet him during the campaign, including a joint televised appearance this fall on KET.
Barr recently canceled his own Kentucky Newsmakers interview. His campaign manager, John Connell, said Friday that there was a last-minute scheduling conflict, and Barr hopes to appear on the show soon.
Connell said Barr was traveling Friday and could not respond to Chandler's comments. But in May, Barr called for an end to federal stimulus spending.
On other issues Friday, Chandler:
■ Opposed President Barack Obama's plan to begin withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan in July 2011. Unlike the war in Iraq, which was "a war of choice," Afghanistan harbored terrorists who attacked us, and it must not be left to fester, Chandler said.
"I would rather give Gen. (David) Petraeus a chance to do what he needs to do rather than give him an artificial deadline," Chandler said.
■ Defended his vote last year in favor of a "cap-and-trade" plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from coal and other fossil fuels. The plan has stalled in the Senate.
Chandler's vote was unpopular with Kentucky's coal industry and its supporters.
"First of all, do we want a healthy environment? I think we do," Chandler said. "I believe something has to be done — because the scientists say something has to be done — about climate change."
Chandler said the cap-and-trade bill he supported includes $60 billion in assistance for the coal industry and its customers, including funds to develop clean coal technology.
If Congress does not act, he said, the Environmental Protection Agency will step in to cap fossil fuel emissions, and without the aid that Congress has tried to offer.
■ Opposed Republican U.S. Senate candidate Rand Paul's proposal to block U.S. citizenship for the children of illegal immigrants born in the United States.
Chandler said he has voted to build a fence along the U.S.-Mexican border and for other border security measures. But the Constitution states that someone born here is a U.S. citizen, Chandler said.
"You keep the Constitution the way it is if you believe in the Constitution," Chandler said.
In past campaign statements, Barr has called for U.S. troops to remain in Afghanistan until "victory" can be declared. He also has opposed cap-and-trade, saying he would promote the use of coal aggressively.