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Blumenauer on Cannabis, Abortion,
Republicans and the Snake River Dams

by Elizabeth Hayes
Portland Business Journal, September 23, 2022

A legitimate case can be made that these (LSR) hydropower projects
are not the limiting factor for sustainable salmon populations.

Graphic: Adult Salmon returns to highest dam on the Lower Snake River (1962-2018). When U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer stopped by the Portland Business Journal's downtown office on a recent Thursday, he was sporting not his trademark bowtie but a red plastic bike pin.

The Portland Democrat founded the Congressional Bike Caucus and can take some credit for getting bike lanes along Pennsylvania Avenue. He vowed not to own a car in Washington and instead pedals to work.

Closer to work, the Congressman Earl Blumenauer Bicycle and Pedestrian Bridge opened at the end of July across the I-84, connecting the Lloyd District and Central Eastside.

"It's something that I have been working towards for literally three decades," Blumenauer said.

He had more on his mind than bikes, however. Here are some excerpts of a wide-ranging discussion, edited for space.

Talking about your own bridge, what's the likelihood Congress can make a new I-5 crossing over the Columbia River: happen?
It depends on how good our community and our partners in Washington are in getting our act together with a reasonable plan that builds community consensus. Last time, it was blown up by the state of Washington, and I took that kind of personally because I worked hard to get $200 million into that planning effort.

Transportation infrastructure is near and dear to my heart. The new legislation we passed has opportunities for a number of our priorities in the metropolitan area. But it depends on who is able to make the case as strong as they can to the federal government that we're proposing something that's a low carbon and sustainable approach. There's going to be a lot of competition for this money. I'm hopeful we'll do it going forward.

You're also a member of the cannabis caucus. Any movement on cannabis reform?
Well, it is definitely possible that we can enact the Safe Banking Act. I was encouraged that the Senate finally introduced a reform bill. I can tell you after having worked on these legislative (efforts), it's not easy to craft cannabis legislation that makes sense, that is technically appropriate and aligns with our other priorities.

But I think they've made some significant progress. I had a great meeting just before we broke for the summer with (Sen.) Cory Booker, who's been a little hesitant (to support the banking bill) because he feels strongly about the racial justice element, social justice, and so do I -- I mean, that's in the house reform bill. We've got a sea change. When I started, the public did not support legalization. Well, now we've reached the point where a majority of Republicans support it. And the public is more than two to one. And we continue to have the march across the country on state and local activities. And I just I think the momentum is built. It's not much of a lift.

What's the latest in terms of access to abortion services?
Clearly, reproductive health is a bottom-line issue. With the Dobbs decision, it just illustrates how hopelessly out of touch my Republican friends are. They paraded all sorts of crisp-sounding bumper sticker slogans to eliminate abortion. Well, the dog caught the mail truck and ran over it, because it's not just six weeks or 12 weeks or whatever, but we are finding hospitals across the country denying health care to women with miscarriages, putting their life at risk, over a dead fetus. Being able to go across state lines to get medical treatment: There were Republicans who voted against that.

I think you're going to see (Democrats) seek to clarify and codify Roe and those protections. And I will make a prediction that every week that passes, Republican opposition to what we've done is going to soften. They're already scrubbing from their websites their extraordinarily hard-edged, absolute positions on reproductive freedom. They can't stop the screenshots that people took, but they're trying to sound moderate. And I think that that may well be reflected in efforts to further codify the rights that women ought to be able to expect and rely upon.

Talk a little about the climate in terms of both major parties working with each other.
We watched what the Republicans did in 2017. But they were gleeful about shutting down the government. And it took, you know, almost three weeks for them to figure out, that's not a good idea. I think this crew may be slower learners. It's disappointing for me, because one of the things I work towards is having a group of Republicans that I can work with on issues that don't have to be partisan -- cannabis, energy.

I've worked for years with Republican partners on Public Broadcasting, IT infrastructure -- infrastructure used to be a bipartisan proposal. So it's a challenging landscape. But I think in the final analysis, they're either going to come around to working with us, or they will be thrown out in 2024. They've nominated people who are manifestly ill equipped to be able to govern and who reinforce that negativity. They're not ready for primetime.

Where are you on the Snake River dam removal question?
I've been kind of an outlier in the Northwest delegation. I've never said take dam breaching off the table. I don't think you can look at the big picture without at least considering it, and there are alternatives (for clean energy). We've been able to reach out with the Native American community, environmentalists and people who are looking at the future of energy in the Pacific Northwest. I think, ultimately, we will modify, if not remove, those dams.

Elizabeth Hayes
Blumenauer on Cannabis, Abortion, Republicans and the Snake River Dams
Portland Business Journal, September 23, 2022

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