Capitol Connection: How Indian Americans are helping set the agenda of Biden-Harris administration


Ami Bera, Pramila Jayapal, Ro Khanna and Raja Krishnamoorthi to play important roles; Energy department appointments reflect new thinking  

Our Bureau
Washington, DC

In a major development, the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Thursday announced that it has re-elected Indian American veteran Congressman Ami Bera, D-California, to again serve as chairman of the Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific, and Non-proliferation. “I am honored to be elected again to Chair the House Foreign Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific, Central Asia, and Nonproliferation,” Bera said in a statement.

Bera in the statement further added that Asia continues to be the most consequential region for American foreign policy, as the economy and national security are intrinsically linked to the region. “There are many pressing challenges that Congress must work to address, from an authoritarian China and a provocative North Korea, to the receding of democracy and human rights across the region,” the democrat Congressman further added.

The Congressman said that he looks forward to working with his colleagues on the Subcommittee and the Biden Administration to tackle the problems, restore American global leadership and rebuild US alliances in Asia and the Pacific. Congressman Gregory W. Meeks, Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, formally announced the selection of committee leaders for the 117th Congress including Ami Beta.

Congressman Bera was also selected to serve on the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, and Global Human Rights for the 117th Congress. Bera also serves as Co-Chair of the Congressional Caucus on Korea and previously chaired the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans.

Bera is the longest-serving Indian American currently in Congress. 

In another important development, Rep Pramila Jayapal (D-Washington) was appointed to the House Budget Committee and Rep Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Illinois) to the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Tuesday named Pramila Jayapal and Raja Krishnamoorthi to key congressional committees on budget and the Covid-19 pandemic. Jayapal was appointed to the powerful budget committee while Krishnamoorthi was named to a key congressional committee on the coronavirus crisis. 

Pramila Jayapal

Jayapal was named as a member of the House Budget Committee that plays a vital role in the passage of the budget. Congressman John Yarmuth is chair of the House Budget Committee. Jayapal is the first Indian American woman to be elected to the US House of Representatives and is leading the effort on $15 per hour as minimum wage.

The Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis was formed to oversee the US government’s Covid-19 pandemic response. Krishnamoorthi said: “I am honored to join Chairman Clyburn and our colleagues on this panel to provide vital oversight of the federal coronavirus response to protect the health and safety of the American people as we defeat the pandemic and rebuild our economy.”

Raja Krishnamoorthi

Krishnamoorthi also said that he is eager to work with members of both parties to make sure that “trillions of dollars in taxpayer funds dedicated” to the country’s response to “this pandemic and its economic impacts are used as efficiently, transparently and effectively as possible.”

Congressman Ro Khanna of California, who is also a co-sponsor of the Green New Deal resolution, is playing an important role in the new climate policy as President Joe Biden is announcing actions on climate change, including a ban on new gas and oil leases on federal land. He’s also expected to make climate change a national security priority and create a White House office on environmental justice.

Ro Khanna

Such changes are already visible in the Department of Energy where new leaders will direct policy, coordinate across the administration and enact President Joe Biden’s vision for bold action on the climate crisis.

The Biden administration appointed four Indian Americans to key positions in the US Department of Energy (DOE). The administration named Tarak Shah as the Chief of Staff, Tanya Das as the Chief of Staff to the Office of Science, Narayan Subramanian as the Legal Adviser in the Office of General Counsel, and Shuchi Talati as Chief of Staff in the Office of Fossil Energy.

Tarak Shah is an energy policy expert who has been working on combating climate change for over a decade. Shah served as the personnel lead for the climate and science team at the Biden-Harris transition. He was also Chief of Staff to the Under Secretary for Science and Energy at DOE from 2014-2017. He was also a part of former President Obama’s senate and presidential campaigns.

While DOE announced 19 senior-level appointments, Shah said: “These talented and diverse public servants will deliver on President Biden’s goal to tackle the climate crisis and build an equitable clean energy future.” 

Tanya Das appointed as the Chief of Staff to the Office of Science was a professional staff member on the US House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, where she focused on a variety of issues in clean energy and manufacturing policy. Das also has a PhD in electrical engineering. 

Narayan Subramanian was a visiting research fellow at the Center for Law, Energy, and the Environment at Berkeley Law. He also was a fellow at the Initiative for Sustainable Energy Policy at Johns Hopkins University and Data for Progress.

Shuchi Talati was a Senior Policy Adviser at Carbon180, where she worked on policies to build sustainable and equitable technological carbon removal. Talati was also a policy volunteer on the Biden-Harris campaign.

Left to right Tarak Shah, Tanya Das, Narayan Subramaniam and Shuchi Talati

The DOE stated that the new leaders will direct policy, coordinate across the administration and enact Biden’s vision for bold action on the climate crisis. It also stated that these professionals reflect Biden’s pledge to equip his administration with a team that represents America’s diversity.

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