The Oklahoma City bombing shows the need for a less-intrusive federal government, several people told U.S. Rep. George Nethercutt in a town hall meeting Tuesday.
“If somebody doesn’t rein in (U.S. Attorney General) Janet Reno, there will be more blows,” Valley, Wash., resident John Axtell said.
Newport-area resident Arthur D’Aoust, a retired securities company owner, asked what Congress could do to stop an ongoing “whitewash” of abuse by federal agents involved in the Waco, Texas, and Ruby Ridge shootouts.
“A lot of people are angry,” D’Aoust said, adding that anger triggered the “insane” bomber of the Oklahoma City federal building last week.
A private pilot who frequently crosses international borders, D’Aoust complained about U.S. Customs agents who “act like thugs” and increasingly “arrogant” Coast Guard searches of private vessels.
“It just seems to me that, in a civilized society, there are ways to prevent the kind of problems you’re talking about,” Nethercutt responded. But, he added, “I don’t think it does any person of conservative persuasion any good to act in kind. … Don’t lose faith in the system, but let Congress do its oversight.”
Nethercutt said he favors hearings on “encroachments and over-reaching of officials in public office.”
Meanwhile, he said he hopes last week’s bombing won’t provoke “over-reactions” from either end of the political spectrum. “We need civilization at its best,” and no one should take the law into his own hands, Nethercutt said.
“The law has been put in your hands,” said a gray-bearded white man from Springdale, who identified himself as Sheikh Dawud, a Muslim fundamentalist. “Do you think there could be some action before something else happens?”
About 55 people attended the town hall meeting at Colville High School. Nethercutt estimated about 75 people attended an open house at his new Colville office earlier Tuesday.
Nethercutt believes the office, which replaces Tom Foley’s office in the Spokane Valley, is the first ever for the north end of the 5th Congressional District. Opening the office fulfilled a campaign pledge for Nethercutt and gave him a presence in a region that gave him more than 60 percent support in his victory over Foley.
“I guess I owe it all to you,” Nethercutt told the town hall audience, noting he won by fewer than 4,000 votes.
Most of those at Tuesday’s meeting seemed satisfied with the performance so far of Nethercutt and other Republicans who seized control of both houses of Congress. But some wanted more.
Stevens County Farm Bureau representative Chris Hoops called for a less burdensome way for farmers to get out of the federal program that pays them not to use highly erodible land. Nethercutt agreed it hardly seems fair for a new owner to have to repay benefits collected by a previous owner.
Bob Sump, a mechanic for Echo Bay Mining at Republic, asked Nethercutt to support a bill that would limit mining royalties on federal land to 3 percent while boosting land lease fees to market value.
Kettle Falls High School social studies teacher Bill Pifer expressed about the only criticism of Republican efforts to cut the federal budget. Pifer was concerned that cuts in federal education spending will keep many schools from acquiring equipment needed to teach computer technology.