Between working on hundreds of bills, voting to impeach President Trump and facing a competitive reelection fight, freshman U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Holly) has had a busy first year.
As the Advance previously reported, Slotkin hosted a “State of the 8th District” event Friday, filling in her constituents on what she has been doing on Capitol Hill.
Slotkin focused her speech, and many of her bills, on bipartisan issues in Congress, like health care, border security, war powers and environmental issues.
But as we get closer to Michigan’s March 10 presidential primary, many are wondering if Slotkin is planning to endorse any of the candidates, like fellow freshman U.S. Rep. Haley Stevens (D-Rochester Hills), who earlier this month announced her support for billionaire Mike Bloomberg.
The answer: “No, I don’t plan to make an endorsement.”
“I just don’t think people wake up in the morning and say, ‘Who is my congressman voting for,’ so I don’t know the value that it holds,” Slotkin told reporters. “For me, I just want someone who shows up, who takes Michigan seriously, and who will explain how they’re going to govern, not just for blue America, but for the entire country. That’s what I’m looking for.”
The top issues that Slotkin thinks candidates need to focus on to get Michiganders’ votes are health care and the price of prescription drugs, clean water initiatives. She also says they’re looking for someone who will “lead with a positive vision.”
Slotkin has a campaign of her own to start thinking about in the district spanning Ingham, Livingston and Oakland counties. Five Republican candidates made their introductions to the public during a forum last week.
The candidates trying to flip the district back to red are Kristina Lyke, Paul Junge, Mike Detmer, Alan Hoover and Nikki Snyder, a member of the Michigan State Board of Education.
Slotkin says she wishes the candidates luck in their primary, but she hopes they’re focused on the issues that matter to her constituents.
“I hope they’re addressing the issues that people are talking about,” Slotkin said. “I hope there was discussion of PFAS [chemicals in water], health care and the price of [health] care. Those are the things I hear the most about. But I wish them luck and it’ll be a good, competitive race.”
The Advance was able to catch up with Slotkin after the event to talk some more about those issues and the election. The following are excerpts from the interview:
Michigan Advance: In your district, you have a lot of competition now coming from the Republican side, and you mentioned earlier that you’re encouraged by the competitiveness. But you do have a very expensive district to win an election, and you don’t take PAC [political action committee] money, so do you have any idea of how much money you’ll need to raise for this upcoming election?
Slotkin: Our campaign finance system is totally and utterly broken. You couldn’t make up a more flawed system. But this is unfortunately the system we have if you want to compete. Now, for me, I very much hope that our race is nowhere near as expensive as last time. But you don’t know. And for me it was important, as a statement to not take corporate PAC money.
When I got to Washington, some very long-standing members of Congress from both sides of the aisle said, ‘OK, well, what are you going to do to get out of that pledge? You said it on the campaign trail, but you’re not really going to do it, right? Because you could be raking in $500,000 a year in corporate PAC money.’ And I think they just fundamentally misunderstood who I am, and frankly the district I represent. I think people in this district are independently minded and they don’t want to question why I’m voting a certain way and wonder if it’s because I took money from some corporation.
Michigan Advance: When you mentioned impeachment, you got a lot of support from the audience once you started talking about doing what you believe is right for the country, even if that might lose you an election here in Michigan. Do you still consider your vote for impeachment a success?
Slotkin: You know, I didn’t look at it through a political lens, because that’s not what my oath of office required. If I looked through only a political lens on impeachment, I would have never supported impeachment. If I was only caring about the politics of it, I wouldn’t have written an op-ed where I talked about the need for an impeachment inquiry, and then voted for it.
So I don’t know whether it was a success or not, but it was what the constitution required and what my oath of office required, and that’s how I approached it.
Michigan Advance: You talked about the Insulin Price Reduction Act during your speech tonight. In Michigan, there was legislation introduced where Canadian drugs would be imported in to lower prescription drug prices. What are your thoughts on that as an option?
Slotkin: Yeah, so I’ve signed on to the bill that would support reimportation of drugs from Canada. The president said it and talked about it, so I thought that was great. You know, whenever we have Congress and the president saying the same thing, that’s always a more hopeful sign. But he hasn’t followed through and actually allowed his side to participate with us. I think it’s a Band-Aid, but I’ll take a Band-Aid. Anything that gets people lower prices so that they can actually afford their chronic illness and not go bankrupt or have to borrow from family, I’m interested in.
Michigan Advance: What are other plans you have worked on in Congress to expand health care and make it more affordable?
Slotkin: So the big thing that we’re doing in Congress since we flipped the House [in 2018] is playing defense on the president’s constant attacks on people with pre-existing conditions. He’s got a really aggressive lawsuit that’s going through the courts in Texas and working its way up, potentially, to the Supreme Court. He’s asked that those court cases be slowed down so that they don’t have the results before the election.
And he’s trying to undercut the concept behind the ACA [Affordable Care Act], which is that all people with a pre-existing condition deserve coverage where they’re not gouged. He’s eating away at that, so we pass legislation that says, ‘No, you can’t do that.’ But to be honest with you, since those aren’t being taken up in the Senate, we are just throwing as many bills out there as possible and trying to educate as many people as possible about the court cases, because it could result in millions of Americans losing their health insurance.
Michigan Advance: Another area where legislators are stuck playing defense is with social programs and financial assistance programs. In Michigan, one thing we did was raise the asset limit for Michiganders so that families in need could still qualify for these programs. What are some ways that you’re playing defense in D.C. to help make sure that people still have access to these programs?
Slotkin: A lot of this takes place during the appropriations process and making sure we advocate for full funding for a lot of the programs that people depend on, like [the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)]. And then also pushing back on this idea that in order to get benefits you have to work. There’s just some people who are not capable of working, and they can’t be left on their own.
Most of it is just making sure that when, for instance, the president’s budget comes over to Congress, as it did about 10 days ago, and there are major cuts to all the social programs, in our negotiation on getting to a final budget we say no. We’re going to put money back into those pots. That’s what we did last year, and what we’ll have to do again.
Michigan Advance: When you talked about your INTEL at Our Border Act, you got a great applause [at Friday’s forum] when you mentioned humanity being restored with this. [The legislation would require the Department of Homeland Security to integrate new technologies at the border, such as surveillance technology and laser scanning technology for detecting underground tunnels.] How will more technology expand security and restore decency at the border?
Slotkin: I always push back on this idea that you can either have border security or humanitarian standards that are in line with our values. The military, who I have worked alongside my entire career, are regularly trained on how to provide security or move ahead with an operation while adhering to a certain set of standards. And our border forces are able to do the exact same thing.
And to me, technology is a way to provide that security. And we need it, right? We have every right to know who’s coming over our borders, and whether there is a terrorist threat or a public health threat. But technology is not as invasive, and it’s not as simplistic as a wall, which you can go over or under. It is a way to say that we can secure our borders while still treating people decently, while still allowing people to claim asylum if they need to and while still treating people with respect.
Michigan Advance: You had a resolution to curtail President Trump’s war powers in Iran without congressional approval. Do you think that is going to have an impact on our relations with Iran?
Slotkin: Just to correct the record, the War Powers Resolution that I authored is not attempting to curtail the president’s powers, it’s literally a restatement of current law. It’s just saying that if you have to act in self-defense, you have every right to do that. But if you’re going to be there long-term and get us into a protracted war with Iran, then you have to do what the law says and come back to Congress to seek authorization to do so.
But what’s really exciting about it is that it’s a privilege resolution, and that means it has to be voted on. So it had to be voted on in the House and it had to be voted on in the Senate, and the next stop after we rectify the language is to go to the president. And the president could veto it. That’s what he did when we did a Yemen resolution.
But the truth is, after he vetoed it, he changed his policy to adhere to that resolution. So that’s what I’m interested in; I’m interested in any way that I can force a conversation about when we send men and women into war.
Michigan Advance: So if he were to veto it and not change his own policy, what would that mean for the resolution?
Slotkin: Well, that could happen. But then I will still have felt that it was important to have that debate. We had hours and hours of debate on the House floor and on the Senate floor about whether we should send young people into war with Iran, and that’s hours and hours more than I’ve seen in years in Congress. So, for me as an Army wife and as an Army stepmom, I’ll take 16 or 20 more hours of debate about the use of military force.