While the national spotlight has been on the bitter House of Representatives battle over the impeachment of President Donald J. Trump, there are many other pressing matters keeping Loudoun’s sole congresswoman busy these days.
Jennifer Wexton (D-VA-10) has been representing Virginia’s 10th Congressional District—which encompasses all of Loudoun, Clarke and Frederick Counties and the Cities of Manassas, Manassas Park and Winchester and parts of Fairfax and Prince William Counties—since January, following five years representing Virginia’s 33rd Senate District in Richmond.
The Leesburg resident now spends four days a week in DC, working out of her office in the Longworth House Office Building. Her days are packed with meetings, votes, speeches and other formal and informal events. As a member of the House Committee on Financial Services and the House Committee on Space, Science and Technology, she said there’s a lot more to the work she’s doing than what’s seen on C-SPAN’s daily livestream of Congressional proceedings.
Loudoun Now spent the day shadowing Wexton on Dec. 11 as she neared the one-year milestone of her term.
While she frequently walked past the doors of the House Judiciary Committee meeting room where the details of the articles of impeachment were being debated—articles the committee voted two days later to send to the full House for a vote—Wexton’s day was spent voting on the House floor, participating in committee markup sessions, attending a Virginia Chamber luncheon and, among other happenings, giving a speech to her Congressional colleagues on the Elijah E. Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act—a bill the House of Representatives later that evening debated for three hours and, the next day, voted to approve and send to the Senate for consideration.
That bill gives the Department of Health and Human Services the power to negotiate maximum prices for the nation’s most expensive drugs. With those estimated $500 billion in savings, the federal government could expand Medicare benefits to include vision, dental and hearing and further invest in new medical research.
“The inability to afford necessary drugs should not be a death sentence in the United States of America,” Wexton said during her 10 a.m. speech. “This bill is a win for the American people.”
Next, Wexton trekked the football-fields-long underground corridor from the Capitol Building to the Rayburn House Office Building to participate in a markup session with the House Committee on Financial Services, where she listened in on suggestions from the committee’s 59 other Representatives on edits to financial-related bills that might one day be passed along to the full House for a vote.
At lunch, she attended the Virginia Chamber’s annual Congressional luncheon before heading back to her office to take a phone call from CNN for a story on the annual defense authorization bill—which the House passed later that day and, for the first time ever, provides all federal workers with 12 weeks of paid parental leave.
After that, it was back to the House floor for a round of votes on a handful bills and then off to Financial Services for more votes before a return trip to her office to prepare her homework for the night. As the sun began to dip below the Virginia horizon, Wexton left her desk a final time that day to head back to the House floor for a final round of votes, again passing by the House Judiciary Committee’s meeting room as news crews began setting up their camera equipment in preparation for the committee’s debate on impeachment, which stretched late into the night.
Wexton ended her day in the Capitol Building presiding as Speaker of the House pro tem for an hour during the debate on the Lower Drug Costs Now Act.
In addition to all those engagements, which began about 40 minutes past sunup and stretched until more than three hours past sundown, Wexton also found time to meet with representatives from the National Institutes of Health, the Office of Inspector General for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, the National Educators Association, the American Jewish Committee and with the Democratic Caucus.
Those types of days have been ongoing for Wexton for the past 12 months. When asked if any part of the job as a U.S. Congresswoman was more challenging than she anticipated, Wexton said she’s learned to delegate more than she did while representing Loudoun in the Virginia General Assembly; to rely more on her staffers, nearly all of whom have more experience on Capitol Hill than her; and that she can no longer get away with representing Loudouners in the shadows, since she’s now a recognizable face on the streets of the nation’s capital and in the farthest reaches of Loudoun.
“I’m no longer an anonymous person,” she said.
At the moment, Wexton is working to gain support on a bill she introduced that would direct the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network to help financial institutions identify and report suspicious or illegal financial activity related to the purchase of firearms, with the ultimate goal to help prevent mass shootings.
She’s also working to ensure that phase two of Metro’s Silver Line is built safely and built to last, and continuing to vote for the passage of appropriations bills—bills that provide funding for necessities like national defense, education, homeland security and general government operations.
“There’s a constellation of issues,” she said.
In general, Wexton said she would move into her second year in Congress by continuing to focus on learning what she can do to improve the lives of Loudouners and her 10th District constituents by “being present and hearing them.”
“Everyone wants to be heard,” she said. “When you listen, everybody may have different concerns, but there’s a bunch of things we can do to help.”