On Friday, the federal government shut down. Part of the reason was that lawmakers were unable to work out a deal on the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals program. Among the lawmakers who voted against a spending bill because of the lack of action on DACA, was Nevada’s Democratic Senator Catherine Cortez Masto. She spoke with our political reporter Paul Boger about that vote.
On Friday, you voted against a measure that would have funded the government for another month. Why take that stance?
It [didn’t] have anything to protect Dreamers in this country, who I and many people (80 percent of the country) support. These are individuals that are in our communities and in Nevada. The Governor has said that Dreamers can teach. These are individuals that some of them are teachers in our state who would then be torn away from their families and sent away to countries that don’t even know, but they would also be torn out of the classroom. What impact would this have on their kids?
These are some of the brightest and best in our communities, so why wouldn’t we fight to keep them here? They’re our future engineers, our future scientists and physicists and teachers.
To me, this is an important issue that we need to pass, and it should have been passed already and it’s worth fighting for.
But you cast that vote at the cost of getting for the Childhood Health Insurance Program. Something that the governor says is important for some of Nevada’s most vulnerable children.
Let me just say, what this majority in Congress is doing is picking and choosing who wins, and that’s got to stop. Not only to do we have the fourth continuing resolution to continue to govern by crisis, they’re picking and choosing who wins along the way. That’s wrong.
I was on the floor of the Senate on October 26th last year, asking my Republican colleagues to pass CHIP. How important it was for the 9 million kids across the country, but the 27,000 who rely on healthcare who rely on CHIP for their healthcare, those low-income families. I have not heard one word from my Republican colleagues, particularly Republican leadership, until now. And the only reason we’re hearing it now is that they’re using it as a political chip. They’re playing politics with people’s lives. You shouldn’t pick winners and losers. This is about everyone and that’s why it is so important that we stay here and we negotiate with Republicans who are willing to come to the table with Democrats to get something done.
But is there concern in the caucus that this will burn Democrats when it comes to November?
I can tell you that from my perspective, I was sent [from] Nevada to fight for everyone and be a voice for them. I promised them that when I got here I would bring their voices with me. This is fighting for everyone and upholding… When I was sworn in as a United States Senator that I would fight for them.
You know the tragedy of all this? When I was sworn in on January 3rd, the very next day on January 4th, Republicans started in on repealing the Affordable Care Act and taking away healthcare for millions of Americans. Then they spent of that year passing a tax reform law that benefits the top one percent and big corporations on the backs of working families. If we had spent that time working together then looking at how we can do our job and put together a budget and pass it, we wouldn’t be where we are today.
I was sent here to represent everyone in Nevada and work in a bipartisan way to find solutions to the issues that people are dealing with in the country, and we need to get back to that. That’s where we should be.
Where do you go from here? What’s the out besides getting a clean DACA bill?
We continue to negotiate, but it requires the majority really to be willing to sit down with the Democrats and work together. I know it’s unique. They haven’t done it in the past. For the last year they’ve really shut out the minority, but now it’s time to come together and compromise. That means we all don’t get what we demand, but we come together to find middle ground.
KUNR also reached out to Republican Senator Dean Heller, but has not received a response. However, his office did issue a statement in which he says...
“Once again, Washington, D.C. has lost its mind. It’s shameful what Democrats are doing; an engineered government shutdown at the expense of our troops and their families, our veterans, and our nation’s most vulnerable children. This is politics at its worst.”