SAN MATEO (CBS SF) – Congress’ approval rating is at an all-time low and a deadlock over unemployment benefits has millions of Americans concerned about the future.

Peninsula Congresswoman Jackie Speier said there has been a huge change in the landscape of Washington politics over the last few decades.

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Interview with Congresswoman Jackie Speier:

“It is a very different place today than it was 32 years ago. It has a lot to do with the way the extremists on all sides have overtaken the way we do business. We shouldn’t be surprised that the super committee was unsuccessful,” said Speier. “Both sides would have to cross the line, so to speak, and take positions that were not consistent with their caucuses to succeed. They are all subject to being reelected and the impact that that would have on their ability to be reelected would have been a problem.”

Speier said that despite each side of the legislature wanting to protect certain programs, such as Medicare, there are sacrifices that need to be made.

“While we are protecting Medicare, we’ve got to find ways to reduce the costs. That’s where we have to come together and find solutions,” said Speier. “We have a $14 trillion deficit that is only going to grow larger. The American people expect us to come up with solutions to reduce that.”

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Speier said that in 2012, two of the most important pieces of legislation she is working on focus on rapes in the military and pipeline safety.

“For many years in the state legislature, I worked on issues surrounding domestic violence, rape and sexual assault. When I first got to Congress, the very first subcommittee that I went to on Oversight and Government Reform was on the issue of rape in the military,” she said. “And I sat in this hearing dumbfounded that the terms and discussions were back in the 60’s about the provocative attire and whether or not there was consent. When I really started digging into it, I found out how abysmal our response has been. There are 19,000 sexual assaults a year in the military, which is staggering. And only 13 percent are reported.”

Speier said her legislation would take it out of the chain of command and allow those in the military to report it to a separate office, with people who are experts in dealing with the prosecution and investigation in each case, while also providing care for the victims.

Speier also said she is pleased that President Obama signed legislation to strengthen pipeline safety measures but more has to be done to prevent tragedies like the one in San Bruno in 2010.

You can hear KCBS In Depth, a weekly half-hour news interview, Saturdays at 5:30a.m. and Sundays at 8:30 a.m. and 8:30 p.m. on KCBS All News 740AM and 106.9FM.

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