Democratic Rep. Steven Horsford departed from the typical template of congressional speeches to the Legislature on Monday, making his address less a list of Washington, D.C. policy priorities and more a call to action for lawmakers to carry on the legacy of Democratic Assemblyman Tyrone Thompson, who died unexpectedly over the weekend at age 51.
Horsford, who said he met Thompson 20 years ago and had just been texting with the lawmaker last week about policy, called the assemblyman “one of God’s angels” who had been called home, sharing a long list of ways Thompson had immersed himself in community service. Horsford also encouraged lawmakers to take care of their health — a lesson he learned after a six-way heart bypass during his first term in Congress.
“He still had so much more to offer to his community in public service and most importantly to his family,” Horsford said in his nine-minute speech. “Tyrone’s passing is a stark reminder that while the work we do is important, so is our health. We have to take care of ourselves in order to have the strength and good health to advocate for our constituents.”
In a conversation with reporters after the speech, Horsford called the president an “unindicted co-conspirator” who needs to be replaced, explained why he has stayed away from signing on as a co-sponsor of a Medicare-for-All bill and weighed in on an apparent resolution in Nevada’s fight against a surreptitious delivery of plutonium.
The congressman said he was satisfied with the deal struck by Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto and Energy Secretary Rick Perry to remove the half-ton of plutonium secretly moved to the Nevada National Security Site by 2026, and said he would be part of a congressional delegation site visit to “ensure that it is safe while it’s here.”
As he did in his campaign, Horsford maintained distance from the popular progressive rallying cry of moving to a single-payer or Medicare-for-All health insurance system, saying he was ready to “tackle a universal health care” and that the proposals will come before him as a member of the powerful House money committees. But he argued that the current administration’s efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act made preserving the status quo a more pressing issue.
“That is the fight that is in front of us and my job is to make sure that we protect the health care that we have,” he said.
Asked whether he thinks Nevada’s local governments are cooperating too closely with ICE through 287(g) agreements and other policies, which have been criticized for sweeping people with no more than unpaid traffic tickets into deportation proceedings, Horsford said he had discussed the matter with North Las Vegas’ new police Chief Pam Ojeda.
“I believe that what they have in place right now, it’s fair, but that it needs to continue to be reviewed, particularly in the environment that we’re in as it pertains to targeting immigrants,” he said. “I’ve heard from constituents, some of whom are not undocumented, who feel like they have been profiled and so we need to ensure that that does not occur in any regard.”
Horsford said he has supported legislation that requires police agencies that receive federal grants to implement policies against racial profiling and to reduce the use of force.
Horsford said he had spoken with a number of 2020 presidential hopefuls, saying he was willing to meet with any candidate and said he planned to stay involved ahead of the state’s February presidential caucus and did not rule out endorsing a candidate.
“We’ll wait and see what I decide to do, but I will be active as I was before,” he said. “We have a lot at stake in the 2020 cycle. Notwithstanding the fact that we have an unindicted co-conspirator in the White House, we need all need to do the best we can to elect an alternative to lead this country.”
Horsford also said that he supported a growing effort by House Democrats to hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt of Congress.
“We would prefer to see the administration and the attorney general working to provide this information in a transparent, forthcoming manner,” he said. “But in the end, the American people deserve to know the truth and to have all the facts available to them. And that’s the role that we have in Congress is to bring that information forward.”
Still, Horsford declined to say whether would support efforts to impeach President Donald Trump in light of the findings from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 election.
“I’ve read the report,” he said. “It’s really hard to decipher between literally whole sections that are blacked out, but what you can read is pretty damning to the president, to his campaign and to those around them.”