Sen.-Elect Catherine Cortez Masto On The 'Opportunity' Of The United States
MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
For the next few, minutes we want to focus on three different women who are all taking on big institutions each in her own way. We'll start with the U.S. Congress. Today, there is only one woman of color serving in the U.S. Senate, but come January, that will change. Hawaii's Mazie Hirono will be joined by Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, Kamala Harris of California and Senator-elect Catherine Cortez Masto.
Senator-elect Cortez Masto will also be the first Latina ever to serve in the U.S. Senate and the first female senator from Nevada. She is a Democrat and a former attorney general in her state. We wanted to speak with her about her history-making win and about what she hopes to accomplish in a Congress where both chambers and the White House are controlled by the Republican Party. She was nice enough to join us at our NPR headquarters in Washington, D.C. Senator-elect Cortez Masto, thank you so much for stopping by.
CATHERINE CORTEZ MASTO: Thank you for the invitation.
MARTIN: During your victory speech on Election Night, you said that as a senator you will be a check and balance on Donald Trump. Actually, what you said is, I will be one hell of a check and balance on Donald Trump. What did you mean by that?
MASTO: You know, what I was watching along with everyone else was somebody who was running to be president of the United States based on a platform of hate, discrimination and racism. And any time he wants to continue down that path, I'm going to hold him accountable. I'm going to be an advocate to ensure that we are protecting everyone and we're tearing down barriers and not building barriers.
MARTIN: But how though, in, as we just said, in a Congress in which both houses are controlled by the party of the president, how do you see your role at a time like this?
MASTO: Well, first of all, remember not everybody agrees with his point of view. In fact, as we know, he did not win the popular vote. And, secondly, if we're really talking about fighting for working families and ensuring we're bringing economic security back to them, and if that's what he claims that he wants to do, that's what we should be fighting for, and that means increasing that minimum wage, equal pay for equal work, keeping jobs here, middle-class tax breaks and tax cuts. If we are really fighting for working families and this current president has talked about keeping jobs here and talked about giving tax breaks to working families, we should all get behind that.
MARTIN: Moving to a different topic now, immigration seems to be one of these issues that really divides Americans at this moment. Some people take the view that you have that these are hardworking people, that wanting a better life for yourself and for your family is not a crime. And there are other people who, both in their language, in their tone and philosophically, believe that this is just absolutely wrong. Is there really any reconciling these polar opposite views?
MASTO: Yes. We've seen it happen before. We know that the United States Senate has passed comprehensive immigration reform. We know it can happen. And that, to me, is what we need to do. We have a broken immigration system. And I say this because we are a country that has always opened our doors. That's who we are. My grandfather came from Chihuahua, Mexico. And the reason he came to the United States and served in our military and became a United States citizen is because he wanted to ensure that if he worked hard he could succeed, but he could give his kids more opportunity than he would ever have.
MARTIN: You are the first Latina ever to serve in the United States Senate. What does that mean?
MASTO: To me, it's having a seat at the table. It's being a voice and having a different perspective and bringing that voice to the table to fight for issues that I know are important for not just people in Nevada but across this country. It is young women, young girls, that now know and see somebody in a position that they think that they can achieve.
MARTIN: That's Catherine Cortez Masto. She is the senator-elect from Nevada. She takes her seat in January. She is a Democrat, the former attorney general from her state, and she was nice enough to interrupt her very busy transition schedule to stop by our Washington, D.C., studios to speak with us. Senator-elect Catherine Cortez Masto, thank you so much for joining us.
MASTO: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.