BY NATHAN DUKE
U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Little Neck) outlined three reasons why he believes Washington, D.C., has become so dysfunctional during a recent interview with the Queens Tribune. The congressman also discussed his first year representing northeast Queens and some of the issues facing his district.
Suozzi, who represents a sliver of northeast Queens and portions of Long Island, said that he believed there were three reasons why Congress has become especially dysfunctional in recent years.
He listed gerrymandering—which involves the manipulation of boundaries of an electoral constituency in order to favor a particular party—as one reason.
“If you’re a Republican in a Republican seat, you’ll win,” Suozzi said. “If you have no way to lose, you have no incentive to tackle serious, controversial issues. And if only 10 percent of people vote in primaries, you [aim] to please in the primary.
Both parties are pulled to the extremes, where there’s no compromise and nobody does anything in the middle. Everyone is afraid of the [U.S. Sen.] Bernie Sanders candidate.”
The second reason that Suozzi listed to explain D.C.’s dysfunction was that “the country is radically different from place to place.”
“I had no idea how different it was when I came to Congress,” he said. “We’re screwed on the tax bill. They have no idea about our cost of living or energy costs. If you make $75,000 here, you barely get by. If you make $75,000 in Iowa, you’re on top.”
Suozzi also said that the nature of a congressional job does not allow members of the House to spend much time together and, therefore, better understand each other’s positions.
He listed the fact that Congress doesn’t “go through regular order” as the third cause of dysfunction in U.S. government.
“We can’t pass a budget,” he said. “They try to force everything through with one party. They don’t know the consequences of this tax bill. They are not going through the process of finding common ground on thorny issues.”
Suozzi currently sits on two of the House’s committees—Foreign Affairs and Armed Services.
“I have a big polluted site in my district that is the number-one defense contractor in New York State,” he said, explaining how he ended up on the Armed Services Committee. “The U.S. Merchant Marine Academy is in my district and there is a tremendous amount of veterans.”
Suozzi said that some of the top concerns for constituents in his district were veterans’ issues, Social Security, airplane noise, healthcare, the GOP’s tax bill and immigration. He said that the latter is an area in which he is most progressive.
“The district is very diverse,” he said. “I’m very progressive on the issue of immigration. I feel it in my bones.”
Suozzi said that he is the “most pro-Israel guy there is” and added that he supported President Donald Trump’s proposal to move the capital to Jerusalem. However, he felt that the manner in which the president had approached the proposal could prevent it from coming to fruition.
The congressman also noted that Trump’s behavior—which he sees as divisive—further adds to the dysfunction in the nation’s capital. He added that both Republicans and Democrats need to put aside partisan politics and take note of the effect that their decisions have on constituents.
“Politics has gotten so small, petty and cynical,” he said. “We need to recognize these are life-and-death conditions for people—nuclear war, pre-existing conditions and immigration. The president doesn’t help with the cavalier way he handles things.”
Reach editor-in-chief Nathan Duke via email at email@example.com or by phone at (718) 357-7400, ext. 122.