Talbot Rising

Monitoring Andy Harris

A compilation of the weekly articles shared with our members documenting the reasons Andy Harris should not be re-elected:

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Talbot Rising Monitors Rep. Andy Harris

Throughout the year Talbot Rising has been scrutinizing the actions and stances of its MD-1 Congressman, Rep. Andy Harris. A Freedom Caucus member, he refuses to take direct questions at town halls and favors rigged tele-town halls. So, we are monitoring his actions, statements, and bills over the past year.

Among the highlights:

  • Support for looser gun control

  • Gutting the ACA

  • Restrict legal immigration

  • Supports investigating DOJ

  • Calls Russian Summit a “success”


1. S***HOLE COUNTRIES, Jan. 15, 2018

What was our congressman's reaction to President Trump's racist use of profanity to describe Haiti and African countries? He didn't criticize Trump, he ignored the issue of racism, and incomprehensibly, he tried to make it all about the use of bad language. Here's what constituents were told when they called his office and asked about his reaction:

"I wasn't in the room, and I don't know what was or wasn't said, but I would hope that the President would minimize his or her use of profanity. But even if the President did use profanity, he would be joining Presidents Obama, Clinton, Reagan, Carter, Ford, Nixon, Johnson and Truman -- all of whom used profanity occasionally -- some of whom even used it to describe their political opponents."

2. GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN, Jan. 22, 2018

Rep. Andy Harris is making chirps on Twitter trying to shift the blame for the government shutdown even though his party controls the House, Senate and White House. On Saturday he said “We wouldn’t need to pass short-term spending bills if Mr. Schumer (D-NY) would allow the Senate to debate the appropriations bills that the House passed last September.”  Do you know what was in those bills? They cut $13 million from the EPA’s program to reduce Chesapeake Bay pollution. The bill also had an amendment to prohibit enforcement of bay pollution limits by the EPA. Those are the kind of measures Harris would want to become law.

3. REGRESSIVE IMMIGRATION BILL, Jan. 29

Rep. Andy Harris isn’t content just to make miserable for Dreamers, by opposing a clean DACA bill. He’s also a cosponsor of HR 4760, which would upend legal immigration patterns. The bill would end the visa lottery diversity program and restrict family-based immigration, among other moves. The ACLU calls it a “collection of hard line provisions designed to sabotage, rather than advance, the possibility of a bipartisan breakthrough Even agricultural industry trade associations say it will cause chaos.

4. HOBNOBBING WITH EXTREMISTS IN EUROPE, FEB. 5

Rep. Andy Harris was among five Republican Congressmen who were reported to be planning a January meeting with right-wing extremist Czech politicians and the SPD party, which takes a virulent anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim stance. The Czech news site Britske listy says that the meeting was canceled because of the budget showdown. But the report raises questions about what they were trying to accomplish by meeting with Tomio Okamura, the leader of the far-right party called  the Movement of Freedom and Direct Democracy. After his election last October, Okamura, a businessman and reality show star who ran as a Czech populist, said, “We want to stop any Islamisation of the Czech Republic, we push for zero tolerance of migration.”
The other congressmen were Steve King (R-IA), Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) and Paul Gosar (R-AZ). 

5. SUPPORTING OFFSHORE DRILLING, FEB. 12

After previously supporting President Trump's call for offshore oil rigs, Rep. Andy Harris now says he supports it for everywhere off the East Coast -- just not off Maryland's shore, according to the Baltimore Sun.
The congressman may not realize this, but offshore oil rigs often  create little tar balls -- or sometimes large oil spills -- that can travel hundreds of miles. So if New Jersey or Delaware of Virginia are forced to accept offshore rigs, Maryland's Eastern Shore could bear the consequences, depending on which way the wind blows. The State of Florida recently was excluded from the offshore oil plan -- at the urging of its Republican governor -- because of the danger to the shoreline. The same could be said of the entire East Coast especially at a time when renewable energy sources are showing great promise.

6. CO-SPONSORING LOOSER GUN CONTROL, Feb. 19

More than a year ago, Rep. Andy Harris co-sponsored HR 38, the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2017. This bill, which has passed the House, says that states with tougher gun laws like Maryland must allow people from other states to carry concealed weapons, even if the state they are from had looser laws and even no background checks at all. That is the case in 12 states.With the rise in gun violence, this is a bad move, which even law enforcement opposes. It essentially makes the weakest state laws the law of the land. Of course, the National Rifle Association approves, having made at least $11,000 in campaign contributions to Harris during the past eight years.

7. IMMIGRATION INCONSISTENCIES, Feb. 26

Rep. Andy Harris is holding a Town Hall focused on immigration issues this coming Wednesday, March 1, and it would be good to ask him why he supports regressive immigration legislation. Harris is a co-sponsor of HR 4760, which would severely restrict such current legal moves as family-based immigration. Trump and his allies in Congress derisively call this "chain migration," but it was good enough to apparently allow Melania Trump's family to get permanent residency and a path to citizenship, according to the Washington Post. Good for the Trumps, but not anybody else? The bill also eliminates the diversity lottery, calls for DNA testing of immigrants and mandates local law enforcement cooperation with ICE police. The meeting is from 6:30 to 7:30 pm at the Joppa-Magnolia VFC at 1403 Old Mountain Road S., Joppa, MD.  

8. SUPPORTING A PUTIN PAL IN HUNGARY, MARCH 5

Rep. Andy Harris made news recently by opposing U.S. efforts to support press freedom in Hungary. From the Baltimore Sun:
Harris "decried the fact that the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor had offered $700,000 in grants to fund independent news organizations outside of Budapest, Hungary’s capital.
The grants are aimed at helping media outlets “produce fact-based reporting and ... increase citizens’ access to objective information about domestic and global issues of public importance. ”Once granted, the U.S. funds will not be available until after the Hungarian elections in April."
http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/harford/aegis/ph-ag-harris-town-hall-0307-story.html

9. THE COMPANY HE KEEPS ON GUN CONTROL, MARCH 12  

Do you think that arming schoolteachers is a good idea?  President Trump sure does.  But that should come as no surprise, since he seems to take his cues from Wayne LaPierre and the National Rifle Association (NRA). So do far too many members of Congress, which has repeatedly failed to enact any sort of gun control legislation.  They couldn’t even pass a law banning, or at least regulating, bump stocks, the devices that utilize the natural recoil motion of a semi-automatic rifle to facilitate rapid fire similar to an automatic firearm, one of which was used by Stephen Paddock to mow down 58 concertgoers in Las Vegas last October.

Is Andy Harris one of the far too many?  Is he a party to the “gross negligence” of which Sen. Chris Van Hollen has accused the Republican leadership in Congress?  Yes.  According to the Baltimore Sun, at a March 1 town hall in Joppa, “Harris said he would support local initiatives to allow teachers, such as military veterans or others qualified to use firearms, to carry guns in schools to prevent another mass shooting.”  The Congressman himself said, “I have no problem letting them carry a firearm in a school building because honestly, the way you stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” Paging John Wayne.  

In addition: Harris has sided with the Christian Coalition in opposing restrictions on the right to bear arms. On Feb. 20, The Baltimore Sun reported that, ”Rep. Andy Harris, the state’s sole Republican in Congress, has received $20,450 in campaign funding from gun rights supporters — such as the National Rifle Association  ($11,000) -- since 2014.” The Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan research group that tracks money in U.S. politics, cites an even higher number from the NRA:  $25,447 since 2008.  He is the only member of the Maryland Congressional delegation to receive NRA money. Since 2012, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, “Congress has not taken definitive action on gun issues.  One reason is that, “Harris…has voted in favor of loosening rules on buying or owning guns each time the issue has come up.”

MoveOn.org is currently circulating a petition asking Harris to “Give back or donate the > $24,000 with which the NRA has bought your vote.” According to On the Issues, a website that covers electoral politics, Harris sponsored or co-sponsored:

  • The National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act (H.R. 197 and S. 845), which establishes a national standard for the carrying of concealed firearms (other than a machine gun or destructive device) by non-residents. Authorizes a person who has a valid permit to carry a concealed firearm in one state and who is not prohibited from carrying a firearm under federal law to carry a concealed firearm in another state.  This bill supersedes all state laws regulating concealed guns.  He called it “common-sense legislation” on the House floor.

  • The Firearms Interstate Commerce Reform Act (H.R. 58 and S. 1691) loosens restrictions on interstate gun purchases.  In so doing, he and pooh-poohed the findings of a Project Vote Smart survey that concluded that the majority of respondents oppose loosening those restrictions.

  • The Veterans' Heritage Firearms Act (H.R. 420 and S. 798), which allows veterans to register unlicensed guns acquired abroad. We are now at a crossroads.

The horror of the Parkland attacks has brought this hypocrisy clearly into focus. We can’t turn our heads, pretend it will go away, or temporize any longer. It’s time to act. In our hearts, we, the American people, know what’s right. It’s not difficult. Dangerous, deadly assault weapons. high-capacity magazines and buttstocks, designed and used for killing people, should be banned. It’s that simple.  And it’s time for our Congressman either to get on the right side of history, or to get out of the way. -- PETE HOWELL

10. MARYLAND TOO TOUGH ON GUNS?? MARCH 19

Rep. Andy Harris held a town hall in Berlin, MD, last week that focused on gun control and immigration. And rather than support sensible gun control efforts, it seems he wants to go in the opposite direction. Harris said it was too hard to get a concealed carry permit in Maryland. That was by way of explaining why he supported a bill in Congress that would allow permit holders in other states to bring their concealed weapons across state lines, effectively substituting other states' gun laws in place of Maryland's.

According to the Salisbury Times web site: "First off, it is very difficult to get a concealed carry permit in Maryland, I think much more difficult than it ought to be," he said. "In many states, for instance, there is the 'shall issue' state. If you are a law-abiding citizen, you shall get a permit for self-defense. In this state, that's not true." You can ask him to explain in his Tele-Town Hall Monday.

11. BUDGETARY BLUSTERING, MARCH 26

Rep. Andy Harris proudly announced last week that he voted against the recent omnibus budget bill that funds the government for 18 months and averted a weekend shutdown. His justification: “The Omnibus bill was 2,232 pages long, and we had fewer than 14 hours to read it before voting on it. This $1.3 trillion spending bill will balloon our deficit and will continue to fund unlawful sanctuary cities. This bill also fails to provide adequate funding for border security and fails to address the need for temporary workers in industries critical to the economy of Maryland’s First District, so I voted against this bill.”

Harris' position contradicts his fervent support for the tax cut giveaway that he voted for last December. That bill  by itself ballooned the deficit by more than a trillion dollars, according to congressional researchers. Here's what the Congressional Budget Office said about the tax bill: "By CBO’s estimate, additional debt service would boost the 10-year increase in deficits to $1.8 trillion. As a result of those higher deficits, debt held by the public would increase from the 91.2 percent of gross domestic product in CBO’s June 2017 baseline to 97.5 percent."

And it was so hastily put together, that whole sections of the bill were rewritten in the margins. Now, it is so full of errors that Congress has to pass more legislation to fix it. Harris was following the Freedom Caucus decision to oppose the budget bill, which also restored funding for the Chesapeake Bay cleanup, which had been cut by the House in an earlier vote.

12. DISRESPECTING STUDENTS ON GUN CONTROL, APRIL 2

Rep. Andy Harris was at it again, with a town hall last week in Carroll County, where he rejected calls from a teenage student to improve gun control laws. Instead, Harris said the student should go home and write a paper on the subject. And then, after dismissing the student, he went after the city of Baltimore:

According to the Baltimore Sun: “If we want to do something dangerous today it’s not going to your elementary school, it’s going to downtown Baltimore. That’s what risk is. Over 300 murders a year with a handgun.”
But the article says that 43 percent of guns used in the crimes were from out of state, carried across state lines, which Harris wants to make easier with the carry and conceal reciprocity bill he supports.

Of course, he's a spokesman for the National Rifle Association, which has given him gave him more than $25,000 in campaign contributions over the past several elections.

13. BACKS TRUMP 90%, EXCEPT WHEN TRUMP’S TOO LIBERAL, APRIL 9

As Congress comes back from its recess this week, it's worth measuring how much Rep. Andy Harris lines up virtually all the time with President Trump, even to the detriment of residents of his district.  

According to the political stat web site FiveThirtyEight.com, Harris has voted along with Trump's position 87 percent of the time. That includes voting for the big tax giveaway bill that slashes taxes for corporations and wealthy families, and adds a trillion dollars to the deficit and repealing an FCC ban on internet providers sharing customers' data. And he also supported repealing the Affordable Care Act, an effort that ultimately failed.

Why not 100 percent? Most of those votes were to oppose funding the government -- very much in line with conservative Freedom Caucus positions. And Harris opposed Trump on disaster relief to Puerto Rico. It's all there, so you can see his support for Trump during the past year and a half as this year's election race heats up.

Harris also is backing Trump in his controversial trade policies, which are roiling the world markets and upsetting farmers on the Eastern Shore, who could see their crop prices plunge as a result, according to the DelmarvaNow.com newspaper. 

14. BALANCED BUDGET AMENDMENT, APRIL 16 

After voting to add about $1 trillion to the federal deficit via last December's tax giveaway to big donors and corporations, Rep. Andy Harris touted his vote last week to pass a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution. The House of Representatives failed to advance the measure April 12 despite the support of Harris, since it required a 2/3 vote, and the Republican majority only came up with a vote of 233-184 in favor.

But Harris nonetheless sent out a press release extolling the plan: “The Balanced Budget Amendment would have been a common-sense addition to our Constitution. Considering the fact that the government has saddled future generations with a $20 trillion national debt, balancing our budget is a critical principle to get our nation’s finances in order. Now we should consider President Trump’s idea to cut some of the overspending in the latest Omnibus bill through rescissions."

When Harris was asked about the contradiction of his support of the tax giveaway versus his position as a deficit hawk at a Salisbury area Town Hall last year, he said the tax bill would pay for itself by growing the economy. But he failed to heed the Congressional Budget Office's own analysis of the bill. The analysis says: "By CBO’s estimate, additional debt service would boost the 10-year increase in deficits to $1.8 trillion."

And the December tax bill has proved to be a disappointment so far even though it slashed corporate taxes and the inheritance tax for millionaires. The economy has actually slowed its rate of growth since last year. It's clear that Harris could have more effect on deficits by sticking to his principles on the Tax bill vote in the first place.  

15. SIGNS LETTER TO INVESTIGATE DOJ, APRIL 23

Rep. Andy Harris last week joined almost a dozen members of Congress, many from the Freedom Caucus, in a letter seeking to have the Justice Department investigate President Trump's political opponents. Yes, you read that correctly. Harris wants Attorney General Jeff Sessions to investigate Hillary Clinton and James Comey, and former acting attorney general Sally Yates, former deputy FBI director Andrew McCabe and former acting Deputy Attorney General Dana Boente (who is now FBI general counsel).

His reason, according to the Baltimore Sun, “This is the law enforcement agency of the nation,” the Baltimore County lawmaker said. “I think Americans resent if the law enforcement agency of the nation was being used as a partisan tool." Well, by trumping up a case against these Justice Department officials, Harris and the other members of Congress are turning the law enforcement agencies into exactly that kind of partisan tool. When the history of this era is written, such requests by the Trump administration and its apologists in Congress will go down alongside the abuses of the Nixon administration in creating  its own enemies list. 

16. THE MESS OVER TEMPORARY WORK VISAS, MAY 25

Rep. Andy Harris, recently trumpeted his vote against the five-year Fam Bill, along with colleagues in the Freedom Caucus, saying that the Congress needed to address  immigration issues first. Then, he blamed these immigration issues for the loss of temporary workers for the Eastern Shore's crabbing industry. Here's part of Harris' statement: "I voted against the Farm Bill today because I could not in good conscience vote to advance more legislation through Congress without a resolution to the H-2B visa shortage."

Wait a minute! The lack of temporary workers to pick crabmeat is exactly due to the administration's messed-up immigration policies. It turned the visas into a lottery program, creating uncertainty for seafood processors and everyone else. So Harris should really blame his own President and administration.

A story in the Washington Post reveals these consequences of the Trump immigration stand. In a mindless effort to crack down on immigration -- both documented and undocumented -- the worker visa program has been affected, leaving watermen, farmers and others without the temporary help they need. Here's a link to the article:
https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/many-maryland-watermen-deny-a-crab-crisis-is-trumps-fault-except-it-is/2018/05/07/0703a6c2-5205-11e8-9c91-7dab596e8252_story.html?utm_term=.a03ea1aeae85.

And the Baltimore Sun reported on the crisis in early May. Meanwhile Eastern Shore farmers are left in uncertainty about agricultural and trade policies that have depressed crop prices. And the farm bill itself will have to emerge in a less onerous form from the Senate later on. Hardly a way to take care of constituents.

17. WHACKING CHILDREN’S HEALTH FUNDS, JUNE 9

Rep. Andy Harris recently voted with the majority of his Republican colleagues to cut about $15 billion from the budget that Congress passed just a few months ago. The vote, 210-206, is for HR 3, which is called the Spending Cuts to Unnecessary and Expired Programs Act. But almost 20 GOP representatives opposed the measure because it seemed so mean-spirited.

Guess where most of the money is coming from? The Children's Health Insurance Plan. Another couple of hundred million come from fighting Ebola virus, and $150 million from helping farmers battle plant and animal diseases. All in the name of controlling spending and reducing deficits. Harris and his colleagues are now worried about budget deficits after voting to approve a $1.5 trillion tax cut for corporations and wealthy families in December. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that this would add at least a trillion dollars to the U.S. debt. And President Trump threatened to veto the U.S. budget bill after complaining about the cost. The bill now goes to the Senate, where even Republican senators have questioned the wisdom of clawing back money from children's health programs. 

18. HURTING THE CHESAPEAKE ENVIRONMENT, JUNE 15

If you thought only the EPA was messing up the environment, think again. Rep. Andy Harris and the House of Representatives just passed what they call a "minibus" (instead of an omnibus bill) appropriations bill: HR 5895. This bill deals with energy, water, military and veterans affairs spending. But within the bill are distressing provisions, like immediate repeal of the Clean Water Rule. That rule, enacted in 2015, aims to control pollution and runoff of upstream waters that flow in major bodies of water, like the Chesapeake Bay.

The administration is already trying to roll this back through an administrative process, but this bill would short circuit that process and relieve the administration of having to explain in public why it wants to get rid of protections against pollution. And the tricky thing is that the bill bundles in needed funding to make it harder to tease out unsavory provisions. The bill also cuts spending for clean energy research by about $500 million.

19. BAD FAITH FARM BILL, JULY 2

Rep. Andy Harris voted last month to support a radical farm bill that doesn't really help farmers much, penalizes those in need of food, and isn't even supported by his own colleagues in the Senate. The House version of the bill, HR 2, is formally known as the Agriculture and Nutrition Act. Harris' statement on the passage says: "Today, the House of Representatives passed legislation to help struggling Americans get back on their feet. This bill enacts common-sense work requirements for the SNAP (food stamps) program." Meanwhile the Senate voted on a different bipartisan measure by an overwhelming 86-11 vote.

But SNAP already requires able-bodied adults without children to work as part of the program -- this House bill extends it to adults with school-age children. The new provision requires a monthly proof of working at least 20 hours -- increasing red tape as parents try to justify their status and penalizing them if their employer cuts back their schedule for a week. And of course, the kids would lose their food aid as a result.

Furthermore, the House bill cuts aid to farmers and eliminates a conservation program that encourages farmers to conserve air and water quality, according to the Washington Post. Amazing how often kids and the environment always are targets in House's efforts.

20. STILL TRYING TO TORPEDO THE ACA, JULY 16

In his tele-town hall on July 10, Rep. Harris supported the Trump administration's decision to further undermine the Affordable Care Act by withholding risk-adjustment subsidies for low-income people -- payments that were an essential part of the ACA. The Washington Post reported that decision is scrambling the insurance market just as insurance companies are setting rates and making coverage decisions.

Harris said, "The risk adjustment subsidies were supposed to run out; they were not supposed to last forever." And Harris said they were not necessary for insurers who already make big profits as they've "gotten pretty darn good at estimating risk." That's exactly the point.
Many insurers are pulling out of markets as the administration chips away at the underpinnings of the system. And the huge tax cut passed last year by Harris and colleagues are making them even richer while gutting the ACA funding.
You can listen to more of his town hall here.

21. RUSSIA SUMMIT “SUCCESS”?, JULY 23

Rep. Andy Harris, along with several House Freedom Caucus members, last week held a press event to support President Trump's appalling performance at the Helsinki summit with Russia's President Putin.

Consider this: Trump dismissed refused his own intelligence agencies' conclusion on election meddling; he naively applauded an offer by Putin to exchange interrogations with our own diplomatic officials; we are only learning sketchy details of what went on in their private meeting from Russian media. Harris criticized the media for focusing on the press conference. But that's all the public -- and Trump's own aides -- had to work with.
"The summit in fact had two world superpowers sit down and discuss in a civilized way for two hours privately, then two hours with staff, the wide gamut of issues that are important to the world. I call that a success. A successful summit."

And also from Harris: "And I disregard and discount anything that involves the mainstream media press."

For someone who claims to protect key Constitutional rights, seems like he needs a reminder that the First Amendment (Freedom of the Press) is part of the Constitution, too. After all, who did he expect to come to the "press event."

And we should all remind Harris that Russia has been a bad actor on the world stage, from invading Crimea to attacking eastern Ukraine to threatening the Baltic states. Appeasement of Putin is not a great strategy for Harris to applaud.

22. GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN SHENANIGANS, JULY 30

The House went on recess at the end of last week, but not before Rep. Andy Harris' appropriations committee approved a Homeland Security bill that included $5 billion for a border "barrier'' and other measures. Did he and his House colleagues forget that Donald Trump promised to have some other country pay for it?

Now the president is actually threatening a government shutdown over the issue of border wall funding, according to the New York Times.  That came this past weekend despite reports of a Trump deal with congressional leaders to avoid a spending showdown.

So what did Harris do? He warned Democrats -- but not Trump -- against a government shutdown. Harris' press release stated: "The end of this fiscal year is quickly approaching, and the American people deserve a proper appropriations package, not to be held hostage by the Democrats for a series of short-term spending bills and government shutdowns.”

Of course, it is the Republicans who control Congress and the White House, so the ball is in their court. But with the incompetence they have shown in governing so far, voters will surely be looking to relieve them of this burden.

23. HYPOCRISY ON EDUCATION MAILERS, SEPT. 3

Congressman Harris has been flooding voters' mailboxes with big, 8.5- by 11-inch direct mail postcards claiming that he supports quality education. One of the cards quotes him as saying: "I am working to make sure every child has the opportunity to get a quality education that prepares them for a brighter future."

What the postcard (which notes it was prepared, published and mailed at taxpayer expense) fails to mention is that Harris was a cosponsor of Rep. Steve King's notorious bill HR 610, which would gut federal education spending and totally replace it with a voucher system for schools. Called the "Choices in Education Act," the bill would remove the Education Department from overseeing national standards on testing, discrimination and the like.

As a reminder, this bill, according to the official summary, "repeals  nutritional standards" that favored fruits, vegetables and low-fact dairy products.
The bill hasn't advanced yet in the House, but just imagine what will happen next year if Congressmen King and Harris get another chance at running Congress.

#24: BORDER WALL WASTE, Sept 17

Even after voting to approve a corporate tax cut that will raise the deficit to more than a trillion dollars, Rep. Andy Harris and his Freedom Caucus friends want to spend more money on a border wall. Their major  disagreement is to whether to force it on the country -- and force a government shutdown -- before or after the election.

In an article in Politico last week, here's what Harris' stance: “I have voted for wall funding, I think it’s necessary and in the end, after the election, I’m fine with forcing the issue,” said Harris, who’s advocated for a delayed fight as well.

The Freedom Caucus ignores the fact that a full wall could cost $20 billion and would not work, according to most people. And of course, candidate Donald Trump promised that Mexico would foot the bill. 

Given the Freedom Caucus' stranglehold on the House, it seems the best course is to make sure they are not in power after the election.