Monday, May 20, 2024


Shays: I’ll Vote Against House Rules Unless 9/11 Recommendations Adopted

Shays: 9/11 Commission and Iraq on his agenda. photo
Republican Rep. Christopher Shays vowed today that if re-elected he will vote against House rules unless they include changes recommended by the 9/11 Commission.

At a wide-ranging Norwalk news conference, Shays, who will oppose Westport Democratic First Selectwoman Diane G. Farrell in November’s 4th Congressional District race, also defended his multiple visits to Iraq, including his sixth one last week.

“I think I am helping shape policy and saving lives,” he said, alluding to concerns raised by “my opponent” in the campaign.

Shays, a 17-year congressman whose work on Iraq and the war on terrorism has gained him national attention, again praised the 9/11 Commission’s report on the Sept. 11, 2001, attack.

“I believe strongly in every one of their recommendations,” he said. “They have done a superb job. I am working overtime to make sure their recommendations are implemented.”

Shays said if re-elected, he will vote against House rules that do not implement 9/11 Commission recommendations even if it jeopardizes his chairmanship and vice-chairmanship of several House committees and subcommittees.

He said one of the commission’s recommendations is for creation of a permanent House committee on homeland security.

As for Iraq, Shays said he believes the United States is making progress there “that it is for real.”

He said it was a “big mistake” for the United States to have gotten rid of the Iraqi military and police force after last year’s war victory. The action created a huge void that caused needless loss of American lives, he said.

Shays said he has not been shy about making his concerns about post-war Iraq known to President Bush. He said was among eight congressmen who had a recent private meeting with the president to discuss the issue.

“I have credibility with the president,” he said.

The veteran lawmaker added that, “like (Democratic Sen.) Joe Lieberman, I have no second thoughts” about authorizing the war against Iraq.

As for Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry, Shays said “its chutzpah times 10” for him to act like he did not vote similarly for the war.

Shays made clear his disagreement with the Bush administration over stem cell research.

“If this administration has any Achilles heel, it is stem cell research,” he said, adding that to bring pro-life arguments into the issue “is absurd.”

“The president did not have to take the position that he did,” said Shays. He said he was one of two Republican congressmen who have joined forces with Democrats to work to get a change in the Bush administration’s position on the issue.

The debate, he said, revolves around whether federal dollars should support the research, rather than the research itself.

The congressman touched on the hot-button topics of transportation and education in the district.

He ticked off a list of projects that had received federal aid and lamented the fact that he said the federal government spends more dollars on transportation issues in Connecticut than the State does.

“I think it is a pretty outrageous circumstance,” he said.

As for education, Shays said while he endorsed the No Child Left Behind law, there still are issues involving funding and implementation. He said the federal government is spending “a lot more” on education but not as much as had been authorized.

“In suburban areas, some students are falling between the cracks,” he said, “and we want to give them some rights.”

Asked what was most surprising about his just-completed visit to the Middle East, Shays said it was his meeting with Syrian President Bashar Assad.

The Syrian leader asked the same questions his wife does, Shays said: what are your goals and how are you going to achieve them?

Shays said he pressed Assad to remove Syrian forces from Lebanon, where they intervened 28 years ago during the country’s long civil war.

He said he and Assad talked about Syria’s continued support of the Hezbollah militia there, which Washington has labeled a terrorist organization.

Shays said he had expressed concern about Syria allowing members of terrorist groups to transit the country en route to Iraq.

Assad told him that Syria had requested equipment, including night vision goggles, to help patrol its border but so far has received no response from the U.S. government, he said.

The Syrian leader argued that U.S. sanctions against his country were not justified, Shays said, and complained that the ban forced Syria to turn to Europeans for economic assistance.

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