Former Rep. Tom Suozzi holds his first news conference Dec. 9 since...

Former Rep. Tom Suozzi holds his first news conference Dec. 9 since being named the Democratic nominee for the special election in the 3rd Congressional District. Credit: Debbie Egan-Chin

WASHINGTON — As Democrat Tom Suozzi seeks to reclaim his 3rd Congressional District seat in the Feb. 13 special election against Republican Mazi Melesa Pilip, he’ll have to campaign on and defend his six-year record in the U.S. House.

During his three terms in office from 2017 through 2022, Suozzi cast more than 2,000 votes and backed some 2,000 legislative proposals while serving first on the House Armed Services and Foreign Relations committees and then on the powerful tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee. 

Though Suozzi served in an increasingly partisan House, he carved out a political middle ground as a centrist Democrat and vice-chair of the moderate and bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, composed of an equal number of Democrats and Republicans who seek compromises.

“He's never been a left-leaning progressive Democrat, he’s always been someone who is socially liberal but fiscally moderate,” said Christopher Malone, a political science professor at Farmingdale State University. 

Suozzi largely voted the Democratic line but he also often worked and voted with Republicans  — UCLA’s VoteView analysis found he was more conservative than 90% of his Democratic colleagues as he hewed closely to the middle lane of the House. 

Suozzi often took a more conservative approach than most Democrats on defense, law enforcement and business issues, but he also supported measures on the environment, civil rights and Long Island issues, according to a review of his news releases, legislation and votes.

Suozzi, 61, the scion of a Glen Cove political family, spent eight years as Glen Cove mayor and then eight years as Nassau County executive.

He was shaped by growing up in a Nassau County city that frequently traded control between Democrats and Republicans, said Lawrence Levy, executive dean of the National Center for Suburban Studies at Hofstra University. 

“The way you survive there, as his family has functioned for more than a generation, is to be able to find as comfortable a place as possible in the middle. That's what he's done, pretty much his whole career,” Levy said. “He is a true pragmatic.”

The winner of the special election will serve out the remainder of expelled Rep. George Santos’ two-year term and would need to run again in November for a full term. 

Suozzi was not a prolific filer of legislation.

The House passed just three of the 56 measures introduced by Suozzi: renaming the Oyster Bay Wildlife Refuge for Congressman Lester Wolff, honoring a Black unit in the National Guard with the Harlem Hellfighters Congressional Gold Medal Act and an amendment that authorized funds to help pay for fixing the Northrop Grumman toxic plume in Bethpage.

Suozzi said his brief legislative record does not tell the whole story.

“There's much more to legislating than just getting a particular bill that your name is on to get it done,” Suozzi said.

“I’ve worked very hard to build relationships,” he said. “The most important thing in a legislative body is to have relationships, so that people trust you and that people feel that they can work with you.”

Suozzi highlighted his ranking in the top 15% on the Bipartisan Index of the Lugar Center and McCourt School of Public Policy at Georgetown University and pointed to his vote bucking Democrats for a waiver to allow former Gen. James Mattis to serve as defense secretary.  

Some of Suozzi’s closest relationships appear to be the members of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, currently led by Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.) and Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), built around the idea of crossing the aisle.

“He's somebody who regularly works with Republicans if it’s what's best for the people he represents,” Gottheimer said of Suozzi in a phone interview.

In his first term, when Republicans controlled Congress and the White House, Suozzi and many Democrats in the Problem Solvers often voted with Republicans on Republican-sponsored bills.

Suozzi voted only 90% of the time with his party during those two years when the norm for his Democratic colleagues was to vote with their party 99% of the time, according to UCLA's VoteView ratings.

In his second term, after Democrats took control of the House and he had been promoted to the Ways and Means Committee, Suozzi continued to break with his party on votes, but less often. He voted with the Democratic majority 97% of the time.

And by his third term — when Democrats controlled Congress and the White House and he focused on his race in the Democratic primary for New York governor — Suozzi voted with his party 99% of the time.

Still, many on the political left say they are wary of Suozzi.

“He's a very corporate-friendly Democrat,” said social activist Melanie D’Arrigo, who ran against Suozzi in 2020 and said his Problem Solvers Caucus' purpose is to “represent corporate interests and corporate donors.”

The National Republican Campaign Committee criticizes Suozzi for his votes with his Democratic majority, particularly on issues such as police, crime and immigration.

"Tom Suozzi's attempted comeback tour will be playing all the hits: self-enrichment, defunding the police, and raising taxes [just to name a few],” the NRCC said when Suozzi announced he would run for his seat early this month.

Here are some highlights of Suozzi’s legislative activities.

On Dec. 22, 2017, President Donald Trump signed into law the Republican congressional majority’s sweeping Tax Cut and Jobs Act, which capped taxpayer deductions for state and local taxes at $10,000 and gave Suozzi a new focus — rescinding the SALT cap.

Or, as he repeatedly put it, “No SALT, no deal.”

Suozzi and his Problem Solvers Caucus colleagues battled to lift the cap, which mostly affected New York, New Jersey, California and other reliably Democratic states with high local taxes, calling it an unfair tax on local taxes and an attack on “blue states.”

But they faced opposition from Republicans from states with lower local taxes and liberal Democrats citing studies that said wealthy homeowners benefited the most from the deductions — and a Senate unwilling to reopen the issue of SALT caps, which expire in 2025.

“I was the leader of the Democrats on SALT. And I got it through the House three times, and it was not easy to get done,” Suozzi said.

In November 2021, the Democratic House majority voted in favor of raising the cap to $80,000, limiting the benefit to higher-income homeowners. But once again, the Senate rejected the bid to raise the SALT cap.

Immigration: Suozzi joined the bipartisan opposition to a 2018 Republican bill aimed at tightening the border and also voted against anti-sanctuary city bills. But he broke with the Democratic majority to vote for measures to boost the border patrol, tighten security and reject voting rights for noncitizens.

In 2019, Suozzi and then-Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) proposed a $10 billion bill to provide a path to legal status for immigrants with temporary status or those brought to the United States as children and allot $8.6 billion to a steel wall and other border security measures and $1.4 billion for administrative costs.

Israel: Suozzi has voted on measures to support Israel, including backing the two-state solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and opposing the boycott, disinvestment and sanctions movement against Israel. He also backed U.S. sanctions for Hamas or Hezbollah using civilians as shields and a measure that takes aim at European antisemitism.

Crime: Suozzi generally supports law enforcement, though he voted for the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act with measures to combat police misconduct, excessive force and racial bias. He voted against a motion condemning calls to defund the police and was absent for a vote on a bill to add killing of police as an aggravating factor for a jury in a death penalty trial.

Trump: Along with other Problem Solver Caucus members, Suozzi met with Trump and tried, mostly unsuccessfully, to work with him on legislation. Suozzi was reluctant but eventually supported the first impeachment of Trump. After being evacuated from the House chamber while wearing a gas mask during the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol building, he supported the second impeachment. 

Abortion: Abortion-rights supporters, including Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul, have raised concerns about Suozzi's support of the Hyde Amendment that bars federal funding for abortions after he once said it was "settled law." In 2019, he co-sponsored and voted for a bill to repeal the Hyde Amendment. And he voted to preserve abortion rights with votes on a half dozen bills.

All lawmakers scramble to bring home federal dollars and Suozzi was no exception. He says he has made efforts through legislation and working with federal agencies and other members of Congress to bring millions of dollars to his district.

In his first term in 2017, Suozzi and King persuaded other members to support his amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act for $34 million to help pay for the cleanup of the Northrop Grumman toxic plume in Bethpage.

During the pandemic, Suozzi led a New York bipartisan delegation to complain to the Trump administration that its distribution of $30 billion in COVID-19 funding to hospitals based on population shortchanged New York, which had 35% of the cases — the most in the country.

The administration responded by creating a $10 billion fund for “hot spot” hospitals dealing with the most COVID cases, resulting in $5 billion for New York hospitals.

Suozzi said he also worked with the bipartisan Long Island Sound Caucus to increase funding from $4 million in 2016 to $40 million in 2023, and worked with Republicans for improvements to the Northport VA Medical Center, including demolition of decrepit buildings.

And, like other members, Suozzi took advantage of House Democrats’ decision in 2019 to revive earmarks as “community projects" and won $18.7 million for 21 local projects.

WASHINGTON — As Democrat Tom Suozzi seeks to reclaim his 3rd Congressional District seat in the Feb. 13 special election against Republican Mazi Melesa Pilip, he’ll have to campaign on and defend his six-year record in the U.S. House.

During his three terms in office from 2017 through 2022, Suozzi cast more than 2,000 votes and backed some 2,000 legislative proposals while serving first on the House Armed Services and Foreign Relations committees and then on the powerful tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee. 

Though Suozzi served in an increasingly partisan House, he carved out a political middle ground as a centrist Democrat and vice-chair of the moderate and bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, composed of an equal number of Democrats and Republicans who seek compromises.

“He's never been a left-leaning progressive Democrat, he’s always been someone who is socially liberal but fiscally moderate,” said Christopher Malone, a political science professor at Farmingdale State University. 

WHAT TO KNOW

  • Tom Suozzi, seeking to reclaim his 3rd Congressional District seat in the Feb. 13 special election, will have to campaign on and defend his six-year record in the U.S. House. The position comes with an annual salary of $174,000.
  • Though Suozzi served in an increasingly partisan House, he carved out a political middle ground as a centrist Democrat and vice-chair of the moderate and bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus.
  • Suozzi largely voted the Democratic line, but also worked with Republicans. UCLA’s VoteView analysis found he was more conservative than 90% of his Democratic colleagues.

Suozzi largely voted the Democratic line but he also often worked and voted with Republicans  — UCLA’s VoteView analysis found he was more conservative than 90% of his Democratic colleagues as he hewed closely to the middle lane of the House. 

Suozzi often took a more conservative approach than most Democrats on defense, law enforcement and business issues, but he also supported measures on the environment, civil rights and Long Island issues, according to a review of his news releases, legislation and votes.

Suozzi, 61, the scion of a Glen Cove political family, spent eight years as Glen Cove mayor and then eight years as Nassau County executive.

He was shaped by growing up in a Nassau County city that frequently traded control between Democrats and Republicans, said Lawrence Levy, executive dean of the National Center for Suburban Studies at Hofstra University. 

“The way you survive there, as his family has functioned for more than a generation, is to be able to find as comfortable a place as possible in the middle. That's what he's done, pretty much his whole career,” Levy said. “He is a true pragmatic.”

The winner of the special election will serve out the remainder of expelled Rep. George Santos’ two-year term and would need to run again in November for a full term. 

Legislative record

Suozzi was not a prolific filer of legislation.

The House passed just three of the 56 measures introduced by Suozzi: renaming the Oyster Bay Wildlife Refuge for Congressman Lester Wolff, honoring a Black unit in the National Guard with the Harlem Hellfighters Congressional Gold Medal Act and an amendment that authorized funds to help pay for fixing the Northrop Grumman toxic plume in Bethpage.

Suozzi said his brief legislative record does not tell the whole story.

“There's much more to legislating than just getting a particular bill that your name is on to get it done,” Suozzi said.

“I’ve worked very hard to build relationships,” he said. “The most important thing in a legislative body is to have relationships, so that people trust you and that people feel that they can work with you.”

Suozzi highlighted his ranking in the top 15% on the Bipartisan Index of the Lugar Center and McCourt School of Public Policy at Georgetown University and pointed to his vote bucking Democrats for a waiver to allow former Gen. James Mattis to serve as defense secretary.  

Some of Suozzi’s closest relationships appear to be the members of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, currently led by Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.) and Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), built around the idea of crossing the aisle.

“He's somebody who regularly works with Republicans if it’s what's best for the people he represents,” Gottheimer said of Suozzi in a phone interview.

In his first term, when Republicans controlled Congress and the White House, Suozzi and many Democrats in the Problem Solvers often voted with Republicans on Republican-sponsored bills.

Suozzi voted only 90% of the time with his party during those two years when the norm for his Democratic colleagues was to vote with their party 99% of the time, according to UCLA's VoteView ratings.

In his second term, after Democrats took control of the House and he had been promoted to the Ways and Means Committee, Suozzi continued to break with his party on votes, but less often. He voted with the Democratic majority 97% of the time.

And by his third term — when Democrats controlled Congress and the White House and he focused on his race in the Democratic primary for New York governor — Suozzi voted with his party 99% of the time.

Still, many on the political left say they are wary of Suozzi.

“He's a very corporate-friendly Democrat,” said social activist Melanie D’Arrigo, who ran against Suozzi in 2020 and said his Problem Solvers Caucus' purpose is to “represent corporate interests and corporate donors.”

The National Republican Campaign Committee criticizes Suozzi for his votes with his Democratic majority, particularly on issues such as police, crime and immigration.

"Tom Suozzi's attempted comeback tour will be playing all the hits: self-enrichment, defunding the police, and raising taxes [just to name a few],” the NRCC said when Suozzi announced he would run for his seat early this month.

Here are some highlights of Suozzi’s legislative activities.

SALT

On Dec. 22, 2017, President Donald Trump signed into law the Republican congressional majority’s sweeping Tax Cut and Jobs Act, which capped taxpayer deductions for state and local taxes at $10,000 and gave Suozzi a new focus — rescinding the SALT cap.

Or, as he repeatedly put it, “No SALT, no deal.”

Suozzi and his Problem Solvers Caucus colleagues battled to lift the cap, which mostly affected New York, New Jersey, California and other reliably Democratic states with high local taxes, calling it an unfair tax on local taxes and an attack on “blue states.”

But they faced opposition from Republicans from states with lower local taxes and liberal Democrats citing studies that said wealthy homeowners benefited the most from the deductions — and a Senate unwilling to reopen the issue of SALT caps, which expire in 2025.

“I was the leader of the Democrats on SALT. And I got it through the House three times, and it was not easy to get done,” Suozzi said.

In November 2021, the Democratic House majority voted in favor of raising the cap to $80,000, limiting the benefit to higher-income homeowners. But once again, the Senate rejected the bid to raise the SALT cap.

Other issues

Immigration: Suozzi joined the bipartisan opposition to a 2018 Republican bill aimed at tightening the border and also voted against anti-sanctuary city bills. But he broke with the Democratic majority to vote for measures to boost the border patrol, tighten security and reject voting rights for noncitizens.

In 2019, Suozzi and then-Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) proposed a $10 billion bill to provide a path to legal status for immigrants with temporary status or those brought to the United States as children and allot $8.6 billion to a steel wall and other border security measures and $1.4 billion for administrative costs.

Israel: Suozzi has voted on measures to support Israel, including backing the two-state solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and opposing the boycott, disinvestment and sanctions movement against Israel. He also backed U.S. sanctions for Hamas or Hezbollah using civilians as shields and a measure that takes aim at European antisemitism.

Crime: Suozzi generally supports law enforcement, though he voted for the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act with measures to combat police misconduct, excessive force and racial bias. He voted against a motion condemning calls to defund the police and was absent for a vote on a bill to add killing of police as an aggravating factor for a jury in a death penalty trial.

Trump: Along with other Problem Solver Caucus members, Suozzi met with Trump and tried, mostly unsuccessfully, to work with him on legislation. Suozzi was reluctant but eventually supported the first impeachment of Trump. After being evacuated from the House chamber while wearing a gas mask during the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol building, he supported the second impeachment. 

Abortion: Abortion-rights supporters, including Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul, have raised concerns about Suozzi's support of the Hyde Amendment that bars federal funding for abortions after he once said it was "settled law." In 2019, he co-sponsored and voted for a bill to repeal the Hyde Amendment. And he voted to preserve abortion rights with votes on a half dozen bills.

Bringing home bacon

All lawmakers scramble to bring home federal dollars and Suozzi was no exception. He says he has made efforts through legislation and working with federal agencies and other members of Congress to bring millions of dollars to his district.

In his first term in 2017, Suozzi and King persuaded other members to support his amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act for $34 million to help pay for the cleanup of the Northrop Grumman toxic plume in Bethpage.

During the pandemic, Suozzi led a New York bipartisan delegation to complain to the Trump administration that its distribution of $30 billion in COVID-19 funding to hospitals based on population shortchanged New York, which had 35% of the cases — the most in the country.

The administration responded by creating a $10 billion fund for “hot spot” hospitals dealing with the most COVID cases, resulting in $5 billion for New York hospitals.

Suozzi said he also worked with the bipartisan Long Island Sound Caucus to increase funding from $4 million in 2016 to $40 million in 2023, and worked with Republicans for improvements to the Northport VA Medical Center, including demolition of decrepit buildings.

And, like other members, Suozzi took advantage of House Democrats’ decision in 2019 to revive earmarks as “community projects" and won $18.7 million for 21 local projects.

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