Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi becomes 1st South Asian to serve on intelligence committee

Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi speaking to the media.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — In a significant committee assignment, U.S. Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D.-Ill.) on Jan. 16, was appointed to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, becoming the first South Asian American lawmaker to serve on this influential panel.

The Committee, which is tasked with overseeing the activities and budget of the 17 intelligence agencies of the United States, now under majority control, is expected to aggressively investigate the Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election in 2016 and summon Trump campaign and White House officials, using subpoena power to probe any alleged collusion between Moscow and any of Trump’s cohorts.

Krishnamoorthi, 45, who was re-elected to a second terms of Illinois’ 8th District, which includes Chicago with a thumping majority on Nov.6, obviously elated over his appointment, said, “It is very humbling to be chosen to serve on the Intelligence Committee this Congress, and I am ready to join with my colleagues in preserving the safety and security of our nation.”

“The intelligence challenges and international threats facing our country today are vast, ranging from terrorism to cyberwarfare to investigating Russia’s previous, and continuing attempts to sabotage our democracy,” he said, and added, “I am honored that the Speaker and Caucus have placed their trust in me and the contributions I’ll make to the Committee.”

Krishnamoorthi noted, “When I took the oath of office, I swore to protect and defend the Constitution from all threats, foreign and domestic, and I know that the work we do under the leadership of Chairman Adam Schiff (D.-Calif.) will fulfill that solemn duty.”

Besides Krishnamoorthi, the other three new Democratic members appointed to the Committee are, Reps. Val Demings of Florida, Sean Patrick Maloney of New York, and Peter Welch of Vermont.

In announcing her pick of the new members to serve in the Committee, Pelosi said, "Members of Congress take a solemn oath to protect the American people and support and defend the Constitution.”

"Our new members of the Intelligence Committee bring exceptional judgment, expertise and determination to our mission to honor that oath and, guided by the strong, principled leadership of Chairman Adam Schiff, will restore the long tradition of bipartisanship and integrity of this critical committee," she predicted.

Krishnamoorthi, an alumnus of Princeton University and Harvard Law School from wherehe received a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering and a Juris Doctor respectively, will also continue to serve on the powerful House Oversight Committee, and now with the Democrats in the majority, will now enjoy and even more influential role, particularly since he much respected as one of the rising stars by the Committee’s chairman, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D.-Md.).

In an earlier interview with India Abroad, following his re-election, Krishnamoorthi said he would work closely with Cummings toward making sure the president and his administration are held accountable.

“Under the Republicans,” he argued, “hardly any oversight was being performed and the bar has been set pretty low. One of the reasons why we were hired last night to run the House of Representatives was because people want us to make sure that there are checks and balances in place with regard to the president.”

Krishnamoorthi noted, “You don’t have to look far to see the ethical lapses or the corruption that is happening in various agencies. So, I am hoping that we can come together—Republicans can come together with Democrats—and at least ensure that the government is honest and accountable to the people.”

He also said, “On the Oversight Committee, I will have the opportunity to potentially do something with prescription drug prices, which are skyrocketing and the single biggest driver of healthcare expenses for the federal government and for ordinary people basically.”

“And, so, this is something I am hoping the president is serious about reform and we can actually come together and try to get something done.”

Krishnamoorthi said, “For instance, we should be able to, as a government, negotiate the prices of prescription drugs under Medicare Part B,” and warned that “the inability to do so, really hampers Medicare and is going to drive it to bankruptcy.”

“We have to get together on this issue and that’s a priority for me. Also the opioid crisis will continue to be an issue that we’ll be dealing within the Oversight Committee,” he added.

Meanwhile, Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal (D.Wash.), besides retaining her membership on the Judiciary Committee, and rising to Vice Ranking member of the Budget Committee, was also appointed by Pelosi as one of the new Democratic members to the House Education and Labor Committee.

The other two members of the ‘Samosa Caucus,’ — four-term lawmaker Ami Bera (D.-Calif.) and second-term Ro Khanna (D.-Calif.) — as Krishnamoorthi affectionately calls the Indian-American members of Congress, also retained their earlier Committee assignments, but now with increased gravitas in a Democratic majority House of Representatives.

Bera, was to continue as a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee and the Committee on Science, Space and Technology, while Khanna also would stay put as a member of the House Armed Services Committee and Budget Committee.

Meanwhile, Krishnamoorthi continued to withhold drawing his Congressional salary till the government shutdown was over.

He has requested that his salary from January 1st through the remainder of the shutdown be withheld until its conclusion, saying he was doing so in solidarity with workers who aren’t being paid. Earlier, he donated his pay from the December portion of the shutdown to local charities.

Krishnamoorthi said, “The federal shutdown would end immediately if President Trump chose to stop holding federal workers hostage to his demand for billions in taxpayer dollars for an unnecessary wall.”

On Jan. 7, he wrote Philip G. Kiko, chief administrative officer of the U.S. Capitol, saying that “as with the previous two shutdowns that have occurred during my time as a Member of Congress, I know that in the event of a lapse in appropriations, Members will continue to receive their salary despite the government shutdown.

“I respectfully request that my pay be withheld during the current lapse in government appropriations starting on January 1st, 2019, and ask it continue to be withheld until this shutdown ends,” he informed Kiko.

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