As of Friday, January 29, 2016
SUNNYSIDE Legislation on immigration, water issues and an alternative to Obamacare are all on the front burner for a local Congressman.
Thanks to a winter storm on the East Coast, Congressman Dan Newhouse, R-Sunnyside, has a few extra days in the Lower Valley this week and visited the Daily Sun News’ office yesterday.
He said the immigration issue surfaced more than ever this year with worries about Syrian refugees. Sweeping reform is not likely this session, but there is a good chance Congress acts on tightening immigration security.
Next weekend, he’ll be at the U.S.-Mexico border to examine efforts to prevent illegal immigration.
Four generations of his family have farmed in the Sunnyside area, and Newhouse said he sought a seat in Congress because he brings personal experience at dealing with farm labor issues.
Speaking of which, he said a program allowing farmers and companies to legally bring in foreign laborers is “cumbersome and expensive to implement.”
Newhouse said he hopes to see Congress act to make the program easer to implement.
Entering his second year in Congress, Newhouse said he wants to see the federal government do a better job of harvesting timber from its lands. He said forest fires are a natural event, but the intensity of wildfires in the west is a direct result of mismanagement by the federal government.
“Someone once told me trees come out of the forest one of two ways, either by harvesting or by fire,” Newhouse said.
On the topic of fire, Newhouse said he wants to help federal land management get out of the cycle of “fire-borrowing” where all the money is burned up fighting wildfires and there is nothing left to manage the land to prevent future fires.
Noting he’s on the natural resources committee, Newhouse said there are frequently arguments in the committee’s meetings on managing government lands. Noting it turns into a “partisan issue: of environmentalists versus practical land use.
He said funding for the Yakima Basin water plan is a priority, as is working on the Columbia River Treaty with Canada.
Regarding more than 60 attempts in the House to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Newhouse said Congress was finally able to pass a bill and send it to the president’s desk, where it was vetoed.
“We don’t want to go back to what we had before,” Newhouse said of healthcare. At the same time, he said Republicans recently had a conference where they discussed alternatives to the Affordable Care Act.
He said the system should be more patient-centric and the public should be able to choose their own providers.
Newhouse just completed his first year in office, and said there were many highlights. They include a speech by Israel’s prime minister and a visit from the Pope.
“I’m not Catholic, but having the Pope come and speak was great. It changed the atmosphere of the entire Congress for a time. It was an almost palpable difference,” he said.
As a Republican he differs with President Obama on several issues, but said the State of the Union addresses are memorable.
“Even if it’s not your guy, it’s still pretty cool,” Newhouse said.
As for who is his “guy” in the presidential race, Newhouse declined to back a candidate. “I’m not sure if I’ll endorse anyone,” he said.
Newhouse confirmed he plans to seek re-election this fall and expressed optimism in new Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, a Republican from Wisconsin.
“His goal of making it work has got a lot of people feeling good about the process,” he said.
Newhouse wraps up his current visit in Washington state this weekend.