Recap of Representative Newhouse’s “Listening Session”

Congressman Dan Newhouse held a “listening session” at Sunnyside High School on Thursday, April 13, 2017 from 6:00 – 7:30 PM. About 150 constituents from the Lower Valley region of the district, many from Yakima and the Tri-Cities, were present to ask questions and express their concerns to Congressman Newhouse. The event was moderated by Thane Phelan, Vice President of the Greater Yakima Chamber of Commerce. Constituents wrote their questions on index cards which were read by the moderator for Newhouse to answer. There was substantial discussion between the constituents and Newhouse, who did not hesitate to address follow-up questions from the audience.

Newhouse addressed several issues of national and local interest. Some key points are summarized below.

  • Immigration and foreign policy.
    • Regarding the wall along the Mexican border promised by President Trump, Newhouse said, “I don’t believe there is going be a wall from the Gulf of Mexico to the Pacific Ocean.”
    • Regarding ICE raids and the detention of undocumented immigrants, Newhouse touted his co-sponsoring of the BRIDGE Act, which protects undocumented students. He also said, “I don’t think that I want to live in a country that rounds up 20 million people”, referring to the approximate number of undocumented immigrants in the U.S.
    • Newhouse stated his support for H-2A reform to address labor shortages during picking season.
    • Although Newhouse had pushed back against executive orders banning immigration from certain countries, he supported tougher vetting for refugees from entering the U.S. (Refugees currently undergo a 20-step process to enter the United States, which typically takes at least 2 years.)
    • Newhouse said, “I don’t think the current authorization to use military force covers Syria”, but stated that Speaker Paul Ryan has already said that Donald Trump has to seek congressional approval.
  • Health care.
    • Newhouse said he buys insurance on the Affordable Care Act exchange for himself and his family, but it doesn’t cover all of his family’s needs. Constituents suggested he work to fix the ACA instead of repeal it.
    • A constituent called for single payer health care “that covers everybody”. Newhouse responded, “We’ll have to agree to disagree.”
    • On President Trump’s recent threat to withhold Affordable Care Act subsidies to insurers to force health care overhaul, Newhouse said, “I don’t know that extortion is the way to go.”
    • Regarding abortion, Newhouse said, “I’m a proud conservative, and I’m pro-life”, but he acknowledged that women’s right to choose is the “law of the land”.
  • Environment and climate.
    • Newhouse stated that he believes the climate is changing but that it has been changing “since the beginning of time”, suggesting that he may not believe human activity contributes to climate change.
    • Newhouse stated his belief that economic growth and environmental protection can proceed together. However, he was challenged to defend his legislative record, which includes co-sponsoring a Congressional Review Act (H J Res 38) which overturned the Obama-era “clean stream rule” limiting the disposal of coal mining waste in streams.
    • Regarding his bill to specifically exempt manure from the law governing solid waste, Newhouse said, “I pull my drinking water out of the same aquifers as everybody else does”. He expressed confidence that “clean water laws” would be used to address the issue of manure-contaminated flooding in Outlook, WA. Constituents raised the concern that the EPA is facing severe cuts and may not be able to effectively enforce clean water laws.
  • Budget.
    • Newhouse reiterated that the executive budget proposal is only a blueprint and is far from a final budget.
    • Newhouse stated that he “would not stand for a zero budget” for federal funding of the arts and humanities. However, he would not state how much of a cut these programs might endure.
  • 2016 election and campaign finance.
    • Newhouse said he would help to write a bill demanding the release of President Trump’s tax returns, although he questioned why there were no calls for the release of previous presidents’ returns. (All other modern presidents had done so voluntarily, and none were under investigation for foreign conflicts of interest.)
    • Newhouse expressed confidence in congressional committees and law enforcement working on investigating President Trump’s possible emoluments violations, stating, “We need to go where the evidence takes us.”
    • Regarding the Citizens United decision, Newhouse says, “I wish we could get all the money out of campaigns”, but he deflected follow-up questions about campaign finance reform.
  • Second amendment rights.
    • Newhouse defended his vote to overturn restrictions on the purchase of guns by mentally disabled people because the restrictions “went too far” to encroach on Second Amendment rights.
  • Internet privacy.
    • When asked about net neutrality, Newhouse instead defended his recent vote against internet privacy rules set up by the Obama administration, touting how rules are now consistent between the FTC (which regulates companies like Google, which are optional to use) and FCC (which regulates internet service providers (ISPs), which are not optional for internet use and have access to all customer internet usage, financial, and identity data). However, he did not acknowledge the distinction between these types of services. Constituents pointed out that current rules do not require ISPs to notify customers of how their data may be used, and ISPs can sell customers’ data without their consent.

 

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