The National Republican Congressional Committee is accusing U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi of not defending veterans strongly enough, teeing up a campaign against him in next year’s election.
The committee launched a digital ad campaign going after the Glen Cove Democrat’s votes against five Republican-sponsored bills aimed at overhauling the federal Department of Veterans Affairs.
A 40-second video ad will run for the next two weeks on Facebook and YouTube, targeted at swing voters across the 3rd Congressional District.
It accuses Suozzi of voting “against fixing the broken VA” and siding with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a “California liberal.”
“The 25,000-plus veterans in NY-03 district deserve a fighter in their corner,” Chris Martin, an NRCC spokesman, said in a statement. “Tom Suozzi has proven that he’d rather take the fall to curry favor with Nancy Pelosi at their expense.”
Suozzi, a former Nassau County executive, beat former state Sen. Jack Martins by four percentage points in last year’s race to replace former Rep. Steve Israel in the North Shore district stretching from northeast Queens to northwest Suffolk County.
The NRCC is targeting the district again for 2018, citing Suozzi’s tight margin of victory. Dan DeBono, an investment banker and former U.S. Navy SEAL from Northport, has already created a federal campaign committee to run in the 3rd District.
Martin would not say how much the NRCC is spending on the ads, but said the amount is “substantial.”
Lawmakers have sought to fix the VA since revelations in 2014 that dozens of veterans died while waiting for care at a VA hospital in Phoenix, Arizona. An internal audit later that year found that more than 120,000 veterans were left waiting for care.
The NRCC cites five VA bills against which Suozzi, a member of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, voted:
- The Veterans Second Amendment Protection Act, which would ban the VA from stripping gun rights from mentally handicapped employees without a judge’s order. Suozzi’s political campaign says he opposed this bill because it made it easier for possibly unstable people to get guns.
- A U.S. Senate bill that would require the VA to report top employees’ bonuses and performance awards. Suozzi voted against one version of this bill but supported a bipartisan package that came later, his campaign says.
- The VA Accountability First Act, which would allow VA employees to be fired or demoted for misconduct or poor performance. Suozzi voted no because the bill may have allowed the VA to repeal employees’ pension and retirement benefits, his campaign says.
- The Make America Secure Appropriations Act, a defense funding bill that would add money to a fund shared by the VA and the Department of Defense. Suozzi opposed the increases to defense spending and funds for a border wall the bill contained, his campaign says.
- The VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act, which protects VA employees who report wrongdoing within the agency. President Donald Trump signed the bill into law on June 23. Suozzi opposed it because it would strip VA employees — a third of whom are veterans — of due process rights, his campaign says.
Suozzi’s campaign cited his work to improve the Northport VA hospital and the bill he sponsored that would provide free mental health services to veterans as evidence of his support for veterans.