BEND, OR -- Congressman Greg Walden (R-OR) returned to Central Oregon, over the weekend, hosting a series of town hall meetings in Bend, Madras and Prineville. He faced a mixed crowd at Bend's Mountain View High School on Saturday. He expected to face questions about the partial federal government shutdown. He told the crowd, "It's very frustrating to me. Big countries shouldn't operate this way. And I'd like to see it fixed." A person in the audience yelled, "You're not helping," and he replied, "It takes both parties, and the leadership of both parties to come to the table and find agreement."
The Republican discussed the impasse at the federal level over border security saying, until recently, better border security was a bipartisan effort, "We know where the fence was built in San Diego, El Paso, and in Arizona, illegal border crossings are down more than 90%. So, it works. I want secure borders. You can disagree. How Many want open borders?" He asked, with a yell from the crowd, "It's not a black and white issue." He added, "So, let's start there. We all agree we should have secure borders." Also over the weekend, President Trump offered temporary three-year protection for "Dreamers," in exchange for funding his wall on the southern border. Democrats refused the deal. Walden weighed in, telling the crowd, "Temporary is better than nothing when it's about to expire. And in June ..." He was interrupted by a "No" from the crowd. "Well, if you're one of the 300 about to be deported," he replied, "I'd think you'd take a three year temporary extension right now." Walden went on to say he'd supported a bill last June that would've given permanent relief to the DACA program, and kept children from being separated from their parents, but it didn't pass the Senate. At least on one issue, Walden enjoyed universal support, "In July, I lead the delegation to the border, because I wanted to see it firsthand. We never should've been separating kids from their parents!" A statement met with applause.
Walden's support of the Trump tax cuts got another strong reaction. He believes they've helped Oregon families, "I think they've had a strong effect on the economy," he said, which was followed with jeers from the crowd. He also fielded questions about the timber industry, gun safety, federal legalization of marijuana and healthcare.
This was Walden's first Bend town Hall since April of 2017, a fact not lost on at least one attendee who said the Republican's failure to hold a public event last year makes his every word suspect. But Walden says he's always listening and working, "In the last two years, I've responded to 168,000 emails, phone calls, and letters that have come into the office; 42,981 of them from Deschutes County alone, so your voices are being heard."
On Sunday, Walden held town hall meetings in Madras and Prineville. He's in Burns and Ontario on Monday, before heading back to Washington, D.C. on Tuesday.