MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Newly minted U.S. Rep. Donna Shalala has been elected to a powerful House committee after being on the job for just two days.
Shalala, who will appear on CBS4’s Facing South Florida this Sunday, said she’s excited that she’s been tapped to be on the House Rules Committee.
“It’s a very powerful committee that allows me to learn all about the House of Representatives,” said Shalala.
The Rules Committee takes the lead in all issues and bills coming onto the House floor. It also has the power to add amendments to bills.
One issue that Shalala now has a chance to play a larger role in is healthcare. She said action needs to be taken to strengthen the Affordable Care Act and to find a way to make drug costs more affordable for the American people. Now as a member of the Rules Committee, Shalala expects to be involved on all of these issues.
Early Friday, the Democratic majority of the House also voted on various bills pushing an end to the government shutdown. Shalala mentioned that many of the bills that they were voting on were nothing new to members of the Senate.
“Well, you know, it really is up to the President, the majority of the Senate, the vast majority of the Senate, has already passed the bills that we passed in the House of Representatives,” said Shalala.
Shalala said she is also focused on extending temporary protected status and including Venezuelans and Nicaraguans. Shalala said she’s spoken to the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee to push the extension of TPS. She emphasized how critical TPS is to the people of South Florida and those young kids affected by the removal of DACA.
“They came here through no fault of their own. They’ve been good American citizens and we ought to give them that right to citizenship,” said Shalala.
Shalala believes that an extension of TPS would give DACA kids a path to citizenship.
Shalala also shared with us that one of the first people she talked with after her swearing-in as representative of Florida’s 27th District was her predecessor, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.
“The first call I made yesterday after I was sworn in, is to call Ileana to thank her for her service and to ask her about her shoe size because I have to fill in her shoes. Turns out we actually wear the same size shoe,” said Shalala. “But I still have big shoes to fill.”
Lehtinen had held that position since 1989. Rep. Shalala was more than grateful for Ros-Lehtinen’s service.
Shalala said that Ros-Lehtinen did support her plan to work with other politicians representing Florida; Shalala said she connected with Florida District 25, Republican Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart. She said they will be looking to work together to look for solutions to issues affecting South Florida like public transportation.
Shalala did want the people of South Florida to know that they are not forgotten through this ongoing shutdown.
“We are fighting hard for them, that the Democrats, in particular, are fighting hard for them. And frankly, we got Republican votes yesterday on those bills. There are Republicans that are anxious to reopen the government,” said Shalala.
The congresswoman highlighted how hard this shutdown has been on federal employees who are not getting paid and to the community. However, she is confident that her new role in the rules committee could be beneficial to the democratic efforts to end the shutdown. As well as, when the time comes for Congress to make decisions on issues important to the people of South Florida and the United States as a whole.