By Shaun Boyd
DENVER (CBS4) – In today’s a hyper-partisan world, U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colorado, has managed to rankle both sides of the aisle.
Bennet is ranked as one of the most bipartisan members of the U.S. Senate and touts those bona fides proudly. As he campaigns for his second term, his slogan seems to be Bipartisan Bennet, even when it comes to one of the most partisan issues of all — Obamacare.
“I think the most important thing from my point of view is doing whatever we can to de-politicize the issue, recognize there is a huge issue. For example, from Frisco to Grand Junction to Steamboat; that triangle is one of the most expensive places in America to buy health insurance because there is no competition, no transparency,” Bennet said. “I think we have to find ways to inject much more competition, much more transparency and give people the opportunity to know what health care costs in America; not just insurance, but health care.”
He says he will lead the charge on that if he’s reelected. He has a bill with Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, to address the 15 percent of Medicare patients who make up 50 percent of the program’s budget. He says they should be in a program more like Medicare-Advantage that treats the whole person instead of fee-for-service.
According to Bennet, he’s also working in a bipartisan manner on a rural economy bill “that would focus a new market tax credit program on coal communities that have been hit hard by these changes. We have got to figure out how to retrain these people.”
The former superintendent of Denver Public Schools, Bennet has also teamed up with Republicans on some of the most controversial issues to face Congress over the last six years. He worked with Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tennessee, on the biggest rewrite of the nation’s education policy in decades.
Bennet was also part of the Gang of Eight — four Democrats and four Republicans that worked on debt reduction.
“I say this as a Democrat — I don’t think there’s anything progressive about having $19 trillion in debt on the balance sheet of this country,” he said.
Bennet was part of the immigration reform Gang of Eight as well and says he will continue to push to fix our broken system.
He’s taken heat for toeing the party line on bills like the Iran Nuclear Deal — a vote he defends.
“I didn’t support the deal with Iran because I trust Iran. It’s exactly the opposite. I don’t trust Iran, but I was persuaded the deal would make us and Israel safer from a nuclear threat and I think that’s been the case.”
But, he’s also bucked his party. He angered environmentalists with his support for the Keystone Pipeline and he alienated maybe the nation’s most powerful union — the AFL-CIO — by voting to fast track the TPP trade deal.
If he’s reelected, he says he expects there will be other disagreements.
“We live in a democracy. We’re lucky to have the chance to have disagreements, but we should do it in a way that’s productive for the country and the next generation.”