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Reclaiming my time: Maxine Waters’s beleaguered congressional hearing led to a mighty meme

Waters’s fiery refrain became the new “she persisted.”

Aja Romano writes about pop culture, media, and ethics. Before joining Vox in 2016, they were a staff reporter at the Daily Dot. A 2019 fellow of the National Critics Institute, they’re considered an authority on fandom, the internet, and the culture wars.

Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) wasn’t messing around during a House Financial Services Committee hearing Thursday when she confronted Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin with a procedural interruption that has now gone viral.

When Waters asked Mnuchin why his office had not responded to a letter from her office regarding President Trump’s financial ties to Russian banks, Mnuchin prefaced his direct response to the question with a series of formalities — mostly compliments to Waters. Waters, however, was clearly wary that Mnuchin might be stalling in order to avoid answering the question, and repeatedly attempted to redirect him by insisting that she was “reclaiming my time” — a phrase rooted in House floor procedure that has since swept the internet.

“We don’t want to take my time up with how great I am,” Waters said when Mnuchin tried to begin by complimenting her. When Mnuchin insisted he had been attempting to answer the question, Waters continued to press him to actually do so, repeating the “reclaiming my time” refrain.

Waters has been outspoken in her opposition to the Trump administration — indeed, she was calling for his impeachment as early as February. As a de facto leader of the anti-Trump resistance, Waters has become a bit of a rallying point for progressives in recent months, and her words to Mnuchin quickly became an internet meme among women, minorities, and anyone else who’s run out of time to waste and fucks to give.

“Reclaiming my time” quickly became a catchphrase for commentary on the Trump administration, racism, misogyny, and other progressive issues.

But the meme can also be applied to just about everything — either as a general expression of empowerment or just as a general expression of hilarity.

The meme has also already spawned two incredible musical outgrowths — this remix of Waters’s interaction with Mnuchin by Adam Joseph, and this viral video by Mykal Kilgore.

For her part, Waters told MSNBC that she “could not believe” her phrase went viral. Her astonishment is likely due to the fact that her attempt to course-correct Mnuchin was, to her, a procedural part of the hearing.

She also stated that despite her efforts to keep the questioning on track, Mnuchin “absolutely stonewalled” her, pointing out that he didn’t fully answer all of her questions in the hearing about how he handles financial information regarding the Trump-Russia investigation.

However, those who’ve made the meme go viral seem less concerned about Waters’s unanswered questions; as far as they’re concerned, she made the most of her time.