SAN FRANCISCO - Congressman Jared Huffman fielded questions on a range of topics including President Donald Trump, the proposed health care bill, and politics in California.
Let's start with the G20 summit in Germany today. President Trump had his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. He brought up the issue of Russian meddling in the U.S. presidential election. What do you make of that?
"My thought is that there's reason to be concerned on a couple of fronts. First of all, we're hearing conflicting reports on what was said, how it was said. But, Mr. Trump is a troubled messenger on this whole subject of Russia's interference with our election. He's never really taken it very seriously. So, it's a little hard to imagine a full-throated conversation that had our American national interests at heart. The other problem is who was in the room. I found it very disturbing that the national security advisor wasn't in the room, and in fact was deliberately excluded; that the foreign policy experts on Russia were not allowed to be there. The only people that were allowed to be there were our brand new, novice President, who is subject to a criminal investigation that has something to do with Russia's involvement with our election, and a brand new secretary of state, who is also a novice, and also was not too long ago awarded the highest civilian honor by Vladimir Putin himself. So, there's reason for concern."
President Trump also brought up his campaign promise to build a border wall. What's the status of the border wall, as it pertains to congressional funding and support?
"There's not a lot of support for funding that wall. The fact that we're even having a conversation about it should upset a lot of people because we all remember that the promise was Mexico would pay for this wall. Even if you thought this wall was a good idea, and most people don't, the promise was that Mexico would pay for it, and now there's a very huge bait-and-switch underway, and I think there's going to be a lot of resistance in Congress."
The senate healthcare bill. Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell has just said he's open to modifying the affordable care act if he can't get the current Republican version through. What do you think that signals?
"Certainly there has been an outstretched hand from Democrats toward Mr. McConnell and other Republicans going back into the Obama administration, I should add. We've always been ready to work on making the ACA better, but this stubborn insistence on repealing it, and replacing it, and now the dysfunction they're encountering in trying to keep that promise has just ground everything to a halt, so I hope he's serious about that. We'd love to work with them
You've been trying to ensure high-speed internet access to all. To that end, you wrote the "Public Lands Telecommunications Act." It's headed for a vote by the full house. What's the focus?
"As tough as this political climate is, I think you have to keep working to get some things done. I'm happy that one of my bills made it out of committee with bipartisan support, appears to be moving through the house, and here's what it would do in a nutshell - the federal government can be somewhat beaurocratic. We've got a lot of federal agencies in rural parts of California, and the West that could be part of the solution in terms of getting fiber out to remote areas . They've got to get that fiber line there for their own federal offices, for federal health clinics, for forest service facilities. But, they do their contracting in a vacuum, and they don't work in partnership with the private sector or with local communities. My bill would give them the authority to do that, and it could really make a difference for getting broadband employed in some rural areas."