Reps. Young Kim, left, and Michelle Steel both unseated one-term Democrats in November.


“This should not have to be said, but I want to be very clear. No American of any race or ethnic group is responsible for the Covid-19 pandemic. The virus does not discriminate, it affects everyone,” Kim testified.

“Combating hate is not a partisan issue. We can all agree that violence against any community should never be tolerated,” Steel later added.

Kim and Steel are the primary Republican Korean American ladies to ever serve in Congress, sworn in alongside with history-making Rep. Marilyn Strickland of Washington state, a Democrat of Korean descent, in January.

“We are tough cookies. We’re tiger moms. Don’t mess with us,” Kim mentioned with a smile throughout an interview alongside Steel on Capitol Hill forward of the listening to.

It is power they’ve wanted a lot of these days.

The group Stop AAPI Hate — fashioned to trace violence against Asians at the beginning of the pandemic — says it obtained not less than 3,795 firsthand reports of anti-Asian hate nationwide prior to now yr, which they name an alarming rise.

And practically 45% of these reported incidents occurred in California.

Dealing with racial bias is par for the course for each Kim and Steel, particularly since getting into politics.

Steel mentioned she’s been on the receiving finish of ugly racism since she received a seat on the California State Board of Equalization in 2006, which oversees a number of state taxes.

“The worst one was ‘we don’t eat dogs like you do,'” recalled Steel. She cleaned up one other slur as “racist bitch” and mentioned — tongue in cheek — that her “favorite” assault was somebody calling her “Chairman Mao.”

“You just ignore it. You do the better job. You have more enemies out there. Especially if these people are not really enemies, but they try to find somebody that they can blame,” Steel mentioned.

Trump slurs about Covid-19 makes issues worse

Kim has been outspoken against language like “Kung Flu” utilized by her fellow Republican and former President Donald Trump.

“That was a very insensitive remark,” she mentioned of Trump’s Covid-19 label.

“To bring all these hateful comments and attack and call out the Asian American community as the community that is responsible for what we’re facing right now, especially through the pandemic, this is completely wrong, insensitive,” she mentioned.

When requested if the racially charged names for coronavirus utilized by Trump contribute to discrimination against Asian Americans, Kim made clear that the reply is sure.

“The words of the leaders have consequences. They need to be careful about what they say because people really take that to heart,” Kim mentioned.

Steel cosponsored a bipartisan decision, alongside with California Democratic Rep. Katie Porter, condemning hate crimes against Asian American and Pacific Islanders.

“People cannot work, and they cannot put food on the table for their families. They have to do something about it and then we are the victim. Asian Americans just became the victim. We really have to change that,” Steel mentioned of the compounding struggles of the pandemic, job losses and discrimination.

‘We’ve come very removed from being housewives’

Not solely do Kim and Steel each signify southern California House districts, however they’ve additionally been shut associates for over 30 years. Their husbands have been “sports buddies” within the mid-Eighties and thought their wives would hit it off. They have been proper.

The ladies grew to become quick associates, elevating their kids and vacationing as households collectively.

“Every summer we went camping together. Every winter we went skiing together with the kids,” Steel recalled. She has two kids and Kim has 4, all of whom are actually grown.

They even realized that Steel’s mom and Kim’s father-in-law taught highschool collectively in South Korea and located an image of the them collectively there.

“I’m looking at this over the last several decades, how we’ve come very far from being housewives to serving together,” Kim mused.

They each mentioned it was their husbands who have been initially very concerned in politics. Kim remembers being shocked when her pal instructed her that she would run for workplace for the primary time.

“She was telling (her husband) Charles, ‘There’s no way I’m going to get into politics. I’m happy being a housewife. And I’m happy just raising our kids together, having all of these family vacations together,'” Kim recalled about Steel.

Reps. Young Kim, left, and Michelle Steel both unseated one-term Democrats in November. Reps. Young Kim, left, and Michelle Steel both unseated one-term Democrats in November.

But in 2006 a spot got here open on the California Board of Equalization.

“I heard that seat opened,” Steel mentioned, “so I told my husband, ‘I’m running.’ His jaw dropped because he was in politics such a long time. ‘With your accent, you sure you want to do it?'” she recalled her husband saying.

“‘It’s going to be very tough because everybody will try to pull you down,'” Steel remembered him saying. “I said, ‘I think I can do much better job than anybody else to help small businesses,'” Steel added, noting that her husband was very supportive as soon as she made her choice.

Steel immigrated to America from South Korea at age 19, and mentioned she was impressed to turn into politically lively after her single mom — who owned a sandwich store and did not communicate a lot English — acquired hit with what she mentioned was an unfair tax invoice.

Steel received that seat on the board of equalization in 2006, which she says then made her the nation’s highest rating Korean American officeholder and California’s highest rating Republican lady.

Later, she served because the chairwoman of the Orange County Board of Supervisors.

Kim was additionally born in South Korea however grew up in Guam, and settled in Los Angeles after incomes an MBA. In 1990, she acquired a job with then-California state Sen. Ed Royce and stayed with him when he was elected to Congress.

She mentioned Royce initially employed her after redistricting in 1990 made clear that he could be representing extra Asian Americans.

“We really worked towards building relationships with the Asian American community. That also helped me, personally, for over two decades, working with him, really connecting myself and being the person, the go-to person in the Asian community,” mentioned Kim.

It additionally served as a coaching floor.

“Being able to work with him for about 21 years in Congress, I always thought, ‘Okay, at least I know a little bit about how Congress works. Maybe I can get myself here,'” she added.

When Royce retired, Kim ran for his seat in 2018 and misplaced. In 2020, she narrowly received a rematch.

More various House GOP

Kim and Steel each beat one-term Democrats who received their districts within the 2018 blue wave. They helped usher within the largest group of House GOP ladies ever, although nonetheless far lower than Democratic ladies.

Kim says she gravitated towards the Republican Party whereas learning accounting on the University of Southern California in 1984 in the course of the Reagan administration, when his tax cuts have been shifting by Congress.

“I looked at some of the policies that was going through, and then I really thought, okay, Republican Party is a party that really resonate with me. We’re talking about limited government, but at the same time, individual responsibility. It’s a party for me,” mentioned Kim.

For Steel, it was not solely her mom’s expertise with an enormous tax invoice, but additionally college alternative that drew her to the GOP.

“I wanted to choose the school where I want to send my kids to. So that’s the way I got into politics. And I told my husband, I have to be a Republican,” Steel recalled.

Now that they are in Congress, they’re hoping their various backgrounds can assist broaden a Republican Party that polls present is turning into extra White and extra male nationwide.

Having seats on the desk, Kim mentioned, will display “the changing dynamics of our Republican Party.”

But the Republican social gathering is altering in quite a lot of methods.

Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene — who has spread conspiracy theories — can be of their freshman class. Steel condemned QAnon and referred to as Greene’s feedback harmful however stopped wanting voting to strip her of committee assignments.

But Kim voted sure on that.

“It was, for me, a vote of conscience and a check on my own moral compass. I wanted to make sure that we sent a message that no such comments belong in our Republican Party.”

Two and a half months into their phrases as congresswomen, these two immigrants are fairly candid concerning the weight of the historical past they made the minute they have been sworn in.

“I was looking at that building, I said, ‘I am one of the 435 working on the inside of the building.’ Well, you know what? I had the teary eyes. It was just amazing,” Steel mentioned whereas standing with her expensive pal Kim outdoors the Capitol.

The indisputable fact that they’ll do it collectively and depend on one another — decades-long associates — for recommendation and help is a big bonus, particularly given the trauma Asian Americans are dealing with due to elevated violence against them.

“I am not only representing the constituents of the 39th District, but we also feel like we have a second district, always, that’s going to be the Asian American community, specifically the Korean American community,” Kim mentioned.

Representing them properly, particularly at such a extremely delicate time, is on her thoughts.

“I’m thinking, I have to do this right,” Kim mentioned.

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