NEWARK, Calif. — The U.S. government could be headed for a partial shutdown if Congress doesn’t move toward passing a budget before the end of this month. Before covering a range of topics at a town hall in Newark on Friday, Sept. 8, Rep. Ro Khanna (D-District 17) informed a few dozen constituents about the potential consequences of failing to pass a budget.
“I love Newark but we’ve got bigger problems in this country if the budget doesn’t pass,” Khanna said. “The budget is all of our funding for child care, for food stamps, for rental assistance, for social security.”
Congress is set to reconvene Tuesday, Sept. 12, and it must pass a continuing resolution by Sept. 30 to prevent a partial government shutdown. Khanna said he prioritizes passing a budget that allocates funds for housing, child care, social security, Medicare and food assistance over nearly $1 trillion in military spending.
“Those are the things that I’m going to be standing up for when I go back to Washington,” Khanna said, “and I’m working on a bipartisan basis with people like [Rep. Nancy Mace (R-South Carolina)] to try to get the budget passed.”
After speaking to the budget, Khanna fielded questions on topics ranging from the climate crisis to immigration and foreign policy.
Climate and renewable energy
Khanna said he disagreed with the Biden Administration’s approval of the Willow Project, ConocoPhillips’ oil drilling project in Alaska, and supports the declaration of a climate emergency. He expressed support for permitting reform to expedite the development of solar and wind infrastructure, as well as renewable energy transmission, while impeding the development of new fossil fuel infrastructure.
Khanna co-authored the Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors Act of 2022, which aims to revive the domestic manufacturing of semiconductors, or chips, which Khanna said are essential to produce domestically given their centrality to the renewable energy transition. Khanna noted the difficulties faced by Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company in establishing an Arizona factory, attributing it not to permitting issues but to a range of issues with labor, from differences in work culture to an inadequate investment in the U.S. workforce.
“Too often our failure to build, it just gets blamed on permitting reform,” Khanna said, “when a lot of times it’s that we haven’t built the manufacturing workforce, we haven’t invested in our people, we’re not facilitating a culture of building. And so we have to have a comprehensive approach.”
Immigration and foreign policy
In terms of immigration, Khanna agreed it was important to address the naturalization backlog and make it easier for immigrants to get their green cards and become citizens who can fully participate in the democratic process.
“I have a bill that would end the country tax,” Khanna said, “which would make sure that people here can get a green card like my father did when he came here in 1968. He got a green card in less than six months because that was the ethos.”
Regarding foreign policy, Khanna emphasized the necessity of a robust military presence in the Pacific and strong cybersecurity, though he expressed concerns about the dynamics between government agencies and military contractors, criticizing the exorbitant profits of companies like Raytheon and Lockheed Martin at the expense of taxpayers.
“You have a situation right now where you have an oil pressure switch that costs NASA $320 and our Pentagon is paying $10,000 for the same pressure switch,” Khanna said.
In terms of Indian foreign policy, Khanna, co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans, voiced support for President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Anthony Blinken’s efforts to strengthen ties with India while upholding pluralism and human rights.
Without acknowledge the ongoing crackdowns on minority populations across India, Khanna said, “I think the president has done a very good job.”
Sonia Waraich can be reached at 510-952-7455.
Photo caption: Rep. Ro Khanna (D-District 17) speaks at the Newark Pavilion on Friday, Sept. 8. (Sonia Waraich – East Bay Echo)