Salinas meets the real Washington

U.S. Rep. Andrea Salinas quickly learned the truth about Washington, D.C., in her first term representing Oregon’s newest Congressional District: her colleagues are polite, helpful and friendly. Not the rampaging body reflected in the media.

There is campaigning and then there is governing.

The Tigard Democrat hit the ground running after being sworn in on January 4. The swearing in of Andrea Salinas and the other 434 Congress members was delayed due to the 15-ballot effort to elect a Speaker.

Salinas was named to the 52-member Agriculture Committee, which has jurisdiction over federal agriculture policy and oversight of some federal agencies. The subcommittees she serves on are Commodity Markets, Digital Assets, and Rural Development, and Nutrition, Foreign Agriculture and Horticulture. In a boost for her district and Oregon, she is the ranking minority member of the forestry subcommittee.

Salinas is one of 40 members of the Science, Space, and Technology Committee.

Reauthorization of the farm bill is one of her top priorities for the 2023 session. Salinas announced her Mental Health Monday initiative in February, a weekly program that shines a spotlight on mental health. Through floor speeches, social media posts, and messages sent directly to Oregonians, She  will work to ensure that mental health remains part of the national dialogue – and a top priority for Congress.

“Mental health does not know politics at all,” she said. “Twenty-seven percent of adults suffer from mental health challenges,” she added. “And 20% of kids.” 

Oregon ranks high on mental health needs but at the  bottom of resources to address them.

Another priority for the Congresswoman this session is to make sure Oregon gets its share of federal dollars it needs, especially for Marion, Polk and Yamhill counties, all in her district. She wants to assure that small communities have the resources to apply for some of the $1 billion earmarked for clean energy programs. 

“Some federal agencies haven’t sent our requests for funds yet. Before the rules get set, smaller communities need to know how to take advantage of the programs,” said Salinas.

Preserving women’s reproductive rights is also high on the list of issues Salinas cares about. She is doubtful that legislation on the national level to secure abortion rights will pass this session. She supports proposals from some of her colleagues that would decriminalize crossing state lines to access abortion services and legalize abortion across the nation.

Rep.Salinas said she will fight the proposed Fair Tax Act, essentially a national sales tax. 

“It would be a 30% consumption tax which would hurt working families. It helps rich, wealthy millionaires.” She cited that Oregonians have rejected a state sales tax at the ballot box numerous times over the past decades. 

Staying in touch with her constituents is key to Salinas’ time in office. She is always asking what issues people in the Sixth Congressional District care about. She cited inflation, health care and houselessness at the top of constituents’ concerns.

Regardless of how party leaders want her vote on any issue, Salinas said they can recommend all they want. “Ultimately I do what’s best for the voters.”

Members of Congress work together out of necessity. Though some members of the majority are determined to hold investigative hearings on a number of issues, Salinas said those hearings won’t  help her district. “The don’t address key issues,” she said.

After a day of work Salinas goes home to a Capitol Hill townhouse she shares with several other Congress members.

Salinas served six years in the Oregon State House of Representatives and she said there is a big difference between serving as a state legislator and serving in Congress.

“The federal level moves much slower,” she said.

Though there are direct flights from National Reagan Airport in Washington to Portland, getting across the country by flight is dependent on weather. She is figuring out how to deal with jet lag. “In Oregon, my eyes open at 3 a.m.,” she lamented.