Everybody knows certain members of Congress: AOC. Mitch McConnell. Chuck Schumer (you know, Amy's cousin). But in 2021, Washington's senators and congresspeople are popping up in the center of the national stage.
Foremost is representative Pramila Jayapal, who shared a harrowing account of the January 6 Capitol riots on national news. She told The Cut about her ordeal on the gallery floor, putting on a gas mask to the sound of gunshots. Later, in a safe room with other representatives and staffers, many Republicans refused to wear masks for Covid protection. Jayapal's fears of virus exposure proved valid; she tested positive on Monday, garnering national headlines as the second representative to do so. She's since appeared on CNN, The View, and other national media.
But this is no sudden spotlight for Seattle's rep. First elected in 2016, she was arrested for protest in the Capitol herself as part of a demonstration against President Donald Trump's border policy in 2018. This year she took over as sole chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, a seat founded by Bernie Sanders, and is generally known as a kind of mentor for the social media darlings of "The Squad" (Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and crew). Given that the congresswoman introduced the current Medicare for All bill in the House, led the call for Trump's second impeachment and possible removal, and continues to pull attention to the role played by her Republican colleagues Capitol riot, Jayapal is only going to become more of a household name.
Will she be joined by senator Patty Murray? The self-proclaimed "mom in tennis shoes" has been in the Senate since the days when Night Court was still on the air. She's always been in the mix with major movers and shakers—she once shared a committee with Barack Obama, Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, and Ted Kennedy at the same time—but has mostly flown under the radar. With the Democrats taking the majority in the Senate, the third-ranking Democrat retakes the chair of the HELP committee, which oversees Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. You know, related to little issues like Medicare for all, vaccine distribution, and student debt. Murray called for not only impeachment but the removal of her Senate colleagues who incited the mob, so she too could see rising name recognition.
Even Washington's Republicans are making noise. Representative Jaime Herrera Beutler, who supported Trump in 2020 even after shying away in 2016, was among the first in her party to support the president's second impeachment. She was joined by representative Dan Newhouse, meaning Washington accounts for two of the 10 Republican votes for Wednesday's impeachment. (Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers, as staunch a Trump supporter as they come, was the odd one out of the state delegation.)
Is the Biden administration going to turn the Washington state crowd into the cool kids of the Capitol? Possibly. Our reps are certainly poised to be at the forefront of major happenings like "ending the pandemic" and "what will Trump loyalists do next?" From now on, maybe we'll even see people clarifying which Washington they're talking about in national discourse.