SALEM, Ore. – On its face, it doesn’t seem like Oregon governor Kate Brown and President Donald Trump would agree on much of anything politically. But when asked about meeting Trump over the weekend, Brown opened with a compliment.
“He’s very charming,” Brown said about her brief conversation with Trump during a White House dinner with governors from around the country.
“He certainly has a strong vision about where he wants to take the United States of America. I just happen to disagree with that vision,” she quickly added.
It wasn’t polite small talk with the new president that brought Brown to Washington D.C.
“I went back there having listened to and heard the voices of Oregonians,” Brown said. “I wanted to take that message with me to Washington, D.C. to make sure Oregonians knew their voices are being heard.”
Among meetings with several cabinet secretaries, Brown met one-on-one with Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly. She expressed her concern over new guidance from his department that ramps up enforcement against immigrants who are not legally in the country.
“Immigrants are concerned they’re going to be snatched up by ICE agents and deported,” she said. “I am concerned, as well.”
Brown argued that random ICE raids destroy trust between immigrants, the state and federal government. She pointed to cases where federal agents have allegedly tracked down undocumented immigrants in courthouses.
“That builds mistrust and fear,” she said. “We are a welcoming and inclusive state. We want you to feel safe here in the state of Oregon.”
Brown also met with Oregon Congressman Greg Walden, who is Oregon’s only Republican member of Congress. Walden is a key player in the GOP efforts to overhaul or repeal the Affordable Care Act.
Walden has argued that states need more flexibility to tailor health insurance policies to their own state, like Oregon has done by expanding access to Medicaid.
State officials say 95 percent of Oregonians have health insurance. They credit that number largely to a Medicaid expansion allowed under the Affordable Care Act.
“I think we would both agree that flexibility is really important. But I have been in the last two years listening, hearing from Oregonians. We have a lot of struggling families around the state. They don’t want their health care ripped from underneath them in order to pay for a tax break for millionaires,” Brown said.
She said she’s hopeful Walden will maintain federal resources Oregon needs to provide coverage in the state.
Brown also addressed a misstep by Trump that the Huffington Post pointed out this week.
They reported that Trump opened the White House dinner by welcoming governors and their wives, despite the fact there are four female governors.
“It was weird,” Brown told the Huffington Post.
On Tuesday she told KGW it wasn’t the first time in her career she’s had an experience like that. Nonetheless, Brown said she remains encouraged by all the young women she sees getting involved in politics.
“We need to have these women’s voices at the leadership table,” she said. “It will change the conversation. It will make Oregon and it will make the United States even better.”