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April 21, 2019

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New Sen. Jacky Rosen talks border wall, government shutdown

Sen. Jacky Rosen

Andrew Harnik / AP

Vice President Mike Pence administers the Senate oath of office to Sen. Jacky Rosen, D-Nev., accompanied by her husband Larry Rosen, second from right, and their daughter Miranda, left, during a mock swearing in ceremony in the Old Senate Chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 3, 2019, as the 116th Congress begins.

U.S. Sen. Jacky Rosen is taking office amid a partial government shutdown over White House demands for more border wall money.

The new Congress took office as trash cans overflowed on the National Mall due to the shutdown. Democrats have refused President Donald Trump’s demand for billions of dollars more in border wall money to end the nearly two-week government shutdown.

Under GOP control in March, Congress agreed to fund 84 miles of border wall construction. Democrats, who now control the House, have long opposed constructing what they call expensive and ineffective walls in favor of technology upgrades and other security measures.

Rosen told reporters on a phone call today that she’s hopeful a spending bill will pass in the Democratic-controlled House and arrive in the Senate to end the “suffering” of the shutdown. She said there are 19,000 federal employees in Nevada, not all of them impacted by the shutdown. About 2,000 federal workers with the Department of Interior in Nevada are not receiving paychecks during the shutdown.

Rosen said the shutdown has also forced a lapse in the Violence Against Women Act, which has helped Nevada address domestic violence. Rosen is donating her Senate pay during the shutdown to groups that help domestic violence survivors.

“There’s a lot of hard work ahead of us, and that starts with ending this senseless and avoidable government shutdown and defending protections for Americans with pre-existing conditions,” she said.

Asked whether she’d vote against any spending bill with border wall money, Rosen said Trump is “hung up” on the idea of a “giant wall” when there are many other methods to secure the border.

“What we have to quit talking about is border wall,” Rosen said. “We need border security.”

New House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has been pushing back against the Trump administration’s demands for more wall money. Trump said during a news conference with Pelosi and Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer that he would own a shutdown over wall money but has since been blaming Democrats.

Rosen said the GOP has controlled Congress and the White House for the last two years, and if they really wanted a fully funded border wall, they could have passed it then. She also pointed to Texas GOP Rep. Will Hurd, who has called for technology such as drones and other methods to protect the border.

“What this signals is that we need to have comprehensive immigration reform, one that does address these issues and allows people to come into our country,” she said.

Rosen will serve on five committees, including Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs as well as Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. In the House, she had proposed a bill that would have called for House counsel to intervene in a case challenging the Affordable Care Act.

The Trump administration has not defended the ACA in court. The ACA implemented protections for people with pre-existing conditions so that they could have access to affordable health plans.

“Trying to protect pre-existing conditions, that was the No. 1 thing that I heard from families all across the state,” Rosen said. “People were concerned that they were going to lose their ability to be protected for pre-existing conditions, and so that is one of the first things that we’re going to try to work on here in the Senate.”

Rosen is the second woman elected in Nevada to the U.S. Senate, replacing former GOP Sen. Dean Heller. She joins Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, Nevada’s first woman and Latina elected to Congress’ upper chamber. The two senators won their seats in a state that is the first in the country with a majority female Legislature.

More than 100 women are serving in Congress for the first time in history. Democrats have driven much of the increased diversity in the House.

“In the span of two years, Nevada has made history, electing its first and second female senators, a majority female Legislature and Nevada Supreme Court,” Cortez Masto said in a statement. “I’m thrilled to welcome Jacky to the Senate and congratulate her on her first day as the newest senator from the Silver State.”