Rep. Greg Walden faced complaints about his two votes against President Donald Trump’s declaration of a national emergency during a town hall meeting at the Mt. Vernon Community Building on March 30.
Trump invoked the National Emergency Act after Congress did not approve funding levels he wanted for constructing a southern border wall.
Six Grant County residents asked Walden about the votes. One questioned his support for a border wall to stop illegal immigration and one asked him if he believed an emergency exists at the border with Mexico.
Walden emphasized his past support for stronger border security, including his vote in favor of an earlier bill that would have provided $25 billion over five years for a border wall, along with an increase in judges, agents and other resources.
Trump didn’t provide sufficient support for that earlier bill, Walden said, and the president changed his mind over wall funding after that. Trump’s use of the 1976 National Emergency Act is not the correct way to handle the funding issue, he said.
Walden said he voted against Trump’s use of the act because he had sworn to uphold the U.S. Constitution and the separation of powers it provides. Congress holds the power of the purse, he said, and allowing a president to circumvent that process creates a “slippery slope.” He said he voted to override Trump’s veto because it was his principle to stick with his initial vote.
Walden applauded the Forest Service’s decision to withdraw the Blue Mountains Forest Plan Revision. He said the agency put a lot of work into the plan, and it was a tragedy how it finished.
In response to a question by King Williams, Walden said he would support eliminating the “east side screens” rule that prohibits cutting trees that measure more than 21 inches in diameter at breast height. Sales of merchantable timber could help support forest management that is needed to prevent wildfires, he said.
Mark Webb noted that Trump’s proposed budget cuts to the Forest Service would be counterproductive to forest management. Walden responded that he hadn’t seen a Trump budget yet that could pass in Congress. He also noted that he supports legislation to ensure continued Secure Rural Schools and payment in lieu of taxes funding to rural Oregon counties.
Susan Church asked about the Trump administration’s plan to eliminate Obamacare without having a replacement health care plan ready to implement. Walden noted that the issue is contingent on a court ruling that has been appealed and could take years to resolve.
Walden said he supports protecting people with pre-existing health conditions and noted that Trump has leaned in hard to force pharmaceutical companies to lower the cost of prescription drugs.
But he also noted that the military-industrial complex pales in comparison to the power of the health care industry. He wanted to know why health care costs continue to increase, and he said he disagreed with Trump about cutting funding to medical research.
Walden has held 168 town hall meetings across Oregon’s Second Congressional District since 2012, including one in each of the district’s 20 rural counties in central, southern and eastern Oregon this year. He has served as chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Communications and Technology.
First elected to the Oregon House of Representatives in 1988, Walden served in the house until 1995 when he was appointed to the Oregon State Senate to fill a vacancy. He served in the senate from January 1995 to January 1997 and was succeeded by Ted Ferrioli. Walden was elected to the U.S. House in 1998 and has won 11 successive elections by significant majorities.