A standing-room-only crowd showed up on Monday for U.S. Rep. Scott Perry's first town hall meeting after taking office last month.
Both Democrats and Republicans packed the Fairview Township Fire Department to ask Perry, R-Dillsburg, about a range of government issues. But much of the conversation focused on taxes, spending and gun laws.
Barbara Sherry emphasized the need for legislators to uphold the Second Amendment by asking Perry to read the text of the Third Amendment.
Pulling out a small copy of the U.S. Constitution he keeps in the pocket of his suit jacket, he read, "No soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner be prescribed by law."
Quartering has not been attempted since the American Revolution, but Sherry reminded the audience that when quartering was an issue in the 18th century, the British came in and took whatever they wanted.
The country can't be in that situation again, she said.
"We need to be able to protect ourselves," Sherry said.
Perry said there's not much support in the House for any of the gun control laws the Senate may propose, which could include a ban on certain types of weapons and universal background checks.
He spent the first hour of the meeting educating the audience of more than 100 people about sequestration, automatic budget cuts that could begin this week.
Unless Congress acts by Friday, the cuts will threaten hundreds of thousands of middle-class jobs and reduce services for children, seniors, people with mental illness and the military, according to a statement released Sunday by the White House.
According to the statement, there could be several losses in Pennsylvania: a $26.4 million loss in funding for primary and secondary education, putting 360 teacher and aide jobs at risk; approximately 26,000 civilian Department of Defense employees would be furloughed, reducing pay by more than $150 million and cutting Army base funding by about $7 million; about 37,000 people would lose employment assistance and more.
"Unless the president and Senate talk about spending, I don't think there will be much movement in the House to stop the sequester," Perry said.
Sequestration excludes mandatory programs such as Social Security and Medicare, which eat up a majority of the federal budget, he said.
Perry opposes a 10 percent cut other agencies will face and instead intends to introduce a bill this week that will enable each agency to do its own cutting, he said.
The congressman, who spent more than 30 years in the military, said he's concerned about cuts to the defense budget and the effect they could have on related companies in York Counties, such as BAE, which makes Army vehicles in West Manchester Township.
But he said it's unclear what the full effects could be in the county if sequestration occurs.
Many audience members agreed legislators should go after entitlements.
"Instead of cutting the programs we pay into, like Social Security, they need to cut entitlements," a man in the audience said. "Why hurt the ones paying taxes? Sooner or later we're going to give up and become part of the taking group."
Perry said he, like many in the audience, has been behind someone in the grocery store, noticing the difference between what someone buys with food stamps versus those who are paying out of their own pockets.
While he grew up, his family utilized government assistance, but he said those programs were meant to be used in a temporary way and shouldn't be seen as an incentive to those who abuse the system.
It's unfair to ask hardworking taxpayers to keep footing the bill, Perry said.
"We can't keep killing the goose that lays the golden egg," he said.
When an audience member who described himself as a "liberal Democrat" suggested raising minimum wage, Perry didn't support it.
If someone now making $7.25 an hour jumps to $9 an hour, the guy making $10 an hour will want more too, he said.
"The problem with minimum wage is that everyone will want more," Perry said.
Vera Shannon, a Republican from New Cumberland, said she was happy to attend the town hall meeting, even though she chose not to share her opinions.
"It was nice just to hear what he thinks and how he'll lead for us. I feel like I know more about who's representing me after today," she said.
- Candy Woodall can also be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.