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Focus on Values: Notes on Elizabeth Warren’s Pep Talk with Nevada Democrats

Last Saturday, President Donald Trump campaigned with Senator Dean Heller (R) in Las Vegas as they touted Trump’s goals for everything from immigration to health care,  and even the very structure of the federal government. Hours after Trump’s barnstorm of Southern Nevada, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) joined Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D) and local Democrats in Henderson to rebut Trump’s claims, and to encourage the audience to build a “Blue Wave” that will crash down upon Trump’s dreams of making radical changes to American governance.

“Why don’t we have the money? It’s because they’ve given away a trillion and a half dollars to giant corporations and billionaires.”
– Senator Elizabeth Warren
Photo by Andrew Davey

In December, Republican leaders rushed to pass their tax plan that will cost the federal government $1.9 trillion over the next decade, with benefits flowing mostly to the wealthiest of Americans. On Saturday, Senator Elizabeth Warren voiced her frustration over her Republican colleagues’ stated priorities: “That is what they say they stand for: ‘We are here to help the rich and powerful.’”

Warren then shared a story of a conversation she had with Congressional colleagues about the opioid crisis. According to Warren, when she’s spoken with Republican Senators about the bill she’s introduced with Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Maryland) to invest $100 billion over the next ten years to fight the opioid epidemic, they’d respond, “That sounds like a good idea, but we don’t have any money.” Warren retorted, “Why don’t we have the money? It’s because they’ve given away a trillion and a half dollars to giant corporations and billionaires.”

Last Friday, the House did pass a a comprehensive opioid treatment bill on a bipartisan 396-14 vote, and the Senate is expected to respond with similar legislation. However the House bill follows a prior budget agreement that’s only allocated $6 billion for opioid addiction treatment through 2019, far short of the $6 billion per year or more that experts say the nation must invest to curb this crisis. Meanwhile, House Republicans are embracing a budget plan that maintains the Trump Tax Plan while cutting health care budgets and repealing the Affordable Care Act (ACA, or Obamacare), further jeopardizing access to opioid addiction treatment.

“We believe that health care is a basic human right. […] We believe everyone in this country should have basic health care coverage.”
– Senator Elizabeth Warren

Just over a year ago, U.S. Senator Dean Heller (R) stood with Governor Brian Sandoval (R) as he promised not to vote for legislation that would result in jeopardizing Nevadans’ health care. We all know how that ultimately went. A year later, Heller stood with Donald Trump as the President boasted, “Obamacare is on its last legs.” Not only are Congressional Republicans eyeing another attempt to repeal Obamacare, but the White House is refusing to defend the health care law in court while continuing to pursue executive actions to further undermine the law.

On Saturday, Warren implored upon Nevada Democrats to offer a clear contrast to Republicans on health care: “We believe that health care is a basic human right. […] We believe everyone in this country should have basic health care coverage.” She later had this to say about her colleagues who voted to “repeal and replace”: “Every Republican [who voted to repeal Obamacare] was willing to roll back health care coverage, to take away protection for millions of Americans with pre-existing conditions.”

Warren then provided some examples of people who would be harmed by Obamacare repeal: “They were willing to roll back the Medicaid expansion that helps babies born seven weeks early who incur millions of dollars in medical bills, that helps your neighbor who uses a wheelchair has a home health aide, so he can live in his own home.” Warren continued, “The Republicans were willing to say, ‘Roll it all back. Throw it out the window. It is more important to protect billionaires than to protect our own people.’”

“I’ve got to say, I want to come back after November with Democrats in control of the House and the Senate.”
– Senator Elizabeth Warren
Photo by Andrew Davey

Not only does the Trump administration want to slash the federal budget and roll back recent advances in health care coverage, but they also want to reshape the entire federal government. Last week, the White House revealed a proposal that includes consolidating nearly all social safety net programs under a “Department of Welfare”, selling federal properties en masse, rolling back consumer protection programs, and cutting many other public benefit projects, from scientific research to foreign aid.

When asked whether she and other Democrats can stop Trump’s plan for the federal government, Warren pivoted to explain the importance of this year’s election to determine who gets to vote for Trump’s proposals next year: “I’m in a room full of realists. I’ve got to say, I want to come back after November with Democrats in control of the House and the Senate.”

Currently, Trump’s government reorganization plan stands virtually zero chance of passing Congress any time this year. But if Democrats do flip control of one or both houses of Congress, they can not only ensure this plan remains dead, but they will gain more leverage in future budget fights, and more ability to protect the entire social safety net from Trump’s threats to cut and/or dismantle it.

“If you want to understand our values, what we value as a country, watch where we spend our money.”
– Senator Elizabeth Warren
Photo by Andrew Davey

Warren continued on this theme as she closed her presentation in Henderson. “If you want to understand our values, what we value as a country, watch where we spend our money.” She then asked, “Does our money just go to the rich and powerful, or does it go to the next kid who’s hoping she gets to become a public school teacher?”

Warren finished with this question, a question she hopes will define this election (and perhaps the next presidential election): “Do you believe government is supposed to work, not just for some who can afford to come to Washington and hire armies of lobbyists and lawyers […], or do you believe government is supposed to work for us?”

Photo by Andrew Davey

Ultimately, Trump’s immigration agenda is just one part of his larger mission to drastically change the entirety of the federal government. Thus far, a dysfunctional Republican-run House and a closely divided Senate have prevented Trump from accomplishing more of his goals. Trump has essentially decided to make this election a referendum on his vision for the nation’s future, and Republicans like Heller seem to be fine with that… And so do Democrats like Warren and Cortez Masto, who hope voters will choose their vision over Trump’s.

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