U.S. Rep. Steve Watkins spoke to Parsons Rotarians on Thursday and he answered a few questions from the floor about the U.S. pullout in Syria and civility in Washington, D.C.
Watkins is a Republican representing the 2nd District in Congress, which is generally the eastern third of Kansas. Watkins told Rotarians that American politics is rough now.
“We’re in a knife fight up there in Washington,” he said. Democrat or Republican, “I think everybody gets bloody.”
He said he’s trying to restore some integrity and civility based on his values system as a sixth generation Kansan. He complimented Rotarians for their mission to do good in the community and benefit others with their actions.
Watkins said in Washington and in other places when faced with more than one course of action, the most difficult choice tends to be the one you ought to do.
The first question Thursday was asking Watkins his opinion on President Trump’s decision to pull U.S. troops out of northern Syria. The troops had been working with Kurdish fighters in the region against the Islamic State. Turkey, which is attacking Kurdish-run territory in northern Syria now after the pullout, considers the Kurds terrorists.
Watkins said he’s worked with the Kurds when he was overseas with the Army. He was embedded with the Kurds, he said, and stayed on their bases. He said he supports President Trump and backs his play.
But not this decision.
“It’s very rare that I would part with the president,” Watkins said. “But I feel passionately about this situation.”
All Kurds want is peace and prosperity. On pulling out U.S. troops now, “I question whether or not that’s what we ought to do at this juncture.”
Another question was if Republicans and Democrats were working cooperatively. Watkins said there are many civil conversations in D.C., but those don’t get news coverage. He’s joined the problem solver caucus, which has 48 members, equally populated with Republicans and Democrats. He said the caucus is working on U.S.-Israeli relationships, prescription drug pricing and other issues and is making “great progress.”
There is ugliness, but he said he works with Republicans and Democrats where they want to meet.
“It’s ugly. It’s a little more ugly on the news than it is in person,” Watkins said.
The final question was Watkins’ thoughts on the border wall with Mexico. He said he supports the wall and has visited the border. The problem on the porous border is that the drug cartels have developed a cottage industry in arranging the transportation of the people from Central America through Mexico to the U.S. border. Many who come to the border only look for work, not asylum. Asylum claims are a high bar to meet and the people must show they need to stay in the U.S. because of fear of persecution or death in their home countries. He said Mexico has dispatched about 6,000 troops to help with its border situation.
“We are trending in the right direction,” Watkins said.
The congressman asked to close the session with a moment of silence acknowledging the loss of 7-year-old Lizzy Castorena on Sept. 30 and remembering a classmate of his who died in Iraq.