Connect to Congress: Busy Washington week, from intelligence to health care to women


WASHINGTON (Sinclair Broadcast Group) - Federal lawmakers on Capitol Hill joined Sinclair Broadcast Group on Wednesday to discuss some of the big political news stories of the week.

This week began with reactions to President Donald Trump’s weekend allegations that his predecessor, former President Barack Obama, wiretapped his New York-based headquarters, Trump Tower, just before the November 2016 election.

Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., told WPMI-TV of the allegations, “We ought to investigate it. Maybe we’ll find the answer to it, maybe we won’t.”

Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho, a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, added in an interview for KBOI-TV, “If there’s evidence that comes forth in that regard, I have no doubt it’ll be very carefully weighed.”

A spokesman for Obama denied the allegations, as has FBI Director James Comey, a holdover from the Obama administration. He has called on the U.S. Department of Justice to reject the claim.

On Monday, the Trump administration announced a new travel ban executive order, which excluded Iraq from the list of nations that will experience a temporary halt.

Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., threw his support behind the latest ban, telling WEAR-TV in a live interview, “Many of these countries that are on the travel ban list are failed states, you know – countries like the Sudan, Libya, Somalia – and in those circumstances, we don’t have a way to appropriately vet people coming into the country. So, until we establish those rigorous vetting procedures, I think it’s important to have the travel ban in place.”

Opponents of the executive order say they believe the ban still unfairly targets Muslims – with all of the nations affected being majority Muslim – and adds fuel to recruitment efforts of Islamic terror groups.

On Monday, House GOP leaders released their plan to "repeal and replace" the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, often referred to as Obamacare.

The proposal was met with praise from the Trump administration and skepticism from some GOP members of Congress.

Democrats also blasted the plan.

Washington State Democratic Rep. Derek Kilmer said in an interview for KOMO-TV, “Health care policy isn’t just some kind of ethereal conversation in marble buildings. It affects real people … I’m concerned about the proposal that the Republicans have put forward because it covers fewer people and costs more money.”

Markups of the bill began Wednesday in the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

On Tuesday, WikiLeaks published thousands of documents it claims are from the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Those documents give details of alleged programs used to spy on U.S. citizens through internet-based personal electronics, such as iPhones and smart TVs.

Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., acknowledged the issue is worthy of attention, despite his views of the organization that brought it to light.

“It’s, in essence, traitors,” Boozman told Sinclair regarding the way WikiLeaks gathers information. “Don’t know that it’s been confirmed yet, but we do need to take it seriously and really see what’s there … These abilities that none of us really realize, as we’re sitting there watching the television, perhaps it’s watching you, recording you, and all these kinds of things.”

Women around the country marked International Women’s Day by observing “A Day Without A Woman,” organized in part by the same entities that brought about the Women’s March the day after President Trump’s inauguration. Women participating were encouraged to take off of work. Those who could not were encouraged to wear red in solidarity.

Many female members of Congress showed up to Capitol Hill wearing red, including Rep. Jacky Rosen, D-Nev., who told Sinclair, “A day without women is like a day without sunshine and we need to let everybody know how much we matter and how much we care and that all we want is an equal shake.”