Bonamici: Congress needs more bipartisanship, less party-line action
U.S. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici says she hopes Congress will have more bipartisan agreements — such as funding government operations through Sept. 30 — and fewer party-line votes like the Republican-sponsored health care overhaul in the House.
Both votes took place within days last week.
Bonamici, a Democrat from Beaverton, spoke Sunday at the last of six town hall meetings that started with a March 13 gathering in Hillsboro.
Her 1st District seat in northwest Oregon includes part of Portland west of the Willamette River. About 300 people, largely supportive of her, attended the meeting in the Lincoln High School gym.
The bill (HR 1628) to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, which President Barack Obama signed in 2010, passed on a 217-213 vote with no support from Bonamici or any other Democrat.
It goes to the Senate, where members from both parties — among the Democrats Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley of Oregon — say they will write their own version.
"The good news is that they are not going to take up this bill as it is," Bonamici said. "The bad news is that we don't know where they are going to go."
Bonamici said her staff recorded 988 against it and 13 for it during a survey of emails, phone calls and other communications last week.
Bonamici raised several objections to it, particularly on how it will raise costs to people ages 55-64 and reduce Medicaid, the joint federal-state program of insurance for low-income people.
Kayla Anderson, a 29-year old architectural student from Portland, said Obamacare has benefited her. She was able to stay on her parents' insurance through age 26 and obtain insurance, despite her multiple sclerosis, to help pay for medications that would cost her more than $5,000 monthly.
"It's not just the older generation that needs it," she said.
Bonamici responded: "Having you tell your story really does matter. I hope that my colleagues are hearing those stories as well. This is not abstract policy. These are real lives."
Anderson said afterward she was reassured a little bit.
"I think it's just hard not knowing where we go from there," she said.
Bonamici's next questioner asked whether she joined a chorus of Democrats in the House chamber after the vote singing the words to the 1969 song, "Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye." They were taunting Republicans about their possible loss of seats in 2018 because of potential public backlash to the bill.
Bonamici said she was actually saddened by the vote.
"We need to focus on people like this brave woman who told her personal story," she said. "That is where our focus should be, not in gloating because some members might lose their seats. Our focus needs to be on the people we represent."
Later, in response to a question by Dr. Dana Nason, a Hillsboro pediatrician and president of the Oregon Pediatric Society, Bonamici said she hoped for a bipartisan consensus to reauthorize the 20-year-old Children's Health Insurance Program. It was most recently renewed in 2009, when Obama was president.
Bipartisan budget vote
Bonamici contrasted that party-line vote with a 309-118 vote for a $1 trillion-plus bill (HR 244) to fund government operations through the end of the federal budget year Sept. 30.
Democrats supplied 178 votes, Republicans 131 to pass it. Most of the votes against it (103) came from Republicans. It maintained or added money for programs that President Donald Trump has vowed to cut in the next budget year. Though it added money Trump sought for military and homeland security spending, he got nothing for a border wall with Mexico.
"People came to the table on that resolution, and because the (Republican) Freedom Caucus members were going to vote no, it had to be bipartisan to get through. People understood that and made the commitment to keep the government open and to work together. So it was a real contrast," Bonamici said afterward.
"All I can say is I hope there will be more chances like that. It is what our constituents and the public expect."
Trump tweeted afterward: "Our country needs a 'good' shutdown" when federal spending authority comes up again this fall.
Standing for environment
Bonamici, now in her third full term after she won a special election in 2012, is on the Education and Workforce Committee, and the top Democrat on the environment subcommittee of the Science, Space and Technology Committee.
She said she would work to maintain federal efforts to curb greenhouse gases generated by power plants and fuel-efficiency standards for passenger cars and trucks, despite recent executive orders signed and spending cuts proposed by Trump.
"I will be advocating for full funding for the Environmental Protection Agency," she said. "But it's a challenge with an administrator who does not believe in its mission," referring to Scott Pruitt, who as Oklahoma attorney general sued the EPA numerous times before Trump named him.
Bonamici is on a couple of informal congressional groups, known as caucuses, working on climate solutions and oceans. She is co-chairwoman of the oceans group and said absorption of carbon dioxide is increasing the acidity of oceans and affecting Pacific shellfish. and other marine life.