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Rep. Schrader: Both sides should calm down about Trump

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Oregon Democrat is still critical of the new president, but he says both parties can exert influence in Congress, particularly on public works spending Trump wants.

U.S. Rep. Kurt Schrader says things are neither as euphoric as supporters say nor as hostile as critics say during the first weeks of Donald Trump's presidency.

The Democrat from Canby, who has represented Oregon's 5th District for five terms, was among the Democrats who chose not to attend the Jan. 20 inauguration of the Republican president.

"But I would hope things calm down a little" despite the flurry of much-debated appointees and executive orders by Trump, Schrader said Feb. 10 at a meeting with local officials in West Linn City Hall.

Schrader was responding to a concern voiced by Mitzi Bauer, a North Clackamas School Board member, who said some students have felt intimidated — or worse — since Trump's election Nov. 8.

Schrader was an early supporter of Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee. But Trump won more votes in the district as a whole — although Clinton carried Clackamas County and Oregon — and Schrader's district is Oregon's most closely divided between Democrats and Republicans.

"People are almost irrationally afraid of what is going on, or irrationally excited about opportunities that will never happen," Schrader said after the meeting. "We need to realize there has been a change in administrations. We have to figure out how we work together and move some things forward."

Asked by Clackamas County Commissioner Paul Savas about whether the new administration might target states such as Oregon, Schrader said, "I wouldn't worry about retribution."

"But I do not know how you get off the wrong side of Donald Trump," he added to audience laughter, referring to Trump's wide-ranging off-the-cuff comments and tweets.

Wide-ranging issues

During the meeting, which drew more than 50 officials from local, county and regional levels, Schrader covered a variety of topics raised from the entire political spectrum.

He told Tyler Smith, a Canby city councilor, that he would welcome a selective reduction in federal regulations that may impede the growth of small businesses.

But he also said the federal government has a big role to play in trade and transportation.

Schrader supported the 12-nation agreement known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which Trump has scrapped — and six of those nations were among Oregon's top 10 trading partners in 2015.

"I doubt we will get a better agreement," he said in response to a question by Tom Hughes, Metro Council president, who noted Oregon's growth in trade with Southeast Asian nations such as Malaysia, Vietnam and Singapore.

Schrader said he hopes the United States can negotiate bilateral agreements with some of those nations.

"I'd like to think you can put 'America First' without being isolationist," he said. "I don't want China setting the table" for trade relationships.

Aid prospects

Trump has said he will support more federal spending on transportation and other public works to create more jobs, although Democrats and Republicans have questioned how he proposes to do it through tax credits for investors.

Although Republicans resisted such spending when Democrat Barack Obama proposed it, Schrader said, "a little issue in Flint changed things in a big way," referring to the Michigan city affected by lead-tainted drinking water.

"The biggest problem is how to pay for it," he said in response to a question by Kim Sieckmann, a Gladstone city councilor. "If it's not paid for, I'm not going to want to support it."

Schrader helped win designation of Interstate 205 as a corridor of national significance in the 2015 law that extended federal transportation spending authority for five years. But the law increased spending levels only modestly.

Oregon bid recently for $62 million in federal funds for a $122 million project to widen the George Abernethy Bridge, which carries I-205 across the Willamette River between West Linn and Oregon City.

"It did not get through on this particular grant cycle, but there is always another cycle," Schrader said afterward.

But he also is optimistic that the current political climate might actually result in new federal support for public works.

"How it actually comes about might be different from what has been discussed so far," he said. "But what I hear is that we need to improve our transportation and infrastructure — and the good news is that it seems to be bipartisan and the administration is on board."

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