Five minutes with Bennet

ALAMOSA—Before U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet held his town hall at the Rio Grande Water Conservation District, the Valley Courier had the opportunity to speak with Bennet in a one-on-one interview. The conservation was limited to five minutes.

Below is a transcript of the interview that has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Q: What do you think of Adams State University potentially becoming a sanctuary campus?

A: "Well I think it's really important for everybody in this country to lend a hand to people that are concerned about their families being split up. That's obviously a decision for the college to make itself, but what I know about the cities and towns in Colorado is that they have long said to me—particularly the police force—that they have no interest in being the immigration police. That's someone else’s job. The fact that the federal government hasn't been able to get its act together on fixing our broken immigration system shouldn't mean that local communities have to bear that burden.

"I think in the meantime while all of this politicking is going on, we need to make sure that people understand what we understand in Colorado: that we don't want to see families split up. We want to see farms and ranches continue to be able to work the way they have been worked for generations. That's what I've been trying to do in Washington, partly as the Gang of Eight—four Democrats and four Republicans—who negotiated the immigration bill in the Senate that passed with almost 70 votes, but it never got a hearing in the House."

Q: A large population of the Valley is on Medicaid and the House's American Health Care Act would cut Medicaid coverage. What are you doing to address that?

A: "Medicaid is meant to be a safety net program that existed before the Affordable Care Act and was expanded as part of the Affordable Care Act. What this House bill proposes to do is slash $800 billion from Medicaid without any suggestion as to what state and local governments are supposed to do about that. What that's going to mean is that if we don't defeat that legislation there will be people all over rural Colorado that no longer have any insurance coverage of any kind. Instead of working as I believe we should do to improve people's access to healthcare in rural parts of the state and improve people's access to insurance, that House bill would just make matters worse.

"So I think the best thing we can do for people here is to make sure we defeat that bill and then work with Republicans and Democrats together to continue to work on our healthcare system so that it works well for people living in rural areas, especially for seniors, and also for our veterans who continue to not have access to care."

Q: President Trump's proposed budget released on Thursday would eliminate Essential Air Service subsidies, which the San Luis Valley Regional Airport uses. What will you do to protect EAS?

A: "We have fought with you shoulder to shoulder to preserve EAS because I know it's part of the lifeblood of this economy in the San Luis Valley. The idea that in a budget like this you would so cavalierly not just cut, but zero out EAS, tells me that whoever wrote that budget knows nothing about rural America in the West. So we're going to fight that too. I feel like you caught me on a day when there's going to be a lot of fights but I'm afraid there are."

Q: What is your opinion of U.S. Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch?

A: "It's a matter of pride for a lot of people, myself included, that he's from Colorado. He's had a long and distinguished public career. I've not taken a position on him yet because I want to have a chance to see what happens during the hearings. One thing I will say is that I'm glad the process is at least moving, whereas when Merrick Garland was nominated to fill the vacancy there was never even a hearing, much less a vote. I don't think that's the way the Senate ought to operate."