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Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper Discusses State Of The Union Address


One major theme in President Trump's State of the Union address was how there should be more bipartisanship and more results from Washington. We are now getting reactions to that from governors of both major parties. And with us now is Democratic Governor of Colorado John Hickenlooper. Welcome to the show.

JOHN HICKENLOOPER: Thanks for having me on.

MCEVERS: What did you think of the president's speech?

HICKENLOOPER: Well, I thought that his approach to bipartisanship was welcome. Obviously he's previously been much more divisive. And to speak about unity even though - I mean, a lot of the issues he brought up pitted one solution versus another, and the actual - you know, the issues became somewhat divisive. But talking about collaboration across partisan lines I think is very important, and hearing him say that I think matters.

MCEVERS: You know, it's funny. We hear it a lot. In a very, very, very divided Washington, we hear people talk about bipartisanship. I mean, did you get a feeling that it's possible?

HICKENLOOPER: Yeah, I think that - I mean, I'm an optimist. Most governors are optimists. And if you look at most governors, Republicans and Democrats - Bill Haslam is the governor of Tennessee. He and I - about every four years, I take a team of my cabinet to Tennessee, and we get his best practices. And then he brings a team of his cabinet to Colorado, and he gets our best practices. We get along great. We're as nonpartisan as elected officials can be.

It was good to hear the president talking in those terms. But again, the proof's going to be in the pudding, right? I was talking to some my staff this morning, and they were still suspicious based on his actions and his words previously whether this approach to bipartisanship is sincere. But you know, I take him at his word. I'm willing to roll up our sleeves and say, all right, you want us to help on infrastructure. We're going to help on infrastructure. You want us to help negotiate on, you know, any of these issues. We will.

MCEVERS: Immigration of course was a big part of the speech, and the president says the way to getting there - to getting a new and comprehensive immigration law is bipartisan compromise. Do you think that is possible? And, like, on what specific issues do you think bipartisan compromise is possible on immigration?

HICKENLOOPER: Well, I think immigration - I mean, he laid out something that obviously has been rejected by most Democrats, but that was a starting point. And I think for the first time, to hear him say to the nation that he's willing to look at a pathway to citizenship for, you know, roughly 2 million DREAMers, that's a big step, right? It puts him in a - I mean, he's going to have to really work hard to get that done through his base.

And I understand we're not - we don't want to end family migration. We don't want to end a lot of the things he's asking for. We don't want to waste money building a wall that's not really necessary. But putting a significant amount of money towards border security - I think most people agree with that. I mean, again, getting 2 million DREAMers on a pathway to citizenship is something we haven't had the opportunity to talk about in a serious way.

MCEVERS: So you see that as a concession and a good starting point.

HICKENLOOPER: Yeah, exactly. Again, laid out in its extremes, it was rejected by almost everybody, both sides.


HICKENLOOPER: But that doesn't mean there's not a negotiation in there and that he could find some resolution that would make us - make the country better off than it was before.

MCEVERS: What did you make of what the president said about the Affordable Care Act? He said very little about Obamacare. He said that the Republicans repealed the core of it. He was talking about the individual mandate that required people to have health insurance. But he didn't really say much else. What did you make of that?

HICKENLOOPER: I think he's seen the writing on the wall around the Affordable Care Act that health care matters to a lot of people, and they are vocal. And we've seen it in Colorado with town hall meetings both with Republicans and Democrats. If you're going to vote against coverage - in other words, if you're going to support a bill in Congress that's going to roll back the number of people that have insurance coverage, you can expect some serious pushback. And I think he's realizing that, and I think they're going to come up with something that will help deal with this. They want to be able to say they decimated the Affordable Care Act, but they don't want to roll back coverage. I mean, to do so, they would be facing their own failure at the polls in the midterms.

MCEVERS: Governor John Hickenlooper of Colorado, thank you so much.

HICKENLOOPER: It was a pleasure. Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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