Trump will achieve big legislation, lawmakers say, if he can lead

By Bill Heltzel

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The T-factor infused a panel discussion this morning by three Democratic U.S. representatives who discussed infrastructure, health care and immigration.

The T is President Donald Trump, and all three lawmakers expressed dismay about the president’s first 45 days in office. But they also allowed for a sliver of hope in solving big problems with bipartisan support, if the president is willing to lead.

“He’s a bull in a china shop,” said Eliot Engel, who represents the Bronx and southern Westchester County in New York’s 16th Congressional District.  “And that doesn’t work in government. It’s all about compromise.”

Nita Lowey, Engel and Sean Patrick Maloney spoke at a “Report from Washington” breakfast sponsored by the Westchester County Association at the DoubleTree Hilton in Tarrytown.

Roads and bridges built in the 1950s are crumbling, Engel said, and rebuilding the transportation network and other infrastructure would be a strong economic stimulus. It would also be a good political move.

“Infrastructure is our best chance for bipartisan cooperation in Congress,” he said.

Engel is a member of the congressional committee that would deal with health care reform, but even he has been unable to get a copy of a rumored replacement bill.

“That’s no way to do legislation on a bipartisan basis,” he said. “That’s the way to gridlock.”

He said the president should reach out to everyone in Congress to find ways to tweak the Affordable Care Act, “not break it.”

Trying to reform health care by pulling out pieces of the law would collapse the whole system, said Maloney, who represents mid-Hudson Valley communities in the 18th Congressional District. The big issues are not just cost and coverage, but the impact of the health care law on the debt and deficits.

“Keeping the goodies in and whacking the taxes is like a barrel headed for a waterfall,” he said. “It will blow a hole in the budget.”

Lowey, who represents parts of Westchester and Rockland counties in the 17th Congressional District, said the president is creating an untenable situation with immigration.

She expressed shock that school children are being told to make sure they have a place to go to if they come home to an empty house, and immigrant parents are being told to make sure they have arranged for a guardian for their children in case they are deported.

She supports a sure path toward legality, if not actual citizenship.

Engel said the nation is being punitive toward people who are doing menial jobs who came here for the same reason our grandparents came here: to find a better life.

He advocates a path toward citizenship. But he is pessimistic because Trump has shown no interest in allowing undocumented immigrants to stay.

Maloney said it is not OK for immigrants to come in illegally or break our laws, but the penalty should not be drastic. Immigrants are a critical part of our economy, for instance, in providing labor for many of the farms in New York.

“We want them to get right with the law,” he said, and “the president has an opportunity to get a bill passed.”

Maloney was wary of Trump but the most conciliatory, perhaps in part because his was one of only 12 Democratic districts nationwide that went for Trump. “If the president gets serious,” he said, “we can do good things on infrastructure, tax reform and health care.”

He said the president will find cooperation if he stops tweeting long enough to reach out to Congress. He has to lead.

“The business community is ready to go,” Maloney said. “This is the time to move.”

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About the author

Bill Heltzel
Bill Heltzel has covered criminal justice, courts, government and sports – as a beat reporter and investigative reporter – for daily newspapers in Florida, Indiana, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. He worked for Bloomberg LP in training and sales. He joined The Business Journal in 2016.

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