Wilsonville Congressional representative visits Rotary
Though he castigated the Trump administration's handling of the government shutdown and its emergency declaration for border security funding, Congressman Kurt Schrader told a group of Rotarians Thursday that the state of politics in Washington D.C. isn't "as bad as you would think."
Relatedly, the moderate Democrat thinks the recently inaugurated Congress could pass legislation that benefits Wilsonville and beyond.
Schrader, who represents Oregon's 5th Congressional District (which includes Wilsonville) in the United States House of Representatives, discussed potential legislation and other issues at the Rotary Club of Wilsonville meeting at the Al Kader Shrine Center in Wilsonville.
Schrader is especially optimistic that Congress could pass an infrastructure bill that would provide funding for highways, airports and other facilities, and that a federal grant program for transportation providers like Wilsonville's South Metro Area Regional (SMART) transit could also materialize. He believes Congress should focus on passing an infrastructure bill prior to 2020, when he said many representatives will be focused on the next election, and that the bill could help the United States get up to par with other countries that have invested considerably in infrastructure.
"I think this is probably a huge initiative that has great bipartisan support that is critical frankly for making sure America can compete in the future," Schrader said in his speech. "Right now China is investing (in infrastructure) all over the place; India is investing all over the place. We're being left behind."
"I-205, as I mentioned today, is critical in my opinion," Schrader told the Spokesman after the meeting. "Wilsonville's at the juncture of a lot of traffic issues as we know. If we can fix the I-5, 205 area right here that would do wonders for the region in terms of congestion and freight mobility."
He also expressed some optimism that, with Democrats earning a newfound majority in the House, the federal government could address homelessness.
"The big thing is to get the Housing and Urban Development (department) invigorated," Schrader said. "We could give rental assistance; we could be doing more Section 8 vouchers (subsidizing rent for low income individuals) and make sure there's options for creative grant matching for different communities."
Schrader championed two bills that passed in Congress in December: The Farm Bill provided subsidies to farmers, who have reportedly been struggling in the wake of Chinese tariffs, and the Endangered Salmon Predation Prevention Act nixed some restrictions on killing sea lions to protect salmon and steelhead along the Columbia River.
"It's very difficult with no earmarks in this day and age to get your colleagues to rally around a pretty parochial issue. This is not something that Texas deals with or New England," Schrader said. "I put my effort into this trying to educate folks that we love our sea lions but there's too much love out there and we need to reduce some of that to make sure the salmons don't get extinct in the process."
Like many of his colleagues on the left, Schrader was less plussed with the month-long government shutdown over funding for a wall along the Mexican border and President Donald Trump's subsequent emergency declaration to unilaterally greenlight wall funding shortly after he had approved a budget passed by Congress.
"I'm a huge fan of Congress and it is our job to legislate, not the President of the United States," Shrader said. "I think it's very disingenuous with all due respect to the President to agree to the budget and then immediately try to circumvent it and bend it to your personal will despite what Republicans and Democrats have told you to do."
A member of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Schrader would like to see Congress institute reinsurance and cost-sharing programs designed to reduce premiums and copayments and stabilize the Affordable Care Act, which he noted has been hampered by the Trump Administration.
"I think the name of the game is to stabilize the marketplace and give people faith that they can afford healthcare. My personal belief is the Affordable Care Act was a huge help to millions of Americans," Schrader said. "But there is a portion of the individual marketplace where middle class folks aren't getting subsidies and ... the premiums and deductibles are out of control."
Schrader is a founder of the Problem Solvers Caucus, which tries to bolster bipartisanship in Congress, and the group recently helped usher in a set of rules that make it easier for bills with strong bipartisan support to receive a hearing on the House floor.
"America wants a system where people who have good ideas that can get support on both sides of the aisle, they should get a bill to the floor," Schrader said. "It shouldn't be subject to the veto of one person, whoever the speaker of the house is. One person shouldn't be allowed to veto that."
After the Rotary meeting, Schrader visited Inza R. Wood Middle School to talk to an eighth-grade social studies class. And at the Rotary meeting, he said his message to the students would be to engage politically but to also embrace differences of opinion.
"You should respect the fact that your colleague or friend or person you don't necessarily know has a different opinion and that it's OK. This is a big country," he said. "The good news is the younger generation is feeling there is a lot at stake and are willing to step up I think and hopefully get involved at a much greater level than we've seen in the past."
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