Rep. Deb Haaland talks climate change and healthcare with theSkimm | theSkimm

Representative Deb Haaland's path to DC wasn’t a traditional one.

The freshman representative from New Mexico’s 1st District is the daughter of veterans and once ran her own salsa company (seriously). Then for nearly 20 years, she helped Democratic candidates get elected into office, including a stint working with President Barack Obama’s reelection campaign.

Now as one of the first Native American women ever elected to Congress, she’s hoping she can bring a new perspective to DC.

Haaland describes herself as a life-long environmentalist who hasn’t used a single disposable water bottle since landing in DC (when we asked her what she’d like to drink for our Sip ‘n Skimm interview, she opted for her reusable water bottle). She's a supporter of the Green New Deal.

“If we’re not spending money on seawalls and wildfires, we can be spending money on things like higher education and making sure that our young folks have quality education,” she told theSkimm.

Another issue top of mind for Haaland: healthcare. She supports Medicare for All, but wants to be clear that the program isn’t a free-for-all.

People have a misconception that healthcare will be free, but we actually pay for those things. Medicare and Medicaid and all those programs are earned benefits, they’re things that come out of everyone’s paycheck and that we pay into a pot for,” she said. “I think we can use that money more efficiently and make sure people are covered.”

The idea of being one of the firsts of a group of people in Congress isn’t lost on Haaland. But it’s not just about being a first for her. She said it’s about being a voice for traditionally underrepresented groups.

“Americans want to know they are being represented by someone like them,” she said. “I’m a Native woman, but I'm also a single mom. I know what it’s like to struggle.”