TUCSON, Ariz. -- Congressman Raul Grijalva was elected to his 9th term in the 3rd congressional district for Arizona, and he has big plans for the next two years.
He says it is "indeed a privilege, a responsibility that people entrust in you" to have voters elect him for his 9th consecutive term. But this term will be different. The democratic congressman is now in the majority in the House after his career of being in the minority. Grijalva believes the House has "an opportunity to govern, an opportunity to do somethings as the majority" that they haven't been able to do while in the minority.
Partial Government Shutdown
The partial government shutdown has nearly reached week three. Grijalva says it's "not good for the American people. It's not good for the 800+ and growing number of federal employees that deliver services to the American people to be working without being paid or to be going at all."
"I think this is Trump's shutdown, no question about it," Grijalva says. According to the Congressman, only 25 percent of people in the U.S. agree with that President Trump should shutdown the government in order to get the $5 billion for a border wall. "Our position as democrats, and as the majority in the House is 'no.' If you want to talk about border security, let's talk about it comprehensively. But, that's off the table," says Grijalva.
The House passed seven spending bills on Thursday that would open the government immediately if passed. Those bills have gone to the Senate. Grijalva also says the House passed another bill to fund Homeland Security through February 8th to give the administration 1 month to try and work something out that is "practical and reasonable." Grijalva describes the shutdown as "an ideological fight. That's all it is. It's a campaign promise went wrong."
Girjalva says the president, "cornered himself on this and it's not his issue." He says he hopes "McConnell doesn't defer to the president and allows senators to vote on the package." He says the Senate has passed every one of the bills the House has sent to them during the last session. And Grijalva says, "they almost had huge bipartisan support for all of them. So, I don't see why that bill shouldn't end up in Trump's desk and the once again, he has a chance to end his shutdown. But, it's up to him."
If the president doesn't sign the bill, Grijalva says he believes the message from voters is clear: "they needed a majority that wasn't going to get bullied or intimidated.
Grijalva says, "[President Trump] can continue to bully and can continue to blow the House down, but at the end of the day, it's his call. It's his shutdown and he's the one with the power to end it... If he wants to make the wall the reason that he makes this kind of havoc across the country, then that's gonna be his call."
"To waste money on a promise that can't be kept, because Mexico is not going to pay for it, and now the taxpayers now should, or I'll shutdown your government; that is petulant. And, that is a tantrum and I hope the president gets over it pretty soon," says Grijalva.
Alternatives to Border Wall
In Grijalva's opinion, he believes that the country needs to modernize its ports of entry. He says 60% of all seizures and confiscations of contraband or individuals happen at a port of entry. Plus, Grijalva says the trade and commerce benefits that come through ports are part of the state's economic vitality.
Grijalva says, "I think when we look at security, a wall is not the solution. It's more comprehensive and we are open to all those discussions. But, if you ask me for one thing that would do more for security and bring economic benefits, it's the port of entries and fully staffing them with customs people which right now they don't have." To go further, Grijalva says if the $5 billion that President Trump is demanding was made available, he would use the money to modernize the ports of entry.
Grijalva says, "Trump is going to have to deal with a new universe and a new reality and so is the Senate." He says Americans created this situation with the majority in the House on purpose. He believes they voted this way in November with the understanding that democrats would play their role as a "co-equal branch of government" that would hold the President's administration accountable, and do the oversight necessary to move legislation that Americans are asking for. He says, "that's the agenda ahead."
Chairman of Natural Resources Committee
Grijalva is now the Chairman of the Natural Resources Committee in the House, and he credits that to voters. He says it's an additional responsibility that "if the district hadn't been gracious with me, and sent me back to Congress, I wouldn't have had that opportunity. I'm very humbled."
When asked if he would consider bringing former Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke in to question him, Grijalva was determined, "absolutely not." He says Zinke becomes an important issues when he looks at how the department is currently running. Grijalva says, "he was the architect" for what he thinks has been a huge fundamental change in the department.
Interior used to be a "multi-use agency" meaning "conservation, preservation, and a resource extraction," says Grijalva. But now, the congressman believes the department is solely a "resource extraction." Grijalva says, "quite frankly, I think there's special places like the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, and many others that should be left completely alone." He wants future generations to enjoy them.
Grijalva says that preservation and conservation can "get lost in [the department's] response to just answer the energy giants that now seem to be running the department." He mentions the decisions to shrink the monuments, the continued discussion of opening back up the Grand Canyon for Uranium mining, and more, are being driven by the energy giants. And Grijalva says many of those people now work in Interior. Grijalva believes Zinke is responsible for those decisions. That's why he says he wants to know how Zinke reached those decisions and who was involved and, "quite frankly, who gained from it."
Goals For Grijalva in his 9th Term
For Grijalva's 9th consecutive term in office, he has 2 issues he plans to tackle. First and foremost, he wants to "elevate the role and importance of tribes, indigenous people" both on and off the reservation. Grijalva says he wants to raise their concerns on issues of sovereignty, sacred sights, healthcare, education and more. He believes we have not brought urgency to those issues like we should have.
The second topic: climate change. Grijalva says he's going to talk about climate change and the role of public lands and how our oceans play in that. He says, "by elevating climate change and the warming that's going on, on our planet, I think we're raising again the very vital and important role that science plays in making decisions that are being made by [the Natural Resources Committee]." Of all the committees, "science and fact," Grijalva explained, "have always been a huge part of decision making." But he says over the last "2 years, and the last 8 years, it has been a minimal part, if any."
Girjalva says part of the difference voters will see, will be the culture in Interior, with the president and Zinke. He says the 2 of them "dumb down-sized to suppress science and fact, to cut short the necessary impact of analysis that have to be done before so we can know all the consequences intended and no intended."
KGUN9 plans to interview Border Patrol Agent and National BP Council VP Art Del Cueto on Saturday.