Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-N.Y.) and House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.)...

Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-N.Y.) and House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) shake hands during Suozzi's ceremonial swearing in at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday.  Credit: AP/Francis Chung/POLITICO

Democrat Tom Suozzi, sworn in Wednesday to represent New York's 3rd Congressional District, said he planned to press for a bipartisan border deal, revive efforts to fully restore the state and local tax deduction and work to secure millions of dollars in federal funding to protect Long Island Sound water quality.

Suozzi laid out his priorities for serving out expelled former Rep. George Santos' term, which expires Dec. 31, in an interview with Newsday. 

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Democrat Tom Suozzi, sworn in Wednesday to represent New York's 3rd Congressional District, said he planned to press for a bipartisan border deal, revive efforts to fully restore the state and local tax deduction and work to secure millions of dollars in federal funding to protect Long Island Sound water quality.

Suozzi laid out his priorities for serving out expelled former Rep. George Santos' term, which expires Dec. 31, in an interview with Newsday. 

Suozzi, who defeated Republican Mazi Melesa Pilip in the Feb. 13 special election, represented the 3rd District from 2017 through 2022. He said he will seek a full two-year term in November.

Suozzi, 61, of Glen Cove, strode to the well of the House chamber where the entire New York delegation joined him. House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) administered the oath of office and the chamber erupted with Democratic cheers.

WHAT TO KNOW

  • Democrat Tom Suozzi was sworn in to represent New York's 3rd Congressional District.
  • Suozzi will serve out the rest of expelled GOP Rep. George Santos' term and said he will seek a full two-year term in November.
  • He said he planned to press for a bipartisan border deal, revive efforts to fully restore the state and local tax deduction and work to secure federal funding to protect Long Island Sound water quality.

"I never thought I'd be back here, but the Lord works in a mysterious way," Suozzi said.

Suozzi told Newsday on Tuesday he’s returning to a more partisan and bitterly divided Congress than the one he left. 

He said he hoped to focus on “healing some of this divide that exists. That's going to be something that overlays everything that I've been working on — trying to get people to work together, because everything’s so toxic. I’m not going to fall in that trap of just throwing bombs."

Caroline Suozzi, Rep. Tom Suozzi, D-N.Y., Helene Suozzi and Michael Suozzi pose for a photo following a ceremonial swearing-in the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2024. (AP Photo/Amanda Andrade-Rhoades) Credit: AP/Amanda Andrade-Rhoades

'Basic constituent services'

Suozzi said he hopes to fill a leadership vacuum after Santos' scandal-plagued, 11-month tenure.

The House expelled Santos on Dec. 1 after federal prosecutors charged him with 23 felonies. Santos has pleaded not guilty to all charges. In November, the House Ethics Committee accused Santos of knowingly deceiving campaign donors.

Suozzi said he planned to hunt for federal funding for district projects and to restore “basic constituent services that people didn’t have under my predecessor.” 

Suozzi said he would retain his and Santos' former district office in Douglaston, Queens, and that he was searching for space for another district office in the Town of Oyster Bay. Suozzi has brought back his former district director, Cindy Rogers, to oversee constituent services. 

Under Santos’ tenure, Long Island’s other House members fielded constituent calls from 3rd District residents. Local mayors said Santos was unable to secure federal dollars to improve water quality and aging infrastructure.

Suozzi said he would have to “dig in” to determine the status of 3rd District funding requests. He said he planned to meet with Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), the ranking member of the House Appropriations Committee, later this week. The most pressing projects involve services for veterans and efforts to clean up a toxic plume in Bethpage, Suozzi said.

“There’s these big pots of money,” he said. "That's a matter of figuring out where that money is.”

Suozzi also said he hoped to champion a governmental initiative he started in the early 2000s as Nassau County executive. The “no wrong door" program made it easier for residents to take advantage of multiple social service resources at once. The federal government can use existing federal money to focus on preventing drug and alcohol use in schools, he said.

National issues

With Suozzi's swearing-in, he becomes the lone Democrat in Long Island's four-member House delegation. 

During the special election campaign, Suozzi criticized Reps. Anthony D'Esposito (R-Island Park), Andrew Garbarino (R-Bayport) and Nick LaLota (R-Amityville) for failing to secure passage of House legislation to restore the SALT deduction. A Republican-led overhaul of the U.S. tax code in 2017 limited the exemption to $10,000. 

On Feb. 14, D'Esposito, Garbarino and LaLota sponsored a House bill to double the SALT cap to $20,000 for married couples earning less than $500,000 a year. The bill fizzled after Democrats and a handful of conservative lawmakers blocked it from consideration on the House floor.

When Suozzi served in the House, he and colleagues from states with high local taxes pressed to lift the cap. But the Senate was unwilling to reopen the issue of SALT caps, which expire in 2025.

"Tom Suozzi has talked a very good game of building coalitions," D'Esposito said. "When you stick together, you can send a clear message and get things done. We hope Tom is looking to be part of solution and not part of the problem."

LaLota said Suozzi was successful because he "campaigned like a Republican,” adding, "I hope that his actions in Washington reflect some of that campaign rhetoric."

Suozzi said he would continue to advocate for a border deal that a bipartisan group of U.S. Senate negotiators struck earlier this month. The $8 billion package would bolster security at the U.S.-Mexico border and send military aid to Ukraine and Israel.

Johnson called that bill "dead on arrival."

Suozzi said he and others have to pressure House Republicans to “change their minds" so their position becomes "unsustainable."

“The people want the deal, people want to restore order at the border, they don’t want to empower Vladimir Putin, they don’t want to see Israel go down,” Suozzi said.

Getting to work

Suozzi will inherit Santos’ former office in the Longworth House Office Building. "I’m getting George Santos’ old office. Yikes," Suozzi quipped. "It’s not even been cleaned out yet."

Suozzi called his victory on Feb. 13 "humbling."

“I have not ever had this type of support for any of my elections,” he said. “I feel a great sense of responsibility to follow through on this message of ‘let’s work together.' "  

Tom Brune reported from Washington

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