Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, representing Capitol Hill’s 7th District in Washington D.C., held her first town hall since taking office Monday night, appropriately enough, at a packed Town Hall Seattle.
“Some people have called me the anti-Trump, and I’m so proud,” Jayapal said in front of a crowd that put its “AGREE” signs to frequent use.
Jayapal’s office estimated 1,000 people attended the First Hill session.
Jayapal took questions about a number of issues surrounding work she’s done during her first two months in office and her fight against the president’s agenda.
Immediately notable as the first Indian-American woman to serve in the House of Representatives, Jayapal started her career in D.C. with an early stance of opposition against the new president when she declined to attend the Trump inauguration. Jayapal joined the protest against the first Trump immigration ban with a call for the release of individuals held at Sea-Tac and joined Governor Jay Inslee in declaring Washington a hate-free state.
Jayapal’s status as a resistance leader puts her in good company replacing Rep. Jim McDermott retired after representing the 7th District for 14 terms and was considered by many as one of the most left-leaning members of Congress. She sits on two subcommittees — the Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security and the Subcommittee on Regulatory Reform, Commercial and Antitrust Law, as well as the Committee on the Budget.
Monday night, the crowd greeted Jayapal with a standing ovation and signs supporting the congresswoman, making the event feel almost like a rally, but members of the public did ask her about the next moves for the seemingly pinned-down Democratic Party and how she and her fellow party members plan to fight the administration and Republicans in Congress on a number of issues.
What an amazing turn out for our first town hall. Nearly 1,000 attendees!!! #JayapalTH
— Rep. Pramila Jayapal (@RepJayapal) March 7, 2017
— Jill S. (@outseide) March 7, 2017
— Luna Lindsey ❄️🌨☃ (@lunalindsey) March 7, 2017
“We should get profits out of health care. I think that we should have a Medicare for all system,” she said.
Jayapal said Democrats are working to find ways to “lift up” the benefits of the Affordable Care Act and discuss how it needs to be improved as they work to move toward a Medicare for all system and ensure the ACA is not repealed without a better replacement.
“And let me tell you, Republicans have no better replacement,” Jayapal said.
Republicans released their plan on Monday, and Jayapal said the bill could pass the House, but maybe not because the party is vulnerable when it comes to health care.
Some Republican Senators also came out in opposition to the plan because their constituents have benefited from the ACA.
Because younger generations are going to “pay the price” for climate change a 15-year-old asked Jayapal if any Republicans seem like they might budge on climate issues “since they also have kids and you would think that they would want a better future for them.”
With proposed cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency, and Democrats lacking a majority, Jayapal said the public needs to make some noise and find support from unlikely allies.
“Whether or not we pass legislation is not the issue. The issue is can we build a movement that is going to demand that we address climate change,” Jayapal said.
Jayapal said there may be some support to invest in renewable energy technology
She also said those in support of fighting climate change, and other issues Jayapal is fighting, need to discuss those topics with people who disagree.
One of the many things that concern Jayapal is the attacks on the independent press by the administration.
While Jayapal said she doesn’t know the answer to a constituent’s question about what could be done to hold Trump and his administration accountable, but suggested that people support sources they trust.
“This time is not normal and we cannot pretend it is so,” Jayapal said.
Jayapal said some efforts to undo items on the administration’s agenda are putting out measurable results — Betsy DeVos almost didn’t get confirmed as the Secretary of Education, Andrew Puzder withdrew as the labor secretary nominee, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions has recused himself from investigating Trump’s ties to Russia.
But it’s not enough Jayapal said. Part of the ongoing fight includes demanding an independent investigation into the administration’s connections to Russia.
“If this administration is going to go down, I think Russia and the connections to Russia are going to be a huge part of that,” Jayapal said. “…We deserve to know if this president is somehow the puppet of some other foreign government.”
Jayapal said while she doesn’t have the answers to everything, she does know that doing nothing isn’t an option.
“Our voices are making a difference.”
More town halls
Jayapal is planning four more town halls that will be held in Burien, Shoreline, Vashon Island, and Seattle.
On Saturday, House Speaker Frank Chopp, Sen. Jamie Pedersen, and Rep. Nicole Macri of the 43rd District will hold a town hall from 1-2:30 PM at the Seattle First Baptist Church.