Gerry O’Brien

U .S. Rep. Greg Walden, R-Hood River, is not the lockstep Republican cheerleader some make him out to be.

While he holds strong conservative values and was at the forefront of a GOP-backed Medicare reform package (which went down in flames), he also sees there are burning issues that need attention and has had some success cutting across the partisan divide to get them resolved.

In a wide-ranging interview with the Bulletin Editorial Advisory Board last week, Walden broke ranks with the hard-core right on many issues. This is not new territory for Walden, but in this season of extreme partisanship, it’s refreshing to hear cooperation is taking place in Congress.

For instance:

• Climate change: Yes, it’s a real thing, he agrees, and work needs to be done to reduce carbon in the atmosphere.

• Gun control: Walden supports strengthening background checks and backs the so-called “red flag” laws that allow for removal of weapons from a person deemed to be a threat.

• Illegal robo calls: Walden introduced a bill passed in the House and awaiting Senate action to call on phone carriers to use their technology to block these calls.

• Ending surprise emergency room bills: His “No Surprises Act” would prohibit surprise medical bills from a third, private-party operator at the hospital that may have raised fees — some up to 95% — unbeknownst to the patient. It would hold patients harmless when receiving emergency medical care under certain circumstances.

• Selling off federal land — a nonstarter, Walden says.

With the uproar over the House’s impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump, not much is expected to be accomplished in the next few months, or even until the November general election in 2020, Walden noted.

He said several items have stalled in Congress as “victims of the impeachment process.”

They include: a nationwide transportation act that would have pumped fresh money into repairing highways, bridges and infrastructure; a reauthorization of a pipeline safety bill, which had always been bipartisan, but not this year; curbing the high cost of prescription drugs, which had unanimous committee approvals but stalled in the House due to politics.

“There are a whole host of other programs that need to be funded that are expiring but are languishing out there due to the focus on impeachment,” Walden said.

“Everything is going partisan, and nothing else is getting done. When you throw one of these hand grenades in the room, everything blows up. Everyone is going to their corners,” Walden said.

It’s a sad state of affairs, as it appears that compromise can still work in Congress. And it’s refreshing to see Walden overcoming some of the hurdles to get legislation passed. It might be advisable for other congressmen and -women to let the impeachment inquiry play out, but don’t let it bring government to a halt.

— Gerry O’Brien is editor of The Bulletin. If you have a comment about our coverage, feel free to email or call my number, 541-633-2166.