Young Kim is the current the U.S. Representative for California’s 39th congressional district. A member of the Republican Party, her district includes northern parts of Orange County, including Fullerton. In the 2020 United States House of Representatives elections, Kim, along with Michelle Park Steel (R-CA) and Marilyn Strickland (D-WA), became one of the first three Korean-American women ever elected to the United States Congress. Kim previously served as the California State Assemblywoman for the 65th district from 2014 to 2016. In 2018, Kim was the Republican Party candidate in California’s 39th congressional district; she was defeated by Democrat Gil Cisneros in the general election. In 2020, Kim and Cisneros faced off again, and Kim defeated Cisneros. Below is an interview with Congresswoman Kim, lightly edited for length and clarity.
Just a few days after you were sworn in for the first time as a member of the US Congress, on January 6 the Capitol was assaulted. What was that day and evening like for you?
While I knew January 6 would be a contentious day, none of my colleagues expected that our lives might be on the line. My staff and I were on lockdown in our office and watched the events transpire. There was a lot of confusion, fear for the law enforcement protecting us and sadness for our country. I also had found out that afternoon that I had been exposed to COVID-19. Once we were out of lockdown, I was able to get a COVID-19 test and I did my constitutional duty and certified the election after I received my negative test results.
You recently introduced two bipartisan bills to streamline the Small Business Administration loan process for small manufacturers. You also sponsored an extension of the paycheck protection act (PPP loans). Why is supporting small businesses such a priority for you and do you foresee sponsoring any other bills related to this issue?
Small businesses fuel our local economies and employ more than half of our state’s workforce. With 20,000 small businesses permanently closing during COVID-19, we must ensure that our business owners can receive relief they need to keep their doors open and save jobs. As a small business owner, I understand the struggles our small businesses face each day, and as lead Republican of the Small Business Subcommittee on Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Workforce Development, I’m committed to supporting entrepreneurs of all backgrounds. I’m excited that my first bipartisan bill became law last week to give our small business owners more time to apply for PPP relief as we work to safely reopen our communities. I’ll continue to work in a bipartisan way to get results that matter here in the 39th District.
What is your priority as a member of the Committee on Foreign Affairs?
CA-39 is one of the most diverse districts in the nation, and from trade to our key relationships with allies in Asia and Central America, policies made in the Foreign Affairs Committee will directly impact many in our community. Additionally, we have seen how important foreign relations are, both in today’s interconnected world and, in particular, during this pivotal moment during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Foreign Affairs Committee will be at the center of many of these important policy conversations, and I look forward to doing my part to work with my colleagues on both sides of the political aisle to advance policies that benefit the U.S. across the globe.
Let’s talk about some of your recent “no” votes on House bills, beginning with immigration reform. You voted against two bills with a large measure of bipartisan support: HR 6, the “Dream Act,” and HR 1603, the Farm Workforce Modernization Act. Are there other immigration bills in the works that you do support?
As an immigrant who went through the legal process to become a citizen, I understand how much immigrants contribute to our country and truly appreciate the value that immigrants bring to our communities. I also want to create a legislative fix for DACA recipients who have only known the U.S. as their home and have had their status in limbo for decades. The package in front of Congress went far beyond giving legal status to Dreamers; it granted legal status to those who arrived in the U.S. as recently as January of 2021, as well as other groups. I would like to support a clean DREAM Act. I believe we must fix our broken immigration system and create a system that is fair and considerate, and we must secure our border and points of entry to our country. If we have people coming across the border or overstaying VISAs, it undermines our immigration system and is unfair to immigrants who go through the legal process. I hope Republicans and Democrats can come together where past Congresses have failed and find a bipartisan immigration and border security solution.
This year, state legislatures have proposed over 250 different laws to restrict voting rights. Yet you voted against HR 1, a law which would protect minorities’ right to vote, stating that it “codifies misguided policies like ballot harvesting.” Would you please explain what you mean by that?
Voting is one of our most fundamental rights in America. We must promote fair and secure elections to ensure as many eligible citizens as possible can vote and have their voices heard at the ballot box. However, HR1 is a massive, partisan overreach on states’ constitutional authority by imposing one-size-fits-all mandates to our election system instead of equipping local entities with the tools to secure elections. Additionally, HR1 allows public funds to be used for funding political campaigns to the tune of millions of dollars, makes the non-partisan Federal Election Commission partisan, politicizes the IRS, and nationalizes misguided policies like preventing states from banning third party ballot collection.
Note: Regarding third party ballot collection, Congresswoman Kim referenced HR1 Section 1621, 307, f2a and f2b, which stipulates that the State “shall permit a voter to designate any person to return a voted and sealed absentee ballot [ . . .] so long as the person designated to return the ballot does not receive any form of compensation based on the number of ballots that the person has returned” and that the State also “may not put any limit on how many voted and sealed absentee ballots any designated person can return.”
You also voted against the Equality Act, which would give LGBTQ+ people the same protections against discrimination that are afforded to women and people of color in federal law. You state that this bill “undermines Americans’ religious freedoms” and “limits protections for people of faith.” Could you please elaborate on those statements?
I believe all people should be treated with kindness and respect and that all Americans should have the opportunity to succeed and achieve their dream just like I did. The Equality Act, while wellintentioned, went much further than simply providing protections for the LGBTQ+ community. I am open to alternatives to this legislation and will continue to work to promote equality and equal access to opportunities for Americans of all backgrounds.
You have broken with your Republican colleagues in the House on some issues: for example, you stripped one colleague of committee assignments because she spread hate speech and promoted conspiracy theories; and you supported the Violence Against Women Act. Are there other issues on which you foresee you will break with the majority of your party?
I came to Congress to get through the partisan gridlock and be an independent voice for my constituents. This isn’t about siding with one party or the other, it’s about getting results. Working across the aisle in order to move our country forward is something that I have done by introducing bipartisan legislation to help our small businesses remain open and save jobs, ensuring Americans have the mental health resources they need during COVID-19, protecting our seniors’ healthcare, and protecting victims of domestic abuse and sexual assault. I will never be afraid to speak out on behalf of my constituents across CA-39.
You’re a member of the bipartisan House group “Problem Solvers Caucus.” Given the fierce partisanship in Washington, many proposals from this group have died. What bills do you think your group can successfully pass into law in 2021?\
With Democrats having tight majorities in the House and Senate, we must work in a bipartisan way to get things done. The Problem Solvers Caucus has shown they can build consensus to get big things done as we recently saw with the bipartisan COVID-19 relief package Congress passed in December 2020. I joined my freshman colleagues to write to President Biden that we want to work in a bipartisan way, and I’ve joined my Problem Solvers Caucus colleagues to promote many bipartisan priorities, such as updating our infrastructure, fixing our broken immigration system, securing our border, boosting vaccine availability, and more. The caucus also wrote to House and Senate Leadership asking to return to regular order to offer the chance for more bipartisanship and collaboration. While every bill may not pass starting from a place of bipartisan understanding is something that will move us forward.
Gil Cisneros narrowly beat you in 2018 (51.6% to 48.4%) and you defeated him in 2020 by an even narrower margin (50.6% to his 49.4%). What do you see as your mandate in such a closely divided district?
I came to Congress to get through the partisan gridlock and work in a bipartisan way to find commonsense solutions and get things done for my constituents. Now that I am in Congress, my job is to deliver results. I am proud that all the bills I have introduced are bipartisan, and that less than three months into my first term, a bipartisan bill I helped introduce to extend the Paycheck Protection Program deadline became law. Another bill of mine to help Taiwan regain its role in the World Health Organization has 71 bipartisan cosponsors and just passed committee markup, as well. I’ll continue to work in a bipartisan way to deliver results for my constituents across California’s 39th District.
It’s 2021. What does the Republican Party stand for?
I believe the Republican Party is the Grand Opportunity Party that stands for the American worker, helping small businesses, a dynamic economy, and promoting American values. Republican policies of promoting enterprise and empowering individuals to succeed are what have allowed me to own a small business, raise a family, and achieve my American dream and resonate with Americans of all backgrounds. I was proud to be elected alongside a diverse GOP freshman class, and I hope I can use my voice to make a positive impact in Congress and get things done for California’s 39th District.