HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - Senator Luther Strange (R-Alabama) delivered a Washington Update in Huntsville on Wednesday, addressing the two top topics in politics today -- health care and Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
He says he knows what everybody is talking about, "Russia this, Russia that, Russia in our elections and so forth."
But he added, "I travel around the state every single day from top to bottom, East to West, North to South, big cities, small towns, and I have yet to have anybody come up to me and say they're worried about the Russians in our election."
Senator Strange tells the crowd outright, "I have no doubt the Russians tried to meddle in our elections, and they'll continue to try and do it, just like they have my entire lifetime."
Still, from the stage, he says between the various investigations, ranging from congressional inquiries to a special counsel, "I have no doubt that we will find out exactly what happened, who was involved. But that's not what I hear from the folks that I talk to as I travel around the state."
The big concern Strange says hears most about -- health care.
The Senate has embarked on an effort to draw up a new plan, after the American Health Care Act (AHCA) passed by the House met fierce opposition.
He told the crowd his primary worry, "My main concern is that we take care of the issues that face us here in Alabama. We have a very thin safety net for our most disadvantaged in our Medicaid program, and I want to make sure we're not further disadvantaged in our relationship to other states."
When we pressed for details on policy in a brief interview after the speech, the senator stuck to principle, "Well, I want to make sure that our system is not disadvantaged. We didn't expand our [Medicaid] system like another of other states did, and it wouldn't be fair for Alabama, that did the right thing in protecting its taxpayer dollars to then be penalized somehow by the states that did expand their Medicaid."
The senator gave the crowd a balance he'd like to strike, "Make sure that we're dealing with addressing the most vulnerable among us, particularly children, elderly, and folks that can't afford it. And that we're also doing things that protect taxpayers money so that people who maybe are not as deserving of some of this government largess are not taking money away from those who need it. Because we don't have very much of a margin of error in our state."
He did not outline policies he thought might strike that balance.
The senator spoke to the crowd, assembled through the Huntsville-Madison County Chamber of Commerce, for roughly thirty minutes. He touted President Trump's cabinet and the administration's enthusiastic approach to NASA. He also outlined the various committees he sits on in the Senate.
Strange has been in the Senate for a little over a hundred days, after he was appointed to fill the seat vacated by now-Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
The seat is up in a special election in December of this year, though Strange faces ten other Republicans in an August primary before that.