The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

Q&A: Sen. Heinrich talks drones, elections


March 31, 2016

Sen. Martin Heinrich

Sen. Martin Heinrich is in his first term as the junior senator for New Mexico. The former representative won the seat vacated by the 2012 retirement of Jeff Bingaman.

Heinrich visited the Clovis News Journal for an approximate 25-minute conversation on Friday.

The conversation has been edited for length and clarity and split into two sections.

Thursday’s and today’s section covers the Supreme Court, the election season and various policy. The first part, which ran Wednesday, covered local education and water issues.

Sen. Martin Heinrich

Do you plan to run in 2018?

I plan to continue to serve in the Senate if the people of New Mexico would like me (to serve).

I’ll pivot that to another area. John Ryan, who does lobbying work for the city of Clovis, said Thursday he wouldn’t be surprised with a Base Realignments and Closures process in 2019. That would be your second term. Do you see that as a possibility, and how would you approach it?

I think that while a BRAC process is always possible, what we’ve done to position Cannon Air Force Base means that even if there were a BRAC process it would be probably more of an opportunity than an exposure like it was in the past.

You don’t invest hundreds of millions of dollars in new construction in a mission set in special operations that is forward looking and some of the highest-tempo mission sets that we have, and think we’re going to turn our back on this tomorrow.

If we’re going to go through a BRAC process, Cannon would be one of the places more likely to see missions from other places that were downsized moved to it rather than losing any focus.

What do you think about legislation for drones?

Drones, like anything else, have to have some level of regulation for safety. We’ve seen some very dangerous situations where drones were flown too close to a municipal airport.

It’s going to take some time, I think, for people to wrap their heads around what is the right balance there to encourage innovation and business but at the same time make sure we provide for some level of public safety.

Could a drone be considered the same thing as an airplane?

Potentially, with a different set of rules because it’s not exactly the same. You might have separate rules for something analogous to the large remotely piloted aircraft like they pilot at Cannon. But you might not need those rules for the little four-propeller hobby-sized drone that weighs less than 5 pounds you can get for $150.

Where are you on Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland?

I have not had a chance to meet with him yet. I intend to meet with him. I am still looking at his judicial record, trying to get a sense for his judicial philosophy.

In looking at his work record, what he did as a prosecutor, his basic resume, he has ... an impressive resume. That said, we’re still looking through the details.

I think having hearings is a very important part of that process, and something that needs to move forward because that’s when you get a sense of what someone’s judicial philosophy is and how they come at specific problems.

Do you think a hearing is coming, despite Republican leadership assuring otherwise?

I would not be surprised if you see some movement on that front. I saw that Sen. (Jerry) Moran out of Kansas announced he thought there should be hearings.

I think that’s part of the process of us doing our job, and if at the end of that the people choose to vote against him that’s well within their Constitutional ability. But to say we’re not going to hold those hearings, we’re not going to do those interviews, we’re not going to meet with him, that is not a responsible approach. I think we should let the process play out.

The Republicans do control the Senate process and can run out the clock, as much as you’d disagree with it. Does that make you regret not being able to keep control of the Senate in the midterm elections?

The reality is the Senate has to function, no matter who’s in charge, and it has to meet our Constitutional obligations no matter who’s in charge.

Unless you have 60 or more votes on one side or the other, you’re always going to have bipartisan cooperation.

The thing I like most about the Senate is you’re very relevant to the outcome, irrespective of whether you’re in the majority or the minority, especially if you’re willing to work with people. I don’t think that would be the end-all solution, and we’ve got a nominee here who under normal circumstances would be a consensus nominee.

As much as you credit bipartisanship and the beauty of the Senate construct, doesn’t the construct give partisans outsized power to make it ineffective? One senator can do a secret hold forever.

It is too easy for an individual senator to gum up the works, there’s no question about that. That said, typically, what doesn’t get covered enough is the group of pragmatic senators who make things work.

There are people I work with every day, from Lamar Alexander to Dean Heller of Nevada to Jeff Flake of Arizona, who actually believe in governing and believe in creating a work product.

We had a huge energy deal at the end of last year that was enormous for New Mexico, both in the short term and the long term. We’ve got a deal now that will be good for the wind industry in eastern New Mexico, that will be good for the solar industry in the southern part of the state and will be good for the oil and gas industry as soon as the commodity price recovers.

Those pragmatic steps forward will happen. They don’t get the headlines the way that shutting down the government over Obamacare does, but there are a lot of people there who really believe in producing results for their constituents. Those are the people I focus my time on.

Dean Heller is a very conservative Republican. The two of us work together to make sure the Cadillac tax did not take effect. There are a lot of people like that who I enjoy working with every day.

Yes, there are people who make it their life’s work to make sure the place doesn’t function, and we just have to push through that.

— Compiled by Clovis Managing Editor

Kevin Wilson


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