2020 in Review
As 2020 comes to a close, I would like to highlight some of the work I have done in Washington, D.C. and the Bay Area over the past year to improve the lives of people in our district and across the country.
This was an especially difficult year. We experienced COVID-19 and its economic fallout, international conflicts, racial injustice, the loss of a beloved Supreme Court Justice, and a historic Presidential election. I know many of you are struggling, but I want you to know that I have and will continue to serve you as best as I can. It is an honor to represent you in Congress.
Battling COVID-19 and Providing Relief
In March, stay-at-home orders officially went into effect in California and elsewhere across the nation. In our district, Dr. Sarah Cody in Santa Clara led the way and took swift action that saved lives. In response, Congress passed the $2.2 trillion CARES Act, which included funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, COVID-19 testing, a one-time $1,200 stimulus check for individuals making less than $75,000 a year, and the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) to help small businesses.
I believe the CARES Act was a positive step forward in providing relief, but more was needed. That is why I joined Speaker Pelosi in sending a letter to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Small Business Administrator Jovita Carranza to ensure that small business loans provided by the PPP were available to startups in Silicon Valley. Also, I know that a one-time stimulus check is not enough, which is why I partnered with Rep. Tim Ryan to introduce the Emergency Money for the People Act. Our bill would provide a recurring monthly check of $2,000 to every American making less than $130,000 per year ($260,000 for joint return filers).
Additionally, while more Americans than ever worked from home during the pandemic, many were forced to work in high-risk conditions without appropriate equipment, safety standards, or job protections. These workers are doctors and nurses, grocery and drug store employees, delivery drivers, and many others who are integral to keeping the country functioning during the pandemic. Because they deserve better support and protection, I joined Senator Elizabeth Warren to introduce the Essential Workers Bill of Rights, which outlines necessary health and safety protections, universal paid sick, family, and medical leave, and support for childcare for essential workers during the pandemic.
In May, I introduced the Emergency Medical Supplies Procurement Act with Senator Bernie Sanders to address ongoing medical supply shortages across the country. This bill would provide an additional $75 billion to produce personal protective equipment, ventilators, pharmaceuticals, and other necessary medical supplies and hospital infrastructure.
I also sent two letters to House and Senate leadership on medical supply shortages, one in August and the other in October. The first letter advocated for the mass distribution of free facial coverings to all Americans, funding for a Public Service Announcement campaign encouraging mask usage, and research into mask efficacy and optimal design. The second letter urged Congressional leadership to develop a comprehensive plan to prevent and mitigate the impact of future pandemics.
Although the House passed a $3.4 trillion HEROES Act in May, and an updated $2.2 trillion HEROES Act in October, the Senate failed to pass or even vote on either version of the HEROES Act. Instead, Congressional leadership settled on and passed a new $900 billion COVID-19 relief package earlier this week.
This new COVID-19 relief package is a much-needed lifeline for the millions in crisis due to the pandemic, which is why I voted for it. However, I believe it is much less than we need. I will continue to push leadership to prioritize sending stimulus checks of $2,000 per month, boosting unemployment benefits, funding state and local governments, and increasing food, rent and mortgage assistance throughout the pandemic. Struggling American families need help now. We cannot afford to wait.
Police Brutality and Reform
In May, the country was horrified when they witnessed a police officer kill George Floyd. His shocking murder was yet another painful entry in the long legacy of racial discrimination in our country. Police killings of unarmed Black people are evidence that systemic racism in America persists, is pervasive, and necessitates bold, transformative reform.
I joined over 200 of my colleagues in cosponsoring the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which included my bill, the PEACE Act, to change the standard for the use of force for law enforcement officers so that deadly force is used only as a last resort. I was proud to vote with a majority of my colleagues to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act in the House.
The bill would also lower the criminal standard to convict law enforcement officers for misconduct in federal prosecutions, end qualified immunity for law enforcement, authorize the Department of Justice to issue subpoenas in investigations of police departments for a pattern or practice of discrimination, and create a national registry of complaints and records of police misconduct.
Supreme Court Term Limits
In September, we lost of one of the greatest judicial minds in our nation’s history, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She was a trailblazer and true champion of both gender and racial equality. While we mourn her loss, we must honor her legacy by continuing the fight for greater equality for all.
What we cannot do is allow our country to face a national political crisis every time a vacancy occurs on the Supreme Court. That is why I introduced the Supreme Court Term Limits and Regular Appointments Act. My bill would establish 18-year term limits on Supreme Court justices. After their 18-year terms, justices would be allowed to continue their service on lower courts if they choose. Current justices would be exempt from the term limits. Going forward, the bill would create a regular appointment process to allow every president to nominate a new justice to the Supreme Court during each odd year, guaranteeing each president the opportunity to nominate two justices per four-year term.
No War Against Iran Bill Passes with Bipartisan Support
In January, Iranian general Qasem Soleimani was assassinated without Congressional notification or approval. I consider that attack a dangerous act of military interventionism. In response, Iran struck our bases in Iraq, causing brain injuries to our soldiers. In response, I introduced the No War Against Iran Act, which passed with a bipartisan majority of the House restricting any taxpayer funding for an unauthorized, unconstitutional war with Iran.
The Constitution is very clear on the delegation of power when it comes to matters of war and the power of the purse. Passing this bill was an important step towards reclaiming the important checks and balances established by the Framers, and preventing the Soleimani assassination from leading to a full-scale war. We must pursue a responsible, thoughtful foreign policy that prioritizes diplomacy and open communication.
The 21st Century Jobs Act
In October, I introduced the 21st Century Jobs Act. This bill would create a Federal Institute of Technology, with approximately 30 locations across the country, and allocates $900 billion in Research and Development funding for emerging technologies like advanced manufacturing, synthetic biology, artificial intelligence, biotechnology, and cybersecurity. The 21st Century Jobs Act also includes:
- Funding for better and more widespread STEM instruction in public schools, specifically focused on computer science.
- STEM scholarships for students left behind.
- Tax incentives for the federal government’s contractors to locate part of their workforce in rural and forgotten areas across America, and
- $8 billion toward teacher training in STEM fields.
Government investments in science in the decades after World War II created the greatest middle class the world has ever seen. This bill will make sure the jobs of the future are in the U.S., and that they will be spread around our great nation, rather than focused on a small set of superstar cities.
Two New Laws, Honoring a Fallen Hero, and Supporting Veterans
I am proud to report that I have had five bills become law in my four years in Congress. That makes me one of the most successful California legislators in Congress.
The Identifying Barriers and Best Practices Study Act was passed by the Senate and signed by the President in October. This new law requires the Government Accountability Office to study and report on disability and pension benefits provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs to members of the National Guard and members of reserve components of the Armed Forces.
In November, the Information Technology Modernization Centers of Excellence Program Act passed the Senate and was signed into law by the President earlier this month. It requires the General Services Administration to establish an Information Technology Modernization Centers of Excellence Program to help bring state of the art technology and cybersecurity to the federal government. This program makes government more efficient and more helpful to the American people.
Last year, I introduced a bill renaming the post office in Cupertino, CA after fallen Navy SEAL, Petty Officer 2nd Class (SEAL) Matthew G. Axelson. Axelson was originally from Cupertino. He was killed during combat operations in Afghanistan in 2005. The bill passed the House in September, passed the Senate earlier this month, and was signed into law this week.
On December 7th, the House passed the Health Care Access for Urban Native Veterans Act. This bill would authorize the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense to share medical facilities and services with urban Native American organizations.
Working to Serve You in the District
In March, our Santa Clara office quickly adapted to county health orders and developed protocols for effectively serving constituents while working from home. This included both answering phones live and upgrading our online service system. As a result, our office successfully completed casework for more than 450 COVID-19 related requests, including issues related to small business loans, unemployment assistance and stimulus checks while also resolving casework for over 1,000 constituents with federal agency issues.
We were also able to meet the challenge of conducting virtual events since March. In addition to two monthly town halls, I hosted multiple forums and roundtables to tackle issues such as the local response to COVID-19 and wildfires, essential workers’ rights, mental health and domestic violence in the age of COVID-19, the US Census, and a Series on Race in the wake of the George Floyd’s death.
A Few of My Op-eds
Ro Khanna and Bernie Sanders
Des Moines Register
Ro Khanna Tom Vilsack
Ro Khanna and Brian Fitzpatrick
Ro Khanna and William J. Perry