Friday, Nov. 9, 2018 | 3:24 p.m.
Democratic Sen.-elect Jacky Rosen listed health care and working to block the proposed Yucca Mountain nuclear waste dump in Nevada among her top priorities.
Rosen told reporters today that outgoing Republican Sen. Dean Heller called her to congratulate her on her election victory and discuss a smooth transition for constituent services. Veterans and others can call their members of Congress for help with issues like obtaining federal benefits.
“It’s really important that nobody gets left behind or dropped in the transition,” Rosen said. “We talked about our teams getting together to be sure that all of our constituent services transition just right, because that’s the most important thing.”
Heller had been campaigning on the message that he could use his relationship with President Donald Trump to block Yucca Mountain. Trump has been requesting Yucca Mountain funding since shortly after taking office, and he told KRNV-TV of Reno before the election that he might reconsider whether to move forward with the project. The administration, however, confirmed the project was still on the table.
Republicans who ran on the possibility that Yucca Mountain could move forward or be used as a repurposing site for waste lost their bids for House seats this year. The House, under GOP control at the time, approved an appropriations bill putting almost $268 million toward the project.
Rosen said that with the House now in Democratic hands, her party can block funding in that chamber while she and fellow Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada work on legislation for the Senate. She said she wants to introduce legislation in the Senate that she had proposed as a representative in the House to use the site for another purpose, such as a secure national data storage facility.
“We have lots of data; it’s a secure location; there’s infrastructure there,” Rosen said. “Maybe that would be a great thing that we could do with Yucca Mountain instead.”
“Medicare for all” was a frequent refrain from Democrats on the campaign trail that inspired crowd chants at rallies, but Rosen said she doesn’t plan to support Sen. Bernie Sanders’ effort to pass a medicare for all bill. In the House, she signed onto a Medicaid buy-in bill.
“One thing you have to be very careful on when you work in health care is this: when you make a sweeping change, you can’t wait to see what falls through the cracks,” Rosen said. “What could fall through the cracks is somebody’s life. You need to move thoughtfully and carefully with a plan incrementally.”
Her first priority as a senator, she said, will be protecting health care coverage for people with pre-existing conditions.
Trump and other Republicans have expressed support for protecting patients with pre-existing conditions, but experts say GOP health care plans fall short of Obamacare’s standard. The administration is also not arguing in support of the ACA’s pre-existing conditions protections in an anti-Obamacare lawsuit. Rosen said she led a resolution in the House to allow congressional counsel to defend the ACA, and that there is a plan to reintroduce that in the next Congress.
Rosen also said the investigation into Trump’s presidential campaign by special counsel Robert Mueller needs to be protected. Jeff Sessions recently resigned as attorney general at Trump’s request, and Rosen said his appointed replacement has been skeptical of the Mueller probe and should recuse himself.
Trump was critical of Sessions’ decision to recuse himself from the probe. She said a resolution is being put together on the Senate side to protect the investigation, and the House will likely do the same.
“We need to let that move forward in a way that comes to its logical conclusion,” Rosen said. “The president has to think about who he is as uniter-in-chief. He’s not constantly on the campaign trail; he has a real job to do.”
On gun safety, Rosen said she hopes the House passes a bill and sends it to the Senate. She said families who lost loved ones due to gun violence need more than thoughts and prayers. A shooting in Southern California killed one survivor of the Las Vegas massacre at a country music festival last year.
“I hope that our colleagues on the Senate side may have seen what’s going on in this country and have a little bit more empathy for ways that we can protect the 2nd Amendment and protect our public health and safety,” Rosen said. “No one should have to go to school with a bulletproof backpack or be afraid to go to synagogue or church or a restaurant.”
Rosen also said immigration reform is needed. She said protections for young immigrants need to be included in an immigration bill.
A caravan of about 5,000 immigrants approaching the U.S. southern border should be able to seek asylum, Rosen said. Trump recently announced the administration would limit asylum for certain immigrants.
“We’re a country of over 300 million people,” Rosen said. “They’re women, they’re children, they’re babies. We should have compassion, we should be able to deal with them as asylum-seekers and really find next steps forward.”
The Democratic minority in the Senate should work with GOP leaders on areas of commonality, such as cybersecurity and infrastructure, she said.