PART 2: A Conversation With Senator Heidi Heitkamp
Talk About Savanna's Act, Pension Reform and Toxic Politics Across The Country
FARGO, N.D. — Our conversation with Democratic Senator Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota concludes.
We sat down with the senator on Tuesday to talk about politics, Savanna’s Act, pension reform and more.
TJ: “Let’s talk about some of your work in the senate.
You have introduced Savanna’s Act in honor of Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind who went missing from her Fargo apartment and was murdered for her newborn.
What do you hope to achieve with the legislation?”
Sen. Heidi Heitkamp: “First off we are already achieving what I had hoped to achieve and that was awareness.
When you tell people that in some parts of this country, in Indian Country, 90 percent of all women are victims of violence. People’s eyes open up. Just even down in Standing Rock by doing a survey door-to-door you can find 25 women have been murdered or are missing just on that reservation. When you talk to people in Mandan-Hidatsa-Arikara Nation and they tell you in the last 20 months five women have been murdered on their reservation. Those are murder rates that are just intolerable in this country. We need public attention, we need the FBI to take a more aggressive role we need to know what the problem is that that’s what we hope to accomplish with this bill. But it’s just a first step and we’re already accomplishing public awareness that we need to accomplish to help solve this problem.”
Alison: You are also fighting to protect pensions with the Butch Lewis Act.
What will happen if current laws are not changed?
Heitkamp: “The thing that everybody needs to understand because people look at this like this is a bunch of guys and gals who are beneficiaries who you need to fix this for them, no that’s not just the answer. Yes we need to fix this. But the pension system in this country is stacked up dominoes. If the Central States goes down, it’s going to cause a cascade effect on the other multi-employer pension system and potentially take out our pension system altogether. This is a crisis, and it’s such a crisis that in the omnibus that we just passed we created a committee that would in fact provide for eight Democrats and eight Republicans bicameral to sit down and solve this problem. I’m grateful that I’ve been appointed to that committee so I can represent the pensioners here in North Dakota who are being hurt.
But the working men and women, this is where I live, people say why do you care about this I say I know what that must feel like.”
TJ: “Finally, gridlock in Washington, D.C. is getting worse.
Politics has become a little more toxic.
Even you, senator, were quoted as saying Hillary Clinton cannot go away “soon enough” after she talked about Trump voters in India.
And there seems to be hateful messages coming from both sides.
So why do you want to stay in the arena when so many people are deciding we want to get out of here?”
Heitkamp: “Let me tell you when I got there people didn’t think we could pass a Farm Bill, we passed a Farm Bill by working across the aisle. People didn’t think that we could lift the ban on oil exports, we lifted the ban on oil exports because in no small measure because of the work that I did out of my office. One way that we solve gridlock is we send people back who don’t represent a political party, who represent getting the job done and that’s what I think I’ve done.”
TJ: “Do you feel you’ve got to play both sides a little bit in this state now that we’re leaning Republican?”
Heitkamp: “I only play one side and that is the people of North Dakota. That’s the side I’m on. And you know there will be people in the state who disagree with decisions that I’ve made, we can have a conversation about that. But I think by-and-large the one thing people know about me is that I care about this state, I care about them but I also care about the future of their grandchildren. I also care about that next generation that’s going to have to be economically successful in this world but also can have that quality of life that I grew up with and quality of my life my children grew up in and quality of life I hope we make available to our children and our grandchildren and our great grandchildren.”
TJ: “We wish you the best in the campaign and thanks for being with us.”
Heitkamp: “Thanks for having me.”