Minority Report

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After GOP’s House takeover, Nadler lays out agenda

By Dan Rivoli

Rep. Jerrold Nadler may have won re-election to his Upper West Side-based district with a lopsided 75 percent of the vote. But the “shellacking”—in the words of President Barack Obama—Democrats took on Election Day throughout the country sent Nadler back to a familiar place: the House minority.

Most of Nadler’s career in the House has been spent in the minority, save for the first two years of his tenure after being elected in 1992 and the four years since Democrats took over Congress in 2006.

In a post-election interview with the West Side Spirit, the nine-term lawmaker discussed his work chairing a committee on constitution, civil rights and civil liberties, legislative achievements, funding for New York and his agenda for his 10th term.

Nadler focused on reacting to recent Supreme Court decisions, such as co-sponsoring the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, a law that increases opportunities to remedy pay discrimination, or a bipartisan effort to amend the Americans with Disabilities Act.

As the outgoing chair of the judiciary subcommittee, Nadler said he is likely to see his national security legislation scuttled. He was working on a State Secrets Act, which would limit the president’s ability to cite the protection of state secrets in cases against the government.

“That probably won’t go anywhere now,” Nadler said.

During his time as the highest-ranking Democrat on his civil liberties committee, Nadler said he spent his time fighting Republican proposals to “attack” a woman’s right to choose and rights for gays and lesbians.

“I was the main line of defense on that,” Nadler said. “I probably will revert to being the first line of defense against crazy proposals.”

In addition to his civil liberties work, Nadler is a senior northeast Democrat on the transportation committee, responsible for securing transit funding for the region.

Nadler hopes that a $450 billion transportation reauthorization bill can pass, but is wary that there will be additional funds for other projects.

“[That] is the minimum we have to spend over that time period to keep the roads, highways, bridges [and] mass transit [in] a decent state of safety and repair,” Nadler said, “without even talking about any major new initiatives.”

Nadler criticized Republicans’ promised cuts in spending—save for entitlement programs and defense.

“It’ll gut the housing programs, the education programs, transportation—you name it,” Nadler said. “We will feel very hurt by it in a myriad of ways.”

As a critic of the war in Afghanistan, Nadler believes that the new Congress will be more sympathetic to the Obama Administration’s goals.

“Let their 35-year civil war continue if they want to. We can’t solve that civil war for them,” Nadler said. “I think that view is going to have less sympathy in a Republican Congress, than it did previously.”

Nadler, in explaining the massive loss of Democrats this election, believes that unemployment was still high for the voters. The unemployment rate, Nadler said, would have decreased with a larger stimulus bill. One amendment he introduced out of principle, he said, would have increased each figure in the stimulus bill by 75 percent.

The other reason for Democrats’ loss, he said, was political.

“I do think the president should have used the bully pulpit to explain why we needed more stimulus,” Nadler said, “and to blast the Republicans when they kept blocking more stimulus.”

For the next two years, Republicans will set the agenda Nadler and other Democrats will abide. But he believes some of his priorities will help stimulate an economy in recovery.

“I hope we’re going to try to do things to stimulate the economy somewhat, such as the transportation bill,” Nadler said. “We can do other things such as extend the unemployment insurance.”

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