On Dec. 18, the U.S. House of Representatives impeached President Trump for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. The two articles were passed by majority votes along party lines 230 to 197; and 229 to 198, and the case will now proceed to the Senate for trial. Among the Democrats that voted to impeach the president was Congressman Salud Carbajal, representing California’s 24th district which contains all of Santa Barbara County.
As the new year rolls in new laws, and impeachment articles are prepared for the Senate, CVN checked in with Carbajal on what motivated his historic impeachment vote, what he considers his major achievements from 2019 and what’s on his to-do list for 2020.
For Carbajal, voting to impeach the president was in his charge as a member of the legislative branch of government which oversees the executive branch, including the president and his administration.
“No one is above the law, including this president, as we’ve seen in previous cases brought to the supreme court, including Nixon,” Carbajal told CVN. During the impeachment inquiry, testimonies and evidence convinced Carbajal that the president had abused his power, the contention of the first article of impeachment.
“This president asked a foreign power to interfere in our upcoming election by asking that he investigate a likely political opponent of the president. This was for political gain, not for the benefit of the country,” said Carbajal. “He was asking for a political favor. And he held out funding that was allocated by Congress to coerce the Ukrainian government. He was using his power for personal gain.”
The second article, obstruction of Congress, is directly linked to the president’s behavior during the impeachment inquiry. According to Carbajal, when the president directed his staff not to comply with the House’s subpoenas, blocking testimonies and refusing to provide documents, he was willingly obstructing the impeachment inquiry’s judicial process.
“He gave us no choice but to proceed to find him in contempt,” said Carbajal. “I took an oath when I went into the Marine Corps, and when I became a member of Congress, that I would uphold the Constitution. This impeachment was not about party, it was about ensuring the constitution.”
2019 legislative highlights
Along with the impeachment inquiry and proceedings, the House of Representatives was also busy passing 270 bipartisan bills—most of which have not yet been considered or ratified by the Senate.
“The media has done a great job focusing on all of the activities relating to the impeachment, but unfortunately, (there hasn’t been as much coverage) highlighting all of the other important bills and work that we’ve done,” noted Carbajal. “Democrats have been walking and chewing gum at the same time.”
Among the bills that Carbajal pushed forward last year are a price-cap to pharmaceutical costs for Medicare patients; the California Clean Coast Act to prevent future offshore drilling; the National Defense Authorization Act to provide family leave to government employees; the Farm Workforce Modernization Act to provide a legal path for the existing labor pool that is undocumented—restructuring the H2A visa program to create a modern guest worker visa; the Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence Act to establish legal penalties on certain robocalls; the American Dream and Promise Act of 2019 to prohibit deporting individuals with DACA status and to provide a path toward permanent residency; the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act; and the Equality Act which sets up civil rights protections for the LBGTQ community.
2020 to-do list
Looking ahead to the current year, Carbajal said there are a number of acts on the docket that will be important to his constituents. “I’m hoping that the Coastal Marine Economies Protection act, including my bill, the California Clean Coast Act, will move soon to the Senate and president,” said Carbajal.
Additionally, Carbajal expects the Central Coast Heritage Protection Act that he authored—and was passed through the House Natural Resources Committee in 2019—to hit the House floor for a full vote soon. The bill seeks to designate nearly 250,000 acres of land within Los Padres National Forest and Carrizo Plain National Monument as protected wilderness areas.
Carbajal will also be working on a Surface Transportation Reauthorization Act to establish a national infrastructure investment corporation to allowing local governments to borrow low-interest loans for local infrastructure projects. “I’m in a unique circumstance in that I serve as the vice chair of the Transport Committee and I’m hoping that I can influence many of these infrastructure bills,” noted Carbajal.
Following the Conception tragedy in which 34 people were killed when the boat “Conception” caught fire and sank off Santa Cruz Island early Labor Day morning, Carbajal introduced the Small Passenger Vessel Safety Act in December 2019. The act would require small passenger vessels, such as the Conception, to have at least two escape routes to different parts of the vessel. The bill is expected to be voted on in the House and Senate this year.
Carbajal also said that he will continue his work in building common sense gun control laws. In 2019, he introduced the Extreme Risk Protection Act which would provide a grant program to incentivize the development of gun control laws. The act also provides for an expansion in “red flag laws” to remove access to firearms from individuals who are considered a danger to themselves or others.
“In light of the Isla Vista tragedy, and I have a little sister who committed suicide when I was a young boy, I introduced (this bill),” said Carbajal. “This will help families who have a member who is a danger to themselves.”
“Those are just a few things as I look into the future,” Carbajal told CVN.