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Suozzi, DeBono clash on taxes, immigration in News 12 debate

Rep. Thomas Suozzi, the Democratic incumbent, and Daniel

Rep. Thomas Suozzi, the Democratic incumbent, and Daniel DeBono, his Republican challenger, face off for a district covering parts of Nassau, Suffolk and Queens. Credit: James Escher

Democratic Rep. Thomas Suozzi and Republican challenger Daniel DeBono clashed Thursday over the new federal tax law in a News 12 Long Island debate in which DeBono also criticized GOP Reps. Lee Zeldin and Peter King for not doing enough to protect local taxpayers.

DeBono, a first-time candidate, made the comment when asked about his position on the new Republican tax law, which capped federal deductions for state and local taxes at $10,000.

“I always support tax cuts,” he said, but he argued that the measure was “flawed in many respects ... We didn’t have anyone to fight for us on the Republican side or from Long Island or New York in the Congress.”

Moderator Stone Grissom asked if he was including Zeldin and King in his criticism.

“That includes Lee Zeldin and Peter King who ... were unable to get our interests better represented ... to ensure New Yorkers were treated fairly,” DeBono said.

Suozzi said he opposed the tax bill "because it was so bad for us on Long Island.”

But he criticized DeBono for using “double talk,” which he likened to saying, “I like some part of it and don’t like other parts of it” without disclosing how he would have voted.

“You need to vote for the bill in front of you,” Suozzi said.

During the taped debate, Suozzi and DeBono also clashed over immigration.

Suozzi, a freshman from Glen Cove, said a deal could have been struck, with Democrats backing increased border security while giving a “path to citizenship” to immigrant children brought here by their parents.

DeBono said Suozzi voted against a bipartisan compromise measure that would have done just that.

“The record is the record; you voted against the bill,” said DeBono, a former Navy SEAL.

Suozzi said no compromise with bipartisan backing ever got to the floor, and the measure DeBono referred to included provisions that would have curtailed other forms of legal immigration. The measure failed overwhelmingly in the House, 301-121.

In discussing the tax bill, Suozzi and DeBono at one point interrupted each other.

Suozzi asked repeatedly, “Would you have voted for it?”

DeBono said, “I would have voted for a better bill.” He told Suozzi, “You were there and did nothing.”

While DeBono took no position on the bill that passed, he did say the law will be “a huge benefit to most middle-class and working-class Long Islanders,” and "incredibly beneficial to home prices, asset prices, business success” and employees.

Reached after the debate, King said DeBono “got his facts mixed up,” which he attributed to debate pressure for the first-time candidate.

“Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer commended me for my integrity and waging the fight against the tax bill, while Gov. Andrew Cuomo said ‘God Bless Peter King,’ ” King said.

Zeldin also dismissed DeBono's criticism.

Still, ”Dan’s a Navy SEAL and a fighter. I love that. He’d be a great member of Congress,” Zeldin said.

The debate will air Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. on News 12 Long Island. It can be viewed online at News12.com, watched on Optimum Channel 612 or the News 12 app on Altice ONE, and on Roku, Apple TV or Fire TV apps.

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