Rep. Salinas, other Oregon freshman US lawmakers, can’t begin work until speaker chosen
Oregonians elected three new legislators to the U.S. Congress in November. But Democrats Val Hoyle, Andrea Salinas and Republican Lori Chavez-DeRemer cannot be sworn in until the U.S. House selects its next speaker. That’s proving to be no easy task.
Congresswoman-elect Andrea Salinas represents Oregon’s 6th district. The state’s newest district covers parts of Southwest Portland and the Willamette Valley. But Salinas can’t be sworn in until House Republicans choose their next leader.
OPB’s All Things Considered Host Tiffany Camhi spoke with Salinas about what this could mean for her legislative agenda.
Tiffany Camhi: So far, California Republican Kevin McCarthy has failed to get enough votes in his bid to become speaker. What does that tell you about what it’ll be like trying to work with Republicans for the next two years?
Andrea Salinas: Well, it’s a very sad state of affairs right now. I think the Republican caucus is just in a state of chaos and confusion, which could lead to a crisis. And as I see it, they are not effective in governing if they can’t get their own caucus to unify around a speaker and get a speaker elected. There is no chance for us to really start to dive in and work for the people of this country and I’m fearful of that. So I think they’re in a state of turmoil right now. Unlike the Democrats, who truly are united and unified and really eager to get to work.
Camhi: I want to talk about that a little bit more, about working across the aisle, specifically with other Oregon elected officials. There’s Lori Chavez-DeRemer. She’s a freshman and also, like you, one of the first Latinas elected to represent Oregon. How much interaction do you expect to have with her and Representative Cliff Bentz, the other Republican in Oregon’s delegation?
Salinas: Well, I’ve known congressman Bentz for a number of years. I do expect to reach out. As well as with congresswoman elect Chavez-DeRemer; she and I have a very similar district. We’re both in moderate districts. I fully anticipate trying to work with her and she will be in the majority. So I’m eager to figure out where we have common ground and where we can actually get something done for the state.
Camhi: Republicans have so far failed to elect a new House speaker, but Democrats elected Hakeem Jeffries, who will be the first Black party leader in the House of Representatives. How did you feel about that vote?
Salinas: I felt really proud and excited. The Democrats are unified around our leader and our leadership team and we know that this team is capable of leading the nation in a way that I think the Republicans are not. It’s an exciting time and Jeffries will be an amazing leader. I think he’s actually a consensus builder. He’s what this country needs right now.
Camhi: So once you’re able to get confirmed, what are your priorities for representing Oregon’s newly created sixth congressional district this year?
Salinas: Well, as folks probably know this is a big agricultural district. We have a big portion of the northern Willamette Valley. There are specialty crops, lots of individual family farms and farm workers. The Farm Bill reauthorization will be up for renewal this year. So I intend, whether I get on the Agricultural Committee or not, to work on delivering the Farm Bill reauthorization. As well as making sure that folks have what they need to get back to work. We know that people are still coming out of COVID and people need to figure out how to find and access affordable childcare. Those will be some of the things I plan to work on.
Camhi: How does it feel for you to be in the capital for the first time as a congresswoman?
Salinas: It’s really exciting and we are all really excited to get to work, but also to start building relationships that we don’t have — whether it’s across the aisle or with our new freshman class. It’s just been a really exciting time.
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