U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground, has said the U.S. House of Representatives should hold a formal impeachment vote in order to grant bipartisan legitimacy to the investigation of President Donald Trump and grant House Republicans subpoena power.
But in a conversation with The Columbian’s Editorial Board on Wednesday, the congresswoman said she disagrees with the White House’s current strategy to stonewall the House’s investigation altogether.
She said she understands the president’s unwillingness to participate in a process many perceive as partisan, however.
“I see the point, when one party is saying the other party doesn’t get to be part of the investigation. You start to wonder if this is going to be a fair investigation,” Herrera Beutler said.
Despite broad support among House Democrats to formally launch an impeachment inquiry, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has held off on holding a vote — likely to protect 31 House Democrats in vulnerable swing districts where Trump remains popular, Herrera Beutler said.
But Herrera Beutler said the vote is a necessary step. She pointed to the impeachment proceedings surrounding former President Bill Clinton, when the House granted subpoena power to Democrats and Republicans in opening a formal impeachment inquiry.
That’s crucial for public perception of legitimacy, Herrera Beutler said. It’s the difference between “partisan impeachment” and a “bipartisan investigation.”
“That has to happen here,” Herrera Beutler said. “Otherwise the president’s going to have — in the minds of the American public — he’s going to have the right to say, ‘that’s a total witch hunt.’ If they (Democrats) really believe they can prove it, then why not let us subpoena people?”
Herrera Beutler did not specify how she would vote if a bill opening a formal impeachment inquiry came to the House floor.
A “yes” vote would mark a major departure from her party; no other Republican member of Congress has said they’d support an official impeachment inquiry, according to a running list from The New York Times.
Herrera Beutler also repeated her previous assertion that she’s seen no proof of a “quid pro quo,” or that the president withheld $400 million in aid in exchange for political favors during a phone call with the president of Ukraine.
Until that can be proved, Herrera Beutler said, she wouldn’t support removing Trump from office.
“Do I think the president had an appropriate conversation? No. Do I think that was wise? No. But I don’t think that’s a high enough bar for impeachment,” Herrera Beutler said.
“It’s not about Donald Trump. It’s not about me. It’s not about who’s in charge of the House. This is about our entire institution and how our democracy functions. And unless someone’s going to be the adults and do it the right way, we’re going to make it worse.”
In her hourlong conversation with The Columbian’s Editorial Board, Herrera Beutler touched on several topics in addition to an impeachment inquiry. The congresswoman also discussed her recent spate of bills focused on health and child care, as well as tax policy and transportation.
Health and child care
Herrera Beutler touched on her legislative priorities over the last year, which included introducing or cosponsoring several pieces of legislation centered on maternity and child care.
Her ACE Kids Act, which would help make it easier for children with complex medical conditions to seek care across state lines, was signed into law in April. She cosponsored the Midwives for Maximizing Optimal Maternity Services Act, which allocates $35 million to midwife education, as well as a bill that would attempt to standardize newborn screening across states.
“We’ve seen some real progress on the maternal mortality front,” Herrera Beutler said.
Herrera Beutler also mentioned her Child Care Workforce and Facilities Act, which would allocate $100 million to help states increase the number of child care facilities and workers. The bill was introduced in March.
“We’re what they call a child care desert,” Herrera Beutler said. “There aren’t enough actual buildings, and there aren’t enough qualified child care providers.”
Employment, tax policy and the deficit
Herrera Beutler defended the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which decreased taxes for individuals and families and slashed the top corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent.
The result, she said, is a booming economy.
“I was excited to see the poverty level has decreased to the lowest number in almost 20 years. Real wages and disposable income is up 3.4 percent over last year,” Herrera Beutler said.
“Because we’re letting people, individuals, spend more of what they earn, and what we see is they’re putting it into the economy.”
The cuts are also contributing to a ballooning national deficit, she acknowledged. The country is in the hole $954 billion for this year alone; total national debt is now above $22 trillion, expected to reach $28.7 trillion over the next decade.
She said the current tax policy is preferable to that under President Barack Obama, when employment and economic growth tanked under the Great Recession. It amounts to a difference in how she and the Obama administration view the role of government and taxes, she said.
“I’m not saying it’s the only way to grow the economy, I’m not saying it’s perfect, I’m not saying the Republicans have a corner on how to move things forward. But what we were doing wasn’t working,” Herrera Beutler said. “If (cutting taxes) stops working, I’m not wed to any policy.”
On priorities (and Twitter)
When working with any president, Herrera Beutler said she tries to stay focused on legislative priorities. That was true under Obama, she added, and it’s true now.
“I tried to keep it within the jurisdiction of my job, keep it about the policies, (whether they) benefit or hurt the people I serve. I try to take that same tack with this president. At times, it’s more challenging,” Herrera Beutler said.
She doesn’t always agree with the current president’s use of his Twitter account, especially when he quoted a Fox News guest last week who said removing Trump from office “will cause a Civil War-like fracture in this Nation from which our Country will never heal.”
“This talk about a civil war just angers me, because I think it’s ridiculous,” Herrera Beutler said. “I think it’s irresponsible. How is that helpful for anybody?”
But Washington’s 3rd Congressional District voted for Trump in 2016 by a comfortable margin, she added, and her job is to represent the district.
“I also think people knew pretty well, warts and all, who Donald Trump was when they voted for him, and I respect where their vote is,” she added.
“I have my opinions. That’s not my job.”
The I-5 Bridge
Before wrapping up the interview, Herrera Beutler gave her two cents on what it would take to rebuild the Interstate 5 Bridge.
Ultimately, any progress will depend on the ability of state and local lawmakers to reach a consensus, she said.
“I also believe we need to add congestion relief to that project, because that’s what most of us deal with when we cross the bridge,” Herrera Beutler said.
She’s not a proponent of light rail. By the time a light rail project is paid off, the technology has become obsolete, Herrera Beutler said. She’d be more supportive of a bus rapid transit link connecting to Portland’s light rail system.
The congresswoman is also a proponent of a potential reversible lane on the bridge — a lane that would open to southbound commuters in the morning, and northbound commuters in the evening.
“They’re not expensive, they’re pretty easy to move forward, and they allow you to move,” Herrera Beutler said.