Sen. John Hickenlooper participated in his first town hall since being elected in November.
The virtual event took place Wednesday evening and was moderated by Hickenlooper’s Colorado state director, Shad Murib. Constituents were invited to submit questions in advance or call in during the event.
The town hall generated more than 1,000 questions, according to Murib, though the event was confrontation-free, and the questions Murib chose to relay to the Democratic senator generally did challenge him on controversial issues, such as whether the U.S. Supreme Court should be expanded, as some Democrats believe.
Early in the event, Hickenlooper was asked if he favors reform of the filibuster in the Senate. The filibuster rule requires most legislation to earn 60 votes instead of a simple majority to pass in the chamber, and many Democrats, who control the Senate by the slimmest margin, see elimination or significant reform of the filibuster as the only way to advance major parts of their agenda.
“I want to give the traditional system a good chance to succeed,” Hickenlooper said. “And that means that, you know, trying to build relationships with members of the other party, see if we can get to 60 votes. Ever the optimist, I believe we can do that. I can’t see a good reason why we can’t.” He added, “So, we’ll see. There’s a lot of possibilities of adjusting the filibuster. There are a number of people that are talking about evolving back into what we used to be, which is a ‘talking filibuster.'”
Previous Senate rules meant that members who wanted to filibuster a measure had to speak in the chamber for extended periods — the “talking filibuster” — whereas today a filibuster can be achieved through behind-the-scenes maneuvers that require less stamina.
Hickenlooper was asked about gun violence. A gunman killed 10 people at a Boulder grocery store on March 22. Hickenlooper was governor of Colorado in 2012 when a gunman slaughtered 12 people in an Aurora movie theater.
“I felt a more intense sadness than I could ever remember,” he said of learning about the Boulder shooting.
He said Colorado has recently enacted several gun-safety measures, but he lamented the escalating scale of gun violence in America, noting that “probably two-thirds of them are suicides.”
“Clearly I think there’s a real issue here of how do we get gun owners to recognize the threat to their own family, the children,” Hickenlooper said. “So many of these suicides are, they’re impetuous. If they didn’t have easy access to a firearm, many cases, their depression, their anxiety would pass and the threat would diminish.”
Safe storage of guns and ammunition could help prevent such suicides, he said.
A question about people in both political parties being so “boiling mad” Hickenlooper called “the toughest question we’ve had all night.”
He attributed extreme partisanship to years of attack ads, cable-news echo chambers, and “the internet.”
“And right now, in many cases, we have foreign actors, we have sabotage from Russia, or China or North Korea,” he said. “They’re coming in and trying to make our citizens doubt their neighbor, and doubt the system and believe that our elections are corrupt.”
Hickenlooper during the event also touched on climate change, a desire to keep Space Command in Colorado, the need for infrastructure improvements and other topics.
Hickenlooper is the state’s junior senator. He won his seat in November after defeating Colorado’s previous junior senator, the one-term Republican Cory Gardner.