When I called Katie Porter on Tuesday afternoon, she was fixing lunch.
“Apologies if you hear banging in the background,” the 46-year-old congresswoman told me when she answered the phone. She chuckled as she began to chop something—zucchini, I would later learn. “Three meals a day here! We’re gettin’ three squares.”
Porter left Washington, D.C., and returned to her Orange County, California, home to be with her three children—ages 8, 11, and 14—as soon as it became clear that the coronavirus pandemic would require an unprecedented level of social distancing and that their classes would all go virtual. California currently has 611 confirmed cases of COVID-19, and 13 people in the state have died from the disease. “It was really important to be with my kids right now, and also to be with my community,” Porter said.
The freshman lawmaker and single mother, once a student of Elizabeth Warren’s at Harvard Law School, is one of the 41 mostly moderate Democrats who flipped Republican districts in the 2018 midterms. But Porter, with her background as a consumer-protection lawyer, has emerged as an influential voice on the progressive left. Since her election, clips of the congresswoman interrogating and often wryly berating officials from her perch on the House Oversight Committee have become mini sensations online. To Jamie Dimon, the billionaire CEO of JPMorgan Chase, after she asked him about the pay disparity between his lower-level employees and top executives: “I appreciate your desire to be helpful, but what I’d like you to do is provide a way for families to make ends meet.” To Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, when he was confused about a real-estate acronym: “No, not an Oreo.”