WASHINGTON, D.C. — Silicon Valley Congressman Ro Khanna says he’s going to be on the road over the next 100 days as campaign co-chair for Senator and 2020 presidential candidate, Bernie Sanders. But before he packs his bags for the campaign trail, San José Spotlight caught up with Khanna last Friday inside his Washington office for a look at what he’s working on.
Khanna calls his district one of the most diverse in the nation, “if not the world.” And he’s often a vocal critic of the current administration’s immigration policies.
“What’s happening at the border is the greatest stain on our conscience, in American conscience, since I’ve been alive,” he said.
Another vocal critic of President Donald Trump, and a legend of the House of Representatives, Elijah Cummings, died last week at the age of 68. Hours before his death, Cummings, who chaired the House Oversight committee, signed subpoenas directed at top immigration officials for documents related to the Trump administration’s decision to deport critically ill children and their families.
Khanna has served on the Oversight Committee since January, and remembers the late congressman’s passion for holding immigration officials accountable.
“I have never seen him more outraged, I have never seen him more passionate than when he talked about the kids who were taken from their parents,” said Khanna, referring to a hearing in July with the Department of Homeland Security’s Kevin McAleenan. “You could tell it bothered him at the deepest level, it offended him.”
Khanna says the committee will continue in the tone set by the late Cummings in pursuing the issue aggressively. The acting directors of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have agreed to voluntarily testify before the Oversight Committee’s Civil Rights and Civil Liberties subcommittee this Thursday.
“This president has trampled the constitution and abused his office and compromised our national security,” Khanna added.
For the past few weeks, the Oversight committee, along with the Intelligence and Foreign Affairs committees, have been conducting impeachment investigations. And while Khanna says it may take decades before the public finds out about all of the president’s wrongdoing, there’s enough to know he’s abused his office. He’s confident that the House will vote on articles of impeachment soon, though Democrats have not been clear on a timeline.
“It’s moving expeditiously, we are going to hold this president accountable,” Khanna said. “We are going to have a vote on the articles of impeachment. I’ve said we should have it this year.”
Chief among the president’s complaints about the impeachment inquiry is the fact that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has not held a vote on the inquiry — something Pelosi has said she’s not required to do. Khanna says Pelosi wants to wait until Democrats completely build their case.
“She doesn’t want to hold two votes. She doesn’t want to have the whole House vote on an impeachment inquiry and then have the whole House vote again on impeachment itself,” he said.
Stalled bills amid divided Congress
Outside of the impeachment inquiry, the rest of the House continues with working on legislation. As can happen in a divided Congress, bills passed with overwhelming Democratic support in the House don’t always get taken up in the Senate. It’s a dynamic the progressive congressman has come to loathe because he says it stifles the progress of bills he thinks are most important.
“The problem in this country is the intransigence of the Senate,” Khanna explained. ‘”We aren’t getting anything through.”
To prove it, he lists some of the bills that have stalled since passing in the House: a bill to increase the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, a bill to enact universal background checks on firearms and a bill to re-join the Paris Climate Agreement. He bemoans the lack of agreement on infrastructure, what he calls a common-sense action that would boost the economy and bring millions of new jobs. It’s led Khanna to support getting rid of the filibuster in the Senate, even though Bernie Sanders has said he’s “not crazy” about the idea.
But when frustration mounts in Washington, Khanna says he gets re-energized by being back home in his district. The Fremont Democrat tries to make the trip home at least three times a month.
“I’m very, very lucky to be in a district where I get to advocate my values which are rarely in tension with what the constituency believes,” he said.
Contact Elizabeth Mendez at [email protected] or follow @izziemae on Twitter.