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Daily News editorial

The TDN board editorial spent over an hour with U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, of the 3rd Congressional District, this week. We had an in-depth discussion on health care issues, especially the Obamacare repeal and replace bill she voted “no” on.

While a significant amount of the conversation was spent on healthcare, Herrera Beutler also talked about fish conservation, town hall meetings, Bonneville Power Administration, the Accelerating Individuals into the Workplace Act and why the constant political partisanship never ends.

From a healthcare standpoint, we agree with Herrera Beutler – Obamacare has to be drastically altered. We also agree the current legislation being considered falls short of what most Americans expect. With Obamacare moving thousands of Washingtonians onto Medicaid, anything that replaces Obamacare must leave the folks with healthcare options, Herrera Beutler voted no, in part, because the proposed legislation falls short here.

She mentioned how President Trump called the House healthcare repeal and replace bill, “mean” and she agreed. We appreciate that Herrera Beutler stood up for what she believes in, and is doing what she thinks is best for Southwest Washington citizens and voted “no.”

Fish conservation is a big issue and Rep. Herrera Beutler wishes we could do more to protect salmon and steelhead runs. She indicated the pressure from environmental groups to leave sea lions alone to eat all the salmon they want is high. She also talked about how — with fish numbers on the rise — there’s no reason to remove damns that generate cheap, renewable energy. We agree with her as well. Salmon and steelhead fishing is a huge part of our life in southwest Washington and we agree they need to be protected.

Town hall meetings seem to be a hot button issue for some, so we asked Jaime about them. Herrera Beutler has been doing “coffee meetings” with groups of 30 to 200 people, which she said have been productive. While the coffee meetings have been good, the telephone town halls have been great. On her last telephone town hall, 9,000 people stayed on the call for an entire hour and she was able to answer far more questions than in traditional town hall meetings. During telephone town halls, she also gets to hear from some people that aren’t comfortable speaking at traditional town halls.

Critics have complained Herrera Beutler stacks her town hall audiences with all Republicans. Herrera Beutler was quick to point out that it would be against the law to hand pick a crowd, so they use “robo calls” and random choice methods to invite people to meetings. Herrera Beutler said these telephone town halls and coffee meetings are important and she committed to doing more town hall-type meetings in the upcoming year.

From an energy standpoint, she’s been talking with the Bonneville Power Administration team about the future. She mentioned being glad that BPA abandoned its plan to construct new power lines. At the same time, Herrera Beutler indicated the BPA needs to make some changes to its operating plan to keep power rates competitive in the face of low natural gas prices. Herrera Beutler said an “all of the above” strategy is needed for energy so businesses and families can get the power they need at the lowest possible price. And to do so with limited environmental impact.

The bipartisan Accelerating Individuals into the Workforce Act passed the House just a few weeks ago and we believe it’s a great thing. It’s designed to help TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) recipients transition into the workforce through apprenticeships at local businesses. They get on the job training and learn skills that help them succeed.

Herrera Beutler said the bill is too new to judge how many recipients will take advantage of the program in our area, but is confident that many will see this as a great opportunity to get back into the workforce to get off federal assistance.

TANF funds are used to pay folks that take advantage of the program, meaning no additional taxpayer dollars are required.

We asked Herrera Beutler why people in Washington, D.C. don’t work together for the good of the people. She said each party always wants to either get or retain the majority, which gets in the way of working towards a common goal.

Jaime talked about a legislator from across the aisle that approached her about working together on healthcare issues in a bipartisan way, even though the same individual wouldn’t work with Jaime during President Obama’s tenure. We’re sure this behavior cuts both ways.

In the end, we appreciate Rep. Herrera Beutler’s time, her mastery of the issues and candid discussion. We asked that she come back and visit TDN in six months and she seemed happy to do so.

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