Government & Politics

Sharice Davids doesn’t commit to ‘Medicare for all’ or ‘Green New Deal’ at town hall

U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids said Sunday she can’t commit to supporting two policy proposals dominating debate within her party heading into the 2020 presidential election: a “Green New Deal” to combat climate change and “Medicare for all” to reform the nation’s healthcare system.

During her first town hall since taking office in January, Davids told a crowd gathered at Saint Andrew Christian Church in Olathe that she is committed to expanding access to health care and addressing climate change.

But she said her focus, especially on healthcare, is to work on legislation “that we can get bipartisan support on and move forward with right now.”

“I can’t say what the next step looks like” on health care, she said, “but the things I can actually put energy into, I want them to be things that can get bipartisan support.”

Davids was elected in November, defeating four-term incumbent Republican Rep. Kevin Yoder to capture Kansas’ 3rd Congressional District.

She’s the first Democrat to represent the district in a decade.

Sunday’s town hall consisted of a 30-minute live interview between Davids and Shawnee Mission Post Publisher Jay Senter, followed by questions that Senter selected from the audience.

Senter said the questions were submitted by his readers, and 70 percent focused on health care.

Davids said she is not surprised.

“Health care affects every single one of us,” she said, later adding: “Universal access to affordable, quality health care is a right in this country. It has to be the thing we’re really pushing for. No one in this country should go bankrupt because they got cancer or a family member got cancer. I cannot believe that is part of the status quo.”

But she stopped short of supporting proposals that would give all Americans access to government-run health care, otherwise known as “Medicare-for-all.”

It has become a rallying cry on the left, picking up more than 100 sponsors in the U.S. House and winning the endorsement of several 2020 Democratic presidential hopefuls.

Davids said she hasn’t read the entire bill.

“It would be irresponsible for me to say I’d vote ‘yes’ on it without doing due diligence,” she said, inspiring applause and a smattering of boos.

She noted that she is co-sponsoring legislation that would incentivize states to expand Medicaid eligibility, a key tenet of President Barack Obama’s federal health care law.

Kansas is one of 14 states that have opted not to expand Medicaid. The state House voted in favor of the idea this week, but it faces steep odds in the state Senate.

“We’re so close in Kansas,” Davids said.

On the “Green New Deal,” a resolution introduced in Congress laying out the goals, aspirations and specifics of a program to combat climate change, Davids said she hasn’t signed on to support it because the proposal contains “a number of specific policies that I don’t necessarily support.”

“I do believe,” she added, “we need to be bold in the ways we address climate change,” pointing to her support for renewable energy and her work on the House transportation committee.

One topic that was barely mentioned at her town hall was Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s nearly two-year-long investigation of President Donald Trump.

Shortly before the town hall got underway, U.S. Attorney General William Barr released a summary of Mueller’s findings, saying Mueller’s probe found that neither the president nor any of his aides conspired or coordinated with the Russian government’s 2016 election interference.

Barr also wrote that Mueller did not take a clear position on whether Trump obstructed justice.

Davids said she agrees with her fellow Democrats that the entire Mueller report should be made public.

“No matter what ends up happening,” she said, “it’s important for the report to be public. Because regardless of what side you come down in terms of what steps should be taken, I don’t think it benefits any arguments, no matter what angle you’re looking at it from, to not have the full report be public.”

She added that when she talks to her constituents, the topic of the investigation into allegations of misconduct against the president rarely comes up.

“The only time I get asked about the Mueller report,” she said, “is when I’m talking to reporters.”

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Jason Hancock is The Star’s lead political reporter, providing coverage of government and politics on both sides of the state line. A three-time National Headliner Award winner, he has written about politics for more than a decade for news organizations across the Midwest.