Politics & Government

Kentucky employers ‘adamantly opposed to tariffs;’ Trump still popular, lawmaker says

U.S. Rep. James Comer, the Tompkinsville Republican who represents Hopkins and 34 other counties in western and Central Kentucky, says President Donald Trump may be more popular in his First Congressional District than any other district in the country.

“The president is incredibly popular in my district,” Comer said Monday before introducing a grants workshop at Madisonville Community College. “He’s got a 73 percent approval rating in the last poll I saw.”

That’s despite the fact that virtually every employer Comer has talked to in the district says the president’s tariffs are bad for their business.

“Employers are adamantly opposed to the tariffs,” Comer said.

So what explains the poll numbers?

“The mindset among the people is ‘the swamp’ is trying to fight him on everything,” Comer said.

The representative said the president is right when it comes to China.

“If we don’t stand up to China,” he said, “there’s no chance to get manufacturing jobs back to the U.S.”

U.S. Representative James Comer, R-KY, gestured during the political speeches Saturday, August 4, 2018, in Fancy Farm, Ky. John Flavell

Comer is spending the August recess hosting events like the workshop, attending meetings such as one Monday in Webster County with Farm Bureau leaders, and holding town halls in communities across the vast district.

He has an opponent in November’s General Election, although he does not appear to be too worried about a blue wave in his territory. Paul Walker, a professor at Murray State University and political newcomer, won the Democratic primary. Comer said he is willing to debate Walker.

When Comer returns to Washington, D.C., in September, his focus will be on the farm bill. He is a member of the conference committee charged with reconciling the House and Senate versions of the bill.

His primary goal is to get included in the bill a provision requiring participants in SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, to work to be eligible for benefits.

“We need welfare reform,” Comer said. “The odds are probably slim, but I’m going to try.”

The bill also legalizes hemp farming, which Comer has backed for years and which finally appears to be on track to become reality.

“We’re going to change the definition of industrial hemp,” he said. “We’ll be telling the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) what the law is.”

Hemp cultivation has been caught up in legal purgatory because hemp comes from the cannabis plant, the same as marijuana. But hemp, grown for its fiber, has virtually no THC, the ingredient in marijuana that gets users high.

“There will be no question that the DEA has no role in industrial hemp,” he said.

His other focus will be passing legislation to keep the government funded, which is difficult given the partisan atmosphere in Washington.

“The problem is the Senate is dysfunctional right now,” he said. “The only way to pass legislation through the Senate is to amend must-pass bills.”

This article is provided via the Kentucky Press News Service.