In 2018, Katie Porter flipped a Republican safe seat — it had literally never been held by a Democrat– in California's 45th District, and since then, she has been a delightful, brilliant terror of a lawmaker, using her deep background in finance law (she's a tenured finance law prof at UC Irvine who literally wrote the textbook on consumer finance law in the wake of Dodd-Frank and Elizabeth Warren's establishment of the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau).
Porter's got an amazing background: she went magna cum laude at Harvard Law (Elizabeth Warren was one of her profs), and she's also a single mom of 3 and domestic abuse survivor. She's got an amazing, prosecutorial questioning style that is an absolute breath of fresh air in Congressional hearings, where the median lawmaker is barely capable of asking a coherent question.
In her short time in Congress, Porter has blazed through a series of hearings in which she systematically exposed the dire incompetence of both Trump appointees and the captains of industry they serve, pursuing them relentlessly.
For example, Porter's pursuit of JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon, a principle villain of the financial crisis, about the inability of someone working the jobs his company advertises in her district to make ends meet, which the CEO — who makes $31m/year in salary alone — is completely flummoxed by trying to figure out how his employees might possibly solve their monthly shortfall (needless to say, it does not occur to him to suggest that he give them a raise).
Then there's her work on Ben Carson, who literally thought that "REO" (real-estate owned, the term for a foreclosure that results in repossession by HUD, the agency Carson oversees) was "Oreo" and asked bewildered questions about cookies before being given several, relentless lessons on the subject, along with a wicked tongue-lashing on the subject of the disproportionately high levels of REOs from his agency, and the American lives these actions destroy.
It was a distinct pleasure to watch her destroy Steve Mnuchin, another great, guillotine-inspiring finance villain, who tries — and fails — to bullshit his way through her questioning, as she chases him from corner to corner.
It's not all dudes, either: when Porter took on Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Kathy Kraninger, she conducted a masterclass in financial literacy, demonstrating Kraninger's monumental unfitness for her job — and her malpractice in regulating the predatory lenders whose rules she was dismantling.
Porter is even teaching her colleagues to ask good questions, and even keeps a literal bingo card for evasive witness testimony.
Porter's basically the less-flashy, but even brainier and more tactically brilliant member of "the squad," who attained her historic victory even while she refused to take corporate or PAC money. Her Youtube channel is solid gold.
It's also why her videos keep going viral; her ability to demystify technical, often esoteric financial concepts is a boon to those who understand that nitty-gritty details, all the minutiae of government work, are important, but aren't sure how to connect the dots. It's not all that different from what she used to do as a professor, and as a textbook author; now, she just has a much larger audience.
When she isn't skewering witnesses before the Financial Services Committee, Porter focuses on health care and childcare legislation. As a single mother, she receives a scant $345 per month in child support from her former partner, whom she divorced in 2013. (The $5,000 limit for workers using fixed savings accounts to pay for childcare hasn't been updated since 1986.) A survivor of domestic abuse, she is intent on improving access to psychiatrists, whom she struggled to find for her family. Years later, a provision to guarantee better care found its way into her bill on mental health parity.
Porter is open about the physical and emotional toll the job takes on her and her colleagues, mentioning a day when, following a contentious few hours on the House floor, she needed to go sit in the bathroom and collect herself before a big hearing. Even as a member of Congress, she has had to swallow her anger when legislation on even the most pressing issues moves at a glacial pace. "I want to scream in frustration that we have not tackled prescription drug pricing, and you can put that in print," she said, her voice tinged with steel. But "I can't just wave a wand and bring the bill to the House floor."
The Freshman Democrat Who's Making Conservatives Squirm [Kim Kelly/New Republic]
(via Mitch Wagner)