I first met you less than a week ago. Back then you were still just “Bob.”
Yes, now it’s “Honorable Bob.” (laughs)
What are your first impressions, on your first day on the job?
I was impressed with the warm welcome, the collegial spirit. I met with a lot of people today. The New York delegation was particualrly helpful and friendly. I was introduced on the floor by Charlie Rangel. We had a nice chat. The New York group works together on a number of things, which was good to hear. Joe Crowley explained a few things to me that we can work together on. It was all very positive. I walked in feeling there was more contentiousness, but didnt see that at all today.
What is your number one priority as a new Member of Congress?
My priorities right now are all logisitics–to set up the offices, both here and in the district, to get the right staff and the right flow of information from the constituents to the office, and get the right legislative agenda and priorities set up. I also want to try to get on the right committees. That’s a function of availability and interest.
Speaking of that legislative agenda, what’s the first thing you want to accomplish?
I’m primarily interested in the impact of the Dodd-Frank bill on New York State and New York City. We’re the world’s financial capital–banking, insurance, trade, commodities, et cetera–and a lot of the impact, or the unintended consequences, of Dodd-Frank will fall on New York, and we are only beginning to sift that out now. That is going to take a little direction, fine-tuning, and even elimination of parts of that law to protect New York jobs and growth in these areas. I’ll be paying special attention to that.
In terms of the jobs bill that President Obama wants Congress to pass right away, how will you approach that?
What I’ve said is that this is the starting point. We need to initiate some action, and the President has taken step one, and said, “All right, here’s a plan.” I think there are some things there that are difficult and problematic. Let’s sit down, on both sides of the aisle, and think about where we can go from here, and which parts we can negotiate together.
The issue of Israel was a big part of your campaign. With questions about a Palestinian state looming at the United Nations, what can Congress do?
There are funding provisions for the Palestinian Authority, and there are implications for nations that may be receiving a lot of foreign aid on our part. When they are voting against our interests and Israel’s interests in the UN, we might want to take a look at that. The UN measures are not helpful to the peace process or even to the Palestinians. It [just] seems some type of propaganda victory.
What should Congress do about the Solyndra scandal?
They received enormous subsidies from the government and from taxpayers. The return is worse than poor. There may be indications of fraud, gross mismanagement, et cetera–it better be investigated thoroughly.
Your election already seems a long itme ago.
Yes it does! (laughs)
In what way, specifically, do you think it was a referendum on Obama’s policies?
The Democratic candidate was a party politician who pledged to support the Democratic caucus and Obama agenda. He had some differences from it, but that was his direction. From the beginning of the campaign, we said, “If you think the president is doing a good job, vote this way, but if you are dissatisfied, and want a more businesslike approach to job creation, if you think the Obama policies toward Israel could be strengthened by protesting, here’s a way to go.” On all of those issues, it came down to the voters’ dissatisfaction with the President.
Did you receive some votes from left-wing voters who are upset that Obama is not left-wing enough?
Well, I think they had an alternative. The socialist candidate [Chris Hoeppner] had a party line, and he was urging people to take to the streets to seize power from the capitalists, et cetera. There was a hard left–even a worse hard-left campaign for them.
Former New York mayor Ed Koch was a big part of your campaign, yet you didn’t agree on economic issues.
That’s true, but we were able to agree. Before the mayor got involved, I had my positions posted on my website about Social Security and Medicare–non-privatization, protecting those over 55 years old already vested in the system and relying on it–so I chatted with the mayor. We spoke a good deal about Medicaid and block grants. I did not have a clear position. We discussed what a clear position could be that we could both live with, and moved on. Most issues we don’t agree on. But Mayor Koch has been one of the bright spots. He made it fun, he made it interesting, and the best part was i made a new friend.
Did you have a particular model in mind for your campaign?
No–because there isn’t anything like the 9th district. The demographic splits, the ethnic splits–there was no model for this. I guess it was largely an economic model: middle-income people, homeowners, people who pay the freight, and pay the taxes. That’s the common denominator.
When did you know you could win? What was the turning point?
Long, long before anybody else. Shortly after the Koch meeting and endorsement, I thought I’d win, and so did he. Some political professionals weren’t so sure that early, but as we were coming along, it was becoming more evident, and even when we were 6 points behind, the way the polls broke indicated we could build momentum, and we did. I had a good degree of confidence–maybe unjustifiably, but I did.
Will you be affected by redistricting? Will you still have a district?
The lines may change, the numbers may change. But everybody will be represented, and somehow I’ll be in the fight in ’12. I hope we can maintain as much of the district intact–but whatever happens, I’m spoiling for the fight.
What message do you have for readers of the Breitbart sites?
In this heavily Democratic district, voters are really dissatisfied with the Obama agenda, and it better be fixed, and the politicians who are supporting it better take heed. And I hope we can moderate that agenda greatly in the next 16 months–and if not, what happened in New York’s 9th district will be happening everywhere.
Which candidate do you like in the presidential race?
I like them all. I’ll let the process work its way out and then support the winner. I think there are fine candidates there.