Congressional newbie Adams sets priorities

Congressional newbie Adams sets priorities
December 31
00:00 2014
(pictured above: Winston-Salem Industries for the Blind’s Stephanie Davis shows U.S. Rep. Alma Adams around IFB’s facility.)

U.S. Rep. Alma Adams, the newest member of the U.S. House of Representatives, recently made her first official tour of the 12th Congressional District, making stops in Charlotte, Greensboro, Concord and other cities in the vast district. Here, in Winston-Salem, she toured Industries for the Blind and Reynolds American on Wednesday, Dec. 17.

Adams said the tour will help her learn more about the businesses in the 12th and the needs of her constituents. Adams was sworn in on Nov. 12, a week after she beat Republican Vince Coakley. She was seated so quickly because the N.C. 12th Congressional seat had been vacant since December 2013, when Mel Watt left Congress to join the Obama administration. Adams said she has spent her first weeks setting up offices throughout the 12th so that residents can once again feel that they have a say in the goings-on in Washington.

“It was important for us to put priority there so people understood that they do finally have representation and that we do have a number of resources and services that we can provide,” Adams said. “It is important for people to know that there is finally somebody for them to call and an office for them to go to.”

Adams said residents’ requests and inquiries are being reviewed and will all be addressed. She campaigned on issues like improving care for senior citizens, raising the minimum wage and alleviating student debt and plans to fight for all of them. The retired Bennett College professor thinks education and job creation can work hand-in-hand.

“We have to create new jobs. A lot of the jobs in industries that we’ve had here, we’ve lost,” she said. “The community colleges are going to be the ones who will be retraining these people for the workforce.”

Known for her hats, Rep. Alma Adams tries on one of the helmets that Industries for the Blind employees make padding for.

Known for her hats, Rep. Alma Adams tries on one of the helmets that Industries for the Blind employees make padding for.

Another issue Adams has been vocal about is equal pay for women. Adams, who became the 100th woman in Congress, takes it personally.

“We shouldn’t be making less than any man doing the same job because of our gender. This is America. I tell my colleagues all the time, if you made less than I did doing the same work, we wouldn’t even be having this discussion, because you all would have fixed it,” she said.

Adams focused her first remarks on the House floor on the Affordable Care Act.

“Mr. Speaker I rise today in support of the Affordable Care Act. One year after implementing the health care exchanges, the number of uninsured in this country has decreased dramatically,” she began her remarks on Dec. 3.

Adams’ tour was held just as the second ACA open enrollment began. She said critics of the health care program can’t diminish the impact it has had thus far.

“I think if you look at the Affordable Care Act and the number of people it has served who are now receiving health care, we have to say that it has been a blessing for a lot of people,” she said. “Especially those in the 12th District that have been without health insurance or have never had an opportunity to see a doctor.”

When the other Congressional freshmen are sworn in later this month, the House will be even more Republican heavy, and the Senate will lose its Democratic majority. Adams said she doesn’t fear or dread working in a Republican-dominated Congress. She says she got plenty of practice doing just that as a member of the General Assembly the last several years. She says some issues are nonpartisan.

“There are many other things that we can work on together. Education should be important to our whole delegation,” she said. “We have to ask ‘what are the things that we know we can do for North Carolina, that we should do for North Carolina and that we should do together?’”

In making a pitch for voting, Adams referenced the Ferguson, Mo. protest. She said decision makers are either elected by the people or appointed by people who are elected. She said that when good people don’t go to the polls, bad people get elected and they, in turn, do bad things to good people.

“There’s a silver lining in every dark cloud. I think the silver lining here with all of this is that people will begin to realize that their fate is dependent on what goes into this ballot box,” she said. “If we can get people to say, ‘You know what, I’m going to be a part of making the decisions that impact the lives of my family and me.’ The way you do that is to make sure that you are engaged in this political process.”

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Chanel Davis

Chanel Davis

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