2020 Interview with Congressmember Carbajal

Interviewers: Lucille Boss, Laura Piña, Leslie Brtek
January 20, 2021

This interview took place the day after the Biden-Harris inauguration, just two weeks following the invasion of the Capitol building. Members of Congress had been encouraged to stay in their offices unless part of the certification process on January 6, 2021 in order to maintain physical distancing protocols due to COVID-19. Rep. Carbajal, his wife, and staff were in his office during the invasion and remained safe while observing the proceedings and news on office television. He assured us the FBI was investigating the failed coup attempt and extremists and white supremacists incited by the 45th President and his allies.

2020 Successes: Rep. Carbajal noted most of his bills made it out of the House of Representatives, and some such as the Small Passenger Vessel Safety Act passed both houses and were enacted; he is hopeful bills will move forward now that the Democratic party is no longer a minority in the Senate. In 2020, a focus was on COVID-19 response: continued support for resources and a pandemic plan, resources to produce and distribute a vaccine, support for unemployed/underemployed people through direct financial assistance, small business/nonprofit/cultural institutions assistance through programs such as the Paycheck Protection Program, resources to schools in order to encourage safe opening, tenant protections such as eviction moratorium and rental assistance, an increase in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, student loan relief, and childcare assistance. In addition to the points outlined throughout this article, Rep. Carbajal was especially proud of bi-partisan COVID-19 economic relief and support/co-sponsorship of civil rights, equity, justice in policing, and ERA efforts.

Diversity in staff and mentorship: Rep. Carbajal is proud to report 75% of his staff identify as female, and many also identify as BIPOC. Internship opportunities are available to college and high school students, and the interns reflect the diversity the office wants to achieve.

Feminist issues in Congress: Rep. Carbajal anticipates efforts to address feminist issues through the Violence Against Women Act, Equal Rights Amendment, childcare legislation, gender equity, and equal pay for equal work.

Key subjects based on SBWPC values and positions:

  • Anti-Racism: Last year, the murder of George Floyd brought forth federal reforms and tied federal funding incentives to reform adoption. These reforms begin to address racial disparities, provide opportunities to eliminate bad officers and help good officers through tools such as body cameras and immunities. Efforts to reduce recidivism by providing new opportunities will be part of continued criminal justice reform.
  • Childcare and Early Childhood Education: passed Childcare is Essential and Childcare Recovery legislation
  • Crimes Against Women: co-sponsored Violence Against Women Act
  • Educational Equity: Rep. Carbajal acknowledges undocumented students are suffering and need peace of mind. Efforts are being made to double Pell grants through Degrees Not Debt. In order to address food insecurity, students with work study may be eligible for SNAP benefits in the future. There is a need for permanent protections for DACA students. There must also be efforts made to offer sound protections during accusations, especially as they relate to sexual assault.
  • The Environment: Central Coast Heritage Protection Act, legislative language to limit future offshore drilling,
  • Gender Identity: co-sponsored Equality Act
  • Gun Violence: see below
  • Housing: see comments about COVID-19 protections and below in the economic inequity section
  • Immigration: see below
  • Sexual Orientation: co-sponsored Equality Act
  • Women in the Workplace: co-sponsored Equality Act
  • Criminal Justice: see below
  • Economic Inequity: Rep. Carbajal acknowledged a $15 hourly wage would start to address economic inequities and the growing wealth gap. There is a need to provide opportunities to address inequities such as additional grants and financial aid to support further education, provide homeownership opportunities and expand affordable housing opportunities.

2021 trends and how we can support him: Rep. Carbajal looks forward to a term with a majority in the Senate, House, and White House, and anticipates ongoing support for COVID-19 response. He will continue service on committees such as transportation and infrastructure, armed services, agriculture, and subcommittees such as maritime and coast guard.
Rep. Carbajal anticipates key patterns, trends, and challenges facing the upcoming Congress: substantive infrastructure, re-authorizations, climate change, comprehensive immigration reform, healthcare (affordable premiums, accessibility, reduction in prescription costs), civil rights protections (in colleges/universities, immigration reform, and reuniting families), sensible gun violence laws (for example, universal background checks and red flag/extreme risk), as well as response and prevention addressing poverty (food insecurity, quality housing, farm SNAP, $15 minimum wage nationwide).

Rep. Carbajal noted an appreciation of letters in support of his bills and knows SBWPC shares his values. He welcomes feedback about what is important to SBWPC and encourages ongoing letters in support – letters and messages help him make the case for movement when facing opposition.
He closed the meeting with encouraging words: “We need to move forward with this administration to do all the work we need to do to shed the shackles the past administration put on all the many issues that we care about and on which we need to move forward. And an agenda – a robust agenda – that will help us get back on track, to continue to work on making our country live up to the ideals of our constitution and our democracy. And as was said by the poet during the inauguration, it’s a work in progress.”

L&A intends to check in halfway through the year to follow-up regarding progress on immigration reform, criminal justice, and a few other key areas.