Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, whose state is struggling to recover from last month’s historic flooding in the midst of the government shutdown, says watching the Washington discord from afar has only served to discourage him from considering a 2016 presidential run.
“It's ... daunting to look at how divisive the relationships are in Washington right now,” said Hickenlooper, who has lately been dispelling claims that he's seeking higher office in 2016 after gaining national attention within the Democratic Party for his push for stricter gun laws in Colorado.
Hickenlooper sat down with “Top Line” behind the scenes of The Daily Beast’s “Hero Summit” in Washington and described the government shutdown as a “tragic failing” that is choking off services that are essential to the health and safety of people in Colorado.
“It’s amazing,” Hickenlooper said. “[If] you want to start appreciating all the things that the federal government does for those people who are most at risk, have a major disaster and then take away all those services.”
The problems in Colorado, Hickenlooper said, range from flood victims not being able to find basic shelter and housing to the inability for scientists to test waters and parkgrounds for what could be “dangerously high levels” of E Coli after 20 million gallons of sewage were dumped into the rivers during the floods.
“We've got people that are sleeping, you know, doubling up, tripling up, and sleeping on blankets in parks, and yet we can't test for the E coli,” Hickenlooper said. “And yet we can't test for the E. coli," Hickenlooper said. "We can't get that -- the resources to do, you know - HUD can't. Their hands are tied in getting these people back into shelter.”
The governor had some tough words for Congress for its role in causing the shutdown.
“We're going to have some sick kids almost, for sure, just because of the shutdown," he said. "My question to the knuckleheads in Congress is … if you're going to represent people, you've got to have a certain level of empathy. ...You can't hold these people in need as hostages for your debate, right? Find the compromise.”
On the topic of the partial legalization of marijuana in Colorado, another issue that’s affected the relationship between Colorado and the federal government, Hickenlooper said that strict regulation is his foremost priority.
“We have a healthy tax on the ballot this fall to really make sure we can regulate it properly,” Hickenlooper said. “We don't want to make a profit. We're not going to take marijuana taxes and put it toward public education or anything like that.”
Hickenlooper, who once ran a beer pub business, said that his business faced strict scrutiny and that “marijuana should be regulated the same just like whiskey or beer.”
To hear more of what Hickenlooper had to say about the ongoing recovery efforts in Colorado, as well his thoughts on the gun control battle he’s faced in his state, check out this episode of “Top Line.”
ABC’s Tom Thornton, Charlie Finamore, and Vicki Vennell contributed to this episode.