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Harris Talks Energy, Federal Spending at Perry Hall Town Hall

The meeting was a question and answer session with community members at the Perry Hall Library.

The following updates were recorded live during the meeting.

2:09 p.m. Rep. Andy Harris arrived and recognized Republicans County Councilman David Marks and Del. John Cluster.

2:11 p.m. Harris updated attendees on the payroll tax cut and unemployment benefits package being debated in Congress, and the Keystone Pipeline Project tied to it.

"That's what the discussion is going to be in Washington tonight," he said, adding that he plans to return to Washington, D.C. following the meeting.

2:13 p.m. An attendee asked how close the Keystone oil pipeline was to being finished.

Harris said it is pending approval from the state department, which he said is headed by President Barack Obama, who opposes the pipeline.

"Right now there's no way of getting [the oil] from Alberta. There are many pipelines along that route, but there's nothing that can carry that capacity," Harris said.

The investment is "$7 billion, all private money, and is set to create 20,000 jobs," he said.

Harris said he is optimistic about the pipeline being finished. "We're going to do what we can; we're going to try to make a deal," he said.

"I understand the environmentalists don't want us to burn a drop a oil ... but ladies and gentlemen, our economy would die without oil," he said.

2:17 p.m. "[The pipeline] should be done just for national security reasons," Harris said, calling Canada a "trusted ally."

"Only the federal government could screw this up," he said.

2:19 p.m. "There are people who think, somehow magically, we could do something to get all of our energy from wind and solar," Harris said.

Currently, he said, only 2.5 percent of energy sources are renewable.

"Do we need to use hydrofracking to [become energy independent? Yes, we do ... are we going to be using fossil fuel 100 years from now? Probably not, but we have to get to that point," he said.

"I disagree with the governor, who put a three-year moratorium on hydrofracking ... I don't know what we're going to be doing in Maryland in the next few years ... I do know, we're going to raise the gas tax," he said.

2:24 p.m. "We have more natural gas energy than Saudi Arabia has oil," he said.

2:25 p.m. An attendee asks about inflated jobs numbers, water contamination in Nebraska potentially caused by the use and construction of the pipeline and the potential for oil to be sent to China.

"If it didn't create one job, we should do it for oil independence," he said.

Harris said the United States was exporting gasoline and importing it from other countries because that was the nature of commodities markets.

2:31 p.m. "We have had 1.2 million uses of hydrofraction in this country and they finally think they have found an instance where hydrofraction may have caused some problems ... it was actually caused by the plastic piping used to make the casings ... that place was in the middle of nowhere ... it's almost like the EPA was looking for a place that may have caused some problems," Harris said.

Harris compared some EPA studies to medical studies that use outdated information.

"If you want to show that surgery is dangerous, look up Civil War records," he said. "There is still no documented evidence of hydrofracking causing health problems."

2:38 p.m. Related to the pending payroll tax cut and unemployment benefits bill, Harris said, "We're going to go in tonight and get the job done, and we don't think a two-month extension is going to solve this ... no wonder our approval rating is 7 percent," he said.

2:40 p.m. Attendee asks about how Congress has appeared deadlocked in passing bills. "Our country has to have our congressmen compromise ... it's a bad word if it's not what you want, but in order to accomplish things, you have to compromise," the attendee said.

2:42 p.m. Harris: "It can happen exactly how it happened last week with the budget ... we disagreed ... we have a conference ... did everybody support it? I didn't, I thought it spent too much, but it was passed. That's how it worked. ... They negotiate and compromise."

2:46 p.m. Patch: "A reader asked a question about your vote against the National Defense Authorization Act ... and if it encoraches upon civil liberties."

Harris responded, "I voted against it because it had a line about the detaining of citizens of the United States if they are called terrorists," Harris said.

"Both President Bush and President Obama have interpreted that longstansing law to mean that military detainment could apply to citizens of the United States," he said.

"They should have come to Congress to ask about the interpretation ... I tell people, my father and mother came from communist countries ... they know what it's like when the government has too much authority," Harris said.

"People say, how can you vote against the troops ... I want to fight the terrorists as much as anyone else, but there is too much authority being given to the federal government," he said.

2:52 p.m. An attendee asked, "Why are Republicans so against raising taxes on the very wealthy?"

2:55 p.m. Harris responded, "If I thought increasing taxes on the wealthy would fix things, I would do it ... it's fuel on the fire ... we will never solve the problem by taxing millionaires in isolation."

"If we are going to talk about raising taxes, first let's talk about cutting all unnecessary spending," he said.

3 p.m. Harris explained that Medicare costs are expected to rise dramatically in coming years. He said it won't be solved by taking benefits away from people who are already in the system, it must provide a marketplace plan for younger people, in accordance with the Paul Ryan plan.

3:02 p.m. Harris said Democrats opposed the Paul Ryan plan that originally had bipartisan support. He said Social Security reform can wait.

"With Medicare, there is much more of an urgency, or we will not be able to preserve it with those who are in it," he said.

3:05 p.m. An attendee asked, "Why are people being forced into Medicare?"

Harris said "I don't know why people wouldn't want it. It's a pretty good deal. You put $100,000 in and get $300,000 in benefits out."

An attendee said that Medicare is charging him more than it did before he was on Medicare, because he is on a supplemental plan with the company he retired from.

Harris said that in individual plans that can happen. "If it allowed you to to opt out, then healthy people can opt out ... you'd lose that insurance advantage of insuring the healthy," he said.

Del. Cluster said it sometimes costs people more because the corporations they worked for aren't able to cover the difference, in the case of a supplemental policy.

3:11 p.m. An attendee sais he is concerned about structural debt, caused by  Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

Harris said he would support letting people choose between deferred retirement or a tax cut. "We're going to have this discussion again and I personally think we should let people decide. That's all it is, one month for every year of a 2 percent tax cut."

Harris recommended that people email andy.harri@mail.house.gov with further questions.

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Check back at 2 p.m. for live updates from the meeting.

Republican Rep. Andy Harris plans to hold a at the from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. on Dec. 19, his office announced in a press release Tuesday morning.

The congressman represents Maryland's 1st congressional district, which includes the entire Eastern Shore of Maryland, as well as parts of Anne Arundel, Baltimore and Harford counties. The former state senator was elected to the U.S. Congress in November 2010.

The Harris conducted in Perry Hall was at in March. He focused his remarks on national debt issues.

Another was held at the in November. Harris also focused primarily on national debt issues.

The for giving only about 25 hours notice before holding the Kingsville meeting. Harris during the meeting that he would work on giving more notice to constituents and announced plans for December's Perry Hall meeting.

The Perry Hall meeting was announced in a press release about six days in advance.

What would you like to ask the congressman? Tell us in the comments.

Related Topics: Andy Harris, Kingsville, Perry Hall, and Town Hall

Kenny Pahr December 21, 2011 at 03:24 PM
I commend Andy Harris for standing up for the Constitution and voting against the National Defense Authorization Act. Rep. Harris does stand up for us conservatives here in Perry Hall who want a more limited governement with less taxes and regulations. Thank you Emily for a nice summary of the meeting for those of us who were not able to attend because of work or other engagements.
Tim December 21, 2011 at 04:29 PM
Snow: Here is my overdue and somewhat briefened answer for you - 1) We have no immediate solutions to compeltely replace oil dependency. I think we can agree here. My issue is with gutting our own country un-necessarily. It's not like any oil we drill for in our country will stay here - it all MUST go to the world market and then we re-buy it back at basically the same price we buy middle eastern oil now. 2) Despite my fracking cracks, I do think Gas is a near-term alternative. I simply don't believe it's safe based on what I've read. The gas industry needs to prove beyond a reasonable doubt fracking is safe. The day it does, I'll be onboard. That day hasn't arrived yet. 2b) Nuclear energy. Another short to mid term solution. It is NOT a long term solution due to the waste issue. I could write 5-6 paragraphs on this subject and actually have in the distant past. Suffice to say I believe(in the short term) nuclear energy production should increase to reduce reliance on oil. 3) Hydroelectric, Solar, Wind - these are all technologies that the gov't should invest in for the longer term. Yes, I said government. Only because "business" will continue to stay married to "Big Oil" as long as they are allowed to. 4) What are these "sources" that claim electric cars and hybrids are hurting our environment worse? 5) As far as getting involved - it's tough to do when you have a 5 year old to voluntarily occupy your time. and...I'm out of characters.
John Doe December 21, 2011 at 05:13 PM
Mr. Snow, Here is what "compromise" means to John Boehner and the GOP. 1. "This is not a time for compromise, and I can tell you that we will not compromise on our principles." 2. "The GOP would work with Obama to the extent the President wants to work with us, in terms of our goals." 3. On Obama's agenda - "We're going to do everything - and I mean everything we can do - to kill it, stop it, slow it down, whatever we can." Try working with that, Snow. Please don't tell me about GOP compromise. VOTE ANDY HARRIS OUT.
Tim December 21, 2011 at 05:30 PM
eh, you can vote them all out. It's got to help. Why? This Congress has the worst approval rating of ALL TIME. Whether you are an elephant, donkey, or neither. There is no disputing the polls. Yesterday it was annoucned their approval rating was 11%. 11! The "American People" as Boehner likes to refer to, are speaking loud and clear alright.
Tim December 21, 2011 at 05:32 PM
I also find it oh so amusing when Republicans say President Obama "leads from behind". Why? Because that's what John Boehner does. He's nothing more then a mouthpiece for the Tea Party (even as he wishes he wasn't). He comes up with a bill. The Tea Party kooks get a hold of it and change it to the far right, then tell Boehner he needs to submit this or he'll never pass anything. Leading from behind.

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