Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground, said she gladly takes ownership of the recently passed tax reform bill.
“I’ll own it because I believe the average person in our area is going to see a benefit,” she said Wednesday during an interview and meeting with The Columbian Editorial Board. “That’s a risk I’m willing to take.”
She said that if five years down the road it turns out she was wrong, she’s not wed to the policy.
“I have no problem saying, ‘OK, this has to change, we have to fix this,’ ” Herrera Beutler said.
Perhaps one of the largest criticisms of the tax bill is that while cuts for corporations are permanent, cuts benefiting the individual sunset in 2025.
“I think that’s a failing of the bill,” she said. “I cajoled as many of the committee members as I could on that issue. The answer I got is politically, there’s no way they’d ever let it expire. That’s not a good enough answer.”
In about two weeks, Herrera Beutler hopes to introduce a bill she’s cosponsoring with Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Ill., to make the tax cuts for individuals permanent.
“The whole goal is, if these are good, which we believe they are, why not make them permanent,” she said. “My hope is that if we just pass a straight bill, I don’t see how the Senate would disagree.”
Gun rights legislation
Looking back on what was a fervent political conversation in October after 58 people were killed and 851 injured in a Las Vegas mass shooting, Herrera Beutler said she’s more open to some form of bump-stock legislation.
“I was allowing the (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives) to fix it,” she said. “I felt like it was their mistake, but ultimately they need to enforce it.”
Bump stocks alter semi-automatic weapons to allow a firing rate comparable to automatic weapons, which are illegal. Herrera Beutler said she sent a letter to the ATF but hasn’t yet heard back. She said now she’s not opposed to putting bump stocks “on that same playing field as banned, as part of an automatic weapon.”
Interstate 5 Bridge
Washington is once again pushing to replace the I-5 Bridge. Vancouver Mayor Anne McEnerny-Ogle has said she wants to ensure that the bridge includes mass transit. Herrera Beutler said she’s open, but only to bus rapid transit.
“I’m opposed to light rail, adamantly, because a majority of people in this region have said no to it,” she said. “(Construct) a bus rapid transit that could connect with a growing and changing Southwest Washington. You can still get the money that was available for light rail for bus rapid transit.”
Herrera Beutler said McEnerny-Ogle will need buy-in from the local municipalities, however, if she wants to push for mass transit on the new bridge.
“But if it’s a good idea that decreases commute time and improves safety, I think she can get the buy-in,” she added.
2018 election cycle and partisan politics
The new year marked the start of the biennial campaign season for legislative representatives. In 2017, four Democrats filed to run against Herrera Beutler for the 3rd Congressional District seat.
“It’s not safe,” she said of her seat in the House. “This district has had a Democrat for most of the last 60 years.”
Since President Donald Trump took office, the liberal base has been energized, she said.
“That tells me don’t take anything for granted,” Herrera Beutler said. “Fundamentally, I have always felt like if you do the job, people will trust you and you keep doing it.”
Working across the aisle might be the key.
“I personally feel we’re better off, especially on the big legislation, if we can get multiple viewpoints,” she added. “If you look at how I’ve operated, some of my most significant bills that have had impact locally, they’ve been bipartisan.”
The health care bill, for example.
“I think the health care bill would have been better if we’d taken the time to do it right,” Herrera Beutler said. “I think if we had put together a bill that had (Democratic) input it would have been really tough for them to say no. Leadership made, I think, the wrong play call on that.”
As for running for her fifth term, Herrera Beutler said she will still take things one election at a time.
“I want to take advantage of having a Republican administration and get some stuff done,” she said. “We’ll see if people send me.”