Cortez Masto focuses on immigration, healthcare in Nevada Legislature address | NevadaAppeal.com

Cortez Masto focuses on immigration, healthcare in Nevada Legislature address

Catherine Cortez Masto, Nevada's first female U.S. senator and the first Latina senator in U.S. history, made clear Thursday one of her key efforts in Washington will be to fix the nation's broken immigration system.

"It's unacceptable that our immigrants are forced to live in constant fear of being torn apart, taken away from the country," she said in her address to a joint session of the Nevada Legislature.

She rejected the Trump administration's rhetoric about illegals committing crimes, saying statistics show "undocumenteds are the least likely to commit violent crime."

Her first bill as a U.S. senator was to overturn the executive order targeting immigrant communities.

Cortez Masto also said she has talked with the Clark County sheriff and his officers "don't want to be ICE (immigration) agents."

Cortez Masto said after her speech "the state's role is to protect everybody who lives in the state of Nevada," not just citizens.

She said those undocumented immigrants are already working, paying taxes and contributing to the community and shouldn't have to hide in the shadows.

"The answer for me is passing comprehensive immigration reform," she said.

Cortez Masto also said she will fight to keep the Trump administration from simply repealing the Affordable Care Act.

"We should be preserving what works and fixing what doesn't," she said.

She told the joint session of the Senate and Assembly it would be wrong to simply repeal the ACA because "all Nevada communities would suffer."

"Nevadans should not be forced to choose between paying their medical bills and putting food on the table," she said.

She said lowering healthcare costs and expanding access includes expanding protections for women's health programs such as cancer screening and birth control. The administration's proposed cuts, she said, would hurt women's health programs not only in Reno and Las Vegas but across rural Nevada.

She called for paid family sick and medical leave and equal pay for equal work.

Cortez Masto promised to right Trump's proposed cuts to discretionary spending that would reduce access to affordable housing, and a long list of other programs including funding for community programs, the Small Business Administration and investment in renewable energy programs.

She said she believes she and other Democrats can work with Republicans and the administration on a variety of issues including the massive repairs and improvements to the nation's air, rail, roadway and broadband infrastructure. She said Trump has called for investment in making those improvements and she's willing to work on solutions all can agree on. Modernizing, repairing and building up the nation's infrastructure, she said, will give a huge boost to economic development.

Cortez Masto said she will fight along with Sen. Dean Heller, a Republican, to ensure the Yucca Mountain waste dump remains dead. She and Heller have already introduced the Nuclear Informed Consent Act that would mandate the Secretary of Energy work with the governor and key stakeholders in any state before any nuclear waste could be stored there."

Finally, asked about the Senate Republicans' decision to eliminate the 60 vote requirement to approve a Supreme Court nominee and put Justice Neil Gorsuch on the bench with a simple majority, she said she disagreed with that move.

"I think particularly when it's a Supreme Court justice, it should be a 60-vote threshold," she said. "The decisions they make impact on everybody's lives. It should be a consensus based nominee."