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Central Coast Congressman Reacts To Breach Of U.S Capitol

Congressman Panetta's office.
Congressman Panetta, who represents California's Central Coast in the House, was in his office when rioters breached the U.S. Capitol.

When rioters breached the U.S. Capitol Wednesday, setting off a day of disturbing chaos, the Central Coast’s Congressman, Jimmy Panetta, was in his office on Capitol grounds on a Zoom call about the COVID-19 vaccine. KAZU News’ Erika Mahoney spoke with him about the moments that followed and what’s next.

Congressman Jimmy Panetta (JP): I have been sheltering in my office throughout the day, haven't eaten anything, basically just popped open a coke right now. And my staff, once we got the word to evacuate, I immediately asked my staff to leave according to their orders. But I felt it necessary to stay so that I can continue to do my job. 

We have to assure the American public and let them know that despite what you saw on TV, despite what I experienced today and witnessed today in the United States Capitol, we must do our job. We must continue to do our job. We cannot let this angry mob, these rioters who are stoked by the president this morning, deter us from ensuring that our democracy moves forward, by continuing to get right back on that House floor, get right back on the Senate floor, have the debates we need to, but most importantly, certify the Electoral College votes so that we can properly remove this president on January 20th. 

Erika Mahoney (EM): How do we get back to normal? How do we as a nation talk to each other again, find common ground? 

JP: I think that when we have a president in the White House who understands what it means to serve the people and not just himself, as we will with President Biden, when we have a Democratic majority in the House and in the Senate, we will have a foundation upon which we can get things done for the American people and reestablish their faith in the democratic process of governing. And it's not exciting. It's not sexy. It's not the entertainment industry. I always say I'm not the entertainment industry. I'm in the legislation industry. And yeah, it's actually kind of boring, but you know what, that's what governing is, and I look forward to doing that, especially after January 20th.  

EM: You’re still in the thick of this, but how do you make sense of what happened today? 

JP: Look, I've served in the uniform over in Afghanistan. I'm serving now in Washington, D.C. And there are times where sure, you know, you get stopped in your tracks, but you can't let it stunt your progression forward. And that's how I feel. I'm going to stand firm. We need to stand firm. We need to stand strong, and we need to move forward.   

 You know, there will be plenty of time for reflection, for after action reports as to why this happened, how this happened. But at the same time, you cannot let it slow you down. You cannot let it stop you from ensuring that our democracy works for people. And that's why it's incumbent on us to not just stay here, but actually do our job and get back on the House floor and certify the electoral process to remove this president.  

EM: Well, thank you so much for your time. Is there anything else you want to add? 

JP: We, this country has faced many challenges throughout its history. And, you know, this is what I talked about many times during these last four years, that we are a nation who more often than not deals with challenges... more often not. We're dealing with the bad times rather than the good times. But what we need to realize is that during those bad times, what have we done? We have come together. We have worked through the difficulties and we have always, always moved forward. That's a great thing about this democracy, that's a great thing about this nation is that it's left up to us, the people, to do that. And being here tonight is obviously a very, very emotional time. Let me tell you, I can't stress it enough. You can hear it in my voice, but like I said, despite these emotions, it sure as hell ain't going to stop us, it ain't going to stop me from doing my job, because that's how our democracy moves forward. And I'm just honored to be a part of it and I'm honored to serve in this position and will continue to do so.  

Erika joined KAZU in 2016. Her roots in radio began at an early age working for the independent community radio station in her hometown of Boulder, Colorado. After graduating from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University in 2012, Erika spent four years working as a television reporter. She’s very happy to be back in public radio and loves living in the Monterey Bay Area.