Since taking office one year ago, I have been honored and humbled to serve the Third Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives. From day one, I’ve thought about nothing except how I can best serve you—the people. It hasn’t always been easy, but through it all, together we’ve managed to get some important things done.
On the environment, we’ve made huge strides in protecting the long-term health of the Long Island Sound. I was appointed co-chair of the bipartisan Long Island Sound Caucus. Our bipartisan work resulted in a spending increase from $4 million to $8 million to protect the Sound. Last month, $1.5 million in federal grants were awarded for 15 projects in New York aimed at improving the Sound’s health and water quality.
I worked with Rep. Peter King and Senator Chuck Schumer to pass a bipartisan amendment which was signed into law that provides $42 million in additional funding for cleanup of the Navy-Grumman plume and similar sites around the country. I’ve held numerous meetings with residents, the Navy, Grumman, water districts and other stakeholders to accelerate cleanup of the plume.
As co-chair of the Quiet Skies Caucus, I worked to try and alleviate the unacceptable airport noise levels Queens and Long Island residents deal with on a constant basis. I’ve met with both the FAA and local groups on many occasions. I’m happy to report that the FAA has agreed to study the possibility of flight dispersal and take steps to improve communication with concerned citizens, among other items.
Shortly after taking office, I was appointed vice-chair of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, a group of 23 Republicans and 23 Democrats working across party lines to try and get things done. We’ve focused our attention on making health care more affordable, investing in our nation’s infrastructure, fixing our nation’s tax system and immigration reform.
In July, the caucus unveiled a bipartisan proposal that would stabilize the individual market place and that senators Patty Murray and Lamar Alexander are using for the basis of their upcoming health care proposal.
In May, I introduced legislation that would provide all our veterans with free mental health counseling, regardless of their discharge status. I also introduced a bill that would target Russian meddling throughout democracies in Europe and Eastern Europe.
It’s been an exciting first year, one where I’ve learned three important things.
First, we must tackle the problem of partisan gerrymandering—the controversial manner by which politicians draw up districts to give their political party a distinct advantage. Of the 435 seats in Congress, roughly 30 of them are listed as competitive on a regular basis.
That means if you are a Democrat in a safe Democratic seat or a Republican in a safe Republican seat, you are safe. It is near impossible to lose the general election. Therefore, the only way you can lose your seat is to lose the primary. The elected officials from each party often spend all their efforts trying to please that small group of people that vote in the primaries. That’s why it is often so hard to get elected officials to work in the middle, which leads to partisan divisions.
In October, I joined former Republican Governor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger and members of Congress for a rally at the Supreme Court in support of ending partisan gerrymandering across the country. The Supreme Court will rule on this later this year.
Second, I’ve come to learn that we live in an incredible country with differences that span from region to region, state to state. While the recently passed tax bill will likely benefit people living in so-called “red states,” middle class families on Long Island could see devastating effects. I will keep fighting for what I know to be right, but not at the expense of the people I represent.
Finally, we need a return to regular order, where bills go through a deliberative process that include hearings and testimony from experts who can offer helpful guidance regarding pending legislation, military matters and other important issues. It was refreshing to see Senator John McCain offer a “thumbs down” on the Senate health care bill last year, because aside from how bad it would have been for the country, it didn’t go through regular order.
I believe in America. I believe in our system of government and the promise of our great nation. I came to Congress ready to work across party lines to try and get things done and that hasn’t changed. I’m excited about what 2018 will bring and look forward to my continued service on your behalf.