Rep. Joseph Crowley, D-N.Y., spoke at Rosenthal Library on Sept. 21, addressing political issues such as the Iran nuclear deal, education and the Citizens United decision.
Crowley, a Queens College alum, offered his gratitude for the college’s invitation back to his alma mater to speak with individuals just like him 30 years ago.
“Being the son and the grandson of immigrants, it is an honor to have the opportunity to represent such hardworking and wonderful people,” Crowley said.
Crowley, first elected to Congress in 1999, previously served 12 years in the New York state Assembly. He currently represents the state’s 14th congressional district, which includes Astoria through parts of Flushing. He is up for reelection in 2016.
Crowley answered questions about the affordability of higher education and potential policy plans for relief for private student loans.
“One of the critical things we have to do is reauthorize the Higher Education Act,” Crowley said. “The cost of higher education in the private sector is through the roof and really is unaffordable to the average middle class family.”
Crowley suggested communicating with the private colleges, including multiple Catholic institutions, to find a solution on college affordability. He also supported free community college and President Barack Obama’s proposal for it.
“We need to re-examine our priorities,” Crowley said.
When asked about his support of the Iranian nuclear deal, viewed as controversial and politically divisive, Crowley defended his stance on the agreement.
“It was one of the most difficult decisions I had to make,” Crowley said.
Crowley recognized the shortcomings of the deal, yet dismissed criticisms of its potential 24-day waiting period for the nuclear sites inspection, which he argued is not long.
“The idea that we could have had a better deal struck if the terms go down, I don’t believe that is the case,” Crowley said.
Crowley supported the deal after hearing briefings from the State Department and other confidential sources from the military.
“I’m concerned about what happens after 15 years but, I think in this day and age, we have to take what we can get at this point,” Crowley said.
Although, he felt confident the U.S. military could strike Iran should the country violate the agreement.
Additionally, Crowley supported more foreign aid to Israel, particularly in the area of defense.
The Citizens United decision, where the Supreme Court allowed unlimited donations in campaigns, was also brought up. Crowley said the decision changed politics in the U.S. as entities can contribute unlimited resources, while individuals are limited what they can contribute to a campaign.
“It gave corporations, I would argue, even more rights than the individual,” Crowley said.
The Democratic representative addressed the low approval ratings for Congress, which reflected “a lack of progress people see in the world.”
Crowley offered strategies to move beyond current political divisions and enact new policies in Congress. He referred to “artificial deadlines” and “artificial cliffs,” such as the fiscal deadline, as causes of many problems in Congress and a reason behind the federal government shutdown in 2013.
“We don’t need to be making these man-made cliffs or false cliffs. We really need do the people’s business as opposed to just the politics,” Crowley said.
Patricia Rachal, the chairperson of political science at QC, was impressed by the Political Science Club’s ability to put on such an event.
“No matter what one’s political orientation is, having Representative Crowley here afforded us an opportunity to ask questions of high saliency to an elected official and that doesn’t happen all that often,” Rachal said.
In addition, Rachal encouraged future events on campus involving elected lawmakers.
“I would love to see other events. Sort of underscoring the opportunity that we live in New York, we’re in Queens, this diverse borough. There’s all sorts of elected and appointed officials and I would like to see us bring more to campus,” Rachal said.