News for North Texas
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations

Meet one of the newest members of Congress from North Texas

JASMINE CROCKETT.png
Courtesy
U.S. Rep. Jasmine Crockett, D-Dallas

U.S. Rep. Jasmine Crockett from Dallas shares her thoughts on her first days in Congress — including her thoughts on whether Republicans and Democrats would soon reach a deal on the debt limit.

Seventy-four new members of the U.S. House of Representatives were sworn into Congress this month. That includes seven House members from Texas.

Among those new Texans in Washington is U.S. Rep. Jasmine Crockett, D-Dallas. Crockett won the race to replace longtime Dallas congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson, who retired at the end of her term after representing Texas’ 30th district for three decades.

The former state legislator sat down to speak with KERA about her first days in office — including the debt limit negotiations, which she said were at a standstill leading up to Thursday, when U.S. Secretary of State Janet Yellen said the government was resorting to "extraordinary measures" to avoid default.

"As far as I'm concerned, (House Speaker Kevin) McCarthy most likely is still trying to decide who all in his own caucus is going which way on this issue before he engages in any communications with us," she said this week.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity:

You've been on the job for less than two weeks. How do you like it compared to your previous one in the Texas House?

You know, there is the good and the bad. There's simple things that I miss out of the Texas House, like having my desk on the floor. I miss having my desk that has my heater and all those great things, things that nobody thinks about. But overall, you know, I definitely feel like I'm in a better position to help more people by being on the federal level. And that's the reason that I ran, because I do feel as if there's a lot of people that are hurting right now — not just in Texas but in this country — and that they wanted someone that they could trust who would fight for everyday working people, not the top one-percenters.

You came from the Texas legislature where Republicans more or less set the agenda. And now you're in the U.S. House where Republicans have a majority. What did you learn in the statehouse here in Texas that you think prepares you to work with your new Republican colleagues?

You know, the one area that we tend to find some common ground is around economics. Not all the time, but at least you can engage in a real conversation around economics, even when you're dealing with Republicans. We may approach it a little bit differently, but overall, you can at least engage. You know, unfortunately, we've gotten to the point — I don't even know where we are. I was going to say that we're so partisan, but I don't even think it's partisanship, it's just crazy. (Laughs) Where we can't have just reasonable conversations, right? Like where it's controversial to talk about COVID. In fact, Speaker Kevin McCarthy plans to do a COVID investigation committee or whatever, right? And it's like, dude, seriously.

But it's all about whether or not people should have gotten vaccines, even though we know that the number of people dying has decreased. We know that while hospitals are still struggling to fully recuperate, we know that the struggle that they were under is different. Like, you don't need an investigative investigatory committee to determine whether or not vaccinations and masks actually work, regardless as to whether or not you want to listen to reality. So, you know, the fact that we debate very basic things nowadays is really just not good.

You said on the night that you were elected that one of your priorities is to help people get out of poverty. Will there be a proposal facing this Congress that you feel will directly address poverty and inflation in North Texas?

I can only hope. I was able to have a talk with an organization that is working on a project that has the ability to do so much for our area, not just my district. It's a project that's in the works. This is a big project that is similar to what we see in Klyde Warren Park and so, really having those creative conversations around — what can we do to spur the economy? What can we do to spur growth? Those conversations are always ongoing.

Jasmine Crockett speaks to supporters at her election watch party following her victory over Republican James Rodgers on Tuesday Nov. 8, 2022.
Pablo Arauz Peña
/
KERA News
Jasmine Crockett speaks to supporters at her election watch party following her victory over Republican James Rodgers on Tuesday Nov. 8, 2022.

You mentioned on your election night last November that crypto was a boost to your campaign. Obviously, since then, one of the people linked to that PAC has been charged with fraud and violating campaign finance law. Would you consider returning, or have you returned that money?

You know, this is a question I've avoided, not to insult you. But I'm a criminal defense attorney. So I think that politicians move as politicians, and I'm probably more of a lawyer than I am a politician. Number one, it makes no sense that anyone would return money to somebody that's accused of stealing money. Logically speaking, why would we say, "hey, we believe this person is a criminal, give money to them"? Like, it doesn't make any sense.

I truly believe in the Constitution, all parts of it, you know, there's a presumption of innocence, that cloaks everyone. At the same time, I will say that the information that has come out has been quite alarming, and disturbing. If accepted as all true, then for me, my biggest goal would be if there is any way for me to restore victims. That is what we do in the criminal justice system, is that if someone is found guilty of something, there is restitution that is normally ordered, and we make sure that money goes back to victims. To be perfectly honest, if somebody stole my money, I don't want somebody to go donate it to somebody else. I want my money back. So we are going to follow closely everything that happens.

You were sworn in during what could be arguably one of the most tumultuous House Speaker elections in this country's history. What was going on through your mind just witnessing speaker McCarthy's election process?

You know, part of me was super gleeful. It's kind of like, "see? I told you so," right? It was the "I told you so," moment, like, "hey, America, are we watching? They can't do this job, put us back in control." That was the petty side of me. The more mature side of me was very concerned that they needed to get this figured out.

I can talk about it now, but I was very concerned from a national security standpoint. We couldn't be read in on anything if we needed to be read in on.

Our terms were supposed to start, but we hadn't, and so to me it's kind of like that time that you leave your garage door open, and you're panicked when you get home because it's been sitting there open. We were vulnerable, and we were vulnerable for very petty reasons. I agree that McCarthy shouldn't be the speaker. I could agree with those that, you know, wanted to vote against him. But at some point in time, we've got to come up with — how do we deal with this? Because it's bigger and greater than us.

Any other legislative priorities for North Texans or anything else that you wanted to mention in this interview?

Obviously reproductive rights is a huge issue for me. It's a huge issue in this country. Obviously, I'm also dealing with, you know, an interesting house makeup right now. But I do think it's important that we really throw down the gauntlet and talk about what interstate commerce is, and talk about limiting a state's power to restrict a person's movement. So if someone is in a state in which abortion is not legal, you know, those states that are now trying to get very aggressive and limit someone's movement to another state and maybe does have legal abortions, I want to basically really not even leave it up to a court case, but lay it down and say, 'hey, this is our territory. People can travel freely.'

Got a tip? Email Pablo Arauz Peña at parauzpena@kera.org

KERA News is made possible through the generosity of our members. If you find this reporting valuable, consider making a tax-deductible gift today. Thank you.

Pablo Arauz Peña is the breaking news reporter for KERA News.