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The Bartholomewtown Podcast
Congressman James Langevin (D, RI)
March 19, 2019 Bill Bartholomew / Jim Langevin
The Bartholomewtown Podcast

Congressman James Langevin (D, RI)

March 19, 2019

Bill Bartholomew / Jim Langevin

James Langevin is The United States Representative for the 2nd Congressional District, a post he has held since 2001.  Langevin served in several key roles in state government before his election to Congress, where he is a member of the House Armed Services and Homeland Security Committees.  A legacy figure in Rhode Island, and beyond, Congressman Langevin is the first quadriplegic to serve in Congress, and became the first quadriplegic appointed Speaker Pro Tempore during the 116th congress.


James Langevin is The United States Representative for the 2nd Congressional District, a post he has held since 2001.  Langevin served in several key roles in state government before his election to Congress, where he is a member of the House Armed Services and Homeland Security Committees.  A legacy figure in Rhode Island, and beyond, Congressman Langevin is the first quadriplegic to serve in Congress, and became the first quadriplegic appointed Speaker Pro Tempore during the 116th congress.


Episode Transcript

Speaker 1:0:00Support the Bartholomew town podcast by subscribing, rating, and reviewing on apple podcasts

Speaker 2:0:10by telling you town podcast. Welcome in to another edition of the Bartholomew [inaudible] podcast. I'm your host, Bill Bartholomew. On today's episode,

Speaker 1:0:21I sit down with United States congressman Jim Langevin. James Land Oven is the United States representative for Rhode Island's second congressional district, a post he has held since 2001 lane. You've served in several key roles in state government before his election to Congress where he is a member of the House Armed Services and homeland security committees, a legacy figure in Rhode Island and beyond. Congressmen land given is the first quadriplegic to serve in Congress and became the first quadrapalegic appointed speaker pro temporary during the 116th congress. New episodes of the Bartholomew town podcast every Tuesday and Friday. Subscribe on apple or wherever you listen to podcasts or visit Bartholomew or our I All right, there's a little bit of white noise on the audio for this episode. I did my best to eliminate it without making it sound too much like we're inside a can. Uh, when this took place. Oh, that's because we had some heaters blasting. It was, it was a little fridge it out, you know, New England in the winter. It happens. But without further ado, my conversation with Congressman Jim Langevin.

Speaker 3:1:34Well thank you pat me on the program. I've been with Freud, especially micro island, put this together. So I guess to just sum it up, um, I've been involved in elective office, public service at the most of my adult life. Although I did not, I did deputy now I think that this was going to be my chosen profession when I plan to do with my life. I realize the importance of public service at a very young age, but would be, I thought that was going to be being involved in law enforcement. I want, we try to get started. I said as a police cadet explorer scout program at the local police station to here, Warwick and you would take classes from January to June every year in June, we take a test to the top 10 high schools, get the jobs for the summer. Hey, much stipend each week. But it was a great program.

Speaker 3:2:29So I started when I was 13 I was about to, I was 16 and I had roof falling in love with one question, but that's what I was going to do with my career. But unfortunately it's like things don't always turn out as we think. They come to us. We plan and my case, unfortunately I was in that police locker room, have to do two police officers. He had a new weapon that one of the pitchers purchase the other officers with and yet it didn't realize it was a bullet in the pipe. If you willing, uh, pull the trigger to test it, the bullet ricocheted off. The Walker went to my neck in separate ms spinal cord. So I've been paralyzed ever since. That was in 1980 that you could imagine it could go get it. My dream of law enforcement, it was that challenging time, difficult time to go through a transition.

Speaker 3:3:16I just want to be a new adjustments, both physical and otherwise. And one of the biggest things is what it, what am I gonna do with my life? I was very fortunate to have an incredibly supportive community that rallied around me and my family at a time that we needed it the most, that that had a profound impact on me. It showed me what people can do when they care about making a difference in someone's someone's life into me. I guess that's the essence of what public service is all about. How do we, I would make a difference in our community and for myself. I said, you know what, if I can ever do something to give back, I would want to do that and to try to jump at the chance. And it happened that one thing led to another and I started getting more and more interest in government public service.

Speaker 3:4:00Uh, we suggested I might want to try my hand at running for political office. I did in 1984 the voltage of around Eric every 10 years or asked if they want to hold a constitutional convention to Amanda. We draft the constitution. And in 1983 of the voters said yes. And actually five, the special election to elect 100 delegates, one for each state rep district that we had at the time. We had hundred districts now 75 state rep districts, but seventh of 100 the time that I was one of the people that randomly selected. And uh, that was my foray into running for office and to just to wind it up. Uh, the, the uh, I found that not only was I enjoying those fell goes giving back and they feel different representing people, but I also found something I really enjoyed and begin to develop a passion for it a couple of years later, whether that was just a one year position, couple of years later in 1988 oval state rep in my area decided not to run for reelection.

Speaker 3:5:03I ran, was elected, certainly the German assembly for six years. And then after I finish up my master's degree ran for statewide office as secretary of state. I was elected there, held that office for six years, getting reelected once in 1998 and then in 2000 run for Congress. I, thankfully I was successful in the area as well. Face, they have trust and confidence in me, which I'm very grateful I've been doing that ever since. And I'm so proud to be able to represent where I'm in the United States Congress. John Madsen in 2000. Uh, no, let's see. John has run once or twice. I might know the, the, they were there with, uh, three of the primary opponents at the time. It was a cake coin, Mccoy, Kevin mcallister and angel to various, uh, with my opponents. Um, and then in, uh, in the general election, I believe that, uh, Rodney driver on a couple of times, it gets very interesting time for me.

Speaker 3:6:13It's when I really just started to understand what was going on around me. I was probably in seventh grade and that Stewart, yeah, seventh or eighth grade at that point. So it was just as my awareness was, was beginning to happen to you were entered federal office. What's your relationship like with the other federal officials that we have? You're obviously congressman, CIS lady, Senator Whitehouse, Senator Reed. You've been there basically my entire adult life. Um, in one way or another. Obviously Senator Whitehouse entering in 2006, but you've been there for a long time. You're an old guard in Rhode Islanders. Love decided. What's that like? What's that experience like? Thank you. I'm very honored to have the trust and supportive the people that I own who elected me and reelected me time and again, that, that, uh, the responsibility is never lost on me and the gratitude I have for people believing in me and supported me when I'm doing.

Speaker 3:7:10And I have a great relationship with our colleagues in the delegation. Senator Reed, who's been in the congress, thankfully the longer than I have. So, uh, he's, uh, he's the most senior of all the items. The donation, uh, by enjoyed were extended read Sheldon and with David and the four of us, again, always have what islands, interests at heart. We were generally on all issues, were pulling the origin the same direction. How can we best represent what island and, and that, uh, whether it's, you know, Jack or Sheldon or David and myself, we have a great relationship with his former colleagues. And, uh, it's not that way in every other state, but, uh, we're, we're, we're fortunate in that respect, so it makes my job easier together. Plus the proximity, obviously there's four of you and, and you have the population is a lot of access to each of you at any given point in time and the physical size, but also our mental size.

Speaker 3:8:05You know, you just feel very close to your elected officials all the way up to the two. Those are in Washington. Do you experience that a lot? Sure. I mean the, the fact that what island is a, it's such a small statement but it kind of knows each other or related to each other person than a half removed. I guess they'd say that. Um, you know, it does, it does help that we can all get them home and, and that's one of the benefits of a small state would, I would just do have access to the top elected officials. You know, when they say do the next time I see the, you know, the governor or congressman, a senator, I'm going to let them know how I feel for, for good or bad. They there, they meet it and they were able to do that.

Speaker 3:8:42That's a, that's a good thing, right? It really is. It's a, it's an accountability factor. That's, it's almost another layer of the media. Just the human accountability. Human, human accountability is another reason why I come every weekend to rare exception. Some traveling on business I have to stay in, you see, but that's where I stayed in Washington who most every, almost every weekend now I'm back home. It's important to stay in touch with people. Must have other work in Washington and among you, the first point out of they're coming home and uh, it'd be my kids. My oldest is my family and friends are like feedback around softer section.

Speaker 4:9:23As far as when you're in Washington right now is a very specific time for House Democrats of course. Just in terms of, in terms of historically and politically, do you feel that your role is sort of a containment role? Uh, in terms of not letting the pendulum swing too far to the right or left right now? The way that it seems a little bit unsettled right now politically, the, the u s to say the least. Do you feel like you're sort of in the middle there? Trying to hold my own ground and move forward? Should always want to try and make

Speaker 3:9:55steady progress and, and, you know, create and, and, and take advantage of that momentum if we can, you know, solve problems that used to be our focus. Clearly. Uh, it is a very divisive time politically, both across the country and in Washington, uh, the president especially as given rise to a lot of this, uh, this divisiveness and has fueled that. And that's an, that's an unfortunate, uh, side, uh, the kind of food, you know, the political situation in DC and to challenging aspect of politics are now. But, um, I would say this, that it's not all bad news and you know, they're off by predators and things that are still happening. And on every major issue that I work on, I can point to a Republican cosponsor, we're a partner in the effort and I will get career and technical education. Had some big wins on job training for the 21st century with the authorization of the Perkins Act and been a great colleague and, uh, Glenn Thompson, Cheeky Thompson from Pennsylvania, Republican colleague of mine, we're proud to work with and I coach and the career technical education caucus together and Cybersecurity, congressman, Congressman Mike mccaul from Texas and I coach here that Cybersecurity Caucus, um, and on election reform issues and strengthened our election systems, uh, while people, Mark Meadows the leader, the key part together, freedom caucus in Congress.

Speaker 3:11:16Uh, and I cosponsored a bill last year, so there's just some highlights. But, uh, most of my work centers on focusing on national securities since I sit in both as a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee and also senior member of the Homeland Security Committee, most of my work is centered on that issue driven, been to find bipartisanship. It's, it's in the field of national security. How do we keep the country safe? How do we support, protect our income and it would be uniform of, do their job effectively. And so I take great comfort in the fact that those are bipartisan issues we're making. Right. It seems like that national security and environmental issues should be entirely a political. Is that how you view your role is really, really above any political goals? I see my role, I'm a, I tend to be more of a centrist than I. I'm a policy Wonk, if you will.

Speaker 3:12:15I want to solve problems and I look to senator pell as my role model in it's, I've been touring to Senator Rico a couple of times when I was in college. Uh, he was a gentleman and a statesman and someone that I admired. And the one thing about Senator Pell, uh, you would acknowledge is that, uh, people would say, you know, he really didn't care who got the credit. It was about getting the job done. He was committed to public service. He's the consummate statesman. And, uh, and I tried to model my actions and congress much in the way he conducted himself as a senior senator for several decades. Yeah. The, the

Speaker 4:12:54Rhode Island, even though Rhode Island Republican of yesteryear or something that I've been fascinated by recently, just thinking about the intersection of the, the progressive ideology and the Libertarian ideology and where that lives and where Rhode Islanders and actually live right now. Do you have a sense of politically where would islanders live at this very moment? Um, again, I suppose it depends on the issues.

Speaker 3:13:18Uh, it's what I only think tends to be more, more liberal in their and their political meetings, uh, showing independent, uh, uh, but my district tends to be more conservative then my colleague, Congressman [inaudible] needs district. Uh, and um, you know, interesting. If you looked at them like should map after the uh, you know, the 20, the 2016 elections that it very much looked like they'd map of the country, but the coast was, uh, it was, I was blue in the interior is red. That's what an apple guy who voted for Donald Trump for example. We are going to be public and so my district is the balance then perhaps as a whole, but we still have the, we have the highest percentage is, I recall I was secretary of state. He's still at the highest percentage per capita registered independent or unaffiliated voters. So most every other state in the country decide so over 50%, as I recall barcode voters or just as an unaffiliated.

Speaker 4:14:28Absolutely. Yet it's vastly more than party affiliation, that's for sure. Um, with regards to border security, which is, there's been the almost cab Lloyd level version of it that's been pushed out by the president, but there are issues as well with border security as far as how that relates to national security in Rhode Island. I don't think on a day to day basis, it's something that most people are thinking about. They're certainly thinking about immigration from either side, but not so much the border security aspect of it. Maybe within the context of the opioid crisis.

Speaker 3:15:03But what's your message to Rhode Islanders, uh, what we really need to do when it comes to border security. And what can you do from your position? Well, there's a, there's a lot of agreement between Democrats, Republicans on security. We want, we want to go as strong, stronger border security. Uh, the question is how do we best achieve border security, which would be most effective in terms of fixing our broken immigration system. But you know, I'm sure we would want people to abide by that law of coming in and leaving a, according to our laws. But there's a, you know, that there's a right way to do it in a wrong way. And we don't want to just squander resources, for example, and to build an artificial wall on our southern border, southern border, that is not necessarily going to be the wisest way to spend our dollars.

Speaker 3:15:52And we can achieve border security without necessarily spending billions and billions of dollars on a border wall. We could use all types of technology, sensors and drums and certain more border patrol agents. Um, what people need to really remember is that the vast majority of the people who come into the country, uh, and wind up being here illegally actually start off by coming in legally and just don't leave. So if, uh, I think it was in 2017, uh, well the two thirds came in legally, they either drove in with a visa visitor, have you said or wrote some other means of being here. Uh, are they flew in here or came by boat and came in legally and then just overstayed their visa so that, you know, the border wall is not going to get to the, you know, the, the stronger entry and exit system. Um, and uh, and, and other issues with community didn't get immigration reform. Uh, and, and it's not, it's more the president's weight from the political promise to build a wall. It's not necessarily the most effective, effective and efficient way of achieving border security. Absolutely. I did

Speaker 4:17:04to legally immigrate to the United States is there's a daunting processings and expensive one. My wife is Brazilian. And just going through that process was we did it without an attorney. I did it. So you can imagine me at three o'clock in the morning filling out paperwork just to save money. But um, they have, boy, doesn't it seem like that's an area to visit that process and how can you better serve people who probably half those people who overstay their visa would love the opportunity to go through the process. They just can't afford it or can't understand how to attack that process. Do you feel like that could be cleaned up?

Speaker 3:17:39It could. That's how to be immigration reform and also the, you know, the country caps on a, um, uh, Eh, you yo can come here and work here illegally. That's, uh, that's all part of this broken system that we need to, we need to fix the way it makes no sense in my mind that we allow so many people to come here from around the world to study, which I, and support, but then as soon as their education is completed in, irrespective of whether they have a skill that, uh, that we need, uh, in the country or whether they're going to start a company and create jobs, we tell them they've got to leave right away. And it's, you know, again, out of our broken immigration system, we have a couple of, uh, very, um, calendar researchers and doctors at, uh, at Brown University for example. And they're from, uh, from, uh, India. And they, um, they are, uh, not able to stay because they're pro country cap. We've already hit that. And then they would be, it's been years that they'd been trying to find a way to be here, be able to work legally and, and be able to contribute their talents and their research to solve health problems. So it was working on that issue with them. Can the per company per country cap is another issue. That's a challenge.

Speaker 4:19:09Absolutely. And to work in the shadows and to exist in the shadows is the unpleasant experience. I feel like I hear a lot of talk radio fodder, but it's, it really suggests that it's a convenient thing to illegally immigrate to the United States and it just gets tiresome and policies lost as a policy junkie yourself. I'm sure you can appreciate it. And how we've got refocused on here.

Speaker 3:19:33Yeah, and we came close, by the way, several years ago, the Senate passed an overwhelming bipartisan immigration reform bill and unfortunately because of the antiquated and rules that very frustrating, and we have one person that's be great, how's the sides? But bills are gonna come up. Rowboat. We never even had a chance to debate a vote on that immigration reform. But had this speaker brought it up, uh, that, uh, that, that bill would have passed and President Obama signed it into law and get, we never got the opportunity. And that's because the Republicans uh, have this uh, this rule that they would not bring up any issue is what the Hastert rule. They wouldn't bring up any bill for debate or vote that didn't have a majority of their majority. So it's consequences. We only have most conservative issues that ever even made it to the fore. And that's unfortunate top way the process should work

Speaker 4:20:24extremely poor. Last few minutes here, do we have another five or so it was in Rhode Island right now. To me it's in this exciting transformational period here. It's almost like

Speaker 5:20:36Slater bill to start to open up sell but we don't know what it is or what it's going to be like. People are moving back back

Speaker 4:20:44to my, uh, in my mind people are moving back. Younger

Speaker 3:20:48people are moving back to providence and Newport at a higher rate. Seems like ideas are starting to flow here. What can be done to support the next wave of industries? And Rhode Island from the federal level. Well, we showed him he wanted people to be successful. And, uh, education is always going to be a important part of the equation. So making it affordable for people to, to go to go to school, get advanced education or advanced training and job skills. And so one of the things that I have a championed the congress is making sure that our workforce as 21st century skills for 21st century economy, GP, Thompson, I public and colleague just recently passed the authorization of the propane. Zack. So Career Technical Education for the 21st century ad in a better aligns what, uh, what we teach you in schools and the skills that the skills that businesses need and that, that I could not been reauthorized for 10 years.

Speaker 3:21:45And finally, after several years of trying, and finally it, so, uh, and I, that came about because that was going around the state back at the height of the recession, the great recession in 2007, 2008 businesses when they would be hired all the time telling me when we were hiring out. But we're really struggling to find people with the right skills, the jobs that we need. Manufacturing examples, totally change, revolutionize, uh, you know, advanced manufacturing, robotics, computer programming, CNC machines. He's take advanced skills. It's not that the old dirty factories that are fathers or grandfathers were. So, um, but again, making sure that um, I work as have the right skills to do the jobs that it'd be able to now and the future that I've known people in toto avoid to go to school, whether it's to a four year college or certificate and degree program, we want to make sure that we have an educated workforce that's a top priority.

Speaker 3:22:39But looking at other ways we can support small businesses and making it happen. You should, they have access to capital is a business friendly climate that certainly that all elected officials are interested, trusted. So whether we can work with our state leaders on those issues as well as the federal delegation, that's definitely a primary focus of what, and it's, my last question would be, is it back in Rhode Island you have free time. What's your, what's your day like? Would you like to do? You don't mind? Well, spending time with family and friends is important, but you know, especially with the summertime around Rhode Island, you know, and run rare days when I can get to the beach and sets off, it's awfully nice to have, that may be stays in inefficient, especially if it's an auction here, which I've ever beach. Uh, I could have been at shores and that it might, my family's been going there for him for many years, so can we go down there? Uh, but it was all kinds of festivals and things going on. Then I'll have to take advantage of, you know, just a do does reaction reading something I like to, every once in a while I'll get out and play pool with something. In fact, I, I just went out recently with Merrill Lords or bite a few rounds together.

Speaker 4:23:57Oh, awesome. Yeah, that was a fun relaxing, I doubt cleaned my clock, but he had it. We had a good, we had a good time. I saw you at the water fires, the new water fire center for mayor lorises must have his inauguration bash or something like that. But it was a wild scene and you're right in the thick of it. The extraordinary rendition band was, was marching around and it was, it was nutty. And you have a great time. I want to study for a party and uh, I'll tell you this so much

Speaker 3:24:27going on and rely on the constraint, the city providence and why this PVD fest or what a fire or when I get to have time to get to what a fire. That's always a fun time with the main other things kind of war. Great. Great City of working with Ms. Solomon. Proud to have meds. Might mayor, first democratic mayor, but in 20 years and what I've been so proud to be working with him, counsel President are rolling. So good, great delegation, State House and the Senate as well as our federal delegation. So again, I'm honored to be able to represent Rhode Island in Congress and, uh, I couldn't imagine living anywhere else, but for what island am proud to quote on in my home.

Speaker 4:25:17Well, your dedication and the comradery, and you know, it's not like everyone agrees on every single issue. It was pushing the exact same agenda on the state or federal level, but it shows, it does give us the first small state. It gives us a lot of power and I appreciate it a lot. Thank you, congressman lunch. But thank you so much for your time. Great to be with you today.

Speaker 3:25:36Okay.

Speaker 2:25:37That's all for this episode of the Bartholomew [inaudible] podcast, but I'll be back on Friday, brand new episode. Until then, I'm bill Bartholomew. We'll talk soon.

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