Rep. Larsen discusses impeachment, I-976, legislative achievements at town hall event

In anticipation of the Jan. 12 Seahawks-Packers game, U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen wore a Seahawks shirt to the Jan. 11 town hall meeting.

Community members filled the interim Mountlake Terrace City Hall chambers last weekend to join U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen in discussing topics ranging from international to local that affect the 2nd Congressional District, which includes Mountlake Terrace and Lynnwood.

Larsen kicked off the discussion by addressing the impeachment charges against President Donald Trump. Though Larsen was among the House members who voted to adopt two articles charging Trump with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, he said it was nothing to celebrate.

“I think it is a sober time when you are moved to impeach a president,” he said.

Larsen said he agreed with the majority of Congressional representatives that Trump used his office to persuade a foreign power to intervene in the 2020 presidential election.

Additionally, Larsen touched on recent legislative achievements, like passing a stopgap bill to keep the government open and funded through Sept. 30, 2020. He also worked to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank for seven years to help finance the export of U.S.-made products and services. And he supported a bill that provided the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) with $25 million to fund gun-violence research.

The House also passed a defense package that included an amendment drafted by Larsen and Washington Sen. Maria Cantwell for $1 million to perform noise monitoring at two West Coast naval stations, including Naval Air Station Whidbey Island. The amendment was in response to Island County residents suing the U.S. Navy over Growler jet noise because it made their homes unlivable.

“That was an idea generated by local constituents, so we’re trying to respond to (them),” he said.

Larsen also updated meeting attendees on the Lower Drug Costs Now Act, which aims to make prescription drugs more affordable. According to Larsen, nearly 630,000 2nd District residents stand to benefit from passage of the bill, which was approved by the House and now is before the U.S. Senate. The bill would give Medicare approval to negotiate better prices for around 250 prescription drugs, which Larsen said it is not legally allowed to do now.

During the meeting, Larsen addressed the Boeing 737 Max jetliner, which has made headlines after a design flaw was linked to two fatal crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia, prompting the company to ground the aircraft in March of last year. Larsen said it was frustrating to see new information come to light indicating that Boeing and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) were at fault for the crashes, which claimed the lives of nearly 350 people.

“The most dismaying thing to me is it’s clearly possible these people could still be alive if people at Boeing hadn’t made the decision they made,” he said.

As chair of the House Subcommittee on Aviation, Larsen said his subcommittee is reviewing the law and how the FAA relates to companies like Boeing — and whether changes need to be made to provide government with more aircraft inspection oversight to prevent future mistakes.

“I am convinced it’s not a matter of if we’re going to change the law but it’s how we’re going to change the law to pull back from the FAA and its broader authorities to delegate some of these things to companies like Boeing,” he said.

Speaking to more recent congressional business, Larsen said Congress passed legislation requiring the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate chemicals used in the foam to extinguish fires, which is harmful to water systems.

Also earlier this month, Larsen voted in favor of limiting the president’s military actions in Iran by repealing the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists (AUMF). During his career, Larsen has voted multiple times to repeal the 2001 resolution, which authorized military action in Iraq almost 20 years ago.

“I think it’s very clear I’m all for Congress maintaining its authority to declare war and to hold presidents accountable when we use military action,” he said.

According to Larsen, the Trump administration used the AUMF to justify taking military action to authorize the killing of Iranian Gen.Qassem Soleimani. Though Larsen said no one would mourn Soleimani, he agreed with the president’s critics that killing Soleimani could result in certain unrest in Iran. He also pointed out that former Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush decided against killing Soleimani when given the opportunities for that reason.

In the past, Larsen said the U.S.’s primary policies in Iran have included preventing the country from developing a nuclear weapon, fighting ISIS, focusing on Iran’s missile technology and monitoring the country’s support for terrorist groups, Larsen said.

Killing Soleimani advanced none of those policies, he said.

The event also included an opportunity for community members to ask questions regarding other matters affecting the district, like the recent passage of Initiative-976, otherwise known as the “$30 car tab” measure from anti-tax activist Tim Eyman.

In November, Washington state voters approved the measure, which is expected to make significant cuts to transportation budgets across the state. Following the vote, a King County judge issued an injunction to halt I-976 and the Washington Supreme Court ordered that the measure be put on hold pending hearings.

When asked by an audience member why the measure was held up in the courts, Larsen explained that voter approval of an initiative does not mean it becomes a law under the Washington state constitution.  In order for an initiative to become a law, it must be considered constitutional, he said.

“An initiative is a way to make a law,” he said. “Laws, by law, have to be constitutional. They don’t get to be constitutional, even if voters pass them.”

In order to be approved, Larsen said initiatives have to meet certain criteria, including they cannot be multi-subject, which the courts determined I-976 was. As a result, Larsen used the example of it being like a true or false question.

“If one part is false, it’s all false,” he said. “If one part violates the single subject, the whole thing goes out.”

–Story and photo by Cody Sexton

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