Rep. Harris touts national defense in Town Hall meeting

Defense, immigration, refugees and funding for Alzheimer’s disease research were among topics discussed by Congressman Andy Harris, at his town meeting Monday.

Harris, 58, a Republican who represents District 1 and who is running for re-election, hosted the hourlong citizens’ Town Hall meeting at the Black Diamond Lodge in Fruitland and answered questions submitted by the audience of about 50 people, including County Executive Bob Culver.

Dressed in slacks, a shirt with open collar and suit jacket, Harris stressed the importance of the United States being able to strongly defend its citizens.

“Without defense, you don’t have anything. We have a lot of enemies in this world. We have a lot of people who want to bring us to our knees. We’ve got to have defense,” he said.

In 1987, a year before he was commissioned into the U.S. Navy, that branch of the military had more than 600 ships, he said. There were 285 when President Obama was elected and there are now 271, he said, adding 350 to 400 are needed.

“You live in a more dangerous world so you have to have more power. You have to project power. I want to make a distinction. I don’t think you have to use it everywhere, but you have to have it,” he said, quoting Theodore Roosevelt, who advised, “Speak softly and carry a big stick.”

Concerning immigration, Harris said the U.S. admits 1 million immigrants into the country every year. “We allow a lot of people in … we have to look at the immigration policy,” he said.

He believes in welcoming peaceful refugees who are not a threat, he said, but countries “in shambles” don’t have the intelligence to provide accurate information about each immigrant.

He said he’s been asked if the country should stop all immigration, and he said no because there are countries like Canada “with good intelligence that can determine if the person is peaceful.”

“We have to be certain they are not a threat to the country. I meet a lot of people who are wondering, who down the street is making pipe bombs in their garage. Unfortunately it’s just the way the world is today,” he said.

Harris, a physician, said if Alzheimer’s disease was cured, hundreds of billions of dollars would be saved.

“I am convinced, as a scientist, we are going to get there. We are going to cure this disease. The question is, when,” he said.

The country’s annual research budget for Alzheimer’s disease is $400 million, and both the president and Congress have recommended increases.

“We are the best country in the world for health care research. There is no question in my mind about it. This is the place everyone in the world comes to, to learn how to do health care research. If you’re serious about it, you do it here. We need people who will take the risk and do it. We’ve got to think big on things like that, out of the box,” Harris said.

“Heart disease is bad, cancer is terrible but on a purely economic basis, Alzheimer’s disease is the worst … We should have some kind of logic in how we look at some diseases. Sometimes we get real emotional, but that’s not the way science works,” he said.

Harris also commented on:

Gas tax increase.

He said he will not vote for a hike because  money goes to 200 other programs, from bike paths to sidewalks, and not strictly to pave roads.

“Until every penny is spent on paving roads don’t even come into my office about it,” he said.

Moral law.

Faithful people are under assault by the current government, which  forces certain beliefs, he said.

“It’s tough to return to moral law without a return to religious belief. I don’t care which religion, but religions have a moral code,” he said.

There is a group within the Islam faith that has no moral code, evidenced in those who behead others because they disagree with them, Harris said.

Criminal justice reform.

Drug addiction, the Congressman said, is a health problem at its base.

“You need a broad approach that says, ‘Look if you’re a non-violent offender … we need to create an opportunity society,’ Some people don’t have opportunities — and it could be because you went to prison for a non-violent crime. We need to identify how to bring those people back to an opportunity society which is, if you work hard you succeed. What we want to give you is a hand up, not a hand out,” he said.

Able-bodied adults, he said, should be required to get training, seek or find a job. Otherwise food stamp benefits should be limited.

National debt.

“It is so high, we’re beginning to look like Greece, not the United States,” he said.

Costs are going to increase and the only way to not cut benefits is to improve the economy, he said.

“You can get out of the debt and deficit,” he said, adding the president’s budget doesn’t balance and the deficit has increased.

“We are not at war technically now. God forbid we’d be at war, because that’s when you really build up your debt,” he said.

“The national debt is now $18 trillion … Everything will pale by comparison to what we spend on interest on the debt. We have to return to a surplus, as soon as possible … We have to create jobs. We have to get the economy started again. We have to get on that path. We really have to,” he said.




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