TRANSCRIPT: Ro Khanna & Jordan Chariton Interview: Will Progressives Hold Firm on $3.5 Trillion Deal, Why the Silence on Assange?

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NOTE: This interview was conducted on Saturday, Sept. 25, before Speaker Pelosi rescheduled the vote and before the news dropped about the CIA’s plots to kidnap and/or kill Julian Assange.

Jordan: Hey, I'm delighted to be joined by Congressman Ro Khanna, representing California. Thanks for doing this kind of last minute.

It's Saturday morning, so obviously a lot can change over the next 48 hours with Monday, as I guess, the agreement between Speaker Pelosi and moderate Democrats, I call them Republicans within the Democratic Party.

But before we get to obviously, you and I have some disagreements on the strategy here. I thought it was kind of nice that CNN finally told people what's in this deal yesterday, you haven't really heard anything about what's in the deal other than the horse race going back and forth.

Can you kind of explain to Progressives who, you know, might be a little dejected after the Bernie movement and whatnot why this deal is not incremental progress, but bold, significant game-changing policies?

Rep. Khanna: Jordan, first of all, good to be on the show. I appreciate all the work you've done on Flint, Michigan. It is particular of interest to me because we've had a lead issue at an airport in San Jose where kids have had lead in their blood given lead fuel. And we're trying to close that airport.

So I really appreciate your work on that, and appreciated the back and forth on Twitter. Usually when people criticize me, which I don't take it personally. I view that as First Amendment debate and great to be on.

Yeah. I mean, look, this is going to be a massive bill that will help working-class families and people who are struggling in this country. It has childcare and no one is going to pay more than 7% of their income for child care if this passes. It has universal preschool, it has expansion so you can finally get dental care, dentures, hearing AIDS, vision, your eye glass is covered.


It's going to make community College free. It's going to give you paid family leave. If you have to look after a sick parent or a kid, you can get time off without having to lose your job or lose your salary.

These are policies Progressives have been championing for decades.

And finally, we have it. And then it has some of the boldest climate provisions ever. I mean, a clean energy standard that by 2035 would get us to 100% clean electricity and massive investments in renewable energy.

So, Progressives have always said that this has to be one package. One of the reasons is we weren't part of the bipartisan infrastructure. We wouldn't have signed off on the bipartisan infrastructure deal, just investing in highways and roads without an environmental component.

I mean, you can't do that and not have the electricity, electric vehicles. You can't do that and kick out electric buses, which is what they did. They took out DeFazio who's not a progressive. I mean, he's a chair of the Transportation Committee. I'd call him a mainstream Democratic Liberal, and they took out his proposal.

So you can't do just the old infrastructure without a focus on climate. So we were clear saying, okay, if you don't want to include that in the process, we're not going to sync it. But you have to have the whole bill. You have to have the climate provisions for us to vote for it.

And that's why there are 40, 40 to 50 of us are prepared on Monday to vote no if the speaker brings it.

Jordan: So let's get to Monday. I find that positive, because, frankly, I mean, you hear the noise. There's a whole lot of people in the progressive movement who have wanted you to leverage your votes. So I think that's a good first step.

The question I have is I've been seeing Congressman Jayapal, chair the Progressive Change Caucus, Progressive Congressional Caucus, Bernie, some others with kind of the same talking points, at least in TV interviews, that we're not going below 3.5 trillion, whether that's their actual position or not, they've been signaling that. You were on CNN yesterday basically saying we don't have a red line, meaning we'll go below that.

I don't personally, with all due respect, I think that's pretty bad negotiation tactics. I think why not go with a hard line? Vote no, actually, turn the pressure on the Manchins, the Sinemas, the Gottheimers in the House.

And also, I personally don't understand why the first talking point isn't pointing out that Joe Manchin himself in January said the most important thing is new infrastructure spend two, three, $4 trillion over a ten year period on infrastructure. So it seems to me, at least on CNN yesterday, you were basically already signaling that we will go further and further towards the corporatists.

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When I mean, all you need to say is we're just doing what Joe Manchin called for in January. I and, you know, maybe some Progressives don't agree with this– I'm not naive. You probably will have to go below 3.5 trillion. But I think by signaling it now that you're willing to, don't you think that ends up getting an even more watered-down deal?

Rep. Khanna: Well, first of all, I agree with you on the $4 trillion talking point. You don't get all your talking points in. And that was probably one I should make and will make and agree with you. We should start out with the fact that this is the president's bill.

This is a short excerpt from the full 35-minute interview between Rep. Ro Khanna and Jordan Chariton. To read the full transcript from the interview, become a paid Status Coup Substack subscriber for just $5 bucks a month!

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