Bennet talks health care at town hall | PostIndependent.com

Bennet talks health care at town hall

On a tour of three western Interstate 70 cities, Sen. Michael Bennet stopped in Glenwood Springs on Friday for a town hall meeting that drew passionate response focused largely on health care, Thompson Divide protection and a dysfunctional political climate.

Health care

Many of the residents who turned out for Bennet's town hall were anxious over the threat of the Affordable Care Act being replaced.

Bennet, a Democrat re-elected in 2016, said that at this point, he is really worried the Senate will pass the American Health Care Act, a prospect he didn't think possible prior to this week.

"If I were to set out to write a bill less responsive to the critics of Obamacare in Colorado … I couldn't write a bill less responsive than the House health-care bill," he said.

"In all these meetings, not a single person has come up to me and said what we need to do to get more predictable, cheaper health care for people in Colorado is to cut taxes for the richest Americans by $440 billion.

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"I haven't heard a single person say let's cut the insurance companies' taxes by $200 billion, but that's what this bill does. Why? So they can cut Medicaid by $880 billion, which is a quarter of the Medicaid program."

Half the number of people in Colorado on Medicaid are children, he said, and a huge number of them are people in nursing homes or who work but still can't afford private insurance.

It would be "a disaster for our state, a disaster for rural Colorado in particular, and I think a disaster for the United States of America."

Still, Bennet said it is not a forgone conclusion that the ACHA will pass. "This is likely to come up between now and July Fourth."

People in Washington need to know that you care about this, that you're watching, he said. Bennet said he hopes constituents will do what they can over the next two weeks to make their voices heard on health care. "It's going to be a very important moment for the future of health care in the United States."

Thompson Divide

In March, Bennet reintroduced a bill to protect the Thompson Divide from future oil and gas development, while also compensating the energy companies that held leases in that area.

Nothing much has happened with the bill yet because it's in a Senate committee. But Bennet said he's also talked with the new secretary of the interior and the person possibly to become deputy secretary of the interior about the Thompson Divide. "I can't guarantee success but it was number one on my list when I was talking to them.

"We're still anxious to have that permanently resolved, and there is still some litigation threatened between some of the producers and the Department of the Interior."

The senator said he'd like to see a settlement that reflects the deal his legislation is attempting to strike, "which gives the producers the benefit of their bargain." It respects that they had leases there and still protects the Thompson Divide from development from oil and gas.

"The longer I've been working on this, the more I think Garfield County is committed to the idea that that land ought to be left to be ranched the way that it's been ranched for generations. And that's what we'll do."

Washington dysfunction

The senior Colorado senator also had plenty to add about recent political antics in Washington, D.C., much of which has revolved around an investigation into Russian meddling in the American presidential election, the president's penchant for tweeting and claims that he tried to shut down that investigation by influencing the former FBI director — whom he later fired.

"On the Republican side there's a lot of concern because they can't predict day to day what [the president is] going to do or say, even what he's going to say about them," said Bennet.

On the Democrat side of the equation, Bennet said, "It's important for us to realize the American people are not saying this is the time to ride [Trump] out on the rails. What they're saying is they want to know what the evidence is." The senator emphasized that the investigation into a Russian influence campaign and the Trump campaign's involvement needs to "proceed properly with respect for everyone's rights and the rule of law." But no matter how it proceeds, it can't be, or appear to be, a partisan witch hunt, he said.

"In the meantime, we should also be attending to the American people's business. You may have noticed that Congress has done virtually nothing since the election. And that's very disappointing because we have a lot of issues from infrastructure to immigration to climate to the economy that we could be working on together."

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