US senator fields questions at town hall in Steamboat |

US senator fields questions at town hall in Steamboat

Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet listens to audience members at a town hall in Centennial Hall in Steamboat Springs Tuesday afternoon.
Eleanor C. Hasenbeck

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to clarify that Michael Bennet is a U.S. senator from Colorado. 

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — While in Steamboat Springs, U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, of Colorado, held a town hall, where he fielded questions and listened to stories from residents of Northwest Colorado. Audience members’ questions have been edited for clarity.

Q: What are we going to do to make sure that insurance companies provide reasonable insurance for those with pre-existing conditions?

“We have to fight like hell to protect those protections that were in the Affordable Care Act,” Bennet said. “It wasn’t a perfect piece of legislation, but it did prevent the kind of discrimination (against those with pre-existing conditions) you’re talking about.”

Bennett said one element he seeks to improve within the Affordable Care Act is the types of insurance available on the Connect for Health Colorado marketplace. These plans frequently offer deductibles that are so high they are not useful to families, he said. He introduced a bill offering “Medicare-X,” which would be an insurance policy people paid into by consumers and operated by Medicare. The concept intended to compete with private insurance.

Q: How can communities that are dependent on extractive industry avoid economic destruction due to stringent environmental regulations?

Bennet called for a regional approach to economic development. He encouraged collaboration between Northwest Colorado communities to develop infrastructure projects. Bennet encouraged action on climate change and doing so in a way that is “consistent with growing our economy.” He said “we should think about ways” of changing the mix of fuels generating our energy in a way that “communities don’t get hollowed out and left behind.”

“Where there’s unreasonable regulation, I’d like to know where it is,” Bennet said. He added that he is not “one of those people who has never met a regulation they don’t like.”

Q: What safeguards are in place to prevent President Donald Trump from dismantling investigations in Russian interference in the 2016 election?

Bennet said paper ballots are critical to creating a paper trail of voters’ choices. He said Blockchain and other new technologies could help secure data. He also emphasized the importance of protecting Special Council Robert Mueller’s investigation. He called Trump’s denial of Russian interference “an insult to the intelligence agencies in the United States who have told us what they did.”

Q: How do you feel about the most recent nomination and appointments to the U.S. Supreme Court?

“It’s not working as it’s designed,” Bennet said. Previously, Supreme Court nominees had to be approved by a 60 percent majority in the Senate. Bennet said Sen. Mitch McConnell “held up every one of (President) Barack Obama’s nominees, basically.” This led Senate Democrats to change this rule to “the nuclear option” — a strict 50 percent majority, he said.

“He pocketed that precedent,” Bennet said. McConnell then invoked the nuclear option to confirm Justice Neil Gorsuch.

He said we are now “weaponless as a result of a bunch of bad behavior by a whole bunch of people” as the Supreme Court has flipped to a conservative majority after Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement has allowed President Trump to appoint his replacement.

To reach Eleanor Hasenbeck, call 970-871-4210, email or follow her on Twitter, @elHasenbeck.

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