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Newly Elected GOP Congresswoman On Biden's Presidential Agenda

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Hours before President Biden took the oath of office, 17 new members of the House Republican caucus sent him a letter of congratulations. They identify some places Republicans see opportunities to work with the new president, such as health care, infrastructure, coronavirus relief and tech regulation. Congresswoman Young Kim represents part of Orange County in Southern California, and she is one of the new Republican lawmakers who signed this letter. Welcome to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.

YOUNG KIM: Thank you for having me.

SHAPIRO: Will you just begin by reflecting on today's events? I understand you attended the inauguration with your daughter. As you listened to President Biden's inaugural address, what stood out to you?

KIM: Well, actually, he's - well, first of all, thank you for having me. And I attended the inauguration, as you said, with my daughter Kelly and several of my colleagues. We witnessed a peaceful transfer of power for the new Biden administration because - I wanted to be there to witness it because peaceful transition of power allows our democracy to survive.

I didn't vote for Joe Biden, but I truly wish him well, as his success is our nation's success. And as you mentioned, he laid out a lot of issues and initiatives that he wanted to work on. And so I truly want to work with him. And we wanted to send a message - that's why I signed the freshman letter - to the Biden administration, our willingness and desire to work together. We want to work with him...

SHAPIRO: Yeah. You refer to it...

KIM: ...But he needs to work with us Republicans, too, because, you know, he needs to keep his promise of working in a bipartisan way to get things done.

SHAPIRO: Yeah. You refer to a peaceful transfer of power, but more than half of your fellow Republicans in the House voted not to certify Biden as president, including some of your first-term colleagues who signed this letter. This was after an assault on the Capitol that made this really anything but peaceful. Do you think that vote to effectively invalidate the democratic process by some of your colleagues undermines the message of this letter that you want the two sides to work together?

KIM: Well, I believed rushing an impeachment through the House without any hearings with one week left in his term when we were voting on that would only divide our country more and keep us from moving forward.

SHAPIRO: I was referring to the vote to certify the election, actually.

KIM: Well, you know, I voted to accept the Electoral College because that was the limited authority that were given to the members of Congress. And just three days before we were voting on that, we were all sworn in to defend and support the Constitution. And so that was - that's why I voted the way I did.

SHAPIRO: You know, in other administrations, we've often seen people pay lip service early on to bipartisanship. On Inauguration Day, it's a popular thing to say. And then one side says something that makes the other side outraged, or they feign outrage, and the insults start flying. Do you think it's really possible to break that pattern this year?

KIM: I really hope so. I came to Congress to break through the partisan gridlock and get things done for the - not only my district, but to move our country forward. So I'm thrilled to hit the ground running with like-minded members who want to find common ground. I look to the members like those who serve on the Problem Solvers Caucus. They have played a significant role in making bipartisan deals, such as negotiating the first COVID relief bill last year. I want to be able to work together in a bipartisan way, as the Problem Solvers Caucus members would have done, to continue to work on COVID-19 relief, immigration reform, health care and many other policy issues that we really need to work on to get our country moving forward.

SHAPIRO: And finally, just in the short amount of time we have left, as you know, there's an enormous media machine that profits off making people angry and scared. If you help this new administration pass major legislative proposals, that machine will target you personally and professionally. Are you willing to take that on?

KIM: I will do whatever is important to help my district and move our country forward. The only way to do that is to work in a bipartisan way. So there are times I will be voting not necessarily to - you know, we learned quickly in the last two weeks. We're making anybody happy.

SHAPIRO: All right.

KIM: But we need to do this to move us forward.

SHAPIRO: Congresswoman Young Kim of Southern California, I'm afraid we're out of time, but we appreciate your joining us. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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