Shortly before being sworn in as a U.S. senator, Jacky Rosen said she will work to find consensus with President Trump but that it may be difficult because of what she described as his unpredictability and incivility.
“I think it’s hard to predict what the president will talk about on any given day and unfortunately it puts us, even those in his own party, in a reactive mode instead of a proactive mode,” Rosen, a Democrat, said in an interview before being sworn in Thursday as Nevada’s junior senator.
“Our constituents want us to be proactive and govern and work in things like education and health care, but when you’re always having to react to things that shouldn’t be a crisis, it makes it a little difficult, even for members of the president’s own party, I believe,” Rosen, who is the second woman to represent Nevada in the Senate, continued.
Rosen also underscored the frustration by many in Congress over the current government shutdown. Funding for about a quarter of the federal government was suspended on Dec. 22 after Democrats rebuffed Trump’s demand for $5 billion to fund construction of a wall on the Mexican border. Negotiations continue to end the shutdown, but no resolution is expected anytime soon.
Among the agencies that are affected by the shutdown are Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management, which oversees recreation, grazing and mining and regularly contract with small businesses and nonprofits across Nevada. When the shutdown started, many groups received notice from the agencies that they could no longer do work under those agreements until the funding issue was resolved. The result: Some employees could no longer be paid under the contracts.
“If he were more predictable, we might have a better government right now,” Rosen said.
That unpredictability was on display in the week leading up to the shutdown. Trump had initially signalled that he might agree to a short-term stopgap crafted by Senate Republicans that would have provided no new funds for border security and kept the government funded through Feb. 8. The thinking was to delay the shutdown fight until after Speaker Nancy Pelosi assumed the leadership of the House.
The Republican-led Senate passed the stopgap funding bill before the funding deadline. But there was a backlash from conservatives who urged Trump to shut the government down. That led to the GOP-led House to change the bill to include $5.7 billion for the wall. The measure was not considered by the Senate, where Democrats, who planned to withhold their support, were needed to pass the bill.
Rosen said she believes Trump’s tendencies and behavior fall short of the civility and preparation that his office requires.
“This president leaves a little bit of that to be desired,” Rosen said. “He doesn’t always listen to other experts, I believe he doesn’t always do his homework and he doesn’t always treat people with the dignity and respect that is, I believe, incumbent upon the office of the president of the United States, but really all of us serving. And so history will be the judges. I believe he has some shortcomings in the civility department.”
Rosen praised Utah Republican Sen. Mitt Romney, who wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post this week that took Trump to task for rhetoric, actions and decisions that, in Romney’s opinion, are unbecoming to the office and undermine the nation’s stature in the world.
“I was very proud of Senator Romney,” Rosen said. “I think he stood up for what he felt was the right thing. So he spoke his truth about how he feels about his party and about how he feels about his country. He spoke from his heart, so I think that was the right thing for him to do.”
Romney wasn’t the only one weighing in on Trump this week. The New York Times Magazine published an interview with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in which he claimed that Trump “is without question the worst president we’ve ever had.”
Rosen said it will be up to history to decide if Reid is right, but she added that anyone in elected office faces a difficult road.
“Anyone who steps up to serve and lead this country, whether it’s in the presidency or other elected offices, even state and local, it’s difficult,” she said. “Sometimes you have to make tough decisions and history always judges you and you hope that the legacy you leave if you govern with kindness, you govern with thoughtfulness, you do your homework…is one that people will look and say ‘they worked hard and they did a good job.’”
Despite her views on the president, she pledged to work with him when possible and fight him when necessary.
“Wherever we can find consensus that’s good for Nevada, I am going to work with anybody and when I have to I am going to stand up and fight,” Rosen said.
In the House, she was a member of the Problem Solvers Caucus, which is a group of 48 House members, equally divided between Democrats and Republicans, who work on bipartisan legislative solutions. She intends to keep working across the aisle as a member of the Senate.
Among the issues she plans to focus on in the Senate is health care, particularly protecting coverage for pre-existing conditions under the Affordable Care Act, which was the focal point of her Senate campaign.
“One of the first things that I heard during the campaign from everyone, no matter their age, their stage, their religion, race, their amount of income, everybody was worried about removal of pre-existing conditions,” she said.
The issue has also been inflamed by a recent ruling in a court case in Texas in which twenty Republican attorneys general, not including Nevada’s, filed a lawsuit challenging the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) constitutionality after Congress removed the tax penalty associated with the law’s individual mandate to buy health insurance. The Texas judge ruled in favor of the GOP attorneys general, and the case is being appealed.
As a member the House, Rosen introduced a resolution that had nearly 190 co-sponsors that would have authorized the Office of the General Counsel of the U.S. House of Representatives to intervene on behalf of the House to defend the ACA coverage protections for people with pre-existing conditions in the Texas case. The House is expected to approved a version of the resolution in its rules package for the two-year legislative session that started Thursday.
West Virginia Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin introduced the Senate version of the resolution and Rosen said she intends to support it.
“I’m assuming he’s going to introduce that since he was the lead, and obviously I will be joining him on that,” she said.
Nevada and Idaho were the nation’s fastest-growing states between July 1, 2017, and July 1, 2018, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Both states’ populations increased by about 2.1 percent in the last year alone.
Other issues she will focus on include climate change, lands and cyber security. Her committee assignments suit her interests. She serves on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee, and the Special Committee on Aging.
She also said she would continue to fight any efforts to build a nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain along with other members of the delegation including Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto.
“Catherine and I are up for that fight,” Rosen said, adding that members like Republican Rep. John Shimkus, who had been pushing the project in the House, have less influence with the chamber now under control of the Democrats.
She also said that she doesn’t support getting rid of the filibuster for legislation. Sixty votes are needed to overcome a filibuster, and the rule typically gives the minority in the Senate input on legislation, unlike in the House where the majority is more unfettered. The Republicans are currently in the majority in the Senate with 53 votes, which means at least 7 of the 47 Democrats would be needed to advance legislation if all Republicans support it.
“I think it’s an important tradition and tool for us to be able to really hold our ground,” Rosen said. “Even in the minority, you should still have a voice.”
She declined to criticize Reid’s decision, as majority leader in 2013, to get rid of the filibuster for all nominations, except for the Supreme Court, to ease confirmation for the nominees of President Barack Obama. The move has allowed the Senate GOP majority to put in place a record number of judges and made the nominations process more partisan. Senate Republicans got rid of the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees in 2017 in order to confirm Neil Gorsuch.
“I’m going to always let history be the judge, but here we are dealing with it today,” Rosen said. “Catherine and I have spoken about how we’re going to approach judicial nominations, who we are going to work together to do our homework and our vetting.”