Gomez settling into D.C. rhythms
L.A.’s representative in Congress says time in the state Assembly prepared him well.
WASHINGTON — Los Angeles’ representative in Congress, Jimmy Gomez, has lost five pounds since arriving in Washington a month ago.
“I don’t know if that’s from stress or just from walking,” he joked, saying he gained weight during his months-long campaign to replace Xavier Becerra in a special election, and that he’s got another five pounds to go to get back to precampaign levels.
He frequently walks the third of a mile down a long, curving underground tunnel to the House chamber from his second-floor office.
“My office to the floor of the House is … a 10-minute walk, and I do that at least four times a day, there and back, and then to all the meetings around the Hill,” Gomez said. “It’s a lot of walking.”
In the month since being sworn in on July 11, the Democratic congressman has settled into the rhythm of life on Capitol Hill.
He’s still sleeping in hotels, or crashing on a friend’s couch, while he looks for a place to live.
“I’m not living in my office, even though it’s really nice,” Gomez said.
He’s slowly redecorating the large office he inherited from the far more senior Becerra, who resigned after two decades to become California attorney general. He is shipping photos he’s taken of L.A. landmarks, such as the Chinatown arch and the city’s skyline. He laments that he hasn’t hung up a Dodgers logo, but one is coming next month.
“I’ve got to represent,” he said.
As for the day-to-day legislating in Washington, his six years in the California Assembly prepared him well, he said.
Gomez, who was once chairman of the California Assembly’s powerful Appropriations Committee, has snagged assignments to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and the House Natural Resources Committee — plum committees for the lowest-ranked member of Congress.
He sat where freshman members normally do — in the front row facing the audience — during his first Oversight and Government Reform hearing in July. It was a 42-minute-long meeting to discuss bills that would give cash awards to government employees who identify waste, manage national parks in Washington and find ways to speed up the backlog of approving national security clearances.
Gomez filed his first piece of legislation, HR 3587, at the end of July. It would allow intelligence to be collected about foreign efforts to influence the president, his family or associates through their financial interests. Democrats have been eager to look into President Trump’s business ties, but the GOP has shown little interest. So far it has no co-sponsors. Controversial legislation filed by a freshman in the minority party faces an extremely difficult uphill battle, but Gomez said he felt compelled to file it anyway.
“When I was running for office, what came through loud and clear through candidate forums and talking to voters … [is] they want Congress to be a check on the Trump administration,” Gomez said. “Is it a controversial first bill? Yeah, but it’s what my constituents want.”
Gomez got a sense of what life is like in the minority party when he offered an amendment to the Department of Defense’s annual appropriations bill that would have prohibited department funds from being used for the president’s election integrity commission, a group California has refused to comply with.
Gomez said the House Rules Committee wouldn’t allow it to be considered on the floor, a fairly common occurrence in the powerful panel, which decides what amendments can be voted on.
“The majority here has a lot more leeway than they do in the Legislature, but I’ve been enjoying it,” Gomez said.
Gomez’s 34th Congressional District is one of the most diverse in the country and includes downtown, Koreatown and much of L.A.’s Eastside. He’s been home every weekend so far and said he’s trying to be visible in the district, attending rallies for healthcare, visiting coffee shops and going to low-key events like a bird-watching hike.
“I’m a member of Congress, but I’m also the friendly neighborhood member of Congress,” Gomez said.
As House members were casting their final votes before the monthlong August recess began, Gomez was eager to get back across the country.
“I can’t wait to eat the great food in Los Angeles,” he said.
REP. JIMMY GOMEZ (D-Los Angeles) gets a high-five on a visit to his 34th Congressional District, one of the nation’s most diverse.