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Huffman defends resistance to Trump

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Rep. Jared Huffman has big plans for after what he hopes is his reelection to a third term in Congress — push environmental regulations, protect the Affordable Care Act, scrutinize President Trump’s White House.

But much of Huffman’s agenda hinges on Democrats winning control of Congress in November. The San Rafael Democrat hammered that message in front of a friendly audience of 300 gathered at Petaluma’s Cavanagh Recreation Center on Tuesday.

“When you have neither house of Congress acting as a check on the executive, there is an opportunity for change,” Huffman said. “That’s what’s coming in this mid-term election.”

The town hall event in which constituents could ask the congressman questions was not a campaign event. Huffman, one of the most liberal members of Congress, has near universal support in his progressive district that spans from the Golden Gate Bridge to the Oregon border and faces a nominal challenge in November from Humboldt County Republican Dale Mensing.

But the looming election and the predicted “blue wave” of democratic victories featured prominently in many of Huffman’s responses. He said that a Democrat-controlled Congress would be a better watchdog of President Trump, who he said has abused his powers.

“The president is pushing the envelope of presidential authority,” he said. “Congress needs to step up and say ‘hold on.’ Unfortunately, my colleagues have said they don’t want to act as an authority on presidential power.”

Besides Washington politics, Huffman touched on local issues, including the long stalled funding to dredge the Petaluma River. He said that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is currently in the planning stages of dredging the river, and funding for the project could be appropriated as soon as January.

“We could have actual dredging next summer,” he said.

Addressing a question about womens’ rights, Huffman said the Senate should take more time to examine Judge Brett Kavanaugh, a Supreme Court nominee who last week was accused of sexual assault by a former high school classmate in the 1980s, a charge he denies. Some liberals worry Kavanaugh could be the vote on the high court that overturns abortion rights.

“How ironic we’re meeting here in the Cavanagh Center while Judge Kavanaugh moves through the confirmation process,” he said. “Women’s reproductive rights could be compromised. We need to slow down and hear details of these new accusations. Let’s get to the bottom of it.”

Huffman, a champion of environmental protections, said a Democratic-led Congress would provide more regulations to combat climate change, provide cleaner air and water and prioritize renewable energy. He decried the Trump administration’s roll back of Obama-era environmental regulations, including pulling out of the Paris Climate Change Treaty.

Huffman said Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s macho approach to energy policy favors oil and gas drilling over solar and wind generation.

“I disagree with the Interior Secretary’s policy of ‘energy dominance,’” he said. “He’s taking an alpha male mentality to energy policy. ... We need economic growth that is sustainable for the environment.”

Several questioners asked Huffman about reported dysfunction in the White House and the special counsel’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. Without mentioning impeachment, Huffman said the president should be held accountable, and he dismissed the idea of trying to avoid a Mike Pence presidency.

“I don’t think you can give anyone a pass for abusing power just because you don’t want to get the next person in line,” he said. “I believe Trump needs to be held fully responsible without regard for who succeeds him.”

Huffman seemed surprised by one question that suggested President Trump may have authored a recent New York Times op-ed critical of his leadership style just to stir controversy and deflect from other scandals.

“What an intriguing theory,” he said. “I don’t think he wrote the op-ed. It was way out of his league. But I think it was real and I think someday we’ll know who wrote it. The country is better off for that little window into the administration.”

(Contact Matt Brown at matt.brown@arguscourier.com.)