Published Tuesday, April 18, 2017 | 8:30 p.m.
Updated Tuesday, April 18, 2017 | 11:45 p.m.
U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto fielded questions from dozens of Nevada residents Tuesday night at Las Vegas City Hall, touching on topics of immigration, organized labor and President Donald Trump's proposed “skinny budget.”
“We are a multicolored fabric of immigrants that build this country,” Cortez Masto said when asked whether she would support an initiative to protect undocumented immigrants by making Nevada a “sanctuary" state. “The ones that I have met are working hard and are contributing to our economy.”
The nearly two-hour town hall featured about 450 attendees, mostly supporters of the Democratic senator. Attendees applauded, shouted and gave a standing ovation when Cortez Masto was introduced. The applause continued throughout the evening as Cortez Masto answered questions.
Cortez Masto argued that a budget proposed by Trump will result in the loss of “so many agencies that are a benefit to our community.” She cited proposed cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency as well as the proposed elimination of the National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities as “devastating.”
“It’s top-lined, but it doesn’t give specifics,” she said of the federal budget, which at 53 pages was the smallest budget released by any U.S. president during the past presidential administrations.
The U.S. senator also blamed the president for his negative rhetoric toward media outlets and suggested that the arrest of KLAS Channel 8 cameraman Neb Solomon on Saturday during a peaceful protest outside of Trump’s namesake Las Vegas hotel was a product of Trump's efforts to “denigrate the press.”
Cortez Masto doubled-down on her support of voter-approved legalized marijuana in Nevada, saying she was against federal intervention proposed by the Trump administration and U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
“I will continue to fight for the state’s right to legalize medical and recreational marijuana,” she said.
The first-term U.S. senator and former Nevada attorney general added to a group of five audience members holding up signs in favor of $15 hourly minimum wages that she supported raising the wage, but did not outline any legislation.
“I want the American Dream for everyone, but I need your help,” she said.
She reaffirmed her support for organized labor, telling UNLV student Matt Kimball that she would support “pro-labor” candidates in the 2018 midterm elections.
Many of those asking questions represented political organizations in Nevada, like Hispanic activist group Mi Familia Vota and the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada. Over a dozen people asking questions also thanked the senator for her presence at the event and asked what they or their respective organizations could do to work more collaboratively with her office.
Tuesday’s Cortez Masto town hall took place one day after fellow U.S. Sen. Dean Heller and Rep. Mark Amodei spoke in front of angry crowds in Reno on Monday.
Cortez Masto took note of the strong turnout, telling attendees their energy was “incredible.” She encouraged them to continue to make their voices heard for the “end game” of the 2018 elections.
The senator was not asked specifically about professional sports in Las Vegas. But she did express her disapproval for a projected $750 million of public funds set to be included in the $1.9 billion budget for the new Las Vegas Raiders stadium as part of a separate question on public spending.
“I don’t think public money should be used to build the stadium,” she said.
Cortez Masto’s town hall came just hours after she toured the Boulder Solar 1 facility in the Eldorado Valley on Tuesday morning. The senator joined Boulder City Mayor Rod Woodbury and representatives from NV Energy and Sunrun for the tour.