Rep. Katie Porter
became a breakout star of Congress’ class of 2018 by wielding a dry-erase marker. The California congresswoman, a former law student of Elizabeth Warren
’s, has spent the past two years exposing the arrogance and incompetence of Trump lackeys and American CEOs by asking very simple questions, often involving a little back-of-the-envelope math.
On March 12th, for example, at a House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing, Porter took out her dry-erase board and sketched out the costs the average uninsured American might incur if they went to the hospital suspecting they have the coronavirus — a blood-count test, a metabolic panel, a flu test, an ER visit fee. It added up to more than $1,300, a daunting figure considering roughly half of all Americans can’t cover an unexpected $400 expense. But the CDC has the legal authority to says tests will be free for every American, and that day, Porter extracted a pledge from CDC director Robert Redfield that he would use it.
When there were reports that Louis DeJoy, a Trump donor installed as Postmaster General, was purposefully sabotaging the postal service, Porter put DeJoy to the test. He failed the math portion.
(“He stipulated to the committee, in his own words, that he doesn’t know much about postage, which is pretty disheartening to hear,” Porter recalls to Rolling Stone
.) But more importantly DeJoy made it clear that he wasn’t the one calling the shots when it came to the politicization of the post office in an election year. “He also kept saying: I didn’t make these changes, I’m not responsible for all of these slowdowns and removals of machines,” Porter says. “And when I asked him, ‘OK, you didn’t do this, who did?’ He said, ‘I don’t know.’ Which tells us not only is he apparently not qualified, he doesn’t even know who is running the show there.”
Porter’s power is derived from her ability to demonstrate just how out of touch many of the most powerful figures in Washington, and the country are, like the fact that Jamie Dimon, the longest-serving CEO of a U.S. bank (JPMorgan Chase), can’t explain how a bank teller can live on the wage JPMorgan Chase pays.
But as the only single mom in Congress, Porter has taken on the responsibility of speaking for parents everywhere who are being ground down not just by this latest disaster, but years of bad domestic policy. “I don’t think the government is even trying to meaningfully support working parents right now,” Porter, who has three kids, ages 14, 12, and 8, says. “Investing in things like childcare, bringing down the cost, increasing the quality, investing in paid family leave and flexible work policies — these are smart economic policies and we need to start pushing them that way, rather than acting like this is something we’re doing for equity reasons or for women.”
In 2018, Porter flipped an Orange County district that had been held by a Republican since 1983. Her race hasn’t been polled this year, but she’s dramatically outraised her GOP challenger, Greg Raths. This summer she had more than $7 million in the bank, compared to his $334,000. FiveThirtyEight gives her a 93 in 100 chance of holding on to her district. But even as she has her sights set on another term in Congress, some people have other ideas — her name has been floated for the director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau under a Biden administration.
Porter spoke with Rolling Stone for “The Next Wave,” a new video series spotlighting the politicians and activists shaping the future of America.