Rep. Jayapal packs Edmonds Senior Center

‘We have a president who likes to be the star of his own reality TV show’
By Brian Soergel | Apr 05, 2018
Photo by: Brian Soergel U.S. Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal spoke to a standing-room-only crowd of more than 150 people on Thursday, March 29, at the Edmonds Senior Center.

U.S. Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal received plenty of applause March 29 when she hosted a town hall before a standing-room-only crowd of more than 150 people at the Edmonds Senior Center.

She also drew loud boos – not for the progressive issues she championed during a 45-minute speech before a Q&A – but by ticking off the names of President Trump’s cabinet members who “lead entire departments where they don’t even believe in it”: Betsy DeVos (Education); Ben Carson (Housing and Urban Development); Scott Pruitt (Environmental Protection Agency); and Mick Mulvaney (Management and Budget).

The rest of the town hall was just as boisterous, as Jayapal touted her initiatives and denounced the Republican Party that “is not the party of family values or fiscal conservatism.” She represents Washington’s 7th District, which encompasses most of Seattle and the surrounding areas, including Edmonds, Vashon Island, Lake Forest Park, Shoreline and parts of Burien and Normandy Park.

Jayapal’s 15th town hall in 15 months since winning her seat in November 2016, following the retirement of 14-term Rep. Jim McDermott, focused largely on red-meat issues that held her audience rapt: Dreamers, gun-safety legislation and the effects of the House Republican leadership's tax plan.

Jayapal serves on the House Judiciary Committee; the subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security; and the subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet.

She is also the vice-ranking member of the House Budget Committee and the first vice-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

The congresswoman’s talking points and tongue-lashing of conservative principles should not have been a surprise to those in attendance. Jayapal, 52, has spent the last 20 years working internationally and domestically as a leading national advocate for women’s, immigrant, civil and human rights.

She is a frequent Trump critic on cable news shows, and boycotted the president’s State of the Union address in November 2016 because of what she called his “racism and hatred.”

“We have a president who likes to be the star of his own reality TV show,” she said in Edmonds. “And he likes to operate in chaos. Our job continues to be to hold up what is dear to us, to recognize the deep trauma people are feeling across the country. I hear from immigrants who don’t feel like they belong here, even though they were born here. But I’ve got news for you – unless you’re Native American, you came from somewhere else.”

Jayapal is the first Indian-American woman in the House of Representatives. She came to the United States by herself at age 16 to attend college at Georgetown University, later receiving her MBA from Northwestern University.

On health care, Jayapal said she is working with Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota on expanding Medicare for all, a single-payer health care program.

“Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, people now believe that health care is a human right,” she said. “A government-funded system is best. It takes the profits out of the health care system – not that nobody can ever make a profit at all, but no one should be one health-care crisis away from bankruptcy.”

Jayapal also is actively working to protect and expand Social Security.

“It’s a critical issue,” she said. “It’s a collective program. If I invest in you, and you invest in yourself, we are all going to take care of each other. Social Security is not an entitlement program; it is an earned benefit program.”

Jayapal also has strong views on higher education, and has introduced the College For All Act bill in the House – Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont introduced the bill in the Senate. It would eliminate tuition and fees for 80 percent of students (those from families making less than $125,000), cut student interest rates in half and allow existing borrowers to refinance their loans.

“We have $1.5 trillion in student debt,” she said. “We continue to push affordable college as something that everyone should be able to do.”

Jayapal spent a large portion of her presentation on what she called the Republicans’ “tax scam, a three-step dance.”

“First, they have transferred trillions of dollars of wealth from the working people to the top 1 percent in the country, and large corporations,” she said, adding that stock-market gains are disingenuous, as 80 percent of its gains are going to 10 percent of the people, quoting a figure from Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.

“In the ’80s, 80 percent of gains went to 70 percent of the people,” Jayapal said. “That helped to distribute wealth. But that is not what is happening now.”

The second step, she said, is the exploding deficit through tax cuts, which is $1 trillion this year. And the third step is using those deficits to expand entitlement cuts – Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

Jayapal said her constituents are paying attention to her efforts, as she’s received almost 300,000 letters, phone calls and emails during her 15 months as a congresswoman. She said she personally responds to many of them.

“It means a lot to me. If you take the time to write to me, I want to be sure I give you a response that has as much information as I have.”

She added that she has recovered more than $581,000 for more than 500 of her constituents, money that is owed them from Social Security, disability and veterans benefits, among other things. “There are all kinds of reasons people don’t always get the money they are owed,” she said.

Jayapal also spoke emotionally about meeting students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where a student gunman killed 17 students and teachers in February. She praised the students’ leadership in recent rallies supporting stricter gun legislation and their vowing to vote against politicians who receive money from the National Rifle Association.

“Young people are leading the country,” she said. “It’s a turning point, and we’ll see if it’s a tipping point. One Parkland student, a freshman, told me she watched her teacher die and had to walk through six of her classmates dead in the hallway. All they’re asking for is the right to live, to go to class and learn.”


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