Ellee Pai Hong: The introduction of H.R 1, the For the People Act of 2019 in the House of Representatives on January third was the first official act of the 116th Congress. Hello, and welcome to Comcast Newsmakers. I'm Ellee Pai Hong. Freshman Congressmen Andy Kim, Democrat from New Jersey is co-sponsor of the sweeping election reform bill. And he joins us today. Thank you so much for coming, appreciate your time.
Rep. Andy Kim: Thank you for having me.
Ellee Pai Hong: Let's talk a little bit about you first, because again, you're a freshman Congressman, you're only the second Korean American elected to Congress, the first in 20 years. And as a fellow Korean American, so proud to see you in that position. Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Rep. Andy Kim: Well, I grew up in my district in New Jersey. I'm the son of immigrants. My father is a polio survivor who grew up in an orphanage, my mother from a poor farm family. And America took a chance on them, brought them in, gave them an education, gave me an education from the public schools of my district. And that allowed me to become a Rhode Scholar, allowed me to become a diplomat. I've been working for this country under both Republicans and Democrats, and now just so humbled by the opportunity to represent my home district where I went to kindergarten.
Ellee Pai Hong: So, public service is something you've been involved in from the very beginning. I know 9/11 had a huge impact on you as well.
Rep. Andy Kim: That's right. These were incredibly important moments for our country and for me in shaping the course of what it is that I wanted to do. My parents always taught me this line that service isn't just a job, it's a way of life. And I've held that deep within myself at every moment. And that is the north start that guides me as I try to do what's right for the people in my district.
Ellee Pai Hong: And you made kind of a big bang with your first official act, signing on to be a co-sponsor of For the People Act. It really is to try to reform government, to make it work better.
Rep. Andy Kim: Absolutely. We need to make sure that we have a government that's working for the people. I'll be honest with you, I never thought that I was going to run for Congress. And as I stepped up to do this, I talked with people across my district. And whether they were Republicans or Democrats, this is something that they all told me about, that they didn't feel like the system was working for them. They felt like the government and our system here in Washington D.C. is broken. So, that was a big reason why I ran for Congress, a big reason why the people in this district supported me. And I was very pleased and happy to be able to deliver on this bill and try to get our government on a better track.
Ellee Pai Hong: This is an immense piece of legislation because it covers a lot of areas including campaign finance reform, government ethics, as well as voting rights. It's all encompassing, this piece of legislation.
Rep. Andy Kim: It is. Well, there are a lot of problems that we face, and we need to make sure that we're taking these steps going forward, that we understand the effects of gerrymandering, we understand the effects that happen when voters should be choosing politicians, not politicians choosing voters. And these are the types of actions that are needed to be able to get our country on a better path. And that's exactly what the American people were demanding.
Ellee Pai Hong: Let's talk about some of the components to this bill. For one, campaign finance reform. You want to put stricter limits on foreign lobbying, stricter limits on dark money so that there's more disclosure in terms of who's giving the money.
Rep. Andy Kim: There needs to be more transparency and accountability in politics. That's something that I think people in my district on both sides of the aisle would agree to. And these are steps that'll do this. But we also need to be taking other steps. For instance, I promise to hold an in-person town hall in my district every month, so it shows that we need to be taking steps just in our own districts as well as nationally to be able to have the kind of government we need.
Ellee Pai Hong: Government ethics is something that is huge for you because you're proposing changes for all three branches of government.
Rep. Andy Kim: That's right. Absolutely. No, these are the types of proposals that are needed. Again, when the people are always demanding that they can hold their elected officials accountable, that they know exactly what they're going to be doing. So that's something that we need to make we're pushing on and continuing to improve. And show that our government is not working for big corporations and special interests, it's working for the people that sent us here, the people who are constituents.
Ellee Pai Hong: One component of that is that you want the President and Vice President to release 10 years of tax returns and make that mandatory and not voluntary.
Rep. Andy Kim: That's right. Transparency across the board so that we understand who our elected officials are, what it is that they're trying to do. And understand what's driving them, what's motivating them. When I worked at State Department and worked at the Pentagon and worked out in Afghanistan, we need to be transparent about our fiances, we need to be upfront about that in order to be able to be trusted with the nation's secrets and with the jobs of such importance and national security. We should be making sure that our elected officials are held to those same types of standards.
Ellee Pai Hong: Another component of this bill is voting rights. Obviously that's the foundation of our democracy and preserving that, and the integrity of that is an important aspect.
Rep. Andy Kim: Absolutely is. It is something that is the most fundamental right as a citizen. And we need to make sure that the citizen always remains the core unit of our democracy and that we should always do everything we can to preserve that space and promote it, get more and more Americans to be able to vote, rather than putting up barriers.
Ellee Pai Hong: That passed the house in March of this year. Goes to the Senate, but other side of the aisle hasn't been very responsive to this. What's your plan for the next steps?
Rep. Andy Kim: Well, I think it shows ... just the problems that we have in getting it to a vote in the Senate shows the problems that we have right now, that these are issues that should not be partisan issues. As I mentioned, I never thought that I was going to run for Congress. I never thought that I'd have these opportunities. And what we see is that people on both sides of the aisle, the American people are motivated for these changes. And when they see that they are blocked and obstructed, and again, always trying to put into this effort of the partisan gamesmanship that people are sick and tired of. This is exactly the kind of problem. So, I hope the Senate brings it forward. I hope they bring it to a vote and be able to see who's going to be able to support it. I do believe that if it went up for a vote, it would have a very good chance of passing.
Ellee Pai Hong: Congressman Kim, thank you so much for coming in. I appreciate your time today.
Rep. Andy Kim: Thank you for having me.
Ellee Pai Hong: And thanks to you for watching. For more great conversations with leaders in your area and across the nation, visit comcastnewsmakers.com. I'm Ellee Pai Hong.