Vaccine availability and a vote for impeachment top issues for voters
CLARK COUNTY — Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler held her first town hall of 2021 by phone this week, and was joined by Clark County Public Health Director Dr. Alan Melnick for a discussion on COVID-19 response as well as a conversation on her vote for impeachment.
The one-and-a-half-hour phone call featured a fairly even split of the two topics, with the pandemic opening the evening. Melnick explained the weekly case and death numbers for Clark County and other regions in Southwest Washington, as well as offered additional context to vaccine availability.
“In Clark County we have 89,000 people who are 65 and older. Right now we’re receiving in our county, anywhere between 1,500 and 5,000 doses per week,” Melnick said. “So the vaccine is being distributed to the state PODs, the point of distribution. To the fairgrounds, to our healthcare partners, to pharmacies, and other sites. By mid-last week, in Clark County, 26,437 Clark County residents had received their first dose of the vaccine and a little bit over 7,000 were fully vaccinated.”
Prefacing the start of questions and comments from constituents, the congresswoman shared her perspectives on what can and is being done to further protect the economy and streamline the vaccination process in Southwest Washington.
Chiefly among her points were the Paycheck Protection Program and the Problem Solvers’ Caucus Defeating COVID-19 vaccine distribution package, which is an extracted part of President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion relief package for vaccinations.
“The paycheck Protection Program in Southwest Washington alone saved over 95,000 jobs,” Herrera Beutler said. “What we know of that $1.9 trillion proposal is about $160 [billion] of it would be for vaccine distribution and increased acquisitions. So we’re just saying, pull that piece out and pass it now. We can’t wait. We can debate the merits of the rest of the proposal, but we need to get vaccines out to those folks like yourself, who are waiting.”
One of the first callers to speak during the evening’s call expressed frustration at her and her husband, who are 63 years old, not fitting into a current phase to receive a vaccination. Melnick and Herrera Beutler both expressed sympathy for their frustration, but reiterated that spring would likely be when a phase for people in that age range would occur.
Another caller from Pacific County, which has predominantly retired residents, inquired about why her health department was receiving no vaccines while larger counties like Clark and King were. This prompted a response from Herrera Beutler who pointed out that much of the available vaccine supply is being funneled to mass-vaccination sites, such as the Clark County Fairgrounds.
“I am fighting for equity,” she said. “There was a delegation call that was the other members of Congress, plus the governor. Some of the other members raised issues about people of color, minority status, who have higher rates of COVID, extreme reactions to it. And she wanted to know what the instances were, making sure they were getting vaccines, I jumped in on that and said, ‘I also have seniors in rural areas who maybe can’t get online to sign up for one of these things we need a hotline, and we need to make sure that we aren’t ignoring the rural areas.”
Melnick and Herrera Beutler both also acknowledged that even phone lines of communication to the health departments and mass vaccination sites are becoming backed-up. Even still, Melnick relayed the number for confirming appointments through Albertsons-Safeway at the fairground’s locations, which is (253) 259-6312. The congresswoman said her office is ready to help locate applicable numbers as well, and they can be reached at (360) 695-6292.
On the matter of the congresswoman’s vote to impeach former President Trump last month following the insurrection at the U.S. capitol, the first caller did not voice opposition but did ask for more reasoning from their representative.
Herrera Beutler began by explaining that she was in-fact present on the house floor at the time of the incident, and was barricaded by capitol police in the chamber. As tear gas was used in high quantities, lawmakers were asked to put on their gas masks, she said. During this situation, the president failing to immediately condemn and show awareness of the assault was the key reason for her vote, she said.
At one point during the chaos, the congresswoman said she texted former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows inquiring why she had seen Joe Biden address the situation on television but not the president. Shortly thereafter, Trump issued a video statement asking people to go home but not condemning the violence towards lawmakers or violent rhetoric towards Vice President Mike Pence.
“It was his first address to the nation after the storming happened, and he said don’t hurt the law enforcement, didn’t say anything about don’t hurt Mike Pence,” Herrera Beutler said. “And he ended it with, ‘We love you, you’re special.’ … That’s what he told these people who had just bludgeoned to death a Capitol Police Officer, there are over 140 officers who have sustained injuries and one of them’s in the process of losing an eye, two have taken their own life because of the devastation of that day.”
Later on during the town hall, the congresswoman spoke to multiple callers who were in support of her decision to vote for impeachment. She also elaborated on her belief that the election was in no way stolen, but was also not a flawless election.
Towards the conclusion of the call, one Clark County resident expressed strong disappointment and frustration with the congresswoman and her vote for impeachment. Saying Herrera Beutler cast her vote before seeing any evidence and due process, the resident said he felt she had stooped to the level of the opposition and should be removed from office.
In response, Herrera Beutler explained that the impeachment process is actually not akin to a trial at all, and thus does not require the same level of evidence. The Senate is the portion of the process more akin to a trial, she said. The congresswoman also said she believed living through the events in question was tantamount to viewing all the evidence she needed.
“The impeachment in the House is essentially a grand jury type of proceeding,” she said. “Is there enough stuff there to investigate? I think by any reasonable standard, any one of us can say, ‘Yeah, that should be investigated.’ The second piece of an impeachment is the trial. That’s where the people who are bringing the impeachment bring their evidence before the senators, the U.S. Senate who serves as a jury, and they make their case, they may win it, they may not win it.”