Rep. Maloney: No Regrets

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Near-blizzard conditions may have kept Rep. from Washington, D.C., but the weather did not deter her from a morning interview on MSNBC, or a visit to Manhattan Media’s offices later that day. The eight-term Congresswoman stopped by to talk about her latest legislative accomplishments, primary elections and what she’s been reading. By the end of the interview, she’d been called back by the cable news network for an evening appearance.
Q: You recently delivered a letter to the Ugandan mission protesting the anti-gay laws that have been proposed there, which include the death penalty. A group of evangelical Americans that went to Uganda have been blamed with stirring up this initiative. Where do you stand on that? Do you think that these folks should have known better?
A:
As one who cherishes my Christian faith, it certainly does not speak to the values and principles of the Christian faith that I was brought up in. We should all have a responsibility to speak out against human rights violations where we see them. Gay rights are human rights, women’s rights are human rights, and when we see discrimination, we should all do our part and speak up.

Q: One of your achievements last year was your credit card holder’s bill of rights, which was aimed at predatory lending practices. Have you personally had experience with this?
A:
The only experience I had is that they changed the due date—usually you have 30 days—and they moved it up seven days so that I did not get my payment in on time, and then I got fined for not having it in on time. But they had changed it without telling me, and so that’s what this bill does—it’s very heavy on disclosure so that the consumer knows what the game plan is.

Rep. Carolyn Maloney is a fan of Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. Photo by Andrew Schwartz

I’d like to emphasize that not all banks do this. Some banks have been model citizens. Citibank actually implemented all of the recommendations and Chase implemented some of them even before the bill went into effect.

Q: As someone who has experienced behind-the-scenes pressure on her career choices, I imagine you must be somewhat sympathetic to Harold Ford. What do you make of people pressuring him to not challenge Sen. Gillibrand? Do you think he should run?
A:
It’s totally up to him. It’s his choice, not mine. If he wants to run, he should run.

Q: What do you think of these folks in the Democratic Party who are putting pressure on candidates?
A:
We have freedom of choice in this country, so people are expressing their point of view.

Q: In terms of wanting to run?
A:
Yes.

Q: And also in terms of pressuring a candidate perhaps to stay out of a race? So you see both sides of it?
A:
Yes.

Q: Do you have any regrets about not challenging Sen. Gillibrand, now that somebody else has expressed interest in the race?
A:
No, because I had more cherished moments with my husband, who passed away recently, and so I was able to spend more time with him and my daughters.

Q: Speaking of primaries, you have one yourself this year. As somebody who says primaries are generally good for the political process, is that harder to agree with when you’re the one being challenged?
A:
No.

Q: Are you excited to have a primary?
A:
I always work hard. So I’ll just continue working hard for my constituents. I haven’t had the opportunity to meet her, except for recently once, and the New York Times reported that she just moved into the district to run against me.

Q: So that might make her not as familiar, potentially.
A:
That’s up to the voters to decide.

Q: Are you reading any good books?
A:
Right now I’m reading a lot of bills. Half the Sky [by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn]. I stayed up all night reading this. It’s a great book. I like public policy books. I like history.

Q: No chick lit or anything like that?
A:
Maybe you could call Kristof’s book [chick lit], about the oppression of women worldwide and what we need to do to correct that.

Q: Has the government done enough to help the struggling shop owners on Second Avenue?
A:
We need to do more, but we have tried to respond. The Chamber of Commerce has done a wonderful job and the MTA has started programs, signage. We’ve done programs with the community groups trying to focus on shopping on Second Avenue. I go down to the grocery store on Second Avenue.

I notice every two years when I’m campaigning a great deal in front of the subways—and you just notice when you’re riding the subways—the lines keep getting longer and longer. The Lexington Avenue subway is the most overcrowded subway in the nation. When they tore down the El, they promised they would build a Second Avenue subway, and it’s been many, many years and every time there’s a crisis they divert the money elsewhere. I am going to start doing a report every month on the progress, or lack of progress. We need to focus as a community to get this built as quickly as possible for the merchants, for the ability to move people quickly.

Transcript has been edited for brevity and clarity.

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