Clark County GOP chides Herrera Beutler for budget, debt vote

By Stevie Mathieu, Columbian assistant metro editor

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Clark County GOP's letter to Herrera Beutler

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U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler is under fire from Clark County GOP board members for her vote on Wednesday to end the partial government shutdown and raise the nation’s borrowing limit.

The board posted an open letter to the Camas Republican on its website Friday, calling her vote a disappointing surrender in the fight to reduce the nation’s debt. They also took the Camas Republican to task for a statement she made Tuesday expressing support for a budget deal that refrained from attacking the 2010 health care reforms.

“As elected representatives of the grass-roots and the local Republican Party,” the board wrote, “our perception regarding the so-called ‘Affordable Healthcare Act’ and ‘Debt Ceiling’ appears to differ significantly from your perspective in Washington D.C. As we see it, this is no longer about how to spend the citizen’s tax dollars, but rather now it has become an issue of distributing pain through debt to our children and grandchildren.”

The letter, signed by 14 board members, called the budget deal reached this week “a major setback to your constituents and the American people.”

Responding to the criticism, Herrera Beutler reiterated on Friday that shutting down the federal government and allowing the nation to default on its debt obligations would not have been in the best interest of the country. Failing to pass a budget deal could have resulted in harm to the economy and job losses, and a delay in benefit payments to veterans, she added.

“This health care law should be replaced with a better solution,” she said in a statement, but “at some point, you have to separate what you want from what you can actually achieve. No government shutdown or debt default is going to change the fact that until at least 2015, the majority of the Senate and the president (will) strongly support the health care law.”

On Sept. 30, Herrera Beutler voted for a House GOP plan to keep the government running, but that plan also made changes to the 2010 health care reforms, a move Senate Democrats vowed to block. A partial government shutdown began the following day.

On Tuesday, Herrera Beutler changed her tune, saying it was unrealistic for Republicans to think their budget negotiation strategy would successfully change or defund the Affordable Care Act, also called Obamacare. She called attacks on health care reforms a poison pill that was preventing Congress from reopening the federal government.

“Nothing positive will be achieved by prolonging this shutdown any longer, or crossing the debt limit threshold,” Herrera Beutler said in a statement at the time. “It’s time for my colleagues to face reality.”

The Clark County Republican board members ended their letter to Herrera Beutler with a quote by Martin Luther King Jr. about cowardice and conscience: “There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular but because conscience tells one it is right.”

The Clark County GOP’s board of directors is more conservative than it was in 2010, when Herrera Beutler was first elected to Congress. However, Herrera Beutler’s 3rd Congressional District, which includes a majority of western Washington south of Olympia, is viewed as an independent district. Herrera Beutler and Democratic President Barack Obama each won a majority of votes in Clark County during the 2012 election.

Americans for Limited Government, a Tea Party group, also took a shot at Herrera Beutler for her Wednesday vote. The group said that voting for a budget deal that doesn’t change Obamacare is just as wrong as voting to approve Obamacare in the first place.

Herrera Beutler said she isn’t going to agree with everyone all the time, but she hopes that those who agree with her priorities will continue to support her.

“I’m going to continue doing what I think is best for this region,” she said.