As President-elect Donald Trump prepares to become president, United States Senators are thinking about how or whether they’ll be working with the President. New Hampshire’s Jeanne Shaheen will be among the minority Democrats in the Senate, and she joins All Things Considered host Peter Biello to talk about her plans as a U.S. Senator.
What issues, if any, are Senate Democrats willing to work with President Trump?
Well, like so many other people on this country, I was disappointed by the outcome of the election, but I think it’s important for the country for us to try to come together. I think we should look for places where we might be able to find agreement and stand up for places where we disagree with the fundamental policy. One of those places that I’m hopeful we might be able to find some agreement is on the heroin and opioid epidemic that we’ve been experiencing not only in New Hampshire, but across the country, and Donald Trump has made some statements on the need to address that. I hope we can do that in a way that not just provides more resources for law enforcement and first responders, but also that looks at treatment, at prevention, at recovery, and all of the supports that people who are battling substance misuse will need as they get into recovery.
What about infrastructure? President-elect Trump has talked a lot about beefing up the nation’s infrastructure. Could his plan on infrastructure, whatever it may be, possibly help parts of New Hampshire, like for example parts of the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard?
Again, that’s another place where I believe there can be some agreement because we need to do more to invest in our roads and our bridges. The Shipyard is a good example where we have a backlog of unmet needs that we need to continue to work on. Our water systems, we’ve seen that dramatically this summer with some of the pollution of wells and the need to put more people on to water systems. And I was at the Sewalls Falls Bridge earlier this week, helping to cut the ribbon. That’s a project that started back in 1994. It shouldn’t take us that long to get that kind of project done. So I think there are lots of areas around infrastructure investment that we can find agreement on, and I hope we’ll be able to work together on that.
Democrats will be the minority party in the Senate. What powers might the Democrats exercise to perhaps block President Trump?
We still have the advice and consent constitutional responsibility. We will obviously have hearings on all his nominees for all his cabinet positions, and I think we will take a very close look at the people who are being nominated and what kind of experience and expertise, and what kind of conflicts they might bring to any potential position. I was very – and continue to be very – opposed to Steve Bannon’s appointment. We’ve gotten hundreds of letters and calls in our office expressing concern about that. I’m hopeful that Donald Trump will try to bridge the divide that we saw exacerbated by the campaign, and unfortunately Bannon’s appointment is not one that does that. He has racist and sexist and anti-Semitic views that I don’t believe belong in the White House.
When Donald Trump nominates a Supreme Court justice, how will Democrats in the Senate respond? How will you respond?
Well, it depends on who he nominates. I believe we need to move forward. As I said, throughout the last year as the Republicans in the senate have blocked consideration of Merrick Garland, that the Senate has a responsibility to advise and consent when a nominee is sent over from the President for the Supreme Court. We have a responsibility to hold a hearing on that nominee and take action up or down. So I believe we should do that when a nominee is sent over and it depends on who it is how I will vote.
But you will hold a hearing?
I would be in favor of holding a hearing.
And there’s been a lot of talk about the normalization of Donald Trump and the things he’s been saying on social media. People are worried that the things Donald Trump has said on the campaign trail will somehow be normalized. People will get used to it and accept that kind of rhetoric as a fact of life. Is that a fear you share?
I am very concerned about that. I think further lowering of our civil discourse is not good for our democracy. I talked about getting a number of letters and calls about Steve Bannon. One of the letters we got was from a young man who was gay who attends one of our prep schools in New Hampshire. And he said he was writing for others who were afraid to write to express his concern about what this administration might do around sexual orientation, and what gay Americans might face from a Trump administration. And you could read into his letter real fear about what that would mean for him as a young man just starting his life. And so I do think that the kind of divisive rhetoric has no place in this country. We can disagree, we can disagree about ideology, we can disagree about policy, we can disagree about how we feel about all kinds of issues. But we should do that in a way that’s respectful of other people’s opinions, and that’s not personal, that’s not derogatory, that doesn’t put people down because they may think differently than we do.
Are there any of Donald Trump’s policy initiatives that you will oppose without compromise?
I’m still waiting to see what they are.
For example the ban on Muslims he’s been talking about?
Well obviously I oppose that. I talked about that throughout the campaign. I oppose his position on climate change, suggesting that climate change is not real and we don’t need to address it. I believe it’s critical; the science is overwhelming. We know it’s there. We’ve seen the impacts in New Hampshire. This is something that we need to address, and the United States needs to continue to play a leadership role. I’m very concerned about his comments about immigration. I think we need comprehensive immigration reform. I think the suggestion that we’re going to put walls around this country and not let anybody in who might be different – Syrian refugees, for example – it’s not American, you know? This country has been built on the backs of immigrants who have come into this country, who have brought their culture and their language and their customs, and have worked hard and have built this country and have built a better life for themselves and their children. And any suggestion that we’re going to stop being that place with the Statue of Liberty that provides freedom and welcomes people who have been oppressed I think is not in keeping with the founding philosophy of this country. So I think there are areas where I’m clearly going to disagree if we see those kinds of policies come into congress.