In her first public appearance since unseating GOP Sen. Dean Heller, Senator-elect Jacky Rosen on Friday vowed to block plans to use Yucca Mountain to store nuclear waste and doubled down on a campaign promise to protect people with pre-existing medical conditions from losing their health insurance.
Rosen on Tuesday became the only Democrat so far to flip a Republican-held seat in the U.S. Senate by ousting Heller, though that could change if Democrat Kyrsten Sinema holds on to her razor-thin margin over Martha McSally in Arizona.
In either case, with Republicans picking up three previously Democratic seats, Rosen will be trading her seat in the House for one in the upper chamber of Congress where she will be in the minority party.
At a roundtable meeting with reporters on Friday, Rosen discussed her plans as Nevada’s next senator and the challenges of working in a divided Congress.
Data storage at Yucca Mountain
Rosen said Democrats winning control of the House will help block funding to turn Yucca Mountain into a nuclear waste site, a plan both she and Heller have opposed.
“On the Senate side, Catherine (Cortez Masto) and I will be working together to be sure that we put together our allies and partners to fight Yucca Mountain every which way we can,” Rosen said, adding that she intends to introduce legislation to repurpose the site as a data storage center.
In the wake of a mass shooting at the Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks, Rosen said she’ll also look for ways to protect the Second Amendment while implementing gun safety measures.
“No one should have to go to school with a bulletproof backpack,” she said, adding that newly elected Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford, a fellow Democrat, will likely look at “enforcing the will of voters” by implementing FBI background checks on all gun sales. A ballot measure passed by the voters in 2016 was never implemented by outgoing Attorney General Adam Laxalt.
Following President Donald Trump’s decision to fire U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Rosen said that Congress needs to protect an investigation led by special counsel Robert Mueller into Russian interference in the 2016 election. She also said that acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker should recuse himself since he’s repeatedly criticized the probe.
On the topic of immigration, Rosen repeated a campaign position calling for the use of “smart technology” to secure U.S. borders while protecting immigrants who have been living in the U.S. for many years through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Temporary Protected Status (TPS) programs and providing them a path to citizenship. She said building a physical wall is not the answer to improving border security, and urged Trump to stop using executive orders to deal with immigration.
Compassion for immigrants in caravan
Rosen also expressed empathy for those in the migrant caravan now in Mexico and headed to the U.S.
“I think we should have compassion. I think we should be able to deal with them as asylum seekers,” she said. “They’re coming because they’re fleeing something that’s so awful for their families that they’re willing to carry their baby on their back for a thousand miles. That says something about why they’re coming.”
Rosen also reiterated support for a Medicaid buy-in public option — as opposed to universal health care for all — and vowed to protect people with pre-existing conditions, one of the hallmark promises of her Senate campaign. “That’s the number one request I have from every single person that I’ve talked to,” she said.
Rosen, 61, won a historic election Tuesday by beating veteran Senator Heller by more than five percentage points. The congresswoman said she learned she won while standing inside the same casino hotel where she served cocktails 20 years ago.
“We left nothing on the table,” Rosen said of her campaign. “I felt so passionately about what we were fighting for — the state, the country and the world.”