First things first, Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground, has a rumor to quash: She will be seeking re-election in 2020 despite rumors that she’s going to retire.
Herrera Beutler stopped by the Columbian offices Thursday while the House is in recess to talk about the issues currently facing Southwest Washington.
She covered everything from the state of an Interstate 5 Bridge proposal and tax reform, to the Green New Deal and her statement against the president’s national emergency declaration.
Here’s a quick look at her take on those issues.
Border wall funding
When President Donald Trump made his national emergency declaration to reappropriate funding to pay for his border wall proposal, Herrera Beutler said she did not support the move. Her lack of support stemmed from a need to be consistent, she said. If down the road a Democrat were to try a similar declaration — on Medicare for all, for example — she would speak against it. So for continuity’s sake, Herrera Beutler made the decision to speak against her party.
She characterized Trump’s move as a constitutional breach.
“The Constitution is the only thing that separates us or protects us as a country from anybody’s good or bad ideas,” she said.
Herrera Beutler does still support a border wall, or barrier, however.
“I will continue to support funding for a physical barrier,” she said. “If you believe in getting the wall built, this is not fast or quick or the easy way to do it. This isn’t going to get us there.”
Interstate 5 Bridge
At this point, Herrera Beutler said there’s no one in Congress taking the initiative to push forward an infrastructure bill to build a new I-5 Bridge.
“Everybody talks about it, everybody seems to think it’s a great bipartisan thing to do,” Herrera Beutler said. “But I don’t see the committees necessarily moving in that direction, which is a good indicator.”
Herrera Beutler said at this point, she hasn’t heard from constituents that they are unhappy with the new tax plan.
But she said she’s pleased to see wages continuing to increase, more jobs being created and the economy continuing to improve. Whether or not the tax bill will actually benefit Southwest Washington families remains to be seen.
Many families are reporting, however, that they are owing more in taxes than ever before. Refunds are also decreasing on average.
The Internal Revenue Service reported last week that the average tax refund was down nearly 9 percent from last year.
“Where we were at, the entitlement programs were going to go down, everything was in jeopardy,” Herrera Beutler said. “I’d rather be at this place where people have expanding opportunities.”
Green New Deal
The proposal known as the Green New Deal is designed to slow climate change, force industry to embrace low-carbon technology and address economic inequality.
Herrera Beutler said while she wants family-wage jobs, health care and free child care for everyone — all factors at play in the proposal — she doesn’t believe socialism works.
“I think that there’s a lot of good intentions, and it sounds really good, who wouldn’t want those things?” Herrera Beutler said. “But how do you get there?”
Herrera Beutler plans to keep her focus on the economy.
“Without a functioning economy, everything distills down pretty quickly,” she said.
The next challenge may be increasing apprenticeship opportunities to make sure there are programs available to get people into higher-wage jobs, rather than just putting a focus on ensuring any kind of job is available.
Health care also tops the list. While the math isn’t there, she said, to try and move forward once again with repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act, that doesn’t mean there’s no work to be done.
Herrera Beutler has had several bills signed into law recently concerning health care, most recently the Preventing Maternal Deaths Act. The bill offers support to maternal mortality review committees to examine pregnancy-related deaths and identify opportunities to prevent additional deaths.
She’s currently working on a bill to protect living organ donors and hopes to tackle the rising cost of drug premiums in the new session.