New York City’s Congressional delegation will hold major influence over federal spending and dominate a panel that oversees banks, insurers, housing and investing.
House Democrats are still rolling out committee assignments, but a couple of NYC Representatives landed choice roles this week.
Long-serving Bronx Rep. Jose Serrano landed an Appropriations subcommittee chairmanship, over Commerce, Justice, Science and related agencies. That means Serrano will get first crack at funding for the Commerce Department—there’s a Census coming up in 2020—as well as the FBI, immigration judges and agencies studying weather and climate change, such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency.
“It’s very hard to look at a part of the bill where you would say New York doesn’t have an interest in this,” Serrano said.
Serrano will serve as a top lieutenant for chairwoman Nita Lowey, a fellow New York City-area Democrat. Queens Rep. Grace Meng is also a member of Appropriations.
Freshman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez got a seat on the Financial Services Committee, one of the four so-called “A” committees sought by members. She’ll join fellow New York City Representatives Carolyn Maloney, Nydia Velazquez and Greg Meeks on a committee that’s expected to have 60-some members when finalized.
Ocasio-Cortez has built a massive national following since her upset primary victory last June. And supporters and progressive activists hope she’ll bring some scrutiny to Wall Street.
“We can dig into for-profit ICE [Immigrations and Customs Enforcement] detention,” Ocasio-Cortez said, as she hustled to a House vote. “We can dig into the student loan crisis. There’s a lot.” On Twitter, she added she wanted to create public and postal banking.
Personally, I’m looking forward to digging into the student loan crisis, examining for-profit prisons/ICE detention, and exploring the development of public & postal banking. To start. 🙂
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) January 16, 2019
But not every New York Democrat got what they wanted. Politico reported Wednesday that Long Island Rep. Kathleen Rice was denied a slot on the Judiciary Committee after she led the effort to block Nancy Pelosi’s return to House Speaker.
Serrano disputed this account.
“There are people who end up on committees and people who don’t end up on committees," Serrano said. "That’s just the way it works. I didn’t get on Appropriations the first day. I don’t know that there was any retaliation involved.”
Rice remains skeptical but says she won't let any of this distract her.
"I have more important things to focus on than whether or not I got a certain committee assignment, especially when I already serve on two great committees where I can do fantastic work for my district," Rice told us. "Do I think this process was conducted on the up and up? No, I don't. But that’s the world we live in. Right now there are thousands of people in my state and in my district who are going without a paycheck as a result of the government shutdown. Air traffic controllers, TSA agents, IRS employees, and government contractors. That's where my focus is, and everything else is white noise as far as I'm concerned."
And freshman Max Rose is still waiting on his assignment from the Democratic panel that recommends committees. The panel largely is stacked with leadership allies and has been meeting this week to dole out slots
“No, man” Rose said, when asked if he knew his committee assignment. “I hope I don’t get the bathroom cleaning committee.” (There is no bathroom cleaning committee.)
For more, listen to reporter John O'Connor's segment on WNYC:
John O'Connor is WNYC's Washington correspondent. You can follow him on Twitter: @johnroconnor.