What Do Westchester’s Congressional Members Think of Trump?

Any uncertainty about how the members of Congress who represent Westchester County feel about the new climate in Washington was quickly dispelled this morning at the Westchester County Association’s “Report from Washington” breakfast event at the Doubletree by Hilton in Tarrytown. It didn’t take long for three local Democrats from New York’s Congressional delegation — U.S. Reps Nita Lowey, Eliot Engel, and Sean Patrick Maloney — to air their frustrations about working with a new president who, they say, seems more interested in tweeting than in leading.

They cited the blizzard of executive orders coming from the White House while noting that in its first 50 days, the Trump Administration has failed to send a single piece of legislation to Congress.

“President Trump needs to understand that Congress is a co-equal branch of our government, not something subservient to the president,” said Engel in his opening remarks at the discussion, which was moderated by WCBS News 880 reporter Alex Silverman. Lowey also promptly lashed out at Trump, saying, “…you can’t govern from the top of your head with Tweets.” Maloney — a Democrat in a district that voted for Trump — made more concessions toward a willingness to work with the president, saying he felt that if Trump “could stop Tweeting long enough to send a bill to Congress,” they could accomplish a lot. The business community, he said, feels energized by the potential of regulatory roll-backs likely to come from a top-down Republican-controlled government, and the resulting changes to legislature could be beneficial for New York residents and businesses.

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Centering on three main issues — infrastructure, health care, and immigration — the Congressional leaders shared plenty of memorable sound bites. Here, some food for thought offered up this morning by Lowey, Engel, and Maloney.

Infrastructure:

• All three Reps agreed that infrastructure offers the best chance for bipartisan action. Infrastructure spending is a win-win, they believe, bringing much-needed repairs to area roads and bridges, as well as job growth. But there is no transportation bill in sight from the White House, according to Engel. “There’s no bill, and that’s not the way you do it,” he said.

• Two infrastructure proposals not popular with the Reps are Trump’s infamous wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, and the closer-to-home proposal of increased anchorages on the Hudson River, which all three are working to halt. Lowey pointed to 700 miles of wall built on the Mexican border during the Obama administration, and said of Trump’s multi-billion-dollar wall, “We all know he’s not going to get the funding.” Lowey also plugged the importance of digital infrastructure programs, like the WCA’s private-public partnership to bring gigabit-speed broadband to Yonkers, New Rochelle, White Plains, and Mount Vernon.

Health Care:

• New York stands to lose much if the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is repealed without a solid replacement, said Lowey, Engel, and Maloney, citing claims that nearly 10 percent of Westchester’s population would lose their health insurance and New York hospitals could be out as much as $11 billion.

• Engel criticized the Trump Administration and Republicans for a lack of transparency when it comes to new legislation around healthcare: “We had 78 hearings for the ACA, and we’ve had not one for its replacement,” he said.

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• Maloney gave his “cheat sheet” for analyzing potential replacement plans, saying, “We need to look at how [replacements] would impact coverage, cost, and the debt/deficit situation.”

Immigration:

• Mentioning the fact that “many Westchester businesses depend on immigrants,” Lowey urged the business community members in attendance to make their voices heard on the Trump Administration’s plans to step up deportation of illegal immigrants. She also cited the importance of creating “a path to legalization” for immigrant workers, something Engel also spoke in detail about. He cited previously proposed bills (ultimately not passed) that had provisions allowing law-abiding immigrants to achieve legalization after paying fines and learning to speak English. “Let’s stop being punitive,” Engel said of policies that break up families. “We can be smart and sensitive at the same time.”

• “Democrats and Liberals have to get more comfortable with the notion of accountability,” chided Maloney, saying that he understood the idea that “it’s not okay” to come to the United States illegally. “But,” he said, “we need to determine an appropriate punishment” which doesn’t always mean deportation. Maloney also embraced the idea of immigrants paying fines and proving a will to function as productive U.S. citizens, saying, “That’s not amnesty, that’s paying a debt — and that’s the framework we need [for the immigration debate.]”

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