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Town Hall with Rep. Sam Farr

SamFarrNewDo you support The USA Freedom Act, which would end the National Security Agency’s controversial phone record collection program? What privacy boundaries do you stand for in Congress?

I am strong supporter of the USA Freedom Act and co-sponsored the legislation this Congress. Like many of you, I was appalled by the blatant disregard for the civil liberties of American civilians. While we must remain vigilant in our global war on terrorism, we should not trade in our values for a false sense of security. If we build too many walls to protect us, we may soon find ourselves living in a prison.

The recent reports concerning the National Security Agency’s collection of customer data from the telecommunication companies were disturbing. These types of programs have been a concern since they were authorized in the Patriot Act in 2001. This is one of the reasons I have voted against that legislation every single time it has come to the floor.

The USA Freedom Act would end these dragnet collections of Americans’ phone and Internet records. It establishes reasonable safeguards for warrantless surveillance under the FISA Amendments Act. The Act strikes the right balance between the security measures we need with the protections our Constitution guarantees.

Over the last few years, you’ve strongly called for more bipartisanship in congress. Given the current state of relations in congress, how do you suggest doing this?

Republicans have controlled the House of Representatives for most of the 20 years that I have been in Congress. However, I have still been able to advance a large number of issues that are important to the Central Coast. There is no way we could have achieved those successes without reaching across the aisle and working with Republicans.

I have found that if I talk with members with shared interests, we can advance those ideas even if we disagree on many other issues. Republican members cosponsored the Marine Debris Act I authored, the bill to establish Pinnacles National Park and legislation to end the abuses of online puppy mills. Without the support of those Republicans, we may not have been able to pass any of those new laws.

Searching for common ground should always be the goal of Congress. The only way we can move our country forward is by working together in a bipartisan manner. Both parties have their differences and those differences should be debated. However, we must always be willing to look for compromise to those opposing views. Unfortunately, there are members of Congress that have forgotten this. They have put partisan politics ahead of the common good. Fear of a primary challenge has made them focus on just the extreme elements of their party rather than all of their constituents. We have seen the destruction this polarization can cause, most recently with the shutdown of the federal government. 

But there is hope. Even in the midst of the stalemate that caused the government shutdown, many of us on both sides of the aisles kept working together to search for a solution. We were able to reach a deal that enough Republicans supported to reopen the government. Congress can build on that success. If we continue to talk with each other and, more importantly, if we continue to listen to each other, then eventually a solution will become apparent.

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