MISSOULA — Congressman Greg Gianforte – who is currently running for the Republican nomination for governor in Montana – stopped by Montana This Morning with Justine Stewart on Monday morning.
Gianforte discussed a wide range of issues facing the Treasure State as he wraps up his time as Montana’s lone member of the US House of Representatives.
Q: Senator Jon Tester is making another try at passing the Blackfoot Stewardship Act in the Senate. First, what's your position on the idea if it makes it to the House?
A: “Yeah, so, Montanans are incredibly passionate about public lands and I always apply the same three principles. One is, public lands have to stay in public hands. We should be working to increase access. And then, the input of local community is so important. This is why -- you know in the last Congress when the folks at East Rosebud came -- we were able to get the Wild and Scenic River Program done and enacted. And I look forward to learning more about the [Blackfoot Stewardship Act]…so we can figure out what the local community wants to do.”
Q: A few days ago, you likened the House Judiciary Committee to a circus because they had caught impeachment fever. With the 2020 race getting closer now, how worried are you that this Congress will be able to solve the problems that you'd like to see addressed?
A: “Well, I do think some of the Democrats in Congress have gotten off the rails. I did call it a circus. This focus on impeachment I think is misplaced. I will say that the work I'm doing on [the] Energy and Commerce [Committee] -- we're working on getting prescription drug prices down. I have a bipartisan bill I'm moving now that's helping with rural broadband. So, for my part, I know my job is to represent the people of Montana and make sure we get the business done that really matters to them.”
Q: Some members in Congress are talking about gun violence. Do you think that Congress should be addressing the issue this session? Do you have any ideas for
tackling the issue?
A: “Well…personally I'm concerned because there is a narrative now that we should somehow put extensive background checks. We should do Red Flag laws, and the fact is we should be enforcing the laws we already have. And I personally don't think there's any law we can pass 2,000 miles away to make every school safe if we don't pull together as a community locally. I'm very concerned about laws or rules that might impact on law-abiding gun owners. That's my concern.”
Q: Last week, Colt announced it was suspending production of AR-15’s. Do you think the marketplace will address this issue instead of Congress taking action well?
A: “You know, I saw that announcement from Colt. They also said that they thought there was overproduction in that segment of the market. They're [going to] continue to make that rifle for military purposes. I think each manufacturer gets to make their own decision. I am thankful that we have the Second Amendment, and I'll always defend it.”
Q: President Trump announced a trade deal with Japan. This is a big deal for Montana AG producers and you've asked the US Trade Representative to take care of Montana wheat in any deal with Japan. What would you like to see?
A: “Yeah, so this is pretty straightforward. We had a multilateral agreement negotiated called the TPP – the Trans-Pacific Partnership. And I recommended…let's just take that as a model and do it as a bilateral [agreement]. The AG community -- at least in my conversations with them -- are very happy with those terms I think this should speed it along because it's critically important we get these trade agreements in place for our AG producers here in the state.”
Q: You have been working with other lawmakers on a bipartisan approach to reduce prescription drug prices. Tell us a bit about those plans and ideas.
A: “Sure. So, this is about a third of healthcare costs…prescription drugs. I sit on the Healthcare Subcommittee. The bill I introduced with a Democrat co-sponsor will increase pricing transparency so that hospitals and insurance companies can negotiate better with [pharmaceutical companies]. We've also had five bills now pass out a committee on a bipartisan basis that would speed generic drugs to market, which also provide lower prices. And I'm also now working on a bipartisan bill on biosimilars. This is another area where we've just been slow to get permitting. So, we can get prescription drug prices down if we pass this common-sense legislation.”
Q: Last week, Senator Steve Daines announced funding for a cleanup study on the Silver Bow Creek. How critical is that funding to solving this decades-long environmental issue?
A: “…Montanans want a clean environment and we've had some legacy issues from some mining. So, I was pleased to stand with Sen. Daines on the issue and get them cleaned.”
Q: “You've been traveling quite a bit around Montana recently.
A: “I'm proud to tell folks that I have not spent a weekend in Washington DC yet. So I get back here every weekend. And over the August recess I got in my own bed one night a week. I was just traveling the state and I've now…done events in 46 of the 56 counties so far this year. We'll finish that up here in the next couple of months, but I love getting out visiting with folks…to be Montana's voice back in Washington. The only way I know how to do that is to go out and visit with folks.”