Rep. Brad Ashford spoke with KMTV Wednesday morning ahead of the president's visit to Omaha.
QUESTION: Let’s go first to the state of the Union address last night. You said following the State of the Union that we need to degrade and destroy ISIS. President Obama has challenged Congress to pass a resolution authorizing the use of force against ISIS. Do you favor this type of resolution?
ASHFORD: Absolutely. We’ve been favoring ever since we returned from the Middle East last February when we toured the region. Congress needs to weigh in and give to the country and the president clear direction on how we are going to destroy ISIS and degrade ISIS. I was very – I came back from the speech last night very optimistic about the president’s commitment to destroy and degrade ISIS. To have that sort of congressional input right now is critical. We have a year. We can get this done. It’s going to be a slog for a while but we need to work together to get it done. And that’s part of what the president was talking about - is working together across the aisle. What I was impressed by last night was the fact that when the president talked about the authorization for use of force, that there was ovation from both sides of the aisle. And I think we’re on to something here, so we need to carry forward quickly.
QUESTION: The president has been really pushing gun control, even taking executive action. Now, you believe that Congress should take action on gun control not the president alone. But isn't that why the president took action in the first place because Congress likely won't pass gun control?
ASHFORD: Actually, I don’t agree. I think Congress will act on gun issues this session. I know I have a bill with Republican colleague Martha McSally from Tucson, Arizona, that talks about background checks and records, especially mental health records. I think it’s the bill the will go onto the floor and will be debated. I think it will be the vehicle for a robust discussion. Now, look everybody’s not going to agree on this issue. But I think what we all agree on – the need for mental health treatment. We agree that someone with significant mental health issues should not be buying a gun and those records are critical. Those are state records that need to be transmitted to the federal government. Our bill deals with that, plus getting more money to states to help them compile the records. I disagree with those that say we cannot debate the issue. I think we have to do it in a bipartisan way. That was the message last night. We will do it in a bipartisan way in my view. Both the NRA and mental health professionals agree with this bill. So I think there is an opportunity with the McSally-Ashford bill to move forward.
QUESTION: You are riding with President Obama on Air Force One as he makes his way to Omaha this afternoon - what will you tell him about Nebraska that he might not already know?
ASHFORD: We’re going to talk about the robust economy in Nebraska. We’re going to talk about how well we have done over the last seven years and how much better we can do. We’re going to talk about the Unicameral tradition. The idea that in Nebraska, we don’t even have parties in our legislature, that we have a Unicameral, that we find solutions. We’re a very unique governing institution and I’m going to remind the president, I’m sure he knows about it, but I’m going to remind him about that. We’re going to talk about veterans, talk about the veterans clinic in Omaha; hopefully, we’ll get going, talk about the runway at Offutt, talk about the Ebola training center at UNMC. All of these projects are ongoing and will reinforce to the president that we need to make sure we stay on track. Mostly, we’re going to celebrate Nebraska, celebrate the Omaha area, but celebrate the entire state for its low unemployment, for its success. But also talk about the challenges we face, as does the entire country, to make sure that we break down the barriers in our political system. And that’s why I’m working with No Labels here in Washington to do that, a bipartisan group of Republicans and Democrats have passed a resolution that sets goals to meet the most difficult problems like Social Security and the economy. And so that’s what we’re going to talk about. I thought the president in his fourth point last night, really struck the right tone for the country and I’m very excited and optimistic that we can – if we stay balanced and we stay open to new ideas, that we can move this country forward in the last year of the Obama term.
QUESTION: The president also has two special visits today. We're told he will make a stop at the home of a new Omaha mother who recently wrote the president a letter concerned about the future for her new son? And he will meet with the family of fallen Omaha Police Officer Kerrie Orozco? What can you tell us about those two visits?
ASHFORD: Well, the first visit, I think, clearly exemplifies the president and what kind of person he is, his willingness to meet with the citizens of the United States of America. I think that’s what he’s been doing his entire time in office and I think it reflects that. The Kerrie Orozco case exemplifies the sacrifice of Kerrie, certainly, the challenge to all law enforcement in our area and across the country, and I think the history of Kerrie Orozco is so poignant and the president is really appreciate the fact that we reached out to the president that he said, ‘Yes, I want to meet with Hector Orozco and his family’ to really celebrate the family and, of course, we have a bill here in Congress that I’m very optimistic about that would give spouses of law enforcement people who are killed in the line of duty, expedited treatment to become citizens. And that bill’s going to move forward, I’m very hopeful. And the president getting behind it is really helpful. We’re very excited that he is going to have those meetings.