Congresswoman Katie Porter: People Making a Difference During the Coronavirus Pandemic by Ann Marie Gardinier Halstead
We find ourselves in unfamiliar and uncertain times, using terms and phrases that were unknown to most of us mere weeks ago: COVID-19, flatten the curve, social distancing. Schools are closed, parents have become homeschool teachers overnight, shoppers are stockpiling supplies and people are worried about their families and their finances.
This is a time that calls for strong leadership, for leaders who are committed to serving the American people, those who make a difference in our everyday lives and also step up in moments like these. I believe we’ve recently seen an example of just this type of leadership, someone who stepped up when Americans needed it – regardless of political affiliation. At the House hearing on the coronavirus, U.S. Congresswoman Katie Porter, armed with a whiteboard, EXPO marker and knowledge of federal law, questioned Dr. Robert Redfield, CDC director. Citing federal regulations, Porter asked him to approve free testing for the coronavirus for all Americans, regardless of insurance, and she wouldn’t take no for an answer.
A brief excerpt from Porter’s statement at the hearing: "We live in a world where 40 percent of Americans cannot even afford a $400 unexpected emergency. We live in a world where 33 percent of Americans put off medical treatment last year. We have a $1331 expense, conservatively, just for the coronavirus ... Dr. Redfield, you need to make a commitment to the American people so that they come in to get tested...”
When Redfield wouldn’t respond directly, Porter would reclaim her time and ask again. Her final question was, “Dr. Redfield, will you commit, right now, to using the authority that you have, vested in you under law, that provides in a public health emergency for testing, treatment, exam, isolation, without cost – yes or no?" The CDC director finally responded with, “I think you’re an excellent questioner, so my answer is yes.” In just five minutes of incredibly well-used time, Representative Porter guaranteed the accessibility of coronavirus testing for all Americans.
This is what leadership looks like. This is exactly what our leaders should do: represent the interests of the American people, not the top 1 percent, not the corporations, but the people who live and work and vote and raise kids in this country, the people who live paycheck to paycheck, those who are just trying to get by, and those who aren’t really getting by at all.
When President Trump’s administration announced that testing would be free, Katie Porter wasn’t even mentioned. Representative Porter isn’t complaining about the oversight; she isn’t calling attention to it. However, I believe her contribution should be acknowledged and remembered. I believe she showed us all that while the world seems to be changing all around us, effective leadership hasn’t changed at all. It still takes compassion, dedication, resolve and action. And, yes, a strong leader needs to do her homework.
When all of this is over, and I pray it’s sooner rather than later, may we remember that it wasn’t the billionaires or Wall Street or the President who made the difference during this uncertain, fearful time. It was the health-care providers, the janitors, the grocery store employees, the volunteers ... and a single mom of three, armed with an EXPO marker and empathy.
Thank you, Katie Porter, for what you’ve done for your fellow Americans, and for reminding us what true leadership looks like.
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