Republican leaders in Washington’s Legislature weren’t full of praise Monday for President Donald Trump’s recent actions on immigration and health care reform.
Yet they were equally quiet about the fiery Trump opposition team that’s shaping up in the state’s Democratic governor and attorney general, declining to say much about Washington’s lawsuit that has led to the nationwide halt of the Republican president’s executive order on immigration.
During a weekly meeting with members of the media, GOP legislative leaders instead continued what has been their pattern in recent weeks: Declining to comment on much of what’s happening at the federal level, while saying they’ll wait and see which of the president’s proposed policies comes to fruition.
“I didn’t run for a federal office, I ran for a state office,” said House Minority Leader Dan Kristiansen, R-Snohomish, when asked what GOP lawmakers think of state Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s lawsuit challenging the president’s travel ban.
“As you know, we’ve got some massive challenges going on here in Washington state, and it’s really easy for us to get distracted,” Kristiansen said Monday.
I didn’t run for a federal office, I ran for a state office.
House Minority Leader Dan Kristiansen, R-Snohomish
Other GOP lawmakers Monday expressed reticence about some of Trump’s proposals, including the prospect that he might repeal former President Barack Obama’s health care reform law in its entirety.
State Sen. Randi Becker, R-Eatonville, said she would at least like to keep the expansion of the state’s Medicaid program that came along with the Affordable Care Act, as well as the part of the law that allows adults to stay on their parent’s health insurance plans until they are 26.
In doing so, Becker — who until this year chaired the state Senate Health Care Committee — struck a more moderate tone on repealing the Affordable Care Act than some Republicans in Congress or Trump during his presidential campaign.
Meanwhile, all 74 Democrats in Washington’s state House and state Senate signed a letter objecting to Trump’s Jan. 27 executive order on immigration.
“I like certain parts of it — not all parts of it,” Becker said of the Affordable Care Act.
“In my heart, I think a lot of it should be repealed. All of it, no,” said Becker, who chairs the state Senate’s majority caucus of 24 Republicans and one conservative Democrat.
State Sen. Barbara Bailey, R-Oak Harbor, expressed mixed feelings Monday about Trump’s threats to ramp up deportations of people who are in the country illegally.
In 2014, Bailey was the prime sponsor of a measure opening up state financial aid to college students whose families brought them to the U.S. illegally as children.
On the campaign trail, Trump promised to repeal Obama’s executive order that offered protection to people in that situation, a policy called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.
“It does concern me a great deal, because I think that we leave people with a lot of doubt about their future,” Bailey said of the students she worked with to pass the 2014 law.
I like certain parts of it — not all parts of it.
State Sen. Randi Becker, R-Eatonville, on the Affordable Care Act
At the same time, Bailey said she supports efforts to deport people who are in the country illegally who commit crimes, or “mean to do us harm.”
“We know right now that when people are here committing crimes that are not legal residents of our country, it’s very difficult right now for those people to be deported,” Bailey said.
“We need to make sure the people that are here are wanting to abide by our laws ... and I think the vast majority are,” she said.
Democrats in Olympia have been quick to attack the president’s policies, particularly his Jan. 27 executive order banning the citizens of seven majority-Muslim countries from entering the United States for 90 days.
All 74 Democrats in Washington’s state House and state Senate signed a letter objecting to Trump’s order, which also called for a 120-day freeze on all refugee admissions to the United States and for indefinitely blocking entry of Syrian refugees.
Ferguson quickly filed a lawsuit aiming to overturn the ban, and earlier this month won a temporary restraining order in U.S. District Court blocking its enforcement.
GOP leaders at the Capitol have largely held off on criticizing Ferguson, except to imply that the Democratic attorney general’s lawsuit against Trump was motivated partly by Ferguson’s own political ambitions.
“We’re also not running for governor,” Rep. Joel Kretz, R-Wauconda, said Monday, while offering no further comment on Ferguson’s lawsuit.