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Pressley And Trahan Outline Priorities In Congress

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Massachusetts Congresswoman-elect Ayanna Pressley (right) speaks during a press conference outside of the Harvard Kennedy School of Government in Cambridge, Massachusetts on December 4, 2018. Joining her was Massachusetts Congresswoman-elect Lori Trahan (center back).
Meredith Nierman/WGBH News

Congresswoman-elect Ayanna Pressley Tuesday night announced a hefty legislative agenda that includes single-payer healthcare and gun control.

Pressley, who will represent a Boston area district, was joined by other incoming House members in Cambridge, Mass., including Lori Trahan from the Lowell area and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York.

"I am here to make the case for Medicare for all," Pressley exclaimed to cheers from the surrounding crowd. "Medicare for all is justice. Closing the boyfriend loophole is justice,” she said, pointing to legal technicalities that domestic violence activists say allow unmarried domestic abusers to access guns. “Background checks and an assault weapons ban are justice," she added.

Pressley acknowledged that her aspirations are high, but she said Democrats cannot afford to be modest during the Trump administration.

“I have no illusions about how hard it is to craft a forward-facing, life-saving policy while we are fighting this administration at every corner,” she said. “Our work will not be easy, but unprecedented times demand unprecedented leadership, and we will together move unprecedented legislation.”

Pressley, who is set to be sworn into office when the 116th Congress convenes next month, said she will also work towards repealing the Dickey Amendment. The add-on to a 1996 budget bill prohibits the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from applying funds to "advocate or promote gun control." The rider has long been interpreted as limiting federal funding for gun violence research. Pressley said studying the issue is necessary "to get at the systemic and root causes" of gun violence.

"It's not just about stopping the flow of guns into community. We have to better understand what is motivating the person behind the trigger," she said.

Pressley and the other new members are emboldened by the incoming Democratic majority in the House, which includes what some observers call a "progressive wave."

“218 is the magic number to get things done,” said Ocasio-Cortez. The number represents the votes certain to be enough to approve a bill in the House. The incoming House class will have 63 new members, and “35 of that 63 has rejected corporate PAC money,” Ocasio-Cortez said to cheers.

Trahan, who prevailed after a recount, emphasized the importance of both healthcare and gun control. She said addressing opioid deaths is another priority.

“We’re losing too many family members, friends, neighbors and community members to overdoses,” she said, highlighting the numbers from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. As of November, more than 1,500 people are estimated have died from opioid-related overdoses this year.

Other speakers included Andy Levin from Michigan and Mary Gay Scanlon of Pennsylvania. The group is attending an orientation program hosted by the Institute of Politics at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government.

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