In these increasingly partisan times, U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) repeatedly stressed the importance of reaching across the aisle during an interview with Blank Slate Media on Friday.
“I know my duty is to hold the president accountable, but I will not say no just because he’s a Republican and I’m a Democrat,” he said. “I’ll say yes when I think it’s right and no when I think it’s wrong … I’m willing to work across party lines when necessary and my whole thing is about getting things done.”
The congressman is running for re-election in the 3rd Congressional District, where he is facing off against Republican Dan DeBono.
Suozzi stressed that President Donald Trump should be held accountable, and mentioned several occasions when he criticized the president for separating immigrant children from their parents or the ban on immigrants from certain majority Muslim countries. But Suozzi said that any action the Democrats try to take will be useless unless the party wins back Congress.
“What good is it to shout at the wind,” he said, explaining why he did not join a 2017 lawsuit that accused Trump of violating the emoluments clause. “We have to win.”
Suozzi, who was elected to Congress in 2016, following stints as Nassau County executive and mayor of Glen Cove, is a member of the Problem Solvers Caucus. The group consists of 48 members, equally split between Democrats and Republicans, who are working to get something done, Suozzi said.
He said that the caucus would not tackle Trump’s legal issues but would instead look for common ground on areas like infrastructure, health care, guns, immigration and the budget.
As for specific accomplishments, Suozzi said that the caucus has “built trust” between the parties. Concrete legislation has been hard to come by because the Freedom Caucus — a group of conservative House Republicans — has prevented popular bills like background checks for gun purchases from reaching the floor, Suozzi said.
But there is nothing the Democrats can do, Suozzi said, unless they take control of Congress. Discussing Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh — who was confirmed to join the court the day after the interview — he again reiterated that the Republicans held all the power.
Still, Suozzi cautioned that Democrats should not assume an easy victory in November.
“It’s not an obvious blue wave,” he said.
In his positions on the issues, Suozzi repeatedly toed the slightly left-of-center line. He said he supported universal health care “academically” but said that “the devil is in the details” and that it would need a lot more work before he could support it. He said he was opposed to the Trump tax cut but could not find consensus on it with the Problem Solvers Caucus. He supported Trump’s decision to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, but said there needed to be a two-state solution between Israelis and Palestinians.
Suozzi’s calls for bipartisanship and center-leaning positions are due to the fact that the 3rd Congressional District is, by Suozzi’s own admission, a 50-50 district. The congressman nonetheless holds a significant fundraising lead over DeBono as of the most recent campaign filing period, which ended on June 30.
As for his accomplishments, Suozzi touted the millions of dollars he secured for Bethpage to clean up a chemical plume affecting its water, for the cleanup of Long Island Sound, for drawing attention to the Northport VA Medical Center, and for cutting helicoptor traffic over Queens.
Through it all, again and again, Suozzi stressed his willingness to reach across the aisle.
“It’s easy to rant and rave and yell at the wind,” he said. “Bipartisanship is tough.”
Reach reporter Luke Torrance by email at email@example.com, by phone at 516-307-1045, ext. 214, or follow him on Twitter @LukeATorrance.