On October 4th, Professor Brian McCabe of Georgetown’s Sociology Department moderated an engaging conversation between the Georgetown University community and Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) regarding the content of her new book, The Least Among Us: The Least Among Us: Waging the Battle for the Vulnerable. In discussing the essential premise of the book, Congresswomen DeLauro made the case for the government’s role in establishing and maintaining a “social safety net” to provide aid and support for the most disenfranchised Americans in our society. Congresswoman DeLauro's definition of this “social safety net” consisted of funding Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, food stamps, unemployment insurance, and refundable tax credit. She also openly expressed hope that health care would eventually join this group of social programs and initiatives that, according to her, provide evidence that the American people could reach out to the government in times of need.
With great heart and clear passion, DeLauro spoke about how the Catholic values she grew up on shaped her fight for these progressive ideas in Congress. DeLauro opened up to the audience about the powerful influence that her father and mother’s respective careers in public service had on her life. Interestingly enough, she proudly pointed out how her mother was the longest-serving city council member in New Haven ever, having dedicated 35 years of her life to public service. Now while DeLauro admitted that the New Haven City Council never dealt with the minutiae of public policy, her parents worked to be a source of support for people in her community to help them get through the system. In other words, DeLauro saw her parents’ work as essential, despite its small scale, because it proved that the government could and should work to help people – which is exactly what DeLauro seeks to do with the social safety net.
While acknowledging that providing a social safety net was a primarily bipartisan issue from the 1940’s to 1990’s, DeLauro gave a scathing criticism of Newt Gingrich’s Contract with America plan, considering it the moment that the social safety net began to unravel. She showed continuing frustration with Gingrich’s desire to use “confrontational politics” as a strategy to help Republicans win back control of Congress during the Clinton Administration. Such anger and disapproval continued in her thoughts on Speaker Paul Ryan’s continued attempts to defund these programs and to push for measures to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act through legislation that would defund Medicaid and, in her analysis, hurt the American people as a result. However, she stated that she believed that Congress wins many of these battles whenever they fight for the concerns of the American people, citing the failed results of the implementation of the Contract with America and the “repeal and replace” efforts as key examples.
The Georgetown audience also contributed to this discussion by asking questions about her response to news-worthy issues of the week. Multiple students asked about her response to the crisis in Puerto Rico. DeLauro acknowledged one student’s concerns about providing additional funding in light of the current debt crisis, stating that there needs to be strict accountability measures on address their debt, but that our government cannot leave people on the side as road kill. She made her position clear that these are American citizens who have lost loved ones and have had their houses blown away from this crisis. Another student asked the Congresswoman about her thoughts on the tragic mass shooting in Las Vegas, to which DeLauro called for a wide-scale ban on high capacity weaponry and assault weapons, telling the audience that w"e will not sit around any longer," and the Democratic Party will need to stand for these issues despite not having the majority. Finally, when asked about what the Democratic Party can do to help the economy, DeLauro expressed dismay that the party did not have any economic message to reach out to working class voters that are hurting and struggling to put food on the table. However, she expressed optimism in the party’s ongoing work to create such a message in order to support the Americans that the party had lost.
It was a pleasure to have Congresswoman DeLauro give such an uplifting message about the government’s role in being a support network for their citizens. Whether or not students agree on her opinions on the policies necessary to support the American people, it is undeniable that her work is driven by the same motivation to dedicate their lives to the greater glory of God that the Georgetown community seeks to live out every day on campus.