Military service is one thing freshman congressman Jason Crow shares with Mike Coffman, the Republican he ousted in last year's election.
KUNC's Michael de Yoanna spoke with Rep. Crow, a Democrat who represents Colorado's 6th District east of Denver, about everything from an effort to make military bases greener to his party's push against dark money in politics.
Crow also expressed his hopes that the long war in Afghanistan, where he was deployed twice while serving with the Army, is coming to an end, but wants assurances that democracy will be guaranteed in that country.
Michael de Yoanna: You were in Afghanistan in the early 2000s with the Army as part of the joint Special Operations Task Force. Does that experience inform what you think a U.S. withdrawal from the region should look like?
Jason Crow: Having first-hand experience dealing with folks on the ground there certainly informs my approach to it and my desire to make sure that we're ending what has now become our longest war. You know, we're spending $55 billion a year. Thousands of American soldiers, Marines and others have been killed, tens of thousands wounded. We have to make sure we're ending this but also doing this responsibly and keeping our promises and maintaining our obligations to the folks on the ground there and the Afghanis as well.
de Yoanna: What do you think the history books will say about the U.S. war in Afghanistan?
Crow: I don't know yet. That remains to be seen. What's going to happen over the next couple of months and the next year, I think, is going to be really important. The U.S. envoy and the Taliban negotiators have apparently arrived at a framework for continued discussions.
I look forward to seeing what that framework outlines and how we're able to withdraw our troops, but also do it in a responsible way that maintains our obligations to the Afghan people and ensures our national security, and also makes sure that the Taliban respects the Afghan government and we're promoting democracy and good governance initiatives in Afghanistan as well.
de Yoanna: You're serving on the Armed Services Committee. What other issues are getting your attention there?
Crow: I'm on the Readiness Subcommittee. That's a great committee for the community. It's going to put me in a good position to make sure I'm advocating for Buckley Air Force Base and the other military installations in Colorado as we improve those facilities and look at where we're investing in our force throughout the country, but also making sure we're making investments in using (Department of Defense) purchasing power to green the force.
Fort Hood in Texas is actually 100 percent energy independent right now. They're saving $4 million a year. They're actually more secure because they're off the grid. I'd like to use that example and see how we can scale that throughout the rest of DOD.
de Yoanna: Beyond the military, one issue you say must be addressed is the role of money in politics. Tell me a little more about that.
Crow: There are a lot of really pressing legislative issues that we can't kick the can on anymore — from gun-violence prevention to campaign-finance reform to the crisis of climate change to the need for quality, affordable health care.
Underpinning all of that is the structural issue of campaign-finance reform. We're not going to make efforts on specific legislative proposals until we start cleaning up our system, making sure that the influx of dark, unaccountable money is not governing what happens here in Washington. That's why I was a proud original sponsor of (House Resolution 1) and a member of the reformers group that pushed very hard for this ethics, campaign-finance and voting rights reform act to be the first order of business.
de Yoanna: Democratic leaders have made HR1 their No. 1 priority and they're the ones backing the bill. How do you reach Republicans on this issue?
Crow: Across the board, during my campaign, when I was out at hundreds of events talking to thousands of people, they all said this is something want to see, this is something that they support because we have to clean up money in politics. We have to make sure, regardless of your political affiliation, that folks are reflecting their community and doing the will of the American people.
We're going to be pushing hard to get support here in Washington from everybody on these important initiatives. At the end of the day, the American people deserve to know where their representatives stand on this issue.
de Yoanna: I want to ask about the partial government shutdown. The clock is ticking and President Donald Trump is still pushing for a border wall. What can be done to avert a second shutdown?
Crow: With this administration, anything is possible unfortunately. You know he's very unpredictable. His position on these issues seems to change by the hour at this point. At the end of the day, we have to get our work done.
We're going to be pursuing our legislative agenda: cleaning up government, addressing the issues that are important for the community and for our country. And we have some great, very seasoned negotiators on our side that are going to try to hash out a deal. I am optimistic that we can get that done.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.