WASHINGTON — As a new Congress begins Thursday, the Long Island delegation said its key local priorities include reinstating full state and local tax deductions for federal taxes, permanently funding the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund and restoring the Northport VA Medical Center.
Other priorities include funding for infrastructure, including the Gateway project, protecting Homeland Security grants for Long Island and New York, and increasing funding for Long Island Sound and other initiatives, the lawmakers said in interviews or statements.
That unity on those local issues will continue as Democratic Reps. Kathleen Rice of Garden City and Tom Suozzi of Glen Cove move into the majority and Republican Reps. Peter King of Seaford and Lee Zeldin of Shirley shift to the minority with little clout in the majority-rules House.
“No one has absolute power. No one is without power. And it’s important for all of us, whether you are Republican or Democrat, to find ways to win victories for our mutual constituents,” Zeldin said.
But the four lawmakers also will hew to the party-line division on many national issues, such as the border wall and the Democratic bill to end the partial shutdown of the government as well as the Democratic packages on campaign finance, ethics and health care.
King raised a concern about the increasing number of partisans on the right in his party and on the left in the Democratic Party. Winning approval of his priorities “may be a little more difficult” because fewer Democrats are moderates, he said.
He warned that restoring the full state and local income and property taxes (SALT) deduction could face opposition both from the right and the left in the House. And even if the House were to pass a SALT bill, it might not even be brought up for consideration by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
King, who has been through more years as a member of the majority than the minority, said he will work with Democrats such as Rep. Nita Lowey (D-Westchester), incoming chair of the Appropriations Committee, on funding for Homeland Security and the Gateway project.
King spoke of the need to reauthorize the terrorism risk insurance program, and he and Zeldin said they would work to reauthorize and fix the flood insurance program.
Suozzi and Rice also said they will push for comprehensive immigration changes, including legalizing “Dreamers” brought here illegally as children, and gun safety legislation, such as tightening background checks, and campaign finance and voting bills.
All agreed, however, that their highest priority is to end the partial federal government shutdown, which began at midnight on Dec. 22.
“This is a real test for the president and for the Democrats — for all of us in government,” said Suozzi.