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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

Snow December 19, 2011 at 08:18 PM
What solutions do we have to replace the oil dependence we currently have? We can either work on safe alternatives for the future while providing for our current needs or we can shut down, raise unemployment, have gas prices continue to go up and have people who can't afford to live and raise their children now. We have to deal with the current situation while also looking at the future impacts of our actions. We don't have wind and solar plans that can accomplish our energy needs and the current electric cars and hybrids, have reports that their energy sources may be stripping the environment even worse. This are the big questions I ask everyone when we're talking about energy, government, economy etc - what is your plan? What are your suggestions to solve the problems? And how are you getting involved? I encourage anyone to get involved, even when they completely disagree with me.
Zane Awad December 19, 2011 at 08:51 PM
Why is he holding this meeting on a Monday in the afternoon when most people are working?
Honeygo Hal December 19, 2011 at 08:56 PM
Rep. Harris acknowledges that we will get to alternative energy sources, but does he suggest how? Private industry alone will not get us there anytime soon because they can't make money on it 'today.' That is where government must step in and promote the evolution, not sit back like Rep. Harris and say 'some day.' As for fracking, if it is as safe as he suggests, why don't we require the industry to comply with the Clean Water Act? (since Dick Cheney got them excluded from it)
Emily Kimball (Editor) December 19, 2011 at 08:57 PM
I asked that and the response was that it was scheduled for today and he is expected in Washington for a vote this evening, so the meeting had to be held in the afternoon.
Emily December 19, 2011 at 09:02 PM
I attended most of Rep. Harris' Town Hall today and was deeply disturbed by what I heard. He clearly does not have the interests of the residents of Perry Hall (the majority of which are Democrats) anywhere in his agenda. His remarks certainly reinforced the stereotype that the Republican Party is a subsidiary of the oil and natural gas industry. His total distain for the EPA was completely evident in his remarks. My only regret was that I had to leave to pick up my son before I was able to ask my own question. I attended this meeting in an effort to give Rep. Harris the benefit of the doubt. I have never attended one of these events before. All doubt was removed from my mind and I fully intend to volunteer for whoever runs against him in the next election. He does not represent my beliefs at all, nor do I believe he represents the vast majority of the people in Perry Hall.
Robert Armstrong December 19, 2011 at 11:53 PM
"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. That's not true. They have the Enbridge/ Lakehead pipeline. It moves the product east into product tankers and then on to refineries in the US.
Honeygo Hal December 20, 2011 at 12:13 PM
The date and time were established long before it was known that the House would be in session, so that is not a valid excuse for the timing.
Brandon December 20, 2011 at 12:19 PM
because fewer people will disagree with him that way. Those of us who are working are otherwise preoccupied. Some are picking up the kids at school. This approach allows his groupies and retired people to be his audience.
Brandon December 20, 2011 at 12:19 PM
I am skeptical of his statement that there is no documented evidence that hydro-fracking is detrimental to health.
Snow December 20, 2011 at 01:32 PM
He held one in the evening last month. He's never going to please everyone with his timing of an event, the location, the day of the week, etc. What he can do is rotate locations, times, days etc and hopefully he's getting to more people that way.
Honeygo Hal December 20, 2011 at 01:34 PM
I agree - with hydrocarbons (oil, gas), if one 'dries up' we can switch to another. As far as I know, there is no alternative for water - so what happens if fracking contaminates our existng supplies? Do we then start importing that from a foreign country, or turn to expensive desalinization? I am not totally against fracking, I just want to see it proven to be safe beyond the shadow of a doubt. Rep. Harris mentioned that the recent findings of contamination were from wells drilled decades ago - is that what we want to chance leaving for our children? Figure it out, and then drill your frackin' heart out.
Snow December 20, 2011 at 01:36 PM
How much more energy consumption does it take to use this route and does it truly carry as much as the pipeline would? I don't know anything about this option, but that's my first question is how efficient is it? Then if it's efficient then why aren't we promoting it?
John Doe December 20, 2011 at 02:56 PM
Big Oil = Andy's friends...People without jobs/low-wage earners = not Andy's friends. This guy can't wait to blame others - VOTE HIM OUT!
John Doe December 20, 2011 at 02:59 PM
He actually talks down to "environmentalists" - explain to this man that once the environment goes, we go, too. VOTE HIM OUT!
Tim December 20, 2011 at 03:23 PM
What Hal said (re: Natural Gas/fracking) oh and Snow, I'll get to your questions later today re: "What would I do" above. I've just been really busy this week despite half of the building being empty. Work is still finding me somehow.
John Doe December 20, 2011 at 05:47 PM
Here is the agenda for Congressman Harris: 1. Fire Nancy Pelosi. 2. Stick to GOP memo. 3. When in doubt, blame Obama.
Tim December 20, 2011 at 05:53 PM
to be fair, I don't like Harris either, but I completely agree with point 1. Pelosi is awful.
John Doe December 20, 2011 at 06:00 PM
This may be true, but to wear a 'Fire Pelosi' pin while you are campaigning is quite juvenile. Go to his website - his achievements are few.
Tim December 20, 2011 at 06:33 PM
Hey I'm surprised he wasn't wearing a "Fire Obama" pin too :D
John Doe December 20, 2011 at 09:10 PM
I think 'Snow' is actually Congressman Harris.
Honeygo Hal December 20, 2011 at 09:20 PM
A 'snowjob' as it were? ;-)
Snow December 20, 2011 at 09:24 PM
That's funny Corey. Harris can't even update his Facebook page daily or answer questions posted on his page, I doubt he has even read the Patch comments. I don't agree with Harris on many things, but I also see some middle ground and compromise. If we don't discuss ideas and ask questions, how are we supposed to find answers and compile a plan that actually moves us forward. No one is going to get what they want entirely, that's the nature of democracy. I have asked questions on this thread, because I want to know what other people think, what other ideas for solutions are out there. If all you do is ridicule another individual then you are part of the problem, if you converse then you can be part of the solution. Shouldn't we all be communicating? Ask, answer, go back and forth - that's a start.
John Doe December 20, 2011 at 09:35 PM
Snow - why don't you identify yourself? Do you even live in this area? Also, I am 100% behind compromise - I have said this in previous posts. I am not ridiculing Andy Harris - what I have posted are facts. His main goals are/were to fire Nancy Pelosi, stick to his GOP talking points, blame Obama at any given chance, and coddle big oil companies. He is not a compromising representative. Prove me wrong...after you identify yourself, of course. I still think you are Andy Harris.
Snow December 20, 2011 at 09:58 PM
I do live in the area and Harris is who we currently have to "work with". So we can either keep telling him our opinions, wants and needs and work on getting someone better in in 2012 or we can fight amongst ourselves and we get nothing done - just like Congress. Where are your suggestions for compromise Corey? I don't read any above. What are your positions, what are you willing to compromise to, etc? I'd also like to point out that it's been the political norm to "blame _____" depending on who's in office. For 8 years it was blame Bush, for the last 2 (almost 3) it's been blame Obama. It's just sad leadership for anyone to do it. It doesn't solve anything. Attacking me, attacking my name - doesn't do anything except take the discussion off course. Talk to me about your ideas, start discussions on the environment and solutions - answer my questions and help educate others.
Honeygo Hal December 21, 2011 at 11:44 AM
I apologize for attacking your name - I am predisposed to go for the joke. No harm intended.
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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