Meet Katie Porter, the Woman Who Fought to Make Coronavirus Testing Free
Not much gets past Democratic Rep. Katie Porter — and she’s hell-bent on keeping it that way. The freshman congresswoman is known for taking financial giants like JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon to task before the House Financial Services Committee, dissecting testimony with impressive precision. Most recently, Rep. Porter made headlines for her relentless questioning of Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Director Robert Redfield. Her work led the director to commit to free coronavirus testing for all Americans (who would normally have to pay an estimated cost of $1,331 out-of-pocket without insurance).
Rep. Porter says her questioning of these public officials is her proudest achievement in office so far. “I’m not in Congress to do what is politically easy. I am here to do what is right,” says the single mom and consumer-finance expert who represents California’s 45th District. “When you have courage to push back against leaders of both parties, we can make real change to help people.”
Badass Beginnings: Rep. Porter made a name for herself in academia before ever setting foot in Congress. After growing up by modest means on a farm in Iowa, she went on to study at Yale and Harvard, where she graduated magna cum laude. Harvard is also where she first met Senator Elizabeth Warren, then a law professor. She followed in Warren’s footsteps, first becoming a law professor as well. She then went on to become a consumer-protection attorney before deciding to run for U.S. Congress and flipping the historically Republican 45th district in Orange County, California. Late last year, Warren appointed Porter as one of her 2020 presidential campaign co-chairs alongside freshman House Representatives Ayanna Pressley and Debra Haaland.
Mother Nurture: The single mom of three and survivor of domestic abuse ran on a platform of supporting working families like hers and has maintained this focus as a pillar of her work to promote bi-partisan progress. “I admire mothers who have modeled and continue to model how to balance politics and family, and who are speaking up about equality for women,” she says. The representative went on to name several politicians like Senator Tammy Duckworth, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, and Senior Advisor to President Obama Valerie Jarrett as exceptional women whom she looks up to.
Proudest Moments: Rep. Porter is here to make change, even when that means standing up to people in her own party. Aside from her work on the House Financial Services Committee, she says she is also exceptionally proud of working to change a bipartisan bill that would have made it hard for Americans to file their taxes for free. “Leaders of both parties tried to fast-track a bill that would’ve been a windfall for two huge tax preparation companies, like TurboTax, by creating obstacles to Americans filing their taxes for free,” she explains about part of a bill that was up for consideration in 2019 called the Taxpayers First Act. “I stood up to leaders of my own party and spoke out against this giveaway to special interests. After a small group of us revolted, the bill was changed. The new version of the bill was signed into law — showing that when you have courage to push back against leaders of both parties, we can make real change to help people.”
Katie's Courage: Rep. Porter is not afraid to tell it like it is. “We’d all be a lot better off if our elected officials focused less on political consequences and the wishes of special interests and more instead on doing the right thing,” she insists. “The issue in Washington is not ideological disagreement — that is a healthy part of our democracy. The real problem is people worrying more about their own reelection than about the families they represent.”
Bi-Coastal Challenges: Working between in Irvine, California, and D.C. has proved to be a significant challenge for Rep Porter. "Congress members have important work to do at the Capitol and in our districts. Being from California and going between Washington and Orange County, I have to spend 19 hours a week for a round trip," she says. "Time I’m spending on a plane is time I’m not spending working with colleagues on legislation, listening to constituents, identifying solutions for problems facing working families, or being a mom to my three kids."
Best Advice: "Work-life balance isn’t like balancing a scale — it’s balance like riding a bike: Sometimes you lean one way or the other, and other times you slow down or take a break before you keep going," Rep. Porter explain of her philosophy on the balancing act all working families face. "Too often, women feel forced to give up on family or work. And just like riding a bike, the longer one goes without practicing that skill, the harder it is to get back on," she adds. "The important thing is that you keep at it and that as a society, we give women the flexibility to keep on their journey professionally and personally."
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