Pramila Jayapal speaks at the 2017 State Democratic Crab Feed
Pramila Jayapal speaks at the 2017 State Democratic Crab Feed (Photo: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

Two evenings ago, on Wednes­day, May 2nd, Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Prami­la Jaya­pal held her six­teenth town hall event at the Seat­tle Cen­tral Pub­lic Library.

The dis­cus­sion served as a stark reminder of how much work needs to be done in Con­gress to address peo­ple’s griev­ances and soci­ety’s shortcomings.

It was also a reminder of how for­tu­nate the 7th Dis­trict is to have such an engaged and pro­gres­sive con­stituen­cy, ably rep­re­sent­ed by Con­gress­woman Prami­la Jayapal.

Jaya­pal opened the event by prais­ing the peo­ple of the 7th Dis­trict for being among the most involved in the coun­try. She says her office receives more emails and phone calls than any oth­er dis­trict in the country.

In her open­ing remarks, Jaya­pal expressed her dis­dain for the cur­rent regime: “There is deep trau­ma being done to peo­ple across our coun­try. Peo­ple who are fac­ing depor­ta­tion, peo­ple who are bare­ly scrap­ing by. The swamp has grown larg­er, and the swamp mon­sters big­ger,” Jaya­pal said.

She then laid out what she called her “propo­si­tion agen­da”, hit­ting espe­cial­ly hard on the issues of immi­gra­tion, health­care, Social Secu­ri­ty, and high­er education.

On immi­gra­tion, Jaya­pal expressed her frus­tra­tion that Con­gress is doing noth­ing pro­duc­tive. Jaya­pal stat­ed she would con­tin­ue to push for com­pre­hen­sive immi­gra­tion reform, “includ­ing a path to cit­i­zen­ship for eleven mil­lion, includ­ing fam­i­ly reuni­fi­ca­tion, includ­ing a per­ma­nent solu­tion for the 1.8 mil­lion DREAM­ers that have only known the Unit­ed States as their country.”

Health­care was anoth­er major focus of the town hall event.

Atten­dees voiced con­cern that for too many peo­ple, health­care is still not afford­able, let alone avail­able. Through­out the evening, Jaya­pal reit­er­at­ed her sup­port for sin­gle pay­er, uni­ver­sal health­care. Part of her agen­da for health­care is leg­is­la­tion that would allow states to move to a sin­gle pay­er system.

She said she will intro­duce the bill in the next cou­ple of weeks.

“If you can show that your plan is going to cov­er 95% of your state’s res­i­dents, then you would be able to expand on the pub­lic option waiv­er that’s cur­rent­ly in law [in the Patient Pro­tec­tion Act] and actu­al­ly use the fed­er­al streams that are avail­able to move towards that sin­gle pay­er sys­tem in the state”.

Rep. Jaya­pal also spoke at length about the Col­lege for All bill she intro­duced along with Sen­a­tor Bernie Sanders of Ver­mont last month.

That leg­is­la­tion aims to make four year pub­lic col­lege degrees tuition-free for fam­i­lies mak­ing up to $125,000. In addi­tion, the bill would cut stu­dent loan inter­est rates for new bor­row­ers in half and reduce the cur­rent stu­dent loan debt cur­rent­ly esti­mat­ed at 1.3 tril­lion. The Rep­re­sen­ta­tive not­ed that stu­dent loan debt now exceeds Amer­i­cans’ cred­it card debt, and argued that can­cel­ing the stu­dent loan debt would dras­ti­cal­ly boost the country’s eco­nom­ic productivity.

One of the final ques­tions Jaya­pal addressed was sim­ply phrased: “What can we do?” She asked mem­bers of the audi­ence to raise their hands if they had rel­a­tives or friends who had vot­ed with the Repub­li­can Party.

She then asked peo­ple to keep their hands raised if they had talked to these rel­a­tives or friends about their polit­i­cal views and concerns.

Sev­er­al dropped their hands.

Jaya­pal empha­sized the need to be an engaged cit­i­zen, to have dif­fi­cult con­ver­sa­tions with peo­ple of oppos­ing view­points, to write or call local lead­ers, and to attend town hall meet­ings like the one orga­nized by her office.

Were you at Wednes­day night’s town hall with Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Jaya­pal? Feel free to share your reflec­tions on the event in the com­ment thread below.

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