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'Anybody but Andy' in Maryland's 1st District

Amid the ever-stormy seas of American politics in 2019, it is often easy to overlook the minutiae of the work our elected officials are ostensibly undertaking in Washington. As President Donald Trump and his battalion of brown-nosers slurp all the oxygen from meaningful discourse with their untethered claims of treason and the like, the real work of governance is often the casualty. But perhaps this is the point. Can anyone in Washington, let alone in the administration, articulate the Trump administration’s plans for immigration reform, health care, or any other policy of import? If you jangle car keys in front of a toddler long enough, he will eventually be distracted from the forbidding syringe in the doctor’s hand. And such are the tactics from Team Trump.

This tactic of “distract, don’t govern” became abundantly clear last week as the House Appropriations Committee approved a massive increase in funding for numerous environmental causes including a immense hike for revitalizing the Chesapeake Bay (“Instead of Trump proposal to cut Chesapeake Bay Program, U.S. House panel passes bill increasing its budget,” May 22). Given that the Chesapeake is both the literal and figurative spine of my home state, I was thrilled to see House members rebuffing President Trump’s plans to cut nearly all such funding. Maryland’s Republican Gov. Larry Hogan immediately took to Twitter, writing, “I am calling on the full House to support this common sense action to help us continue our historic progress improving the health of this national treasure.” Despite the resounding, bipartisan support of Marylanders, one of Maryland’s congressmen — indeed, the congressman whose district encompasses the entire Eastern Shore — quietly voted “no.”

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Republican Rep. Andy Harris has represented Maryland’s 1st District in the U.S. House of Representatives since 2011. It’s a notoriously red district and was cynically gerrymandered by the Democratic state legislature to ensure seven of eight congressional seats stayed in the hands of Democrats. An unintended, but very real consequence of this cynicism is the empowerment of man like Andy Harris who quietly lives on the government dole while ignoring the pressing needs of his constituents. Let’s look at Congressman Harris’ “accomplishments,” shall we?

According to govtrack.us regarding his time in Congress, Mr. Harris has introduced fewer pieces of legislation than any other member of Maryland’s delegation, joined bipartisan bills the least often and has never once supported a bill aimed at ensuring government transparency. According to the U.S. Library of Congress, in his decade-plus on the Hill, my esteemed congressman has managed to sponsor just one bill that became law. Was it tax reform? Or health care? No. His single piece of legislation that passed in Congress successfully renamed a post office (seriously). It is difficult to imagine someone being less effective. And now, as the state’s uber-popular Republican governor calls on the U.S. Congress to adopt a measure that would bring jobs and environmental stability to Mr. Harris’ district, he votes no. To reiterate for effect: the man tasked with representing more Marylanders dependent on the Chesapeake Bay than any other, defied both his Democratic colleagues and Maryland’s Republican governor to vote “no” on funding for the bay. Let that sink in.

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As the calloused recipient of innumerable stock and platitudinal responses from him on issues concerning the district, I no longer expect honesty or transparency from Mr. Harris. He seems quite content to collect his government paycheck while surreptitiously voting against the interests of his constituents time and again — and this is our fault as citizens. Free-riders and grifters earn such labels for a reason and normally exact the ire of traditional conservatives, the majority constituency of Mr. Harris. An early New Year’s resolution for my fellow citizens of Maryland 1st ought to be holding Mr. Harris to account by demanding more, both legislatively and ethically. Let’s mandate he answer for his votes and ineffectual representation. It’s our obligation. And next November, I’ll settle for “Anybody But Andy.”

Patrick G. Muth, Baldwin


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