While progress has been made in the U.S. House of Representatives on topics such as gun control and climate change, U.S. Rep. Sean Casten, D-Downers Grove, said there is more that needs to be done.
At a wide-ranging interview with the Northwest Herald’s editorial board, the freshman representative talked about these topics and maintained his support for initiating an impeachment inquiry on President Donald Trump.
As a new member, one of Casten’s observations is that there are standards of political performance that would be “laughable” in arenas outside of politics.
“We get asked all the time, ‘What are you doing to be bipartisan?’ ” Casten said. “As if in any other line of work you would split everybody in the organization up into two tiers and measure your success not by whether or not what you did was good and useful and necessary, but whether or not you pulled a couple people from the other team on to work with you.”
Casten said it’s an “interesting moment in time” to be in Congress.
There has been legislation passed in the House to address issues such as the price of prescription drugs and climate change – although some are still stalling in the Senate, Casten said.
Casten maintained his support for the initiation of an impeachment inquiry, saying that “no one is above the law.”
“The Mueller report could not be clearer, as much as Mueller could be clear that the president committed a criminal activity,” he said. “What we absolutely know, without any question, is that the Russians interfered in our election in 2016.”
Casten’s own view is that it wasn’t necessarily because they wanted Trump elected, but because they wanted someone in office who was opposed to the Constitution.
“They wanted to bring us down to their level. We know they interfered, we know they alerted members of the Trump campaign and family that they intended to interfere,” he said.
Casten said there is “no denying” that there is a massive humanitarian crisis going on in Central America, hugely increasing the number of people who are seeking asylum.
“We have made the situation worse by some of our policies,” he said.
When the Trump administration decided to employ family separation policies, he said it became vastly harder to place an undocumented, unaccompanied minor into the normal asylum transition system.
“A lot of these people have legitimate asylum claims. They’re not criminals,” Casten said. “I do think we have an obligation to push back when somebody says that an asylum seeker is an illegal immigrant. That’s wrong.”
“Outside of Fox News,” people understand this, he said.
“I maintain that the overwhelming amount of Americans are good people with deep moral compasses,” Casten said, explaining that he does not think the stories about children dying at the borders would resonate otherwise.
The House passed House Resolution 8, would prohibit person-to-person gun sales without a background check and HR 1112, which closes the “Charleston Loophole,” which allows people to get a gun if their background check hasn’t been completed in three days.
“Is that enough?” Casten said. “No. We should absolutely have assault weapons banned. If it was a self-defense rifle, they’d call it a self-defense rifle. It’s called an assault weapon for a reason.”
Even background checks and assault rifle bans don’t do anything about the fact that in America, there are “a lot of guns” out there, Casten said.
“If your argument is that you need something for self defense, well, let’s talk about the underlying situations that make that necessary and try to take those away,” Casten said. “But that’s generally not the rifle you sling around your neck.”
On climate change, Casten said, there has been a positive shift where no one on either side publicly says they don’t believe man-made climate change is real.
“That’s small praise, but it’s big progress from where we were a few years ago,” Casten said.
This year, the House passed HR 9 to rejoin the Paris Climate Accord. Casten said this, like other bills, is being held up by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
“When we pulled out of HR 9, we didn’t in any way change our obligations,” he said. “All we did was signal to the rest of the world that we don’t care for international agreements.”
Casten passed a bill out of financial services committee that he hopes will make its way onto the floor in October. The bill would require all public companies to disclose their exposure to climate risk.