After 28 years on Capitol Hill, longtime Seattle Congressman Jim McDermott, D-7th District, is packing up his political career.
“It's surreal. I've been in politics since 1970, 46 years, and I'm six hours away from the end,” McDermott said Monday while boxing up his office in Washington D.C.
“Packing up your office and pulling it apart is really walking down memory lane,” he said.
When asked what he’s most proud of, McDermott lists securing housing assistance for people living with HIV/AIDS, as well as healthcare reform, a longtime passion and priority of the former Navy psychiatrist.
“That's why I came here in the first place - to work on national health,” he said of the decades-long effort. “Not a perfect bill, but we got it started, and we'll see how it fares in the future.”
It's too early to know whether President-elect Donald Trump will make good on his campaign promise to repeal the Affordable Care Act. However, Trump's pick for Health and Human Services Secretary, Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., an orthopedic surgeon, has a number of Democrats in D.C. worried.
“This guy is an opponent of Obamacare; he's an opponent of Medicare. He's basically been known for being for doctors, and you can't give the fox the keys to the hen house," McDermott said, adding that replacing Obamacare will be far more difficult than critics think. “The people will stop them when they see what the plan they're putting on the table actually does.”
As Congress prepares for what could be a wild 2017, McDermott’s advice for his successor Representative-elect Pramila Jayapal can be summed up in two words.
“This is a place where persistence and patience are more important than brilliance and great thinking and a lot of other things," he said. “Patience is a virtue in this business.”
Prior to being elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1988, McDermott served in Washington State’s legislature.
Meanwhile, new members of Congress, including Jayapal, are in D.C. this week for freshman orientation week.
“It’s a lot coming at us,” Jayapal said Monday. “There’s a lot we need to get done in two months before we start the session, including, of course, figuring out the future of the country and priorities of district.”
Jayapal, a progressive who initially supported Bernie Sanders for President, says she worries about the fate of the Affordable Care Act and other policies of Obama's that could change once Trump takes office.
Democrats acknowledge a tough term ahead, facing a Republican controlled Congress and executive branches of government.
“I think we have an incredibly important role to play in making sure we really oppose all the things that are going to be bad for the people of the United States of America,” said Jayapal.
Washington's 7th congressional district includes most of Seattle, Vashon Island, Edmonds, Shoreline and parts of Burien.