A conversation with Congresswoman Escobar ahead of President Biden’s joint-address to Congress

El Paso News
Veronica Escobar

EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — Congresswoman Veronica Escobar will be watching President Biden’s joint-address to Congress tonight like the rest of us: at home while texting with her friends and colleagues.

Escobar is in El Paso for tonight’s historic address — the first time the U.S. President will be flanked by two women during the speech, House Majority Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Kamala Harris. 

Only 200 guests will be in attendance because of the ongoing pandemic.

Biden’s address comes 100 days into his first term as President and a year after the country began its fight against the coronavirus. 

The pandemic remains top of mind for the Biden Administration and Congress, but Escobar and other members are urging the Senate to pass common sense gun reform laws as more and more Americans become victims of gun violence.

On Saturday, the Borderland felt a fresh wave of fear following a false report of a shooter at a Cielo Vista, forcing many to realize how much healing still remains.

KTSM 9 News caught up briefly with Escobar ahead of tonight’s address by President Biden.

This interview has been edited lightly for grammar and clarity.

KTSM

I can’t believe it’s been 100 days. A lot of good work has been done but there’s still so much more. How are you feeling and what do you hope to hear from the President tonight?

VERONICA ESCOBAR

Tonight’s address is historic in so many ways: not only will we see two women standing with President Biden — we’ll see Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Kamala Harris. But this comes after more than a year of incredible misery, pain, and death as the result of the coronavirus.

And in so many ways, when I think back to a year ago, as I’m trying to think about the context of where we were a year ago, and we were at the very beginning of the coronavirus and all of the misery that came after it.

100 days: The success that President Biden has had in 100 days has been phenomenal. 

And that’s what happens when there’s leadership in the White House. That’s what happens when you have a Congress that is willing to appropriate the necessary resources. And so I think… I’m very proud of the work that we have done together in the last 100 days.

We are in so many ways a different country than we were ago. And much of it is because we have placed a focus on helping the American people and because we have a President who leads with compassion.

KTSM

Going off what you said about the context, this is the second time you’ve been in El Paso for this address, I believe. How is it different? And what’s it like to be in El Paso — at here, at home — and realize that what you’ve been fighting for is being achieved?

VERONICA ESCOBAR

So I was invited actually to be at the address tonight but I could not make it! So I’m a little heartbroken that I can’t be there because it would’ve been thrilling to be in that room, in that moment of history. But it is so good to be home, as well, and be able to watch this event with my family and be able to communicate with my colleagues.

We’re all on a text thread and are going to be talking to each other back and forth during the address but it will be — I think — an incredible moment of hope.

We’ve seen the positive accomplishments and tremendous success that the President has had in the last 100 days in getting people back into their jobs, putting money into pockets, putting vaccines into arms, getting kids safely into schools.

All those things that were urgent priorities in those first 100 days. It will be exciting as he rolls out the work that we’re going to be doing in the coming months to create some equity in our country. To make sure that people have access to the opportunity that America stands for.

And to ensure that the most vulnerable among us are cared for, that we do everything possible to eradicate poverty, and to uplift those who need it the most. So it’s a very exciting night.

KTSM

Something that I’ve been thinking a lot about is the unfortunate false alarm we had over the weekend regarding another shooting at Cielo Vista. It made me realize how fresh these wounds still are. What do you hope to hear from the President when it comes to gun violence and what actions do you hope to see after tonight from your colleagues in Congress?

VERONICA ESCOBAR

El Paso and many — unfortunately too many — communities across the country are still living with pretty deep trauma as the result of gun violence.

The definition of gun violence survivor makes it that literally every person in El Paso is a gun violence survivor because of the trauma that we experienced. When you think of the number of gun violence survivors in our country, it’s in the millions. And the tragedy behind that is that so much of that trauma was unnecessary.

“So much of that violence could have been prevented. You can never eliminate violence, you can never eliminate needless death but you can do everything possible to protect people and create safe communities.” 

Congresswoman Veronica escobar ongoing gun violence in the U.S.

The President has issued his executive orders, and he did it — I think — out of a sense of frustration that the Senate had not acted on gun violence prevention bills that we in the House of Representatives have passed.

We passed bills in the prior Congress — common sense, bipartisan bills — that are the beginning of helping make sure that we create safe communities. Those bills are uncontroversial in the public domain. The vast majority of Americans don’t oppose a background check. It can’t get any easier than that.

The vast majority of Americans don’t want guns getting into the hands of people who should not have them. There’s a huge swath of Republicans, and Democrats, and gun owners who want to see that happen. And yet the Senate has not acted. 

One of the big hold-ups is the filibuster, and I believe we need to abolish it. The filibuster is an instrument of the status quo and the American people want change — that’s what they voted for. It is my hope that the filibuster is either reformed or eliminated, otherwise we’re going to be a nation looking to a President to continue to issue executive orders.

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