BY FREDA MIKLINGOVERNMENTAL REPORTER
The Villager recently received an invitation to sit down with a small group of editors and reporters from community newspapers for an on-the-record, unlimited conversation with Colorado’s senior Member of Congress, CD-1’s Diana DeGette. Only five people were in the room as the 12-term congresswoman sat for an hour and answered every question we asked.
DeGette expects the House Judiciary Committee to soon pass a bill she is co-sponsoring with U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch to ban high-capacity magazines. She is hopeful, but not optimistic that Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will allow it to be heard in the Senate.
She recently introduced the Colorado Wilderness Act of 2019 which would designate “more than 740,000 acres of land located in 33 distinct area across the state,” as federally protected wilderness. DeGette has been working on this legislation for two decades. She expects it to finally pass the House in November.
Prescription Drug Prices
As chair of the subcommittee on oversight and investigation of the energy and commerce committee, DeGette has the ability to introduce legislation to address the price of skyrocketing prescription drugs. She told us that although the Veteran’s Administration negotiates with the pharmaceutical companies just as private insurance carriers do, Medicare still does not do so and the Republicans in Congress refuse to change that policy. She pointed out that the reimportation of drugs from places like Canada is not safe because there is no quality control for the medicines. DeGette is the co-chair of the Congressional Diabetes Caucus. She pointed out that insulin must be kept at a particular temperature to be effective. Excessive heat or cold causes it to break down and become ineffective. DeGette and her Congressional Diabetes Caucus co-chair, Republican Rep. Tom Reed, introduced legislation earlier this year to continue funding research on diabetes, which currently affects nearly ten percent of the U.S. population.
On the subject of immigration, the Congresswoman said, “We need to get some kind of regular order to immigration policy. We have to secure our borders. We need to figure out all categories of our visa system. We need to work with Central American countries. We need a long-term solution, but it’s difficult to get mainstream Republicans to talk about it.”
DeGette talked about health care. She said, “We need to get to a point where health care is affordable for everybody. Obamacare had a public option when it left the House but the Senate removed it. We should bring back the public option and allow people over the age of 50 to buy into Medicare. That will decrease the cost of private insurance for young people. Eventually we will transition to Medicare for All or increase the competition in the private insurance market.”
“It is dangerous that President Trump has tried to make our relationship a partisan issue.” She said when differences arise between the U.S. and Israel “it is like fighting with siblings. Congress has voted solidly against BDS (boycott, divestment, and sanctions).” Degette has been to Israel and is committed to a two-state solution, but says it is increasingly difficult with new settlements being built.
Women’s Right to Choose
As the co-chair of the Congressional Pro-Choice Caucus, DeGette told us there is now, for the first time, a pro-choice majority in the House of Representatives. She said there are 160 co-sponsors of a bill to reverse the Hyde Amendment that prohibits the use of federal funds for abortion. DeGette pointed out that the rule results in preventing only poor women from having the procedure, while those with means and private insurance are not affected.
Degette said that vaping has reversed the years-long decline in teen smoking. She has a bill to raise the legal smoking age to 21 that is a companion bill to one Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has in the Senate. She is optimistic about its chances to pass and be signed into law before the end of the year.
Primary Election Opponent
Asked about her announced primary opponent, former Colorado House Speaker Crisanta Duran, DeGette said, “Politics right now is really tumultuous. I welcome the debate. I get rehired by my constituents every two years. I think they have that right.”
She summed up by saying, “I am the only member of the Colorado delegation chairing a subcommittee and it is a key subcommittee. I work to build coalitions. You have to be able to go across the aisle.”
For any who may have wondered, DeGette volunteered that she does not ever plan to run for the U.S. Senate “or the presidency!”
We looked at some of the plaques DeGette has received through the years that are displayed on the wall of her office. We wanted to know what types of organizations had honored her. They include: Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, Presbyterian Church, National Association of Community Health Centers, Merchant Mariners of World War II, Civil Air Patrol, Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, and the University of Colorado School of Public Health Center for Food Safety.
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