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Rep. Long on ISIS, Ukraine, and Why he Won’t Debate November Opponent

Scott Harvey

Congressman Billy Long says it’ll take more than just airstrikes to effectively combat the Islamic State militant group.

The Republican representative for Missouri’s 7th District said he’s pleased in the decision for airstrikes against ISIS, but more is needed to take on a group that he says makes Al Qaida pale in comparison.

“I was on a conference call yesterday with Mike Rogers, chairman of intel [House Intelligence Committee], and the things that we know about ISIS are bone chilling, and we need to address that again sooner rather than later.”

Long called the president’s recent statement that there is no strategy yet to address ISIS “unfortunate,” and he’s anxious to get back to Washington next week to address the matter further. He believes the “public will come around” to an American involvement in the Iraqi region that ISIS controls.

Long spoke with reporters in Springfield ahead of a meeting on banking regulations Thursday, as the U.S. and other NATO member nations were meeting in Europe. There, threats from ISIS and those concerning Ukraine are expected to dominate talks.

Ahead of the summit, President Obama vowed in a speech to defend the sovereignty of NATO nations, a stance Long says he supports.

“The people aren’t even talking about Crimea anymore so it seems like Vladimir Putin has already picked up Crimea [and] now we’re onto other parts of the Ukraine,” Long said. “I’d like to see Crimea and everything go back into part of Ukraine, and for Vladimir Putin to not try and resurrect the Soviet Union – which is his goal, what he’s trying to do.”

Long, who is seeking a third term in the House, is coming off an August primary in which he received 62 percent of the vote. His Democratic challenger this November, Jim Evans, who narrowly won his party’s primary, is scheduling a series of discussions throughout the district. Two more have been scheduled for next week in Joplin and Mt. Vernon, and Long has been invited to participate. But Long said Thursday he does not plan to attend any of the debates. Asked why not, the lawmaker stated:

“There’s eight congressional seats in the state, there’s zero debates this year.”

Evans’ first event on August 27 focused on U.S. trade policies, which the Democratic candidate says have resulted in lopsided deals that give more leverage to partnering countries, have stripped jobs and hurt the economy.  

Long said Thursday the country needs a fair and free trade policy. One he favors is the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a proposal that has been in the works for nearly five years between 12 countries throughout the Asia-Pacific region, including the United States.

The congressman also expressed support for trade promotion authority (TPA) legislation, which President Obama called for in this year’s State of the Union address. The legislation, which expired in 2007, defines U.S. negotiating objectives and priorities for trade agreements and establishes consultation and notification requirements for the president throughout the negotiation process. 

“I was all for that [TPA]," Long said. "That was one thing in the speech that I agreed with. The next day, [Senate Majority Leader] Harry Reid came out and said ‘He’s not getting TPA.’ You have to have TPA to do TPP, so there’s some other issues on the other side of the aisle.”

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