On Jan. 3, Jared Huffman was sworn in for his fourth term in Congress, and for the first time in his career in Washington, the Democrat now finds himself in the majority.
Democratic members of the House of Representatives must feel like children waking up on Christmas morning to find a tree overflowing with presents — so many options, but where to begin?
Leaders of key committees have already taken steps to begin investigating the swampiest aspects of the Trump administration, after two years of nearly no oversight in the Republican-controlled Congress. The next major hurdle will be a solution to the government shutdown, which President Donald Trump said he would claim in a dispute over funding for a wall along the southern border.
No longer a dewy-eyed freshman, Huffman, who represents Petaluma in Congress, has earned some seniority, which he can wield to help his constituents living on the North Coast, the country and the planet.
Huffman sits on the powerful Natural Resources Committee, and he is now the ranking member of the Water, Power and Oceans subcommittee. In that role, he is poised to advance legislation to combat climate change, one of his top issues. A progressive environmentalist, Huffman wants to limit fossil fuel extraction. We applaud his leadership on climate change, the most pressing problem facing the world today.
Huffman is also on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, where Democratic leadership could start a discussion about a much needed infrastructure bill. President Trump has said he would like to see a $1 trillion investment in infrastructure, and this could be one of the rare bipartisan victories that could emerge from this new era of divided government. Repairing crumbling roads, bridges, railways, ports, waterways and electric lines would certainly be a victory for the entire country.
On the local level, the committee includes oversight of navigable waterways, which includes the Petaluma River that has suffered from a lack of federal dredging funds. We hope Huffman can use his new clout to press the Army Corps of Engineers to allocate funding to dredge the river and keep it passable for commercial and recreational boat traffic.
More immediately, Huffman should work with Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the rest of the House leadership to find a way to end this government shutdown that is already impacting people in the North Bay. Active duty Coast Guard personnel at Two Rock and Bodega Bay who haven’t been furloughed are working without pay. Point Reyes National Seashore is open, but the visitor’s center and flush toilets are closed and garbage cans are overflowing.
Even closer to Petaluma, federal workers at the San Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge are furloughed as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is unfunded.
In the first vote of the new Congress, Huffman voted to pass bills that would end the shutdown, fund government departments while not providing money for Trump’s wall. The Republican-controlled Senate passed a similar bill in December, but now won’t take up the House bill until Trump signals his support. And without wall funding, that support will be hard to get.
For the past two years, Huffman has been on the vanguard of the so-called resistance movement against the Trump administration.
Now in the majority, it is Huffman and Democrats’ chance to get things done beyond blocking Trump. It is time to show that they can govern.