LEVER TIME - The State Of Congress (w/ Rep. Ro Khanna)
1:22AM Jan 18, 2023
Rep. Ro Khanna
fossil fuel industry
Hey everyone. Welcome to another episode of lever time the flagship podcast from the lever, an investigative news outlet. I'm your host, David Sirota on this week's show. I'm going to be talking to Congressman ro Khanna about, well, really everything in Congress. We started out talking about his investigation into the fossil fuel industry. He's been leading a really important investigation that has surfaced 1000s of documents about the disinformation campaigns being run by fossil fuel companies, a disinformation campaign aimed at distracting our attention from the climate crisis role. And I also talked about those recent votes for the Speaker of the House banning or the potentially banning, I guess, gas stoves, or at least the rumor that gas stoves are going to be banned. I don't think they're going to be banned. And we also talked about the recent troubles with the airlines a he has really been a critic of the airlines pushing Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg to regulate or better regulate the airlines. It was a great conversation. Stay tuned for that. This week. Also, our paid subscribers are going to get a bonus segment our interview with author John Hendrickson about his new book, which is called Life On Delay making peace with a stutter. John writes very candidly about living with speech disfluency and the impact it's had on his life. The Levers, Joel Warner spoke with John about his book, and what led him to write it. If you want access to overtime premium head on over to lever news.com To become a supporting subscriber that gives you access to all of our premium content. And you'll be directly supporting the investigative journalism that we do here at the lever. Speaking of which, if you're looking for other ways to support our work, share our reporting with your friends and family leave this podcast a rating and review on your podcast player like it if you're watching it on YouTube, the only way that independent media grows is by word of mouth, and we need all the help we can get to combat the inane bullshit that is corporate media. As always, I am here with producer Frank, what's up Frank?
How much David at a pretty good weekend holiday weekend, attended an alumni event for my college that I went to, which I think are always something where people get those invites, and they're like, oh, I don't want to fucking go to this thing. And then you go to it, and you're like, Oh, that was actually really nice. It was really
turned into turned out to be the superstars that they thought they were going to be when they graduated college.
No, not at all. We actually have a very, very low success rate, as it turns out. But uh, no, it was good to see some professors, some former classmates and you know, it's always good to actually go do those things that you're kind of dreading. But you know, it's good to see people, it's good to reconnect. I think that's really important for us as humans in this world to just for
sure, for sure. I used to dread going to my high school reunion. And now whenever I get the chance to go back to Philadelphia and do and do that I do I really, I really enjoy it. It is good to reconnect with people. And most of us, including me have not achieved the all the hopes and dreams that we perhaps hoped and dreamed to achieve. Now that we're in midlife, and I actually think that recognition of that ends up chilling out a lot of people. So that's, that's kind of fun. I've been paying attention in the news before we get to our interview with ROH Khanna, you paid attention to the to the World Economic Forum in Davos, did you see all the headlines about that?
I was reading a few of the headlines. But I did not delve deep because those stories always depressed the shit out of me. So but what did you find out?
Well, I always find it interesting to see the headlines we've had on Peter Goodman of The New York Times who wrote the book, Davos man, when I worked for Peter Goodman, when he was my editor at International Business Times, he assigned me to cover Davos. So I always watch the coverage of the World Economic Forum, having now covered it twice. And for those who don't know what the World Economic Forum is all the richest and most powerful people in the world, and lots of heads of state and politicians, they gather in this Swiss mountain town, in a kind of cartoonish display of wealth. But it's all much of the messages, many of the messages that come out of it are designed to say that the rich and powerful can get ever richer and more powerful, and that will actually serve all of humanity. It's kind of a self congratulatory message that comes out of that. In truth. It's actually just like a deal making venue is all the private equity guys in the hedge fund guys all get together and they're making deals all week. Now when I covered it, I did something and kudos to Peter Goodman for telling me how to do this. I was like, What am I going to do with this at this confab? Like the richest and most powerful people in the world? What am I doing there? And he said, listen, just sit in the lobby and all these people Gonna walk by because they think it's a safe space. And for the most part, it is a safe space. But you don't have to make it a safe space for them in the sense you can just shove your microphone in their face and ask them a question. And so I did that all week. And we got all these amazing stories and then we got this one story. I don't think she'd ever been asked about this. I asked the, the CEO of GM Mary Barra, why they market cars without safety equipment, like airbags, why they market those cars without those things standard in the developing world. And she said something like, we believe in consumer choice. And the story went, like super viral across the world. I I asked Steve Schwarzman the head of Blackstone, the billionaire head of Blackstone, I asked him a few questions. And he, he didn't like me very much, because I covered him a lot. And then I wrote a story about how he expressed incredible surprise. This is a few years ago, this is still during the aftermath of the financial crisis, he expressed all this surprise about why people why American voters were so angry at their current politics. It's like the richest guy in the world whose private equity firm is just like, you know, sort of fleecing everything everywhere. And he expressed like legitimate surprise that people were so angry. So I always watch the coverage of the World Economic Forum to see if anyone else any of the other news outlets that are there. Use the tactic that I use, like, Hey, this is a venue to actually ask uncomfortable questions to very powerful people. And unfortunately, at least the coverage I've seen you don't get much of that. Although I did see one one thing I did you catch that story on CNBC where Senator Chris Coons, Christian cinema, and and Joe Manchin held a private closed door meeting with I think it was 50. CEOs.
No, I did not I did not catch this. And again, like I said, depresses the shit out of me.
Yes, yes, it is depressing. And as I said, on social media, I said, you know, here if you want to know what the democracy crisis is, it's Joe Manchin and Kirsten cinema blocking or, you know, filibustering voting rights legislation to expand the vote, and then flying off to Davos to have a closed door con fab with a corporate CEOs behind a security fence, walling away any protesters, any dissenters, and and in terms of the conference itself, walling away even any, any journalists, so, to me, there's a lot of talk in the in the country about the January 6, and the democracy crisis, and January 6, was a serious thing that did deserve to be investigated. But if you really want to know what the regular normalized democracy crisis is, it's that that's what that is.
I think this is also so important because the, you know, there's a large swath of, you know, people in the country who have started to buy into, you know, very, like wild conspiracy theories about you know, like, the Illuminati and the, and like this secret class of people who are pulling the strings and then we we have no idea. It's like, No, this is it's not a conspiracy. It's just, it's happening right in front of your eyes. This is where they, this is where it happens. This is where they meet, and it's not necessarily like a shadowy cabal, it's just like a bunch of different people with their own individual private interests, all making these deals simultaneously.
Although, let me let me let me correct you a little bit. I would say it is a conspiracy. It's not a theory. Right? There's conspiracy theories, there is actually a basic conspiracy of the rich to make themselves richer, and it's not a theory like it's, it's not some, you know, I have an idea like, like, this is, like a theory or a myth. It's right there. It's it's Davos that's what that is. And the the other conspiracy is to sell the act of fleecing the entire world as an act of altruism. That is what the World Economic Forum, in my view, really sells. Speaking of greed and fleecing the entire world. That's a good segue to our upcoming interview with Democratic Congressman ro Khanna who spearheaded a major investigation into the fossil fuel industry. We're gonna take a quick break, but we'll be right back with that interview. Welcome back to lever time. As I said for our main interview today, I'm gonna be talking to Democratic Congressman ro Khanna from California since September of 2021. Row has been leading an investigation with the House Oversight Committee into the disinformation campaigns being run by the fossil fuel industry. This past December he and Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney of New York. They published a letter of findings accusing the fossil fuel industry of greenwashing, its public image and misrepresenting its alleged decarbonisation efforts. 1000s of documents were surfaced from this investigation and they are all really important. I spoke with ro about this probe. And we also talked about the general state of Congress. We talked about the recent She has with the US airline industry as well, he has been a big critic of the airline industry pushing the federal government to better regulate that industry. And we also talked about the debate around the alleged word, I underscore a legit banning of gas stoves. And we talked about the recent votes for Speaker of the House. And I asked him why Progressive House members have yet to wield the same power, as right wing Republicans visa vie their own leadership in the Democratic Party. It was a really, really good conversation and regardless of your opinion, just want to say I give row a lot of credit for being one of the very few progressive politicians who regularly engages with independent and progressive media. It's very important, I wish more elected officials would do this. That being said, Here is my conversation with Congressman ro Khanna. Hey, Ro, how you doing?
Good. I'm excited to be on first time I'm on after your Oscar nominations. So, you know, I appreciate you. You haven't forgotten this.
Well, we appreciate you being on and I want to start in the thing. And that's a good segue, actually, because our movie was about the climate crisis. I want to start with the investigation that you've been spearheading. It's gotten some attention. I think it deserves a lot more attention. You've been spearheading this investigation into the fossil fuel industry. It began its investigation in 2021. First question, top line question, why did you decide to start this investigation? What exactly is it about? Or? Well, I guess it's now a Republican Congress. So what exactly was it about? What was the specific focus? And I think the really important question is, what do you think we have learned from what you've uncovered?
So the investigation really was precipitated by Exxon's lobbyists, one of them bragging on television, that they basically killed climate legislation, a while at the same time, touting climate goals, and the hypocrisy was just a galling. And then when we looked into it, you realize this wasn't just an isolated incident, this has been the pattern of these companies for 40 years, and no one has really held them accountable, regardless of what you think of climate change. And obviously, the sciences is apparent, every American should be appalled by companies aligned to them. And that's really what this is about. And what we discovered is that these companies had the most sophisticated science, they knew climate change existed, but in the 70s 80s 90s, they denied it. And the currency owes are unwilling to express any regret for those past misstatements. Why does it matter? Because if we had started the transition in the 70s 80s, and 90s, it would have been much less painful than doing it now. And the second thing we discovered is they're engaged still in misdirection and deception. They're claiming these broad climate goals, but then they don't put any money there. They're actually not reducing emissions in the, to the level they claim.
So I'm talking to you about a day after this big study came out. And this is a report from The Guardian on this study, the oil giant Exxon privately, quote, predicted global warming correctly and skillfully, unquote, only to then spend decades publicly rubbishing such science in order to protect its core business. I like the word rubbishing, that's the guardian. That's very, very British, British way of putting it. The trove of internal documents and research papers, had previously established that Exxon knew of the dangers of global warming from at least the 70s, the new study, and this is really important, has made clear that Exxon scientists were uncannily accurate in their projections from the 70s onwards, predicting with precision, the upward curve of global temperatures and co2 emissions. So this adds a new wrinkle here in the sense that it's not only that Exxon kind of generally knew about the link between carbon emissions and climate change. It was very, very specific in its predictions, and it got its predictions, right. I think the question then becomes, if all of this comes out, and we know that Exxon and the fossil fuel companies knew in a very granular and precise way, what they were doing to the planet, then what do you think the upshot of that should be in terms of policy? Does that mean that they need to pay for future cleanup of the disaster that they've created? What does it mean for Congress going forward?
Yes, I think they need to be held accountable the way big tobacco was held accountable. And every one of the things our committee discovered is it wasn't just the scientist at Exxon that knew the exact Good EVs knew about this. They were in the loop. And as late as the early 2000s, you had Exxon CEO going on television and saying or giving print interviews and saying, I don't believe human activity causes climate change. So basically light, and you have today's CEO, unwilling to condemn past CEOs lies. And so there has to be a reckoning and accountability, there has to be action that's taken where Big Oil is responsible for the cleanup and for helping to transition in our climate goals.
When you rightly, in my view, say that they were lying. One argument could be that they're not really necessarily under any, I guess, corporate obligation to tell the truth that they're not under any business directive, to run out there and admit that their products are creating an existential crisis for the survival of humanity. Now, I think morally, they're obligated. Is there any argument that you expect to come from the oil industry that says, Yeah, you know, maybe we had it right. Maybe we had it a little wrong here. But you can't hold us legally accountable for simply defending the use of our products.
That's the tact, I thought they would take in the hearings, but they aren't even willing to concede that I mean, they aren't even willing to say, we got it wrong. We made some statements we regret. It's a culture of total, let's get in the foxhole and fight and not admit any mistake. Now, you know, there are separate issues legally in lawsuits, because there is a you're not allowed to mislead consumers, you're not allowed to mislead your investors. And the courts will figure out, you know, whether they crossed the legal line, but certainly Congress can say that they inflicted harm on the country in the world. And then we're gonna hold them responsible and creating a fun to do me it's cleanup and closing of oil wells so that we don't have methane leaks, and that they need to be part of that effort. And that is something Congress has the power to do.
Now, you towards the end of this investigation in December before the Republicans took over Congress. You and your co chair Carolyn Maloney, a congresswoman accused the industry also of greenwashing. So there's denial, there's deception. And then there's also this separate and related idea of greenwashing, you wrote that the documents demonstrate how the fossil fuel industry greenwashed its public image, with promises and actions that oil and gas executives knew would not meaningfully reduce emissions. I think the question here is How do you define greenwashing? And if the industry is simultaneously denying what it knew, but it's also sort of pretending to be part of the solution to the problem? It's kind of trying to have it both ways, not not really necessarily admitting how big the problem is, but also trying to pretend it's a solution or part of the solution to the problem? Isn't there a contradiction there?
There is. And that was the hypocrisy. I mean, we found documents where these big oil companies are saying, let's just engage in the rhetoric of being green. Because if we do that, it will give us quote, a license to operate and expand our fossil fuel infrastructure. Now, let me give you a clear example of how they were doing that. They would say things like, we're gonna reduce scope one and scope two emissions. And people are like, okay, no one knows the difference of stop one, scope two, scope three. But when you parse and here's what they're saying, We'll reduce the emissions in the actual production of oil and our facilities. But we're not going to reduce any of the emission of the use of oil, which is like 95% of it. So they pull up TV and say, we're going to reduce the emissions. And people think, Oh, they're reducing emissions. And then cynically, they're saying this is going to actually give us a license to expand the drilling of oil. They'll talk about investment in algae or investment in clean tech, it'll be a couple percent of the actual budget. And people then they cynically will actually put more resources in expanding enhanced oil recovery. And they'll say they were for the Paris Accords, are not taking any action at the same time expanding production, in total contradiction to the Paris Accords. The sad thing is, it's worked to some extent, I mean, they are now seen by some of the investors in public is all they're getting religion and they're on the good side. And I would have no problem if it was a true conversion, but they're not actually participating in what needs to be done.
So that It raises them the question, not only what does need to be done, but how is it possible that the fossil fuel industry could be part of the solution? Now, to my mind, knowing what I know about climate change, and I'm not a scientist, that there's I guess there's an argument that the fossil fuel industry can ramp down its production. And we can ramp down our use of fossil fuels in a in a in a kind of controlled way, as opposed to just flipping a switch and shutting it off. That's one argument, which kind of makes some sense and to follow the directives of the international science agencies would say, no new fossil fuel development, that all makes sense. But I feel like the fossil fuel industry is trying to insinuate that it is a long term part of the solution. In other words, a short term part of the solution is we're going to ramp down what we produce a long term part of the saying their long term part of the solution is saying they're going to permanently be around. And I guess I would ask you, is there a future? Do you envision a future in which we are doing what needs to be done scientifically in the physical world about climate change? Is there a future of that where there is a fossil fuel industry or not?
Well, I think the question for the fossil fuel industry, I mean, obviously, we're gonna need fossil fuels for the near future in terms of as we develop renewables, and as we develop energy efficiency, and as we develop fusion, and geothermal, but the question is, are they going to truly diversify or not? And they have not shown that interest, I look, there are two models, you can be the CEO and say, we've got to run right now with fossil fuels, both in terms of domestic demand and global demand. And we can make a ton of money. And we don't know how long we're gonna be able to make this kind of money, it's 10 years, 20 years, 30 years, who knows, but you won't get the global demand, we should just make every possible dollar and give lip service to the renewables let some other folks figure that out. Or you could be a CEO saying, No, we've got a 50 year vision 100 year vision, and we want to start to diversify. And we know that's not going to be profit maximizing in the short term. But we want to do that. And so far, the CEOs have chosen the first profit maximization, so I've seen no real appetite for them to diversify. It's possible that that could be the case, they have a few activist investors have gotten on the board, but it would take a total shift the culture of these companies. I want to
turn very quickly to a related issue. In the news of late is this argument about gas stoves, an argument a lot of science coming out, let's first say that a lot of science coming out, by the way, not just new, but corroborating past science, about the human health dangers of let's say, burning natural gas and an open flame in your home, a push for electric stoves. It's both a climate issue in terms of carbon emissions, and also a human health issue. Now, there's also the human health issue related to the fossil fuel industry with air pollution, we know that studies have come out recently and confirming what we've known that air pollution from burning fossil fuels actually is responsible for lots of deaths. Again, the stove issue is about child asthma as an example, there are more studies about if you live close to a fracking and oil and gas development, there evidence that it may increase a birth defects. My question to you is, do you think the human health factor in all of this could be a political game changer? And I'll give you my argument that for some people might think, Hey, listen, you know, climate change is this distant, far off thing that's going to happen? And I know, we probably shouldn't burn as much fossil fuels as we're burning. But, you know, the climate crisis is far away, which of course, it's not, but I'm just giving you the you know, what I think some people think, hey, my gas stove may be poisoning me, hey, burning fossil fuel may be giving my family asthma because of the air pollution we're living under, hey, living near the oil and gas site, may potentially give me all sorts of diseases that I really don't want. Question for you is, do you think the human health aspects about burning fossil fuels could be a political game changer for the climate argument that if we have to reduce our use of fossil fuels, we there's this other argument that's related, it's not about climate, it's about this is burning this stuff is actually physically bad for the population.
So I hear you I'm not for banning gas stoves, everybody. My parents have a gas stove and, you know, gas is still cheaper than electricity for many Americans. But I do think we have to speak much more clearly about the health risks and the health issues that are that burning gas has and most people don't know, of all of those issues. And I think it's our job to one first, raise the awareness, educate have appropriate regulation to the extent we can mitigate the health risks. But ultimately, I think we have to make it attractive for people to transition to electric in a way that we can bring the price down, either through subsidies for electric, or convince people to make that transition. But I don't think you'll be forcing a lot of folks at my own family or other things, if you ban it, and I think that would be a huge rebellion of working class and middle class families. But I agree with you on the broader point of how to be clear,
the conversation about banning gas stoves, I mean, I don't imagine it as you know, the government kicking down your door coming into your home and forcing you to rip out your gas stove. I think what we're talking is prospectively, for instance, new construction of of homes, or new construction of buildings of apartment buildings and the like that should manufacturers be making the same new gas stoves. I guess just as a follow, I would ask you, as an example, some cities have considered banning gas in new construction, separating out the you know, this idea, this cartoonish idea that the government's going to come in and rip out your gas. I mean, I don't think anybody's talking about that. I guess I would ask you as a follow prospectively, in terms of what we're making now, for the future. Do you think policies that limit or restrict the building of new fossil fuel infrastructure, including things like gas infrastructure, in homes and in buildings? Do you think that's part of the solution?
Well, I think the first thing is what we did with the inflation Reduction Act, which is to massively invest in renewables and invest in building out the renewable economy. So the the ideal would be that if you're someone building a new home, you're gonna choose to have the electric stove because it just makes more economic sense. That has to be coupled with some regulation and fees on things like methane emissions, and, and and we need to make sure we're certainly not permitting new fossil fuel infrastructure that's rotting and running roughshod over over vulnerable communities. And I That's why I oppose the quote unquote, permitting reform that wouldn't get a license to really build the new fossil fuel infrastructure. But I think what we have to do is be we be careful in how we talk about these issues, because I think one of the things we've improved and talking about these issues is we view this as actually improving people's economic lives, creating jobs, and got the government coming in and with it with a heavy hand and, and hurting the working class, which led to the yellow vest movement and other things. And so I thought the IRA structure, which was focused on building the renewables was important, of course, there's going to be a need for regulation and penalties, right, in certain case by case basis. Let's
change gears now for a second, I want to turn to all of the drama that's happened in Congress specifically in the house. This recent set of votes on Kevin McCarthy becoming speaker of the house a lot of brinksmanship from the right, the far right. I mean, the Republican Party is the right but the far right to try to pressure the house speaker or the House Speaker elect, I guess at that point or designee Kevin McCarthy for concessions that was shown on TV. I mean, there was a lot of laughing about it. I think on that from liberals, I actually saw it as the small d democratic process at work democracy involves arguing involves negotiating involves concessions. I mean, I don't agree with the concessions that Kevin McCarthy gave, and the results of it are not not what I want to see ideologically. But I think that is democracy at work. The question has come up, why haven't we seen progressives in the house in the past? Do the same kind of brinksmanship with the Democratic leadership that we have seen the conservative members of the arch conservative members of the Republican Conference use against their leadership? In other words, why hasn't there? There's a perception that the progressive wing of the party has not played hardball with the Democratic leadership. Do you agree with that assessment that it hasn't? And if If it hasn't, why hasn't it?
But hasn't played hardball to the extent that some activists want but I think we did get a lot of our concessions in in the last two years. I mean, we got the Child Tax Credit, we couldn't get it permanent. We got the American rescue plan a lot of the priorities on education and, and funding we got a lot of the climate provisions. So again, The point is that the leadership made a lot more concessions to progressives, in terms of some of the concessions they made to conservatives was like we're gonna put people on the Rules Committee, we're gonna put people on these committees, we're gonna have you have you have a seat at the table. A lot of that the progressives won the last two years not because of House Democrats, but because of Bernie Sanders's campaign because of Elizabeth Warren's campaign, and people just realize we need progressives a matter. And then so now we're arguing about, Well, should we have gotten more? And of course, that's a debate. That's, that's worth having of where do you find the balance of did we push it enough that we get enough? Could we have gotten more and that's, you know, the thing with a Medicare for all, and I, you know, I'm for it, I'm for Bernie's version, I guess, you know, having a vote on it, it just exposes maybe people are not for it, but the vote would just be the people are not co sponsoring it. So, you know, I, I guess our focus has been how can we actually move legislation, as opposed to just having symbolic vote? So I understand people wanting to do that.
So just so I hear you correctly, because I know there are some there are some activists who were very focused on this issue. Is it safe to characterize what you're saying, as the Republicans with the Kevin McCarthy situation had their their kind of concessions and negotiation process out in the open right on the floor of the house, in the context of the speaker's race? And and what I hear you saying is, is that there have been those negotiations, there have been that back and forth, there has been that pressure, more internally, not necessarily on the floor of the House, and that you feel that that the progressive wing of which you are part of has actually extracted concessions, maybe not in as spectacular and as public a way, but that you Is it your argument that you have extracted those concessions just in a kind of different way less performative way?
Yes, no, I will in candor, admit that the concessions may not be as much as the Freedom Caucus get partly, I think this is a challenge for progressives is a shyness or a hesitation or a humility about power, right? So you're not going to have progressive members. temperamentally say, I want to be chair of this subcommittee, or make me the company on this, the chair of this committee, and you have House Freedom Caucus members making some of those demands, we would say put progressives on committees. And so importantly, I think it has to be okay, we have to be more strategic, a little bit about power and not as as modest about it. But in terms of actual concessions. There were quite a few. I mean, the American rescue plan was significantly written by the House Progressive Caucus, the number was much, much higher than it ever was under Obama. With the financial crisis, the the build back better was significantly written with the Progressive Caucus, I was in meetings with the President to where we were discussing progressive priorities. I was in meetings with the speaker we were discussing, it wasn't lip service. So you know, I think we can argue how much concession was made to progressives. But the terms before the roll is zero, it's session. So we've certainly made progress.
And to be clear, I have said this before, I'll say it again, I think it was a failure to not have a minimum wage hike past whether part of the American rescue plan or not,
I agree with that. I think we should have fired the performance area,
right via the parliamentarian. But I also believe I just want to echo this, I've said this before, I'll say it again, as well, that the American rescue plan was probably the most progressive piece of legislation that has ever passed in my adult lifetime. I like hands down. I think, yes, it didn't include some things that I that I would have liked to see in there. But compared to the last 40 or 50 years, in terms of the child tax credit and the unemployment benefits, and the actual social safety net. It was a landmark piece of legislation. I just wish it had gone. It had been extended further it was it was cut off. And and I think I think we agree on that. I want to I want to turn to two more questions very quickly. The airline mess because this is something you've also been in the middle of. You have been one of one of the Democrats and there have been a lot of them, who have been pushing Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, to use his regulatory authority as the sole regulator of the American Airlines system, the American aviation system. You have been pushing him to get much tougher on the airlines for months. There has been some political blowback for you for actually having the guts to go out there and try to put pressure where the pressure in my view deserves to be to be put which is on the regulator talked was a little bit about the argument that you have been making. And I just be curious, what do you make of the pushback from inside of your party? Man, I mean, from liberals and people upset that a Democrat would criticize Pete Buttigieg. And I want to be clear, you're not the only one. But what do you make of that response?
Or a job of a member of Congress's speaker to speak for people? You know, the airlines have plenty of lobbyists. They know how to get a hold of the transportation secretary or any cabinet member. But people don't have a voice. And so when people are suffering when their flights have been canceled and mass over the holidays, it's the job of a member of Congress to voice that frustration. It wasn't artificial. I had the most calls in my office that week was over the airline issue. And that's why 20 Other House Democrats wrote a letter to Secretary Buttigieg. Yeah, they're things that the Secretary has done when he when he does well, I praised that we were working on an issue in my district on a airport having to not have lead flights. And we worked with him. And I've said good things about him, when there's an issue there that he has not instituted the fines that he needed to institute. I don't know why I mean, it maybe just he wants to strike a balance with the private sector and his role as a regulator, philosophically, I mean, I'm not questioning his motives. But the point is, he has been reluctant to institute steep fines that could have changed behavior. Now. Can I say that if he had put those fines southwest would have never had an IP failure? No one can say that for sure. But I can tell you this, they would have been much more conscious of spending money on customer service. And that probably would have included technology than giving the money for stock buybacks. And here's how I know the north side, but philosophically is right on this issue. Now, the Secretary saying we need more steeper fines. So well, how why does he now think that we need steeper fines and steep fines aren't a deterrent, then why is he suddenly saying we need to provide so I'm glad that he's acknowledging the shift. I hope you'll follow through with it. And I hope you'll find American companies and not just a few foreign ones.
I want to turn very quickly. Final question about the changing politics in California. There is a presumption that Senator Dianne Feinstein is not going to run for reelection, although maybe maybe she will, but Congresswoman Katey Porter, the Democrat has already announced that she will be running for the Senate in 2024. I think Congresswoman Barbara Lee has I think I saw a story saying that she's considering it. I also saw a big political story saying that you may be considering it. I guess the question is, Are you considering running for US Senate from California in 2024? And if you are, what do you think that race looks like? If somebody like Katey Porter is in that race and potentially Barbara Lee, row count, you know, you are ro Khanna you are a progressive member of the of the House Democrats. I've just named three progressives, like, what do you make of running in a situation where there are other progressive candidates?
Well, David, I've said I will be looking at it. And I'm looking at it but you actually articulate one of the main considerations, and that is Barbara Lee gets in and, and is committed to running a serious race with a serious team. I don't want to be in a situation where we're splitting up the progressive vote, and having a non progressive and Republican or something make the top toe. And I have a tremendous amount of respect for Barbara Lee's anti war stance on on Afghanistan. I think one of the challenges of the 2020 election, which we both lived is that the progressive vote kept getting split. And that's one of the reasons a progressive didn't emerge, and I don't want to replicate that in the Senate race. So that will be a heavy factor as a way whether to to get in or not. I'm not going to be doing it in a way that's going to spoil or split the progressive vote.
Roe Khanna is the Democratic congressman from California 17th congressional district. He was also the chair of the House Oversight environmental subcommittee. You can find him on Twitter at ro Khanna I got to know row by the way as he was a co chair for the Bernie Sanders 2020 campaign. That's where I
don't know that's not the most popular thing I've done in the Congress.
Yes, it's it's a credential that everyone will know you buy. And you you've you've always been proud of and not shied away from. And you played a really, really important role on that campaign. And I appreciated that generally. And I appreciate it getting to know you on the campaign. And I appreciate you being willing to come on our show and talk to us and be in touch with us. You're one of the I should add. You're one of the few Democratic members of Congress who is willing and to constantly engage with independent and progressive media on a regular basis. And I appreciate
I don't understand it, I'll bring this up of the Progressive Caucus because I, you know, I go and sometimes you get comments that are negative, but then I'll talk to people and so many people will say, you know, I just I respected you just for showing up even. And I don't get it because the right, this is one place, I do think we can learn from the Freedom Caucus. They're all over alternative media in getting their message out independent media. And I think it's a big mistake for progressives not to be doing that.
And I agree, and you're somebody who walks that walk on, and I appreciate it. And I appreciate you encouraging your colleagues to engage with independent and progressive media much more than they do, bro. Thanks so much. I appreciate it.
Thank you. Thank you, David.
That's it for today's show. As a reminder, our paid subscribers who get lever time premium, they get to hear our bonus segment our interview with author John Hendrickson about his new book Life On Delay making peace with a stutter.
You can't compare. Biden's win greens gutter with Trump's word salad. They are apples and oranges.
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