Representative Pramila Jayapal looks solemn. She is one of the top leaders of the progressive movement in Congress, and she’s poised to finally effect change in a Democrat-controlled government after a decade of the party sharing power with Republicans. But right now, she is in no mood to celebrate.
After the passage of the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package in mid-March, Jayapal was preparing to reintroduce her Medicare for All Act when, the afternoon before her announcement, a shooter killed eight people, including six women of Asian descent, near Atlanta and reignited a national conversation about racism, sexism and violence against Asian Americans. When we spoke by Zoom on March 19, Jayapal had just come from a moment of silence on the House floor for the victims. “It’s been very tough,” she says, settling into a chair in her office with a sigh. “And also not surprising.”
The situation is, in some ways, devastatingly familiar to the Congresswoman. Jayapal, 55, who was born in India and came to the U.S. to attend college at Georgetown, got her start in politics as an activist in Seattle advocating for immigrants who experienced discrimination after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. She built the largest immigrant-rights organization in Washington State, formed diverse coalitions, and sued George W. Bush’s Administration over its deportation of Somali immigrants.
She has said that experience taught her that even tragedies can be opportunities for change. But after years of agitating from the outside, Jayapal is a bona fide insider. After two years in the Washington State senate, she was elected to Congress in 2016, and she spent her first years fighting President Donald Trump at every turn. Now, as the chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, she is one of the most influential officials of the Democrats’ left flank, and she has become a primary conduit between President Joe Biden and those in his party who think he’s an overly cautious centrist. Her journey from activist to powerful legislator was aided by an approach that melds progressive beliefs with pragmatic style—a combination that has won her respect from both Democratic camps.
But legislating in a government under unified Democratic control is a more nuanced project than pushing for ambitious proposals from the outside, or even from the minority party. Jayapal’s continued influence in D.C. depends on her ability to convince her caucus that compromise and incremental gains can sometimes …read more
Source:: Time – Politics