Congress held a historic hearing on Medicare for all on Tuesday, opening with an emotional testimony from activist and lawyer Ady Barkan, who is dying of terminal ALS. We speak to Representative Ilhan Omar about yesterday’s hearing and her support for overhauling the country’s healthcare system in favor of Medicare for all. We also talk to her about ongoing efforts to impeach President Donald Trump, which she says she supports.
More from this Interview
- Part 1: Ilhan Omar Speaks Out Against U.S. Sanctions & Bipartisan Support for Regime Change in Venezuela
- Part 2: Hands Off Ilhan Omar: Angela Davis & Black Women Leaders Defend Congresswoman from Right-Wing Attacks
- Part 3: “It Is About Time”: Rep. Ilhan Omar on Supporting Impeachment of Trump & Medicare for All
- Part 4: Ilhan Omar’s Full Speech: Trump’s Attacks on Me Target Women, People of Color & Immigrants Everywhere
AMY GOODMAN: Congressmember Ilhan Omar, I know your time is very short, and I wanted to ask, with the media painting you as a one-issue congressmember, what you think is being missed. For example, yesterday, the first-ever hearing on Medicare for all, the emotional testimony of Ady Barkan, who is dying of ALS, and others. If you can talk about Medicare for all, why you’ve come out in support of it, and also whether you feel that President Trump should be impeached?
REP. ILHAN OMAR: Yeah. So, Medicare for all and the testimony of Ady, the very impassioned testimony of someone we all love and are, you know, really excited that he gets the opportunity—he got the opportunity to speak at the first hearing of a policy that he’s been so passionate about, is one that I am really privileged enough to be the vice chair of, the Medicare for All Caucus. It’s important that we recognize healthcare as a human right and that we make sure that everyone, regardless of their economic status here in this country or their employment status, should have access to healthcare. It’s one that I’m very passionate about.
I talked about how my aunt, at a young age, in Somalia, died because she didn’t have access to insulin to take care of her diabetes. And in Minnesota, we had a very young man, around the same age as my aunt, in his early twenties, who died because he could not afford insulin. And so, to have something like that happen, not in a country like Somalia, but here in the United States, as well, is one that we should be ashamed of and one that we should work really hard to make sure it doesn’t happen again. And in—
AMY GOODMAN: Impeachment?
REP. ILHAN OMAR: Yeah, and in the question of impeachment, it’s about time. We’ve had the investigations. Mueller has clearly stated that if he was giving a different opinion by the general attorney, that he would indict. And now he’s kicked the ball to Congress. And we have an opportunity now to start impeachment proceedings for events that happened pre-election. And Rashida, myself, Alex and others are pushing to make sure that we can investigate post-election Trump and many of the obstructions and criminal activities that might have taken place in his White House.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you so much for being with us, Congressmember Ilhan Omar, Minnesota congressmember representing the 5th Congressional District, first Somali American elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, one of the first Muslim women in Congress. I know you have to leave us, but we’re going to turn now, with your words, the words you shared yesterday at the Reflecting Pool outside the Capitol, speaking at the rally in your support.
REP. ILHAN OMAR: Here’s the thing that really offends a lot of people and the reason that we are here. I was born—I was born as a very liberated human being, to a country that was colonized, that recognized that they can colonize the land but they can’t colonize your mind, to people who recognized that all of us deserve dignity and that no human being was ever, ever going to tell you that you are less than them. Thirteen people organized for our independence in Somalia. So I was born in that breath of recognizing that they might be more powerful than you are, that they might have more technology than you have, they might think that they are wiser than you, they might control all of the institutions, but you control your mind, and that is what sets you free.
So, a sister of mine on TV said the thing that upsets—the thing that upsets the occupant of the White House, his goons in the Republican Party, many of our colleagues in the Democratic Party, is that—is that they can’t stand—they cannot stand that a refugee, a black woman, an immigrant, a Muslim, shows up in Congress thinking she’s equal to them. But I say to them, “How else did you expect me to show up?”
So here is the reality. I tell people every single day, I have a certificate that everyone else has hanged in their offices in Congress, the same exact certificate of election. But I got more people who voted for me and sent me here than 428 of them. So, when they say, “Who does she think she is?”—when they say, “Who does she think she is?” I am the one that the people sent to be a voice for them. So we have to always recognize that one marginalized voice represents many marginalized voices.
But I don’t only represent one marginalized voice, because in this country being black is enough of being marginalized. But I also happen to be a woman. That’s a second marginalization. I happen to be a Muslim. And I also, also happen to be a refugee and an immigrant, from what they call one of the “shithole countries.” The reality is, that “shithole country” raised a very proud, dignified person. Our circumstances might not always be perfect, but that doesn’t lessen our humanity. And I am not in the business of defending mine.
So, when this—when this occupant of the White House chooses to attack me, we know—we know that that attack isn’t for Ilhan. That attack is the continuation of the attacks that he’s leveled against women, against people of color, against immigrants, against refugees, and certainly against Muslims. And we are collectively saying—we are collectively saying, “Your vile attacks, your demented views are not welcome here. This is not—this is not going to be the country of the xenophobics. This is not going to be the country of white people. This is not going to be the country of the few. This is the country of the many. This is a country that was founded—this is the country that was founded on the history of Native American genocide, on the backs of black slaves, but also by immigrants.” And so, as much as we need to remedy the history that we continue to neglect, we also must recognize that every, every liberty that we enjoy here, every single progress we get to celebrate, came about because immigrants participated in it.
So, I know my place in this society. All of you know your place in this society. And it’s one that is equal to every single person that walks in it.
AMY GOODMAN: Minnesota Congressmember Ilhan Omar, speaking in front of the Capitol at a protest in her defense, organized by black women leaders. Sitting behind her, Angela Davis, Congresswomen Ayanna Pressley and Rashida Tlaib, urging Congress to censure President Trump, who they referred to simply as the occupant of the White House, for his attacks on Omar and to send a message to both political parties: “Hands off Ilhan Omar!” She says she has suffered a spike in death threats against her since President Trump pinned a tweet of a video that juxtaposed Ilhan Omar against the 9/11 attacks.
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