Walden talks issues at Madras town hall
A crowd of about 75 people greeted U.S. Rep. Greg Walden Sunday morning, Jan. 20, at the Jefferson County Senior Center for a town hall meeting.
Before opening the meeting to questions, the Republican congressman, who has represented Oregon's 2nd District for the past 20 years, spoke about the government shutdown, bipartisanship, Secure Rural Schools funding and a variety of other programs.
"I broke with my party a bit to reopen some of these agencies," said Walden, of Hood River, who voted Jan. 3, for a bill to fund certain government agencies and end the shutdown. "Let's have the fight with the border security agencies."
Walden, who supports the president's plan for $5.7 billion for border security, noted, "The president made the announcement yesterday, which the Democratic leadership immediately rejected."
"We have a humanitarian crisis on the border and a security crisis on the border," he said.
Citing his accomplishments over the past year, Walden said he supported the Farm Bill, which will "put a stop to fire borrowing," by creating a separate fund for firefighting in 2020; helped get funding for Secure Rural Schools; and reauthorized funding for the Food and Drug Administration, "with the emphasis of getting more generics (drugs) into the market."
With the first question, Maurice Langsev addressed the high cost of health care. "We need to let our food be our medicine," he said, adding that American health care has failed to address the root cause of disease.
"That's a really important point," said Walden, who supports the farm-to-table movement. "We can improve health by diet and exercise."
Madras resident Jim Kollen suggested that in order to reduce the size of government, "let's start with nonessential employees."
Walden explained that "nonessential" is just legal terminology, and workers in that category include a variety of people such as those in the Farm Service Agency, which processes and administers farm loans and crop insurance programs.
"This (shutdown) has real life consequences," he said, adding that "this work shouldn't be held up."
Sheryl Blackman, of Madras, pointed out that people affected by the shutdown "are hardworking people."
As an example, she said, "I went to apply for the TSA precheck (at the Redmond airport); they're working without pay."
Walden agreed, noting, "I work with public servants; we have some dedicated public servants."
Earlier this month, Walden said that he voted with his party to pay those employees through Jan. 15, "but only six Democrats" voted for the bill.
Pat Creelman, of Madras, said that she is "old enough to remember when Congress used to pass budgets every year. I'm appalled at this shutdown." Creelman added that everyone in Congress and the administration "should be ashamed."
"Here in Jefferson County, we have federal employees starting food pantries for their fellow workers," she said, asking that Walden encourage bipartisanship.
Walden responded that he wishes Congress would always get its work done on time. In the House of Representatives, he said that he believes they passed the appropriations. "In the Senate, it takes 60 votes ... We should get our budget done on time. We shouldn't be shut down."
This year, he continued, Congress passed numerous bipartisan bills. "We're a democracy; the big bulk of our work is bipartisan."
In response to a question on whether or not he believes in climate change, Walden commented, "We have scientific data that show the climate's changing and I think we're probably contributing to it."
Over the past year, he said, there has been a continued shift away from fuel, such as coal, to fuels such as hydropower and natural gas, which he said has about half the emissions of coal.
"I'd like to see us resolve nuclear waste; we've got to get the waste stream dealt with," said Walden, who wants to ensure that the safe and secure power grid can accommodate renewable energy.
"I support looking at new innovations," he said. "I happen to drive a hybrid on both coasts."
Marilyn Clark, of Culver, said that she is in favor of border security, but added, "I don't think we need $5.7 billion to $20 billion (for a wall) ... There are a lot of ways to have border security without a wall."
Clark said that people "can quickly tunnel under or ride a boat around" any wall that is built.
Walden said that the $5.7 billion proposed by the president is not just for the wall. "You don't need a wall from one end to the other."
More border patrol agents and upgraded intake facilities would be a step in the right direction, he said. "Part of what's in the request is to dramatically increase the number of legal teams (to process asylum requests)."
"These kids, they never should have been separated from their parents," he said, adding that he voted against separation, but supports more border security.