He calls it a listening tour.
Congressman Chris Van Hollen, (D) took a tour of Frederick and Carroll Counties on Monday. Parts of these two counties have been added to the 8th District due to redistricting.
Van Hollen says his visit was a listening tour to learn what's on the minds of his constituents. "People are concerned about some of the big cuts that could take place in education. That would mean less resources for their students, and it would make the United States less competitive on the world stage and the world economy," he says.
Van Hollen visited McDaniel College in Westminster and Hood College in Frederick. He also took a tour of Whitmore Farms in Emmitsburg, spoke with local business people in Middletown, and chatted with patrons at the Great Frederick Fair.
Regarding agriculture, Van Hollen says he's fought in Congress to keep a program to assist farmers as they try to control sediment runoff from their properties that can end up in the state's waterways, and ultimately the Chesapeake Bay. "Farmers are very aware of the importance of having conservation practices," he says. "And there are provisions in the farm bill where I give them help in that regard."
Van Hollen also commented on President Obama's handling of the crisis in the Middle East. A number of Muslims in that region were extremely upset by a video that mocks the Prophet Mohammad, and many have demonstrated outside of US embassies. At the American Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, the US Ambassador and three members of the diplomatic corps were killed last week. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has criticized Obama's handling of it. Van Hollen defended the president's actions. "I think the president made it very clear that his first priority is to protect American personnel. And secondly to uphold American interests in that region," he says.
He also talked about "sequestration." In 2011, the president and Congress could not agree on a tax and spending package during their debate over raising the debt ceiling. In the end, Congress passed a measure to reduce spending by $1-trillion. If neither side can agree on a plan, automatic spending cuts totaling $1.2-trillion would go into affect in January.
"I'm convinced the Congress will act before this takes place in January. But unfortunately, there's no agreement yet. I'd hoped we would deal with this issue before the election," Van Hollen, the ranking member of the House Budget Committee, says.
For many years, the 8th District mostly consisted of Montgomery County, but redistricting has added parts of Frederick and Carroll Counties. Van Hollen says he's connecting with the voters in those two new areas of his district. He says on most issues, people feel the same way in Frederick and Carroll Counties as they do in Montgomery County. "Everybody wants to make sure their kids get a good education. They want to make sure that our infrastructure, whether it's our roads and our bridges, are sound and help get people back and forth," he says.