OLYMPIA – Washington must prepare to fight the Trump administration on everything from a crackdown on the state’s legal marijuana system to a rollback of Obamacare to any shirking of responsibility for nuclear waste cleanup at Hanford, Sen. Patty Murray said Wednesday.
The state’s senior senator, who was in the state capital during a break from the nation’s capital, said she’s worried about many of the actions President Donald Trump or his agency heads might take on issues important to Washington.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions is actively and vocally opposed to legal marijuana, and she said it’s not clear yet what he’ll do in states that have legalized it for recreational or medical uses. In Washington both are legal, regulated and taxed by the state.
“I’m going to stand up and fight very hard to protect the laws of Washington state,” she said. Some of that fighting might come through the appropriations process that happens later in the spring with efforts to limit spending on certain initiatives like a crackdown on immigration, which she called “very wrong-headed.”
What Republicans will propose as a replacement for the Affordable Care Act is unknown, she said, because “the actual reality of replacing it” is just becoming real after years of just voting to repeal it. But she is concerned that Tom Price, the new secretary of Health and Human Services, is a strong proponent of turning Medicaid funding into a block grant for states, which would result in less money. Another former congressman, Mick Mulvaney, the new director of the Office of Management and Budget, has also proposed block grants for Medicaid.
Part of Murray’s visit to Olympia was spent discussing the state’s possible response to changes to federal health care programs with Gov. Jay Inslee, who has said some changes Republicans are proposing could force 700,000 people off health insurance or cost the state more than $2 billion to cover their care if the federal government drops it.
Trump and some of his staff have complained about the slow pace of Senate confirmation for his cabinet. Murray said that she believes a new president, whether Democrat or Republican, generally has the right to put people in place to run their agenda. But some of Trump’s picks were so poorly vetted by the administration that the Senate had to do it, and some “don’t believe in the agencies they’ll be overseeing.”
She’s particularly worried about the two federal agencies involved in the cleanup of decades of waste at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy.
Neither Scott Pruitt, the recently confirmed head of the EPA, nor former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, the nominee for Energy secretary, are very familiar with the issues at Hanford.
“He told me himself he has very little experience with it,” she said of Perry.
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