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Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., right, speaks with Leon and Anne Malberg of Dickinson at his third Coffee with Cramer event Friday morning at Perkins in Dickinson. The small meeting room in the restaurant and bakery was packed with about 20 constituents who came to hear the state's lone representative talk about Syria, Obamacare, immigration and the tie between the farm bill and food stamps.

Cramer to let North Dakotans decide his stance on Syria

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Once the August break is over and Congress heads back to Washington, D.C., there is a plethora of major issues it needs to tackle.

During his third "Coffee with Cramer" event held Friday morning at Perkins in Dickinson, North Dakota's lone representative spelled out the bumpy road ahead for his colleagues in the House and counterparts in the Senate.

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"What happens when you come up on deadlines -- and I don't know if you've noticed, but Washington works best with deadlines -- we just seem to sort of spin our wheels until deadlines come up and then big things happen," Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., said.

While Congress' action on Syria is the main focus of the nation, it will also have to tackle issues related to the ending of the fiscal year on Sept. 30, including the budget, the farm bill, the debt ceiling (which the U.S. will hit in mid-October), immigration reform and tax reform.

"As though all of that wasn't complicated enough, we suddenly have this Syria situation on our hands," Cramer said. "Everything seems to be taking a back seat to the Syria situation."

Most North Dakotans do not want the United States to have any military involvement with Syria, Cramer said.

"It would take something monumental for me to change my opposition to this," Cramer said.

More than three-quarters of North Dakotans oppose military action in Syria, said John Casper of Bismarck, who drove his motorcycle for two hours in the rain to be at Friday's event.

"Let me tell you what the phone calls to my office are -- and they're not just a few, we're not talking about dozens," Cramer said. "Ninety-nine point five percent oppose it."

He is there to represent the people of North Dakota, Cramer said.

The debate will start in the Senate, Cramer said.

"He will need 60 senators to pass in the Senate," Cramer said of President Barack Obama's airstrike on the Middle Eastern country. "I think that's a heavy lift, but it's possible."

The chance of a resolution passing is low, Cramer said.

"There's no clear party distinction on this issue," Cramer said.

Syria's shared border with Israel makes it hard to ignore, the congressman said.

"I was on that border three weeks ago looking into Syria, listening to the gun fire, looking at a rebel-held village the same time I was looking at a provincial capitol," Cramer said.

Cramer is concerned about Obama's stance on Syria.

"We can't not be Americans just because he's the president -- that said we also can't ignore that he is the commander in chief," Cramer said. "If I knew that our military could handle it, great. But I don't believe that Barack Obama can."

Obamacare

More provisions of the Affordable Care Act come into effect Oct. 1, and the House has yet to end the law, Cramer said.

"The House of Representatives has voted about 40 times to repeal Obamacare -- I've had the opportunity to do it three times myself and I've only been there eight months," Cramer said.

The House can pass a continuing resolution that allows for the defunding of the program, Cramer said.

"It takes battles to win wars though," Casper said. "If 1 percent of Obamacare is what you can defund -- it's a $1 trillion program -- so 1 percent of a trillion is how much? A lot of money."

Immigration

Cramer and the rest of the House have been taking an issue-by-issue approach to immigration reform, rather than the comprehensive version passed by the Senate.

"If we get to it this year, it will come up very quickly, it will be in the form of five different bills -- it will not be one comprehensive bill -- and it will be part of a grand bargain," Cramer said.

Many illegal immigrants came into the country on a legal work visa and let it expire, Cramer said.

"The border thing is big but it's different than we sometimes think," Cramer said.

The bills in the House are dealing with complex immigration issues separately.

"I do think the punishment ought to fit the crime and not be a punishment as though they came -- as though the worst crime they committed was far worse than simply coming here to better themselves," Cramer said of undocumented workers.

Legal immigration is just as problematic as illegal immigration, Cramer said.

"Why does the government always think they can pick winners and losers?" Casper asked. "Why does the government think that -- there's millions of people that have legally been trying to go through the process to get here, and somebody walks across the border -- or flies across like you said -- we're giving them a special deal. What about all the other million people?"

The system could be more efficient and compassionate, Cramer said.

He had recently helped a family gain citizenship for their adopted daughter. It took them years of red tape, and two hours after sending an email for Cramer to accomplish the task.

"It shouldn't have to require a member of Congress to do it, it should have been done by the immigration folks 13 of 14 years earlier," Cramer said.

After the Coffee with Cramer event, the representative toured the Dakota Prairie Refinery. The last time he visited was the groundbreaking ceremony in March.

"I love it because I'm the only guy in Congress that has refinery being built," Cramer said. "I do have the shovel. I've even taken it to the floor (of the House) and said, 'Does anybody else have a shovel from the groundbreaking at a refinery?'"

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Katherine Grandstrand
I graduated from Bemidji State University in 2007 with a bachelor's degree in mass communcations, from Columbia College Chicago in 2009 with a master's degree in journalism.  
(701) 456-1206
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