Summer Lee talks about her goals during 1st term in Congress (Trib Live)

Feb 05, 2023
In the News

Pittsburgh has a new representative in Congress for the first time in nearly three decades.

U.S. Rep. Summer Lee, D-Swissvale, was sworn in last month to replace longtime U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle, who did not seek reelection. Lee said she has hit the ground running and the region will continue to receive attention from Washington, despite the loss of such a senior lawmaker in Doyle.

“Pittsburgh is still going to get a lot of attention,” said Lee, nothing that President Biden has visited the region often. “We are still going to see politicians that are going to come here. Folks want to see this region prosper.”

Lee is representing Pennsylvania’s 12th District, which includes Pittsburgh and communities in the Mon Valley, eastern Allegheny County and western Westmoreland County.

While Lee acknowledged Doyle’s seniority gained through 28 years in office, she said that doesn’t mean her office “has to start from scratch.”

“I don’t think it will be as painful as some people are thinking it will be,” she said of the transition.

Lee, 35, said one of her top priorities will be constituent services, such as helping people obtain a passport or dealing with immigration and veterans issues. She said she plans to locate her district office in Pittsburgh’s East Liberty, which will have ample parking and access to public transit. Doyle had been in the South Side.

Lee has been placed on two House committees where she said she hopes to advance her advocacy for equity and accountability: the Science, Space & Technology Committee and the Oversight & Accountability Committee.

She said she hopes to fight corruption and hold corporations accountable as a member of the Oversight & Accountability Committee, which like the rest of the House is under Republican control.

Lee said she also is excited to sit on the Science, Space & Technology Committee to help fuel Western Pennsylvania’s economy, which has become increasingly reliant on tech companies and is playing a growing role in the space industry.

She said she wants to support those fields by bringing research dollars back to this region, while also working to ensure that people of color and marginalized communities are included in the economic growth of those industries.

“You sent me to Congress to fight for investments in our economic future for all of us,” she said.

Lee hopes her role on the Science, Space & Technology Committee will enable her to work toward advancing renewable energy manufacturing. She said she has been focused on advocating for improved environmental conditions in low-income and Black communities, particularly parts of the Mon Valley that have struggled with poor air quality.

“Environmental justice has been incredibly important to me,” she said.

Lee took a moderate tone as she discussed the Pittsburgh region’s push for a Hydrogen Hub — a federal designation that would come with potentially over $1 billion in funding to build facilities to harness hydrogen-based energy.

Lee said a designation would bring family-sustaining jobs to the region, along with environmental concerns. She said she would like to have more discussion about whether the region wants to see blue hydrogen (derived from natural gas) or green hydrogen (derived from renewable energy).

With Republicans controlling the House for at least the next two years, Lee acknowledged that legislative wins for Democrats will be few and far between. She said that doesn’t change her outlook.

“The agenda is the same: fight for working people and representing marginalized folks,” Lee said.

Lee has joined three caucuses so far: the Congressional Black Caucus, the Women’s Caucus and the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

She said each is a natural fit. Lee is the first Black woman elected to Congress from Pennsylvania and a progressive.

But Lee added: “I intend to work with everyone who works toward equity.”

“I don’t intend to change my focus,” said Lee. “When I got in, my focus was working class issues, and fighting for living wage and improving housing, and creating a just economy. That hasn’t changed.”

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