Colorado Senator Michael Bennet spoke about fracking, affordable healthcare and the Donald Trump administration at a town hall on Friday.
The town hall was held in the Lory Student Center at Colorado State University.
“It’s been a long few weeks in Washington D.C., and I am incredibly happy to be home,” Bennet said.
Bennet, a Democrat, answered questions on topics ranging from the Affordable Care Act to the current administration under Donald Trump. Each person was limited to one question and questions were selected at random. Audience members signed up to ask questions prior to the event’s start.
Bennet spoke on the Affordable Care Act, which he voted for, and was questioned about the use of Medicaid and Medicare.
“I think we need to vastly improve the (healthcare) we have,” Bennet said. “ If you add up the people on Medicare and Medicaid, that’s 75 percent of the people there. Why shouldn’t we give people the option to buy into it?”
Larimer County Resident Rich Stave said his healthcare varied from state to state and wished that it did not.
“How can we make (healthcare) more consistent?” Stave asked.
Bennet said he is not against buying insurance across state lines, but that makes the issue become more complicated.
“You need to have confidence there is going to be somebody there to regulate it,” Bennet said. “Your suggestion, that we should have coherence across state lines was not included in the Affordable Care Act … I think that’s a great suggestion and is something (the government) should be working on. I am going to take (the suggestion) back to Washington.”
Bennet said children constitute the majority of individuals on government supported health care, followed by the elderly and by those who worked jobs under corporations, such as Wal-Mart, but who did not make enough money to buy their own insurance.
Bennet said cuts to the Medicaid program are an absolute outrage. He said that in order to fund tax cuts to the Medicaid program, a quarter of the program would be cut.
Bennet said various Colorado citizens were upset at him for voting for the ACA, but he stood his ground. He said he shares Senator Bernie Sanders’ view in believing Medicare should be able to negotiate drug prices.
Bennet criticized the action of the Donald Trump administration in regards to the environment. He stated that Trump, and the Trump administration, has worked to overturn several Obama-era environmental regulations, such as the Clean Water Act, which Bennet said will have a positive effect over time.
One Colorado-specific environmental issue Bennet was asked about was fracking. Fracking has long since been a controversial topic in Northern Colorado and was recently appealed to the state high court.
“We need to make sure we (frack) in a way that supports our air and out water,” Bennet said. “I do not support a ban on fracking. There is nothing that has moved us more quickly away from coal burning power plants than cheap natural gas”
Bennet said if natural resources are to be developed, they should be developed in a way that supports everyone who lives in Colorado – a state Bennet said is one of the most beautiful in the country.
The environment was not the only area Bennet disagreed with the new administration.
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“Is there any way to screen candidates that want to run for president?” asked Richard Martinez, a local resident.
Martinez also brought up President Trump’s taxes, which have not yet been released.
“All presidents should have to tell the American people what is in their taxes,” Bennet said. “Especially now, when (Trump) is making all these proposals that are affecting his family’s implications, (the people) deserve to know what is happening.”
Bennet said Trump needs to be held accountable and expressed the importance of both the democratic process and standing up for the constitution in a changing political environment.
“What I see in my office everyday (since the election) is an engagement with people that I haven’t seen in the eight years that I have been in this job,” Bennet said.
Bennet believes more people are getting involved with politics, because of the Trump administration, and Bennet wants to encourage more voter turnout, starting at the local level and to work it’s way to the national level.
“We need to restore the nexus between Washington’s priorities and the people’s priorities,” Bennet said. “We need to make sure the Republic survives.”
Bennet responded to a question about what he is doing to breakdown stereotypes and encourage people to work together. He spoke about his experiences with families of immigrants as an employee of a Denver school district. Bennet said that 90 percent of the immigrants in Northern Colorado are students.
“You can’t write the history of America without including the history of immigrants,” Bennet said. “This country is all about rebuilding (their) shattered lives.”
People come to America to create a better life for themselves, Bennet said, which is why he does not agree with the policy that makes overstaying a visa a crime worthy of deportation.
“Put your hand on someone’s shoulder and say, ‘You are wanted,'” Bennet said. “We are going to find a pathway forward that is consistent with our identity as Americans.”
Collegian reporter Tony Villalobos May can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @TheTonyVm.