Pramila Jayapal
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Pramila Jayapal

Pramila Jayapal
Pramila Jayapal, official portrait, 116th Congress.jpg
Co-Chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus

January 3, 2019
Serving with Mark Pocan
Raúl Grijalva
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Washington's 7th district

January 3, 2017
Jim McDermott
Member of the Washington Senate
from the 37th district

January 12, 2015 - December 12, 2016
Adam Kline
Rebecca Saldaña
Personal details
Born (1965-09-21) September 21, 1965 (age 55)
Madras, Tamil Nadu, India
CitizenshipIndia (1965-2000)
United States (2000-present)
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)Steve Williamson
EducationGeorgetown University (BA)
Northwestern University (MBA)
WebsiteHouse website

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.[1] 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.[2] 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",[3] Jayapal has been Co-Chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus since 2019.[4] 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.[5]

Early life and education

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.[6][7] 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.[8]

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.[9]

Advocacy work

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.[10] The group changed its name to OneAmerica in 2008.[11][12] Jayapal stepped down from her leadership position in May 2012. In 2013 she was recognized by the White House as a "Champion of Change."[13]

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.[14] 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.[15]

Early political career

Jayapal speaks in Seattle in 2015

Jayapal served on the Mayoral Advisory Committee that negotiated Seattle's $15 minimum wage,[16] and co-chaired the Mayor's police chief search committee, which resulted in the unanimous selection of the city's first female police chief.[17]

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[11] and won more than 51% of the vote in the August 5 primary, out of a field of six candidates.[18] She went on to defeat fellow Democrat Louis Watanabe in November 2014.[19]

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.[20] She co-sponsored a bill to test and track thousands of police department rape kits.[21]

Jayapal endorsed Senator Bernie Sanders for President of the United States in the 2016 Democratic primaries.[22]

U.S. House of Representatives


In January 2016, Jayapal declared her candidacy for Congress in Washington's 7th congressional district, after Congressman Jim McDermott announced his retirement.[23] In April, she received an endorsement from Bernie Sanders.[24] On August 2, 2016, Jayapal finished first in the top-two primary, alongside state representative Brady Walkinshaw, also a Democrat.[25] This was the first time in the state's history that a federal seat was contested by two Democrats.[26] In the final weeks of the race, Jayapal and her supporters contested claims from Walkinshaw that she had not advanced enough legislation.[27][28] Jayapal won the general election with 56 percent of the vote.[29]


Hands Off Budget rally in Washington, D.C., May 24, 2017

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.[30] 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.[31] 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.[32] Jayapal is a supporter of universal healthcare and co-sponsor of Expanded and Improved Medicare For All Act.[33] On April 16, 2018, Jayapal joined Justice Democrats.[34]

During the inauguration of President Donald Trump, Jayapal met with constituents in her congressional district instead of attending the ceremony.[35]The Nation called her "a leader of the resistance," quoting Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi calling Jayapal "a rising star in the Democratic caucus."[3] In September, Rep. Don Young (R-AK) apologized to Jayapal after calling her "young lady" in an exchange that went viral.[36] Jayapal has described facing sexism from colleagues in Congress.[37]

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.[38] In July 2019, Jayapal voted against a House resolution condemning the Global Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement targeting Israel. The resolution passed 398-17.[39]

Jayapal's freshman portrait

On April 25, 2018, 57 members of the House of Representatives, including Jayapal,[40] released a condemnation of Holocaust distortion in Ukraine and Poland.[41] They criticized Poland's new Holocaust law, which would criminalize accusing Poles of complicity in the Holocaust,[42] and Ukraine's 2015 memory laws glorifying Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) and its pro-Nazi leaders, such as Roman Shukhevych.[40] 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 [43][44] 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".[45]

In June 2019, Jayapal became the first South Asian American woman to preside over the House.[46]

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.[47] Later in December 2019, the Foreign Minister of India cancelled the meeting with US lawmakers citing inclusion of Jayapal on the invitee list.[48] The bill has seen no movement since its introduction in US Congress.[49]

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.[50][51]

Jayapal supports decreasing U.S. military spending.[52] 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.[53]

Jayapal is a supporter of Jesús "Chuy" García's New Way Forward Act, which calls for immigration reform.[54][better source needed][55]

Leadership posts

Co-chair, Congressional Progressive Caucus

  • Co-chair and co-founder, United for Climate and Environmental Justice Task Force
  • Chair, Immigration Task Force, Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC)
  • Co-chair, Women's Working Group on Immigration Reform
  • DNC Transition Team Member

Committee memberships

Jayapal is also a member of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus.[56]

Personal life

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.[57] She later became a U.S. citizen in 2000.[12] She is the author of Pilgrimage: One Woman's Return to a Changing India, published in March 2000.[58][59]

Jayapal lives in Seattle with her husband Steven R. Williamson.[60] Janak, Jayapal's child from a previous marriage, is gender non-binary.[61] 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.[62]

Jayapal's older sister Susheela has served on the Multnomah County (Oregon) Commission since 2019.[63]

Electoral history

Washington's 7th Congressional District nonpartisan blanket primary election, 2016
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Pramila Jayapal 82,753 42.11
Democratic Brady Walkinshaw 41,773 21.26
Democratic Joe McDermott 37,495 19.08
Republican Craig Keller 16,058 8.17
Republican Scott Sutherland 9,008 4.58
Democratic Arun Jhaveri 3,389 1.72
Independent Leslie Regier 2,592 1.32
Democratic Don Rivers 2,379 1.21
Independent Carl Cooper 1,056 0.54
Total votes 196,503 100.00
Washington's 7th Congressional District election, 2016
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Pramila Jayapal 212,010 55.98
Democratic Brady Walkinshaw 166,744 44.02
Total votes 378,754 100.00
Democratic hold
Washington's 7th Congressional District nonpartisan blanket primary election, 2018
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Pramila Jayapal (incumbent) 189,175 82.7
Republican Craig Keller 39,657 17.3
Total votes 228,832 100.0
Washington's 7th Congressional District election, 2018
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Pramila Jayapal 329,800 83.6
Republican Craig Keller 64,881 16.4
Total votes 394,681 100.0
Democratic hold
Washington's 7th Congressional District nonpartisan blanket primary election, 2020
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Pramila Jayapal 240,801 79.98
Republican Craig Keller 24,477 8.13
Independent Rick Lewis 13,885 4.61
Republican Scott Sutherland 11,332 3.76
Democratic Jack Hughes-Hageman 10,052 3.34
Write-in 537 0.18
Total votes 301,084 100

See also


  1. ^ Beekman, Daniel; Thomson, Lynn; Rowe, Claudia (November 9, 2016). "Jayapal becomes the first Indian-American and First Tamil woman elected to Congress". Seattle Times. Retrieved 2016.
  2. ^ "Pramila Jayapal Leaving OneAmerica". OneAmerica. July 8, 2017. Archived from the original on July 8, 2017. Retrieved 2018.
  3. ^ a b "Pramila Jayapal Wants Democrats to Know That Resistance Is Not Enough". The Nation. ISSN 0027-8378. Retrieved 2017.
  4. ^ "Caucus Members". Congressional Progressive Caucus. Retrieved 2018.
  5. ^ Jayapal, Pramila. "About". Pramila Jayapal. House of Representatives. Retrieved 2018.
  6. ^ "About". Pramila Jayapal. Retrieved 2015.
  7. ^ "Indian American Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal's parents: 'She's interested in social justice'". firstpost. Retrieved 2016.
  8. ^ "Pramila Moves to West Seattle". Pramila Jayapal. Retrieved 2017.
  9. ^ "About". Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal. December 3, 2012. Retrieved 2018.
  10. ^ "History". OneAmerica. Archived from the original on November 18, 2016. Retrieved 2016.
  11. ^ a b Turnbull, Lornet (March 10, 2014). "Seattle activist Pramila Jayapal seeks state Senate seat". Seattle Times. Retrieved 2015.
  12. ^ a b Shephard, Aria (June 30, 2008). "Hate Free Zone gets new name, OneAmerica, With Justice for All". Seattle Times. Retrieved 2015.
  13. ^ "Seattle woman honored as 'Champion of Change' at White House". KING5. May 6, 2013. Retrieved 2016.
  14. ^ Reints, Renae (June 29, 2018). "Nearly 600 Arrested in Washington #WomenDisobey Protest". Fortune. Retrieved 2018.
  15. ^ Niraj, Chokshi (June 29, 2018). "Hundreds Arrested During Women's Immigration Protest in Washington". New York Times. Retrieved 2018. On Thursday afternoon, Ms. Jayapal said she was "proud to have been arrested" in protesting the administration's "inhumane and cruel" policy.
  16. ^ "Mayor's Income Inequality Advisory Committee" (PDF). Retrieved 2020.
  17. ^ "Murray Makes Police Chief Pick: It's Kathleen O'Toole!". Seattle Weekly. Retrieved 2016.
  18. ^ "Pramila Jayapal wins six-candidate primary race for WA state senate". Nri Pulse. August 13, 2014. Retrieved 2015.
  19. ^ "Democrats trailing in state Senate races". Seattle Times. November 5, 2014. Retrieved 2015.
  20. ^ "SB 5863 - Concerning highway construction workforce development". Retrieved 2016.
  21. ^ "SB 6484 - Protecting victims of sex crimes". Retrieved 2016.
  22. ^ Merica, Dan (August 9, 2015). "Sanders' biggest rally yet comes with an undercurrent of racial issues". CNN. Retrieved 2015.
  23. ^ Connelly, Joel (January 21, 2016). "Pramila Jayapal enters U.S. House race with blast at 'the 1 percent'". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Retrieved 2016.
  24. ^ Beekman, Daniel (July 6, 2016). "Boost from Bernie Sanders plays into Seattle race for Congress". The Seattle Times. Retrieved 2016.
  25. ^ "Congressional District 7". Retrieved 2016.
  26. ^ "Jayapal claims victory over Walkinshaw in House battle of progressives". Retrieved 2018.
  27. ^ "Misogyny and racism, sure - but not in Seattle congressional race". The Seattle Times. October 25, 2016. Retrieved 2016.
  28. ^ "7th Congressional District race: Overstated accusations about Pramila Jayapal". The Seattle Times. October 28, 2016. Retrieved 2016.
  29. ^ "Congressional District 7". Retrieved 2016.
  30. ^ "Jayapal and Sanders Introduce College for All Act". Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal. April 3, 2017. Retrieved 2017.
  31. ^ "Jayapal, Raskin Introduce Trump Transparency Package". Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal. May 17, 2017. Retrieved 2017.
  32. ^ "Jayapal, Diaz Barragán, McEachin Introduce Environmental Justice Bill Package". Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal. June 2, 2017. Retrieved 2017.
  33. ^ "Cosponsors: H.R.676 -- 115th Congress (2017-2018)". Retrieved 2018.
  34. ^ "Justice Democrats on Twitter". Twitter. Retrieved 2018.
  35. ^ "Seattle Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal Won't Be Attending the Inauguration". The Stranger. Retrieved 2017.
  36. ^ "Rep. Don Young apologizes for irate retort to female colleague". USA Today.
  37. ^ "Rep. Pramila Jayapal takes sexist arrows and fights back". The Hill.
  38. ^ "AAI Thanks 80 Representatives For Standing Against Illegal Israeli Settlements". Arab American Institute.
  39. ^ Schneider, Bradley Scott (July 23, 2019). "H.Res.246 - 116th Congress (2019-2020): Opposing efforts to delegitimize the State of Israel and the Global Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement targeting Israel". Retrieved 2019.
  40. ^ a b "57 Members of US House of Representatives Condemn Holocaust Distortion in Ukraine and Poland". Defending History. April 25, 2018.
  41. ^ "Congress members urge US stand against Holocaust denial in Ukraine, Poland". The Times of Israel. April 25, 2018.
  42. ^ "It's now a crime in Poland to suggest Poles were complicit in the Holocaust". Vice News. March 1, 2018.
  43. ^ Jayapal, Pramila (December 10, 2019). "H.R.1384 - 116th Congress (2019-2020): Medicare for All Act of 2019".
  44. ^ Paulina Firozi (March 11, 2019). "The Health 202: Jayapal's Medicare-for-all bill reflects influence of hard-line progressive groups". Washington Post.
  45. ^ Haitiwanger, John (April 5, 2019). "Bernie Sanders, Rand Paul, Ro Khanna, and a bipartisan group of lawmakers sent a letter to Trump imploring him to end US support for Saudi Arabia in Yemen".
  46. ^ "Pramila Jayapal becomes first South Asian American woman to preside over House". TheHill. Retrieved 2019.
  47. ^ Basu, Nayanima (January 7, 2020). "Why US Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal's Kashmir resolution doesn't have many takers". ThePrint.
  48. ^ Chaudhury, Dipanjan Roy (December 21, 2019). "External affairs minister cancels meeting with US lawmakers over Pramila Jayapal's presence". The Economic Times.
  49. ^ Jayapal, Pramila (December 6, 2019). "Actions - H.Res.745 - 116th Congress (2019-2020): Urging the Republic of India to end the restrictions on communications and mass detentions in Jammu and Kashmir as swiftly as possible and preserve religious freedom for all residents".
  50. ^ Sullivan, Sean; Stein, Jeff (January 19, 2020). "Rep. Jayapal, a leading liberal congresswoman, endorses Sanders for president". Washington Post.
  51. ^ Falconer, Rebecca. "Bernie Sanders endorsed by key progressive Rep. Pramila Jayapal". Axios.
  52. ^ "We can pay for a coronavirus stimulus package. Just trim 10 percent off the military budget". NBC News. July 21, 2020.
  53. ^ "We Can No Longer Afford the Military-Industrial Complex". The Nation. July 22, 2020.
  54. ^ Sources, World Combined (February 10, 2020). "Reps introduce New Way Forward Act to fight criminalization of immigrants". People's World. Retrieved 2020.
  55. ^ "H.R.5383 - 116th Congress (2019-2020): New Way Forward Act". Retrieved 2020.
  56. ^ "Members". Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus. Retrieved 2018.
  57. ^ "Rep. Pramila Jayapal Urges President Trump to Open Doors To Immigrants". News India Times. July 14, 2017. 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.
  58. ^ "Nonfiction Book Review: Pilgrimage: One Woman's Return to a Changing India by Pramila Jayapal". Retrieved 2016.
  59. ^ Stephen, David (June 25, 2001). "Pramila Jayapal talks about her book Pilgrimage: One Woman's Return to a Changing India". Retrieved 2016.
  60. ^ "Pramila Jayapal". Retrieved 2017.
  61. ^ "Watch: Rep. Jayapal tearfully reveals child came out as gender nonbinary". NBC News. Retrieved 2019.
  62. ^ Jayapal, Pramila (June 13, 2019). "Opinion | Rep. Pramila Jayapal: The Story of My Abortion". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019.
  63. ^ Nakamura, Beth. "Jayapal sworn in as Oregon's first Indian American to hold elected county office". The Oregonian. Retrieved 2020.

External links

U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Jim McDermott
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Washington's 7th congressional district

Party political offices
Preceded by
Raúl Grijalva
Chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus
Served alongside: Mark Pocan
U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by
Trey Hollingsworth
United States Representatives by seniority
Succeeded by
Mike Johnson

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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