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Sept. 24, 2020

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Herrera Beutler strides into House seat

Freshman joins new GOP majority eager for reforms

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• 2005-07: Senior legislative aide for U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Colville.

• November 2007: Appointed to fill 18th Legislative District seat vacated by Rep. Richard Curtis, R-La Center.

• November 2008: Defeats Democrat VaNessa Duplessie, 60 percent to 40 percent, to win full term as state representative.

• November 2010: Defeats Democrat Denny Heck, 53 percent to 47 percent, to succeed Democrat Brian Baird as U.S. Representative for 3rd Congressional District.


Washington D.C. office

1130 Longworth House Office Building

Washington, DC 20515

Phone: (202) 225-3536

Fax: (202) 225-3478

Vancouver office

750 Anderson Street, Suite B

Vancouver, WA 98661

Phone: (360) 695-6292

Fax: (360) 695-6197

Website: herrerabeutler.house.gov/

After a short stroll that capped an impressive political journey, Jaime Herrera Beutler was sworn in Wednesday as a member of the 112th Congress in Washington, D.C.

Herrera Beutler, 32, took the oath of office in the House of Representatives and now represents Southwest Washington’s 3rd Congressional District.

• 2005-07: Senior legislative aide for U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Colville.

• November 2007: Appointed to fill 18th Legislative District seat vacated by Rep. Richard Curtis, R-La Center.

• November 2008: Defeats Democrat VaNessa Duplessie, 60 percent to 40 percent, to win full term as state representative.

• November 2010: Defeats Democrat Denny Heck, 53 percent to 47 percent, to succeed Democrat Brian Baird as U.S. Representative for 3rd Congressional District.

The Camas Republican is one of 95 new House members elected in November, the largest freshman group in 72 years. Of those, 87 are Republicans, part of the surge that enabled the GOP to wrest control from Democrats after four years.

It made for a landmark day, one that Herrera Beutler said she approached with calm and resolve.

“I’m not so much in awe or trepidation on this. It’s more of, ‘Let’s get this moving,’ ” said Herrera Beutler, who previously served as a Capitol Hill staffer for Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Colville.

“It was festive, but it was also sobering. It’s just a heavy responsibility, and very much the honor of my life,” Herrera Beutler said.

As the full House assembled in its ornate Capitol chamber, she heard one newcomer utter, “I can’t believe this,” she said.

“But I thought, ‘I can believe this.’ It fits,” Herrera Beutler said.

“I am excited, I’m looking forward to this. It’s time … to put us on the right financial footing, before it’s too late,” she said of GOP plans to reverse Democratic policies. “I’m confident we’re in the right place, and we’re going to fight hard.”

One timeless memory did come on what Herrera Beutler called “a pretty special day,” however.

She stepped from a short elevator ride, after seeing that her husband, Daniel, and both his and her parents, found seating upstairs in the jammed gallery overlooking the House floor.

“I asked, ‘How do I get to the floor?’ and the operator said, ‘Right through those doors — welcome to the House,’ ” she said.

“I just had to stop … and take it in. I had a moment to catch my breath and realize, I get to be part of history.”

Down to business

Straight away, she was part of the 241 to 173 majority vote to elect Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, as the new House speaker, in favor of former leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.

It was a roll call, voice vote — one of the rare occasions House members don’t signal votes by push-button, she noted.

There was some paperwork to sign, including her congressional oath. Then Boehner swore in all members, en masse, before his first formal address.

Herrera Beutler said the speech instilled confidence in the GOP’s and her own cause “to cut the deficit, to get jobs growing again and to restore the people’s House to the people.”

Within 15 minutes came her first real vote. The House adopted internal rules for legislating, with the GOP majority reversing Democrats’ practice of allowing District of Columbia delegates a counting vote.

“I voted to return to the constitutional definition of who gets to vote,” she said.

Eager to act

Herrera Beutler won’t swing into committee action until next week. She serves on two panels, Transportation and Infrastructure, and Small Business.

But the GOP plans to swiftly vote for repeal of the massive health care legislation.

“I think that’s one to say, ‘We’re serious about this,’ ” she said. She concedes the repeal has no chance in the Democratic-controlled Senate. “It that doesn’t go the full distance, I say let’s replace it piece by piece.”

Even before that, Herrera Beutler will gladly join GOP colleagues to vote to reduce members’ office budgets by about 5 percent, she said. It’s a modest move, but sets the tone for more serious deficit cutting, she said.

This morning, she will preside over the first of many “special orders” House floor sessions. (Yes, those speeches to a vacant chamber, aimed squarely at C-Span viewers back home). Party leaders believe all freshmen should handle the gavel early on “to share the load,” and she volunteered to take her turn promptly, she said.

Private moments

After Wednesday’s brief opening session, each new House member was ushered to the Speaker’s Lounge for a private, ceremonial swearing-in. With her family (and official photographers) watching, Herrera Beutler repeated her oath.

She sported a recently purchased magenta coat for the occasion; otherwise, her black skirt and shoes were “nothing nostalgic,” she said.

Later, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers and fellow Washington Republican Rep. Dave Reichert welcomed Herrera Beutler by presenting her with a ceremonial painting to mark her first day in office. McMorris Rodgers said the painting of a newly hatched chick has served as a traditional welcome for the newest member of the state’s delegation since 1972.

The day ranks high, along with her wedding day and the birth of her niece, she said. Emotion did rise when she saw congratulatory flowers and a card from well-wishers in Washington state, she said.


Washington D.C. office

1130 Longworth House Office Building

Washington, DC 20515

Phone: (202) 225-3536

Fax: (202) 225-3478

Vancouver office

750 Anderson Street, Suite B

Vancouver, WA 98661

Phone: (360) 695-6292

Fax: (360) 695-6197

Website: <a href="http://herrerabeutler.house.gov/">herrerabeutler.house.gov/</a>

She and Daniel drove cross-country in their 1998 Ford Explorer with their two dogs and have settled in the South Capitol (Street) neighborhood, just blocks south of the Capitol Building and not far from the Washington Nationals’ baseball stadium. It’s an adjustment for all involved.

“My two dogs aren’t big fans of the cement everywhere. Neither am I,” Herrera Beutler said. “But, you keep your heart at home.”

Rob Hotakainen of the Tacoma News-Tribune contributed to this report.

Howard Buck: 360-735-4515 or howard.buck@columbian.com.

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