Rep. Ro Khanna fielded questions from more than a dozen constituents Tuesday at a town hall, many of which centered around the election, coronavirus relief or the nationwide protests calling for police reform.
The virtual event, which was live-streamed on Facebook, garnered nearly 1,000 views.
One constituent asked the Fremont Democrat why some politicians who did not participate in marches or protests related to the Black Lives Matter movement still felt entitled to comment on the actions of protesters.
Although Khanna is a supporter of the overall movement, the congressman has been an outspoken critic of protesters who resort to aggressive tactics. Most recently, he condemned the actions of a group of protesters who vandalized San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo’s home on Friday.
Khanna explained he did participate in one march in Washington but added anyone had the right to condemn violence or vandalism.
“In a liberal democracy we don’t engage in the destruction of property, we don’t engage in the intimidation of elected officials or fellow citizens, and we don’t engage in violence,” he said. “That is the foundation of American democracy. That is the social contract that we have with one another and whether one engages in protests or not is frankly irrelevant to standing up for those basic democratic principles.”
Yet, Khanna recognized many protesters may feel frustrated or hopeless and said Congress had a responsibility to answer their calls for reform.
“We need to hear them and give them real hope that there is going to be real change,” he said. “…But the ideals that Dr. King and Rev. James Lawson and Rep. John Lewis fought for were that change would happen through nonviolence. That you answer injustice with a call to the higher moral plane, not by devolving into violence.”
Diane Shaw, and a handful of other participants, asked for updates about the Heroes Act and questioned why legislators were unable to compromise on coronavirus relief.
The House passed the Heroes Act in May, an approximately $3.4 trillion tax cut and spending bill, whereas the Senate introduced and supported the Heals Act, an approximately $1 trillion stimulus package. House Democrats and Senate Republicans failed to find a middle ground prior to Congress’s August recess.
House Democrats were willing to negotiate on some issues, said Khanna. But Democrats could not agree to eliminate the $1 trillion the Heroes Act set aside for local and state governments, he said, and Republicans did not want to allocate any money for this purpose.
“California needs that money,” he said. “We’re desperate for that money and if we don’t have that money, there are going to be more cuts in education, cuts in schools, people being laid off and we’re not going to have resources to fight our fires.”
Another constituent, Mary Smith, shared her concerns about protecting the U.S. Postal Service and its role in the upcoming election. President Donald Trump, who has voiced opposition to mail-in voting, has stated he will not provide a funding boost to help the postal service handle mail-in ballots or other coronavirus-related challenges.
Khanna agreed this was a serious concern and said citizens need to stand behind the Delivering for America Act. The bill, which was passed by the House Aug. 29, would provide funding and prohibit the postal service from making changes that would delay or reduce its services.
“Can you imagine what will happen to this country if Trump is up on Election Day and then a week or two later Biden pulls into the lead and there is conflict over whether those ballots are counted or not?” Khanna asked. “You see the riots in the streets now. I fear for the country what would happen in that kind of a situation.”
The congressman added he had called on Speaker Nancy Pelosi to establish a bipartisan commission to help navigate election results.
Khanna also briefly touched on the need for more federal funding to combat or prevent wildfires and thanked local firefighters for their recent services battling blazes in Northern California.
Contact Katie King at [email protected] or follow @KatieKingCST on Twitter.