Q&A with Colorado’s Congressional House District 3 candidates: Lauren Boebert and Diane Mitsch Bush
Editor’s note: This question and answer interview is part of The Aspen Times’s 2020 election coverage for the Nov. 3 election. For more election coverage visit aspentimes.com/election
In the U.S. House of Representatives Colorado District 3 race, Lauren Boebert is a Republican from Rifle who defeated incumbent Rep. Scott Tipton in the June primary and Diane Mitsch Bush is from Routt County and won the Democrats’ primary.
District 3 represents much of southern and western Colorado, including Pitkin, Eagle and Garfield counties.
Looking beyond the campaign to a time next year when you are actually a member of Congress, let’s assume Donald Trump is re-elected and Democrats fail to capture the Senate. What are the two to three policy priorities you will take the lead on to best represent the interests of Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District?
Diane Mitsch Bush: First, I will work across the aisle to protect the Affordable Care Act and lower health care costs. There have been multiple attempts to repeal the ACA, which would destroy protections for the 300,000 people in CD-3 with preexisting conditions. I’ll work with my colleagues to improve the ACA by ending surprise billing, authorizing Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices, fully funding the Children’s Health Insurance Program — CHIP — and ensuring that resources get to our rural hospitals.
Second, I will work to establish a federal infrastructure bank to rebuild our communities and create good-paying jobs in CD-3. We desperately need funding for our electric grid, water infrastructure, broadband and transportation infrastructure in Colorado. Funding infrastructure has major multiplier effects, as we saw in the recovery from the Great Recession. For example, increasing broadband access means people here can access telehealth services — thus improving the quality of our health care. Additionally I propose incentives for 21st century small manufacturing businesses here in CD-3.
Third, I will protect our public lands. They are a major economic driver here, especially for agriculture and the outdoor industry, and most of our water supply comes from them.
Looking beyond the campaign to a time next year when you are actually a member of Congress, let’s assume Joe Biden wins the presidency and Democrats continue to control the House. What are the two to three policy priorities you will take the lead on to best represent the interests of Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District?
Lauren Boebert: I reject the assumption that Joe Biden will be the president or that the Democrats will continue to control the House. My first vote in Congress will be to fire Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House. Among other things, Nancy Pelosi spent years wasting time on impeachment instead of taking up President Trump on his offer to address immigration and infrastructure.
My priorities will remain the same regardless of who is in leadership. We need America to be responsibly open for business to get our economy back on track. We need to push hard to open up more markets for our local energy, agriculture and steel industries. And, we need to address our infrastructure and health care.
I encourage everyone to read my Contract with Colorado, posted at my campaign website LaurenForColorado.com. My contract outlines my key policy positions on everything from balancing the budget to education, energy production, health care and supporting term limits for all politicians.
And how do you intend to work with the other party to effectively achieve these priorities?
Lauren Boebert: I’ll focus on the outcomes we want to achieve instead of the swampy politics we’ve all come to abhor. Too many in Congress have been there for too long, developing horrible habits of punting on responsible budgeting and legislative processes until votes are forced on ginormous omnibus bills that spend and waste too much, where citizens like you and me just shake our heads and get frustrated at the “swamp.”
One of the advantages of me being a small-business owner instead of being a politician is that I’ve spent years solving problems and overcoming obstacles on tight deadlines and with my employees’ paychecks on the line. My habit is to focus on my customers, and as your representative, that means you are the customer, not the politicians in Washington. The less we make it about the politics of the legislation and the more we make it about the outcomes for our constituents, the better off we will all be. That approach should attract more consensus than the political process we are seeing now.
Diane Mitsch Bush: Bringing stakeholders to the table, finding common ground and forming coalitions is the best way to create policy to help our businesses, families and communities. That’s what I did in the Statehouse. President Trump and Senate Republicans have long talked about infrastructure investment, and that’s an opportunity to say “we all agree that our infrastructure needs help — let’s fix it together.” I worked across the aisle in the State House to pass infrastructure funding and earned a reputation as a consensus builder willing to go against my party leadership in order to get things done. I’m a work horse, not a show horse, and will use those same skills in Congress to pass legislation that will help people in CD-3 — whether we’re investing in infrastructure, lowering the cost of health care or helping small businesses thrive.
I’ll build relationships with my colleagues from the other Western states so that we can tackle common issues facing our communities, like aging infrastructure and drought. At the Statehouse, I found that urban and suburban legislators need education on the everyday realities of rural issues. In Congress, I’ll advocate for rural Colorado and educate my colleagues on the unique challenges we face here.
According to a recent report from the Brookings Institution, U.S. per capita health care spending has nearly quadrupled from $2,900 per person in 1980 to $11,200 in 2018 and the United States pays more for health care services than other advanced economies. With these statistics in mind, do you have a health care reform plan to deal with the issue of skyrocketing health care costs, and if so, please outline it?
Diane Mitsch Bush: First, I will protect the Affordable Care Act and its protections for people with preexisting conditions, funding for the Medicaid expansion program that has helped thousands of people in CD-3, mental health parity and provision that allows young people up to age 26 to stay on their parents’ health insurance plans. Repealing the ACA will increase health care spending due to cost shifting and emergency room use by people without coverage.
Second, I will work to improve the ACA and lower the high health care costs. That means ending surprise billing — one of the primary causes of family bankruptcy in the United States. I support authorizing Medicare to negotiate for more affordable prescription drugs. The Veterans Affairs already does this, and the cost of their medicine is a fraction of what Medicare pays. I’ll secure more resources for our rural hospitals because they don’t have the resources or funding that they need. Expanding telehealth services will ease the strain on rural providers, especially mental health providers.
Finally, we have to fully fund the Children’s Health Insurance Program — CHIP. More than 23,000 children in CD-3 rely on the program for health insurance, and I won’t leave them without care.
Lauren Boebert: Over $800 billion per year is spent on administrative health care costs in our country. The middlemen are getting rich off the backs of a system that rewards insurance companies instead of incentivizing competition and price transparency. Interestingly, Lasik eye surgery isn’t covered by most insurance plans, yet laser eye surgeons have found a way to compete for business, lower the cost to the consumer and expand availability. In other words, like me in my small business, they provide good customer service and compete for customers.
My approach to health care will be the same. We start by making sure the promises made before my arrival in Congress are kept. Nobody should be scared about losing their current coverage, especially during a global pandemic. People with preexisting conditions must be protected. Access across our rural district needs to improve. We need to make sure care is affordable and that prices are transparent.
Ever notice those drug commercials never include the price? Has anyone had luck figuring out what a hospital charges? And, we should enable health insurance to be personal and portable so people have the flexibility to work without fear of losing their benefits. None of these solutions require dismantling the current system or more government control over our health care. We should give them a try.
As a member of Congress, what type of coronavirus relief package would you support and how would that relief assist businesses and individuals, especially in your Congressional district?
Lauren Boebert: I was critical of my primary opponent for supporting legislation that would blanketly hand out taxpayer money to local governments that did not demonstrate a true need. Boulder, Aspen and Telluride don’t need government bailouts. I was also critical of handouts that were sent to those that were not in jeopardy of losing their jobs or income. Why should someone with a secure federal government job be receiving a COVID check?
As we saw with the criticism of large, publicly backed companies, the litmus test for those receiving PPP loans also left room for improvement. And as a small-business owner who believes we should be open for business, I get frustrated that many people who would otherwise be working are being paid more to stay at home. As your representative, I support the general concept of helping those in need who are unable to work through no fault of their own, but I think there is plenty of room to offer amendments to these hastily written bills that do not take into account unintentional consequences or reward those that are unaffected.
Every federal dollar spent is asking a rancher in Craig and peach farmer in Palisade and a steel worker in Pueblo to take tax dollars out of their pocket to pay for it, or we borrow money from China and ask our children to foot the bill later. I take that seriously.
Diane Mitsch Bush: I will work to get more financial relief to local and county governments, small businesses, nonprofits and people in CD-3. I support a coronavirus relief package that also provides more funding to nonprofit organizations in CD-3 that are working around the clock to help people in our communities, especially people who have lost their job and employer provided health insurance or are facing housing insecurity due to the pandemic.
Small businesses need additional support from programs like the Paycheck Protection Program, but this time we have to significantly improve the administration of the program to make sure small businesses actually get relief in a timely manner and multinational corporations don’t take advantage of it.
The lack of funding for local and state governments in COVID-19 relief packages has devastated Colorado’s budget. Our state’s disaster emergency fund is running low, and the unemployment trust fund is about to run out of money — that would force the state to take out a loan from the federal government. Additionally, so many people get their insurance from their employer, and increasing unemployment means that more people are applying for Medicaid, which strains the state budget more due to the pandemic.
Climate scientists anticipate hotter, drier summers for Colorado in the years to come, raising the potential for even more devastating fires than what we’ve seen this year. What would you do in Congress to help address the rising intensity and frequency of fires in the West?
Diane Mitsch Bush: Since 2000, wildfires have increased in frequency and devastation due to climate change, an increase in the number of homes in the Wildland Urban Interface and several federal management issues. Multiple agencies are tasked with fire prevention efforts, including prescribed burns and mechanical fuel removal. Recently there has been more interagency coordination, but we need more.
I will work with agencies and my colleagues across the aisle to end “fire borrowing,” which has led to major funding imbalances at the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management and decreased adequate fuel management and prevented ecosystem management. I signed annual fire plans as a county commissioner, so I know firsthand the importance of coordination between federal, state and local agencies.
The former one-size-fits-all policy of complete suppression of all fires led to unhealthy forests with plenty of fire fuel, especially in the understory. Couple that with climate-induced drought, high temperatures, decreasing snow packs, low humidity and dry soil and you have the “perfect fire storm.” I will work to tackle climate change now. I will work with fire scientists and firefighters to decrease the conditions that fuel wildfires.
Lauren Boebert: I’m a huge advocate for actively managing our forests. There are over 6 billion standing dead trees in the Western United States that need to be addressed, but instead we are creating a tinder box for massive fires. Anyone who drives along Interstate 70 understands this.
Rigid environmentalists aggressively gobble up millions of acres of forest to designate them as wilderness areas and restrict our ability to manage them. Even California recently realized this goes too far and they are finally going to start responsibly allowing some logging operations to remove the fire hazards. It’s a reasonable approach that we need to get consensus on quickly, but unfortunately, many on the left have drawn a red line on such discussions.
These interviews were conducted by the Summit Daily News and the Steamboat Pilot and Today and are being shared and published by Colorado Mountain News Media properties. To read more information on the 2020 ballot, go to aspentimes.com/election.
Republican U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert won reelection in Colorado’s GOP-leaning 3rd Congressional District on Friday, barely overcoming voters’ forceful rebuke of her highly controversial tenure in Washington over the past two years to help her party expand its slim majority in the U.S. House.