Facing Angry And Booing Constituents, GOP Rep. Herrera Beutler Turns Against Oil Subsidies


As ThinkProgress has been documenting, conservative lawmakers have been facing the ire of Main Street America at town halls all over the country. These Americans are demanding fair sacrifice rather than budget cuts that unfairly saddle the poor and middle class with the burden of deficit reduction.

Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA) came face to face with this growing movement at a town hall in Vancouver, Washington last night. Dozens of protesters encamped outside the meeting, waving signs like “Save Medicare: Tax the Rich.” When she tried to defend her vote on the GOP budget that would effectively privatize Medicare, “a chorus of boos and catcalls and shouts of ‘liar’ erupted in the auditorium.” The congresswoman was repeatedly called out by what the local press called a “rough crowd.”

Yet at one point — perhaps understanding that her constituents were already upset with her enough — she did endorse a position that put her on the opposite side of most of her House GOP colleagues. She told the audience that she favored ending subsidies to oil companies like Exxon and BP:

Herrera Beutler did not directly address why she has supported making the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy permanent. But she said she does favor taking a hard look at military spending and supports ending subsidies for big corporations like Exxon and BP.

Of course, Beutler voted, along with the rest of the House GOP caucus, to protect billions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies for Big Oil more than once in the past few months.

Her flip-flop may be evidence that American anger at Big Oil is forcing hesitant conservatives to switch sides. A number of GOP congressmen have told constituents in recent days that they now oppose the subsidies. These include Reps. Joe Walsh (IL), Tom McClintock (CA), and Dan Webster (FL).