Meet Jim


altBorn in Chicago on December 28, 1936, Jim McDermott was the first member of his family to attend college. He went on to finish medical school, and after completing residencies in adult and child psychiatry, he joined the U.S. Navy Medical Corps in 1968.

As a Lieutenant Commander, Jim McDermott was assigned to the Long Beach Naval Station in California. His assignment at Long Beach was to assist returning Vietnam veterans and their families with adjusting to civilian life in an America increasingly hostile to the war and its combatants. Jim witnessed firsthand the often devastating effects of the war and its surrounding controversy on the returning soldiers and their families. He became more interested in a career in politics as he sought a way to change the policies that had led to that war.


Jim McDermott's first political campaign was in 1970, when he was elected to the Washington State House of Representatives from the 43rd Legislative District in Seattle. In 1974 he was elected to the Washington State Senate, a position to which he was re-elected three times.  In 1980, Jim McDermott successfully challenged an incumbent Governor to become the Democratic Party gubernatorial nominee.

After 15 years of legislative service, Jim McDermott decided to leave politics in 1987.  He continued his career in public service as a Regional Medical Officer in the U.S. Foreign Service. Based in Zaire, he provided psychiatric services to Foreign Service, AID, and Peace Corps personnel throughout sub-Saharan Africa.


When Washington State's 7th Congressional District seat became open in 1988, Jim returned from Africa to run for the U.S. House of Representatives. He was elected to the 101st Congress and is currently serving his 11th term in the House.

Trained as a physician, Dr. McDermott entered the Congress with a special interest in health care issues. While serving in the State Legislature, Jim McDermott helped develop and was instrumental in passing the Washington State Basic Health Plan—the country's first statewide program to provide low-cost health insurance to the unemployed and the working poor. 

As a Congressman, Jim founded the Congressional Task Force on International HIV/AIDS in 1992. He was the Task Force's first chair and continues to serve in that position. He also introduced the AIDS Housing Opportunities Act, a program enacted in 1990 to provide special housing assistance to people with AIDS. In 1993, Jim co-founded the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans.


Jim McDermott is the coauthor of legislation to establish a single-payer health care system in the United States, and continues to fight in the U.S. House of Representatives for comprehensive universal health care coverage for all Americans.

Jim is an outspoken advocate for human rights and has been a vocal critic of the Bush Administration’s foreign policy that led our country to war.  Today, he continues to call for a timetable for withdrawal of our military forces from the Mid-east war zones.

Congressman McDermott has been a consistent supporter of legislation that will lead our country to energy independence.   His current position as Chair of the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Income Security and Family Support has placed Jim in a pivotal position to deal with strengthening the social safety net that is now needed by American families dealing with the financial consequences of a weakened economy.  

Jim McDermott lives in Seattle and has two adult children and three grandchildren.



Education • Attended public schools in Downers Grove, Illinois 
• B.S., Wheaton College, Wheaton, Illinois, 1958
 • M.D., University of Illinois Medical School, Chicago,Illinois, 1963
 •  Internship, Buffalo General Hospital, Buffalo, New York,1963–1964 
• Residency in Adult Psychiatry, University of Illinois Hospitals, Chicago, Illinois, 1964–1966 
• Residency in Child Psychiatry, University of Washington Hospitals, Seattle, Washington, 1966–1968

Military Service • U.S. Navy Medical Corps, Lieutenant Commander, Chief Psychiatrist, Long Beach Naval Station, California, 1968–1970

State Legislative Service—Washington State Legislature • House of Representatives, 43rd District, 1971–1972
 • Washington State Senate, 43rd District, 1975–1987 
• Chairman, Senate Ways and Means Committee, 1983–1987 
• Chairman, Legislative Budget Committee, 1983–1985

Congressional Service—U.S. House of Representatives (1989–Present)
Current Assignments:
 • Committee on Ways and Means • Subcommittee on Trade • Chair of the Subcommittee on Income Security and Family Support - Ranking Member • Congressional Africa Trade and Investment Caucus, Co-chair • Congressional Task Force on International HIV/AIDS, Co-chair • Congressional Kidney Caucus, Co-chair • Japan-United States Friendship Commission • India Caucus, Past Chair Major

Legislative Accomplishments • Basic Education Act, 1977
 • Nursing Home Reform Act, 1979
 • Public Works Trust Fund,1985
 • Comparable Worth Funding, 1985
 • Centennial Clean Water Act,1986
 • Basic Health Care Act, first-in-nation plan providing affordable managed care to unemployed and uninsured residents, 1987 
• AIDS Housing Opportunities Act, 1990
• African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), 2004

Professional Service • Assistant Clinical Professor, Department of Psychiatry, University of Washington Hospitals, Seattle, WA1970–1983 
• Chief Psychiatrist, Seattle/King County Jail, Seattle, WA, 1978 
• Consultant, Washington State Department of Social and Health Services, Division of Juvenile Rehabilitation, Seattle, WA1972–1979
 • Consultant, Washington State Department of Labor and Industries, Seattle, WA, 1972–1983 
• Member, Public Health Associates of Seattle, Seattle, WA 1983–1986
 • Regional Medical Officer, U.S. Foreign Service, Kinshasa, Zaire, 1987–1988

Current Affiliations • Americans for Democratic Action, National President, 2002–Present
 • Emil Verban Society, Founding Member

Revision date: February 11, 2010