Congresswoman talks town halls, confirms re-election bid

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If there was any question, first-time Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler confirmed Monday that she will run for re-election in the fall.

During a question-and-answer session with The Columbian’s editorial board, the Camas Republican also discussed government spending, environmental regulations and redistricting. She also said she has no immediate plans to resume the large-scale town hall meetings she replaced last year with smaller meetings with invited constituents over coffee.

Herrera Beutler said her last large town hall meeting got out of hand. People booed and hissed, and it began to resemble the “Jerry Springer Show,” she said.

At that town hall meeting in Vancouver last year, Herrera Beutler fielded angry questions about her support for restructuring Medicare and endured catcalls over her vote for the controversial Republican 10-year budget blueprint that included the Medicare language.

A woman in attendance told Herrera Beutler after the meeting that she was planning to ask a question but changed her mind because of the unruly environment.

“I’m not going to put everyone through that,” Herrera Beutler said.

The congresswoman said she will continue her coffees, which tend to be less publicized. Visitors to her website, http://herrerabeutler.house.gov, are invited to send her their telephone numbers so they can be alerted when a coffee is scheduled nearby.

On government spending, Herrera Beutler said she supports a constitutional amendment requiring the federal government to balance its budget while preserving Social Security.

“You’re never going to be as popular for saying no,” she said. “But you have to.”

Herrera Beutler said each year, the government increases its deficit by $1.5 trillion, and it should only spend the money it has. According to FactCheck.org, deficit spending was $1.4 trillion in 2009, $1.3 trillion in 2010 and 2011, and the Congressional Budget Office expects the deficit will be $973 billion this year.

Herrera Beutler also said she wants to require those creating environmental regulations to consider the effect of each regulation on the economy. She said she disagrees with some of her Republican peers who want to dismantle the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

“That’s silly,” she said.

When asked about the controversial Stop Online Piracy Act after the editorial board meeting, Herrera Beutler said she would need to do more research, but she has concerns about what the proposal would mean for consumers and free enterprise. The act would make it easier to prosecute online trafficking of copyrighted or counterfeited material, but some opponents worry it would impose online censorship.

Herrera Beutler, 33, became U.S. representative for the 3rd District in 2011 after a three-year stint as a state representative for Clark County’s 18th District. So far, two Democrats have announced they will challenge her in the fall: career educator Elizabeth Uelmen, 52, of Camas and former Navy pilot Jon T. Haugen, 52, of Vancouver.

Thanks to redistricting spurred by the 2010 Census, the 3rd District is expected to become more conservative, as it will lose voters from Olympia and gain voters from Klickitat County, east of the Cascades.

“I’m going to have to do some learning,” Herrera Beutler said of the new county in her district. “There are changes, but it’s not insurmountable for me.”

Stevie Mathieu: 360-735-4523 or stevie.mathieu@columbian.com or www.facebook.com/reportermathieu or www.twitter.com/col_politics