U.S. Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-CD2) recently sat down with Tucson Weekly to talk about a range of issues facing Congress. This is an edited and condensed transcript from that conversation.
We had President Donald Trump once again attacking the late Sen. John McCain last week. I'm just wondering your reaction to hearing these words from the president. You ran against John McCain.
It was a very respectful run. It's unbelievable that he's attacking McCain, somebody who's so revered and admired, not just here in Arizona, but across the country and across the world. But I believe it's just a distraction by the president to avoid addressing the really serious problems that we have in this country. His budget is terrible. It cuts Medicare and Social Security. All the programs that we really care about, (such as) Planned Parenthood, are on the chopping block in his budget. That's what we're talking about. And this is just a distraction.
What are your thoughts on the president's budget proposal?
Terrible proposal. And people realize that. A lot of my conversations in the district this week have been about that proposed budget and he's just out of touch with what people care about.
What about President's Trump declaration of a national emergency to build a border wall?
Again, another distraction by the president. Ultimately we need to pass comprehensive immigration reform so that there is a pathway for people to come here if they want to work, or if they want to become a part of our country. And that frees up the Border Patrol to focus on the drug cartel and the criminal activity. That's what I would ultimately like to see done. In the meantime, we have these asylum seekers turning themselves in, sometimes having to wait, I hear, a week before they see somebody who can process them. So I'm asking for administrative help to come and help process the refugees. Most of them are coming up from Guatemala and Honduras.
When we talk about a wall, it almost becomes a symbolic metaphor more than a thing on the ground, but do you think there are appropriate places for a wall along the border?
There's a wall at Nogales. But that's not really the answer. What we really need to do is modernize and expand our ports of entry, because it's an issue of commerce. So commerce should be able to come back and forth across the border. If trucks have to wait days and days and days to be inspected and then the produce is spoiled, that hurts commerce. So everything that the president's talking about, about the wall, is just a distraction from these really big issues that we need to address at the border.
You recently came out in support of Medicare for All. Why do you think that would be the way to move forward here?
The No. 1 issue I hear from constituents is getting access to healthcare, or keeping their healthcare. And within that is the high cost of prescription drugs. So Medicare is an existing system. I have yet to hear anybody who doesn't like Medicare. And so expanding coverage for people to allow them to be on Medicare makes sense.
Do you see it as completely replacing private insurance?
Right now, I see it as more the voluntary sign up. So a lot of people get their insurance from their employers, so why mess with that? Allow that to continue. Then we've got the veterans' healthcare system. And veterans like their healthcare. That came out very clear in our townhall the other night. And Indian health services. So we've got all these other healthcare delivery systems that work for people and that they like, but Medicare could be a choice.
Gun violence is obviously an important issue in this district, and you supported background-check legislation that the recently passed the House. It would essentially require a background check for second-hand private transactions between individuals who don't have a federal license to sell firearms. There are some exceptions within that for family members and such. Why did you support that?
I grew up hunting with my dad. But everything changed for me regarding guns when Gabby (Giffords) was shot. The shooting changed everything for me, and I became a co-sponsor for that legislation after that, co-sponsored Gabby's legislation that went even a little bit farther than this, requiring background checks, closing the gun sale loopholes, and strengthening the mental health system. I'd still like to see all of that done.
The Trump administration recently proposed a rule that would ban the family-planning dollars from going to organizations that refer women for abortion services, and this is obviously aimed at Planned Parenthood. Your thoughts on the Trump administration's efforts to limit these family-planning dollars?
I immediately called Planned Parenthood, had a meeting with them, because they provide healthcare for women who can't afford it on their own. Their primary service is healthcare delivery. Only a small part of it is abortion services. And so it hurts the most vulnerable women in this country, again and shows that this president has no compassion for people at risk and really only cares about himself.
There's an argument that other clinics can pick up this work. Do you see that as a viable alternative for low income women, to go find a new doctor?
In some communities, Planned Parenthood is it. They are the only ones who deliver these services. That's just not realistic.
What do you think of Congressman Grijalva's proposal to ban the uranium mining up at the Grand Canyon?
I totally support that. That's an example of where we should not have mining. But I also question, do we need any more uranium in this country? I've talked to physicists who say we don't. We've got plenty. We're not building nuclear power plants. What do we need it for?
Speaker Pelosi said that she doesn't think impeachment should be on the table, unless something else emerges from what she's seen so far. Would you agree with where she's coming from there?
I do, because what she wants to do is address the issues that are affecting working class people, and middle class, and actually deliver on things like Medicare, Social Security, education, healthcare, lowering prescription drug costs, and not get drawn into the whole impeachment argument. We've got work to do.