Wednesday, May 12, 2021
May 12, 2021

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Press Talk: Could Herrera Beutler be a player?

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Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler,says goodbye to Vancouver Fire Department Division Chief Ward Knable in an October 2019 visit to Fire Station 1.
Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler,says goodbye to Vancouver Fire Department Division Chief Ward Knable in an October 2019 visit to Fire Station 1. (Amanda Cowan/The Columbian files) Photo Gallery

Viewing 2020 in the rearview mirror is sweeter than the fruit from my backyard trees but — boys and girls — don’t expect this new year to be all peaches and cream.

There will be plenty of obstacles for those among us who just might believe building bridges is better than building walls. Mr. Obstacle himself — President Trump — will always be looming even after he gets booted out of the White House in a couple of weeks. He’s sort of like my leftover alici di broccoli fettuccine. Even when you throw it in the trash and drag it to the curb, it’s still stinking up the place.

But I’m an optimist and believe we might actually be able to get something meaningful accomplished in 2021. And I also believe that U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground could be a player in changing us from drawing lines in the sand to drawing road maps to success.

OK, right about here is where my right-wing friends are saying “Wait a second, what’s a liberal Democrat like you putting your faith in a Republican?” And that’s where I say “You silly dilly, I ain’t no liberal. And I ain’t no Democrat.”

Truth is as an independent I support and/or vote for lots of Republicans. Folks like state Sens. Lynda Wilson and Ann Rivers and Rep. Paul Harris. And Congresswoman Herrera Beutler. Same thing for Democrats like state Sen. Annette Cleveland and Reps. Sharon Wylie and Monica Stonier. I support County Councilor Temple Lentz. And Gov. Jay Inslee.

Of course I don’t agree with everything they do, but in the end you make reasoned choices about whom you support. And in this situation, I support Herrera Beutler in her efforts in helping to bring us together.

Why? Well first, if she wasn’t comfortable in her own skin before this latest election, she should be now. She once again summarily dispatched her Democratic opponent. She’s won re-election against sacrificial lambs, hard-left liberals and academics. These election thumpings have to give her confidence a boost, and confidence is a key ingredient in strong leadership.

Second, this growing confidence allows her to pay less attention to manipulators like Trump. When you have enough confidence to say “If you want to dance, let’s dance, but I’m going to do what’s right,” that deprives the Chief Chooch of the oxygen he needs. Remember, playground bullies back down when you stand up.

Finally — and likely most important — Herrera Beutler is part of a caucus in the House called the Problem Solvers. It’s set up to have 25 Republicans and 25 Democrats as members. Essentially, they try to find common ground on issues and then the caucus can potentially come to the entire House as a voting bloc. Think about that for a second. It could be huge.

• • •

Earlier this week I caught up with Herrera Beutler to talk about the Problem Solvers Caucus. (We spoke on the phone about a lot of other things which I hope to use later, but for this column I focused on this caucus.)

“I’m not big on joining every club and every group,” she said. “I’ve had lots of opportunities; as an Hispanic, a woman, being a Republican, being a younger mom. National media always wants your attention and I have really not gone that route. I’ve got my priorities.”

Translation: Herrera Beutler has had opportunities to be a bigger player. She checks plenty of boxes. But she also understands the bread-and-butter of her job — as she defines it — is to help constituents navigate the federal bureaucracy. Plus, as a mother of three young children, having to frequently travel back and forth across the country… well, walk a mile in her shoes.

So she initially turned down the Problem Solvers Caucus. But they came back and asked her again.

“And I am so glad they did because not only am I further developing relationships across the aisle, which proves really helpful when you’re not in the majority, but honestly it makes me very effective. I got things done in the Obama administration I got things done in the Trump administration. I will get things done for people in Southwest Washington in the Biden administration.

“The trust in this group and the relationships have been awesome. It’s proving fruitful.”

So it sounds to me that maybe — just maybe — she might be ready to spread her wings a bit. She doesn’t appear to be pushing hard for higher office. Although she won’t rule anything out — I asked about a possible run for the senate as a next step — she counters with maybe a role on a planning commission.

But still, it’s fair for her constituents to ask her to be a bigger player. To make a difference. And she knows the Problem Solvers Caucus is a vehicle to do just that.

“The whole point (of the Problem Solvers) is to make government function efficiently. You kind of have to take on more directly the party politics of your leadership,” she told me.

• • •

So as Herrera Beutler and the rest of us begin to navigate the long months ahead there is also this little matter of Congress meeting on Wednesday to certify the presidential election. It’s normally just a formality but in the dumpster fire known as 2020, nothing is easy. Each senator and representative might just have to vote, saying what we already know: Joe Biden will be the next president.

And if it comes to a vote, where does Herrera Beutler stand?

“I intend to vote to uphold the Electoral College. I have supported the president’s right to advance his evidence of election improprieties and I do think there have been problems, but so far none of the court challenges have produced … widespread evidence that would overturn an election. There is an end date on it. We need to move on to solving problems for citizens.”

Hmmm. Solving problems? Problem Solvers Caucus? It just might all be coming together.

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