Rep. Greg Gianforte sits down with NBC Montana

Greg Gianforte and Heidi Meili

Stakes are high for our upcoming midterm elections, so we are going Beyond the Podium with our U.S. House and Senate candidates all week.

Rep. Greg Gianforte is trying to help Republicans keep their stronghold in our traditionally red state. NBC Montana's Heidi Meili asked Gianforte about health care, mining, and wilderness study areas.

Question: Your opponent says whatever is still intact in the Affordable Care Act, she wants to stay intact.

Answer: "Obamacare has been a dismal failure. This movement toward a single-payer system has driven costs up and driven coverage down. That's why Republicans in Washington have a different plan. That's why we repealed the original mandate. We're adding more choices for coverage. We've worked to expand access to health savings accounts; not a single-payer system that will bankrupt our country. If you want to see what that looks like, look at the VA system. Veterans are suffering because they can't get enough care."

Q: Kathleen Williams also is campaigning to lower prescription drug prices.

A: "We do need to get costs down. This is an issue I have led on. I was invited to the White House when the President unveiled his plan to bring costs down. I have cosponsored legislation that gives pharmacists the option of offering generic drugs rather than the brand names that doctors prescribe. This will bring drug costs down. Obamacare did nothing for underlying costs. That's why this is so important. I am pleased with this trade deal the president is working on. It expands the use of generic drugs here in the U.S. That will also bring drug prices down."

Q: I want to move on to mining near Yellowstone National Park. U.S. Interior Secretary, Ryan Zinke, just announced a ban on mining in the Paradise Valley area, but many mining groups like Lucky Minerals say there are traditional mining districts designated there that should not be barred.

A: "I got my marching orders from the people of Montana; that we need to keep our public lands public. We need to increase access to these public lands. When a group of 400 businesses in the Paradise Valley area reached out, I introduced legislation that would protect the area for generations to come. I think the 20-year ban should be extended permanently. I will continue to work on that. This legislation is out of committee. I believe we can use natural resources and protect the environment, but not every area is right for a mine."

Q: You have been taking a stand on wilderness study areas, to the tune of about 700,000 acres. You are saying these should be open for leasing.

A; "The goal here is to increase public access to these lands. These acres have been in limbo for 40 years. They were originally studied as potential wilderness areas. It was determined 35 years ago that they are unsuitable for wilderness study areas. We haven't been able to fight fire in there. There hasn't been any snowmobile or atv access. I was asked by the state legislature and county commissioners to increase public access. It would start a public input process. Each community could decide what's the right mix of community use for each one of these areas. I t would turn them back to U.S. Forest Service and BLM inventory, so Montanans have access to their public lands."

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