By JESSE BURKHARDT
U.S. Rep. Doc Hastings (R.-4th Congressional District) was in Klickitat County last Thursday for a local tour that included a town hall meeting in Goldendale.
"I like to get back to the district as often as I can, to feel the pulse of the citizens and get a sense of where we are," Hastings said.
Before the town hall event, Hastings stopped in at the office of The Enterprise. In an interview session, Hastings offered his views on a variety of topics of local and national importance.
Hastings, who lives in Pasco, was first elected to a two-year term in Congress in 1994, and has won re-election relatively easily every two years since then. He anticipates running for a ninth term in 2010.
On May 27, Hastings held a news conference in Richland with Democratic U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, a co-sponsor for the bill in the Senate, celebrating the recent passage of the Ice Ages Floods Bill, which establishes a "National Geologic Trail" through four Western states, including Washington. The legislation helps tell the history of the cataclysmic floods that created the geology of central and eastern Washington. Hastings' bill would allow the National Park Service to coordinate with states, tribes, and other local entities to establish interpretive centers, waysides, and other exhibits detailing the geological impact of the floods.
You played a big role in passage of the "Ice Age Floods" legislation -- explain the impacts you hope it can have on the local economy; for example, are there any Ice Age Flood sites in Klickitat County?
I've been working on that for seven years. Now that bill has passed, and Sen. Maria Cantwell and I held a news conference with the National Park Service yesterday. The Park Service will be identifying the areas of significance with the floods and explained what happened.
This bill is going to highlight the fact that the Columbia River was the path of those floods, which started in Montana and followed the river, and the Park Service will find the areas where people can see the impression it made. It will add one more aspect the tourism people can promote. The next process is to identify the sites. The floods came down the Columbia, and I am sure there are sites here in Klickitat County. The bill provides funding and allows the Park Service to designate certain areas to point out.
What issues are you focusing on as the top Republican on the Natural Resources Committee?
One issue in particular is the fish stocking in the central Cascades. This bill has bi-partisan support. We've always stocked those lakes, and we need to get it done by July. The immediate issue is that there is some question whether the Park Service could allow Fish & Wildlife to do the stocking. This legislation simply directs the Secretary of the Interior to continue stocking fish in those Cascade lakes -- in the North Cascade National Park, Ross Lake National Recreation Area, and Lake Chelan National Recreation Area.
One of the larger issues we're discussing include dealing with energy policy. We need as diverse an energy policy as possible -- hydro, solar, nuclear, wind, and we can't ignore gas and oil. There is so much of it in the world, in the inter-mountain West, in Alaska of course, and off our continental shelf. As this legislation moves forward, it's important that we further develop our oil and gas resources so we become less dependent on foreign oil.
Wind power is becoming a huge industry in this district. Do you think this industry will continue to expand, or are there limits to how many turbines can be sited?
Our area here locally has benefited by that industry. The bulk of the wind farms in the state are in Klickitat County. The limit is that energy is only generated when the wind blows, so I'm a firm believer in having energy resources as diverse as possible.
We need "all of the above," and certainly wind is a part of it. It provides a boost to farmers and ranchers, especially in the eastern parts of the county; it gives a good source of income when crops fail. It's a win-win situation as far as I'm concerned.
It seems like almost everything we find in stores these days is made in China. We want to buy American, but often it is impossible to do so. Is Congress doing anything about this, and is there any hope of recovering our manufacturing base?
There are a lot of factors for that. Part of it is the economic of supply and demand. Americans wants to buy the best product for the money, and clearly they have preferred foreign-made goods. Rightly or wrongly, the manufacturers and stores are responding to that supply and demand.
We tax our corporations more than virtually all of the developed nations. Because of our tax policy, our manufacturers are at a competitive disadvantage, and they have to do work offshore to be competitive.
Look at the car manufacturers -- they made some bad decisions. But it could just as easily turn around. Other countries could have problems. If they don't get the goods here as quickly or have other problems, then that manufacturing could come right back over here.
As a Republican, you've been in minority status in Congress for the past few years now -- is that a difficult place to be?
It's a huge difference. But when we were in the majority, we worked on a bi-partisan basis. We might have some different views, but there is a good working relationship, among the members of the two parties. I have a very good relationship with committee chair Nick Rahall of West Virginia. Sometimes he has a little different view of things, and sometimes we agree to disagree, and do it agreeably.
The main difference now is, I don't set the agenda on the committee. For one example, when I was working on legislation on the taking of sea lions with Brian Baird (D.-Wash.), I was the original sponsor. When the Democrats became the majority, I became a co-sponsor and Baird became the sponsor. Eventually, the same bill passed.
There are some major differences in philosophy between the two parties, but a lot of bills have bipartisan support. For example, four Washington Democrats are co-sponsors of the bill on stocking of fish in the Cascade lakes.
North Korea has been increasingly threatening, with nuclear testing and test firing of rockets. Do you have any ideas about what can be done to contain this threat without sparking a war?
We need to support the administration when they take tough stands. This is pretty frightening, no question about it.
North Korea said they would consider it an act of war if boats going in to there were inspected, and I was somewhat surprised South Korea isn't inspecting those boats now.
It's pretty frightening to have somebody like that with nuclear weapons -- and also Iran has been rattling sabers. There too, our allies are going to have to understand that. The international community is more blase than we are about this. We need to make sure we keep our defenses up and do what we can to put pressure on. At some point, the rest of the world has to step up. We appear to be the ones everybody looks to to resolve this. But if we try to do something on our own, we'll be criticized for that. The international community must deal with this all together.
Do you plan to run again in 2010, or have you not made that decision yet?
I haven't made an official announcement, but I don't see myself not running.