WASHINGTON, D.C — Five days after U.S. Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D.-Ill.) created history when he became the first South Asian American lawmaker to be named the chair of a Congressional subcommittee, U.S. Rep. Amerish ‘Ami’ Bera (D.-Calif.) — the dean of the ‘Samosa Caucus’ of Indian- American U.S. lawmakers — was selected on Jan. 29 as chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations.
Krishnamoorthi, 45, was named chairman of the House Oversight Committee’s Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy, which makes him the point man of a panel with jurisdiction over important pocketbook issues such as education, workforce development, income inequality, health care, consumer protection and data privacy.
Now into his fourth term, Bera, 53, the longest-serving Indian-American U.S. lawmaker, whose influence and clout in the powerful Foreign Affairs Committee has been enhanced with the Democrats regaining the majority in the House after the blue wave that swept the mid-term elections in November, said, “I’ve always believed that the United States has a duty to lead the world through our example. We have an obligation to confront pressing international issues, build partnerships, and work in a bipartisan manner to strengthen our national security.”
He noted, “Our subcommittee will have broad jurisdiction to conduct oversight into America’s foreign policy. Our goal is to hold government accountable, support the mission of our diplomats, and investigate abuses when they occur.
“Effective oversight is crucial in any foreign policy mission. I look forward to working with chairman (Eliot) Engel (D.-N.Y.) and my Republican colleagues to strengthen our global leadership and make government work more effectively and efficiently for the American people,” Bera said.
On Jan. 30, a day after being named to chair the Foreign Affairs subcommittee, in yet another significant committee assignment, the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology elected Bera as vice chairman of the full committee.
“The United States is the world leader in science and technology, but our global leadership is at risk without continued federal investment and support,” Bera said, and argued, “The committee’s work will be critical for our nation’s economic competitiveness and the health and safety of our families.
“We have a responsibility to ask tough questions about how and where taxpayer dollars are best used and I look forward to working alongside Chairwoman (Eddie Bernice) Johnson (D-Texas) and our colleagues to address the important challenges that our country and planet face.”
In a recent interview with India Abroad, Bera, when asked how he would use his enhanced influence as a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee with the Democrats now in the majority, for the first time since he was first elected in 2012, served notice that since the Republican majority had never investigated fully the Russian influence on the Trump administration and also Moscow’s interference in the 2016 elections, this would be something to look into regarding any type of collusion with the Trump campaign.
In earlier interviews during the run-up to the mid-terms, when asked if he would support the impeachment of Trump if the Democrats took the House as some of his colleagues have threatened, Bera has been circumspect, saying, “We should let Special Counsel Bob Mueller complete his investigation,” but asked now with the Democrats in the majority what his take would be on investigations against President Trump, including his campaign and his administration, said, “It’s our job as the House of Representatives and as an equal branch of government, to do oversight on the Executive Branch.”
“What that means from a foreign affairs perspective is that Russia — a foreign, hostile entity interfered with our elections in 2016 and I don’t believe the Republican majority ever investigated this fully.”
Bera argued, “Let’s take a look and see what the investigations are, and, in the Foreign Affairs Committee, we will investigate if the Russians and others have undue influence on the Trump administration.”
He reiterated, “It’s important our founders want us to have that check and balance and that is the House of Representatives’ responsibility.”
On his expected enhanced role in the Foreign Affairs Committee, particularly at a time when Trump has been taking swipes against India, especially with regard to trade issues and calling New Delhi “the tariff king,” and questioning India’s role in Afghanistan, Bera said, “I am close to incoming chairman (Eliot) Engel (of New York) and he does understand the U.S.-India dynamics.”
He recalled that the former chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.), who did not seek re-election, “Certainly had a clear understanding as well. So, I believe we will continue at the Congressional level,” working to foster the U.S.-India relationship and the strategic partnership between Washington and New Delhi.
“The president is going to be the president and he’s going to say whatever he says,” he said, “but among members of Congress, now that we are in the majority, we have the ability to continue to move this forward and we will do so.” And, Bera, asserted, “When we have to speak out against the president, we will speak out against the president,” and added, “Now our hand is a little bit stronger now.”
When asked as a former co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans, and the dean of the Indian-American members in the Congress, if he would try and resuscitate the moribund Caucus that has hardly done anything tangible in the past few years, Bera said, “I know when I was Caucus co-chair,we tried to push the U.S.-India relationship as well as meet the needs of the domestic community here in the United States.”
He said, “I am not sure who the next Caucus co-chair is going to be for the next two-year term,” but said it would be great “certainly if someone like Raja Krishnamoorthi would if ready to take the leadership —the helm of an organization like that — and move it in that direction.”