Students joined at town hall by local Virginia representatives.
BY ERICA MUNISAR, NEWS EDITOR
On April 24, Congress Day was hosted by Students onAir at GMU. The full event can be observed through their recorded session.
Joined on Congress Day were the five figures of Rep. Gerry Connolly, Rep. Jennifer Wexton, Former Rep. Tom Davis, Virginia State Delegate Kaye Kory and Visiting Fellow at Independent Women’s Forum Karina Lipsman.
Reps. Connolly and Wexton sat together and spoke on democratic issues.
Rep. Connolly prioritized raising voter turnout and spoke of the implementation of voting on Mason’s Fairfax campus.
“I have represented George Mason University for 20 years. One of the reasons we have a voting precinct territory at Mason University came out of my office. You will hear people sell you a false hope that the problem in America is voting sanctity and making sure fraud does not occur. What is a problem in America even in a presidential election, 40% of us don’t vote. Yet, in a number of red states, we have seen voter suppression in front of our eyes.” said Rep. Connolly.
“You know, both Jennifer and I were at the Capitol on Jan. 6. I saw the mob, five feet away from the floor of the House of Representatives. That’s an image that will always stay with me in terms of what are we fighting for. There are people to this very day, who want you to believe that was just a bunch of tourists who got a little excited. They were people who had set up to overturn a free and fair election because they didn’t like the results.”
Rep. Connolly said he helped pass policies in a productive Congress.
“Both Jennifer [Wexton] and I were privileged to serve in the 117th Congress, one of the most productive congresses since Lyndon Johnson was in the White House. We passed infrastructure legislation. We passed the largest environmental bill in history with the Inflation Reduction Act. We passed the largest manufacturing and research and development bill in history with the chip manufacturing bill. We passed $5 trillion to save the economy during the worst pandemic in 100 years.”
Rep. Wexton said Republicans are trying to not raise the debt ceiling.
“Right now I serve in the Budget Committee and Appropriations Committee. Another issue is the debt ceiling. Republicans are threatening to hold it hostage if we don’t make drastic cuts to things like food nutrition programs for kids who can’t afford to eat and things like medical care for seniors.”
Rep. Wexton emphasizes the importance of medical care and her recent diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease.
“You may have seen that I have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. With the 90,000 people diagnosed every year, I feel I can actually do something about it, so it’s a new mission I have in Congress.”
Former Rep. Davis, standing for his speech, defended Republicans against raising the debt ceiling.
“We have a 1.2 to 1 debt-to-GDP ratio. What that means is somebody pays this off at some point. It’s going to be your generation either through hyperinflation, reduced benefits, or when you get older and the economy crashes.” said Davis.
“So, the Republicans want some conditions before we raise the debt ceiling. You’re going to have to either raise revenue or you’re going to have to cut spending. By the way, there are precedents for members voting against raising the debt ceiling. Joe Biden did it twice. Obama did twice when they were in Congress or both. I was happy to be at the signing of the Deficit Reduction Act.”.
Former Rep. Davis spoke to polarization and the impacts of media coverage.
“We have a saying today that people don’t tune in for information, they tune in for affirmation. It started in 1986 when the Federal Communications Commission did away with something called the Fairness Doctrine, we don’t have to show both sides anymore. If you ever watch MSNBC and FOX on the same night, they’re playing to different audiences.” said Former Rep. Davis.
The town hall opened with a Women In Politics session with Virginia State Delegate Kaye Kory and Visiting Fellow at Independent Women’s Forum Karina Lipsman.
Lipsman spoke about her successes, challenges, and background in Ukraine.
“I was born in Odessa, Ukraine, when it was still under the Soviet regime. I’ve experienced the things that come with that kind of regime like standing in bread lines, not having a voice, and not being able to do things that you otherwise would be able to do here in the United States.” said Lipsman.
“I got to see a lot of what’s going on in countries that are less fortunate than ours. I got to work with leaders across the globe on their defense strategies and how they protect their countries. There have been a number of women refugees from the slave labor camps that I met and brought to the General Assembly. The fact that I’m able to do that really makes the problems in the world personal and gives all of us an opportunity to fight against oppression of any kind.”
Lipsman said women are held to higher standards.
“I got into the male-dominated industry of finance and defense, and so I was always the only girl in the room usually. I was told that women should wear a certain type of outfit if they wanted to be taken seriously. It’s so important that we don’t look at ourselves as victims but we look at ourselves as empowered individuals who have a reason and deserve to be where we are.”
Delegate Kory spent 14 years serving the House of Delegates and shared implemented policies to help women.
“The legislation that allowed all women who are incarcerated to have menstrual products distributed to them at no cost and upon request is important, because until that legislation women were having to prove that they needed menstrual products and were also being required to pay. We were the first state ever in the country to do this, and a number of others followed suit. I’m most proud of giving access to my constituents and trying in every way to listen to them and convince them that they are part of the government.” said Delegate Kory.
Delegate Kory encourages perseverance.
“A lot of what she [Lipsman] just said is true. Women are in general scrutinized more for their appearance and presentation, and frankly, that’s always been true my entire life. I think prejudice can be used, and that is what I have done. Allowing people to be heard is crucial to any kind of change.” said Delegate Kory.
Closing off the town hall, Delegate Kory, like the other figures, wants students to remember to vote.
“And finally…vote, vote, vote. Always vote. Drag your friends, drag your neighbors, and don’t stop voting.”