He was in Mt. Airy Monday to open a new district office.
Eighth District Congressman Chris Van Hollen was in Mount Airy Monday evening to formally open a new district office to serve residents of Frederick and Carroll Counties. It's located at 205 Center Street, Suite 206. The phone number is 301-829-2181.
While he was in town, WFMD News talked to him about a number of issues. He said he's disappointed that the House of Representatives didn't include funding for the Food Stamp Program when it passed the new farm bill last week. "This is the first time in what I believe in something like 50 years that the farm bill didn't include the basic food and nutrition programs for struggling families. That has always been a bipartisan part of the farm bill. I hope it will be added back as we go," he said.
The Food Stamp funding was removed from the bill, and is expected to be taken up later in a seperate measure. Many Republican conservatives in the House want to cut the program. "This doesn't bring an immediate end to the food and nutrition programs; nor it is likely ultimately to pass. But what it does show is, unfortunately, the kind of dysfunction that's in the House of Representatives these days," says Van Hollen.
The US Senate also has a farm bill which contains funding for the Food Stamp program. "The bill that's widely supported by the farming community and by others is the Senate bipartisan bill. We haven't had a chance to vote on it in the House," he says.
He hopes a bill similar to one in the Senate will be approved by both House of Congress.
Van Hollen also spoke about immigration. Recently, the US Senate passed a bill on a bipartisan vote that would secure the nation's borders, and allow undocumented immigrants the opportunity to earn their American citizenship. But he says it probably won't be given a vote in the House of Representatives. "I understand there are strong differences on these issues. But, in a democracy, you would hope that we would at least allow a vote. So I am very disappointed that the Speaker of the House is prohibiting us from having a vote, to allow the people's House to work its will," he says.
The legislation has strong opposition in the House from conservative Republicans, who say they want the borders to be secured before even considering any "path to citizenship."
Van Hollen he supports some form of a "path to citizenship." "I do believe that people should have an ability to earn legal status and ultimately citizenship, if they pay fines, if they learn English, if they become contributing members of society," he says. "You have a lot of people who are in the shadows, who are not taxpaying citizens. This will allow to us to make ultimately taxpaying legal residents and ultimately citizens out of these individuals," says Van Hollen.
He notes that a Congressional Budget Office report says allowing these individuals to become citizens will help economy, and benefit the Social Security System. "Because a lot of people who are working today, and not putting money in the Social Security System will now be putting money into the Social Security System," he says. "For a period of time, they will not be the beneficiaries of that. As a result, it will extend the solvency of the Social Security System for a period of time."
Van Hollen is hopeful some form of immigration reform will come out of Congress because, he says, the current system is "absolutely broken."
There are an estimated 11-million undocumented immigrants living in the US.