Q&A with Diane Mitsch Bush, Democratic candidate for U.S. House of Representatives in Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District
Bio: Routt County has been my home since 1976, when I moved from Saint Paul, Minnesota. Almost immediately, I began working with ranchers and conservationists on land preservation and water issues. I was Routt County’s planning commissioner for 10 years, Routt County commissioner for two terms and then the State Representative for House District 26 — Routt and Eagle counties — for three terms. For over two decades as your public servant, I worked hard and effectively to strike a balance between development, private property rights, and the environmental protections that we count on for clean air, water, family agriculture and wildlife habitat. I successfully fought for transportation solutions and focused on the things that our communities needed to thrive: affordable housing, adequately funded public education, transportation, good jobs, quality health care and a clean environment. In my work I’ve been recognized for integrity, transparency, bipartisanship and dedication. I’m running for Congress because I believe government should actually work for the people. We need representatives committed to creating a better future for all constituents, not just donors. We need a congresswoman who understands that this is a public service job and constituents are the employers. I’m running to work for you.
Q. What would be your top three legislative priorities if elected?
A. We need an economy that works for all of us. Living wage jobs are critical. I’ll work to create new economic opportunities by investing in infrastructure: transportation, broadband, electric grid, renewable energy and water infrastructure. We used to invest in our people and our infrastructure; it made us strong, competitive and prosperous. I will work to unmask the “black box” of actual health care costs, to lower insurance premiums and to reduce red tape and high administrative coasts in our health care system. These all drive up costs. Health care emergencies are the number one cause of personal bankruptcy in the U.S. We need ceilings on the rate of increase in drug prices and insurance premiums. Medicare is not allowed to negotiate prescription drug prices. The VA does negotiate, and its prices are less than a third of Medicare’s. I’ll protect Medicare from cuts proposed by current House leadership. They use their tax plan that added over $1.9 trillion to our deficit as an excuse for cutting both Medicare and Social Security, calling them “entitlements.” These social contract obligations must be fulfilled. I will work for science-based environmental protections. A healthy environment is essential for a robust economy and thriving communities.
Q. The cost of healthcare in Routt County is higher than the state and national averages. How can the federal government lower healthcare costs?
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A. I worked across the aisle in the State House to get insurance companies to be transparent. They could not explain our high premiums. Actual provider costs remain a black box, so we consumers cannot comparison shop for our needs. We have only one exchange insurance company — Anthem — in our region. In 2016, the CEO made over $16 million. Our U.S. healthcare system is dominated by big insurance and drug companies, with the highest administrative costs of any industrialized democracy, at over 30 percent, largely because our insurance/billing system is fragmented, complex and full of red tape. Elsewhere, administrative costs range 1 to 3 percent. Moreover in the U.S., prescription drug prices are out of control.
Congress has used budget and appropriations gimmicks to undercut the ACA, especially pre-existing conditions coverage. I will work toward universal single-payer insurance coverage, modeled on existing Medicare insurance. This would lessen administrative duplication and costs, cover everyone and allow choice of doctors. My opponent claims such a plan would cost us $32 trillion over a decade. That figure comes from a Mercatus study, funded by the Koch brothers. All other evidence-based studies show considerable savings.
Q. What is your position on immigration? Do you support a clean DREAMERS bill? Do you think the U.S. should pursue building a wall on our border with Mexico?
A. Our nation used to be a beacon of hope in the world. I will co-sponsor a clean DREAM Act, so that those who were brought here as infants or children have certainty. They have contributed positively to our country, from fighting and sometimes dying for the USA, to being teachers, doctors, firefighters, nurses, lawyers and strong, concerned community leaders in Colorado and across our country. Instead of just “deferred action” (the D and A in DACA), we need real reform. I will work on a rational, less bureaucratic visa system, especially H2A and H2b visas. Because this Administration and Congress have cut back on legal immigration, family agriculture in our 3rd Congressional District and the resort and hospitality industry have not been able to get guest workers. We need comprehensive, compassionate, evidence-based reform of our entire immigration system and of ICE. If Senators Rubio and Bennet could pass comprehensive immigration reform in the Senate in 2013, surely we can put aside partisan bickering to get this done in 2019. I will work with all colleagues in the House on asylum reforms so that refugees can once again be safe in our country. The draconian changes made by Attorney General Sessions must go.
Q. Wildfires have been a big issue across Colorado and the West this summer. Do you have a plan to prepare for and reduce the impact of forest fires?
A. More frequent catastrophic wildfires, resulting floods and extreme droughts are the biggest manifestation of climate change here. “Fire borrowing” in federal budgets is a key problem. Neither the U.S. Forest Service nor the Bureau of Land Management have access to emergency funds, so they must take money from prevention and mitigation budgets to fight ever larger, more unpredictable, severe catastrophic fires. The Forest Service needs adequate funding; wildfires need to be recognized as the emergencies and disasters to get FEMA funding. However, that alone will not solve the issue. We must seriously tackle climate change if we are to get at the root of this issue. As we solve short-term problems associated with wildfires we must think about solutions, prevention and preparedness in the long term. Congress must come together to reduce our carbon impact now, meet the Paris Climate Agreement goals and shift how we think about climate change preparedness. I will join the Climate Solutions caucus — joining it requires that any new member bring in a member of the other party. It is genuinely bipartisan. My opponent has used wildfires as an excuse to gut safeguards for watersheds and wildlife habitat, using an end run around National Environmental Policy Act of 1969
Q. Do you believe climate change is happening and if so, is it caused by human activity?
A. As has been shown in scientific evidence since the 1950s, CO2, methane and other emissions from burning fossil fuels create the greenhouse effect, thus increasing temperatures. That in turn leads to catastrophic weather events, with flooding and landslides, and more severe, frequent and intense wildfires, drought caused by lack of snowfall in all our watersheds and river basins in Colorado. These processes create strong feedback loops that further increase drought, wildfires and erosion of watersheds and habitat loss, which is the single most important cause of species extinction. We must tackle climate change now by encouraging more renewables, more protections like the methane rule and other science-based air quality and water quantity and quality protections and instituting a carbon fee and dividend. I have already promised to immediately join the Climate Caucus. It requires that each new member bring in a member of the other party before they may join. So it is bipartisan. I will work across the aisle to bring back science–based emissions standards and protections, and fund peer-reviewed scientific research on climate.
Q. Do you support the current trade tariffs? Why or why not?
A. Current trade policies are driven by petty, partisan ideology, not by careful, data-based analysis and conclusions. In 2019, the House must require that Administration officials in Commerce and Treasury clearly show a reliable and valid empirical basis for policy. NAFTA was flawed in many ways, but especially in its lack of safeguards for workers, unions and the environment. I will carefully scrutinize the USMCA for strong, effective labor and environmental safeguards. If they are not present, I will fight to include them. While it is absolutely clear that China has been dumping steel into our markets, thus putting American steel and steelworkers at risk, data from many other industries important to our economy in the 3rd Congressional District show that they are hurt and disadvantaged vis a vis foreign competitors by both the tariffs and the retaliatory measures. Specifically, agriculture and outdoor manufacturing and retail are negatively affected. Together, these industries account for living wage jobs, existing and potential new small businesses and thriving local economies. These trade policies handicap local, small businesses and households. My opponent has not spoken out against these tariffs as the taxes they are on businesses and on consumers.
Q. Washington, D.C. has become a place of extreme partisanship. Do you see value in finding common ground with the other party? And what efforts would you propose to reach across the aisle to get things accomplished?
A. Bipartisanship is not just valuable; it is essential to solve the problems facing us. I believe true bipartisanship creates the most effective legislation to improve life for everyone. In the Colorado State House, over 80 percent of my bills were co-prime sponsored with a Republican colleague. Pulling in stakeholders from across the political spectrum builds broader support and listening carefully to constituents, not Washington insiders, ensures that solutions are practical and work for everyone. Getting to know colleagues as people, not as partisan enemies, is critical. Civility and trust building are essential to be a bipartisan legislator. Democracy is built on integrity, accountability, civility, especially when you disagree with colleagues, and telling the truth. Ditto for effective legislating. Working in truly bipartisan House Caucuses, like the Climate Change Caucus is an important way to reach across the aisle. Recently my opponent has started to say he is “bipartisan.” His voting record shows that is not the case. My voting record and my bills — my actual record — shows that I am bipartisan. I want to bring that skill to work for all of us in the U.S. Congress. WE need solutions that work for everyone, not just for party leadership or lobbyists.
Q. Who do you believe owns our public lands? Do you think previous presidents have misused the Antiquities Act?
A. All the people of the U.S. own our public lands, which are managed by Interior and U.S. Forest with our public input. This Administration, not prior Presidents, has misused the Antiquities Act. That’s why it’s critical to keep public comment and public oversight. Zinke and Tipton have tried to dismantle public input on public lands decisions by weakening the public comment process, like the BLM Resource Advisory Committees, Colorado’s sage grouse plans, and by passing disingenuous bills that remove public input: bills with names like “Resilient Forests Act,” which does away with citizen authority and input with a pen stroke by cabinet members. On the House Natural Resources Committee, Mr. Tipton has gone along with members from Utah who’ve spearheaded the push to transfer our public lands to states or to sell our lands outright. There are no Colorado funds to manage transferred federal public lands, particularly oil and gas permitting and safety inspections. If our public lands were sold to the highest bidder, we would have no authority or input. I have been recognized as a public lands champion. I will work to keep public lands public. They are our heart and soul and our economic engine.
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