A once-in-a-century pandemic, a violent insurrection, mounting inflation and war in Ukraine. U.S. Rep. Jason Crow's first two terms in Congress were unlike anything he expected.
"It's been a tumultuous four years to say the least," Crow told a crowd of constituents during a June 30 town hall in Littleton.
As the Democratic congressman reflected, he also fielded questions about the challenges ahead which range from stalled human and voting rights legislation to ongoing support for Ukrainians facing a Russian invasion.
In the wake of the Supreme Court's 5-4 decision to overturn Roe v. Wade — the landmark ruling that protected a woman's right to an abortion for nearly 50 years — Crow said he would work with his colleagues to pass a national abortion protection law to prevent "second-class citizenship in America for women."
The court's ruling — which has already triggered abortion bans in several states — has raised fears of future erosions of LGBTQ rights and voting protections.
"With all the news that's coming out of the Supreme Court these days, it's frankly terrifying," said Littleton resident Sarah Malatesta. "I have a lot of work in Florida, I have a lot of work in Texas. I know Colorado's protected things but it doesn't matter if it's not the whole country."
The House of Representatives has passed the Equality Act, which bans discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation and gender identity and Crow said he would be "legislating very hard to codify" the right to abortion, at least in the House.
The House has also passed two voting bills, the John Lewis Voting Rights Act and the Freedom to Vote Act, which would establish federal standards for elections by making Election Day a federal holiday, mandate a minimum number of days for early voting and allow voters in all states to vote by mail.
But those bills are doomed in the Senate due to a rule, known as the filibuster, that requires a 60-vote majority for most major legislation to pass in the chamber, a near-impossible feat for most Democratic policies.
"We're not going to be able to get that through the Senate if the filibuster remains in place," Crow said, adding he supports abolishing the filibuster to push legislation through by a simple majority vote.
“That rule, by the way, is not in the constitution," Crow said. "It is now being used to stop progress for things that are overwhelmingly supported by the American people."
Crow also addressed questions about the U.S.'s continued aid for Ukraine, which has been defending itself against a Russian invasion for more than four months.
Crow called the invasion a "terrible disaster" and said he was proud to vote for billions in aid for the country that passed through multiple bills in both the House and Senate.
Congress has so far approved $40 billion in aid for Ukraine to pay for weapons, economic support, food assistance, health care, migration and refugee assistance and more.
“This is the first time since World War II where you’ve had a nation-state in Europe make a decision ... to take by force without reason or provocation another sovereign democratic nation," Crow said. “We have an interest to make sure that Democracy survives.”
Other issues raised by constituents included mental health resources, updates on immigration reform and how communities are addressing homelessness.
Crow touted $2 million he secured in funding for more inpatient beds for the Aurora Mental Health Center and said he is currently working with the Cherry Creek School District and Children's Hospital Colorado to expand mental health resources.
On immigration, Crow acknowledged talks of reform have been stalled but said he is hoping to push new dialogue soon. He said fixing the U.S.'s immigration system could be a key way to improve the workforce and reduce inflation.
And homelessness, which Crow said "is surging" in his district — which includes Littleton and Englewood — as well as across the country, needs to be addressed in a regional way, he said.
He turned to Littleton Mayor Kyle Schlachter, who joined Crow for the town hall, to speak on Littleton's model for homelessness.
“The first thing to do is realize our unhoused population are people," Schlachter said.
Schlachter and the rest of Littleton's elected leaders and city officials have been working with the neighboring cities of Englewood and Sheridan on an initiative called the Tri-Cities Homeless Action Plan, a multipronged approach to providing resources to the cities' homeless populations.
Projects include building more affordable housing, staffing a “response team” to help people understand the bureaucratic process of obtaining driver’s licenses and birth certificates and establishing a "navigation center" that can connect people who are homeless with various social programs.
“That alone is not going to solve everything there, but it’s a step in the right direction," Schlachter said.
While Crow acknowledged issues nationwide such as the "rise of extremism" from some of his House colleagues and a deflated electorate frustrated with a lack of progress, he maintained that there was still an opportunity to work across the aisle.
Crow pointed to two major bills that passed both the House and Senate with large bipartisan support; the $550 billion infrastructure law and a gun reform package known as the Safer Communities Act.
He noted that those bills were not perfect, such as the gun law, which Crow said is "not everything I would want, but it is something."
But he said working in a bipartisan way was crucial for advancing major legislation, especially given the House and Senate's narrow Democratic majorities.
"I actually want to pass laws," Crow said. “The antidote to apathy … is to show that government works.”
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