Bennet talks politics, health care at town hall meeting in Junction

U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet answers a question about the Republicans’ plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act during a town hall meeting Friday at Colorado Mesa University.

More than 240 years ago, the nation’s founders weren’t sure if, much less how long, the United States would survive, U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet told a crowd in Grand Junction on Friday.

Imagine their surprise if they could see that it’s still here, he said.

Using the famous Benjamin Franklin quote about what form of government was being formed then — “A republic, if you can keep it” — the Democrat said it’s in just as much peril now as it was then.

“That’s what’s at stake,” he told about 250 people at Colorado Mesa University.

At the last of a two-day series of town hall meetings that stretched from Colorado Springs to Durango to the Grand Valley, Bennet took questions on a variety of subjects — health care, the federal budget, public lands, Russia.

Interspersed throughout the hourlong event, Bennet had a theme: That politics has played too great a role in forming policy, and that has to stop.

In fact, that was why Bennet decided to hold the town halls, to get an idea of what Coloradans are thinking about politics in Washington, D.C., and where GOP President Donald Trump is taking the nation, he said.

“I’m not at all surprised at what energy there is and how much interest there is in these town halls,” Bennet said in an exclusive interview before the event.

“What I’m hearing is people are worried about a political situation in Washington that feels to them that it’s slipping outside of the mainstream of American political thought,” he said. “People are very worried about what’s going on with health care. They were worried about what’s going on with health care before, but now they’re profoundly distressed.”

Bennet fielded numerous questions about the GOP’s latest so-called repeal-and-replace proposal of the Affordable Care Act, saying many aspects of it are far from better than what’s in place now, such as dumping about 24 million people from the insurance rolls.

He said that several Republicans, who control both the U.S. Senate and House, aren’t pleased with the plan either, and predicted that it wouldn’t pass either chamber.

On the president’s recently released federal budget, Bennet said it would be a disaster for rural parts of the nation, from schools to airports to hospitals.

“In rural Colorado, they feel like this budget is just pounding on them, instead of trying to support them,” he said. “They’re worried about what’s going on in the rest of the world and what our position is.”

But as Bennet has said many times before, if the nation expects real change, it has to start with Washington politics.

“We have to change the way we expect people in Washington to behave with one another,” he told the Grand Junction crowd.

“No matter what party you’re in, no matter what politicians you support, you have to think about ... whether or not it’s in line with the folks that founded this country.”


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