Herrera Beutler: ‘Super committee’ won’t cure ills




The new congressional “super committee” created by last week’s deficit deal won’t solve the nation’s long-term fiscal crisis, U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler predicted in a talk Wednesday at Vancouver Rotary.

Though she voted for the deal, she said, “I am not pinning all our hopes on the debt agreement that was reached.”

Even if the 12-member panel comes up with a plan that can pass the House and Senate, she said, that plan will whittle the national debt by just $2 trillion — and won’t absolve Congress of its responsibility for solving the nation’s spending and economic woes.

“The real work of government can’t be done by a super committee,” Herrera Beutler said. “We need to have a robust debate” that involves the American public, she said.

One slice of that public had its say at a noon rally in front of the congresswoman’s Vancouver office. Nearly 100 people organized by MoveOn.org showed up to demand that the Camas Republican turn her attention from cutting federal spending to creating new jobs.

“I’m fed up with Congress cutting programs for middle-class Americans,” said organizer Tom Scharf. “The deficit will go down if more people get jobs.”

Under the deficit deal, more than 1.8 million jobs “will disappear because of this fixation with a long-term problem when we have an immediate problem: We have to get people back to work,” Scharf said.

He called on Herrera Beutler to sign on to a document called Contract for the American Dream. Released by progressives last week, it calls on Congress to create jobs rather than destroy them.

Specifically, the manifesto asks lawmakers to invest in the nation’s infrastructure, create clean energy jobs, provide a high-quality education for students from preschool through university, expand Medicare so it’s available to all Americans, support a living wage for all American workers, keep Social Security sound, end the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy, bring U.S. troops home from Iraq and Afghanistan, enact a tax on Wall Street transactions, and ban anonymous political influence in elections.

Herrera Beutler addressed the issue of the nation’s struggling economy in her Rotary talk.

“The reality is, we’re nowhere near out of the woods,” she said. “Everyone recognizes it.”

But, she said, “It’s been like a house on fire” in Congress as members went down to the wire trying to find a compromise in the face of the looming debt ceiling deadline. That issue had to be resolved before members could shift their focus back to the economy, she said.

Former Clark County Commissioner Betty Sue Morris asked Herrera Beutler how willing she is to tackle increasing federal revenue along with cutting federal spending.

“Everybody needs to pay their fair share,” Herrera Beutler responded. But she repeated her vow not to raise tax rates for households and businesses.

She said she does favor ending federal subsidies that prop up farmers, wind energy developers and ethanol producers. “If we’re paying you to operate a business, that’s got to stop,” she said. “I’m not afraid to close loopholes or even broaden the base.”

Bob Knight, president of Clark College, bemoaned the partisan divide in Congress, saying it makes it impossible for constructive ideas to get a fair hearing.

“You haven’t seen me on TV throwing bombs,” Herrera Beutler responded. Though she is a committed Republican, she said, that doesn’t mean she isn’t willing to work with Democrats.

“We have to be able to put … people before politics,” she said. “We are a divided government. That sets us up for the inevitable colorful debate. My wish is that we do it in a respectful way.”

Kathie Durbin: 360-735-4523 or kathie.durbin@columbian.com.