Election Guide 2016: Election Guide 2016: Q&A with Michael Bennet
October 16, 2016
Bio: Representing Colorado in the United States Senate, built a reputation as someone who will take on Washington dysfunction and work with anyone — Democrat or Republican — to get things done. Married to natural resources attorney, Susan Daggett. Father to three daughters: Caroline, Halina and Anne. Former businessman and school superintendent.
Q. Do you think the Senate should have held confirmation hearings on Judge Merrick Garland, President Obama's Supreme Court appointee? If elected, would you be willing to give all Supreme Court appointees timely hearings and an up or down vote?
A. I absolutely believe that Congress should do its job and hold confirmation hearings for Merrick Garland. The partisan obstruction currently leaving the Supreme Court shorthanded is unprecedented and a threat to our democracy. It's Washington dysfunction at its very worst. If reelected, I would continue to push for a vote to fill the Supreme Court vacancy. The president did his job and put forth a nominee, and now Senate leadership needs to do theirs by holding hearings and a vote.
Q. Evidence continues to mount that human activities are contributing to climate change. What, if anything, do you think could be done at the federal level to combat this problem while respecting the economic interests of business and industry?
A. It's ridiculous that so many politicians still question climate science. Yes, humans have contributed to climate change, and Colorado's economy is already feeling the result — whether it's a shorter ski season, the constant threat of wildfire or droughts that imperil our $40 billion agriculture industry. At the same time, we've been a national leader in energy efficiency, alternative fuels and generating electricity from cleaner and more diverse sources. We can fight climate change while protecting jobs and moving toward energy independence, starting with support for renewable energy technology and encouraging the energy innovation on which Colorado has led the way. I've worked to extend tax credits for renewables like wind and solar, which combined with other renewables contributed $3.6 billion to Colorado's economy in 2015.
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Q. The economies of many Colorado regions are dependent upon coal production, an industry that has fallen under fire in recent years. What is your stance on the EPA's Clean Power Plan?
A. I support balanced energy solutions that move us closer to energy independence and work for Colorado. We're national leaders in renewables, and I worked to extend tax credits for wind and solar that support thousands of jobs. I've also supported energy development like the Keystone Pipeline, passed bipartisan legislation to level the playing field for LNG fuel and worked on legislation to help finance carbon-capture so coal plants can run cleaner and stay open. I believe the CPP is an important step toward curbing carbon pollution and addressing climate change, and I successfully worked to make the final rule more workable by pushing for Colorado to get credit for early leadership. We're already almost 75 percent of the way to meeting our 2030 targets. Almost all of Colorado's coal-fired unit closures have occurred under a law passed by the state legislature. We need to support those communities as their economies transition.
Q. What is your stance on the immigration issue? Would you support mass deportations, as have been suggested by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, or would you favor creating a path to citizenship for law-abiding, undocumented aliens living in the U.S.?
A. I do not support mass deportations. We need comprehensive immigration reform that allows millions living in the shadows to fully contribute to our society and our economy. As a member of the Gang of Eight — a group of Democrats and Republicans that worked closely for months — I helped craft a bipartisan bill that included a pathway to citizenship and measures to strengthen border security. That's the kind of collaborative solution Colorado needs, and if reelected, I will continue working to pass comprehensive immigration reform.
Q. Medicare spending is projected to nearly double by the year 2025, and while Social Security remains solvent for now, projections indicate the trust fund will be exhausted by 2033. What, in your opinion, is the best strategy for bolstering these programs for future generations?
A. Both Medicare and Social Security are sacred promises we made to our seniors, and I am committed to protecting them. I have a bipartisan bill to help seniors on Medicare get to their appointments, get the medicine they need, focus on preventative care and coordinate their care between doctors and facilities. Fifteen percent of Medicare recipients account for $300 billion in spending — we could cut billions off that number without affecting benefits. On Social Security, we need to protect its promise for those who have spent their lives paying into it and ensure it's solvent for the next generation. That means we may have to consider making adjustments — none which would affect current retirees—for the wealthiest Social Security recipients. That way Social Security can continue keeping the most vulnerable out of poverty.