Thursday, March 28, 2013 | 11:30 p.m.
A small crowd gathered Thursday to tell their congressman their worries about immigration reform, veteran’s rights, and the looming budget issues the country faces.
Steven Horsford listened.
The recently elected U.S. representative of District 4 held court Thursday night at the Cora Coleman Senior Center in the northeast Las Vegas Valley. For over an hour, Horsford, back in town while on Easter recess, stood in his red tie and navy business suit before more than 40 people while he answered questions.
“I’m not a defender of the federal government,” he said. “I’m a defender of you, the constituents, and the services you need from the federal government.”
Horsford has had his plate full in his new post. In his first session of Congress, he joined three committees: the Natural Resources, Homeland Security, and the House Oversight and Government Reform committees.
But it was immigration reform that he hopes to push further along the path of progress. Horsford called immigration issues such as a challenging path to citizenship and student visas the civil rights issues of today.
That’s to say nothing of the budget crisis, the successful passage of which he places full responsibility on the political leadership in Washington.
“Our job is to pass a budget,” he said. “And if we don’t, we shouldn’t get paid.”
The pro-Horsford crowd also asked questions about his stance on gun control, the Nevada housing market, and sequestration. While he didn’t provide a detailed stance on gun control, he hinted that a bipartisan solution was the best choice — a stance he echoed in many of his other answers.
As for entitlements?
“When someone asks me about entitlements, I say, ‘OK, how about corporate entitlements?’” he said.
Several veterans in attendance spoke out in defense of their needs, saying the Veterans Affairs processes to provide former soldiers their benefits are slow and clumsy.
Vita Lopez, a veteran who has served around the world including in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Germany, said women don’t receive equal treatment in the Veterans Affairs system simply because staff don’t fully understand women’s needs.
“We need fair treatment in the VA,” she said. “They need to be more understanding of what female military veterans go through. We’ll have a better military when women don’t have to be afraid of military sexual trauma, or sexual assault.”
The 36-year-old said she suffers from post traumatic stress disorder and is listed as a disabled veteran. She said that while women who served in conflicts before her had it much worse, there is still a lot of room in the system for improvement.
Horsford conceded that the issues facing the country are daunting.
He drove home the need for the president, and both parties in Congress to meet each in the middle and reach a bipartisan decision on today’s greatest problems, like the budget and immigration reform.
Horsford said that when he returns to Congress, one of his priorities will be to help cement a budget to avoid another delay, which has become routine.