Congresswoman Jayapal visits island
By Amelia Spence, Reporter, and Isabelle Spence, Editor-in-Chief
On Tuesday, October 8, chorale harmonies filled the high school’s theatre. Though this is unusual for most town halls, Vashon put their unique spin on one and welcomed federal representative Pramila Jayapal to the stage with a burst of melody.
Jayapal has been representing the seventh district of Washington on the federal level for three years. Once arriving in Washington D.C. after a long career of civil rights activism, Jayapal quickly rose through the political ranks, leading Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi to describe her as “a leader in the Democratic caucus.” Recently, Jayapal has been involved with several major pieces of legislation, working towards raising the federal minimum wage, addressing the climate crisis, and protecting immigrants.
Jayapal kicked off the evening by expressing her appreciation for Vashon’s strong community.
“You know, it’s my third time [on Vashon] since I got elected, so I make sure I come back once a year,” she said. “And for me, it’s the best part of the job when I get to talk to you, when I get to hear what you’re thinking.”
The island community interacts frequently with Jayapal and her team. This year, they have received 4,300 calls and over 110,000 emails from Vashon alone.
Jayapal appreciates this open communication.
“When I came in, I felt like one of the things I wanted to model is that I’m available,” she said. “We do that in all sorts of ways, but town halls [are] one of the great ways that we get to do that.”
The town hall’s main focus of the night was the topic of impeachment. Jayapal sits on the House Judiciary Committee, the organization within the U.S. House of Representatives that is responsible for conducting the initial impeachment inquiry. If the committee finds enough evidence to justify an impeachment, they will draft and send the articles of impeachment to the larger House.
The representatives from each state will then vote on the articles of impeachment. If a majority votes in favor, the president is then considered impeached in the House. Next, the impeachment trial is conducted in the Senate. In the case that over two thirds of the Senators vote to convict, the president would be removed from office. If this super majority is not reached, the president would be considered free on all charges and allowed to remain in office.
According to Jayapal, the process is a necessary one.
“I want to be really clear that I really do believe we’re in a constitutional crisis,” Jayapal said. “It is a grave situation. It’s not something any of us are happy about. It’s not something that any of us take lightly … We are in unprecedented water in so many ways.”
Despite the seriousness of the accusations, Jayapal believes that they are justified.
“The facts are very, very clear,” she said. “In 2016, the president actively sought Russia’s assistance, interfering in our elections. And now what you’re seeing is the same pattern is happening all over again.”
Jayapal noted the differences between the two situations. The advantage, in her eyes, to today’s happenings is that all of the information is coming to light in rapid succession.
“It is a moment where we see very clearly that the President has betrayed his values, betrayed the constitution, and betrayed our national security,” Jayapal said. “We can’t allow it to continue, so that is why we’re in the impeachment inquiry.”
The mood of the crowd at the town hall was strongly anti-President Trump. However, Jayapal was quick to point out that her personal opinions of the Commander-in-Chief do not factor into her decisions on the Judiciary Committee.
“This isn’t about whether we like the president or not,” she said. “It’s not about whether we think he’s racist or not, even though I do. It’s not about whether I think his policies are cruel, even though I do. It is about violations of the Constitution, of the highest order.”
Throughout the entire proceedings, the White House, along with President Trump, has been vocal about their dislike of the accusations. However, this was something Jayapal expected to happen.
“The White House has one mode of operating. It is stall, obfuscate, attack, repeat,” Jayapal said.
Despite the administration’s resistance, Jayapal views the inquiry as imperative.
“I don’t think our founding framers thought that there would be somebody who would do this, and that Republicans on the other side wouldn’t say anything when they see the Constitution being shredded and decimated,” she said.
If the House determines that there is enough evidence to start an impeachment, they are also charged with specifying the exact articles that the president has violated.
“To me, the things that are strongest are obstruction of justice — what’s in the Muller report, obstruction of Congress — what’s up happening now with Ukraine, which is both obstruction of justice and obstruction of Congress , [and the] Emoluments Clause,” Jayapal said.
Despite the conversation the impeachment proceedings will generate, it is unlikely that President Trump will ever actually be removed from office. In the history of the nation, no president has ever been successfully impeached. Still, Jayapal considers this an important way of standing up to the president’s actions.
“There’s other leaders that are looking at what’s happening, and autocrats and dictators and demagogues around the world are getting ideas from what this president is doing and getting validation from this president,” Jayapal said. “The road to fascism is filled with moments where people could have spoken up and didn’t, and we cannot allow this to be one of those moments.”
A large portion of those in attendance seemed scared for the upcoming months of inquiry, though many had hope for the future. During the questions portion of the evening, one community member mentioned the fear they had of the current political climate.
“My answer [to address the fear] is to take out my phone and look at the 25 pictures of the Democrats on the Judiciary Committee, the 11 women, the 11 people of color, and their backgrounds, and then I’m recharged,” he said.
The Congresswoman also encourage the younger members of the audience to make their voices heard in the light of all these political changes.
“You are our present, you are our future,” she said.
Despite all the obstacles, the Representative seemed determined to stand strong in the upcoming months.
“It’s going to be a bit of a long process …But I promise you, we are not
backing away from this fight,” Jayapal said.