Slotkin Advocates Bipartisan Priorities, Distances from Far-Left

Elissa Slotkin, who won the congressional 8th district race, speaks to volunteers in Brighton days after the election.

by ANDREW NEAL
@NealSchmeal

U.S. Representative Elissa Slotkin, a Democrat representing Michigan’s 8th District, was sworn-in just over a month ago to her first term in Congress amid the longest government shutdown in American history. Slotkin sat down with the Gazette last week to talk about her initial impressions of holding office, her first-term priorities, and how she plans to navigate bipartisanship in an era of significant polarization.

Reflecting on her first month in office, Rep. Slotkin said, “I describe it as a mix between freshman year of college – where you’re trying to figure out where the cafeteria is and where you get pencils – and then just a complete political tornado.”

Being sworn-in during a partial government shutdown delayed all hopes of legislating out of the gate, but Slotkin said she started a bipartisan group in an effort to understand the other side, and is committed to introducing bills that have support from both parties.

“I think it’s a reality these days that the media focuses on the 15 percent on either extreme, and really hones in on them, and where I tend to spend my time is in that 85 percent in the middle,” Slotkin said.

“The Democrats did not take the House of Representatives back because of far-left districts. Those were already Democratic. The way that the House of Representatives flipped was because we had a really strong signal from the public that they wanted reasonable practical people who work across the aisle. So we may not get as much of the media attention but our numbers are there, which is very important because we are voting body and everyone has one vote, no matter how many Twitter followers they have.”

Slotkin’s early priorities largely revolve around health care and infrastructure.

On lowering the cost of pharmaceuticals and prescription drugs, Slotkin said, “I think there is a lot of bipartisan support for this idea that you can’t be going bankrupt because you need to pay for your monthly insulin, and that drug companies shouldn’t get to create a predatory price increase just because they want to make more money – that’s people’s lives.”

As for improving infrastructure, Slotkin supports Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s plan to “fix the damn roads” and added that Congress can do its part to help.

“It doesn’t matter if you care about bridges in Iowa or a tunnel in New Jersey or roads in Michigan, people care about infrastructure. It’s crumbling,” Slotkin said.

“I believe in a once-in-a-generation infrastructure bill, and there’s a number of Republicans that have already said ‘let’s work on this together.’”

Slotkin’s view of infrastructure goes further than roads and bridges, with what she calls “environmental security,” especially as it relates to water quality. Slotkin was assigned to the Homeland Security Committee, and while her experience as a CIA Analyst may be much of the reason for the appointment, she cites environmental security as one of the largest threats to the country.

“I spent my life trying to prevent attacks on the homeland, critically important, but you know for the average Michigander, they’re more likely to have problematic water than they are to have a terrorist attack. So we’ve got to expand the definition and bring those issues to the forefront, shine a bigger light on them, and then do something about them.”

Turning to the economy, Slotkin said she is concerned about the federal debt and supports auditing the Defense Department, but does not support increasing the marginal tax rate to the degree that some of her colleagues further to the left have advocated.

“In the tax bill, there’s preferential tax cuts to the ultra-wealthy and not enough for the middle class so I’d like to see that balance a bit, but I don’t believe that some of the flashy ideas that have been out there of taxing at 70 or 80 percent are practical in any way, and therefore don’t subscribe to those things.”

In addition to distancing herself from the far-left on taxes, Slotkin this week condemned fellow freshman congresswoman Ilhan Omar over her recent comments about the Israel lobby.

Omar suggested that the AIPAC – the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee – was using money to influence American politicians to support Israel, quoting a popular song from the 90s and tweeting, “It’s all about the Benjamins baby.”

Leaders on the left and right have condemned Omar’s comments, while some on the far-left have come to her defense. Slotkin said in a press release, “Rep. Omar’s comments traffic in age-old stereotypes and anti-Semitic bias, drag down public conversation, and are counter to our fundamental values of religious freedom and mutual respect.”