Almost 150 people turned out Thursday evening to hear from U.S. Rep. Dan Newhouse on issues ranging from immigration to dairy regulations to President Trump’s taxes.
It was the second of three semi-public events Newhouse scheduled to hear constituents’ opinions for the first time since Trump took office.
The turnout was the largest that Newhouse said he’s seen at such an event.
The most contentious questions from the audience, which was restricted to people who could prove they lived in Newhouse’s 4th Congressional District, focused on immigration reform and environmental regulations for dairies.
When asked how he is working for immigration reform, Newhouse pointed to his co-sponsorship of the “Bridge Act,” which temporarily bars deportation of people brought to the country illegally as children while Congress crafts a new immigration plan.
But that wasn’t enough for many at the meeting.
They wanted to know how Newhouse was going to create immigration reform for all the nation’s undocumented residents.
He didn’t have a specific answer.
“If I could be a part of a solution for immigration I would feel comfortable coming back to Sunnyside,” he said.
When Newhouse said he doesn’t believe a wall stretching from the Gulf of Mexico to the Pacific Ocean will be built, he got a warmer response.
Some were unhappy with Newhouse’s stance on regulating dairies, specifically his bill that would prevent manure from being regulated under federal solid waste regulations. The measure has farmers hopeful and environmentalists concerned.
Newhouse contends a 2015 federal court ruling that several Yakima Valley dairies violated solid waste regulations for managing manure misinterpreted the regulations contained in the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, or RCRA.
Critics argue that allows dairies to over-saturate the ground with manure as fertilizer and causes harmful nitrates to leak into the groundwater.
But Newhouse contends his bill simply clarifies that Congress never meant for dairies to be included in the RCRA and that residents would still have safe drinking water.
Some in the audience criticized Newhouse for using “pretty words,” but not taking any real action on immigration reform, Trump’s acts of war in Syria, Internet privacy and a host of other issues.
Newhouse said he’d help write a bill making it mandatory for a president to release his tax returns.
Newhouse is one of only a handful of U.S. Congress members from Washington to hold listening sessions or town halls during this recess.
While many residents were happy to see him in person, they still had to show proof of residency to get into the event.
According to a news release from Newhouse’s office, that was because of limited seating. The Sunnyside High School auditorium where the session took place seats about 700.
Newhouse will host a final listening session from 6 to 7 p.m. Thursday in Okanogan County before Congress is back in session April 25.