CLEVELAND — Most members of Congress have about two months after winning their office to transition into the job, Congresswoman Shontel Brown had two days.
“It was surreal,” Brown said looking back. “The election was Tuesday, flew out on Wednesday, was sworn in on Thursday and actually started casting votes on Thursday, and the next day we passed the bipartisan infrastructure law which is bringing billions of dollars to Ohio."
Brown was elected in November to fill the unexpired term of former Congresswoman Marcia Fudge, who left to become Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. Congresswoman Brown said the biggest adjustment has been to the constant travel back and forth.
“Although the flight is short, it probably takes longer to get to the airport and from the airport than the actual flight itself,” she said.
The biggest surprise? Congress is more civil than people might think.
"While we don't always agree on everything there is some civility in some parts of Congress so it's not as polarizing as sometimes you see on the news but there are actually plenty of things that we've been able to get done."
To win the seat Brown won a primary fight last August in a crowded field that included former State Senator Nina Turner. Turner announced last month that she is challenging Brown again nine months later in the May 3 primary. Brown said she isn't phased.
"Listen this is our Democracy at work. I am grateful that I am in a position of incumbency,” she said. “It’s been a short and long 100 days in that way but what I can tell you is that I'm up for the challenge.”
What is unclear though is what that district will actually end up looking like as we await new maps from the Ohio Redistricting Commission after they were ordered redrawn by the State Supreme Court. Something Brown said is frustrating for her and other Ohio Members of Congress.
"Oh my goodness, I think it is insane,” she said. “The time that they're taking to do it is absolutely ridiculous, it's holding up democracy."
Brown said many of the challenges the district faces are still tied to COVID-19. "We still need to make sure that we're taking the pandemic serious. I think we're all a little COVID fatigued and we're ready to make some adjustments to our lives. I think we're all tired of wearing masks and you might be hearing something from the CDC soon on that but recovery from the pandemic which means economic impact, which means dealing with poverty, which means dealing with diversity, equity, and inclusion that has revealed so many disparities particularly in the black community and communities of color so with this district being a majority-minority district, those things are always at the top of mind for me,” she said.
When asked if because of the inflation concerns born in part out of the government spending that came as a result of the pandemic, Turner said no.
“I think that it’s the very opposite, that it still has some life because Build Back Better is specifically designed to deal with those kitchen-table issues, it is the economic infusion including things like the Child Tax Credit. Here in Ohio's 11th Congressional District 70,000 people were impacted or benefited from the Child Tax Credit so we need to continue to fight for that. That's put's an average of $435 back into families pockets a month and so that puts food on the table, that helps keep roofs overheads and that helps pay utility bills.”
“Build Back Better answers a lot of those questions around issues that are impacted by inflation,” she said. “We can either get portions of it passed because I'm not opposed to that, nothing is off the table, or that we can do some smaller things for a longer period of time.”