Within 36 hours, Nevada had both its U.S. Senators do town halls on both ends of the state. The twist? On Monday, Senator Dean Heller (R) made a rare public appearance in Reno and struggled to provide clear answers to constituents’ questions. On Tuesday, Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D) promised more accessibility and transparency during her freewheeling conversation with constituents at Las Vegas City Hall.
On Monday, Senator Dean Heller tended to evade more than explain himself. Though he did engage in lively discussion with constituents on everything from the U.S. Supreme Court to the future of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and climate change, Heller outright flip-flopped on Planned Parenthood health care funding while relying upon Rep. Mark Amodei (R-Carson City) to provide more thorough answers to questions on public lands protection and EPA funding.
In contrast, Senator Catherine Cortez Masto answered all the tough questions herself last night.
Cortez Masto’s toughest moments occurred when a group of activists repeatedly asked her about HR 676, the single-payer health care bill U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) is promoting. At one point, Cortez Masto implored upon the activists to acknowledge the political reality of Republicans’ drive to do away with Medicaid expansion, insurance subsidies, coverage guarantees, and all other health care reforms included in the ACA. “We are fighting Republicans who want to take away health care. […] We have to be realistic.” But after another constituent asked about single-payer, Cortez Masto finally said, “I will take a look at it.”
Speaking of the ACA, Senator Cortez Masto promised the audience she will protect all the reforms in the current health care law while also pursuing ways to improve it. When asked about Donald Trump’s threat to withhold subsidies to people in need, Cortez Masto stated she and other Senate Democrats will continue to resist. “We need to continue fighting for the subsidies and people’s right to afford health insurance. […] We can’t take health care away from people.”
Several constituents also asked about civil rights… And Donald Trump’s threats to diverse communities.
“I am passionate about human rights. It’s our moral compass. It’s what makes America great.” – Senator Catherine Cortez Masto
When asked about what Congress can do on LGBTQ civil rights, Cortez Masto heartily endorsed comprehensive civil rights legislation: “We should pass the Equality Act.” She was also quick to defend her efforts to defend immigrant communities from Trump’s deportation raids. “They came for the American Dream. They came to work hard and succeed.” She reassured anxious constituents that she’s been assured by Las Vegas Metro Police that they are not actively participating in deportation raids.
Cortez Masto also addressed the other scandal hitting Las Vegas Metro Police: Their arrest of KLAS/8 News Now photojournalist Neb Solomon during the tax day protest at the Trump Las Vegas hotel. She requested more specifics on what happened last Saturday, but condemned the Trump Administration’s attacks on the press. “I support the press. I support the service they provide.”
Later in the evening, Carl’s Jr. worker and workers’ rights activist Lupe Guzman asked Cortez Masto about the minimum wage. Cortez Masto stressed she wants to ensure all Nevada workers are earning a living wage. “I support a decent minimum wage. […] It’s time to start investing in our businesses and our workers.”
Cortez Masto stayed at Las Vegas City Hall for about two hours to answer these questions and discuss additional issues, such as protecting public lands, fighting Trump’s proposed budget cuts, fighting any attempts to store nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain, allowing Nevada’s marijuana legalization program to continue, and supporting an independent investigation into Russian meddling in last year’s election.
Throughout the town hall, Senator Cortez Masto urged constituents to stay involved. “Now, more than ever, we have to use our voices. We can’t give up. […] We need to make sure we are fighting for our principles in this country.” She urged several of those asking questions to stay and discuss their matters with staff, and she promised everyone she will be doing more public events throughout the state in the weeks ahead. Cortez Masto’s next town hall will be in Reno this Saturday.