By Casey Crowley

More than 30 people gathered at the Baker Elks Lodge Saturday morning for a town hall meeting with U.S. Rep. Greg Walden.

Walden, who represents Oregon’s 2nd District that includes Baker County, spoke for about 15 minutes about some of the recent legislation he has worked on before answering questions from members of the crowd for almost an hour.

Questions were chosen at random from a bucket of tickets. Audience members had to grab a ticket prior to the meeting and wait for their number to be called.

Walden was asked questions on a number of issues including health care, Social Security, climate change, immigration, the Oregon cap and trade bill and more. Walden, a Republican, faced questions about voting with Democrats and a few other Republicans to overturn President Donald Trump’s declaration of a national emergency because of a lack of border security. County Commissioner Bill Harvey, a Republican, and Chuck Chase both asked him why he voted against the president’s declaration.

“I’m asking you to go back and tell Congress we’re tired of it. We’re tired of altering our lives to survive and pay for all this garbage we are handing out,” said Harvey.

He also pointed out that the Republicans had both houses of Congress and could have acted on border security prior to the 2018 election. Harvey’s line of questioning ended with a round of applause from the audience.

“It is essential that we get control of the border,” Walden said.

He added that while he agrees with strengthening the border, he doesn’t agree with precedent that the declaration makes. He also mentioned that the money used for security is coming from military construction projects, but the White House has not specified which ones. He also said that he voted for increased border security funding multiple times recently and only opposed the state of emergency declaration.

“It’s sometimes hard to stand up for what you believe are constitutional separations of powers, especially when its your president and you support the cause, but to me the Constitution trumps the cause in this case,” said Walden.

Walden’s response also garnered a round of applause from the audience.

The Chair of the Baker County Democrats Peter Hall thanked Walden for standing up for the Constitution and voting to overturn the President’s declaration, an effort that ultimately didn’t succeed.

“There is a right way and a wrong way to do things, a wall isn’t the answer, better border security is with better legal immigration systems,” said Hall.

Hall also presented Walden with a proposal for a health care system where everyone would receive a voucher to purchase basic health insurance from any company and if they wanted more complex coverage they would have to pay for it themselves.

Though the cap and trade bill isn’t a federal issue, Walden was asked for his thoughts on it. He said he believes it would be disastrous for Eastern Oregon. He prefaced that by saying he hadn’t studied aside from what he has seen in the media.

“On this issue of climate I’ve staked out a position that says I’m for innovation, I’m for conservation, I’m for adaptation and preparation,” said Walden.

See more in the April 1, 2019, issue of the Baker City Herald.