U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen on Charlottesville, Healthcare, and Veterans

Aug 22, 2017

The Exchange sat down with New Hampshire's senior U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen.  We covered topics from foreign policy to health care to Veterans, and took listener questions. 

Some Republican Senators feel that Democrats are responding to the tragedy in Charlottesville by insinuating that all Republicans are white supremacists. How do you think your party has responded?

I haven't heard anybody suggest that this is the view of all Republicans or the Republican Party. It certainly is not. I think one of the things that we should all be united on is that this kind of hate rhetoric, this white supremacy, the neo-Nazi groups, are not what we want to see in America...

What we need is the President, and our leaders in this country, to try and bring people together. To try and help bridge the gaps that exist among people, and to recognize that, as Americans, we have much more in common. 

Should Confederate statues and monuments be removed?

I think there's a difference between remembering our history and memorializing aspects of our history. [Memorializing] may not be something that we want to continue to celebrate. And certainly, I think we want to remember the Civil War... but I don't think we want to continue to celebrate those people who really engaged in treasonous activities against the union of the United States by seceding...

I personally don't think we should smash [the statues] to bits, but I do think we should put them in a place where they remain as part of our history, but we're not glorifying what happened there. 

What is your stance on single-payer healthcare?

When we were trying to pass the Affordable Care Act back seven years ago, one of the things that we tried to do was to include a public option that would be available for people, which would be a first step on the idea of a single-payer [system]. We also tried to reduce or to expand Medicare to go down to people who were age 55, and include them in Medicare. Both of those I support, [and] I think are important, and both of them failed because we weren't able to get the votes. 

How surprised were you that internal inspecting agencies didn't find problems at the Manchester VA, given the severity of what the whistle-blowers describe?

Well, I wouldn't characterize it that way. In fact, a number of those investigations are still going on. The Office of Special Counsel doesn't comment on their investigations while they're ongoing... But there is a follow-up investigation [that] is continuing from that, and there is an effort to bring in an outside group to take a look at some of the medical concerns that have been raised about how people were treated. 

Why has it taken so long to address these issues and concerns?

Well, again, those are allegations, and I think it's important to point that out. We need to investigate those [allegations made by the physicians] and we need to find out if, in fact, that was happening as the result of poor care, and do something about that. 

Should New Hampshire have a full-fledged veteran hospital facility?

Well, absolutely. The first legislation I introduced when I got to the Senate in 2009 was for a full service veterans hospital in New Hampshire. It is legislation that I have reintroduced at multiple Congresses... the challenge has been the resources. So I will continue to advocate for that, and also advocate for making sure that if veterans are not able to get the particular care they need from the VA hospital here, that they are able to go to a doctor wherever they live, and get the care that they need.