One-third of Biden’s Cabinet visited the Bay Area this summer. Why?

September 10, 2021

The Cabinet has been crisscrossing the country, selling priorities such as investing in infrastructure, addressing climate change and combating the coronavirus pandemic. Along the way, members of Congress joined the roadshow, eager to show their constituents that they had the clout to bring a Cabinet member to their district and happy to have the chance to highlight their top policy priorities.

Only one of the visits dovetailed with fundraising, a frequent draw for the Bay Area. California was a popular destination because of its powerful lawmakers, its work on issues such as climate change, and its close ties to some of the Cabinet members. Such visits are an opportunity to reach voters and court important allies in Congress.

“The potential for friction between Congress and the executive branch is everywhere,” said Rep. Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael. “But we really can be great resources and allies. We are far closer to the people and these communities and many of these issues than the folks up in the ivory tower down Pennsylvania Avenue. …The Biden administration gets that. Not every president does.”

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland visited Huffman’s district in mid-August. During visits to Eureka and Orick, Haaland, Huffman and Brenda Mallory, the chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, discussed offshore wind and the administration’s work on renewable energy, as well as meeting with tribal leaders. The Interior Department and California recently designated an area off the coast of Eureka for offshore wind energy development.

Huffman, a friend of Haaland’s from Congress, invited her to his district as soon as she took office and listed her as his top choice for a Cabinet visit with the White House. Huffman said it was “powerful” for Haaland, the first Native American Cabinet member, to come to his district and meet with constituents, not just for his environmental priorities but also for the region’s many tribal communities.

“It’s a big deal, and I think it’s hard to find words to describe how meaningful it is to the communities and constituencies I represent that one of the highest-ranking officials in the country and the first Native American secretary of interior would actually come out to the North Coast and sit down with Indian tribes and pay them the respect of listening to them and touring their ancestral lands,” Huffman said.

Huffman recalled a moment when, in Redwood National Park, a Yurok Tribal chairman offered a song in his native language about his people’s love for the land. “Secretary Haaland was moved to tears … everybody felt the power of that moment,” Huffman said. “That’s just something you can’t achieve in a Zoom meeting or a press release or the other workarounds.”

By:  Tal Kopan
Source: San Francisco Chronicle