WASHINGTON — Rep. Anthony D'Esposito (R-Island Park) played an upfront role Friday in calling on hard-right House Republicans to back a bill by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy aimed at averting a government shutdown, although the measure ultimately was voted down.
D’Esposito, who last year flipped a Nassau County district long held by Democrats, appeared beside McCarthy (R-Calif.) during a nationally televised news conference as both urged House members to pass a short-term spending bill to keep the government operating. McCarthy’s bill called for 30% spending cuts to most agencies and increased funding for border security.
At the news conference before the House vote, D’Esposito cited the large number of migrants arriving to New York in arguing that McCarthy’s bill was needed to bolster border security. D'Esposito took aim at the faction of hard-core conservative Republicans who have repeatedly clashed with McCarthy as he seeks to avoid a shutdown after midnight Saturday.
“This is not about standing behind an individual, it’s about standing up for America,” D’Esposito said.
D'Esposito's pitch before a national audience came as he gears up for the 2024 election in the 4th Congressional District, which Democratic President Joe Biden won in 2020.
Democratic groups have vowed to pour money and resources into the race. Among the Democrats seeking to challenge D'Esposito are former Hempstead Town Supervisor Laura Gillen, who lost to D'Esposito in 2022; New York State Sen. Kevin Thomas of Levittown; and Baldwin resident Patricia Maher. The district covers most of central and southern Nassau County, including large swaths of the Town of Hempstead.
D’Esposito and Rep. Monica De La Cruz (R-Texas), who was elected to her border district seat in 2022, were the only House members accompanying McCarthy at the news conference Friday.
D'Esposito, speaking to Newsday after the news conference, brushed aside the suggestion that political considerations played a part in his appearance beside McCarthy. D'Esposito said McCarthy tapped him to speak in part because of his law enforcement background as a former NYPD officer and his district's proximity to New York City, where more than 100,000 foreign migrants have arrived since last spring.
D’Esposito said his pitch Friday alongside McCarthy came out of frustration with both Republicans and Democrats, including Republican hardliners and conservatives he said were attempting to become “social media famous” through their opposition.
“They did not want to secure the border today, they did not want to keep our government open, that's the vote that they made today,” D’Esposito said.
Twenty-one House Republicans joined 211 Democrats in voting against the measure, which already faced an unlikely chance of passing in the U.S. Senate, and which the White House threatened would face a veto if passed.
Michael Dawidziak, a Bohemia-based political strategist who has worked primarily with Republicans, said McCarthy likely had in mind D’Esposito’s vulnerable position as one of 18 House Republicans who flipped districts won by Biden, in inviting D'Esposito to speak Friday.
“When the Democrats start coming up with their list of who they're going to target, he'll clearly be the most vulnerable, most targeted of the three,” Dawidziak said, referring to second-term Rep. Andrew Garbarino (R-Bayport) and freshman Rep. Nick LaLota (R-Amityville), whose district went narrowly for former President Donald Trump 2020.
Rep. George Santos (R-Nassau/Queens), who has pleaded not guilty to 13 federal charges of wire fraud, money laundering, theft of public funds and making false statements to Congress, also is seeking reelection.
The nonpartisan Cook Political Report, which rates the competitiveness of congressional districts, recently ranked Garbarino’s 2nd District seat as “solid Republican,” LaLota’s 1st District seat as “likely Republican” and Esposito’s as a “toss-up.” Santos' 3rd District seat "leans Democrat," according to Cook.