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Congressman Ro Khanna Discusses A Difficult Term In Silicon Valley

Kendyl Kearly | October 9, 2020 | People

The U.S. congressman representing California’s 17th district shares the successes and challenges of his time in office.

Congressman Ro Khanna Image

What achievement have you been most proud of during your time in office?
I’ve been very proud of the two bills I’ve had pass, one to provide veterans with more opportunities and the other to modernize the federal government to make it more digitally savvy. I’ve been proud of my efforts to stop the war in Yemen. I’m really trying to articulate the vision of progressive capitalism that embraces the innovation of Silicon Valley. It gives people a pathway to participate.

What is your mission for the rest of this term?
We've got a number of key bills. One is to create Centers of Excellence in the federal government, and the other is to provide funding for tech hubs across America. Both are related to preparing for our digital future.

The district has such a unique culture, being in the heart of the tech industry. How do you straddle advocating for that industry but also policing it?
We need the Internet Bill of Rights that [inventor of the World Wide Web] Tim Berners-Lee and I came up with. The central part of it is that people should have to opt in before their data is collected.

What do you think is something that people don’t understand about being in Congress?
I think they don’t understand how much can get done. I mean, they see the dysfunction a lot, and parts of it are, but you can still build coalitions and get legislation done. The Endless Frontier Act that I’m proposing with [Senator] Chuck Schumer has two Republicans on it and has gotten bipartisan support.

What has been your biggest struggle dealing with the coronavirus in the district?
Helping the constituents. I mean, we’ve had people who lost their restaurants that they spent their lives building. We’ve had constituents getting evicted, facing the loss of income and are looking for how to survive. We’re really just trying to help them in any possible way we can.

Your reelection race is coming up. Are you concerned about voter suppression at all?
No, I’m not concerned about voter suppression in California. But I am concerned in other districts. [When Postmaster General Louis DeJoy testifies for the House], I’m asking questions and trying to hold him accountable.

What did you think of the Democratic National Convention [last night]?
Oh, it was great. I thought Biden gave the best speech of his career and was firm; he was presidential. He was empathetic. I think he did himself a lot of good.

You were the co-chair the Sanders campaign and didn't want to vote with the party platform because it wasn't going to include Medicare for All. How do you see your role in the party with the way it's moving forward now?
So the energy of the party is on the progressive side, and I look forward to working to get progressive ideas of a living wage, stronger worker rights and Medicare for everyone enacted.

There’s already been questions about who would take Kamala Harris’ place in the Senate. Your name has been thrown around. Can you speak to that at all?
I love representing Silicon Valley. And I’m really focused on electing Biden and Harris to be president and vice president, but of course you don’t rule anything out.

Photography by: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images