Rep. Kurt Schrader speaks with Keizer Fire Chief Jeff Cowan during a visit to the Keizer fire station.
Keizertimes: You’ve come out in favor of the ongoing impeachment investigation of President Donald Trump. What pushed you over the edge?
Schrader: The president acknowledges that he did talk to the president of the Ukraine and he did say these things. You’re not allowed, by federal law, to ask a foreign power to intervene in an election. Secondly, Mr. President, even lowly Congressman Kurt Schrader knows he can’t sit in his congressional office and do campaign work on the official phone.
Over the next several months that we’re going to have hopefully a lot of different people that were referenced in this whistleblower or report come forward or be requested to come forward and corroborate what we heard. The whistleblower indicates some of the actual conversations had been transferred to a top security safe, that it’s not supposed to be used for those types of conversations. That’s only for top classified stuff.
I don’t think it’s good politics for the Democrats, but you can’t ignore what’s going on. And, at some point in time, I have to do what I’m supposed to do constitutionally and bring my constituents here in Keizer along that this is a pretty reasonable investigation.
Keizertimes: For at least the past two years, the youth in this country have watched their peers (Parkland survivors and Greta Thunberg as two examples) be belittled by members of Congress, the president and talking heads in the media. Are you at all worried about the corrosive effect of these messages and what would you tell them?
Schrader: I hope it’s not corrosive. I hope it is empowering. I hope they say I need to get more involved, not get less involved as a result of people that put you down and belittle you. They’re doing that because they don’t have a good argument against your argument. That’d be my message to young America. The reason they’re using bad language, the reason they’re belittling you, calling you names is because they cannot refute your argument. You are actually winning at the end of the day. Stay the course.
Keizertimes: How are you seeing the trade war impact the Oregon?
Schrader: A lot of farmers that are very, very, very concerned and hanging on by their fingernails. We’ve got some small business people in the same boat. China’s a huge market. Mexico and Canada are our biggest markets. If we just do a little more on the labor provisions [in the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement], make them a little more enforceable then I think we have a potentially great deal.
Keizertimes: What issues are you hearing about most from constituents?
Schrader: The whole cost of healthcare and prescription drugs have gotten out of control. It’s going to be difficult because the acrimony has gotten a little worse. We’re trying to draw a little sunlight on costs and make sure that consumers are protected. By fixing the Affordable Care Act, we get the cost sharing back in, do the reinsurance, allow the states to do a few more waivers and be a little more innovative. Those are doable, but they get caught up in the abortion debate.
Keizertimes: Congress did manage to pass the robocall bill, what do you hope the outcome of that will be aside from fewer annoyances?
Schrader: Part of the bill serves notice to the provider networks that they have to do some responsible policing. I don’t want providers making money off of people that are harassing or taking advantage of innocent Americans. It’s not just about you providing a service. With that service comes responsibility. It means they have to monitor who’s on your network, who’s taking advantage of your network.
Keizertimes: You held a hearing on the Chemawa Indian School earlier this year to try to get answers on the care of students there. How did it go?
Schrader: That hearing was terrible. Terrible because, frankly, the school administration was not ready for it. I think they showed that they were less than genuine, honest with us about what was going on. The good outcome was that my colleagues heard what we heard a year ago and she spoke pretty clearly that she seen the same thing back in the Midwest where she’s from. The head Bureau of Indian Education reached out to us after the hearing for a meeting in our office. We sat down with them, went through some of our concerns and they indicated that they are with us. They want to work on some of this stuff, but they’re constrained by all these federal regulations. So instead of being able to run it like a school, they have to run like a federal agency. The superintendent and her top staff lifted the gag order [preventing school staff from talking with congressional representatives]. That was my biggest issue.
Keizertimes: What matters should we be paying more attention to in Oregon?
Schrader: The Willamette Basin Review. It will determine how we use water going forward and meet the needs of farmers, fish, the environment and drinking needs. We’re spending a lot of time on that. My office can’t influence the outcome, but we can make sure all the stakeholders understand what’s going on and meet with the principals. It’s not newsworthy back east, but it is certainly hugely newsworthy here.
Keizertimes: Are there any policies or actions the Trump Administration has taken that you agree with?
Schrader: I’m supportive of our National Guard, super supportive of our veterans, but I do not support endless foreign invention at great cost to an American taxpayer. It’s time for [other nations] to step up and pay their fair share. They’re no longer struggling, reconstructing nations. These developed nations should be able to get behind the wheel a little bit, too. I think America should still be a leader. We’re looked upon as leaders, but it shouldn’t be our job to foot the tab for everybody else.
Keizertimes: There is a national debt counter on your website, what can be done to slow or reverse its course given the present divides in Congress and the nation?
Schrader: The real issue on our debt deficit is in our safety net programs. Medicare and Social Security are going to go negative and in the not too distant future. It means you got to talk about increasing the payroll accounts subject to the tax and maybe change the inflation rate. I think my colleagues underestimate the intelligence of folks out there. They understand we got a problem and I don’t think there’s a single grandparent or single parent out there that wants to take Social Security or Medicare away from their kids or grandkids. We’ve got to solve this problem together.
Keizertimes: Many Oregonians stand to lose SNAP benefits if the administration moves forward with new USDA rules, what is being done in Congress to either fight the action or shore up other benefits that could fill in the gap?
Schrader: When you start putting one-size-fits-all rules to restrict benefits, you’re restricting them to kids, pregnant ladies and older people, too. We need to make sure families have access. A more nuanced approach would be providing gradations of benefits as people move up the chain socioeconomically, getting a little better job, getting a little more pay.
Keizertimes: Are you concerned about the current approach to natural resources?
Schrader: We actually had bipartisan support for longterm funding for the land water conservation fund. If these guys are drilling, at least let’s let some of those royalties go into protecting the land. It’s a twin-edged sword, but if we’re going to allow some of this economic development in areas that depend on it, let’s reap the benefits from an environmental standpoint.