“I was a little offended when President Trump said Congress was on vacation,” Congresswoman Diana DeGette said in a recent interview with The Denver North Star. DeGette, who represents Denver, said she wants constituents to know that congressional offices are working and available, even though most staff are working from home.
DeGette, the longest serving member of Colorado’s delegation, has represented Denver since 1997. She emphasized the multiple bills Congress passed targeted at economic recovery, with more on the way. In addition to the stimulus checks, she pointed to the Paycheck Protection Program loans for small businesses, praising the bipartisan work in Congress.
She’s frustrated with both the President and the national banks tasked with processing loans though, saying “administration of that program has been problematic,” and that a follow up bill more specifically outlines how community banks will be involved and ensures small businesses receive a larger share. She said an upcoming aid package will also have greater focus on funds for states, local municipalities, severely impacted businesses, and she noted they are also working on including specific funds to support people experiencing homelessness.
Regarding long term policy shifts that may come out of the current crisis, DeGette believes certain issues may be pushed to the forefront, including healthcare access: “A lot of us who work in the healthcare arena know that there are huge disparities. This current crisis only underscores those disparities.” She hopes that the crisis gives some motivation towards creating a universal healthcare system.
DeGette says environmental efforts are another of her key priorities. With car travel down approximately 70% nationwide and many industries shut or partially operating, major cities around the world have seen cleaner air quality and there’s been an increased conversation about environmental efforts. At the same time, Democrats in Congress have been vocal in their opposition to what they see as aggressive, anti-environmental efforts from President Trump’s administration: “I have just been appalled by the gutting of the EPA and our environmental regulations” DeGette said, noting she hopes to see some of his administration’s efforts repealed next year. “After this election I’m hoping we have a different president.”
Asked how she was handling stay-at-home orders herself, DeGette said that like many Denverites looking for masks for their families she made her own: “I got out my sewing machine that I haven’t used since I was making Halloween costumes.”
While the congresswoman said she doesn’t have a lot of time for quarantine activities, working from home has given her a little time to indulge in one of her passions: “I love to cook — I never have time to cook. Last week I made some wheat bread. Punch down the dough, take a few calls, repeat.”
Editor’s Note: The print version of this story incorrectly referred to Congresswoman DeGette as Chief Deputy Whip. She no longer has that role, but is currently the Chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee. She also co-chairs the Congressional Pro-Choice Caucus and the Congressional Diabetes Caucus. We regret the error.