Climate, infrastructure and health care among senators’ top priorities
WASHINGTON — U.S. senators from Colorado shared their goals for the rest of the session and what they’ve done so far in 2022 as time is running out to get their priorities across.
The Herald of Durango conversed with the senses. John Hickenlooper and Michael Bennet about their priorities and how these will affect their constituents as the countdown begins to the end of Congress’s last major business period for the year.
Congress has two annual legislative sessions, both of which last for one year. In August, Congress will go into recess for five weeks, with little time to spare until the midterm elections once they return in September.
“We will absolutely cross the finish line”
In January, Bennet told the Herald that some of his biggest priorities for the year were passing the Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy Act, maintaining the expanded child tax credit in Build Back Better, and promoting the outdoor catering partnership law.
“I’m working closely with Senator (Mitt) Romney on the CTC (Child Tax Credit) to see if we can come together on a bipartisan, permanent version,” he said.
In Colorado, more than 600,000 households received a child tax credit payment in 2021 when it was part of the US bailout.
Regarding the forestry provisions of the Outdoor Restoration Partnership Act, Bennett said the $5 million in funding Colorado received in 2021 will be implemented by next year, and he sees it as a deposit. He said he would like to do more in this area, but it likely won’t be included in the Senate budget reconciliation bill. Reconciliation is a special Senate process used by the ruling party that facilitates the passage of legislation by requiring a simple majority of 51 votes, rather than the 60 votes usually required.
When asked how he sees Congress being able to move these bills forward, he said it’s not out of the question.
“I think it’s possible. We’re at a time where all of the things I just described are possible. I would say where there’s a will, there’s a way,” he said “There’s not much time left on the Congress schedule, but we’re absolutely going to cross the finish line here and make sure we do as much as we can.”
Bennet also pointed to several bills he recently introduced, such as his legislation to protect the Dolores River Canyon, his SMART Community Policing Act, Land Protection in the Gunnison Basin, and the PACT Act, which would expand health care for veterans who have been exposed to toxins.
As for what’s left to do, Bennet said he’s still pushing to expand premium tax credits on the Affordable Care Act to reduce health care premium increases for the people.
Additionally, he said he would still like to pass the Farm Labor Modernization Act, which he introduced with Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo and passed the House of Representatives with bipartisan support. He also said he would like to see the CORE Act passed, which has been important legislation for him for many years.
The CORE Act received a vote in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which is the furthest the bill has ever been in the Senate, and he said he believes the bill law had made a lot of progress. If passed, it would preserve about 400,000 acres of Colorado public land by designating it for recreational use or as protected wilderness. The House passed its version of the bill on July 15.
“I’ve been working on this bill for a decade with Coloradans and I’m going to figure out how to protect these precious landscapes,” he said.
Bennet said that when it comes to southwest Colorado, water and tribal water issues are critical investments he has been working to secure for a long time. He also works to secure funding for affordable housing efforts.
He said he would also like to see abortion rights codified in law.
“You can’t put all your eggs in one basket”
Hickenlooper said he was focusing his energy on passing a climate accord as time ticked away in the Senate.
“You look at wildfires all over the world, temperatures everywhere; we are so behind in terms of climate change, and yet it is still not that urgency that needs to be there,” he said.
He said he wasn’t sure what it would take to pass climate legislation during this term, but it’s important to consider several ways to pass legislation in case reconciliation doesn’t work. not. Hickenlooper said he spoke to some Republican senators about what they thought about doing a moderate version of climate change legislation during Congress’s “lame duck” session, but he didn’t. was ultimately unsure whether the legislation could be passed.
“As a geologist, we had things called multiple working hypotheses, so even when you’re working on a solution to your problem, you collect information that will help you think about another solution if this one doesn’t work, because you can’t just put all your eggs in one basket,” he said.
He said he was trying to focus on bipartisan efforts, such as passing the Safe Communities Act earlier this month by trying to push through legislation.
Another piece of legislation Hickenlooper had previously set as his focus for the year was the CORE Act. He said he was “cautiously optimistic” about its passage through the Senate this year. One way to get it through the Senate, he said, is to add it to the National Defense Authorization Act, which authorizes funding for the US military. Other amendments are often added to the bill, several of which concern the financing of public lands.
He echoed Bennet’s goals of working to lower the price of prescription drugs. He said he also hoped that letting the federal government negotiate the price of prescription drugs for Medicare would be included in the budget reconciliation.
Regarding the fight against inflation, a subject he said in January was one of his priorities, he said the government was doing everything it could to stimulate the economy.
“Inflation is a real problem and a real problem with people, but they lose sight of the fact that we could have been in a great depression,” he said. “There has never been a Great Depression like this where the entire global economy has come to a standstill.”
Looking back on what has been done for his constituents so far this year, he said congressional-designated grants from infrastructure bills have been great for southwestern Colorado. He cited a $160,000 grant to Fort Lewis College, funding to purchase a hotel in Durango to be used as transitional housing, and money for the Southern Ute and Mountain Ute tribes to use. for infrastructure as “big business”.
“When you’re in an area, whether it’s fairly sparsely populated and very poor, these kinds of research projects are worth their weight in gold.” he said.
Nina Heller is an intern for The Durango Herald and The Journal at Cortez and a student at American University in Washington, DC. She can be contacted at [email protected].