The Issue Is: Senator Alex Padilla and Rep. Josh Harder

On this Independence Day weekend, Elex Michaelson is joined on "The Issue Is" by California legislators from both chambers of Congress: Senator Alex Padilla (D) and Representative Josh Harder (D).

First Padilla. Earlier this week, Michaelson joined the Senator aboard the Battleship USS Iowa, where Padilla was helping to swear in a group of America’s newest citizens. The two discuss immigration, infrastructure, the filibuster, as well as what it means for Padilla to be American.

Then, Harder, the two-term Representative from California’s 10th district. Harder discusses his effort to increase pay for federal firefighters, as well as his take on the infrastructure debate and climate change.



BACKGROUND: Thursday, just ahead of the July 4th holiday, Senator Padilla was aboard the Battleship USS Iowa, participating in a naturalization ceremony, welcoming a group of America’s newest citizens. After the ceremony, Michaelson asked Padilla, himself the son of immigrants, what the day, and what being American, mean to him.

PADILLA’S CENTRAL TAKE: "Pride and patriotism is just oozing today, right? It's my first opportunity to celebrate a naturalization ceremony as a U.S. senator. You know, when I was Secretary of State, I attended ceremonies to speak and, of course, talk about the right to vote, and how fundamental that is to our democracy, but as we're gearing up to celebrate Independence Day, just a chance to reflect on the fundamentals of our democracy, how immigrants throughout our nation's history have come here, become citizens, contributed to the strength of our nation, and it continues to this very day.... Can't help but be inspired."

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BACKGROUND: In the 100-member Senate, it takes a 60-vote majority to end debate on legislation and proceed to a vote. In the current, starkly divided, 50-50 Senate, that 60-vote threshold can be hard to come by. As President Biden looks to pass his agenda, calls on the left to eliminate the filibuster have grown, 19 Democratic Senators now calling for its elimination. One of those Senators is Alex Padilla.

PADILLA’S CENTRAL TAKE: "Look, if there was any question before, look what's happened this year already... The fact that we haven't had infrastructure done is because of the filibuster, the fact that immigration reform proposals haven't been adopted - because of the filibuster. When we can't even protect our fundamental right to vote, or establish an independent bipartisan commission to get to the root cause of the January 6th insurrection, it's just further evidence the filibuster needs to go…"



BACKGROUND: Last week, a bipartisan group of Senators reached a deal on a $1.2 trillion infrastructure framework. The scaled-back plan focused on physical infrastructure, such as roads, bridges, and broadband, not on the so-called "human infrastructure" elements that some on the left had been pushing for. President Biden said he endorsed the plan, but then caused confusion when he said he would only sign it if it were accompanied by a parallel plan that covered those "human infrastructure" elements that were lacking. That bill would likely make its way through Congress via reconciliation, which would not require any bipartisan compromise.

PADILLA’S CENTRAL TAKE: "I definitely support the investments that the bipartisan deal seeks to invest in, but I immediately say it's not enough. There's other areas of our infrastructure that need equal priority and large investments, whether it's housing, whether it's health care, our education system and, of course, the care economy. To me, it is not a debate whether child care, for example, is essential to our economy - it's really hard for parents to go to work if you don't have somewhere safe to leave your kids when they're not in school. So if you want to invest in our economy and position our country for success in the decades ahead, we have to be bigger and bolder than just this bipartisan deal… We have to do more than just what this bipartisan deal seeks…"

HARDER’S CENTRAL TAKE: "We have to be results focused here, we can't just be focusing on the process. We have to get something done. Every year, China is spending 6% of its entire economy, or its entire GDP, on infrastructure, here in the US we're spending half a percent. They're spending 12 times more than what we're spending every single day, every single year, and we're paying the price for that.... So whether it's a bipartisan deal, whether or not it goes to this reconciliation, we have to be focused on getting something across the finish line to fix the roads, the bridges, and most of all, in our community, the water infrastructure that can help address some of the climate change elements we've been talking about…"



BACKGROUND: This week, President Biden boosted the minimum wage for federal firefighters to $15/hour. Congressman Harder and others welcomed the news, having long worked to increase the pay of federal firefighters, who previously earned $13.45 an hour, even in states like California where the minimum wage was higher than that.

HARDER’S CENTRAL TAKE: "This is a no brainer, we are heading into what could be the worst fire season in California history, and yet, we have fire trucks literally sitting idle in parking lots. That doesn't make any sense. And it's no mystery why we have a huge firefighter shortage across the state, it's because, as you said, we're paying federal firefighters $28,000 a year. So we worked with the Biden administration, with Republicans and Democrats alike, and this week we're able to announce a pay raise for our federal firefighters. There's still more work to be done, but this is a huge effort forward to make sure that we can keep our communities safe, not just for this fire season, but for the future…"

The Issue Is: with Elex Michaelson is California's only statewide political show. For showtimes and more information, go to