Hastings discusses Capitol Hill gridlock at Badger Club meeting

By Geoff Folsom, Tri-City HeraldMarch 17, 2014 

U.S. Rep. Doc Hastings admitted Monday that not many bills are becoming law in Washington, D.C. But he put the blame elsewhere in Congress.

"The House is passing legislation and the Senate isn't," Hastings told an audience of 60 people at a Columbia Basin Badger Club meeting.

A case in point is legislation dealing with a drought in California's San Joaquin Valley, said Hastings, who isn't seeking re-election after 10 terms in Congress. The House has passed a bill, but the Senate has yet to have a hearing on the issue.

Hastings, chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, will hold a field hearing on the drought today in Fresno. The Senate should pass a bill and work out the differences in a conference committee, he said.

"We have done our job legislatively," he said. "Of course all the news is nothing gets done, but it takes two to tango."

But passing less laws isn't necessarily bad, because passing more could mean more regulations on citizens, Hastings said. That's why the Founding Fathers put a separation of powers in the Constitution.

"I will agree that a 15 percent approval rating is not something to wave the flag for, but I will say that it is supposed to be difficult to govern," he said.

Hastings predicted Republicans will get the six seats they need to retake control of the Senate in the November election. He pointed to Republican David Jolly's use of federal health care legislation as the key issue in winning a special election last week for a House seat in Florida.

"We will pass legislation to repeal (Obamacare) and the president will veto it," Hastings said. "But that will set the stage for the 2016 election, and the president can't run again."

Hastings was responding to a question by Kennewick attorney George Cicotte, one of three Republican candidates to replace Hastings who attended the meeting. Clint Didier, an Eltopia farmer and former pro football player, and Kennewick caregiver Jamie Wheeler also attended.

One questioner asked Hastings about the high costs of running for Congress. Hastings responded that a typical congressional race costs less than a 30-second advertisement during the Super Bowl, though he did acknowledge that he would like to see the political parties have more control over election money, instead of individuals and special-interest groups.

"I wish that the parties were strengthened, but I'm not sure that we can put that genie back in the bottle," he said.

Hastings, who won his seat in the Republican wave election of 1994, announced last month that this term will be his last. He advised whoever replaces him to do what he or she says they will do.

"There's nothing magical about it," he said. "It's the same as if you were in business; you treat your customers right."

Monday's luncheon at the Pasco Red Lion Hotel was the first time Hastings has addressed the Badger Club in its seven years, said Mark Smith, the event's moderator. Hastings told the club he would speak before announcing his retirement.

The Badger Club is a non-partisan political forum designed to promote civil discourse.

"One of the great things about the Badger Club is we get a full half-hour of asking questions," Smith said. "I think Doc did a great job of showing that 19 years have taught him to fend off anything we ask."

-- Geoff Folsom: 509-582-1543; gfolsom@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @GeoffFolsom

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