By MICHELLE L. PRICE, LAS VEGAS (AP) — Nevada Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto said Friday that she’s focusing on ensuring people have access to affordable health care and making sure that families separated at the U.S-Mexico border by President Donald Trump’s administration are reunited.
Cortez Masto, a Democrat who was elected in 2016 to replace longtime Democratic Sen. Harry Reid, met with reporters at her office in Las Vegas on Friday to discuss issues she’s working on.
A look at the some of the issues she discussed:
Amid widespread outcry over the family separations, a judge in June ordered more than 2,500 children be reunited. Hundreds remained apart after the deadline, often involving parents who had already been deported without their children.
Cortez Masto disputed statements from U.S. Homeland Security officials that some those families separated because parents chose not to be reunited with their children.
She visited detention facilities in Texas in June and says the parents she met with did not want to be separated from their children. She called the Trump administration’s zero tolerance policy “outrageous and inhumane.” She said the parents who make a hazardous journey thousands of miles to the U.S. are seeking asylum to avoid threats to their lives in their home countries and have a better life in America.
The senator said President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act wasn’t perfect, but it helped lots of people get access to health insurance that they couldn’t previously afford. She said while it can be improved upon, GOP leaders in Congress and the Trump administration are blocking progress on fixing the law. Cortez Masto said she would like to see some kind of “public option” health insurance plan, allowing for government competition with the private health insurance market.
Cortez Masto says she plans to meet with Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh but it likely won’t be until after his confirmation hearing in September. She said she’s still reviewing his opinions in cases. But from what she’s seen so far, she has concerns about his interpretations of issues regarding abortion rights, worker’s rights, net neutrality and LGBTQ rights. She said she wants the Supreme Court to be balanced and noted that Trump’s last nominee, Justice Neil Gorsuch, declined to meet with her.
States around the country that have a death penalty are running into hurdles with lethal injection drugs as they try to carry out executions, leading some states to find new or secretive sources of lethal injection drugs that are drawing more legal challenges. Cortez Masto, who served two terms as Nevada attorney general, said she doesn’t think there’s any need for Congress to weigh in on the death penalty and states should have the right to make a determination about capital punishment.
Cortez Masto said she hasn’t seen the specifics yet of the Trump administration’s plan to announce a new U.S. Space Force, but she does believe that protecting America’s national security should include space. The White House announcement Thursday that it plans to create the sixth, separate military service by 2020, though the plan will face daunting hurdles and requires congressional approval. The senator said she looks forward to seeing details of the plan and what resources the administration plans to use.