Congressman discusses flood management, economy, trade

KAREN VIBERT-KENNEDY/Sun-Gazette U.S. Rep. Fred Keller, R-Middleburg, meets with the Sun-Gazette editorial board on Wednesday.

With Congress in the midst of its annual late-summer recess, U.S. Rep. Fred Keller, R-Kreamer, said he’s using the time to further learn the concerns and needs of the 12th House District.

“It is a work month,” Keller said during a stop Tuesday at the Sun-Gazette.

Keller, elected in May to the House seat vacated by Tom Marino, is visiting communities, businesses and organizations in the region.

It’s all part of the process, he said, of helping to craft legislation back in Washington.

“We’ve made it our mission to be made available,” he said.

Part of that process, Keller noted, is having in place a good staff.

He said he hopes to make reaching out to constituents his mission, although he stopped short of promising to conduct public town halls for people to attend and discuss issues.

On the other hand, a town hall telephone outreach session can be an effective means of reaching out to the public, he said.

Among his concerns are helping communities along the Susquehanna River be better protected against flooding.

He noted that the National Flood Insurance Program, which allows the Federal Emergency Management Agency to sell and renew flood insurance policies, is coming up for reauthorization by Congress.

Keller said he is also hopeful of ratification of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), particularly to keep open a better market with Canada for dairy farmers.

Overall, the 12th Congressional District is the home to many farmers and industries which export products.

Keller said President Trump’s tariff policies are a response to China’s unfair trading policies with the U.S.

“The President’s interest is in American families and business,” he said. “The President is looking out for American interests.”

Keller scoffed at the idea that the U.S. may be heading for a recession.

“It’s people rooting for failure to make the President look bad,” he said.

Keller briefly addressed immigration, tax cuts and gun legislation.

His thoughts on immigration, he said, are aligned with a quote he attributed to the late Congressman Jack Kemp: “We want to close the back door of illegal immigration so we can open the front door of legal immigration.”

He said he favors tougher laws for those who hire people here illegally.

“People need to play by the rules,” he said.

He noted that the U.S. government has a spending problem and that tax cuts allow people to keep more of their own money.

Acknowledging the recent mass shootings in Texas and other places in the U.S., Keller declined to commit to specific stiffer gun laws, noting the wide variation in states’ “red flag” laws and his own sponsorship of state legislation requiring certain people subject to protection-from-abuse orders to surrender firearms.

“Anytime there is loss of life, that is terrible,” he said.

Keller called for better communication among law enforcement and getting at the root cause of shootings.

“We need to be thoughtful of legislation. I’m not going to focus on the instrument of crime,” he said.

Of Walmart’s decision to stop selling handguns and short-barrel rifle ammunition and banning customers from carrying firearms in stores, he said, “As owners of a business, it’s totally up to them how they handle it.”

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