Herrera Beutler talks I-5 Bridge, Trump tweets in telephone town hall

The fifth-term Republican said she’s trying to lead by example when it comes to the current political climate

BATTLE GROUND — Congresswoman Jaime Herrera (R-Battle Ground) spent a little more than an hour on Monday conducting a telephone town hall with some of her constituents. 

Herrera Beutler talks I-5 Bridge, Trump tweets in telephone town hall
Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler speaks on election night last November. Photo by Mike Schultz

The fifth-term representative of Washington’s 3rd Congressional District said she has been focused primarily on legislation to help preserve salmon runs on the Columbia River, increase access to affordable healthcare, and prevent increasingly pervasive robocalls.

Herrera Beutler recently returned from maternity leave after having a third child with her husband Daniel. Isana is now two months old and doing well.

“It’s been quite an adventure packing her around to meetings and to the House floor for votes,” joked Herrera Beutler. “If you are one of the lucky grandmas who we have sat next to on some of our most recent cross-country flights, let me say thank you for holding her when I had to take a run up the aisle.”

Robocall robocops

Herrera Beutler recently put her support behind bi-partisan legislation in the House known as the Stopping Bad Robocalls Act, one of several pieces of legislation in Washington D.C. aimed at stemming the rising tide of bad actors looking to scam people through computer-generated calls.

According to one study, nearly 48 billion robocalls were made last year, an increase of 17 billion over the previous year. On Monday, the Clark County Sheriff’s Office issued a warning of fraudulent phone calls from a number appearing to be theirs.

Herrera Beutler said she had received at least three spam phone calls in the past few days, “one of which was the Social Security Administration in Battle Ground telling me I had fraud on my account and to press a button,” she said. “Obviously, we don’t have Social Security Administration in Battle Ground so I knew it was fraud.”

The Stopping Bad Robocalls Act, Herrera Beutler said, would give law enforcement and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) better tools, incentives, and information to go after bad actors. 

It would also mandate that carriers implement a free nationwide caller authentication system, said Herrera Beutler, “so you can trust the number you’re seeing on your ID is actually the person who’s calling you, and not someone spoofing you.”

The House passed the legislation 429 to 3. It now moves into conference to merge it with similar legislation passed in the Senate.

“I understand, look, folks are sick of getting these calls,” said the Congresswoman. “And please know that I am making sure Congress does something about it.”

Interstate Bridge discussion

One of the more popular questions Herrera Beutler has faced during her telephone town halls has revolved around the Interstate Bridge replacement. In this case, she was asked whether she would support efforts to include a third Columbia River Crossing as part of the discussion over replacing the aging I-5 bridge span.

Herrera Beutler started off by again stating her displeasure with Oregon’s plans to toll stretches of Portland-area freeway in the next several years, a move she has tried numerous times to block or delay.

“I think they’re just going to use it as a piggy bank,” she said, noting that revenue was already earmarked for projects outside of the Portland area. “I don’t think they’re going to use that money to support increased traffic throughput.”

The Republican noted her role in Congress isn’t to help design a new Interstate Bridge. 

“My job is to make sure that there’s money to help pay for it,” she said. But Herrera Beutler did say she’s been clear with state lawmakers that, if they want her support with freeing up Federal dollars for the project, they need to make sure it’s something the majority of people in Clark County want.

“I don’t want to see just a resurrection of the Columbia River Crossing project, because there are many reasons that project failed,” she said. “Mostly because it was very expensive, and it didn’t reduce traffic congestion.”

Herrera Beutler didn’t respond directly about whether she would support pursuing a third bridge, but did say that the Interstate bridge project is considered a priority in Congress, since it is a major pinch point in an interstate highway system integral to the entire west coast.

Herrera Beutler talks I-5 Bridge, Trump tweets in telephone town hall
Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Battle Ground) speaks with ClarkCountyToday.com during the 2018 election campaign. Photo by Mike Schultz

Condemn, conform, or conquer

The longest conversation during the telephone town hall came after Herrera Beutler was asked to sound off over recent tweets and comments by President Donald Trump.

“This has been tough for me,” Herrera Beutler responded. “I have strong opinions, I don’t make any bones about my beliefs, but I’ve worked really hard to be respectful in the way that I communicate.”

The president came under fire in recent weeks for a series of tweets aimed at Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts. The freshman Democrats are all U.S. citizens, and three were born here. Still the president tweeted that the four could “go back” to their own countries rather than “loudly and viciously telling the people of the United States” how to govern.

The Democrat-led House voted 240-187 to condemn the president’s comments, saying they have “legitimized and increased fear and hatred of new Americans and people of color by saying that our fellow Americans who are immigrants, and those who may look to the president like immigrants, should ‘go back’ to other countries.”

Herrera Beutler said she voted against the condemnation because she felt as if it was yet another round in the increasingly volatile political discourse in Washington D.C.

“I really felt like, if you read through that amendment, there were pieces in there that were incendiary,” she said. “And I thought ‘OK, so this is just tit for tat.’”

Herrera Beutler did say she sent a letter to the 73-year-old president.

“I just said, ‘look, I don’t like how you’ve communicated, these are Americans, I disagree with them on policy too, but let’s find a better way to do this,’” she said, while later admitting she doubts someone 33 years the president’s junior is going to be able to change the way he goes about his business. “I don’t think he’s going to change because I tell him that, but I think I can lead in a way that reflects that I value all of us, regardless of if we agree on policy.”

While saying she disagreed with the president’s comments, Herrera Beutler was quick to say that the other side of the political aisle has contributed to the rhetoric.

“Some of the women that the president took shots at, you know, pointed comments at, have had their own, I would say, borderline anti-Semitic views,” she said, “and I’ve been careful when I responded to them as well.”

Herrera Beutler said she’s not a “bomb thrower,” and likes to think she can lead a move back to more civil political discourse through her own actions.

“Until one side decides to stop the craziness, it’s going to continue,” she said. “If you’re politically active and you get involved and you comment online, or you send in letters, or you just get involved in this space, please be respectful and remember that the people you’re talking to and talking about are humans.”

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