Rep. Katie Porter on juggling work and raising three kids alone during coronavirus pandemic

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Quarantine Routine is a regular feature that asks political power brokers how their daily lives have changed -- and how they're still doing their jobs -- during the coronavirus crisis.

In normal times, Rep. Katie Porter, D-Calif., has a hectic life. As the only single mother in the U.S Congress, Porter has to juggle the 24/7 demands of representing California’s 45th Congressional District with the 24/7 demands of raising three young children.

Add in the coronavirus pandemic, trying to run her district from the confines of her Orange County home and her new job as the substitute teacher for her children, and Porter’s life has gotten even busier over the last month and a half.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., administers the House oath of office to Rep. Katie Porter, D-Calif., during ceremonial swearing-in on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 3, 2019, during the opening session of the 116th Congress. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., administers the House oath of office to Rep. Katie Porter, D-Calif., during ceremonial swearing-in on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 3, 2019, during the opening session of the 116th Congress. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

But Porter – who recently announced that the coronavirus test she took after experiencing a fever and cold-like symptoms had come back negative – says that while there are certainly a number of new challenges, it’s nothing she can’t handle.

“I’ve been a working mother for more than 14 years so I’m used to juggling work and my family,” Porter told Fox News.

Porter, who is now back in Washington D.C. for the first time since mid-March, described how her daily routine has changed since the outbreak of the coronavirus in a Q & A with Fox News:

How has your daily routine changed since social distancing measures began?

Porter: The demands of Congress require early mornings, especially when I’m on the West Coast, so now it is even more of a difficult challenge as I have to make sure my kids are doing their activities at the right time or doing their school work or not goofing off, while also making calls for Congress. Sometimes I have to yank them off their computer games or their Zoom calls or videos because I need the bandwidth to actually do my work. Right now though, I’ve just tried to relax a little bit about it like everyone else.

What are the biggest challenges in doing your job during this crisis?

Porter: The biggest challenge right now, and one I’m trying to meet head on, is communicating with the public. There is a reason for these policies right now and it is really important for people to know what is going on. How do I show my constituents what I’m doing, that I’m hearing them and that I’m raising their concerns in Congress?

The same thing goes for oversight as I’m a huge believer in oversight. When I sent a letter in early March to the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] director about making testing for the coronavirus free for all Americans, he basically blew it off. But when he came before the House hearing to testify and all the cameras were on him, he couldn’t ignore and agreed to make testing free.

What do you miss the most about how you did your job before this began?

Porter: One of things that I really miss is the back-and-forth with my Republican colleagues. The pandemic has eliminated my ability to get up and talk across the aisle. While I may not always agree with them, it’s good to hear the diversity of opinion….Everything right now is done through the Democratic caucus so there is very little with Republicans.

On my way to Washington, I had to transfer in Charlotte and there were a number of my Republican colleagues on the connecting flight. It was just great to connect with them and see what is going on.

What surprised you most about how life has changed?

Porter: When I got back to California on March 14, it had been after a couple of very late nights on Capitol Hill and I just needed some rest. Then I woke up and said "Here we go" and got ready for my first meeting, but there were no legal pads or post-it notes or pens. There were, however, a lot of markers, Crayola crayons and a panda-shaped stapler.

Now that has become sort of regular for me. I like the kids’ office supplies, they bring me a lot of joy and I’m thinking [of] ordering animal-shaped staplers for my office now.

How do you blow off steam?

Porter: I don’t have a lot of free time, but my kids and I are using the family white board to list some activities we can do together. I’ve done yoga in the driveway with my daughter. The other day we had a Lego building competition in the driveway, which I was told I did not win. We’re baking and trying to cook together. I’m just not used to having to make three meals a day. It really makes me appreciate school lunches.