By Representative Herrera Beutler
Southwest Washington is one of the greatest places in this country, but it faces some big challenges. Unemployment, a troubled housing market, and big government deficits loom overhead. No one would say that these are just Republican or Democratic challenges. To solve these problems, both parties are needed. This is why our country needs bipartisan solutions more than it ever has before.
A perfect example is the federal payroll tax cut set to expire at the end of December. There is some debate in Congress on whether to extend this cut, and how to pay for it. I believe we need to extend it and allow millions of hard-working taxpayers to keep more of their money. It makes no difference to me whether the final plan is a Democratic or Republican plan, as long as it's a responsible plan that's good for Southwest Washington.
I learned the effectiveness of bipartisanship some time ago. During my first year as a state representative, I passed my first piece of legislation with the help of a veteran Democratic colleague. The bill -- a tax break for small business owners serving in the military -- wouldn't have passed without her support and assistance.
Now, the need to reach across the aisle has never been greater. This country elected a divided government; we have Democratic President, Democrats in control of the U.S. Senate, and a Republican U.S. House of Representatives. Certainly, there has been heated debate and some partisan gridlock. Yet I have found that solving problems isn't impossible. Here are some of my efforts to work with both parties to find solutions during my first year in Congress:
* Eliminating the job-killing IRS burden, or "1099 mandate": Leaders from both parties voted for and the President signed the repeal of the 1099 mandate. This odd requirement of the 2010 health care law would have meant all businesses -- big and small -- needed to file IRS 1099 forms for every single expense they incurred over $600. I also supported its elimination because it would have severely burdened the small businesses in Southwest Washington that are already struggling to stay open and keep people employed.
* Helping distressed homeowners: Earlier this year, many of my Republican colleagues voted to find savings by eliminating the Emergency Mortgage Relief Program, which provides short-term loans to folks who are in danger of losing their homes due to unemployment. While cutting government overspending is one of my top priorities, I also believe we should continue to assist struggling homeowners and seek solutions to help our troubled housing market recover. I voted to protect this program.
* Protecting timber and manufacturing jobs: Timber jobs and forest product manufacturing jobs help thousands of people in this region earn a wage and support their families. I'm working with a broad coalition of Democratic and Republican Members of Congress to protect these jobs by eliminating a new, bureaucratic "forest roads" rule that would cripple timber-related employers.
* Preventing insider trading by Congress: Last month, I took up the cause of former 3rd District Congressman Brian Baird to prevent insider trading in Congress (the "STOCK" Act). Americans need to trust that their elected officials are working to solve problems, not to further their own interests. This bipartisan bill would strengthen that trust.
* Protecting natural refuges in Southwest Washington: Some of our country's greatest natural treasures are right here in Southwest Washington. Two prime examples are the Willapa National Wildlife Refuge and the Julia Butler Hansen Refuge. I have been working with elected officials from both sides of the aisle to help protect both refuges so that future generations can enjoy them.
Many of the challenges that face Southwest Washington are far too big for one party to solve. As Congress works to extend the payroll tax cut, we will need both parties to come together and agree on a final plan. I don't believe one party has a monopoly on the good ideas in this country, and I will continue to work with folks from both parties as long as the solution benefits our region.