Virginia Foxx was annoyed.
The 80-year-old North Carolina Republican with nearly two decades of service in the House of Representatives and the chairwoman of the House Education and Workforce Committee was trying to reach the elevator in the Capitol building, and a gaggle of reporters speaking to Rep. Byron Donalds (R-FL) were blocking the way.
“Move, move, move, move, move, get away from the damned elevator,” Foxx said, as an apologetic Donalds directed her to the opening doors.
“Go find a place to talk,” she quipped as the doors closed.
“I love Virginia, I do,” Donalds said with a chuckle as she left. “With Virginia Foxx, you know where you stand.”
The incident was one of two recent viral moments for Foxx, who became an unexpected viral sensation as a paralyzed House Republican conference spent 22 days trying to find a viable nominee for speaker of the House.
Days later, as the House Republican conference introduced their latest and final nominee for speaker, Rep. Mike Johnson (R-LA), a reporter attempted to ask the soon-to-be speaker of the House about his role in protesting the results of the 2020 election. As other House Republicans booed the reporter, an exasperated Foxx could be seen yelling “shut up” at the reporter, as Johnson refused to answer the question.
The remark immediately became media fodder, with the hosts of The View calling for her removal from office.
“Well, then, they need to find some stamina, because that’s unacceptable, and that little nasty lady in the front needs to get out of office,” co-host Sara Haines said. “Her saying ‘shut up’ to the reporter? Out!”
Joy Behar, another co-host, mockingly said they were engaging in “elder abuse” by singling her out.
In an exclusive interview with the Washington Examiner, the hard-nosed New York City-born North Carolina lawmaker declined to talk specifically about the “shut up” remark but said she came to Washington, D.C., to “work hard” and not waste time.
“We have a lot of work to do in this country, our country is in big trouble,” Foxx said. “What I want to do is get to the job, get it done, move on to whatever the next task is. And so that’s why you find me frustrated about not being able to get to the elevator or people wasting time, because once a minute is wasted, it can never be brought back.”
Born in New York City and the granddaughter of Italian immigrants, Foxx said she grew up “extremely poor,” living in rental properties in rural North Carolina without running water or electricity. She credits hard work and good life influences for bringing her from poverty, to the presidency of a community college, and ultimately to the halls of Congress.
“Both my husband and I were fortunate that we had people who steered us to get a good education,” she said. “You can get a good education, but if you still don’t work hard at it, I don’t think you can be successful.”
Foxx’s work ethic has earned her a reputation as a tenacious and unrelenting legislator who isn’t afraid to speak her mind.
Donalds, who serves on the House Oversight Committee with Foxx, told the Washington Examiner that the North Carolina congresswoman “does not mince words” and “has no problem telling you her opinions.”
“Virginia Foxx is locked in on what she’s trying to accomplish,” he said. “And she’s gonna work that thing until it’s done. It’s actually a great quality for a legislator.”
The respect Foxx commands among her Republican colleagues in the House of Representatives was most evident in December of last year when she was granted a waiver by her colleagues to serve an additional term as the top Republican on the House Education and Workforce Committee.
Foxx said she is “extremely grateful” that she was granted the waiver, and she thinks her colleagues see her as “a task-oriented person, a person who wants to get a job done, who’s not climbing a political ladder, [and] who has no personal agenda.”
“People don’t realize that we touch people in our committee, more than any other committee in Congress, because we deal with people from the cradle to the grave,” Foxx said. “I don’t say that I’m an expert in every single area. But I think my colleagues see me as working hard, and there’s a certain respect that comes with experience. And again, I think they see me as totally devoted to getting my job done, and to respecting morals and tradition and the things that made this country great.”
The Washington Examiner spoke to several Republicans on the House Education and Workforce Committee who all had effusive praise for their chairwoman.
“Her reputation is no-nonsense,” Rep. Burgess Owens (R-UT) told the Washington Examiner. “She’s known [to be] very serious, come to the plate ready to go to work and ready to know what you have to get done, and what you’re all about. And that’s what we need at this point.”
“She runs a tight ship,” said Rep. Aaron Bean (R-FL), a first-term congressman who chairs the Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education. “People underestimate her because they think she doesn’t have energy or can’t keep up, and they’re the ones trying to keep up with her because she’s got tons of energy and knowledge.”
House Republican Conference Chairwoman Elise Stefanik (R-NY) called Foxx a “fearless and effective fighter” who is ensuring that “all generations are protected, from the classroom to the workforce.”
“As a dear friend, mentor, and beloved colleague, Virginia’s leadership is steadfast and her dedication and hard work is nothing short of inspiring,” she said. “From her inherent Bronx humor to her unequivocal passion for fighting for our nation’s next generation, Virginia Foxx is the epitome of a conservative warrior.”
In all her gratitude, Foxx, who described herself as a “religious person,” said she sees a spiritual hand from above guiding her through life.
“I feel like God has guided me through my whole life,” she said. “When I was the president of the community college, God said to me one day — I was working with people that I didn’t agree with — ‘these people are like Joseph’s brothers, they mean you ill, but I have a plan for you.’ And from then on, I had a real sense of God guiding my life. I never planned to be in public office when I was growing up, [I was] just trying to survive, but I knew then that God was controlling what I was doing.”