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Watch: Democrats vying for California Senate seat debate

Democratic Reps. Barbara Lee, Katie Porter and Adam B. Schiff participated in a candidate forum on Oct. 8 in Los Angeles at the National Union of Healthcare Workers’ annual leadership conference. The forum for the three leading candidates vying to become the next senator from California is sponsored by NUHW, Courage California and Roll Call. Lisa Matthews of The Associated Press is the moderator. After the forum, NUHW members were to vote on the union’s endorsement.

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Debate transcript

SOPHIA MENDOZA: Good morning. Welcome to our 2023 Senatorial Campaign Forum. My name is Sophia Mendoza. I am secretary-treasurer of the National Union of Healthcare Workers. [Applause]. In 2017, NUHW hosted the first gubernatorial debate of the two — 2018 election cycle. And after it was over, NUHW stewards voted to endorse Gavin Newsom.

Today, we are thrilled to join with Courage California and Roll Call to host this forum, featuring the three leading candidates in the upcoming US Senate election, Congress members Barbara Lee, Katie Porter, and Adam Schiff. And we are excited for all NUHW members in California to have the opportunity this week to vote on our union’s endorsement.

Healthcare workers founded NUHW in 2009 because they wanted a different kind of union, one that empowers its members to make important decisions and fight for what they believe in. Our union is run by its members, and our members have made NUHW a leader in the fight for mental health parity and universal health care.

We the proud sponsor of SB 221, a landmark 2021 law that requires health plans to provide timely return therapy appointments. And we are a proud leader of the Healthy California Now Coalition, which sponsored SB 770, a bill that Governor Newsom signed yesterday, creating a pathway for California to become the first state to guarantee health care for all of its residents.

[Applause] Today’s forum will be held in front of 350 elected NUHW stewards, with many more of NUHW’s 17,000 members in California watching online. They include nurses and nursing assistants, medical technicians, social workers and psychologists, housekeepers and clerical workers, occupational therapists and speech language pathologist, who work from San Diego to Eureka.

NUHW members have endured the worst days of the pandemic and continue to see its impacts in the form of severe understaffing and rising rates of mental health conditions. The upcoming US Senate election will have major ramifications for everyone who provides and receives health care in our state. After today’s forum, all NUHW members in California will be able to vote electronically for their preferred candidate, and we will announce on Wednesday which candidate has received the most votes and, consequently, NUHW’s endorsement for the March primary election.

Before we get started. I want to introduce Shay Franco Clausen, of Courage California. Shay?

SHAY FRANCO CLAUSEN: Thank you. Thank you so much. Say this with me. Courage starts in California.

UNKNOWN: Courage Starts in California.

SHAY FRANCO CLAUSEN: One more time, so they can hear us out in the streets. Courage starts in California.

UNKNOWN: Courage starts in California.

SHAY FRANCO CLAUSEN: That’s right. My name is Shay Franco Clausen, and I’m proud to represent Courage California. I am their C4 board chair. And I just — I’m really honored to be here today, amongst so many of my friends. We at Courage California speak truth to power. We create tools and progressive and unifying digital communities to help California effectively and courageously engage in the democratic process.

Courage believe we must call out institutional corruption and oppression, improve coordination, and collaborative — collaborations between progressive organizations and demand that our state and local government represent both be accountable and reflective to the Californians they seek to serve. Courage starts in California.

With courage, we can build a more progressive and equitable and representative democracy. Californians understanding exactly — exactly where we stand on issues that matter most to them, that matter most to many of you in this room. And at the start of the year, Courage California asked our members what issues mattered most to them.

And believe it or not, climate and environmental justice was a top priority, at 64 percent, as well as economic justice, and social safety, post-COVID, 42 percent, health care at a whopping 41 percent, and abortion and reproductive justice at 38. As we near the 2024 elections, in the face of so many threats against our democracy — threats against abortion rights, voting rights, climate justice, economic insecurity, racial justice, it is more critical now than ever that Californians vote their values and hold elected officials accountable.

Yeah, clap for that. And accountability starts right here, right here in this room, where we will hear directly from US Representatives Barbara Lee, Katie Porter, Adam Schiff, about where they stand on issues that matter most to Californians. When we come together in 2024 to vote for our next US Senator, we will be making a courageous action for change by electing a person who will serve as the backbone of our democracy and stand at the forefront of change.

Thank you for allowing Courage to be a part of this. I’m Shay Franco Clausen, and I — and I would like to introduce, to my right, Editor in Chief of Roll Call, Jason Dick.

JASON DICK: Thank you, Shay. Well, good morning, everybody. Thank you for — thank you for coming out. I know it’s been a busy weekend for you all, and I know that there’s a lot you’re working on. So thank you for taking this time. I feel that this is very important. I’m Jason Dick, the Editor in Chief at Roll Call.

I want to thank the National Union of Health Care Workers and Courage California for being sponsors and hosts and partners in this. We are super thrilled, as — at Roll Call to be one of the media sponsors here, to be the media sponsor for this event. And why is that? Why do we — why are we coming to LA? You know, we’re, you know, just covering Capitol Hill, right?

We’re just one of those, like small little things that covers Capitol Hill. We’ve been doing this since 1955. We — we’ve covered Congress, and we want our readers to know what goes on at every stage of the political and policy process. And so, that’s why we want to be here. This is the kind of thing that we want to be involved in. This is the kind of thing that we want to — to be able to interact with members of Congress and see what their positions are.

Like a lot of like of — like a lot of journalists, I’m a fan of The Wire, the series. And there’s a great line that that one of my favorite characters on the show, Lester Freeman, has in it, early on, which is, all the pieces matter. And that’s the case here. All — all these forums matter, all these candidates matter, all their policy positions matter.

All their voters matter, all the things that they — the way that they interact with people, the way that they talk to voters and the way that they talk to unions and the way that they talk to the press, it all matters. And so we want to be a part of that. And so that’s why we’re so happy to be here and so happy to be a part of this forum.

With that, I’d like to introduce our moderator, Lisa Mathews, for the forum. Lisa is a 20 year plus Associated Press veteran. She is now the Deputy News Editor and the Planning Editor for US News. So she’s just slightly busy these days. She’s also won, not one but two Edward R. Murrow awards, one for her coverage of the 9/11 attacks in 2002, and then one for video in 2010 about the effects of the — of the Great Recession.

She is also a past President, the 114th President, of the National Press Club, a proud member. And I couldn’t be more thrilled than to throw to Lisa for the forum.

LISA MATTHEWS: Thank you so much, Jason. Welcome, everyone, to the 2023 NUHW Candidate Forum. This event is brought to you by the National Union of Health Care Workers Roll Call, the news outlet that’s been covering Capitol Hill since 1955, and the grassroots advocacy organization, Courage California. As Jason said, I will be moderating this discussion and asking questions, on behalf of the Associated Press.

Working alongside me, for approximately the next 90 minutes, will be a panel of esteemed journalists, all three of them experienced at covering state and national issues, including health care, California politics, the US Congress, as well as labor issues. They’ll be asking the key questions. So let’s begin by welcoming them to the stage.

First, Melanie Mason who covers California politics for Politico. Next, we have Ben Oreskes, who has been reporting on this Senate race for the Los Angeles Times. And completing the panel, we have Sandhya Raman, who covers health care and congressional issues for Roll Call. And I just want to say, what a fantastic audience you are.

Let’s thank these journalists for agreeing to partake in this civic enterprise. Yes. OK. So now we’re going to get down to business, folks. Let me give you a few details about the program we’re all about to engage in. As moderator, I’m here to preserve the integrity of this forum. More simply, it’s my job to ensure that the questions asked of each candidate, by our panel, or by myself, actually get heard and get answered.

I want to stress that this is not a debate. It is a forum. Questions answered by the candidates should be addressed to the questioner and not directed at each other. The audience gathered here today in the room, and those viewing online, want answers. We have limited time. I’m going to be a human guardrail to ensure that we don’t get sidetracked by tangents, personal attacks, or long speeches.

This is not the House floor. OK? OK. During this forum, we will go through 12 rounds of questions. Our panelists will take turns, directing a single question to each candidate, who then will be asked to answer with a one minute or less response. After each of the three questions, if the three candidates answered the question, the journalists on the panel are guaranteed one follow up question per round.

Our timekeeper will make sure no one exceeds the allotted time. A bell that sounds like this, will let candidates know that they are out of time and must yield the floor. When it’s my turn to ask questions, using the moderator’s prerogative, I may or may not direct the same question to each candidate. Some questions being asked were submitted by NUHW members.

So are you ready? Alrighty. In the interest of fairness, we’re going to use alphabetical order to introduce each of our candidates, later, the order for opening and closing statements, and the order questions has been determined by representatives for the candidates drawing straws before the program. Here we go. Please, welcome to the stage, the top announced candidates in the 2024 US Senate race.

Barbara Lee, Katie Porter, and Adam Schiff. Alrighty. It’s going to get this party started. We’re going to hear opening statements from the candidates, with each speaking for one minute. We begin with Ms. Porter.

KATIE PORTER: Good morning NUHW. I am so thrilled to be here and to have an opportunity to personally thank you for the work that you have been doing for our communities. And I don’t just mean when you’re on the clock caring for patients. I’m also talking about your policy work, your political activism, your commitment to saying not good enough.

When employers cheat your patients, you deserve a partner at the federal level who, just like you, is never afraid to take on the corporate bosses and win. My entire career has been about holding big corporations and cheaters accountable. I’m a single mom who ran for Congress a few years ago, to stand up to greedy corporations who are rigging the rules against us and our families.

I have never taken a dime of corporate PAC money, and I refuse lobbyist money. That’s the kind of Senator you’ll have with me, one who will always fight for you.

LISA MATTHEWS: Alrighty. Thank you, Ms. Porter. Next up, Adam Schiff.

ADAM SCHIFF: Hello, my friends and labor, how are you tonight? It is such a pleasure to be with you, and I’m also proud to be joined by my wife, Eve. Yes, we are Adam and Eve. I’m running for the US Senate, because we need an effective leader who can get things done and deliver for California, and that is exactly what I’ve done in the House.

We need someone who can take on the biggest fights and can succeed. I’ve taken on corporate Presidents and I’ve taken on US Presidents. I’ve taken on special interests and I’ve taken on Supreme Court justices. As a young prosecutor, I fought against big oil companies and big contractors. And I won. I fought against Russian spies and drug lords.

And I won. As a state senator, I wrote the California Patient Bill of Rights, and we got that done. And I was proud to be the 21st vote for nursing staff ratios. And now that we have them, and we’ve had them for a long time, we damn well need to enforce them.

LISA MATTHEWS: Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Schiff. Barbara Lee.

BARBARA LEE: Well, good morning. Let me say, first of all, that it is an honor to represent the 17,000 strong NUHW members in my hometown. You are my hometown union. So I’m proud to represent you. And I know you know your values are my values. I’m not running to represent the rich and the powerful, but to represent you, the people, to create good paying union jobs for, yes, and I introduced the very first single payer bill in the legislature.

Medicare for all and to end corporate greed that fuels our health care system. Now like many Californians, I know what it’s like to live one paycheck to paycheck. I raised two little boys as a single mom on public assistance and food stamps. Here in our golden state of 40 million people, 20 million — 20 million, are one paycheck away from poverty.

LISA MATTHEWS: Thank you Ms. — Ms. Lee. Thank you. OK, it’s off to a wonderful start. We’re going to move on to the first round of questions from the panel of journalists. Remember, each candidate gets one minute to answer, controlled by the clock and the bell, and the option for a short follow up. Melanie Mason of Politico, you get the first crack.

MELANIE MASON: Thanks, Lisa. Recent changes in California law are meant to address one of the most difficult questions, when it comes to mental health policy, how to provide behavioral health care to vulnerable people, who are resistant to seeking treatment. Proponents, including Governor Newsom, have said that these reforms are a humane solution to people who need critical care.

But civil liberties groups, however, say these laws infringe on individual rights. So I’d like to get your views on these recent developments. And this is a question for all three of you. Do you believe that policies, such as care courts, which is the program where family members can petition a judge for a treatment plan to individuals with untreated schizophrenia, or related — related illnesses, or efforts to expand criteria for conservatorship are the right approaches?

Should they be replicated on the federal level? And let’s start with Congresswoman Porter.

KATIE PORTER: Thank you. We all know that we are facing a mental health crisis in this country. You see it in your patients. We see it in our workforce, in our families, in our schools. And the first and most important solution that we can deliver is holding big insurance companies and big health care companies accountable, to actually let you do the work of healing people before they get to the point where they need that kind of care.

I believe it is appropriate for families and loved ones and mental health — health care workers to have the ability to go to a court. But I want to see the strongest civil rights protections possible. We cannot forget the legacy of oppression and civil rights violations that caused us to end this approach of forced treatment in the first place.

So I think it’s important that we have options for people who are watching a loved one struggle, for health care workers who are unable to heal, because of a patient who’s too sick to get themselves care. But this cannot cross the line, ever, into incarceration.

MELANIE MASON: Congressman Schiff, same question to you.

ADAM SCHIFF: I’m carrying legislation in Congress called the Path Act that would provide more federal resources to help those with mental illness, to help those with substance abuse. I think that we need to really surge resources to try to address this problem. There’s a balance here. People have a right to be safe in their homes, safe in their parks, safe in their neighborhoods.

At the same time, people have a right to shelter, people have a right to live in a safe environment. And I think we ought to allow the care court experiment to play out before we agree, on a national level, to replicate it. We have to strike the right balance between making sure that we can get people treatment that may be a danger to themselves or to others, but also protect civil liberties.

And I think the governor was right to start this experiment. We have to see what works. And one thing that the federal government I think can do, is it can develop metrics, and it can help us evaluate, this is working and this is not working, because people are generous. They want to help those who are homeless.

At the same time, they want to make sure that their tax dollars are being used appropriately and effectively.

MELANIE MASON: Thank you. And now Congresswoman Lee.

BARBARA LEE: Thank you. You know I — my background is psychology and mental health. I have my MSW. I actually started a community mental health center. And so I understand what it means to be, first of all, possibly a danger to oneself and to others. The — used to be 5150. However, it is extremely important that, again, as a mental health professional, that the family be engaged, early on, in helping to identify mental stress and what is taking place with an individual.

It’s important, yes, with the care core [ph], to not move too quickly, because people with mental health crises, they need crisis intervention, for the most part. They don’t — they may not need long term care. The family is — in the neighborhoods and the community is critical in supporting people who are going through these — these emergency crises.

And so it’s so important that we, first of all, yes, rule out incarceration, but be there for the families and those individuals.

LISA MATTHEWS: Thank you, Ms. Lee. Melanie, would you like to ask a follow up to any one of the candidates?

MELANIE MASON: I’d actually like a yes or no answer from — from all three of you. And we can go down the line, starting with Congresswoman Lee. This March, you will appear on the ballot, alongside a $6.38 billion bond to build up build up to 10,000 treatment beds, or supportive housing units for people struggling with mental health or addiction.

Should California voters approve this bond? Yes or no?

BARBARA LEE: Yes, there’s a —




LISA MATTHEWS: All righty, then. Moving on. Next up, we have Ben Oreskes from the Los Angeles Times. It’s your turn.

BEN ORESKES: Thank you, Lisa. This is the same question for all three of you. We’re going to talk about the minimum wage. California’s minimum wage is currently at $15.50, and will rise to $16 next year. The three of you have all co-sponsored legislation — legislation, introduced by Representative Bobby Scott, that would raise the federal minimum wage, which is currently set at $7.25, to $17, by 2028. Given the high cost of living, is that in your mind, sufficient?

Please give me a specific number for what you’d like to see the federal minimum wage at. And then, also what the state minimum wage should be. We’re going to start with Representative Schiff.

ADAM SCHIFF: Well, it’s not sufficient in most parts of the country. And I’d like to see it even higher. And in California, I was out on the picket lines with SEIU 99. These were nurses and nurses aides and bus drivers and cafeteria workers. They were being paid $25,000 a year. Now I — we wonder why people are homeless.

You pay them $25,000 a year and they’re going to be homeless. We have to provide people a livable wage, not just a minimum wage, but a livable wage, so that they can provide for themselves and can have a roof over their head. When I was a kid, my father was a traveling salesman, he was in the clothing business.

He made $18,000 a year. And on the strength of that $18,000 income, my parents bought our first home for $18,000. I want people to be able to afford good, safe housing. And we’re not going to get it at a minimum wage. What we need is, really, a livable wage that will vary from place to place. So states should have flexibility, but there ought to be a minimum.

And for health care workers, I support more than $25 as a minimum wage.

LISA MATTHEWS: Thank you, Mr. Schiff.

BEN ORESKES: Representative Lee?

BARBARA LEE: $17 to $20 should be the floor, per hour. That’s unacceptable anywhere in the United States of America, especially here in California. Not just raising the minimum wage, we have to get to a living wage. And you know what? Here, even $25 an hour is bare minimum. We have to — if we’re going to only stop at $25, $30 an hour, then we have to have the federal government make sure that they are resources for affordable housing, making sure that we expand the Section 8 program, make sure we have deposit assistance for those who can’t afford the $10,000, $12,000 in deposits for rent.

The federal government has a responsibility to enhance the quality of life for people who can barely make it, working two and three jobs, commuting two and three hours a day, not enough money for childcare. So the federal government, I believe, is — is the — is a government that has to provide for people who can’t make it in this country and in this state.

BEN ORESKES: Representative Porter.

KATIE PORTER: Let’s start with the hard facts. Corporate profits are the highest they have been in 70 years. Why? Because we have a Washington that is consistently putting the interests of big corporations ahead of the interests of workers and families. That’s why we haven’t even passed this minimum wage bill, despite both Democrats and Republicans having their turn at being in charge in Washington.

We need to make sure that we are resetting the rules in Washington. So I support that minimum wage bill, but I want to absolutely tie it to inflation. We can’t keep trying to backfill $0.50, $1, $2 a time on the picket line for your families. What Washington has failed to do, which is to reset our economy and make sure the workers who create the value are getting paid what they deserve.

LISA MATTHEWS: Ben, would you like to ask a follow up?

BEN ORESKES: I loved Melanie’s yes or no question. I just really want to quickly, with both of — with the three of you, just a number — federal minimum wage, what would you put it at? Representative Lee, and then we’ll go down the line.

BARBARA LEE: $50 an hour.

ADAM SCHIFF: I’d like to see a $25 minimum wage.

KATIE PORTER: I think we should have $20 at the federal level and $25 in California, indexed to inflation automatically increasing.

LISA MATTHEWS: All righty. Sandhya Raman of Roll Call, the floor is yours.

SANDHYA RAMAN: Nationally, health workforce shortages across sectors are expected to accelerate over the next decade. We’re also in the midst of a growing mental health and addiction crisis. What would be your first priority, as Senator, to broaden the pipeline of mental health and substance use care workers? And let’s start with Congresswoman Porter.

LISA MATTHEWS: Congresswoman Porter.

KATIE PORTER: Oh, I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I was — I was listening for Barbara. This is an easy one, though. So I’m glad I’m taking a late start — pay them more. That’s the fundamental problem. We need to pay them more and we need to empower them to heal. Not to treat them like they’re — they’re dealing with corporate widgets, but to allow them to treat their patients as human beings, to allow them to heal and to actually help people recover.

So we don’t have a lack of interest in mental health care jobs among our young people. They understand better than even — so many of us what the crisis is in this country. We have a lack of people wanting to do these jobs, because they do not want to work for corporate bosses who are going to abuse them, who are going to take advantage of them, who are going to skirt the law, and are going to find their own mental health at risk, while they’re trying to provide mental health care to others.

So the short story is, we will have the mental health care workforce that we need when we start treating mental health care workers with the respect and pay that they deserve.

SANDHYA RAMAN: Congressman Schiff?

ADAM SCHIFF: Well, first of all, we have to make sure that young people that want to go into this profession can afford to get a higher education. So we need to forgive student debt and we need to make sure that other students don’t become indebted in the future. Second, we need to make sure that we have the workforce to train another generation of people to provide mental health care services.

And I’ve introduced legislation to raise salaries for — for health care educators, to increase the pipeline of educators so that we can bring more people into the profession. And then we have to pay people well enough to do this vitally important work. Look. I — we have all had personal experiences with our family members being in hospitals, being in rehabs.

My father is 95. We are in and out of the hospital in the rehab all the time. I see the incredible work you do. He’s a difficult patient, I got to tell you. You need to be paid, and we need to have the staffing. That means we need to have the money and the training and the system to make that possible.

SANDHYA RAMAN: Congresswoman Lee?

BARBARA LEE: You know, I chaired the social work caucus in the United States House of Representatives. And part of what we have been working on, through my leadership with my legislation to increase the number of mental health workers, is to allow for Medicare and Medicaid to reimburse mental health workers. Secondly, we have to understand that you don’t have to be a psychiatrist or a psychologist to be a competent mental health worker.

We can have mental health workers who, first of all, are trained again, having the resources to train people who want to go into mental health. We need to have certificated programs and community colleges for mental health workers. And we need to be able to make sure that we pay them what they so deserve.

And that is not just a minimum wage, but a living wage. When I started my community mental health center, we had a category of workers called paraprofessionals. These were individuals who were trusted messengers in the community. They were trained on how to address emergencies and crisis and mental health.

And right now, we can do that, if we expand the number of people and —


BARBARA LEE: — the backgrounds who will be qualified to do this.

LISA MATTHEWS: Would you like a follow-up, Sandhya?

SANDHYA RAMAN: My follow up is for Congressman Schiff. So public health experts are very worried right now, about the increased use of an animal drug called tranq, or Xylazine, in driving drug overdose deaths, especially in conjunction with fentanyl. As senator, would you support efforts to schedule Xylazine as a controlled substance?

LISA MATTHEWS: Not a nonprofit, but I serve the public. Also, I am considered low income according to recent data. I claimed bankruptcy twice and my loan was not forgiven. It continued to accrue interest. And at the current amount, I will never be able to pay off this loan and I will not be able to retire. What can be done for me and others in my situation?

Congresswoman Lee?

BARBARA LEE: Well, first, I think the student loan debt should be allowed under bankruptcy law, and that is essential. [Applause] In — in the past it was. [Applause] Secondly, if you’re a public servant, you’re a public servant. And if you’re providing public service to the public, you should be able to be eligible to cancel, not forgive or reduce, but cancel student loan debt.

Thirdly, the Biden-Harris administration, they’re trying every which way, given the Supreme Court decision, to make sure that, through executive orders the broadest amount and the largest amount of student loan debt can be forgiven. There are some categories we’re still trying to figure out. But I think you have seen the recent decisions by the Biden administration.

Where there’s a will, there’s a way. And I for one believe that, first of all, tuition should be free, especially here in California for [Applause] students, certainly for —


BARBARA LEE: Community college.

LISA MATTHEWS: You’ve reached your time.

BARBARA LEE: And certainly, all student debt should be forgiven.

LISA MATTHEWS: You’ve reached your time. Thank you so much. Congressman Schiff?

ADAM SCHIFF: Christina, first of all, this question is deeply personal to me. I had to borrow at 9, 12, and 14 percent interest to pay for my education. And for about ten years after I graduated from law school, my loan payments were higher than my rent. Now, I went into the law and I could afford to pay it back, but so many people doing the work that you all are doing can’t afford to pay it back.

And I don’t want your career choices or my kids’ career choices to be dictated by student debt. So, I strongly support President Biden’s effort to forgive student debt. But more importantly, I don’t want students becoming indebted to begin with. You shouldn’t have to mortgage your future to go to college.

And so, we need to make sure, as Barbara said, that community college is free. But we also need to make sure that we crack down on these scam for-profit companies that are ripping people off. And even some of the large, reputable, private universities are using their endowments to pay down tuition costs instead of building new buildings.

LISA MATTHEWS: Thank you. Congresswoman Porter?

KATIE PORTER: I don’t believe in tolls to cross public roads and bridges, and I don’t believe in tuition for public colleges and universities. [Applause] Education is an investment. It is an investment that we all make in each other, that we make in our workforce, that we make in the ability of our economy to compete globally.

And we have to start treating it that way, because when we treat it as an individual person’s burden, we disproportionately harm brown, black, and low income communities, and we fail to address the systemic racism that has plagued our country for way too long. [Applause] Nobody, nobody should have to go through bankruptcy because they tried to get an education, because they tried to become a successful worker for our future.

I’m an expert in bankruptcy law. I’ve been writing about it for decades. But that can’t be the answer that we give our workers and our young people, to go to bankruptcy if they simply made the mistake of trying to get an education.

LISA MATTHEWS: Thank you. [Applause] OK. I get the feeling Christina heard all three of you loud and clear. The next question comes from NUHW member Stephanie Coleman [Ph]. She has a question about government shutdown. Imagine that. The recent threat of government shutdown has been upsetting. Even more upsetting is the knowledge that Congress would continue to receive a paycheck.

Would you support or be willing to put forth a change in rules that Congress pay is connected to them passing government funding? And I’ll begin again with Congresswoman Lee.

BARBARA LEE: First, thank — thank goodness Democrats prevented the government from shutting down. Just — just remember that. [Applause] Secondly, I think that Congress should be required to, as everyone else should be in government, to make sure that we follow the rules and that, if those rules are the same for government workers who are — who are on furloughs, then we should follow the same rules as government workers.

And so, if there is a need to change the rules, I would certainly support changing the rules.

LISA MATTHEWS: Congressman Schiff?

ADAM SCHIFF: I wrote to the — the House of Representatives to ask them to withhold my pay until everyone else got paid. I don’t think members of Congress should be paid while federal employees and others are going without a paycheck. And I stayed — [Applause] I stayed at my post in Washington to vote to keep the government open.

And the only reason we came so close to shutting down is we had an incompetent speaker of the House of Representatives and we had a right wing faction that wanted to bring us over the cliff. And let’s face it. Now the speaker’s chair is vacant. It was pretty vacant even when Kevin McCarthy was sitting in it [Laughter]. [Applause] But we — we can’t let a rebel faction in the House cripple the government.

We can’t default on our debt. I voted to maintain the deal that the president struck to prevent going over the cliff. We need a functional Congress, which means that Democrats and Republicans need to be able to bring bills to the floor that had broad bipartisan support, like keeping the government open. And I’m determined to help fix what’s —



LISA MATTHEWS: Thank you, Mr. Schiff. [Applause] Congresswoman Porter?

KATIE PORTER: We need a better structure for how we pay federal workers, period, so that this dysfunction with the government shutdown again and again doesn’t put federal workers at food banks. Sure, add Congress members to the list. But does one more kid going hungry, does my kid going to bed with an empty stomach ease the pain of everybody else’s? We have a Congress made up of rich people, of privileged people, and that’s why they’re so quick to ask for their paycheck to be withheld.

I’m like each of you. I buy groceries on that paycheck. I pay my mortgage on that paycheck. And I’m proud to be a member of Congress who lives on my paycheck, paycheck to paycheck like most Americans. Look, we need to stop the nonsense and not have any federal workers, not TSA workers, not military, not our VA workers, nobody should go without pay.

That’s the rule that we should be changing.

LISA MATTHEWS: Thank you. [Applause] So, since you all have mentioned, at least Mr. Schiff mentioned, the House speaker vacancy, and we know that Republicans will be meeting next week on Tuesday to select a potential new House speaker, and so far we’ve heard from Jim Jordan and Mr. Scalise, I am wondering if each of you has a particular Republican in mind who you would prefer to replace Kevin McCarthy, [Laughter] and if you would share the name of that individual with us. And since, Mr. Schiff, you opened the door to that, [Laughter] could you please share with us who you might prefer to be in that position?

ADAM SCHIFF: Well, it certainly wouldn’t be Donald Trump [Laughter] or Jim Jordan or any of these crazy people who are leading the Republican Party right now. Look, there are people who I think, though very conservative and whose ideology is very different than mine, would — would actually keep their word if you made a deal with them, that are people of conviction.

You know, sadly, two of — of the best examples were Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger, neither of whom search — serve any longer in the House, but you actually don’t have to serve in the House to be speaker. But if there were a serving member that I thought, and there are some that I think would be appropriate, I think my endorsement would probably not help them.

[Laughter] But here’s the thing. Hakeem Jeffries has offered to work together in a bipartisan fashion to make sure that we have leadership that can govern, that can do the business — the business of the people. I got into this work to solve problems. That’s what I’m committed to, delivering results. And Congress needs —


ADAM SCHIFF: To be able to do that.

LISA MATTHEWS: Thank you, Mr. Schiff. [Applause] Congresswoman Porter, do you have a favorite?

KATIE PORTER: I do not have a favorite, [Laughter] but I do want to respond to the question. When we say there are Republicans of principle on the other side, I think we have to be clear about what those principles are. There is no Republican who will support the right to every American to make their own choice about whether to have an abortion, no Republican.

For me, that makes all of these candidates patently unacceptable. [Applause]

LISA MATTHEWS: Thank you. [Applause] Congresswoman Lee, do you have a favorite?

BARBARA LEE: Absolutely no. I do not. [Laughter] First of all, this is a civil war between the Republicans. Secondly, I haven’t found any right now who can govern. They are following the direction of Donald Trump. And thirdly, the only person who I think could bring some civility back and move the country forward, at least the House forward in a bipartisan way, would be Hakeem Jeffries.

So, I would ask the Republicans, like five or six of them, do they really believe in a functioning House of Representatives. And if they do and if they want to work in a bipartisan fashion to put people before politics, then they should support Hakeem Jeffries for speaker. [Applause]

LISA MATTHEWS: All right. [Applause] Thank you so much. We have one more question from NUHW member Julie Walters. [Ph] Julie asks, as workers in this country fight for their rights to unionize, do you have any plans to introduce legislation that will support these workers’ rights and enforce legal consequences on the illegal actions by employers to interfere and unduly intimidate their workers during this process?

And I’ll give that question to Mr. Schiff.

ADAM SCHIFF: Yes, I’m proud to be an original co-sponsor of the PRO Act. This to me is, I think, the most important pro-labor legislation in generations. Look, the big part of the problem that we have in our country today is not that people are working. The problem today is that people are working and they’re just not making enough to get by. And I think it’s the product of decades of special interests and powerful corporations marginalizing labor, making it harder to organize, making it harder to get a contract and, when you have a contract, making it enforceable.

The NLRB is broken. It has no enforcement capability because they’ve been stripping the resources away from it. The PRO Act would change that. But here’s something even more foundational. We need to abolish the filibuster. I’m going to go to the Senate and fight to end the filibuster. And the first thing we ought to do is pass voting rights, because that is foundational.

But we could also pass the PRO Act and put people back to work in good, high paying union jobs.

LISA MATTHEWS: Thank you, Mr. Schiff [Applause] Ms. Porter?

KATIE PORTER: All of us are original sponsors of the PRO Act because Democrats in the House are united on this point. The problem has been in the Senate. So, it is absolutely time to shake up the Senate, to elect people who have never taken corporate PAC money, who have never cashed checks by those who will lobby on the other side against the PRO Act. That’s me. My whole career has been about standing up to the Wall Street banks, to Big Pharma.

Whether I have a whiteboard or not, you know I’m going to stand with workers. And I’m not just a pro-labor vote. I am there day in, day out. I am there in between the unionization effort and the picket line. I’m there to see the — the little offenses, the snubs, the hardships, the way that they make your life more difficult.

We’ve seen it with staffing ratios. We’ve seen it with mental health patient appointments. We need oversight, and it needs to come from the federal Congress and from the Senate most powerfully. [Applause]

LISA MATTHEWS: Thank you. Congresswoman Lee?

BARBARA LEE: Sure. Like — like my colleagues, I was an original co-sponsor of the PRO Act. First, we must make sure that we make it very difficult for any more states to pass right to work laws. That’s the first thing we must do. [Applause] Secondly, yes, I would take on the filibuster in a big way. We need to end that policy, which was established to discriminate against black people.

Any policy that is discriminatory, that was founded for that reason, needs to go, period. Thirdly, it’s the union movement that built the middle class in this country, and it’s the union movement that’s going to rebuild the middle class in America. And so, Donald Trump — and I’m on the Appropriations Committee, and — and you know how Donald Trump tried to decimate the NLRB. And so, we now have to fund — fully fund the NLRB to hold these corporations accountable.

That is extremely important right now, [Applause] and I intend to do that in the Senate. Finally, let me just say I’m working with Senator Sanders on my —

LISA MATTHEWS: Your time —

BARBARA LEE: Excessive CEO pay act. And we’ll talk about that a little later. [Applause]

LISA MATTHEWS: Thank you so much. All righty. We’ve now heard from everyone on the panel. Melanie, you’re up again.

MELANIE MASON: Thank you, Lisa. To stick with the labor theme, hot labor summer has extended well into the fall, but some legislative priorities for labor in Sacramento have come up short. So, I’d like to ask all of you the following question. Do you agree with Governor Newsom’s decision to veto a bill that would let striking workers access unemployment insurance?

Why or why not? Let’s start with Congresswoman Lee.

BARBARA LEE: Well, I believe that the union movement this summer has shown that California’s leading the way to unionize not only California but the country. So, I just want to salute our labor union movement for what [Applause] has taken place and continues taking place. All of us have been on picket lines all over the place in solidarity with our working men and women.

Secondly, well, union members, people who work day and night to keep this state going, pay into the unemployment compensation fund. They deserve their unemployment compensation when they are not working and when they are striking. [Applause] And so, I disagreed with that decision. I think that striking workers should be — should be paid what they paid in, just like Social Security.

You paid into a fund, you deserve the fund regardless of what you’re doing. And striking workers, of all people, deserve to be able to apply for their unemployment compensation. So, I disagree with that decision to veto the bill.

MELANIE MASON: Thank you. [Applause] Congressman Schiff?

ADAM SCHIFF: I not only disagree with the governor’s decision, but I’ve been working with the AFL-CIO to introduce federal legislation to require unemployment compensation for striking workers. [Applause] The — the corporate executives who are sitting on the other side during a strike, they’re getting paid during a strike.

Striking workers need to get paid. They’re trying to provide for their families. And again, I think the only way that we can counter decades of concentration of corporate power and wealth is by making it easier to collectively bargain, by making it easier to get a contract and to enforce it. And that means that families that are living hand-to-mouth, that are struggling to pay their bills, provide health care for their kids, they — when they go and strike for better work and better wages for their — themselves and others, they need to have unemployment compensation because they’re striking for all workers.

And as the workplace continues to change with AI and automation, we need to make sure that working people are protected. [Applause]

MELANIE MASON: Congresswoman Porter?

KATIE PORTER: Striking workers are exercising their legal rights, and nobody should go hungry for simply trying to use their legal rights to better themselves and better our entire country’s economy. Governor Newsom was wrong here. He did not stand with those who are creating California’s strong economy. We need to make sure that workers are able to go on strike and that we have protections and assistance for workers who have voted to unionize but don’t yet have a contract.

[Applause] That is the new special interest corporate playbook, which is never getting to a contract in the first place. We’re seeing that play out right now across the country with Starbucks and others. We need labor law that gets ahead of these problems, that is modernized, that knows what corporations are trying to do and cuts them off before they can get there.


LISA MATTHEWS: Would you like to do a follow up, Melanie?

MELANIE MASON: No, Lisa, I’ll hand it back.

LISA MATTHEWS: OK. Fantastic. Let’s move on. Ben, it’s your turn.

BENJAMIN ORESKES: Thank you, Lisa. We’re going to go back to homelessness. It’s estimated that one third of the nation’s unsheltered homeless population lives in California. Governor — Governor Newsom, and in fact many other elected officials who are Democrats in this state, have criticized recently federal judges for rulings that have overturned a set of local ordinances that barred homeless people from sleeping in certain public areas when there was no shelter available.

These officials say the rulings make it harder for cities to clear encampments in public spaces. Newsom and others say they want the US Supreme Court to take up this case, and he’s blasted judges for going too far. Do you agree with this criticism leveled by certain politicians, that federal judges have unfairly tied the hands of local officials?

Oh, Representative Porter?

KATIE PORTER: We don’t just have a homelessness problem, though, Ben. We have a housing affordability crisis. [Applause] We have the most people who are unsheltered and homeless because California, decade after decade, has not gotten its fair share of resources for housing. And we need a Senator who’s going to elevate our biggest challenge, which is housing affordability, to the top of Washington DC’s priority list.

I got my start in housing. With regard to the homelessness issue, we saw this play out in Orange County, and I think we saw the right playbook from Judge Carter. You cannot simply say that people must — can be — remain on the street and remain at risk of sickness, of crime, of hardship. But the solution here isn’t to tie the city’s hands.

It’s to force the city to take action, to build shelters, to invest in permanent supportive housing. So, that is the solution you have to have. Judges can’t just make a ruling and walk away from the problem. If they want to get involved here, they need to deliver the solutions too. [Applause]

BENJAMIN ORESKES: Representative Lee?

BARBARA LEE: Yeah. First, housing should be a basic human right in this country and in this state, first of all. So, you — we start from there. Secondly, I think we have to look at cities and how we have addressed the affordable housing and the unsheltered population. And I think look at — and I — and I have to just say, we’re right here in Los Angeles, and I think Mayor Bass has — has stepped up and shown us a — a pathway into helping those who are living on the streets.

We have to have, first of all, supportive services, housing, shelter, and make sure that people don’t have to stay on the street no more than a week or two, if in fact that long. Secondly, we have to prevent evictions. We have to make sure that we provide — I mentioned the Deposit Act that I’m working on right now.

Here in California to rent an apartment or a house, it’s what, $10,000, $12,000. Why can’t the federal government provide the deposits in a revolving fund to make sure that people are able to — to move into a safe place to live? So, much of this has to do with the affordability and the cost of living crisis here.

LISA MATTHEWS: Thank you so much. [Applause] Thank you so much.

BENJAMIN ORESKES: Representative Schiff?

ADAM SCHIFF: First of all, I think we have a supply problem. There is simply not enough affordable housing. In many cities, it takes four years to build housing. We’re never going to solve this problem if it takes four years to build affordable housing. I have legislation that would create tax incentive to create more affordable housing, and cities need to take action to end the bureaucratic red tape so that we can not take so long to get people housed.

I also think that mayors and council members and others that are trying to make sure that people can conduct their businesses safely, that parks can be opened for people to use, that they should pursue those efforts but only, only when they’ve made adequate provision for shelter for people. We should never be criminalizing people who are homeless, but I think it is fair to say that, if there’s shelter available, that you cannot sleep somewhere else when the mayor is offering you shelter.

I think it is a reasonable compromise. But obviously, there’s a balance to be struck here. We have to make sure, in the first instance, we increase the supply of housing. [Applause]

LISA MATTHEWS: Ben, would you like to do a follow up?

BENJAMIN ORESKES: Two points of context. The city of LA and the city of San Francisco are cities that have — have asked the Supreme Court to take up this case as well. But fully understanding that homelessness is incredibly complicated, could you each give me one federal policy that you’d like to see change to address the crisis?

Representative Lee, you go first.

BARBARA LEE: We need to develop more housing trust funds, such as I have developed with Senator Sanders over the years, to create more affordable housing through trust funds, which reduce the cost of rentals and provide for additional rentals, as well as those who decide they one day have the dream of home ownership, they could afford to buy a home.

BENJAMIN ORESKES: Representative Schiff?

ADAM SCHIFF: I’m supporting Maxine Waters’ legislation that would make a vast new investment, multi, multibillion dollar investment, hundreds of billions, in creating affordable housing. Look, I’m proud that we passed the bipartisan infrastructure bill, but the most important infrastructure to me is human infrastructure.

We need to make sure that people can access affordable housing, which means we need to provide tax incentives, we need to provide the resources. The number of Section 8 and VASH vouchers is absurdly small. I have legislation that would create — create tax incentives to provide — sell your property to a public housing agency or a nonprofit rather than a private developer or a rich foreign investor.

We need to incentivize the creation of more affordable housing. At the end of the day, if we don’t dramatically increase the supply of affordable housing, there is never going to be enough money to address homelessness. We need to raise incomes and we need to raise the supply of affordable housing.

BENJAMIN ORESKES: Representative Porter?

KATIE PORTER: The last time the federal government made a really big investment in private market housing and expanding opportunity for new families to be able to become homeowners was the GI Bill. Decade after decade in the ’80s, the ’90s, the 2000s, the 2010s, Washington failed to invest in housing. So, I would make a big investment both in terms of dollars and in terms of imagination.

And I’m going to be specific. I would fully fund Section 8 vouchers. We don’t say to people who need Medicaid in California, oh, all 10 of you need Medi-Cal? Only one of you gets it. But that’s what we do with Section 8. I would quadruple the low income housing tax credit, our best and most effective program to build the kind of housing.

It’s not enough to say we need to increase supply, because for too long that has been code for lining Wall Street’s pockets for — for building unaffordable coastal condominiums. We need to stop running our housing policy to benefit Wall Street. And I’ll give you one example. Well, you’re going to have to wait.


BENJAMIN ORESKES: Thank you for respecting the rules. [Applause]

LISA MATTHEWS: Thank you. OK, Sandhya, you’re at bat.

SANDHYA RAMAN: Thank you. I’d like to talk about universal coverage. So, just yesterday, Governor Newsom signed SB 770, which is — [Applause] into law, which would kickstart the process for securing a single payer health system for California. All three of you have articulated your support for Medicare for all as a way to get us to federal universal health care coverage.

Is a state based approach the right move over a federal one? And would you support a federal path to universal health care that supersedes California’s efforts? And let’s start with Congressman Schiff.

ADAM SCHIFF: I wouldn’t — first of all, I’m a proud original co-sponsor of Medicare for all. I wouldn’t supersede California’s efforts because, frankly, it may — it will likely take the federal government a lot longer than the states. And I think it is valuable to have the states be forward laboratories with single payer, which I strongly support.

But I also think we need to make progress on Medicare for all. I think we should bring down the age so that more people can participate in Medicare. I want everyone to be able to participate in Medicare. It is enormously efficient. We have to make sure that it is also well resourced. But — but this goes back a long time for me. During the debate over the Affordable Care Act, which I fought for, I fought for a public option.

Now, we didn’t get that, but we — if we had got that, we would have had a federal single payer model for years and years. But we need to pass Medicare for all. And as we fight to make that happen, we need to support efforts like in California to advance single payer. [Applause]

SANDHYA RAMAN: Congresswoman Porter?

KATIE PORTER: We need Medicare for all for two reasons. It is the best quality health care and it is the lowest price to deliver it. It’s that simple. That’s how I ran in a competitive Republican held district, on Medicare for all, and never looked back, winning election after election, because I’m able to make the case that — for Medicare for all that is absolutely true, the case that NUHW makes, which is that Medicare for all, a system that puts health care and patients ahead of profits, is the only kind of health care system this country should ever have.

I do not support [Applause] a public option or an incremental approach. I support Medicare for all, period. And I am disappointed that, when I got to Congress and we had the gavel as Democrats and we had the ability to pass Medicare for all and put it on the floor for a vote, we didn’t do it. That’s what I mean when I say Washington is rigged to work for special interests and not for us. [Applause]

SANDHYA RAMAN: Congresswoman Lee?

BARBARA LEE: Sure. Well, the United States is the only country — the only industrialized country without a universal health care system. As I mentioned earlier, in the early ’90s when I was in the California legislature, I actually introduced the first single payer bill. And that started the debate and started the — the organizing around single payer.

And I want to thank you all for helping us get to this point. Yes, I supported a public option when I was one of the negotiators around the Affordable Care Act. But you know what? In that Affordable Care Act, we had a provision that would allow states to ask for a waiver to enact a single payer. So, I am very pleased that the governor has signed this into law.

California, once again, is leading. Finally, let me just say that Medicare for all is extremely important. We have to move forward and — and rev this up in terms of the fight for Medicare for all. And — and I’m a member of the Medicare for All Caucus in the House, and I want the Senate to set up a Medicare for All Caucus as a sister caucus —


BARBARA LEE: In the United States Senate.

LISA MATTHEWS: Thank you. [Applause] Sandhya, would you like a follow up?

SANDHYA RAMAN: Yes. So, my follow up is for Congresswoman Porter. The Republican tax cuts from 2017, they expire next year. And would you support a tax increase on — on Californians to — to help pay for a single payer plan?

KATIE PORTER: We don’t need a tax increase to afford a single payer plan, [Applause] because you save money with single payer. Let me check the Yes, I would. And I supported this recently in the Judiciary Committee. We’re doing so, on a temporary basis, so that we can evaluate the impacts of — of adding that to the schedule.

This, though, is a crisis of the highest magnitude. Young people are dying every day. Like so many parents, my wife and I reached out to our children, one of whom is in college, one of which is in college, to urge them not to take anything that could possibly be laced with one of these substances.

ADAM SCHIFF: I don’t want to be one of those thousands and thousands of parents getting that call that their children — their child has died. And I think we have to do everything humanly possible to end this scourge. We have to get federal, state and local authorities working together to combat this. I’m a former federal prosecutor.

I’ve seen how effective we can be when federal, state and local authorities get together to interdict these drugs that are killing people, and work together to protect our communities. And that’s my commitment.

LISA MATTHEWS: All righty. Thank you. It was a fantastic round. I will note, though, that we did go out of order. So, because this is the people’s forum and I’m the moderator, and I have the prerogative to pretty much do what I want to do, I’m going to begin with a few questions from the people. and I’m going to give the priority to Congresswoman Lee to answer first.

So the first question comes to — comes from NUHW member Christina Rodriguez [ph]. OK? Christina has a question about student loan debt. So this is a three part question, in a way. So hang with me. Are we still trying to reduce student loan debt? There were a lot of loans that were forgiven, due to the servicer, but it only applied to East Coast loans, from what she understands.

Also, loans were forgiven for public service. My hospital is not —

SHAY FRANCO CLAUSEN: Fits of Kaiser, enough money, let me check the profits of Providence and not — and Saint Joseph. And these organizations where you’re working. There is enough money because single-payer, make no mistake and don’t believe the BS, single-payer saves health care dollars. And if the folks in Sacramento or the folks in Washington are telling you that we can’t afford single-payer without a tax increase, they’re blowing smoke.

LISA MATTHEWS: All righty. Thank you all so, wow, OK. So it’s my turn again. Californians average gas price neared $6 earlier this week and you know that’s well above the national average that’s below about $4 per gallon. The state’s housing prices have soared and inflation is hitting people’s pocketbooks. So what’s your pitch for Californians struggling to afford everyday expenses?

And I’ll begin with Congresswoman Lee.

BARBARA LEE: First my pitches, I see you, I hear you. And yes, we have a crisis of affordability and we have a crisis just as it relates to working men and women being able to take care of their families. Secondly, we have to make — and so, as elected officials, we have to make sure we let you know that we know the pain that is taking place here.

But the federal government has, I think, a duty and responsibility when states and when the country is in the economic stress that we’re in. And yes, we’re doing much better. We’re creating more good-paying union jobs through all of the initiatives and laws that we passed. The Inflation Reduction Act, the Infrastructure Bill, the CHIPS Act, you name it, but those take time.

And so it’s up to the federal government to provide what some of us call a safety net. We have to make sure that no one is living on the streets during this crisis. We have to make sure that public transportation is available. If we need to provide vouchers, we have to make sure childcare is available for those who don’t have funds for childcare, the federal government needs.

LISA MATTHEWS: Thank you so much, Congressman. Thank you. OK, moving on, another question for all of you. This time you’ve all called for term limits for Supreme Court justices and, as you know, there’s been a national discussion around the age of elected leaders. Do you want to see term limits imposed on Congress? And I’ll begin with Congresswoman Porter.

KATIE PORTER: This is a conversation that we need to not be afraid to have. The American people have told us again and again that they want diverse leadership. They want an America that looks like them. They want an America who has had the experiences that Americans have had everything from folks who were able to go to college for zero tuition back when California schools were free and those of us who went to school and paid and had six figures of debt to do it. When we say diverse leadership that includes multigenerational leadership.

That means having the voices of experience from the past, but also having the voices of people who are experiencing things in the present. I joke sometimes, but it’s really not funny. If Congress had a slogan, it would be solving yesterday’s problems tomorrow, maybe. We are not going to get the forward leadership that we need without having a real debate about multigenerational leadership.

I have not made up my mind about that, but you can count on me to be willing to have the discussion.

LISA MATTHEWS: Thank you so much. Congressman Schiff.

ADAM SCHIFF: I don’t support term limits for members of Congress, but what I do support, which I think would frankly be far more effective, is I support doing away with the gerrymander, creating more competitive districts. So when people get elected, they’re not elected= for life. I do think the Supreme Court is different because we can’t hold them accountable with an election.

Now I’m one of the main authors along with Hank Johnson of the legislation to expand the Supreme Court and put term limits on the court because the — the life tenure of the Supreme Court justices has led to their arrogance, their attitude with which they tell the public, when they — when they self-deal, when they take lavish trips and they have donors pay for their kids’ education or their nephews is, it’s none of your goddamn business.

That’s the kind of arrogant attitude that comes when there’s no accountability. We need to end the gerrymander. We need to end dark money. I’m carrying the amendment that would overturn Citizens United. This is the way to fix what’s broken in Congress.

LISA MATTHEWS: Thank you. Mr. Schiff. Congresswoman Lee.

BARBARA LEE: I believe the fundamental to our democracy is the right for people to vote for who they want to vote and when that person is not doing his or her job, then you don’t vote for them anymore. So term limits for elected officials, no, because that takes away your right to vote regardless, I mean you have Marjorie Taylor Greene.

Yeah, we don’t agree with Marjorie Taylor Greene. If her constituents want her voted in, then that’s the way democracy works. But for appointed officials who have lifetime appointments, no way. There should be term limits for Supreme Court judges, term limits. I think we should expand the Supreme Court. Lawyers are talking about how many we should expand the Supreme Court to, but the country’s changed.

The Constitution doesn’t require a limited amount of Supreme Court justices, so why not expand and I support the legislation to do that. But I think we absolutely must have term limits for appointed officials such as Supreme Court justices and I’ve called for Clarence Thomas to resign, corporate corruption is rampant.

LISA MATTHEWS: Thank you so much. OK. I’m going to keep this train moving, Melanie.

MELANIE MASON: Thank you. All three of you have condemned Hamas’s attack on Israel, but I’d like to talk a little bit more about your stances on the long-standing conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. So let’s start with Congressman Schiff. First of all, all three of you on stage identify as progressives, but you are also aligned with traditional pro-Israel advocacy, advocacy groups like AIPAC, which has clashed with at times with the left wing of the Democratic Party.

So when it comes to Israel-Palestine policy, are you out of step with other progressives?

ADAM SCHIFF: I’m proud to have the support of both members of AIPAC as well as members of J Street. And I think it’s because I have a record of working together to get things done. And in this case to make sure that we speak out when we disagree with policies, whether it’s a move away from democracy or settlements, but also that we recognize the relationship between the US and Israel is a relationship based on our own national security and shared values and interests.

Right now, Israel is being brutally attacked. It is the victim of terrorist attacks and the only segment I want to express right now when Israel is going through its own 9/11 is unequivocal, support for the security and the right of Israel to defend itself. There may be Americans whose lives have also been lost.

I talked to a friend of mine who’s whose niece was killed. Her niece’s husband was killed. One of their children was killed. This is the tragedy that they’re dealing with right now. And the only message I have for Israel right now is I stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the Israeli people.

LISA MATTHEWS: Congresswoman Porter, the same question to you.

KATIE PORTER: I stand with Israel in this time, and I condemn the loss of lives both of Palestinians and of Israelis who are being victims of this terror. There are lost lives in Gaza. There are lost lives in Israel and it is because the United States has allowed terrorism to flourish and has refused to take a strong enough stand against Iran who is backing Hamas and Hezbollah.

I believe in a two-state solution. I believe that there needs to be the ability for every person who calls Israel home to have the ability to live there with rights and the ability to flourish. When Israel is taking actions, if Israel takes actions that violate human rights laws that violate our laws, there is no exception for human rights.

It is important to remember as we stand with Israel, as we stand against terror as we mourn that we learn the lessons of our own 9/11, which gave rise to hateful Muslim phobia and civil rights violations.

MELANIE MASON: Congresswoman Lee, your position on Israel has been slightly slightly distinct from — from those of your two colleagues and you have supported legislation that would place restrictions on US aid to Israel. Given the scope of the attack we’ve seen over the weekend, do you still believe American support for Israel should have limitations placed on it?

BARBARA LEE: Well, first, let me just say a couple of things. I have always stood for Israel not having to deal with terrorist attacks and have condemned over and over and over again, terrorist attacks against Israel, just as I have called for a cease-fire and for — First — also, just prayers for those who have been killed, both Israelis and Palestinians at this point.

I’m a woman of faith and so I do believe in praying during times such as these. Secondly, I think it’s important also to understand that right now in this current crisis, our country has a responsibility, I believe to call for a ceasefire and to call for the whole world to come together to try to stop the escalation of what is taking place in The Middle East.

And peace is possible if we can bring all parties together to talk.

MELANIE MASON: Thank you. I do have a follow-up question. This is for Congresswoman Porter. Unlike your two colleagues on stage, you are relatively newer to the — to the House. This has been part of your — your pitch is sort of fresh vision coming to the Senate. But given the complexity of a crisis like this, you, yourself have said you’re inexperienced relatively in these fields.

Is — would that be a detraction for your candidacy in the Senate that you are more inexperienced on these issues than the two colleagues that you’re running with?

KATIE PORTER: Absolutely not. I have done the work and always do the work. I was a professor, so I take doing your homework pretty seriously. I have traveled to Israel and when I traveled there I made sure to look both at what’s going on in some of the most contested and difficult parts of the West Bank like in Hebron as well as to visit Jerusalem, to visit Tel Aviv, to understand the amazing strength and the multiracial multi-religious democracy, that is Israel.

So I am committed to continuing to learn. I don’t think we should want a Senator who thinks they know it all. I think we should want Senators who are always willing to learn from what’s going on around the world and here in California and I’m that person.

LISA MATTHEWS: Thank you. Thank you so much. Ben, you’re up again.

BEN ORESKES: You all might have heard that California has a new senator. Laphonza Butler was appointed this week or last week. And with that in mind, Governor Newsom has had the opportunity to appoint a state Attorney General, a SECRETARY of State, and a US Senator prior to Butler to fulfill unexpired portions of other people’s terms.

ADAM SCHIFF: And all of these instances, the person in question was a Democrat who in their next election cleared the field of formidable, formidable candidates and won against nominal opposition. Now with Butler’s appointment, do you believe that her running for a full term would undermine the democratic will of the California electorate?

BEN ORESKES: Do you believe she should run for a full term given that history and we will start with Representative Porter?

KATIE PORTER: That is Senator Butler’s decision to make. I think competitive elections are good for democracy. I’ll go further. They are the heart of democracy, so I would welcome — I am glad to be running with my wonderful colleagues in this race and I think this race has galvanized and energized California to have important conversations about whether we’re getting what we need from Washington about whether our Senators know what our biggest challenges are here, housing, childcare, mental health, homelessness.

Are those at the top of Washington’s plate? So I think it’s important that we embrace this competitive election. I know what it takes to win and to turn out voters and to persuade voters including those who don’t always believe in our democracy who don’t always turn out. So I’m committed to staying in this election and continuing to drive victory up and down the ballot in every part and pocket of California.

BEN ORESKES: Representative Lee?

BARBARA LEE: Well, first, I will say again that I congratulated Senator Butler, I wished her well and I’m going to continue with my campaign with the endorsement of many, many of our state officials, with many state assembly members, state Senators. I’m very proud to have the endorsement of our revolution of working family parties.

We’re putting together our grassroots campaign, we’re raising money. We’ve got Gen-Z for change. I mean, this is a multi-generational, multiracial progressive coalition that we have put together to win this race and democracy allows for whomever decides to run to run. This has been a great campaign. It is a good campaign and it’s a fun campaign.

And it’s a challenging campaign because we have a chance to meet with all of you to get your ideas for you to ask us what we believe in, what we intend to do in the United States Senate. And I intend to represent those who have not been seen those 20 million who are living on the edge in California and I intend to be their voice and your voice in the United States Senate.

BEN ORESKES: Representative Schiff?

ADAM SCHIFF: You know, I met Senator Butler many years ago and my experience is with her have all been positive. I congratulated her. I was proud to go to her swearing-in and to offer to work with her. Whether she runs or doesn’t run, she is going to be the Senator for at least a year. We need to work together to get things done.

The problems of California are too urgent not to, so I’m committed to working with her. I’m also committed to running and winning this seat. Voters should have a choice. You should have a choice and you will have a choice and we’re building the largest grassroots campaign I believe for Senate in California history.

We’re not taking corporate PAC contributions. Last quarter alone, we had 102,000 people contribute to our campaign, an average of $32. People can find out more at There’s the plug. But here’s the thing. We’re all progressives, but who can make progress? Who’s got the track record of getting things done?

It’s my track record of delivering for working people that has earned me the endorsement of six statewide labor organizations and Speaker, Nancy Pelosi.

LISA MATTHEWS: Thank you. Mr. Schiff. Ben, would you like to do–

BEN ORESKES: –Yeah, I want to do a quick follow-up about a little bit of Butler’s history. She was a consultant, she worked for Uber, she worked to prevent their drivers from being classified as employees. Do you believe that prior experience is disqualifying in a state like California? We’ll start with Representative Lee.

BARBARA LEE: I think it’s important that all of our records be laid out before the voters if in fact, we don’t know whether Senator Butler has made a decision to run or not, but I think all of us are up for scrutiny and that’s what democracy is all about. I believe that my agenda and what I’m putting forth as again, I don’t take corporate PAC money either.

I don’t take defense money. I’ve been fighting to reduce the defense budget, the Pentagon budget. So we’d have more investments in health care and mental health and housing. I think my agenda as a progressive, who has been able to get the job done as an appropriator, legislator, negotiator over the years will speak for itself.

And if it doesn’t, I intend to tell the voters of California who I am and why I want to be in the Senate to represent all of the issues as it relates to climate, affordable housing, public safety. The Senate needs a progressive voice to represent the state of California and I think all of us are going to bring forth who we are, what we intend to do and let the voters decide.

BEN ORESKES: Representative Schiff?

ADAM SCHIFF: You know, if she decides to run, I think all of her record as all of our records should be considered. But let me say this about the underlying issue. I gave a speech a couple of years ago to a group of college students and I got into an Uber on the way to the airport. And the Uber driver was so excited.

I was in her Uber lest I think it was because I was a member of Congress. It was very clear, very soon, she had no idea who I was. What she said to me was I live near the airport and I can make some extra money taking you to the airport. I just got off work and I can make some extra money. And I said It’s really interesting, you should say it that way because really you just got off one work and now you’re starting another work.

And although I was too polite to ask, I wondered what she did in her day job. And I thought If your day job is like your night job, it probably doesn’t provide health care, it has no retirement and eventually you’re going to be screwed. And this is the changing nature of work that policymakers have not addressed.

And with AI, it’s going to be even more severe. I’m going to the Senate to fight for working people and make sure they all earn a good income, have a secure retirement, and good health care.

BEN ORESKES: Representative Porter.

KATIE PORTER: Senator Butler is now serving and will have the opportunity to show Californians where she stands on this issue and so many others. I too look forward to partnering with her. She has a history as a labor champion with SEIU and I think it’s important that we expect her to listen to all of her better angels on labor.

And that is really up to Californians, that is up to organizations like NUHW, that is part of the goal of having forums like this and being in conversation with candidates. So I am excited to see how Senator Butler leads on creating good high-paying union jobs for California, that should be the price of admission for representing us in the Senate, whether you’re doing it temporarily or on a permanent basis.

BEN ORESKES: Thank you.

LISA MATTHEWS: All righty. Sandhya, you’re back up.

SANDHYA RAMAN: Something on everyone’s minds is the cost, the high cost of health care. Last year Democrats, they banded together, they passed the Inflation Reduction Act, which allows Medicare to negotiate the price of some but not all drugs. And now of course we have a split Congress. So I’m going to ask each of you, did the law go far enough on drug pricing?

And since we have a split congress, what realistically bipartisan action would you prioritize as a Senator to reduce the high cost of drugs? Let’s start with Congresswoman Lee.

BARBARA LEE: We’ve made significant progress, especially through the Inflation Reduction Act and making sure that Medicare recipients don’t pay more than $35 a month for their prescription drugs. That’s an insulin and many, many people, especially people of color have diabetes. And so having a $35 minimum or ceiling, excuse me, makes a lot of sense.

But you know what, That’s only for Medicare recipients. We need to expand that so that everyone is covered with that $35 ceiling. No one should have to pay who has diabetes any more than $35 for insulin, not only Medicare, so I would — Medicare recipients. So what I would do is try to make sure that we increase the — the numbers of people who are eligible for that.

Secondly, we — I think we didn’t go far enough in terms of how many drugs we need to cover. We need to expand the number of medications that would be eligible for the government to negotiate reduction price reductions.

SANDHYA RAMAN: Congressman Schiff?

ADAM SCHIFF: I’m very proud of what we did in the Inflation Reduction Act, but it did not go far enough, and let’s face it, we need Medicare for all. That’s what we should be doing. But within what we did, we need to make sure that the government can negotiate over all drug prices to bring those costs down. And I think there’s room for bipartisan work today as there has been in the past to allow for the re-importation of prescription medications.

There’s no reason why the United States should be subsidizing the rest of the world. We should be able to re-import medicine. People shouldn’t have to go up to Canada to get their prescriptions filled because they can’t fill them here. So we need to also cut out so much of the waste in the system. So many of our health care dollars aren’t going for your services in hospitals and clinics and they’re not going for the betterment of patients.

They’re going to large pharmaceutical companies, they’re going to large pharmacies and pharmacy intermediaries that are sucking so many of the resources out of the system that could be used to improve patient care.

SANDHYA RAMAN: Congresswoman Porter.

KATIE PORTER: We have a healthcare system that is run to line the pockets of big corporations in Washington DC. And the elected leaders in both parties have made that possible. I don’t think we can afford with lives on the line to mince words about that reality. Did we go far enough? Absolutely not. I was the Number Two in the Congressional Progressive Caucus last Congress when we were negotiating the Inflation Reduction Act and what Democrats came forward with negotiating the — the five drugs, negotiating ten drugs.

How many drugs should we be negotiating the price of? All. That’s where we need to be, but we’re not going to get there, if we elect people who have cashed checks from Big Pharma decade after decade, we need — this is about corporate special interests controlling health care policy. You see it. Yes, we brought down the price of insulin and I salute that.

But we have health care policies that make people sick, so they need insulin instead of making them well so that they don’t. Thank you so much.

LISA MATTHEWS: OK. All righty, so we’re running a little bit over, so I’m going to move ahead to your one minute, your opportunity for a closing statement. So our candidates will have an opportunity to ask for your vote and each will get two minutes for closing remarks. That’s right. First will be Barbara Lee.

BARBARA LEE: Well, thank thanks so much for all of you and all of your questions. It’s been really exciting and inspirational and I just have to take a moment to thank many of you who helped oppose the Iraq war. That’s something that a lot of our union members need to be recognized for in the early days of that war. Yes, we’ve had limited time for questions this morning, but these questions have been very important.

I think some of the questions that I think still need answered are a couple. One is it acceptable that while some of the wealthiest Americans live in California, over 200,000 people are living on our streets. Is it acceptable For you that even people with insurance, health care costs are so high, so high that medical bills are the number one reason for bankruptcies.

It’s not acceptable to me also that we haven’t had mental health parity as it relates to parity in our health care system and mental health workers aren’t treated with parity and that’s not acceptable to me. And this has to do with greed. I’ve had enough of this greed in America. I know you have also — I’ve been in this fight a long time and I have had to choose between feeding my family or paying the rent.

I’ve had to — I’ve been told that I’m not qualified because of the color of my skin and I know though for sure that when we stand up and fight back that we do win. And so as your next Senator on health care, especially, let me just tell you, I’m going to fight to get the profit motive out of this insurance industry.

Healthcare should not be an industry. It should be a basic human right.

LISA MATTHEWS: Thank you. Thank you. Congressman Schiff.

ADAM SCHIFF: First of all, I want to thank you for inviting us today, but thank you for what you do every day. My wife and I had the experience of bringing our daughter to the hospital when she was five years old and bleeding profusely and you took care of her. You were understaffed and overworked and you took care of her.

You have taken care of my 95-year-old father, you’ve taken care of millions of people all over California and all over the country. And I just want to say thank you. I’m running for the Senate because we need a leader in the Senate that can work with people to get things done, to accomplish things. I’m proud of what I’ve been able to do to build mass transit, to build an early earthquake warning system, to bring millions and millions of dollars back to California to find shelter for people that were homeless.

I’m proud of legislation that established the California Bill of Rights, Patient Bill of Rights. I’m proud to have passed legislation to protect press freedom, to attack nuclear proliferation. One of my Republican colleagues many years ago said Adam, you’re the worst kind of Democrat. You’re the worst kind of Democrat.

And I said, Why is that? And he said Because you’re just as progressive as the rest, but you’re sounds too damn reasonable. But the reality is we’ve got to bring people together to solve problems. We have a housing crisis. This is my top priority and we’re not going to solve it as long as there’s this huge disparity between what people earn and what it cost to be housed.

I am so proud to have the support of six statewide labor organizations who know my long record of fighting for working families, to have the support of leaders like Nancy Pelosi and more than half of the California House Democrats who know my record of delivering for California. But also know that during these tough times when we were each called upon to defend our democracy against the most corrupt President in US history, I stepped into the middle of the ring and impeached Donald Trump and I will take on any SOB that gets in the way of working families.

LISA MATTHEWS: Thank you, Congresswoman Porter.

KATIE PORTER: Before coming to Congress, I spent nearly two decades as a consumer protection advocate. I took on greedy Wall Street banks. I took on predatory lenders. I took on government officials who were asleep at the wheel and I’m proud of the work that I did, but it wasn’t enough because for every family that I was able to help thousands more were being cheated.

Why? Because the rules being written in Washington DC were rigged. They were rigged in favor of ultra-wealthy donors, in favor of greedy corporations, in favor of political insiders. I knew I had to do more and that’s why six years ago I ran for office for the first time. It wasn’t an easy decision. I’m a single mom of three school-age children, but you know what was easy, deciding not to take corporate PAC money, not one dime.

And I am the only candidate on this stage who has never cashed those checks. I am one of 11 members of Congress who has — does not take lobbyist money. This wasn’t a decision I made because I’m running for the Senate. This is who I am and this is why you can trust me to fight for us. What happens when politicians get too cozy with corporations, corruption. Policies that cater to Washington, Big Pharma, big insurance, and leave families and workers behind. I went to Washington to unrig the system. I went to rewrite the rules, not be complacent to them.

That’s my promise to you to challenge the conventional wisdom to go against the grain, to speak truth to power, to call out corporations, to fight like an NUHW member. California has a once-in-a-generation opportunity to choose their next Senator. I hope you’ll pick the right woman for the job.

LISA MATTHEWS: All righty, thank you so much to the candidates, to the journalists to those who submitted questions from the NUHW and for everyone who took part in the civic exercise. We’d also like to thank C-Span for its coverage of the forum. This event is a demonstration of democracy at work. We should never take democracy in our role as responsible citizens and voters for granted. My job on this stage is done, but we’re not quite finished. NUHW President Sal Rosselli has another [Applause] important piece of business to complete [Applause] before we wrap.

SAL ROSSELLI: Wow. Lisa, journalists, right, thank you for helping us leave here today with a much greater sense of these candidates and what’s — what’s at stake in this next year’s election. And I’m also a proud member of Courage California. Courage and Roomful [Ph], [Applause] thank you for co-sponsoring this event with our union.

And it’s important for everyone to know that these three elected leaders are all great friends of NUHW and the labor movement. [Applause] They’re terrific. [Applause] They did a great job. Let’s hear it for them. [Applause] ‘ I’m inviting our — yeah, I’m inviting members of our board to come up and — and give you a trophy, appreciation from our — our members, you know, for you agreeing to this forum today.

Thank you so much. Let’s hear it again for our elected leaders today. [Applause] We in — we in NUHW believe that important endorsements like this should be in the hands of our members, and now it’s time to listen to their voices. In a few minutes — a few moments, all of our members that live and work and vote in virtually every California county from San Diego to Eureka will be emailed the link to this forum and an electronic ballot.

At noon, vote — we’ll commence the vote, and it’ll go through 5 PM Tuesday. And Wednesday we’ll be announcing the results of that vote. NUHW leaders, we had a terrific three days together. So good to see everyone. See you — [Applause] see you again next September 27th through the 29th at our leadership conference at the Hyatt at San Francisco Airport.

Everyone have a safe trip home. Thank you. [Applause]

Transcript originally published on CQ.

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