In a Sept. 12 guest column published here on RiverheadLOCAL, Congressman Lee Zeldin, citing Lugar Center bona fides as demonstration of his willingness to work across the aisle, issued a call for bipartisan cooperation in Washington.
Setting aside the fact that the Lugar Center ranking is a fraught “award” (82% of the top 50 “most bipartisan members of Congress” were Republicans) this call is cynical, misleading and made in bad faith.
Nothing in Congressman Zeldin’s voting record, his media appearances and presence on social media as well his failure to advance or address issues important to his North Fork constituency is demonstrative of bipartisanship.
Quite the opposite, in fact.
The voting record
Zeldin’s voting record in the first legislative session of the 116th Congress was highly partisan and demonstrates his willingness to support extreme political positions that do not coincide with the majority views held by his constituency.
During this session, Zeldin has voted against major House legislative efforts to:
protect Americans (and tens of thousands of his constituents) with pre-existing medical conditions,
effect universal background checks for gun purchases,
end the government shutdown in January and
address climate change.
All of these issues continue to enjoy majority support across the country and in this district.
In addition to these votes on major legislation, there are numerous instances of Zeldin being the sole member of New York’s Republican caucus to vote against otherwise popular, bipartisan House resolutions that have passed with just a few dozen dissenting Republican votes.
The first rule of bipartisanship: Sometimes, you have to support the other party’s legislation.
Media appearances and social media presence
Lee Zeldin has been one of the most consistent, dedicated and virulent supporters of the Donald John Trump Administration both in the traditional media and on social media platforms.
In that role, he has relentlessly attacked members of the Democratic party from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to freshman members of Congress who do not share his views on Middle East policy to (just this past weekend) Adam Schiff, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.
His attacks have been relentless and personal. They have ranged from the childish and deeply unprofessional to highly charged, even dangerous to the safety of his fellow House members.
The second rule of bipartisanship: Unceasing attacks on the other party does not create an environment for cooperation.
Failure to advance or address issues important to his North Fork constituency
The results of Lee Zeldin’s five years in Congress as they relate to three key issues for North Fork residents speak for themselves.
Zeldin has failed to deliver on addressing the helicopter noise problem with the FAA. In 2015, as a freshman Congressman Zeldin promised results based on his appointment as vice chairman of the aviation subcommittee.
It is 2019 and nothing has changed. We remain at square one, petitioning an unresponsive bureaucracy for redress of grievances. Zeldin’s putative job as a Congressman is to cut through red tape and deliver change for his constituents.
Secondly, in a blow to open land preservation Zeldin has been unable to protect Plum Island from being sold to the highest bidder and developed. His numerous efforts have failed to bear fruit due to Republican obstruction in the Senate. Obstruction…by the Party…he belongs to.
Lastly and of significant concern, Zeldin has failed to deliver on visa reform for North Fork farmers and seasonal businesses. Again, as a freshman in 2015 when sourcing labor was beginning to be a concern he promised to address the issue with members of the L.I. Farm Bureau in Riverhead.
As of the March 2019 meeting of the L.I. Farm Bureau when farm visas have become an existential crisis for many farmers and business owners on the North Fork, Zeldin conceded, “There has never been a point where I’ve been less optimistic that anything is going to get done about anything.”
The third rule of bipartisanship: If you want to deliver for your constituents, see Rules 1 and 2 above.
The truth of the matter is that Lee Zeldin has never possessed the requisite power within his own party to advance the interests of the North Fork. If he held sway in the ranks of said party, he would have been able to address the issues detailed above when his party controlled the House, the Senate and the White House.
In the current context of a Democratically controlled House in 2020 and perhaps beyond, his ability to address the interests of our district is even further diminished.
As such, his call for bipartisanship is cynical, misleading and made in bad faith. It is meant to divert attention from his failures as our representative and eventually cast Democrats as the reason for these failures.
As we move toward 2020, North Fork voters should recognize that Lee Zeldin has not delivered on key issues affecting the North Fork and we cannot afford him yet another opportunity to accomplish nothing.
Steven Kramer is a poet, writer and political activist. He is a lead member of Indivisible North Fork. He lives in Riverhead.
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