Ben­net vows to fight for clean air and wa­ter

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Jesse Paul

colorado springs» U.S. Sen. Michael Ben­net sought to re­as­sure a wary group con­cerned about a long list of is­sues, in­clud­ing the en­vi­ron­ment, Rus­sia and — es­pe­cially — health care un­der Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump.

“Tell me why I shouldn’t be scared,” one wo­man said at Thurs­day’s town hall meet­ing.

Ben­net, a Demo­crat from Den­ver, strongly crit­i­cized the Repub­li­cans’ health care bill, the Amer­i­can Health Care Act. He ac­knowl­edged there are prob­lems with Oba­macare, but he said the new leg­is­la­tion posed prob­lems that were far worse.

“I don’t be­lieve there is any way this plan that (House Speaker) Paul Ryan has sug­gested will pass the Se­nate. I’m not even sure it will pass the House,” Ben­net told vot­ers gath­ered in heav­ily Repub­li­can El Paso County.

The stop in Colorado Springs was the first of five across the state for Ben­net. The in-per­son town halls are the first in a long stretch and come amid a fierce na­tional de­bate and con­tro­versy on ev­ery­thing from im­mi­gra­tion to the En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency.

Ben­net said he would op­pose Trump’s pro­pos­als to slash fund­ing for sci­ence and cli­mate re­search. He strongly dis­missed sug­ges­tions by Scott Pruitt, the new ad­min­is­tra­tor of the En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency, that there are doubts sur­round­ing the link be­tween hu­man ac­tiv­ity and cli­mate change.

“The sci­ence is set­tled on that ques­tion,” Ben­net said. “What we do about it is un­set­tled. … This gives us an op­por­tu­nity to demon­strate there is a con­sen­sus in Amer­ica that cli­mate change is real and we need to do some­thing.”

He added: “I will fight for clean wa­ter and clean air. I will fight for Colorado’s econ­omy in the face of bud­gets and other poli­cies that strike me as jobkilling poli­cies, not poli­cies that are go­ing to sup­port good-pay­ing jobs for our state.”

Ben­net took time to push back against Trump’s at­tacks on the me­dia, specif­i­cally while jour­nal­ists in the Mid­dle East are dy­ing try­ing to cover the Syr­ian con­flict and the Is­lamic State.

“That’s a place where I think my voice needs to be heard,” he said.

“Sign me up for work­ing with peo­ple where I can,” he said. “Sign me up for pro­tect­ing prin­ci­ples and de­fend­ing Amer­i­can, tra­di­tional prin­ci­ples that I very much agree with. But I’m not go­ing to be one of these peo­ple who says, ‘I’ll never work with you just be­cause you’re a Repub­li­can.’ Or ‘I’ll never work with you just be­cause you’re Don­ald Trump.’ I’ve voted for about half of his nom­i­nees and I’ve voted against about half of them. And I’m mak­ing a judg­ment on each one.”

Ben­net fielded a ques­tion from El Paso County Com­mis­sioner Longi­nos Gon­za­lez Jr. about fed­eral ap­peals court judge Neil Gor­such, whom Trump has nom­i­nated to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court.

“I’ve not yet made a de­ci­sion on how I’m go­ing to vote,” he said. “He’s been a judge here for a long time and many many, peo­ple speak highly of him. … I think — par­tic­u­larly in the con­text that we’re in to­day — I think it’s very im­por­tant to hear his tes­ti­mony.”

He didn’t speak at length with re­porters after the Colorado Springs event and told a tele­vi­sion re­porter who fol­lowed him out while ask­ing about Gor­such: “I think my job is to lis­ten to the hear­ings and make a judg­ment. That’s why we have the process. And I look for­ward to the hear­ings.”

Many au­di­ence mem­bers said they were in­ter­ested in how Ben­net plans to op­pose Trump’s poli­cies and de­ci­sions.

“I want to know his plans for resistance,” said Mor­gan Chavez, a 35-year-old mar­ried Colorado Springs mother of two girls. “(Democrats) need to op­pose harder. This is not the time for quiet par­ti­san­ship. This is the time to re­sist fas­cism.”

More than 100 peo­ple at­tended a Colorado Springs town hall meet­ing with Sen. Michael Ben­net on Thurs­day at the Tesla Ed­u­ca­tion Cen­ter. Mark Reis, The Gazette

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