|Co-Chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus|
January 3, 2019
Serving with Mark Pocan
|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives|
from Washington's 7th district
January 3, 2017
|Member of the Washington Senate|
from the 37th district
January 12, 2015 - December 12, 2016
|Born||September 21, 1965|
Madras, Tamil Nadu, India
United States (2000-present)
|Education||Georgetown University (BA)|
Northwestern University (MBA)
Pramila Jayapal (; born September 21, 1965) is an American politician serving as the U.S. Representative for Washington's 7th congressional district since 2017. A member of the Democratic Party, her district includes most of Seattle as well as suburban areas of King County. Jayapal previously represented the 37th legislative district in the Washington State Senate from 2015 to 2017. She is the first Indian-American woman to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives. The district's first female member of Congress, she is also the first Asian American to represent the State of Washington at the federal level.
Before entering electoral politics, Jayapal was a Seattle-based civil rights activist, serving until 2012 as the executive director of OneAmerica, a pro-immigrant advocacy group. Jayapal founded the organization, originally called Hate Free Zone, following the September 11 attacks. The organization successfully sued the Bush Administration's Immigration and Naturalization Services to prevent the deportation of over 4,000 Somalis. Described by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as "a rising star in the Democratic caucus", Jayapal has been Co-Chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus since 2019. She currently serves on both the Judiciary Committee and Budget Committee; she is the only member of Congress from the State of Washington on the Judiciary Committee.
Jayapal was born in Madras (since renamed Chennai), India to Maya Jayapal, a writer, and MP Jayapal, a marketing professional. She spent most of her childhood in Indonesia and Singapore. She immigrated to the United States in 1982, at the age of 16, to attend college. She earned a baccalaureate from Georgetown University and an MBA from Northwestern University.
Jayapal worked for PaineWebber as a financial analyst after graduation from Northwestern. While at PaineWebber she began to work on development projects from Chicago to Thailand. Later, she briefly worked in sales and marketing for a medical company before moving into the public sector in 1991.
Jayapal founded Hate Free Zone after the 2001 September 11 attacks as an advocacy group for immigrant groups. Hate Free Zone registered new American citizens to vote and lobbied on immigration reform and related issues. They successfully sued the Bush Administration's Immigration and Naturalization Services to prevent the deportation of over 4,000 Somalis across the country. The group changed its name to OneAmerica in 2008. Jayapal stepped down from her leadership position in May 2012. In 2013 she was recognized by the White House as a "Champion of Change."
On June 29, 2018, Jayapal participated in Women Disobey and the sit-in at the Hart Senate Office Building to protest the Trump administration's "zero-tolerance" approach to illegal immigration. The protest resulted in the arrest of over 500 people, including Jayapal. She said she was "proud to have been arrested" for protesting the administration's "inhumane and cruel" policy.
Jayapal served on the Mayoral Advisory Committee that negotiated Seattle's $15 minimum wage, and co-chaired the Mayor's police chief search committee, which resulted in the unanimous selection of the city's first female police chief.
After State Senator Adam Kline announced his retirement in early 2014, Jayapal entered the race to succeed him. She was endorsed by Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and won more than 51% of the vote in the August 5 primary, out of a field of six candidates. She went on to defeat fellow Democrat Louis Watanabe in November 2014.
In the Washington State Senate, Jayapal was the primary sponsor of SB 5863, which directs the Washington State Department of Transportation to administer a pre-apprenticeship program targeting women and people of color; the bill passed into law in July 2015. She co-sponsored a bill to test and track thousands of police department rape kits.
In January 2016, Jayapal declared her candidacy for Congress in Washington's 7th congressional district, after Congressman Jim McDermott announced his retirement. In April, she received an endorsement from Bernie Sanders. On August 2, 2016, Jayapal finished first in the top-two primary, alongside state representative Brady Walkinshaw, also a Democrat. This was the first time in the state's history that a federal seat was contested by two Democrats. In the final weeks of the race, Jayapal and her supporters contested claims from Walkinshaw that she had not advanced enough legislation. Jayapal won the general election with 56 percent of the vote.
Jayapal is a co-sponsor of legislation intended to make public colleges and universities tuition-free for most families and to significantly reduce student debt. She and Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) introduced the Trump Transparency Package, a series of bills aimed at promoting transparency and eliminating conflicts of interest in the Trump White House. Jayapal and her fellow co-chairs of the United for Climate and Environmental Justice Task Force also introduced a package of environmental justice bills to fight the impact of climate change on frontline communities. Jayapal is a supporter of universal healthcare and co-sponsor of Expanded and Improved Medicare For All Act. On April 16, 2018, Jayapal joined Justice Democrats.
During the inauguration of President Donald Trump, Jayapal met with constituents in her congressional district instead of attending the ceremony.The Nation called her "a leader of the resistance," quoting Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi calling Jayapal "a rising star in the Democratic caucus." In September, Rep. Don Young (R-AK) apologized to Jayapal after calling her "young lady" in an exchange that went viral. Jayapal has described facing sexism from colleagues in Congress.
Jayapal voted against a House resolution condemning the U.N. Security Council resolution on Israeli settlements built on the occupied Palestinian territories in the West Bank. In July 2019, Jayapal voted against a House resolution condemning the Global Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement targeting Israel. The resolution passed 398-17.
On April 25, 2018, 57 members of the House of Representatives, including Jayapal, released a condemnation of Holocaust distortion in Ukraine and Poland. They criticized Poland's new Holocaust law, which would criminalize accusing Poles of complicity in the Holocaust, and Ukraine's 2015 memory laws glorifying Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) and its pro-Nazi leaders, such as Roman Shukhevych. In February 2019, Jayapal sponsored and introduced the Medicare for All Act of 2019 along with more than 100 co-sponsors. The bill would create a publicly-financed comprehensive, universal and guaranteed health care insurance system for every resident of the U.S. The bill represented the continuation of the long-term campaign by progressives in the U.S. Congress to introduce a system of guaranteed health care  In April 2019, after the House passed the resolution withdrawing American support for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, Jayapal was one of nine lawmakers to sign a letter to President Trump requesting a meeting with him and urging him to sign "Senate Joint Resolution 7, which invokes the War Powers Act of 1973 to end unauthorized US military participation in the Saudi-led coalition's armed conflict against Yemen's Houthi forces, initiated in 2015 by the Obama administration." They asserted the "Saudi-led coalition's imposition of an air-land-and-sea blockade as part of its war against Yemen's Houthis has continued to prevent the unimpeded distribution of these vital commodities, contributing to the suffering and death of vast numbers of civilians throughout the country" and that Trump's approval of the resolution through his signing would give a "powerful signal to the Saudi-led coalition to bring the four-year-old war to a close".
In June 2019, Jayapal became the first South Asian American woman to preside over the House.
In December 2019, Jayapal introduced a bill in US Congress to urge India to lift curbs on communications in Kashmir. These curbs were introduced as part of revocation of the special status of Jammu and Kashmir in August 2019. Later in December 2019, the Foreign Minister of India cancelled the meeting with US lawmakers citing inclusion of Jayapal on the invitee list. The bill has seen no movement since its introduction in US Congress.
On January 20, 2020, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Jayapal officially announced her endorsement of Senator Bernie Sanders for President of the United States in the 2020 Democratic presidential primaries.
Jayapal supports decreasing U.S. military spending. Jayapal, Barbara Lee and Mark Pocan attempted to reduce the size of the $740 billion National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021, but their motion was rejected 93-324.
Co-chair, Congressional Progressive Caucus
Jayapal initially lost her Green Card when she gave birth prematurely in India during a visit with her husband, unable to return in time to maintain Permanent Resident status. She later became a U.S. citizen in 2000. She is the author of Pilgrimage: One Woman's Return to a Changing India, published in March 2000.
Jayapal lives in Seattle with her husband Steven R. Williamson. Janak, Jayapal's child from a previous marriage, is gender non-binary. In 2019, Jayapal publicly wrote that she had chosen to abort a pregnancy because the pregnancy would risk her and the potential child's health.
|Democratic||Pramila Jayapal (incumbent)||189,175||82.7|
On Thursday afternoon, Ms. Jayapal said she was "proud to have been arrested" in protesting the administration's "inhumane and cruel" policy.
Not only did she go through the gamut of visas, F1, F1B, etc., but she lost her Green Card when her child was born prematurely during a visit to India with her American husband, and could not come back to the U.S. on time to keep the permanent residence visa valid.
|U.S. House of Representatives|
| Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Washington's 7th congressional district
|Party political offices|
| Chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus
Served alongside: Mark Pocan
|U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)|
| United States Representatives by seniority