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COVID-19 in Maryland Government & Politics

99 Questions for Rep. Andy Harris, MD

Rep. Andrew P. Harris (R). Official congressional photo

The United States is in turmoil.

The nation is experiencing a massive spike in COVID-19 cases at a time when other nations are getting their outbreaks under control.

Unidentified federal forces used violence against peaceful protests near the White House last month to facilitate a presidential photo-op, while armed federal police are conducting operations on the streets of Portland, Ore., and other U.S. cities against the wishes of state and local officials.

Calls to reform policing have gone mainstream in the wake of the deaths of unarmed Black Americans.

The nation is in a trade war with China and the budget deficit has never been higher.

The COVID-19 crisis produced an unemployment spike not seen since the Great Depression and there are fears of an eviction crisis that could leave countless families homeless.

President Trump has stoked white nationalist sentiment, strained relations with U.S. allies and uttered more than 20,000 false or misleading statements, according to a Washington Post analysis.

The president refuses to say if he will accept the results of the November election.

In short, the country is divided, angry and on edge.

Although Trump’s approval numbers are the lowest of his presidency, and Republican strategists and donors worry that a landslide victory for former vice president Joe Biden in the White House election could cost the GOP the U.S. Senate, the president has at least one loyal friend among Maryland officials.

Rep. Andrew P. Harris, the only GOP member of Maryland’s congressional delegation, has stood by the president every step of the way.

He stands in contrast to Maryland’s most prominent Republican, Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr., who has been unafraid to criticize Trump and has upped his criticisms as the COVID-19 crisis drags on.

We wanted to ask Harris, one of a small number of physicians in Congress, about the state of the nation, but he declined repeated requests for an interview.

We’ve decided to list those questions here. Maybe the congressman will choose to answer some of them after we’ve published. But even if he doesn’t, they serve as a kind of time capsule of where this country is right now – and vital issues our leaders ought to be addressing.

  • Are you at all concerned about the use of unidentified federal police to make arrests in cities like Portland? Have you relayed your concerns to anyone in the government?
  • On Monday, Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf defended these tactics, telling Fox, “I don’t need invitations by the state, state mayors or state governors to do our job. We’re going to do that whether they like us there or not.” Do you support the administration on this?
  • Would you like to see federal personnel on the streets of Baltimore City? Why or why not?
  • On June 1, federal authorities mowed down peaceful protesters near the White House 30 minutes before that night’s curfew went into effect. Shortly after the violence, President Trump strode across the street and held a bible aloft. Do you have any concerns about this incident?
  • Do you know who the police agencies were or who gave the order to trample the protesters?
  • Do you think police officers and vehicles should have some kind of identification, so individuals and units can be held accountable for their actions?
  • The day after the violence in Lafayette Park, your Maryland colleague, Rep. Jamie B. Raskin (D), a constitutional scholar, said: “During this period we are seeing law enforcement officers who are working with great integrity and courage. … We are also seeing law enforcement officers who are disgracing themselves. Ultimately the truth will be known and the vast majority of the American people stand against these police-state tactics. This is not America. This is not our Constitution. This is an affront to everything that we believe in.” Any reaction?
  • The president did not speak that night in Lafayette Square. He just held the bible aloft in front of a church he does not attend. You’re a religious man – what message do you think he was he sending?
  • Gov. Hogan wrote that President Trump “bungled” the federal response to the coronavirus epidemic. CNBC’s Jim Cramer called it a “disaster” — one of the worst self-inflicted injuries in modern times. These criticisms are hardly those of partisan Democrats. What do you make of their critiques?
  • For the first five months of the crisis, President Trump only wore a mask one time, on a visit to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. Given how important masks are, has he fumbled the opportunity to demonstrate leadership, slow the virus and save lives?
  • Do you agree with the decision early in the Trump administration to disband the White House unit on infectious diseases?
  • Gov. Hogan said it was a huge mistake for the president to sideline Dr. Anthony Fauci. Is he right?
  • Maryland is in a much better place than states like Texas, California and Arizona when it comes to confirmed COVID-19 cases. Why do you think so many states are seeing their infections spike?
  • You are a physician, but you were the only member of the state’s congressional delegation not to sign a letter, on July 17, asking the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services to extend the Public Health Emergency (which he did on Friday). Why not?
  • Do you think the public health emergency has passed?
  • Many other advanced nations have gotten their COVID-19 crisis under control. Why do you think the U.S. is such an outlier?
  • You were the featured speaker at a Reopen Maryland event in early May. Given the outbreaks we are seeing in much of the country, do you think now that Gov. Hogan was right to adopt a cautious reopening plan?
  • Are Maryland’s largest jurisdictions right to take an even slower approach to reopening than Gov. Hogan has recommended?
  • Are you comfortable with local governments setting their own approach on reopening?
  • Our grandparents fought and died in World War II; millions who didn’t serve in uniform made daily sacrifices for the common good. Have we lost our ability to pull together as a nation?
  • On July 9, President Trump said concern about on-site school instruction is “political nonsense. And it’s only political nonsense; it’s politics. They don’t want to open because they think it will help them on Nov. 3.” Do you agree with the president?
  • Before President Trump last week canceled the portion of the Republican National Convention that was supposed to have taken place in Jacksonville, Fla. Had you been planning to attend?
  • If you were planning to attend, would you have worn a mask when you were indoors?
  • The Lincoln Project put together a video that juxtaposes Vice President Mike Pence’s optimistic statements about the virus against a graphic showing this summer’s spike in infections. Given his track record, is the vice president credible when he makes statements on COVID-19?
  • Was President Trump wise to host a rally in Tulsa, Okla., without social distancing?
  • Oklahoma is one of the reddest states in the country. If he is rallying support there, does that suggest his campaign in trouble?
  • Have you seen the video of campaign aides removing social distancing signs prior to the Tulsa rally, so the president wouldn’t become angry? If so, given your medical training, what’s your reaction?
  • The president has written that “the reason we show so many [COVID] cases, compared to other countries that haven’t done nearly as well as we have, is that our TESTING is much bigger and better. We have tested 40,000,000 people. If we did 20,000,000 instead, Cases would be half, etc. NOT REPORTED!” Do you agree with the president’s argument?
  • Would it be better if the U.S. did no testing, so we would have zero reported cases?
  • On Tuesday, the president told reporters that his administration is “in the process of developing a strategy” to combat the pandemic. Why do you think he waited until July 21 to begin this work?
  • Did people die as a result of his delay?
  • The governor of Georgia has gone to court to ban local governments from implementing mask laws. Do you believe this is sound policy?
  • Do you support White House efforts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act in the middle of the pandemic?
  • The Affordable Care Act has resulted in the first drop in the number of Americans without insurance ever. What would you put in its place?
  • Has President Trump done enough to show sympathy for the loss of life as a result of the pandemic?
  • Has the president done enough to thank the health care professionals who have been laboring through this crisis?
  • President Trump is pressing schools to open this fall. On July 17, his spokeswoman said, “When he says open, he means open and full, kids being able to attend each and every day at their school. The science should not stand in the way of this.” Is it clear to you what she meant by this?
  • Do you think schools should hold in-person classes this fall?
  • The president uses the term China Virus – and you have referred to it as the Wuhan Virus. There are numerous reports of Asian-Americans being verbally attacked by fellow Americans who apparently blame them for COVID-19. What is your reaction?
  • After the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., in 2017, President Trump said there were “good people on both sides.” Do you agree?
  • To many Americans, the president’s “good people on both sides” comment betrayed his responsibility to stand against hate. What do you say to them?
  • Do you believe climate change is real?
  • Do you believe that the causes of climate change are mostly man-made?
  • A new study shows that sunny-day flooding is increasing dramatically, with the potential for major impacts along the Eastern Shore and countless other communities in the not-too-distant future. Why is this happening?
  • Under what conditions would you support wind turbines off the Maryland coast?
  • The federal Bureau of Land Management sold leases on 139,079 acres in Utah to oil and gas companies, over the objections of environmentalists. Should historic land be sold off for energy production?
  • Why did you support the Trump administration’s decision to pull out of the Paris international climate agreement?
  • You spoke out against the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan. What should the U.S. do to limit carbon emissions from U.S. power plants?
  • After Greta Thunberg was named Time magazine’s Person of the Year, President Trump publicly mocked the 16-year-old teen climate crisis activist, saying she has “anger management” issues. Was this appropriate?
  • The president has repeatedly said that if America shifts to vote by mail, Republicans will be hurt. Do you agree, and if so, why?
  • Cynics have said that on this topic, the president “said the quiet part out loud.” Do you share their concern?
  • The president has said there is rampant fraud in mail-in voting. Do you agree, and what evidence can you cite?
  • If a convicted felon has served his or her time, should their right to vote be restored automatically — or should they be forced to take additional steps?
  • You were the only member of Congress from Maryland not to issue a statement when Rep. John Lewis died on July 18. He was a colleague of yours — and a hero to many. Why were you silent?
  • In the wake of the death of George Floyd and others, do you believe that police should undergo retraining?
  • Do you believe we have a systemic crisis in law enforcement?
  • Gov. Hogan said it was “disgraceful” and “extremely damaging” of the president to say that “more whites” than Blacks have been killed by law enforcement officers. What’s your view?
  • Should police chokeholds be banned?
  • The president once told a group of police officers “please don’t be too nice” when making arrests. Are you in agreement with that view?
  • Why did you vote against the resolution this week to remove the statue of Roger B. Taney and others associated with the Confederacy or white supremacy from the U.S. Capitol?
  • Gov. Hogan has said that — no matter who wins in November — the Republican Party needs to conduct a re-evaluation of its voter-outreach efforts. Do you have any concern that the party’s base is shrinking?
  • Would you like to see someone in the Trump mold — perhaps one of his children — offer themselves up as a potential future leader of the party?
  • Secretary of State — and potential 2024 White House hopeful — Mike Pompeo flew to Iowa for a series of events at taxpayers’ expense. Do you think this was appropriate?
  • The president’s tax cuts caused the deficit to spike. Was this a surprise to you?
  • Republicans controlled all three branches of government for the first two years of President Trump’s term. Should the party have done more to rein in spending?
  • What are the consequences to the country of running up huge deficits?
  • The president pledged to hire “only the best people,” but his administration has seen far more turnover than any recent administration. Can you explain this?
  • Why are some of the president’s most prominent appointees now among his harshest critics?
  • President Trump pledged to build 500 miles of new wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. He has built only 200, almost all of it replacement for existing segments.The Washington Post recently called it a “troubled vanity project.” Does it surprise you that a man who made his fortune as a developer is struggling to fulfill this promise?
  • Smugglers have sawed through and climbed over parts of the new barrier. It is also said to be eroding. Would you support an investigation into why the wall isn’t more effective?
  • The Washington Post recently wrote: “It’s hard to say which looks worse for the president — the massive waste of money that has been diverted from Pentagon construction projects to build his porous wall, or the corruption that has marked the process.” Which do you think is worse.
  • Recently Mr. Trump has criticized the group of his supporters who privately financed the wall, saying it was “only done to make me look bad.” Any idea what he meant by that?
  • Mitt Romney, the Republican Party’s nominee for president in 2012, said withdrawing 10,000 U.S. troops from Germany would be a “very bad idea” and a “slap in the face” to a key ally. He said it is a “heck of a time to give a free gift to Russia.” Is he right?
  • President Trump has consistently lavished praised on “strongmen” — leaders with bad human rights records — while creating rifts with our closest allies. Any thoughts on this?
  • What do you think of reports that Russia put a bounty on the heads of U.S. servicemen, payable to the Taliban?
  • The president used the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office to hawk Goya products after the CEO of that company endorsed him. Federal officials are not supposed to do this. Was the president wrong to post that photo
  • According to The Washington Post, the president has made 20,055 false or misleading statements in 1,267 days in office. Do you think it’s important for the president — any president — to tell the truth?
  • Mr. Trump withheld U.S. aid to Ukraine unless that country’s president began a probe of Hunter Biden. Is this how our system is supposed to function?
  • Should the presidential debate commission require candidates to release their tax returns and health records as a condition for participating in debates?
  • The president has gone to great lengths to shield his tax returns from public view. Why do you think that is?
  • Do you have any fear that the president has taken actions contrary to this country’s interests due to foreign entanglements or embarrassments from his past?
  • The president said the federal government spied on his campaign in 2016, calling it “a very grave crime. It’s the biggest political crime in the history of our country.” Have you seen any evidence to support Trump’s claim?
  • The Justice Department has had more than three years to look into this charge. Are you disappointed they DOJ officials have yet to bring charges?
  • The president has repeatedly said his hotels bill the government $50 per night per room.The Washington Post has done extensive reporting and can’t find a single bill for $50. Reporters have found many rooms that have cost hundreds of dollars per night. Do you think the president is misinformed or choosing not to be honest?
  • Do taxpayers deserve a refund from the Trump Organization?
  • Should the president have instructed the U.S. ambassador to the United Kingdom to try to get the British Open held at his golf course in Scotland?
  • Your colleague, Rep. Ted Yoho (R-Fla.), received major criticism last week for referring to Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) a “f—ing b—-” in the presence of a colleague. What was your reaction to that news?
  • Are things more tense than usual on Capitol Hill these days?
  • What do you think of Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), who has been criticized by some of your colleagues in the House Freedom Caucus even though she votes with President Trump 96% of the time?
  • Would you like to see the Supreme Court invalidate same-sex unions?
  • Do you think the nation is weakened when a presidential candidate who gets fewer votes than his or her opponent wins?
  • Would you favor national redistricting reform?
  • Did you support the president’s decision to grant clemency to Roger Stone?
  • Are you worried about escalating diplomatic and trade tensions with China?
  • Sean Hannity asked the president what his goals were for the next four years. He didn’t seem to have any. Did that surprise you?
  • Would you encourage Gov. Hogan to run for president in 2024?
  • Steve Schmidt, who ran John McCain’s presidential campaign in 2008, recently said, “When you listen to the President, these are the musings of an imbecile. An idiot. And I don’t use those words to name call. I use them because they are the precise words of the English language to describe his behavior. His comportment. His actions. We’ve never seen a level of incompetence, a level of ineptitude so staggering on a daily basis by anybody in the history of the country whose ever been charged with substantial responsibilities. It’s just astonishing that this man is president of the United States.” As a physician, do you worry about the president’s mental state?
  • Has the president said or done anything of substance with which you disagree?
  • Columnist George F. Will, a close friend and supporter of President Reagan, laments that, “In 2016, the Republican Party gave its principal nomination to a vulgarian and then toiled to elect him. And [stocked] Congress with invertebrates whose unswerving abjectness has enabled his institutional vandalism, who have voiced no serious objections to his Niagara of lies…” Mr. Will didn’t name you specifically, but… any regrets that you haven’t shown more willingness to call out the president for anything?What do you think a second Trump term would mean for the country?

Josh Kurtz contributed to this report.

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99 Questions for Rep. Andy Harris, MD