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At Fort Collins Event, Rep. Joe Neguse Talks Government Shutdown, Democratic Strategy

January 8, 2019
Rep. Joe Neguse speaks Monday night about the government shutdown and Democratic strategy during an event at Avogadro's Number in Fort Collins.

Rep. Joe Neguse, newly sworn in as a Democratic congressman representing Colorado’s 2nd District, says he is busy getting “acclimated to the craziness” in Washington, D.C.

But Neguse took some time Monday night to host town-hall meetings in Estes Park and Fort Collins with a focus on discussing the government shutdown, which began Dec. 22 and is approaching historic length.

A member of the largest congressional freshman class since 1974, Neguse noted during the event at Avogadro’s Number in Fort Collins that Americans are living in “interesting times.”

“This is the first time in modern history where you have a Congress being sworn in amidst a government shutdown, when 25 percent of our federal workforce is furloughed or working without pay. So, clearly, there is a lot going on,” he said.

On ending the shutdown:

“One of the first votes that I took as a congressman, one of the first substantive votes, was to reopen the government. We voted on a series of appropriation bills; these were bills that just 30 days ago passed the United States Senate on a near-unanimous basis. They are Republican appropriation bills that would in effect reopen our government, and we have now passed those in the House, and we have sent them to the Senate, and they are waiting to be heard, and the only thing stopping that is the Senate majority leader, who has decided he will not put those bills to a vote, notwithstanding that the vast majority of those bills were all approved by the same Republican senators who will now be charged with voting on them again. ... I think the question is one that should be put to those in the Senate, and the Senate majority leader, about what has changed in 30 days and why they are unwilling to take ‘yes’ for an answer.”

On Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security checks during the shutdown:

“Right now, the understanding we have received from folks in federal agencies is those checks should continue. ... However, what I would advise you is to the extent you encounter any issues on that front, reach out to our staff as quickly as you can so they can get involved at the various federal agencies.”

On the “Green New Deal”:

“There are a number of members of Congress, colleagues of mine, who are very much committed to taking action to move the needle, and I am one of them. ... Unfortunately, the select (climate change) committee that was ultimately approved did not have the subpoena power that I think a lot of us wanted it to have. That being said, we have a select committee on the climate crisis that has been empaneled (and) will soon be getting to work highlighting the drastic need for action on this issue. I think that’s an important step. So, we’re going to need members of Congress like myself and my colleagues to continue to push, or apply pressure, so that hopefully the Green New Deal, or components of it, become part of whatever climate-change legislation emerges from the House.”

On health care:

“I support Medicare for All, the improved and expanded Medicare for All Act. I’m optimistic about its prospects in the 116th Congress, and here’s why: One, you had maybe 150 co-sponsors in the last Congress. I think that number’s going to grow with the new Democratic majority; I’ll certainly be joining that cause. There’s a subcaucus that has also been formed by Congresswoman (Pramila) Jayapal in Washington State, and I’ll be a member of that as well, and I think that will call more attention to it. But, most importantly, it appears Congresswoman Jayapal has secured an agreement that the improved and expanded Medicare for All Act will get a hearing for the first time since a Medicare for All bill was introduced in 2004; 14 years, that bill will get a hearing in the United States Congress, and that’s a big deal, because it gives us the ability on a national stage to highlight why Medicare for All, in my view, is the right public-policy solution to this challenge.”

On the Electoral College and the popular vote:

“I support the popular-vote initiative. I think the Electoral College is a fairly archaic way of electing the leader of the free world. And, our Constitution has been amended many, many times. ... I think it was meant to be a living document we all collectively as active citizens would revisit from time to time. This is an idea whose time has come, and I hope it’s something we take up.”

On the need for a southern border wall:

“As many of you know, I am the son of immigrants. My parents came here from east Africa as refugees. We’ve been lucky enough to live the American dream. I believe immigrants provide incredible benefits to the United States. (Immigration) makes us the melting pot that we are, and we are at our best when we are inclusive and welcoming to folks who might not look like us, might have accents. That’s when I think we’re at our best. I think this debate debases immigrants and what they bring to the table. In terms of border security, which is this notion that there’s this crisis at our southern border, I’d say is far-fetched. If you look at the data that the Department of Homeland Security publishes, you’ll see that we have record-low numbers in terms of folks who are crossing over the border. ... If we want to have a debate about securing our border and comprehensive immigration reform, which I am passionately supportive of, then let’s have that debate, but let’s have it in regular order. What you don’t do is hold the entire federal government hostage just because you don’t get your way. That’s not the way our government is intended to work. I think the president, a few days ago, he made a comment ... fundamentally, he did say, and I think he was being candid, actually, is that this battle, this debate, is about who we are as a country. And I think on that front, he’s right — that, fundamentally, this is about sending a message to the rest of the world that the United States of America is closed to other peoples, and fundamentally I disagree with that.”

Julia Rentsch: 970-699-5404, jrentsch@reporter-herald.com .

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