ELKO — Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton told about 300 people in Elko on Monday that the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has become a “big issue” in the campaign.
“I’m absolutely adamant that the president, under our Constitution, has a duty to send forth a name to be considered by the Senate, and the Senate has a duty to consider that and to decide whether or not to confirm whoever the president nominates,” she said during a morning rally at Adobe Middle School.
President Barack Obama said he is going to nominate a replacement, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said the nomination should wait until there is a new president. Clinton said as soon as the news hit about Scalia, Republicans said they weren’t going to even look at candidates so the president them a name.
“In 1988, Ronald Reagan was in his last year of office; there was a Supreme Court vacancy,” Clinton said. “There was an election going on. President Reagan nominated Justice (Anthony) Kennedy. He was confirmed.”
She said back then both parties understood constitutional principles, and that how government is conducted is more important than partisan politics.
Clinton’s rally took place just five days before Nevada Democrats caucus to determine their preference for the presidential nomination. Many at the rally said they were there in support of the former secretary of state, while others wanted to hear her message to help them decide who to vote for.
Traci Reyes of Spring Creek began the rally and said she has been canvassing for the Clinton campaign.
“I didn’t know what I was going to say, and I thought well, I love Hillary,” she said. “The reason why I love her is from day one, when she graduated from college, she has, her core is that she wants to make lives better for women and children.”
Elko City Councilman John Rice introduced Clinton and told the crowd he is proud to be a Democrat in Elko County.
“I just want you to know how pleased I am to support Secretary Clinton and when it gets down to it, we all want the same thing,” he said. “We want to be safe. We want to get a good education. We want good health care, and we want the opportunity to be successful.”
Clinton spoke on several issues, and after her speech she took questions from the audience on a number of topics – including mental health issues, Second Amendment rights and public lands.
The Supreme Court was brought up again during questions from the public. Clinton was asked how she would work with an obstructionist Congress when it comes to issues like nominating Supreme Court candidates or other government business.
“I think it’s gonna be more difficult for Mitch McConnell and the Republicans to avoid actually acting, and here’s why: We, the Democrats, have a chance to take back the Senate, and there are senators running from states like Illinois, like Pennsylvania, like New Hampshire, where they have to be more moderate than some of the Republicans are in the Senate who come from states where, you know, they’re rewarded for their obstructionist behavior,” she said.
“But we also have to make it a voting issue; we’ve got to make it a voting issue in this election. I mean the future of the Supreme Court affects practically anything that you are concerned about.”
Clinton said the Affordable Healthcare Act gave many Americans “piece of mind,” but the government still has work to do on the program.
“Is it everything we want? No, we’ve got to get the costs down,” she said. “Out-of-pocket costs are too high, co-pays, deductibles are too high. Prescription drug costs are ridiculously high and need to be dampened down.”
She said her opponent, Sen. Bernie Sanders, wants a single-payer system. Clinton said that sounds great, but she doesn’t want to start all over again.
“I think the last thing our country needs right now is to be plunged into another contentious debate about health care,” she said. “… We’re at 90 percent coverage. We can get from 90 to 100. I don’t want to start at zero and try to get to 100 again.”
During the town hall-style question period, Clinton was asked her stance on public lands.
“The federal lands provision is in the Constitution, that we own – that the federal government owns – a lot of land, obviously in a state like Nevada the big proportion of it,” she said. “And again I see this as you know part of the anti-government feeling that I know is out there.
But anybody who’s run the numbers on it, you take a look. If all of the sudden tomorrow the federal government were to say to all the states where they own land, from the East Coast to the West Coast and Alaska, OK you take care of it, your state and local taxes would skyrocket, because trying to take care of this and manage it is a big, big proposition.”
She said the incident in Oregon was not indicative of most people in the West.
“I know we’ve got people like the Bundys and all of that. Most people who graze federal lands actually pay their grazing fees, right?” Clinton said to applause.
“That terrible incident in Oregon, where they claimed to go up there to support two guys who, unfortunately, burned down part of a national forest, and the two guys said ‘We don’t want your help, get out of here. We’re going to prison … we did wrong, we got convicted, we’re going to do our time.’ You know, this is a fringe movement, with a lot of anger and rhetoric, but we can’t let people like that call the shots.”
During questions, Reyes asked what Clinton would say to people who think she wants to take their guns.
“I believe with all my heart that we can have commonsense gun reform measures that are consistent with the Second Amendment,” Clinton said.
She challenged anyone to find someone who had their gun taken away because of the Brady Bill.
“I want you to find one person who couldn’t go hunting because they had to have a background check,” she said.
She said the gun lobby represents gun makers more than gun owners.
Clinton said she is for comprehensive background checks, and the gun show and Internet sales loopholes need to be closed.
“Too many mentally ill people are getting a hold of guns,” she said.
She said the mass shooter from Colorado bought his ammunition from online sellers.
“The vast majority of gun sellers and dealers have common sense. You’ve seen pictures of that guy from Aurora. Man, if he walked into your store to buy a gun or buy thousands of rounds of ammunition, I think you’d take a look and say, ‘whoa there is something wrong with him.”’
She said about 92 percent of the American people are for the gun control measures she has proposed and 85 percent of gun owners support them.
Clinton asked those in attendance to caucus for her Saturday.
The Democratic caucus starts at 11 a.m. at several locations. To match a precinct with a location go to nvdems.com.