WASHINGTON — One of Colorado’s two new members of Congress foresees problems with the Trump administration but also sees opportunities to help resolve problems confronted by the state and the 2nd District he represents.
“I think there are far more opportunities than obstacles,” said U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse, a Boulder Democrat.
After being sworn in to Congress Jan. 3, Neguse said he is awaiting notice from congressional leaders on House of Representatives committees he will be assigned to that could move his political platform forward.
“More to come on that,” he said in one of his first interviews since taking office. “I’ll keep an open mind” on his options for committees, he said.
Already, Neguse has been elected by his incoming-member peers as one of two freshman representatives to the Democratic House leadership, along with Rep. Katie Hill of California.
And on Nov. 29, Neguse was picked by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to deliver the Democrats' response to President Trump's weekly address.
Meanwhile, Neguse wants to stay focused on the issues he discussed during his campaign.
“It’s a very long list,” he said.
They include protection of public lands, climate change and a hope for universal health care.
He said that “families should not have to go bankrupt” to pay catastrophic medical bills.
Neguse acknowledged he faces tough challenges to achieve his agenda among the diverse opinions held by Washington’s political leaders.
“One obstacle is the toxicity in Washington,” he said. “Another obstacle is this administration.”
Some of his harshest criticism fell on Trump after his Jan. 8 speech defending his insistence that a wall be built along the Mexican border.
“I thought it was completely counterproductive,” Neguse said. “It was largely based on fear, not facts.”
Trump also addressed the partial government shutdown that started Dec. 22 after Congress declined to give Trump him the $5.6 billion needed to build the border wall. Trump then refused to sign government funding legislation, thereby leaving no money to pay about 800,000 federal workers.
“It was the exact opposite of the way that the government is supposed to run,” Neguse said.
About 15,000 of the furloughed government workers live in Colorado. Most work at the Denver Federal Center in Lakewood.
“It is hurting hardworking families,” Neguse said. “It’s time for the shutdown to end.”
He had more encouraging comments about his fellow members of the Colorado delegation to Congress, such as Rep. Ed Perlmutter, D-Arvada, and fellow freshman Rep. Jason Crow, D-Aurora.
“I think each member of the delegation brings a different set of skills and talents,” Neguse said. “My job is to work with other members of our delegation. My focus is on finding ways that we can work together.”
Neguse, the first African American from Colorado elected to Congress, is the son of immigrants from Eritrea. The family moved to Colorado from California when the congressman was 6 years old.
Neguse began his political career by getting elected to the regents of the University of Colorado in 2008. He ran unsuccessfully for secretary of atate in 2014.
Gov. John Hickenlooper appointed Neguse as executive director of the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies in 2015. He resigned the position two years later to run successfully for his first term in Congress.