U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., met with media for a roundtable to discuss pressing issues the state and nation are facing in August.
From the Lloyd George U.S. Courthouse in downtown Las Vegas on Aug. 10, Cortez Masto, the first Latina to serve in the U.S. Senate and the state’s first female senator, spoke about several issues, including health care, the Supreme Court nominee and her thoughts on abolishing U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which she doesn’t support.
The Nevada senator explained that ICE encompasses several agencies, including an agency that “enforces against international criminal organizations: human trafficking, sex trafficking, child pornography, intellectual property theft.”
Cortez Masto said funding should be directed toward these efforts and not deportation activities.
Cortez Masto also wants children that were separated from their parents under the “zero tolerance” policy reunited. More than 2,500 migrant children were separated from their parents in the past several months under the policy implemented by the Trump administration.
U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw ordered the migrant children that were separated at the border to be reunited with their parents, under specific timelines, in June.
According to court filings, as of Aug. 9, 386 children in custody had parents that have been deported. There were 559 children still separated from their parents overall.
“We should be tracking those parents down and reuniting them with their children,” Cortez Masto said.
Cortez Masto said she has introduced legislation to help reunite these families and to prevent this situation from occurring in the future. That legislation was introduced as the Reunite Every Unaccompanied Newborn Infant, Toddler and Other Children Expeditiously Act (REUNITE Act).
“These are asylum seekers,” Cortez Masto said. “These are families that have made the decision to leave their own homes, their country, because their lives were being threatened. Their children’s lives were being threatened.”
Cortez Masto said the No. 1 issue facing Nevadans is health care.
“It’s access to affordable health care,” she said. “It’s being able to ensure that you can get the care you need when you have an acute condition. Or your health is in poor condition, and you can afford it and you don’t go bankrupt or you don’t die because of it.”
Cortez Masto said the Affordable Care Act wasn’t perfect, but it gave “access to health care that was affordable.”
“We have more people in this state that have access to health care because of it,” she said.
“I don’t believe in repealing the Affordable Care Act,” she said. “I think it is a foundation that we move to improve upon, and there’s legislation out there that I had co-sponsored with my colleagues that would improve upon it.”
The senator is supporting a “public option” but not going as far as some on a push for Medicare-for-All.
“I think it’s something down the road we may be able to get to. But to do it overnight, it’s just not plausible,” Cortez Masto said.
The senator explained that, “60 percent of this population have self-insurance. They have a plan that they’re happy with. They’re self-insured; they’re on a plan; they’re getting the coverage they need.”
This group of people would no longer be covered under their existing plans if a Medicare-for-All plan were implemented, she said.
“My thought process in all of this is you start with the Affordable Care Act, and you improve upon it,” she said. “You introduce a public option, and you continue to provide for it. You continue to migrate forward until you get to the point where everybody has access to affordable health care in this country.”
Supreme Court nominee
Cortez Masto plans to meet with Supreme Court Nominee Brett Kavanaugh in September during the roundtable with reporters.
The senator said she has some concerns about Kavanaugh, including his positions against net neutrality and on other topics.
“I have concerns about what I’ve seen in some of his writings about statutory interpretation, about health care and a woman’s right to choose, impacts on a woman’s freedom when it comes to her health care,” she said.
“I think we should have a balanced Supreme Court that is looking for the interests of all Americans, not just some,” Cortez Masto said. “And I think his voice, or whoever sits in that seat, is going to make a difference on whether we have that balanced Supreme Court or not.”
Confirmation hearings for Kavanaugh are set to begin on Sept. 4, 2018, which was announced within hours of media meeting with Cortez Masto. The senator opposed the move in an announcement on Twitter.
“The Senate GOP just hijacked the #scotusnomination confirmation process by scheduling hearings before we’ve received documents necessary to review before confirmation, not to mention no time for the American people to review. This is a disgrace and Republicans ought to be ashamed,” the post stated.
Contact reporter Jeffrey Meehan at firstname.lastname@example.org