Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) met up with the Capitol Hill community Wednesday morning for some intimate updates and Q&A. The session inside Broadway’s Espresso Vivace showed the representative is busy doing the best she can to block Trump-esque bills with little time to push her own agenda through Congress.
“I mean, in reality, on the floor, our game is unfortunately a lot of opposition,” Jayapal said Wednesday. “We don’t get the opportunity to put bills forward the way they should be, or even craft them. There used to be hearings where you could offer amendments and reasonable people on both sides of the aisle would support a sensible amendment. That really happens hardly at all.”
As a result, Jayapal says she puts her priorities elsewhere. She explained to the gathered group that her focus remains on constituent services, getting more people involved, changing the makeup of who is involved, and being present in communities.
Jayapal is still able to find a way to move some efforts forward.
“Sometimes you can’t get bills through when you’re a minority [party] as legislation, but sometimes you can get them through attached as a rider,” she said. “So we’re also working on that strategy.
Some of the big pieces of legislation are really to just show what we stand for and what we would do if we had the majority because, unfortunately, that’s what we need to get back.”
About two dozen people were present at the small rendezvous organized by Jayapal’s office and only softly publicized via social media because of the small venue and desire to keep the conversation more intimate than a town hall. The small group was fairly diverse, however. One man expressed thanks to Jayapal because his mother was trapped on the Caribbean island after the hurricane and said Jayapal’s office helped get his mom out.
Many of the topics people wanted to hear about centered on immigration: Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, Immigration & Customs Enforcement, Washington’s Dream Act, social media monitoring. Jayapal currently heads as vice-ranking member on the budget committee, first vice chair on the progressive caucus, and works on the judiciary committee. All of these entities deal with immigration policy.
“Immigration has always been used as a wedge issue,” Jayapal said. The current political state of immigration is one she views as destructive, distressing and heart breaking. “I don’t think the country is getting divided on this, but congress is.”
She said the House keeps passing enforcement, deportation and detention increases. DACA, however, is one topic on which she sees congress reaching agreement. Jayapal and Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) proposed the Dignity for Detained Immigrants bill, but Jayapal said with Stephen Miller now in the mix — a Trump advisor she called a white supremacist — it’s going to be rough.
As for health care, the new ACHA keeps getting blocked. Jayapal mentioned a deal to extend subsidies within the Affordable Care Act (ACA, the Obama-era program) for two more years. In order to keep this going, Jayapal argued, health care must be routinely kept at front and center. Victories cannot be excuses to slow down. She also said she’ll release a state-based health care bill shortly that allows states to allocate the federal money given. The feasibility lies in its potential to get pieces of this bill by expanding the waiver within the ACA.
Jayapal says she gets through the day by feeling this isn’t Trump’s era but the people’s era.
“You’re gonna have to look for the silver lining or else you’re going to go to bed exhausted and tired,” she said, adding that this is a time where people are forced to take the stand. “Woke is now in the dictionary.”
She feels people are realizing that if they don’t use their voices, vote and speak out, then somebody else will do it for them. She said her office fields hundreds of questions about the emoluments clause, how certain bills got to the floor, and what the impeachment rules are.
Jayapal says new tax proposals are also a concern and contends Trump’s budget essentially moves what bucks are left in the middle and working class over to the top one percent. Jayapal said previously at a town hall on health care that Republicans couldn’t keep sitting on something they couldn’t pass so they’d have to tackle taxes next. Jayapal is planning to hold a town hall on taxes later this month.
Though the number of items to keep track of seem neverending, Jayapal added that climate change is also a priority. Meanwhile, the congresswoman fights fake news. Trump attacks the press and the government when it benefits him to do so, she said. As a result, Jayapal argued, nobody knows who to trust anymore.
“We need your voices on each of these issues … helping organizations on the front lines trying do resistance,” Jayapal said. “We are dealing with a 100 things every day. We need folks who can be the translators to say ‘ok now is the time to engage.’ We need to continue to build leadership and engagement of people at every level.”
She said Republicans are banking on people getting tired. Jayapal urged the opposite Wednesday on Broadway.
She will host a Town Hall about taxes on Oct. 30 from 5:30 to 7:00 p.m. at Antioch University on the second floor.