Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Distict 3, and constituents discussed issues in a public gathering last Wednesday in Cathlamet.
Herrera-Beutler had come from Naselle, where she had participated in a ceremony to honor Korean War veteran William Wuorinen and present him with a Silver Star medal.
Here are some of the topics discussed last week:
Puget Island resident Gilbert Vik offered to work with Herrera-Beutler to distribute a book he had written on money supply, Congress, Banks and the IRS. "It's worth $16 trillion, if and only if Congress acts on the information in it," he said. The congresswoman said she would read a copy.
Economy and jobs
County Commissioner Dan Cothren thanked Herrera-Beutler for the work she and her staff have done on behalf of the county in regard to environmental issues and dealing with federal agencies.
He then commented that he fears the national leadership has deteriorated so badly under the Obama administration that the economy won't ever recover. And dealing with federal agencies on local issues, the people of the county lose, he said.
"I'm not going to argue with that," Herrera-Beutler said. "My goal as your representative isn't to defend federal agencies; it's to defend you.
"One of the things I feel so passionate about is that we have $16 trillion every day that we owe and basically a broke government can't help anybody. We've got to get our head on straight."
Mike Johnson asked the congresswoman to comment on the federal debt ceiling issue.
President Obama was re-elected on a platform that included new revenue, Herrera-Beutler said. However, that new revenue was supposed to be balanced with spending cuts.
"So, Mr. President, you got a very large increase in revenue; now it's time to make reductions," she said. "We have to change our spending habits."
Jobs and bipartisanship
Bill Coons, county assessor, encouraged Herrera-Beutler to continue taking tough stands that might conflict with her Republican party leadership but which will stimulate the economy.
In response, Herrera-Beutler described her priorities for spending cuts: 1. "There are no sacred cows," she said; there needs to be more oversight of spending in the Pentagon; 2. "I really, truly believe in free markets," she said. Legislation protecting industries from oversight needs to be changed to end what she called "corporate welfare." 3. "I just introduced a bill to cut our salaries by 10 percent," she said. "It's not much, but it's a way to give some accountability."
Two members of the audience continued discussion of spending cuts.
Herrera-Beutler displayed a graph showing federal spending. Congress has authority over only about 40 percent of the total federal budget, she said; the other 60 percent is Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and similar programs. Overall, the last Congress actually cut spending by $100 billion, she said. How spending is managed in the future is up to the public, she said. "Quite honestly, it'll come down to how the American people feel about it. What do you support?"
Puget Island resident Doyle Peterson asked about Herrera-Beutler's thoughts on immigration law reform, and he suggested Congress consider establishing a guest worker program such as existed in the 1940s.
Herrera-Beutler commented that as a descendant of Mexican immigrants, she understands why people immigrate, but, she added, "I believe in the rule of law."
First, she said, the country must secure its borders. "This is a security issue," she said.
Next, the nation needs to have a debate about how to handle people who have come into the country illegally. The process needs to be fair, she said, but it needs to allow people to immigrate.
The process shouldn't be rushed, she said. "I feel we should tackle it 1. security, 2. fixing the immigration system, and 3. then we talk about folks who are here illegally."
She commented, too, that she could see that a guest worker program could be feasible.
Cathlamet resident Lily Kolditz commented that governmental regulations stifle business and asked if there was a solution to the problem.
Herrera-Beutler said she feels this is one of the nation's biggest problems. "It's a huge issue; I spend most of my time on it," she said.
Wally Wright, a member of the Cathlamet town council, urged the congresswoman to oppose new gun control initiatives. An armed civilian population is a deterrant to foreign invaders, he said.
"Ninety-nine percent of the people out there who own guns are responsible," he said. "So please get it across to people that guns are extremely safe until you get them in the hands of idiots. Most of the people who have been shot in these mass murders and so forth have been gunned down, unfortunately by liberals who are nuts."
Herra-Beutler replied that there is much discussion over mental health programs as a means of identifying potential mass murderers and then getting them help.
Cathlamet resident Lois Nelson asked the congresswoman's thoughts on global warming.
Science isn't clear on the issue, Herrera-Beutler said. "I want to make sure that as we move forward, the changes we make are based on science."