U.S. freshman congressman Ro Khanna, a Democrat representing the 17th District of California, which includes Santa Clara, held a Town Hall meeting on May 7 at the Performing Arts Center of Santa Clara High School. Khanna was welcomed by Santa Clara City Councilmember Kathy Watanabe.
“We are all so proud to have you as our Congressman representing us in Washington during these uncertain times as our country moves forward,” said Watanabe. “You have become a loud progressive voice on the Hill during your brief time representing District 17.”
In opening remarks to about 400 attendees, Khanna addressed the passage on May 4 of the GOP health care bill to reform the Affordable Care Act, military intervention vs. diplomatic solutions to the conflict with North Korea, and the economy.
“One of the worst days of my life in Congress was Thursday when the health care bill passed in the House of Representatives,” said Khanna. “We know it has little support from Americans. …We really need citizen voices and actions to continue this fight to make sure we don’t take this step backward.”
Khanna expressed concern about the U.S. “rush to war” and advocates diplomacy first in resolving conflicts, saying, “Military intervention in some of these places is not making America safer.” He stressed the need to educate people about the history of the conflict with North Korea.
Regarding the economy, Khanna proposes a one trillion dollar earned income tax credit to benefit working-class Americans, providing as much as $6,000 a year for individuals and $12,000 for families.
Khanna responded to questions from 20 audience members, covering the gamut of national issues: the Working Families Flexibility Act of 2017, excessive executive branch power, net neutrality, health care (including high drug prices), reducing the Department of Defense budget, climate change as a political issue, Russian influence in elections, DACA (deferred action for childhood arrivals), visas for sale, college costs and saving national monuments.
In Federal budget negotiations, Khanna would prioritize funding job training programs, building up the U.S. infrastructure and supporting U.S. social services and foreign humanitarian aid.
“Thank you for being the Democrat we hoped you would be,” said Gabrielle Antolovich, president of the board of the Billy DeFrank LGBTQ Community Center in San Jose, before asking how to become better informed on issues.
Her question led to comments about the current transactional way of political leadership vs. the substantive way, which requires learning more about the issues and acting out of conviction rather than in response to lobbyists.
“We need more people in Congress who are thinkers and readers,” said Khanna.
He was even questioned about the size of his Washington office.
“It’s one of the smallest offices on the Hill,” said Khanna, who was born in Philadelphia. “But as a son of immigrants [from India] who stood in line to get their Green Cards, any office in the U.S. capitol is a great one.”
“I wanted to come to the Town Hall meeting to see how Ro Khanna presents himself and what he had to say about the really critical issues going on,” said Sunnyvale resident Judi Pogue. “It was very encouraging. I think he’s articulate, well-educated and knowledgeable about democracy and our history. I’m optimistic because I feel Khanna is someone who is willing to reach across the aisle.”
May is Asian Pacific American Heritage month, and Khanna presented awards to seven District 17 Asian Pacific Americans for contributions to their communities: Angelica M. Cortez, Sarita Kohli, Truman Nhu, Don Sun, Sameena Usman and, in absentia, Anna Ko and Gerald Sakamoto.
Khanna’s monthly town hall meetings rotate from city to city within District 17, comprising Santa Clara, Cupertino, Fremont, Milpitas, Newark, north San Jose and Sunnyvale. For information, visit www.khanna.house.gov and www.facebook.com/RepRoKhanna.