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Congressman Alan Lowenthal Talks Human Rights, LA Harbor and Democratic Mid-Term Strategies

D.C. DISPATCH-(Editor’s Note: Alan Lowenthal is United States Congressman for California’s 47thDistrict … which is centered in Long Beach and extends through western Orange county. This interview with Mr. Lowenthal is the second of a two-part series. Part one was published on May 14.)

 

5a. Tell me what other issues you plan to focus on if the Democrats take back the house?  

I have the largest Cambodian community in the country, one of the largest Vietnamese American communities, and a large LGBTQ community. I am going to continue to fight for human rights. I've had legislation passed with Ed Markey in the Senate to ensure that the State Department deals with LGBTQ issues internationally. Right now, there are some 70 nations where it's a crime of some sort to be gay and in some of those countries you can be put to death. Together we need to make sure U.S. policy makers are working with those countries to change those policies. We can provide assistance to them and urge that they be required to have human rights protections for all. 

Things are going on in Cambodia where they just eliminated democracy. We have such a large diaspora in Southern California…Cambodian and Vietnamese. I'm going to continue to work on human rights issues, voting rights issues and make sure that we address immigration policies. 

I have a lot of DACA students in my district including a Dream Center at Cal State Long Beach which is one of the largest centers for DACA students -- over 1000. So, it's going to be critically important that we pass comprehensive immigration reform and as part and parcel of this, we need to provide a path to citizenship. We must have more humane policies for DACA dreamers and get rid of these horrendous ICE policies, deportations and rounding up people. That has to change. 

Part of what I also want is to make sure we protect healthcare. I want to see everybody included. I'd ultimately like to see Medicare for all. As soon as we gain the majority we have to protect and provide subsidies for healthcare and provide assistance for everybody. It may not be the ultimate answer, but we have to protect people immediately. 

This year the Republican-led Congress and the President passed a tax reform bill that cut revenues by almost a trillion and a half dollars. Then they gave those revenues to the wealthiest people in this country. Although it doesn't say it in the bill, the only way we can balance our budget with that kind of tremendous giveaway is if the benefits trickle down. But we know they never do. The Republicans’ promise was that nobody would be hurt. Unless the Democrats come back into power and we can deal with this tax reform issue, Medicare and Social Security will be eviscerated since that will be the only way of paying for the revenue shortfall created by this tax break. 

  1. So what about the Senate? 

I think we have a great shot. Now remember, there are so many more Senators up for reelection who are Democrats than who are Republicans, but we have a great chance to pick up a new senate seat in Nevada. Jacky Rosen can beat Heller. I think Roark has a great chance to beat Ted Cruz. He’s running a grassroots face-to-face campaign and is one of the finest human beings I've ever met; he has great integrity. Nobody gave Beto O'Rourke a chance at first, but I think he's got a great shot now. It's going to be a lot of work. 

  1. It often seems like Nancy Pelosi and Hillary Clinton are still top targets for Republican ire. Are they doing more harm than good for the party at this point? 

If the question is, would you support a change in leadership, my answer is it doesn't really make a difference. The reason I'm saying that is the Republican Playbook is to attack Hillary and Nancy even if we announced that she wasn't going to seek the speaker position after the mid-terms. 

They can still run a campaign against Nancy Pelosi and try to destroy her just as they did against Hillary Clinton, but I don't think that's going to play. They tried to do that in Pennsylvania. I think if the Democrats take back the House, at that point it will be up to Nancy to see whether she wants to stay or not. At some point we need to think about the next generation of leadership, but I don't think that's some sort of main issue right now. We know they're going to attack Nancy right now. 

The most important thing is how are we going to win back the house in 2018 and support candidates like Connor Lamb in Pennsylvania who at the end of the day will win because they relate to their communities better than the Republicans, who are being complicit by never standing up to the President. The problem is that the Republicans refuse to deal with the real problems surrounding Trump. They just go silent, but at some point, they are going to be held accountable. 

Follow Up: 

  1. James Comey recently made a similar prediction about the concept of politicians being complicit with a president who thinks he is above the law and that those who do will have a lot of explaining to the next generation in their own families. 

Interesting. Well again, I believe we will win or lose these mid-term elections because we offer an alternative. Being accountable to the next generation is more important than who the next Democratic House Leader is. We will win or lose this not because of Nancy. We will win or lose because we have good candidates, because we offer an alternative, and people do not want to keep going down this route of fear and excessive nationalism. Many don’t realize that since the second World War we have played a major role in supporting human rights and promoting democracy throughout the rest of the world and that the President wants to walk away. We're not going to do that, which was what was so nice about having French President Macron here. He said the kinds of things that we wish our president would say. 

  1. Have you read the Harbor Community Benefit Foundation Report? 

It's a 200-page document. I have read the three or four-page executive summary about what they want to do and how they want to continue to study this. This is of critical importance, impacting the whole community, not just in the port area but in Wilmington and other communities. They raised the whole issue of environmental justice which I have raised. There are still a lot of issues that have not been addressed so I think that was very good of them to do that. 

  1. Are you aware of the Chinese Conglomerate COSCO group? 

It doesn't bother me that much because we are talking about the Cosco shipping line, whose administrative offices are in Beijing, or OOCL which is another Chinese company whose offices are in Hong Kong but controlled by Beijing. In essence, it's not going to be that different. Both of them are Chinese companies. It's not as if a Chinese company buying another Chinese company is going to give them a larger influence with our ports. 

Unfortunately, since 20 or 30 years ago, with the exception of Matteson which just travels between Hawaii and the United States and some of the territories, there have been no U.S. shipping lines. So, we are just talking about foreign countries who are already here. The shipping lines the Chinese are consolidating are theirs; but you know we have problems with the Japanese and the South Koreans who do not really follow our environmental laws. I'm more concerned that we keep our foot to the pedal and, like the Harbor Report stipulates, we continue to protect our community and figure out how to balance protecting communities while also encouraging economic development. The fact that one Chinese company bought another Chinese company doesn't bother me as much. 

  1. So, you don't anticipate this being an issue with the Committee on Foreign Investment? 

I don't think so because it's a Chinese company buying another Chinese company. Regarding Cosco, if we were talking about an American company here, then that would be something we would have to figure out, that is, how to support our own. But I don't see any problem with a Chinese company buying another Chinese company. 

I went with Leader Pelosi to Hong Kong to meet with activists about a year-and-a-half ago. After the British left, Hong Kong was supposed to be a protectorate but still have a separate government from China. That has not been the case. They say, “you folks in Hong Kong can have an election but we will tell you which candidates you can run.”

 

(Sara Corcoran writes for CityWatch and is a correspondent and contributing editor, as well as founding publisher of the National Courts Monitor. She literally grew up in a “legal family.” She is the granddaughter of “Tommy the Cork,” who advised President Franklin D. Roosevelt and is considered an “author of the New Deal.” As a former Real Estate Executive, Sara was a VP at Remington Capital where she was responsible for originating and servicing the mid cap portfolio for a leading hospitality REIT. Concurrently, she did business development for Jack Kemp at Kemp Capital Partners. She received her MBA from the Antai School of Economics and Management in Shanghai, China, and a BA in Political Science from the University of Southern California. Sara also specializes in Forex, Merger Arbitrage, Cryptocurrencies, and Futures and Commodities.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.