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Oregon’s 4th District Rep. Val Hoyle shares priorities for next congressional session

Woman sits at table in room
Chris Lehman
Oregon 4th District Rep. Val Hoyle stopped by KLCC before heading to Washington D.C. for the 2024 Congressional session.

Oregon 4th District Representative Val Hoyle is heading back to Washington DC next week as another session of Congress gets underway. Before leaving, Hoyle stopped by the KLCC studios and spoke with KLCC’s Rachael McDonald

Rachael McDonald: What are your priorities for the coming year?

Val Hoyle: So, first of all, thank you for making the time. You know, my priorities for the coming year are pretty much what my priorities were when I came in. And that is first and foremost to work to keep the government open, right? January 19th, part of the government shuts down if we don't pass a continuing resolution. A continuing resolution is just saying that we will continue to fund government while we work towards a budget that the House and Senate and President can agree on and then on February 2nd for the rest of government. And I think people don't quite understand what that means. It means federal parks shut down. It means that your TSA agents, your air traffic controllers, your wildland firefighters, your border patrol agents, people that run social security, you know, all government agencies shut down and for central federal workers, they have to show up and not get paid.

I am hoping that we'll be able to have a bipartisan continuing resolution and then work together to get an actual budget. That's first then continue working with the administration with the Port of Coos Bay, with the legislature and the governor, on expanding the Port of Coos Bay to be a deep-water international container port. Then wildfire preparedness and making sure that we're getting ahead of doing the work that we need to, to stop so many of these extreme fires happening in the wildland urban interface and then to be able to respond to them appropriately.

McDonald: 2023 was your first year in Congress. What stood out to you? And what would you point to as accomplishments?

Hoyle: What stood out to me was that there are a lot of people on both sides of the aisle that really showed up to get things done and I worked with them on passing legislation. I got three of my bills, my priority signed into law as a freshman. Which is apparently a big deal, people have told me. And a number of other of my priorities that have gone through the House and are now in the Senate. So, getting the Siletz Tribal Fairness Act, allowing the Siletz tribe to have hunting and fishing rights on their ancestral lands. A NEPA online dashboard. So that, when the NEPA process is happening, people can go to an online portal to see where the process is. Because, my constituents shouldn't have to pay $500 or $1000 an hour for a lawyer to understand what's happening in their backyard.
And then support for commercial fishing, import infrastructure. So allowing us to upgrade ports for commercial fishing usage. So those three things really impact people in the fourth congressional district.
We got a call from the President about the Port of Coos Bay and his interest in working to make sure that we keep the promise that we made, that that many administrations have made to the people on the south coast that we would replace those timber jobs that were lost with something else.

That was probably, out of everything that happened, getting a phone call from the president saying I care about Coos Bay, that was the biggest thrill.

McDonald:  I want to ask you about how it is in the House of Representatives because I mean, you did mention that you were able to make some accomplishments, but there is a lot happening there in terms of challenges, leadership challenges, partisanship. How can the House be functional in the next year?

Hoyle: It's very strange because when you're in DC and you're going to committee meetings and you're meeting with constituents, it all seems pretty normal, like this is the way it should go. And then you take a step back and nothing is normal. Because there are people there that don't want to work with Democrats at all. And that's not what the American people want. But one on one, the NEPA portal, I worked with Garrett Graves, from Louisiana, a Republican from Louisiana. And I think we wanted it for different reasons– he's very conservative and I'm progressive. And we came in because we both want government to work for the people. And so I've been able to find ways that I can work together. But it's very strange and I wake up frightened. I do wake up frightened because of the dysfunction.

McDonald: Protestors have demonstrated outside your Eugene office repeatedly since the start of the war between Israel and Hamas urging you to call for a ceasefire. What can you do as a member of Congress to help the situation in Gaza?

Hoyle: So first of all, I am on the Transportation Infrastructure and Natural Resources Committee. I am a freshman in the minority. So, foreign policy is not in either of the committees that I have. And if I thought calling for a ceasefire now would stop the war, would stop the killing, I would do it in a minute. But who would I be calling for a ceasefire with? Hamas? They are not willing to do that.

Netanyahu and some of his right wing colleagues that just today or yesterday said that Palestinians should not have the right to return to Gaza? Like we don't have the right people at the table. What we need is a two state solution and I believe people have the right to protest and what is happening there is horrific and needs to be changed. We need to make sure that there is a rebuilding in Gaza and Palestinians deserve their own state. Israel also has the right to exist. We have to recognize that. This is not a problem that started in 1947. These are issues that have been going on for thousands of years, right?

But there is no way forward in, in my belief, other than a two state solution where Palestinians and Israelis can live in peace and prosperity. Quite frankly, I don't think saying a few words, I will just say that feels to me like I'd be doing something performative, putting a band aid on, waving a flag and saying, look here I am, I'm done. So instead, what we've done is reached out to people within the synagogues, the mosques, people in the Jewish community here, people in the Muslim community here, to talk to them and work with them as much as possible, especially people who have family and friends that are in that area at first that needed to come back. And then to support people and listen.

McDonald: Those are all my questions. Is there anything else you want to mention or touch on?

Hoyle: I think the key thing is that people need to know that we are there to help. You've got problems with social security, your veterans benefit, any federal agency? You're not able to get through to them? Contact us and we'll be able to work with that agency for you and we can get through and, and help navigate.

I'm very lucky, I've got a very experienced team that formerly worked for Peter Defazio. And so they are very good at their jobs. They love this community and the people in it.

Rachael McDonald is KLCC’s host for All Things Considered on weekday afternoons. She also is the editor of the KLCC Extra, the daily digital newspaper. Rachael has a BA in English from the University of Oregon. She started out in public radio as a newsroom volunteer at KLCC in 2000.