By , Paul Steinhauser
Published February 02, 2019
In her first visit to New Hampshire since launching an exploratory committee for a run for the Democratic Party's 2020 presidential nomination, U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand targeted President Trump, vowed to fight for a progressive agenda, and touted her bipartisan chops.
But she drew a line when it comes to naming a bipartisan Cabinet.
The New York Democrat, in her first stop in a three-day swing through the Granite State -- which traditionally holds the first primary in the race for the White House -- spoke to well more than 100 party activists packed into the rear portion of the Stark Brewing Co. in Manchester in an event hosted by the increasingly influential New Hampshire Young Democrats.
After giving a short stump speech, the first question Gillibrand received from the crowd was whether she’d name a bipartisan Cabinet if elected president in 2020.
“Interesting idea but no,” she quickly responded.
Gillibrand – who represented a conservative congressional district in upstate New York before succeeding Hillary Clinton in the Senate in 2009 – spotlighted that “I have shown through my 12 years of public service that I can reach across the aisle and work with literally anybody.
"Ted Cruz and I just finished writing a bill to end sexual harassment in Congress and that final bill ultimately passed unanimously," she added, referring to the Republican senator from Texas.
But she emphasized that she would “find common ground” with Republicans.
"That’s what’s necessary," she said, "not necessarily promising to do a bipartisan Cabinet."
The question was asked by Saint Anselm College senior Madison Mangels, who said that after graduation she would be working for No Labels, a bipartisan political organization that aims to end dysfunction in politics.
In a speech full of passion and vigor, Gillibrand accused President Trump of dividing and weakening the country.
“I’m so angry at what President Trump has done, putting the hate and the division into this country," she said. "It’s terrible. It’s not who we are as a nation. And so every time he draws a line -- whether it’s on racial lines, religious lines, socio-economic lines -- he’s dividing us and he’s making us weaker, not stronger.”
"I’m so angry at what President Trump has done, putting the hate and the division into this country. It’s terrible. It’s not who we are as a nation."
She said the presidential campaign ahead is a “fight for our democracy, it’s a fight for our country, it’s a fight for our values, it’s a fight for what we believe in.”
And she touted that “I have never backed down from a fight. And it doesn’t matter who I’m fighting against, it’s who I’m fighting for that matters.
Gillibrand advocated a progressive agenda, calling for stronger protections for LGBTQ rights, the Green New Deal, Medicare for all, increased investment in public schools, universal pre-kindergarten, affordable daycare and increased early childhood education, more affordable college and a push for economic equality by investing “in our workers as much as much as we invest in our owners.”
She blamed the insurance industry for the lack of universal health care and the pharmaceutical giants for soaring prescription drug prices.
Then she turned to the opioid crisis, which has devastated New Hampshire this decade.
"If you ask the question about what’s really at the heart of the opioid crisis in this state or any other state, I promise you it’s the pharmaceutical companies who pour the drugs into communities," she said.
Asked by Fox News how she would pay for Medicare for all, Gillibrand explained that competition would lower prices.
“What I would ideally love is if every American would have the right to buy into Medicare at four percent of their income in the same way you buy into Social Security,” she said.
“If you did that you would create so much competition, I don’t think the private insurers would be able to compete because they’re far too concerned about their profits,” Gillibrand added. “That competition alone will displace them, it will disrupt that industry. That is how you get to single-payer.”
She predicted that phasing out private insurers is “going to happen because they can’t compete…The reason why our health care system is so ineffective and not universal is because there’s a middle man. The middle man is the insurance industry and they put a lot of fat into the system.”
The Republican National Committee characterized Gillibrand as a “chameleon.”
RNC spokesperson Mandi Merritt said the senator “has flip-flopped on so many issues over the years that Granite Staters are going to have a hard time figuring out where she stands on anything.”
Gillibrand arrived in New Hampshire hours after Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., declared his candidacy for president. Fellow Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Kamala Harris of California are also running for the White House, as are former San Antonio Mayor and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, former Rep. John Delaney of Maryland, and South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg.
Gillibrand she would be quickly bringing on campaign staff in New Hampshire, telling Fox News “we are making an offer this weekend."
“Hopefully we’ll have a strong staff over the next few weeks and months to make sure that I get to every community in the state,” she added.