From fighting against the far-left agenda, to policy review sessions early in the morning and late at night, to baseball practice with colleagues, Rep. Kat Cammack, R-Fla., says her first six months as a House member have been anything but boring.
There is a “side of being a member of Congress that a lot of people don’t get to see,” Cammack says. “They don’t get to see you sitting at your desk with curlers in your hair. Having your second cup of coffee at 5 o’clock in the morning, trying to dig into the legislation.”
Cammack came to the House with a clear agenda to further policies that benefit residents of her state, and despite opposition from the left, her commitment to implement practical policy solutions remains steadfast.
The Florida congresswomen, at 33 the youngest Republican woman in Congress, joins “Problematic Women” to discuss the behind-the-scenes reality of being a U.S. lawmaker, her recent trip to the southern border, and her progress on some key policy priorities.
Listen to the podcast below or read the lightly edited transcript.
Virginia Allen: I’m so pleased to be joined by Congresswoman Kat Cammack of Florida. Congresswoman, thank you so much for being back on today.
Rep. Kat Cammack: Absolutely. Pleasure to be here, Miss Virginia. So we talked with you on the show, let’s see, back probably in November of 2020 …
Allen: Feels like a lifetime ago.
Cammack: One-year election. It does feel like a long time ago.
Allen: So it’s been six months now that you have been in Congress. Has it been what you expected? Is being a member of Congress what you thought it would be?
Cammack: I feel way older. And it feels a lot longer than six months, I can tell you that. When I look back to the election and orientation, it really does feel like a lifetime ago. Because in this very short six months, we have really taken on and dealt with so much. The liberal left really never sleeps.
And I think that if I had to put a word to what we’ve experienced in the House in the last six months, I would say chaos. And I think it’s planned chaos. The House calendar has changed multiple times. No opportunity to really read bills and dig into the legislation. Committee hearings are virtual and really more for show. People pop on for five minutes and then jump off. And really, I think it’s just a plan to keep conservatives and the Republicans on their toes.
So we’re not able to really strategize or form a cohesive front to push back against this. It’s been chaotic, but at the same time, I walk into the Capitol and I still get those butterflies in [the] stomach. And you have to look up at the walls and the murals that are painted there. And you look at the statues and you have to really take a moment to recognize that, “Hey, this is where the greats walked.” This is where it all really [happened], I mean, the history of our country and everything that our country has been through.
And that still gives me that feeling. A pretty humbling feeling. As long as I’m still getting those little butterflies, I think we’re going to be OK.
Allen: It’s a little surreal.
Cammack: Very surreal.
Allen: Well, I know the last time you were on the show, you talked about how you love giving behind-the-scenes glimpses. And you did this on your campaign. You wanted to show people what running for Congress is actually like. So what are maybe some behind-the-scenes, insider information that you can give us about what being a member of Congress is actually like?
Cammack: Well, you’re going to get a hodgepodge here. So one of the things that I’ve tried to do as a member is, as you said, really give a day in the life behind the scenes, look at everything that goes on. And it’s everything from the very serious of, hey, this is the legislation, the nuts and bolts, you’re in the weeds. This is what this means. This is how we’re looking at it.
We talked about, really, all the different titles and components of the George Floyd justice and policing reform bill. And went title by title to really explain how dangerous this bill was. And that’s not for everyone. Not everyone is a policy wonk. But there’s also a side of being a member of Congress that a lot of people don’t get to see. They don’t get to see you sitting at your desk with curlers in your hair. Having your second cup of coffee at 5 o’clock in the morning, trying to dig into the legislation.
They don’t get to see the [legislative] meetings that you have with your staff, where you’re just taking it all in and strategizing about how you’re going to approach that bill. And so, be it on social media or in videos that we’ll send out with our newsletter, we try to do little moments and shed light on little moments. Whether it’s walking to the floor and I’m talking about the bill that we’re getting ready to vote on, or the dynamics of Congress where we don’t get the opportunity to meet. And I have done a couple of posts that people really look at and they’re like, “Well, why are you talking about that? No one cares about that.” And I think it’s important. All aspects of the life of a member are important because it all feeds into the decision-making process.
For me, I live in my office. I sleep in my office. And so I go to bed at about midnight and after reading all the homework that my team has prepared for me. And then I’m up at 4:45 getting ready for congressional baseball because congressional baseball season is upon us. And we go do those early morning practices and that’s how we’re building relationships.
Because in COVID-19 we don’t have that opportunity to be around each other. So this is the one opportunity that we have to actually see people in person. So that, for me, is very important because Washington is a city where you succeed based on your relationships. And so people aren’t really understanding, they don’t understand all the things that go into it. And then your day really gets underway by 8 o’clock, when you’re just from meeting to meeting.
So we’re going to continue to keep showing those little moments throughout the day that a lot of people don’t get a chance to see. It’s like a reality show in a lot of ways,. But I hope that people who follow us on social media, they take a look at that and they say, “I could do that.” And if they feel inclined, or if they have a passion and a fire to run for office, I hope that they do. Because we’re just regular people. We’re just normal folks that had a desire to run and really make our communities and our districts in our state and our country better. And so I hope that it humanizes us a little bit.
Allen: I love that you do that. You give that insight glimpse. And I love that you’re on the baseball team. That’s so fun. Are there any other congresswomen on the team?
Cammack: [Rep.] Lisa McClain [R-Mich.] has come to a few practices. So we’ll see. I mean, the practices are every single day that we’re in session. And like I said, the thing that really was interesting about it to me, was one, it raises over a million dollars for charity. And I love that. The other part was I had a member come up to me, [Rep.] Trent Kelly [R-Miss.], and he said, “You’re going to really want to do baseball.” I said, why? And he said there’s a lot of fun. You get a workout in the morning; it forces you to get up out of bed and go work out. And he’s like, “But the thing that you will take away are the relationships.”
And he couldn’t have been more accurate in that, because the first day of practice, I get assigned to second base and I’m standing there next to Steve Scalise [R-La.] and Kevin Brady [R-Texas] and Mike Bost [R-Ill.] And I’m like, you are all the gentlemen that I need to talk to about initiatives. On veterans issues and all these other things that we’re working on. And it’s been true. You really get to know people out there. And with COVID, we just haven’t had that opportunity to really get together and know our colleagues in that way that you need to, in order to get things done.
Allen: What a unique experience to be getting to know those individuals on a baseball field. I love that.
Cammack: Yeah. Unconventional, but it works.
Allen: Well, I do want to take a minute to ask you about your recent trip down to the southern border. I know my colleague, Rachel del Guidice, spoke with you on “The Daily Signal Podcast” about this. But you’re a member of the Homeland Security Committee. Talk a little bit about that trip, how it impacted you and what you saw.
Cammack: … I’ve been down there twice, and both have been equally tough walking away, I would say. They’re pretty horrific experiences on so many different levels. On a very human level, talking to little kids who have made this horrific journey, sometimes with a parent, sometimes with a total stranger. Being used as a pawn and trafficked. And the majority of the young girls are being sexually assaulted and abused on their way across the border.
From a national security standpoint, talking with Border Patrol agents. Talking with our CBP [Customs and Border Protection] officers at the legal ports of entry. Talking with Texas Rangers and, really, all the players involved in national security and border security. The fact that we have foreign nationals coming here from Romania, which No. 9 … now they’re listed as No. 9 [among] foreign nationals coming here. Honduras is No. 1, Mexico is No. 2.
Can you imagine the journey that you have to take? And we’re seeing these people come from China and they’re being smuggled in, and you have to ask; What vetting is going on here? Well, I saw firsthand; not a whole heck of a lot. They’re not even running biometrics on children under the age of 12. So that’s how they’re perpetuating the cycle of really recycling the children or trafficking the children. I told your colleague, I saw and spoke with a 9-year-old girl whose vocal chords had given out because she had been screaming so loud from being gang-raped. These are the stories that just stick with you and you have nightmares about. And you think about the babies who are coming over here, pregnant [girls] having babies. I talked to a 14-year-old girl that was pregnant. These are horrific stories.
But you have to take a step back and recognize that our government is complicit in the trafficking of these kids. Because at the invitation of [President] Biden, they are coming here because they have been misled. And for those that are coming here, because they want to do harm or traffic drugs, they’re taking advantage of that. They’re taking advantage of people fleeing from pretty terrible situations. And it’s pretty bad when you have social media companies that are complicit in it. Helping the cartels place ads. Advertising these services. You have WhatsApp being used as the means to handle the logistics of this. And you’re seeing people on the terrorist watch list that are being apprehended.
But the thing that’s really terrifying to me, especially being a member on [the] Homeland Security [Committee], is the number of got-aways. When I was out in the brush with the Texas Rangers and Border Patrol, they told me very early on: The people who are coming here that have been smuggled across and pay the cartels, they will seek you out. They will seek officials out and they’ll walk up to a Border Patrol truck and they’ll sit down and they’ll just wait, because they know they’re going to get processed. The people that don’t want to be caught, those are your got-aways.
Those are the people that have criminal records. They’re violent offenders. They’re on the watch list. They have drugs on them. They are coming here for ill-intentioned purposes. And just this year, we have close to 200,000 got-aways. And got-aways are people that have been seen by a Border Patrol agent. They have attempted to pursue them, but haven’t been able to apprehend them or the technology. The cameras have caught them running away as they cross the border. That’s 200,000 people just on camera or from a visual on the Border Patrol side, that have been seen coming over, fleeing to get away.
They could be bringing anything in. They could be doing anything. And the thing that I tell everyone is this should be the No. 1 priority right now, because every town in America is a border town. Every drug that is smuggled across the border that isn’t caught, that is landing in our communities. These criminals are coming to our communities. I can tell you that because in my own hometown of Gainesville, Florida, my husband, who’s a first responder, he’s responded to the same man three times who’s overdosing on the latest cocktail of drugs that they have managed to cook up. And it’s fentanyl and it’s heroin, and it’s deadly. These drugs are coming from the southwest border, and they know that.
Allen: As you were down there and talking with these Border Patrol agents, what do they need?
Cammack: How much time do we have? I think first and foremost [that] our Border Patrol agents, the agency as a whole, CBP, they have a real morale issue. They don’t feel like they have the support and backing of this administration and their higher-ups. So they really need the secretary [of homeland security] and the White House to get on board and let them do their jobs. I can’t tell you how many agents I have talked to, or who I still have communication with on a daily basis, that say, “Our hands are tied behind our back. I’m counting down the years, months, and days to when I can retire.” And there’s just simply not enough agents right now to do their job properly, the way that the laws are written on the books. So first and foremost, we need to have an administration that’s going to have the backs of our Border Patrol agents.
Second thing we need to do is we actually have to enforce the laws on the books. And a lot of that will fix the morale issues. Because they just simply want to uphold the law as it is written. I think that the policies from President Trump, the Title 42 which was a CDC directive, that really was kind of holding the line on the legal ports of entry side of it. But then the MPP policy, the Migrant Protection [Protocols]. Those two things I have heard repeatedly from every single agent I have talked to, and I have talked to upward of a hundred agents at this point. They all say, if we had those in place, our life would be better.
So much can be resolved just through the implementation of those programs. But we all know that Biden, by executive order, stripped those programs because they had Trump’s name attached to them.
So I would say, one, they need that public sign of support. And it’s pretty disheartening when [the president and other administration officials] hasn’t even been to the border. You know what I mean? What kind of message does that send? When Secretary [Alejandro] Mayorkas, the homeland security secretary, is too chicken to even leave the airport … That’s a problem. But [Border Patrol agents] need that sign of support. And then they need to actually have the ability to do their jobs.
We invest in these people. We train these folks. They know the laws. They know the policies. Let them do their job. And I think it’s about time that we get back to the America First policy. I mean, secure the dang border. And when you talk about the wall and the halting of the construction. I went and visited Chimney Park [RV Resort in Mission, Texas], which is a small community right there on the [Rio Grande] River, right there where the construction of the wall is taking place.
They don’t call it the wall there, along that area. They call it the levy, because it’s the only thing that stops their community from being wiped out and flooded. It’s now June 1, it’s rainy season, hurricane season. If that wall, if that levy doesn’t get completed, their property, their businesses, everything gets wiped out. That’s 250,000 people that will be in direct line of sight for a flooding event.
And I think that’s important to mention, because via executive order Biden stopped the construction. But what he didn’t stop was the payments. So now we as taxpayers are on the hook paying for a levy, a wall, a force multiplier is what the agents call it. But we’re paying them not to build. How crazy is that?
Allen: That’s wild.
Allen: Why do you think Biden seems almost determined to not address that this truly is a crisis?
Cammack: I think if he were to you use the term crisis or acknowledge that there’s a problem, it would send a signal that their policies are inviting this type of chaos on the border. Right now, their narrative has been, “Oh, this was happening under Trump, it continues to happen. We have it under control.” I think that they are so hellbent on maintaining an image. Just like what we’re seeing right now with the origins of COVID. They’re so hell bent on maintaining an image and keeping that crafted narrative in place that they can’t acknowledge when there’s a problem. But if they can’t even acknowledge that we have a problem on the southwest border, then they have no capacity to actually handle it.
Allen: We could continue talking about the border for the next two hours. … Do you want to talk about a couple other issues, though? One of the things I love about you, Congresswoman, is how practical you are. I feel like you have zeroed in on issues that everyday Americans deal with. And you’ve said, “OK let’s come up with solutions.” And one of those issues is supply chains. That’s an issue that affects us all in a deeply personal way, more than we realize.
Cammack: Yes. Well, and first, can you please get that message to my husband, that you think I’m practical? He would be thrilled and actually would [laugh] at that. He thinks I am the least practical person on the planet.
Allen: That’s great. Well, I think during COVID-19 we all saw like, “Oh my goodness, our stuff comes from all over the world.’ And when there’s an interruption in that, that affects what you can cook for dinner, or so many different things. So talk a little bit about your focus … on trying to ensure that America is moving away from our dependence on China and that we have supply chain systems that work.
Cammack: I think that’s one of the things that COVID highlighted so acutely for all Americans. Something that we’ve been screaming at the top of our lungs from all the rooftops for a long time. About how very fragile this supply chain really is. Because we have shipped jobs overseas. We’ve shipped manufacturing overseas. We have really become a economy that unfortunately is based in service, right? And as consumers, we don’t always see what happens if you don’t have the raw materials ….
And so for me, being a Floridian, I always try to talk about the fact that more than 80% of the items that land within a home come from one of our ports. Right? And in Florida, we have 14 of these ports where we import things from all around the world. Now China obviously has the lion’s share of the widgets of processing.
I mean, heck, even Smithfield products. The pork products. If you’re in a grocery store, a Kroger or a Trader Joe’s, Publix, whatever it may be, and you see that Smithfield brand, that’s now a Chinese brand. The Chinese actually purchased that brand. And we have the hogs here in America. But they do the processing over in mainland China and then ship it back.
Now, people don’t really recognize that. But it’s everything from the polypropylene pellets that get turned into PPE [personal protective equipment], the masks, the gowns, everything that you can really imagine from soup to nuts, rare earth minerals, plastics, you name it. It’s coming from China. And with China also being one of the major holders of [U.S.] debt, you have to start wondering, at what point are we going to be so dependent on China that they’re going to start calling the shots for us?
And when you look at why during COVID you had milk trucks dumping milk in fields, or farmers digging up squash and fields, it wasn’t because we aren’t able or capable of producing our own food or producing our own widgets or goods, right? It’s because we have pushed the investment that is necessary overseas. And when you look at the basics, the trucks, for example, the average age of your truck driver is 56 years old.
Allen: That’s old.
Cammack: That’s not looking great. Things need trucks. They need rail. They need the basics. And if we don’t have that workforce and we’re not investing in that workforce and those critical lines of distribution, things are going to get very hairy very quickly. And I think we’ve done a very big disservice through our education system [by] not investing in voc-tech and the trades.
We’ve done a very large disservice in [not] educating our kids about where our food comes from. A nation that can’t feed itself is not secure. And we have seen a dramatic increase in imports from overseas, and largely Mexico. The minute that those trucks stop coming, it’s not like you get your food from Publix.
Cammack: So we have to really do an education in, an emphasis, and really push the Made in America initiatives. And I’m actually getting ready to drop a bill here in the next few months that will be a very large program. A good program designed to incentivize a domestic production of our food. rather than foreign food. Because that is a massive national security concern.
Allen: That’s an amazing push that you’re pursuing, that is a big lift. That’s wonderful.
Cammack: We’re excited about it.
Allen: We’ll have to have you back on some time to talk more about that. And one of the other issues that again is very practical, that you talked about last time you were on this show, is that of high-speed internet to areas that don’t have it. Can you give us an update on how your work and policy initiatives around that are going?
Cammack: So again, going back to COVID. I feel like we’re going to start talking about things [as] pre-COVID [and] post-COVID. We’re going to have that timeline forever more. But you know, it was a huge issue before. But I think, especially after the fact, if you were doing anything in the way of tele-health, if you were doing anything with running a business online or, heaven forbid, you were just brick and mortar, you didn’t have an online presence. You had to all of a sudden adapt and get online.
And then of course our kids, everybody had to start Zooming for school. So it became more critical than ever that people had access to high speed, reliable, and affordable internet. Now in most parts of America, that’s not really the case. In major urban cities, sure. But even still there’s some underserved communities, and that’s really from a lack of competition.
So we introduced the Gigabit Opportunity Act. It is a conservative way that we can incentivize some of these smaller providers to actually get in the broadband game. I don’t think the answer is government. Government is typically never the answer. And the least amount of interference that we can have, the better. But what we do is we can incentivize and really facilitate an environment where people have the barriers to entry in a market like this lowered. Where they can then work with the states more in identifying the areas of most critical need. And right now, we just have too few providers, which means the prices are going to be unaffordable.
So the best way we can do it is foster that competition and let the free market work. Because when people see a path to invest in a community, and they know that they’re going to be able to do it without the interference of the government and the regulations and the red tape that comes with it, that’s a win. And so the Gigabit Opportunity Act, I’m really excited about. We introduced it with over 30 original co-sponsors. And we are very excited because we are building up a blueprint right now for other members of Congress to be able to implement in their own districts so that they can deliver broadband to their constituents in the same way that we are. So we’re excited about it.
Allen: So as you think about the next six months, what do you have your sights set on?
Cammack: Getting some sleep. I’d like to get a few good nights’ sleep. But honestly, there’s a couple of veterans initiatives that I would love to see advance that we’ve been working on. I’m very excited about the introduction of our Farmers Feeding America Act. Really harnessing the innovative and very rich history and culture that our ag producers bring. There’s a lot of things that of course I would love to see accomplished. It’s difficult when you’re in the minority.
But more than anything, I would love for us as conservatives to really ban together and begin highlighting, in a cohesive way, the hypocrisy of what’s happening on the left. We have some really dangerous initiatives that are being pushed by the left. And if you look at the infrastructure bill, you look at the budget, heck, you look at the earmarks that are being pushed.
This is just garbage that is really dangerous. We’re spending our kids’ and our grandkids’ and our great grandkids’ future. I mean, we’re literally hocking it. And I just, I think that Americans, if they knew what was going on in Washington, they would be standing up pushing back, screaming at the top of their lungs. And I think we’re getting there.
Even people that are middle of the road, they see what’s happening. They don’t like it. I think there’s a real need right now for conservatives to band together. And to really push back against this very scary, dangerous, liberal agenda.
Allen: Congresswoman, thank you for being one of those voices that’s out there speaking truth and pushing back, and we really appreciate your joining the show.
Cammack: Absolutely. Thank you so much, Virginia. Appreciate you.
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