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Sen. Cortez Masto is among the Democrats meeting with Biden over his agenda

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Senator Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada joins us next. She was part of a group of centrist Democrats who met with the president yesterday. Senator, welcome.

CATHERINE CORTEZ MASTO: It's great to be with you, Steve.

INSKEEP: So we were hearing there from Deirdre about making choices, taking things out of this bill, and we heard that the climate plan for clean energy has to go. Why would that be the thing to go?

CORTEZ MASTO: Well, let me just say there's a number of things in here to still address the clean energy economy that we need in this country. And so I am confident that we are still going to address the climate crisis, which we have to. In my state, Nevada, as you well know, we see it firsthand with the wildfires and the drought. And there are many states like Nevada that have led in this space where we are looking at pursuing renewable portfolio standards. Nevada has been very aggressive there. So I am confident that what we have in here is still going to put us on a pathway to address the climate crisis in this country, which we need to do.

INSKEEP: But you're taking out the centerpiece plan of the president - to try to reshape the energy market.

CORTEZ MASTO: No, we will still be reshaping it. There are many things that are going to still be in here...

INSKEEP: OK, OK.

CORTEZ MASTO: ...That's focused on putting - keeping us in moving in that direction. And so I'm confident based on the work that I am seeing and that I'm pursuing that it's still going to be in there.

INSKEEP: We also heard from Deirdre that there's to be no free community college, which was a proposal the president had supported. Was that just, politically, too divisive?

CORTEZ MASTO: Well, let me just say this. Of course, we all want to make sure we're doing everything across the country to help our students to afford community college. This bill will include additional resources for Pell Grants so that a higher education is accessible for everyone. And we are united in making sure that we are providing urgent relief to our families and communities across the country. We will continue to do so when it comes to education.

INSKEEP: I want people to know that you're heading for reelection, so you're going to be on the - under a little bit of pressure here (laughter) in the next year, I suppose, and you have been advocating for immigration changes as part of this bill. Immigration reform, of course, is a major priority for Democrats, but it's something that the parliamentarian has said you cannot include, at least in the form that it was in there previously. Have you found some immigration measure that you can get in and that you have support to get in?

CORTEZ MASTO: Well, Steve, we haven't given up on including immigration reform in this bill, and we're still working through the potential proposals with the parliamentarian. Listen; I know this. Both Democrats and Republicans, we've said it for decades that our immigration system is broken, and we need to fix it. This is our opportunity to do just that.

INSKEEP: What is one thing - and I recognize it's extraordinarily complicated. What is one thing that you think you can do on immigration within the context of this bill?

CORTEZ MASTO: Well, we are still moving forward on that and putting those proposals out, but at the end of the day, we should be taking care of our DREAMers, our TPS recipients, essential workers who have been on the front line of this pandemic - I've seen it in my own state - and farmworkers. And there's bipartisan support for this. We've seen the bipartisan support in the House. We know this is something that should be done for these families and individuals that have been in our - you know, in the United States, living here and, really, on the front line of the pandemic. It's about time we do something for them.

INSKEEP: How frustrating has it been for Democrats, that you seem to feel this is your last chance for the year - who knows, maybe your last chance for this Congress almost - to get your entire program through?

CORTEZ MASTO: Well, let me just say this. I have been - since the Democrats have been in control and the president's been in the White House the last nine months, we have done a lot in, really, passing important legislation that is needed across the country, Steve, from the American Rescue Plan, which was wanted in my state in a bipartisan way, to really kind of taking control of the pandemic, getting those vaccines out there, mobile vaccination sites, trying to increase the vaccination rate across the country so that we can keep our economy open. We have worked on and passed Innovation and Competition Act. The bipartisan infrastructure package came out of the Senate.

INSKEEP: Right.

CORTEZ MASTO: I mean, everything we are doing is focused on, really, our families and putting them first and creating jobs in this country.

INSKEEP: After this bill - just got about 10 seconds left. After this bill is passed, can you take anything that's removed from the bill and try to shove it into the budget bill next year?

CORTEZ MASTO: Well, let me just say we are going to continue to work on all of the issues that are important for our families. We - it's still an ongoing issues that we have to solve for the country. And we're not done.

INSKEEP: Senator Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada. Pleasure talking with you. Thanks so much.

CORTEZ MASTO: Thank you, Steve. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.