This story first appeared at Newsmakers with JR.
Speaking from the Washington hotel where he’s quarantined for Covid, Rep. Salud Carbajal confirmed Thursday that he’ll appear for this weekend’s TV debate, as he shed light on negotiations over pandemic economic relief and countered a new campaign attack.
The incumbent Democrat in the 24th Congressional District looked drawn, sounded raspy and appeared to have lost weight, as he checked in with Newsmakers to talk policy and politics, nine days after he tested positive for the coronavirus, following the onset of symptoms.
“The main thing you feel is wanting to be in bed,” he told us, describing more than a week of fatigue, body aches, fever and chills that “come and go,” plus loss of taste and smell, adding, however, that he has begun to feel better. His wife, Gina, has been under quarantine with him.
Conscientious about mask-wearing, social distancing and hand washing, Carbajal speculated that he got the virus via the “HVAC system” of circulating air in the apartment complex where he lives next door to Republican Senator Mike Lee of Utah. Lee, a notorious coronavirus skeptic, tested positive after attending the infamous White House function where Donald Trump introduced Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett last month, which has subsequently been identified as a “superspreader event.”
Despite his lingering mild symptoms, Carbajal told us, he still plans to participate in the virtual campaign debate against Republican challenger Andy Caldwell scheduled for Saturday (Oct. 17) at 4 p.m.
KEYT will broadcast the event live on the NOW channel (Cox Cable 13 or over-the-air 3.2) and also re-broadcast it later.
Caldwell, in an appearance on Newsmakers on Wednesday, attacked Carbajal as a tool of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, saying that the incumbent’s political marketing brand of bipartisan cooperation is a sham and alleging that Salud votes with her, “100 percent of the time.”
Carbajal fired back in our interview, calling Caldwell’s charge “preposterous.”
Asked to cite a single instance where he has differed with the Speaker, Salud quickly referenced an appropriations bill that, among other things, provided federal funds for wildfire fighting resources; he said he was one of only six Democrats to back the legislation, which the party’s congressional leadership opposed for partisan reasons.
He also ticked off a series of bills which he has co-sponsored with GOP House members and alluded to his membership in the “Problem Solvers Caucus,” a bipartisan group that works to bridge the bitter polarization in Congress.
“It’s all about voting for my district,” he said of where his political loyalties lie.
While the world awaits this weekend’s Caldwell-Carbajal throwdown, here is a rundown of what Santa Barbara’s man in congress had to say on the latest key news events.
Supreme Court. Carbajal blasted Senate Republicans for ramming through the Barrett nomination while continuing to withhold action on a new package of pandemic relief spending. At a time when the progressive wing of the Democratic Party is demanding the expansion of the Supreme Court by four seats if they win the presidency and Senate — a scheme denounced by Republicans as “court packing” – Salud said that “serious consideration should be given to every option that is available,” but stopped short of explicitly endorsing such a plan, saying he needs a better sense of where his constituents stand on the matter.
Pandemic relief. Carbajal demurred to our characterization of “dead,” to describe long-stalled talks among and between Pelosi, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and Senate Leader Mitch McConnell over another huge pandemic economic stimulus package: Salud recently voted with other House Democrats for a $2.2 trillion bill put up by Pelosi, but Senate Republicans have refused to spend more than another $500 billion, while Mnuchin has sought to split the difference with a $1.8 trillion proposal. Carbajal defended Pelosi’s outright rejection of the White House compromise, in part because it does not contain substantial funding for embattled local and state governments. Still, Salud insisted, there is a chance of an agreement before the election: “It’s a crisis and we have to act.”
Wildfires. With California enduring its worst fire season in history, Carbajal allied himself with Governor Gavin Newsom, who has pointed to climate change as the key factor driving the size and violence of wildfires, through a combination of drought, high temperatures and aberrant weather patterns. Caldwell has scoffed at that explanation, blaming Carbajal and other liberals who have supported environmental policies that limited controlled burns, leading to huge accumulations of dead trees and dry fuel. While acknowledging that fuel management in national forests should be improved, Carbajal said that aggressive government action to address climate change is the most crucial goal.
Diablo Canyon. With the the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Plant near Avila Beach set for decommissioning, Carbajal touted his recently-introduced legislation to create “Energy Opportunity Zones” in the area, and near about a dozen other nuclear plants set for shutdown, by “creating and expanding tax credits” for development of renewable energy sources, like wind and solar. With about 1,500 high-paying jobs at stake with the plant closure in San Luis Obispo County, he said his proposal could “offset job and energy losses,” but conceded he is still working to round up necessary Republican support.
Ballot harvesting. Political conflict is raging around the state over the Republican Party’s distribution of ballot collection bins that resemble official government election containers for depositing and collection of mail-in ballots. The state Attorney General and Secretary of State both have ordered the Republicans to cease and desist, accusing the party of illegal “ballot harvesting” with the scheme. Carbajal said he has not received reports of the practice occurring in his district, but expressed confidence that the state’s election systems to ensure the validity of ballots and legitimacy of the election were secure.
The election. Asked about Trump’s refusal to promise a peaceful transfer of power, amid a menacing political landscape featuring right-wing militias and violent anarchists, Carbajal said he believes it is crucial for Democrats to win an “overwhelming” victory on Nov. 3, both for president and Congress, so that there can be no question of a disputed election.
“I urge everyone — please vote!” he said, his voice rising above its Covid-induced hoarseness.