Across the nation, Republicans returning home from Congress are facing angry constituents demanding answers on a range of issues from the future of health care to what’s happening at the Environmental Protection Agency.
On a rainy Tuesday afternoon, well over a hundred people gathered outside of U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler’s Vancouver office. Some were hoping the congresswoman would emerge and address their questions directly. Others arrived knowing it was unlikely they would see Herrera Beutler.
Several people carried a cardboard sign picturing the congresswoman sporting a “Where’s Waldo?” striped shirt and hat with the words, “Where’s Jaime?”
Locally, the pressure on Herrera Beutler to host more town hall-style meetings has increased in the past couple of weeks.
Herrera Beutler doesn’t have any town halls scheduled during the congressional recess. She has speeches planned in Skamania County on economic development and a handful of meetings, according to her spokeswoman. Last month she hosted a town hall meeting in Vancouver that was punctuated with people interrupting and shouting over the congresswoman.
Kathy Funk, 64, of Hockinson, held a sign at the protest reading, “Have you seen Jaime? Please let her know that her constituents miss her and want to meet with her at her earliest convenience. Preferably before the 2018 mid-term election.”
Funk said she’s tried to reach out to the Camas Republican directly, but it hasn’t worked.
“It’s outrageous, she should be here talking to constituents. You can’t just see people who agree with you. You have to hear from people who don’t agree with you,” Funk said.
“Jaime has always listened to all Southwest Washington residents, regardless of political party or position on contentious issues — just like she did at her Vancouver town hall a few weeks ago,” Herrera Beutler’s spokeswoman Amy Pennington wrote in an email.
Telephone town hall
Herrera Beutler’s staff held a telephone town hall Tuesday evening, according to reader accounts, in which residents were called directly by her office.
“Town halls are one effective tool for Jaime to get feedback from residents, but so are telephone town halls, email, social media and phone calls. She will continue to utilize all of these means of communication going forward in a way that fosters the most productive dialogue for residents from all viewpoints,” Pennington wrote.
Art Simons, 62, of Battle Ground, is a medical doctor who showed up to protest outside of Herrera Beutler’s office. He said he’s seen firsthand what happens when people don’t have quality health care.
Simons said Herrera Beutler helped him cut through red tape several years ago when his medical clinic needed help. For that, he’s grateful. But, he said, she’s needed now.
“I respect what she does, but she needs to step up to the table,” he said.
Once the rally ended, the group shouted, “Resist!”
Margaret Martin, 82, arrived late and missed the event.
As she walked toward the people carrying signs, she asked, “Did (Herrera Beutler) speak?”