Boeing, Iran and election security dominated the Community Coffee event.
by Dio Alexander
On January 11, Representative Rick Larsen (WA-02) hosted a Community Coffee event at Mountlake Terrace City Hall to preview the upcoming congressional year. Community Coffees are informal gatherings Larsen holds throughout the 2nd Congressional District to hear directly from constituents.
Larsen addressed a variety of domestic accomplishments such as funding $25 million towards gun violence research – half to the Center for Disease Control and half to the National Institute of Health, reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank of the United States, and funding local estuary restoration.
Larsen shared that Congress passed and signed into law by President Donald Trump, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020 (S. 1790), which includes the U.S. Navy to activate “real-time noise monitoring” of jet noise on Whidbey Island as opposed to relying on less accurate models.
The bill amounted to $738 billion in allocations to the United States military and the Act was used to create the Space Force. This bill also provided a paid parental leave program for 2.2 million federal employees.
Larsen shared the passage of H.R. 3 – Lower Drug Costs Now Act of 2019, which allows for Medicare & Medicaid Services to negotiate prices for prescription drugs. The bill is now awaiting discussion in the U.S. Senate.
The House of Representatives voted to impeached President Donald Trump on Dec. 18, 2019, approving the charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. Larsen shared that he voted in favor of the impeachment.
Impeachment is the first step in a two-step process to remove the President of the United States. This means that the matter is referred to the Senate for a trial. After the trial, if two-thirds of senators also vote yes, only then would the president be removed from office, and the vice president would become the president.
Larsen will introduce the Building United States Infrastructure and Leveraging Development Act (BUILD Act) which is a federal transition grant program that provides funds to small cities like Mukilteo if it needs assistance funding a multimillion-dollar project for their community. If adopted, this bill will increase from $15 billion to $20.8 billion the national limitation on the amount of tax-exempt highway or surface freight transfer facility bonds.
Larsen, chair of the House Aviation Subcommittee, talked about the recently released Boeing internal email dump dating back to 2013 that persons at Boeing allegedly tried to hide the 737 MAX defects from the F.A.A.
“It seems probable that the people [who died in the crashes] could still be alive if the people at Boeing hadn’t made the decisions that they made,” said Larsen.
Larsen hopes to pass legislation requiring the F.A.A. to take a stronger role in the certification process that may require increasing F.A.A. staff for the added responsibilities.
“One, is to pull back from the F.A.A. some of its authority to delegate certification functions to companies like Boeing. Currently, the F.A.A. has broad authority to approve Organization Designation Authorizations (O.D.A.) which are the authorizations the FAA gives to companies to certify the work that they do.”
Larsen continued that modern airplanes are more a hybrid of mechanics and automation which may require revisiting human factors in aircraft design. We may need to investigate, “How a person who is flying the airplane responds to the plane, signals a plane is giving the pilot, and the timeframe the pilot has to respond to those inputs.”
Foreign policy towards Iran then dominated the question and answer session. Larsen voted against the War Powers Resolution which sought to limit President Trump’s military actions against Iran. He touted the multiple times he voted against the Authorizations for Use of Military Force and voted more times against it under President Obama than under President Trump.
According to Larsen, the American foreign policy towards Iran is to focus on four areas: defeating ISIS, preventing Iran from getting nuclear weapons, containing Iranian missile technology proliferation, and stopping Iran’s terrorist activities in the Middle East.
As a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee, Larsen criticized the killing of Iranian general Qasem Soleimani saying, “It did not satisfy any foreign policy goals towards Iran.”
Joe Ripley, 70, of Mountlake Terrace challenged Larsen’s point that killing Soleimani didn’t contribute to stopping Iranian backed terrorism in the Middle East.
Larsen responded stating that presidents Bush and Obama also had the opportunity to take out Soleimani but chose not to because of the uncertainty it would cause.
“There were ways to disrupt Iranian terrorist activities without killing Soleimani,” Larsen said. “As bad as he is, he is replaceable and has been replaced.”
Questions continued related to fake news, redistricting, the challenges of autonomous vehicles and the regulation of drones.
The event ended with discussion related to election security. Larsen shared how in the past, foreign actors actively pursued a disinformation campaign to distribute bad information to voters. For 2020 however, Larsen feels that the election will be more secure as the Department of Homeland Security has been very active with Secretaries of States around the country to ensure they have implemented best practices to protecting the integrity of the voting database and vote count. He shared that Congress approved $300 million to mitigate the gaps in the process.
To prevent being misled by bad actors, Larsen encouraged attendees to “use their brains” and not believe something simply because it is on the internet.
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