CEDAR RAPIDS — Democratic U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, a 2020 presidential hopeful, painted herself as someone who can both build political bridges and fight for progressive values at a stop in Cedar Rapids on Monday.
Gillibrand cited her ability to win over voters in rural upstate New York in 2006, when she beat the incumbent Republican there to be elected to the U.S. House. It was her first time running for office, and she said she realized the importance of focusing on policy, not political labels.
“I learned how to bring people together and how to work across the aisle,” she said.
Gillibrand met with potential voters at the Chrome Horse Saloon and Slop House in Cedar Rapids before heading to a stop at the Airliner in Iowa City. Earlier in the afternoon, she held a Q&A session with a handful of people in a private living room in Cedar Rapids, hosted by Progress Iowa and livestreamed online by Now This News.
At the living room session and at the Chrome Horse, she spoke about issues such as Medicare for All and protecting the environment.
The Green New Deal — a sweeping set of proposals to address climate change — won’t be easy to enact, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try, Gillibrand said, citing President John F. Kennedy’s call to put a man on the moon.
“I think it (climate change) is the most urgent threat to humanity that we have. ... We have to be bold on this,” she said.
“The fact that President Donald Trump stepped away from the Paris Climate Accords is outrageous. The fact that his party, unfortunately, doesn’t even believe in global climate change is sad. We need a bold vision for the future.”
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Taking a question from an audience member skeptical that something such as Medicare for All would be able to pass Congress, Gillibrand spoke about her involvement in writing a portion of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ “Medicare for All” bill, which the Vermont independent introduced in September 2017.
She said her provision, part of the transition portion of the bill, would allow Americans to buy into Medicare at 4 percent of their income, which would create competition in the marketplace and help transition the country to a single-payer system.
“That is how you get all Americans into health care as a right and not a privilege,” she said.
Calvin Kanz, 16, and Ella Bergen, 18, both of Cedar Rapids, attended the event with friends. They cited gun control and the environment as top issues and said they were excited to be involved in politics — they previously had volunteered with 1st District Rep. Abby Finkenauer’s campaign for Congress.
“It’s like Sen. Gillibrand said. If you’re not there to make decisions, then you can’t really complain when things don’t go well for you,” Bergen said, referencing a story Gillibrand told about why she decided to enter politics. “We want to be part of the decisions that are made.”
This was Gillibrand’s second visit to Iowa since forming a committee to explore running for president. She previously visited Sioux City, Boone, Ames and Des Moines.
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