Congressional District 2 debate: Amodei, Evans differ on Trump presidency, medical marijuana for veterans

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October 5, 2016 – by Ray Hagar, Nevada Newsmakers

Democratic challenger Chip Evans said Rep. Mark Amodei and his Republican Party have done nothing to fix the Affordable Care Act while doing the bidding of multi-national corporations and the wealthy during a debate Wednesday between candidates for Nevada’s 2nd U.S. House District.

Evans, a first-time candidate from Reno, also tried to tie Amodei to the presidential campaign of Republican Donald Trump since Amodei serves as Trump’s Nevada campaign chairman. The two also differed on the issue of allowing veterans under the care of the Veterans Administration to smoke marijuana to alleviate health problems.

Amodei, who has been Nevada’s 2nd U.S. House District representative since winning a 2011 special election, acknowledged the partisan rancor of Washington D.C. but pointed to his work with federal lands transfers to Nevada communities plus work on water and transportation issues.

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The debate was held in a studio at KRNV-News 4 in Reno and was televised Thursday on Channel 4 on Nevada Newsmakers at 12 noon.

“It (Nevada’s 2nd U.S. House District) is the only one of the 431 districts in the House where the exclusive reason for getting up in the morning is to represent Northern Nevada,” Amodei said. “And I think we have had some success with that, with lands bills that create jobs and wilderness at the same time, with oversight that helps operations at the (Reno-Sparks International) airport, helps the Truckee Meadows Water Authority bring water the the Truckee Meadows, and also on issues that deal with surface transportation. Those are just a few of the successes… (I’ve been) open, transparent and would like to keep doing the job.”

Evans, the former chairman of the Washoe Democratic Party, said it was “time for a change in Washington D.C.,” saying Amodei has paid little attention to the common folk.
Evans said his main philosophical disagreement with Amodei “is where you are raising the concerns of known groups, as opposed to the business community and the wealthy.”

Veteran Nevadan Journalist Ray Hagar is known for fair and tough reporting and invigorating commentary.
Veteran Nevadan Journalist Ray Hagar is known for fair and tough reporting and invigorating commentary.

“I’ve gotten support from working people, from women’s groups, from Latino groups and these are people,” Evans said. “I want to put people first. Our Congress has kind gotten screwed around. It is working on behalf of the super wealthy. It is working on behalf of multi-national corporations.”

Amodei said he has been listening to and working with many of the groups that Evans says he ignores. Amodei added he often breaks from GOP party ranks to represent the people of Nevada.

“We are the first person to have ever held this seat (in Congress) to have Hispanic business town halls,” Amodei said. “We’re the first one to have regularly scheduled veterans town halls with no agenda. Those are people.”

Evans also recalled that Amodei recently said a Trump presidency could be terrible thing for the nation or a great thing.

“Mr. Amodei has been quoted as saying Donald Trump will either be a ‘smoking black hole in the ground or the next messiah,'” Evans said. “Well, I don’t expect him (Trump) to be the next messiah. So if he is going to be a smoking black hole in the ground, it is not going to help the people of Nevada.”

Trump is showing he is a long way from being a black hole in the ground, Amodei said, praising Trump’s choice as his running mate, Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana, after Pence’s showing in Tuesday’s vice presidential debate.

“Well honestly, either you are going to be all in or all out (with Trump),” Amodei said. “I think he’s a long way from that hole in the ground that has black smoke coming out of it. The latest example is he guy he picked to be his running mate (Pence). Last night (during the vice presidential debate), he did a great job, solid performance, a good guy.”

Amodei noted Trump was the overwhelming choice of voters during Republican presidential primaries and caucuses across the nation. Trump ran away with the 2016 GOP Nevada presidential caucus, beating second place Marco Rubio by 22 points.

“He got the nomination, more votes than anyone else,” Amodei said of Trump. “He got the votes, fair and square. I don’t think it is a shock to hear that I’m supporting my party’s nominee.”

Amodei and Evans also differed when asked if the Veterans Administration should allow veterans to smoke medical marijuana to ease pain and alleviate other medical problems.

Veterans who tell the VA about participating in a state medical marijuana program say they have been forced to choose between their prescription narcotic painkillers or marijuana, said Michael Krawitz, president of Veterans for Marijuana Access, according to USA Today.

Evans said veterans should be able to consume medical marijuana is any form they wish. Amodei said veterans under the care of the VA should be able to use medical marijuana only if it comes in the form of a pill. Smoking is an established health hazard, Amodei said.

“So when you talk about, ‘Should it be an option for medical treatment? Yes,” Amodei said. “We established that (legal medical marijuana) in Nevada. I support that. But the caveat is, it needs to be ti-rated (made into a pill). So if there is a use for it, fine. But let’s not be handing people dime bags and telling them to spark it up to smoke their medicine.”

Evans acknowledged issues with the Affordable Care Act, which was passed by a Democratically-controlled Congress. Many individual insurance policies available in Nevada through the ACA are expected to jump as much as 15 percent in cost, state officials said. But since the Republicans have held the majorities in both houses of Congress, they have done nothing to fix its issues, Evans said.

“The Affordable Act Act is old news in a way and the problem is, what have we done to fix it?” Evans said.
“Instead of Republican leadership trying to get together and work with folks to correct the problems we know arose in the program, they voted 64 times to repeal it and have made no progress in making it better. There is no piece of legislation that could ever stand up for a long time without needing repair.”

Amodei noted the ACA is not the answer to America’s health-care need and was passed with no vetting from Congress when the Democrats controlled both houses of Congress.
“There are some good things in it but I want to point out — do you know how many hearing we had before it was voted on? None. None in the Senate and none in the House.”

Video of this debate is available here.

The upcoming schedule for the Nevada Newsmakers is available here.

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