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Washington's Newhouse among 10 Republicans who voted to impeach President Trump

U.S. Rep. Dan Newhouse, a longtime supporter of President Donald Trump, voted to impeach the president Wednesday.

Newhouse, a Sunnyside Republican, was one of 10 Republicans to join with House Democrats to approve a single article of impeachment charging Trump with inciting an insurrection. Newhouse, both in a statement to reporters and on the House floor, said it was decision he made with a “heavy heart” but with “clear resolve.”

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“A vote against this impeachment is a vote to validate the unacceptable violence we witnessed in our nation’s capital. It is also a vote to condone President Trump’s inaction,” Newhouse said in his statement. “He did not strongly condemn the attack, nor did he call in reinforcements when our officers were overwhelmed. Our country needed a leader, and President Trump failed to fulfill his oath of office.”

Newhouse was joined by fellow Washington Republican Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler of Vancouver in voting to impeach the president. It was the first time in American history that so many members of the president’s party voted for impeachment, which is the equivalent of a grand jury indictment.

While Newhouse’s vote was applauded by the head of Yakima County’s Democratic Party, local Republicans were upset, GOP chairwoman Debra Manjarrez said Wednesday.

“The majority of constituents in Yakima County are not happy with the way Dan voted,” Manjarrez said. “My phone has been ringing off the hook.”

But Naomi Whitmore, Manjarrez’s Democratic counterpart, said Newhouse’s vote was a sign he was listening to residents who were frustrated with the president’s actions, and may win him some support with Democrats and independents.

“He has certainly sided with the president in the past, but what we have all been feeling since the attack on the Capitol, it was a step too far,” Whitmore said. She said being in harm’s way may have been a factor in changing Newhouse’s mind.

Previous votes

Newhouse voted against impeaching Trump in December 2019 on allegations the president improperly solicited help from Ukraine’s government to assist in his reelection in return for weapons to fight Russian-backed separatists. He was also one of 126 House Republicans who signed a legal brief supporting Texas’ lawsuit asking the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the election.

Newhouse voted to certify the results of the Electoral College Jan. 6, a vote that was interrupted when a mob of Trump supporters attacked the Capitol building, assaulting police and forcing members of Congress to evacuate. Newhouse sheltered with his wife and staff in one of the House’s office buildings.

Trump spoke to the mob before the incident, telling them to march down to the Capitol and push Congress to throw out the Electoral College votes. He earlier told people via Twitter to come to Washington that day, promising a “wild time.”

Five people, including a U.S. Capitol Police officer, were killed in the attack, the first time the U.S. Capitol had been breached since the War of 1812.

Newhouse voted against a resolution Tuesday directing Vice President Mike Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment and declare the president incapable of serving. Pence has refused to invoke the amendment, in which he and most of the president’s cabinet would have to find that Trump was incapable of fulfilling his duties.

Attempts to contact Newhouse Wednesday were not successful. Calls and emails to his office and his cellphone were not returned by press time.

Floor speech

Speaking on the House floor during the debate on impeachment, Newhouse said he and his congressional colleagues shared responsibility for what happened Jan. 6, as well as during protests throughout the summer.

“My colleagues are responsible for not condemning rioters this past year, like those who barricaded the doors of the Seattle Police Department and attempted to murder the officers inside,” Newhouse said, referring to incidents in the Capitol Hill district of the city. “Others, including myself, are responsible for not speaking out sooner before the president misinformed and enflamed a violent mob who tore down the American flag and brutally beat Capitol police officers.”

Newhouse said that Trump violated his oath to defend the Constitution against “all enemies, foreign and domestic” by not sending help to the besieged Capitol.

“That is why with a heavy heart, and clear resolve, that I will vote yes on these articles of impeachment,” Newhouse said.

His speech was met with applause in the chamber.

Whitmore said Democrats denounced the violence that took place during some of the protests involving the Black Lives Matter movement this summer, but questioned efforts to draw a moral equivalence between those protests and the attack on the Capitol. She said the president had been inciting his followers for some time.

While Manjarrez condemned all the violence in 2020, she did not blame Trump for the attack on the Capitol. Instead, she claimed a “media assault” throughout Trump’s term stoked frustration with his supporters, as well as recent decisions by social media companies to cut off Trump and others, as sparking violence.

“If they can shut down the president of the United States, they can shut down you,” Manjarrez said, calling it an assault on free speech.

Trump’s social media accounts were suspended by their host companies after the attack on the Capitol.

Whitmore said there was an important lesson from the attack and the impeachment vote.

“Words matter and truth matters, and that is ultimately the way forward,” Whitmore said. “We have to tell people the truth.”

That is why with a heavy heart, and clear resolve, that I will vote yes on these articles of impeachment.”


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Yakima County commissioners rewrite Board of Health rules
  • Updated

New rules governing Yakima County’s Board of Health could disqualify two longtime board members from reappointment while affording Yakima County commissioners more power over decisions.

Longtime board member Barbara Harrer and chairwoman Gail Weaver — whose terms have expired — are now subject to term limits and not eligible to serve under the new rules approved by Yakima County commissioners on Jan. 5.

Three terms have expired on the health board and a committee is expected to interview candidates sometime this month.

The health board is made up of three county commissioners, two elected city officials and two citizen members. It helps guide health district operations, an important role during the pandemic.

Term limits aren’t the only changes in the new rules that were established by a county ordinance — the changes also give county commissioners more voice and authority on the health board.

Under the new ordinance, the health board can only be chaired by a commissioner, who is allowed two votes on each issue. That gives commissioners a total of four votes on the seven-member board.

The ordinance also limits citizen members to serving two consecutive four-year terms, and limits elected city officials to serving four consecutive two-year terms.

Harrer and Weaver said they didn’t learn of the new rules until after the ordinance was approved.

“It was a surprise — this was not brought up before the Board of Health in December (when the board last met),” Weaver said.

Commissioner Amanda McKinney said the changes were made after learning that the board wasn’t following its policy when making appointments.

She said the health board in November planned to reinstall existing members of expired terms without advertising the positions.

“They said it was common practice that if someone on the board decided to stay that they would just reapprove them,” McKinney said.

Commissioner LaDon Linde provided the same reason for the change.

“We just wanted to make sure we had a protocol in place for the election of the board of health members,” he said. “We wanted that codified and clarified.”

At least one board member, Dr. Sean Cleary, disputes that. He said the health board fell behind because of the pandemic and only planned on extending the expired terms for one month so the positions could be advertised.

Cleary accuses commissioners of making the changes to gain control of the board amid their pursuit of local management of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The commissioners — displeased with Gov. Jay Inslee’s shutdown orders of local businesses — have twice approved proclamations asking the governor to step aside and allow local management of the pandemic in the past month. {span}Both McKinney and Linde are new and took office in November.{/span}

Cleary said the changes will see the removal of the health board’s most experienced members — Harrer and Weaver.

Harrer, longtime mayor of Harrah, has served on the board since 1976. She’s the longest serving member of a health board in the state.

Weaver has served on the board since 2012. She’s the former vice president of Yakima Valley Memorial Hospital and a former administrator with the Yakima County Health District.

“I believe a lot of this is really directed at the COVID response and not the overall health of the health district,” Cleary said. “This should not be politically motivated just to alter the COVID response. If they have a concern with the governor’s proclamations, they should take legislative action.”

Timeline

There are 10 candidates vying for the citizens member vacancy on the board and seven candidates seeking the two elected city official positions.

A committee made of McKinney, Cleary and Yakima Health District Executive Director Ryan Ibach is expected to interview candidates sometime this month before narrowing down finalists from which the board will make final selections.

But that process may be in limbo, Cleary said.

The application period for the positions ended on Jan. 3, and the commission did not approve the ordinance enacting term limits until two days later on Jan. 5.

Cleary said it’s not fair to retroactively enforce the ordinance and that discussion is continuing on whether the new rules apply to this selection process.

He said commissioners drafted the new ordinance on Dec. 15, two days before the Dec. 17 meeting that established the nomination committee and selection process for new board members. Cleary said commissioners did not mention the new ordinance at that meeting.

McKinney said it wouldn’t have been appropriate to mention it at that time because the ordinance had yet to undergo a Dec. 29 public hearing. Objections to the ordinance could have led to it being rejected by commissioners, she said.

McKinney said in her personal opinion, the ordinance applies to this selection process.

Linde couldn’t say how the ordinance would be applied this go-round.

“I have no comment on that,” he said. “I have no answer.”

Voting power

Cleary said giving commissioners four votes gives them a majority in the seven-member board.

He also takes issue with the commission selecting one of its members as chair.

State law says the health board shall select its chair.

“It just assures that the commissioners’ vote can never be in the minority, they can never be out voted,” he said. “No one can look at the wording of this (ordinance) and think it’s a good thing — it doesn’t pass the smell test.”

Linde said commissioners on most health boards across the state hold the majority of votes on their respective health boards.

“Nearly every health board, the county commissioners have a majority vote on that board,” he said.

Nearby Benton and Franklin counties are joined under one health district. The health board has three commissioners from each county, said Rick Dawson, a health district program manager.

“It makes it really easy to determine how our board gets selected; every time we get a new commissioner, we get a new board member,” he said.

Kittitas County’s health board is composed of five members, three are county commissioners (one is the chair), one a family physician and the other a deputy fire chief, according to the district’s website.

Farther east in Spokane, the Spokane Regional Health District is guided by a 12-member board made up of three county commissioners, six elected officials from cities and towns and three citizen members.


Members of the National Guard gather inside the Capitol Visitor Center, Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021, in Washington as the House of Representatives continues with its fast-moving House vote to impeach President Donald Trump, a week after a mob of Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)


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Washington growers urge Inslee to reconsider farmworker housing rules, focus on testing and vaccinations

With thousands of H-2A workers set to arrive in the coming months, Washington growers are pushing Gov. Jay Inslee and state agencies to take a different approach on COVID-19 regulations for farmworker housing.

A coalition of groups, including the Washington Farm Bureau and Wafla, the state’s largest contractor of H-2A workers, is urging Inslee to repeal and replace newly revised emergency rules for temporary housing.

The group contends that the rules, which were released Friday and are effective through May, are mostly a copy of the agencies’ policies for the last several months and do not acknowledge any new developments, such as the availability of vaccines.

The rules say that growers cannot use bunk beds unless they agree to put employees into shelter groups that work, travel and live together. The rules call for the groups to be no larger than 15 workers, but as was the case previously, growers can apply for a variance that would allow for larger shelter groups.

Without such a variance, the amount of available housing for farmworkers — namely, those under the H-2A foreign guest worker program — would have been reduced upwards by half, creating a financially unsustainable situation, industry leaders say.

“Farmers barely made it through last year,” said Dan Fazio, executive director of Wafla. “What’s the point of the vaccines if we have new emergency rules that go through May?”

Fazio and agriculture organizations say continuing with the emergency rules makes little sense when vaccines and farmworkers, as essential workers, should be a high priority to receive them. Agricultural workers over 50 are already listed by the state as a priority group to receive vaccines.

Wafla, along with the Washington Farm Bureau, sent a letter to Inslee this week asking him to repeal and amend the rules because of the development and availability of vaccines.

Fazio said grower groups want to adopt a model where H-2A workers would be tested upon arrival at the grower’s expense. Once any potential workers who are positive for COVID-19 are isolated and treated, growers can start the process of vaccinating workers.

“We think once you are 100% in your congregate housing facility, you don’t have to be under the emergency regulations of COVID,” he said, referencing vaccinations.

Fazio said several grower groups pointed out the need to consider vaccine distribution during the comment period for newly revised emergency rules last month. Wafla sent 10 pages of comments.

“We’re asking them, ‘What happened to the comments that farmers sent in? Wafla? Farm Bureau?’” he said.

In the appeal letter, Yakima attorney Gary Lofland mentions that state law prohibits the adoption of “identical or substantially similar emergency rules” in sequence unless agencies want to adopt the rules permanently.

A different approach

The Washington State Tree Fruit Association expressed similar concerns but decided to take a different approach.

The organization is writing a letter to Inslee urging collaboration between the industry and state agencies on a plan to vaccinate agricultural workers.

“We think rather than waiting until the process starts and trying to figure out the logistics, we should be working on the planning process,” said Jon Devaney, the organization’s president. “It’s a huge logistical challenge.”

Like Fazio, however, DeVaney believes a focus on vaccination would enable growers to resume capacity levels in farmworker housing.

“Vaccination is our best means of ensuring safety and returning to more normal operations,” he said.

DeVaney said he was disappointed in the lack of revisions in the renewed emergency rules, especially the omission of vaccine use. But he felt that the rules have been “pretty effective in protecting workers,” and there were other avenues to push for cooperation with state agencies.

Fazio said he’d seen the letter the Washington State Tree Fruit Association will be sending and said he feels farm groups are united in their general stance of supporting widespread testing and vaccination.

“It’s a different means to the same end,” he said. “We are very much supportive of their efforts.”


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