Herrera Beutler health care shift notable

Last year, Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler was elected to a fourth term in Washington, D.C., with 62 percent of the vote. Despite running against an experienced, well-known candidate, she handily was chosen to represent Washington 3rd Congressional District, which includes all of Clark County.

The point of mentioning this is that Herrera Beutler, R-Camas, is in a secure district that provides her with little opposition; her margin of victory was the third-largest among Washington’s 11 congressional representatives who were elected in November. Therefore, it is notable when Herrera Beutler goes against her party as a matter of conscience — as she did during the recent debate over health care.

Republicans in the House of Representatives last month floated a plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. Herrera Beutler eventually joined a chorus of Republican opposition to the plan, and the proposal was scrapped before coming to a vote.

Herrera Beutler should not be absolved of all criticism regarding the Republicans’ American Health Care Act. For one thing, during the Obama presidency, she joined her party in voting dozens of times to repeal the Affordable Care Act — colloquially known as Obamacare. These votes were a symbolic charade in which Republicans were emboldened by the knowledge that the president would veto any repeal. For another thing, Herrera Beutler was slow to denounce the replacement plan, waiting until the storm clouds that would drench the bill had gathered.

But in the end, she arrived at the proper decision rather than supporting a bill that would, according to the Congressional Budget Office, result in 24 million fewer people having health insurance a decade from now.

More recently, Herrera Beutler wrote an op-ed piece for The Columbian in which she outlined her hopes for health care reform. In it, she echoes Republican talking points against the Affordable Care Act — many of which are open to debate. But she also emphasizes the publicly popular idea of protecting coverage for people who have pre-existing conditions, and improving health care access for children.

Most important, Herrera Beutler has taken a step forward by injecting herself into the health care debate. Whether or not you agree with her views, presenting them in a detailed fashion is more beneficial to constituents than empty votes against the Affordable Care Act. We hope the congresswoman remains engaged and outspoken on an item of vital importance to the citizens of her district, and we look forward to a thoughtful exchange of ideas.