When Rep. Jerrold Nadler spoke at Goddard Riverside Community Center a year ago, days before the inauguration of President Donald Trump (which Nadler, in an act of protest, declined to attend), he detailed the steps he and his House colleagues in the Democratic minority would take to oppose the agenda pushed by Trump and congressional Republicans. Last week Nadler returned to the Upper West Side community center and shared his analysis of the first year of the Trump administration at a town hall meeting.
Trump, Nadler said, represents “the greatest threat to constitutional liberty” in living memory. Nadler denounced the president’s attacks on the press, the judiciary and federal agencies like the FBI, and criticized Republicans in the House and Senate for not doing more to scrutinize Trump’s conduct in relation to possible collusion between his campaign and the Russian government during the 2016 election and subsequent investigations into the matter.
“Congress is not fulfilling its oversight role,” Nadler said, adding, “The Republicans in Congress seem to view their role as facilitating whatever the president wants to do and protecting him from the special prosecutor or from the FBI or from anybody who is trying to have oversight of the president or limit his power to do what he wants.”
Nadler, whose 10th Congressional district includes much of Manhattan’s West Side, downtown, and parts of Brooklyn, had been scheduled to hold another public event in Manhattan earlier in the week, but was forced to cancel the event after a standoff in Congress led to a three-day shutdown of the federal government.
For over an hour, Nadler addressed several dozen constituents at Goddard Riverside and fielded questions on a variety of topics, including the upcoming fall midterm elections (“It is so crucial that we have a Democratic House, and preferably Senate, to provide some checks and balances come next January,” Nadler said) and the potential for cuts to Social Security and Medicare benefits, which Nadler fears congressional Republicans will attempt to pursue in the wake of the tax cuts passed last year.
“Congress hasn’t passed much of any significance in this last session, but that tax bill is about the worst thing I can imagine, on any different number of levels,” he said. Nadler believes that the bill will result in increased federal deficits, which Republicans will then cite as justification for reduced spending on Social Security and Medicare. “There is no saving grace in this tax bill at all,” he said.
The shutdown ended after Senate Democrats agreed to support a short-term continuing resolution to fund the government for three weeks after receiving assurances from Republican leaders that the Senate would take up a bipartisan immigration bill including protections for so-called “Dreamers,” undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States as children.
Nearly 800,000 young immigrants were afforded temporary protection from deportation under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program introduced under President Barack Obama. In September 2017, the Trump Administration rescinded DACA and announced that its protections would expire in March, thus imposing a deadline for Congress to pass legislation addressing the issue.
Nadler said that any reasonable comprehensive immigration bill would provide a path to citizenship for Dreamers while also tightening border controls.
“There is almost unanimous opinion on the Dreamers,” Nadler said, citing polls that show broad support for granting permanent legal status for members of the group. “The president agrees ... on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays,” he said, referring to the inconsistent positions Trump has taken on the topic.
Nadler said that pressures on Senate Democrats facing difficult reelection campaigns in the fall midterms made it difficult for Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer to sustain the unity in his caucus needed to exercise leverage to extract additional concessions.
“In the House, we have no leverage at all,” Nadler said. “I voted against reopening the government. So did most Democrats. That was easy to do because we knew we were going to lose the vote.”
“Nothing in the past two months has given me any indication that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell or President Trump will keep their word and allow a vote on a comprehensive, bipartisan bill to address Dreamers and other issues,” Nadler said in a statement after the vote. “House Speaker Paul Ryan isn’t even a party to this compromise and has made no promises about bringing up a bill even if the Senate does pass a DACA fix.”
The town hall meeting that was cancelled due to the shutdown has been rescheduled for Feb. 12 at New York University, but Nadler hinted that a new deadline imposed under the agreement to reopen the government could again derail the event.
“The continuing resolution expires Feb. 8, and hopefully we’re not in another crisis,” he said “Hopefully we don’t have to cancel that too.”