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News / Politics / Clark County Politics

Herrera Beutler advocates for bipartisanship

As fifth term nears, she says Republicans, Democrats need to work together

By Katy Sword, Columbian politics reporter
Published: December 17, 2018, 6:00am

Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground, said it’s certainly more fun to be in the majority, but as she prepares to enter her fifth term in Congress as a member of the new minority party, she isn’t worried about her effectiveness.

“I think you have to have a little bit more direct path on certain things,” Herrera Beutler said in a telephone interview last week. “I do think it’s probably going to take some people by surprise that they’re no longer just a brute force in the majority. But the way my team and I have operated, I expect us to continue to be able to get results.”

She cites December as proof. Four of Herrera Beutler’s bills passed the House or were signed by the president last week. All relied on bipartisanship.

A bill to allow fisheries managers and Native American tribes to kill problematic sea lions on the Columbia River, for example, took 12 years to pass. Herrera Beutler said when it finally moved out of the House, she and co-sponsor Rep. Kurt Schrader, D-Ore., exchanged hugs.

“We made it look like that was something there was a total consensus on,” she said. “Right up until the last minute, I was working with the Democratic Senate to get that bill.”

A willingness to cross the aisle is how all members of Congress should approach their jobs, Herrera Beutler said.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re in the majority or minority, you don’t have to agree on everything,” she said. “What I have learned in my time in both the majority and minority is if your approach and your tenor and your tone is respectful, you can disagree agreeably and you can get a lot done.”

A specific plan of action is yet to be determined. Many of the bills that moved forward at the end of the session represented the remaining issues outlined in prior work sessions. Herrera Beutler said she plans to formulate a new plan in 2019, but expects to continue working on similar issues.

Maternal care, for example.

“I think the maternity care caucus will continue to have a good chunk of our attention just because we had success,” she said. “There’s a lot of low-hanging fruit.”

Making it easier to travel on airplanes with breast milk, for example, was a relatively easy fix that made parents’ lives easier.

I-5 bridge

Facilitating a replacement Interstate 5 bridge is also on Herrera Beutler’s mind.

“We have to fix this,” she said. “Moving forward, I don’t think anybody disagrees with that.”

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She plans to continue encouraging relationships across state lines, especially at the local level.

“But I was saddened when I saw (Oregon Gov.) Kate Brown comment ‘my way or the highway’ with light rail,” she said.

Bus rapid transit, however, is a viable option for Herrera Beutler.

“It still allows us to access mass transit money from the federal pot. We could hook that into the Portland system,” she said. “This is a tough pill to swallow for some of our Republican lawmakers across the river, but I think we can move forward. We need to move forward.”

And when it comes to Oregon’s plan to toll parts of Interstates 5 and 205, Herrera Beutler said Southwest Washington residents need to benefit if they end up paying tolls.

“I won’t yield on this,” she added.

A woman of color

Going into the 2019 Congress, Herrera Beutler will be the only Republican congresswoman of color.

Although the fact was a little surprising, Herrera Beutler noted she’s also the first Hispanic Washington representative to serve in the U.S. House.

But she doesn’t feel that she’s been elected in the 3rd Congressional District because of her ethnicity.

“I don’t think I’ve ever had somebody say this needs to be part of your message in D.C.,” Herrera Beutler said. “In other districts maybe it’s different, maybe this is more part of what the voters there ask of their member (of Congress.)”

Honoring Bush

Although there’s plenty to consider heading into a new Congress, leaders recently paused to honor former President George H.W. Bush. Bush died Nov. 30, and on Dec. 3, his coffin arrived at the Capitol, giving lawmakers a chance to pay their respects.

Herrera Beutler said she almost didn’t make it to the ceremony but in the end is grateful she did.

“I just felt strongly, the whole country felt it,” she said. “This is something I need to be a part of.”

As she recalled watching the living former presidents enter the Capitol Rotunda, Herrera Beutler said she couldn’t help but reflect on Bush’s integrity.

“I know a lot of people disagree with the Bushes on a number of different issues, but the one thing you couldn’t find anywhere was someone who took issue with (his) character and leadership,” she said. “I almost felt like we’re ending that era.”

The acrimony and hostility between the parties needs to change, Herrera Beutler said.

“I don’t want this generation to only know that acrimony and personal attacks,” she added. “That’s the legacy I felt was leaving that day. My hope is we can change it.”

Columbian politics reporter