Last week, Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA) continued the trend of Republicans avoiding angry constituents by holding an invitation-only “community coffee.” But even the small number of constituents at the exclusive event did not let Herrera Beutler off the hook, asking her tough questions about her allegiance to a “no tax” pledge:
U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler said Tuesday she’s happy with the smaller settings of her invitation-only “community coffees” and isn’t planning to hold another large-scale town hall. About 60 people attended her latest gathering at Judy’s Restaurant in Longview on Tuesday morning, a fraction of the attendance at earlier town halls in her Southwest Washington district. [...]
At Tuesday’s meeting, the more intimate setting didn’t cause people to shy away from criticizing the congresswoman. Kathy Thompson, a Longview real-estate broker, blasted Herrera Beutler for signing conservative activist Grover Norquist’s pledge not to support any tax increase of any kind.
“I think this is totally un-American. I think your only pledge should be to uphold the Constitution of the United States,” Thompson said.
Avoiding constituents is nothing new for Herrera Beutler — in October she even asked a local paper to keep her town hall meeting a secret. Her office does not send advance notice of meetings to local media and she doesn’t post alerts on her website. She admits that she decided to limit attendance after she was confronted at a May town hall by attendees who asked “hostile questions” about the House GOP budget, which would have effectively eliminated Medicare.
Other GOP representatives have also faced a backlash from constituents for their uncompromising, ideologically rigid commitment to Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist’s “no tax” pledge. (Norquist considers any tax increase, for any reason, a violation of the pledge.) One audience member told Rep. Chris Gibson (R-NY), “We are your constituents, not Grover Norquist.”
More and more Republican congressmen, though, are disavowing the pledge after witnessing the ill effects of promising never to raise taxes under any circumstance. GOP Rep. Frank Wolf (VA) said the pledge had the effect of “paralyzing Congress” and making it impossible to even discuss ways to reform the tax code. Onetime devotee Rep. Charles Boustany (R-LA) also denounced the pledge, explaining, “We have to have the flexibility to do the right thing for American people.”