Rep. Lauren Underwood on Joe Biden, COVID-19, and Binging “Moesha”

It is kiiiiiind of an understatement to say there is a stark distinction between this 12 months and final. For Congresswoman Lauren Underwood, 33, the beginning of 2019 meant turning into the youngest Black lady to ever serve in Congress and the primary lady, and first individual of coloration, to symbolize Illinois’ 14th district. She joined the most important class of girls to ever serve within the Home—a second that many noticed as a response to President Trump’s election in 2016. For Underwood, a registered nurse, it was a return to kind: she had beforehand served as a senior advisor on the Division of Well being and Human Providers underneath President Obama’s administration.

Now, in 2020, a 12 months marked partly by a lethal pandemic and an financial disaster, being a part of the 116th Congress has meant distant legislating and out of doors workplace hours with constituents, as Underwood tries to maintain her group and herself—she has a coronary heart situation referred to as supraventricular tachycardia—protected.

On Thursday, the identical day Joe Biden wrapped up the Democratic Nationwide Conference, Underwood went dwell on ELLE’s Instagram to reply 20 questions on this chaotic 12 months, her responsible pleasure TV present, and being an adolescent in an outdated establishment. Discover an abridged model of the Q&A under, or watch the total video right here:

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As a nurse, what’s one factor you’d change in regards to the administration’s response to COVID-19?

The dearth of a nationwide, coordinated testing plan, the dearth of a coordinated response plan, has set our entire nation again. We have had over 170,000 People die from the virus. We have had over 5 million individuals get contaminated and case charges are growing throughout my group. Within the absence of the administration’s willingness to take this sort of nationwide, evidence-based, scientific, and data-driven strategy, we’ve got to do that work ourselves, every of us. Which is why it is so necessary that we take fundamental steps like carrying our masks, like having good hand hygiene. Then staying six ft aside, proper? Social distancing works, however we’ve got to do it.

What’s probably the most outrageous factor somebody has stated to you in Congress?

You all, I’ve seen the darkish aspect of the web. It is as gross as you in all probability think about it to be. I would not want it on my worst enemy. I am not going to repeat the issues that individuals say, however our political discourse and what you topic your self to as an elected official, it should not be that violent. We should not obtain threats. Nevertheless it’s the fact proper now in our nation, so we’ve got to be good and keep protected.

Rep. Lauren Underwood, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Rep. Mike Levin after delivering a letter to the workplace of Senate Majority Chief Mitch McConnell in January 2019.

Tom WilliamsGetty Photos

What’s probably the most difficult a part of being the youngest Black lady to serve in Congress?

There’s a few us younger ladies. I am 33, I used to be sworn in at 32. The youngest is clearly Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. My outdated roommate, Katie Hill, she resigned from Congress, however she was subsequent, after which me. Alex and I are the 2 youngest ladies of coloration in Congress, and I’d think about that she would agree that it’s powerful. Simply talking for myself, I discover that this establishment could be very a lot not oriented for younger individuals.

For instance, our work and the way in which that we talk with each other as members doesn’t occur over e mail or textual content. It occurs, historically, in individual, or now we’re doing countless convention calls. We’re within the 21st century, however Congress hasn’t fairly mirrored the brand new technologic instruments which can be out there to us. That is been one thing that is definitely a problem to get used to. Not having a peer cohort, individuals who shared these experiences earlier than and perceive what it is like as members, that’s additionally one thing totally different. However there’s superb employees that work on the Hill…simply because they do not have the expertise of being a younger Black lady does not imply that we won’t collaborate properly and serve collectively. Clearly it isn’t a hardship, nevertheless it’s definitely totally different.

What’s your responsible pleasure TV present to binge watch?

The perfect present I watched this summer season was the mini-series on ESPN The Final Dance in regards to the final season of the Chicago Bulls championship group. It was only a blast from the previous. It made me so excited. It took me proper again to fifth grade and my “repeat 3-peat” T-shirts. The pleasure that I felt being from Illinois and a Chicago Bulls fan and to listen to the backstories on what was occurring, now as an grownup, it was unbelievable. I extremely advocate that. I’d not likely name {that a} responsible pleasure.

The opposite factor that I have been watching…one of many exhibits that simply got here on Netflix this summer season: Moesha. I have been watching this traditional from the ‘90s. Brandy’s clearly iconic. It is virtually form of quaint. That might be 100 p.c my responsible pleasure for the summer season.

What’s probably the most surprising factor you discovered whenever you first got here to Congress?

There’s a lot paper. I had by no means discovered actually how one can file papers, as a result of hey, we’re millennials, and who will get these packets of paper that you just’re supposed to maintain up with? Nicely, that is the USA Congress.

The opposite surprising factor that I discovered got here from a dialog I had with Vice President Biden proper after I used to be sworn in. The Vice President joined the Senate when he was 30 years outdated, and I used to be sworn into the Home at 32. He simply had some ideas and recommendation about what it was prefer to be a younger legislator and methods to attach with colleagues who could possibly be greater than double my age. I appreciated his recommendation, I admire simply the generosity of time and that he even cared sufficient to succeed in out to attempt to have that form of dialog.

When you needed to quarantine with anyone from the 116th Congress, who would it not be?

Hear, I am with Dr. [Kim] Schrier [who’s a pediatrician]. She represents the eighth district in Washington state. She is fabulous. I believe she could be enjoyable and really protected to quarantine with.

Madison is a employees author at ELLE.com, masking information, politics, and tradition.

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