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Rep. Harris talks data collection, Benghazi and ObamaCare in Bel Air

Andrew P HarrisAffordable Care Act (Obamacare)National Security AgencyBarack ObamaChristopher StevensU.S. House of Representatives

Data collection, Benghazi and ObamaCare were the chief concerns of Bel Air residents when they met with Maryland Congressman Andy P. Harris for a town hall meeting Friday evening.

The Bel Air town hall was standing room only as attendees wrote down their concerns, in hopes they would be drawn and answered by their congressman.

Harris, who has been in the House of Representatives since 2011, frequently hosts town hall meeting in Harford County, Carroll County and Baltimore, which are his jurisdiction.

With the introduction of President Barack Obama's plan to end the National Security Agency's massive collection of cell phone data from American citizens to monitor potential terrorist threats, Bel Air residents issued concerns about losing their civil liberties.

According to Harris, a bi-partisan board has determined that NSA has overreached its authority on the monitoring of the American public and collecting data .

"Terrorism is a serious threat," Harris said. "But, the fact that you want to catch criminals is not justifiable to abridge civil liberties; that's why we have the fourth amendment."

Other attendees lamented a lack of accountability of governmental officials in the Obama administration, whose oversight they blame for the 2012 Benghazi attack, when at least 125 gunmen attacked an American diplomatic mission, killing U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and another diplomat.

"It was a disaster and a fiasco and no one is taking the blame," Harris said to the crowd. "We got this far because we continued to push for an investigation."

Bel Air residents also questioned Harris' support to fund the Affordable Care Act, also known as ObamaCare, which was slated to expand private and public insurance to make health care affordable to all Americans.

Since ObamaCare is law, Harris said he could not push to get rid it. He did vote, however, to approve cuts in the amount of funding granted to ObamaCare this fiscal year.

"That's a small victory, but it is one worth having," Harris said.

Gina Kazimir, 49, of Bel Air, said she was disappointed the focus of the town hall meeting was not on the "real issues" affecting Bel Air residents and their everyday lives.

"It was a really interesting meeting to see a focus on issues that are fear mongering and not on the real issues I see people dealing with every day," Kazimir said following the meeting. "Issues like unemployment, employment insurance, reinvestment in job training and education, I didn't hear about."

Kazimir said even the focus on the Affordable Care Act, which she emphasizes is a law, was not focused on trying to make it better. Instead, she said it was about trying to cut funding or get rid of it.

Harris supporter Bob Phillips, 38, of Bel Air, said he was displeased that congressman did not take a more vocal stance on the Benghazi attack and push for accountability in government.

"Partisan politics aside, someone died in the line of duty," Phillips said. "I would like to see Andy ask more questions and push for a congressional inquiry."

Throughout the town hall meeting, however, the bulk of attendees showed their support for the Congressman through head nods and comments defending many of his principles.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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Andrew P HarrisAffordable Care Act (Obamacare)National Security AgencyBarack ObamaChristopher StevensU.S. House of Representatives
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