Tri-City Herald: Dan Newhouse shows a promising start to new job

Dan Newhouse made a smart and reassuring move recently when he decided to spend a day touring Hanford.

The future congressional representative seems to be aware that we need a fighter to replace outgoing Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., when it comes to funding Hanford cleanup. Knowing he took the time to prepare for that budget battle before heading to Washington, D.C. is encouraging.

Hastings is retiring after 20 years, and Newhouse, another Republican, will take over as the 4th District representative Jan. 6. We imagine he will have a steep learning curve being a freshman, but if his willingness to tour Hanford is any indication, it looks like he is trying to catch on to the needs of his district quickly. And that’s not an easy task, considering the district stretches down from Canada to Oregon.

Newhouse, a Sunnyside farmer, is not a complete novice when it comes to pushing through a legislative bureaucracy. He represented District 15 in the state House of Representatives from 2003 to 2009 before becoming the state director of agriculture, a job he held until last year.

But now he’ll be wading through a much larger pool. It will help greatly if he surrounds himself with knowledgeable people while continuing to research issues for himself. He also needs to show his two democratic colleagues in the Senate he will do his part when they need him. Hastings had a solid working relationship with Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash and Newhouse should strive for the same.

As for Hanford, Newhouse said all the right things after his tour when he acknowledged that Hanford cleanup needs to be viewed as a whole, without prioritizing one project over another. He also recognized that stable funding is critical to keep cleanup projects going and that a cycle of laying off workers and retraining them is expensive and slows progress.

It would probably help if he became active on the House Nuclear Cleanup Caucus. This is a group Hastings founded in order to discuss radioactive waste issues affecting the nation, and attending these briefings would undoubtedly keep Newhouse in the loop.

In addition to Hanford, Newhouse already knows the importance of agriculture to our state, and we are hoping his farming experience will add some insight to immigration reform. His committee assignments look promising, as he has been assigned to the Agriculture Committee, a natural fit, and the Natural Resources Committee, where Hastings has served as chairman. He also will serve on the Science, Space and Technology Committee which may be helpful for the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and Hanford.

Newhouse said he plans to open an office in the Tri-Cities, which we are glad to hear. Following a veteran legislator like Doc Hastings is a formidable task, but so far Newhouse appears off to a good start.