U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-7th District) brought the latest in her series of “Java with Jayapal” meetings to Edmonds’ Canarino Gelato on Friday afternoon, where she spent an informal hour reporting to a group of mostly supportive constituents on a range of issues, and answering attendees’ questions.
“I’m so grateful to serve as your representative in Congress,” she began. “I know many of you are very concerned about the issues we face today, everything from global warming to health care to tax reform to fears of war with North Korea. And you’re not shy about letting me know! My office receives an average of 5000 letters from you each week, more than from any other U.S. Congressional District. You’re speaking up in greater numbers every day, and please, know that your voice matters.”
Jayapal, who was elected last November to represent the 7th Congressional District, which includes Edmonds, went on to address immigration issues, specifically the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy. DACA, which was instituted by President Barack Obama and rescinded by President Donald Trump, allowed some individuals who entered the country as minors, and had either entered or remained in the country illegally, to receive a renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation and to be eligible for a work permit.
“It was unconscionable and callous for our President to put an end to DACA,” she said. “To keep from leaving these 800,000 ‘Dreamers’ in limbo, I am working with my fellow members of Congress to pass the Dream Act that would provide a direct road to citizenship.”
On the subject of health care, Jayapal took a moment to celebrate.
Exclaiming “what a victory — one more time,” she lauded this week’s defeat of the Graham-Cassidy bill, and that the Affordable Care Act remains the law of the land. She added that Senators McCain, Murkowski and Collins should be “commended for bravery” in committing to vote against a bill that would threaten coverage for pre-existing conditions, and would even have defined “being a woman as a pre-existing condition.”
But she also issued a note of caution, reminding the audience that critical work still needs to be done on health care. One important piece is further extending Medicare to those who still don’t have it, she said.
“I’m a huge supporter of Medicare for all,” she said, eliciting a round of enthusiastic applause from the audience.
“And with (U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services) Tom Price’s resignation today, we took one more step toward accountability of government officials,” she said, to another round of applause. “Misuse of taxpayer’s money has to change; officials have to be accountable.”
(Price resigned following his controversial use of private charter aircraft for official trips. See the story from our online news partner The Seattle Times here.)
Moving on to the United States’ losing prestige on the world stage, Jayapal said that other world leaders are increasingly seeing the divisive stance of the White House as responsible for making the United States less able to provide the kind of world leadership that’s needed today.
She called the administration’s decision to take the U.S. out the Paris Climate Accords a prime contributor to this loss of prestige.
“Just looking at the recent spate of epic hurricanes and other extreme weather, it is simply irresponsible to doubt the fact of climate change,” she added. “I am proud to be one of four co-sponsors of what’s being called the 100 by 50 Act that calls for transitioning from fossil fuels to 100 percent renewable energy by 2050.”
During the question-and-answer session, Jayapal fielded several constituent inquires about why Republicans are so intent on repealing the Affordable Care Act.
“The Republicans have long promised to do this, and many still feel they are responsible to carry through with this,” she responded. “But I see this resolve weakening, a prime example being recent votes by Senator McCain and other Republicans against repealing the ACA.”
Another constituent asked about North Korea, expressing fear that we are moving closer to war.
“Many people across America oppose the idea of war with North Korea,” she said, “and waging a war without popular support is difficult. I’m also heartened that the President has surrounded himself with a number of generals such as Gen. Mattis who know what war is like and would be a potent force to keep us from stumbling in that direction.”
Other questions concerned the influence of big money on our democratic political process, and prospects for a movement to impeach the President.
“We are at a moral crossroads today,” she said in closing. “But I remain optimistic. At a time when many of our values and institutions are under attack, I strongly believe it is the people speaking up that will preserve our democracy. We are in the right time and place.”
Learn more about Rep. Jayapal at her web page, where citizens can also provide input on the various issues facing Congress and the nation.
— Story and photos by Larry Vogel