The 118th Congress: New York’s Ascendence

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On Jan. 3rd, the 118th Congress was seated, and it has quickly become apparent that New York will play an outsized role in this new Congress. New York played a major role in the Republican Party’s flipping of the House of Representatives in Nov. Upstate, Republican Mike Lawler defeated incumbent Democrat and Campaign Committee (the organization that fundraises for incumbent democratic campaigns) Chair Sean Patrick Maloney in a major upset. Fellow Republicans Anthony D’Esposito and George Santos (more on him later) also flipped previously Democratic-held seats out on Long Island, turning the entire region Republican. 

As the new Congress was seated and power hierarchies were put in place, New York’s presence continued to be felt. While much of the media coverage focused on the historically deadlocked battle for the Speaker of the House, lost in the chaos was the immense power New York has attained in the new Congress. During the period where Republican Kevin McCarthy was unable to garner enough votes to become Speaker, Democrat Hakeem Jeffries, who represents parts of Brooklyn and Queens, garnered a plurality of votes as the person elected by Democrats to be their leader in the House of Representatives succeeding Nancy Pelosi, in this case, the Minority Leader.
In addition, Elise Stefanik, a Republican from upstate NY, is the third-rankling Republican in the House of Representatives. On the Senate side, due to Democrats retaining control of the Senate, New York Senator Chuck Schumer will retain his position as the Senate Majority Leader, the most powerful person in the Senate. 

However, not all of these New York-centered Congressional developments have been positive. As mentioned above, Santos flipped a Long Island House seat that was previously Democratic, but has been under constant fire for allegedly lying about numerous aspects of his background that got him elected. These range from Santos claiming to be Jewish and having relatives perish in the Holocaust to alleged violations of campaign finance laws in his 2020 and 2022 campaigns among others.
Although Santos has denied most of these allegations and has not lost any committee positions in the House, he is seen as a ‘pariah’ who no lawmakers truly want to associate with. In fact, Nassau County Executive and GOP Member Bruce Blakeman told NPR that due to the allegations, “I’m going to take other measures in order to have proper channels with the federal government, but it will not be through George Santos’ office.”

The implications of this past election for the people of New York City are profound. The leaders of the Democratic Party in Congress are not just from New York State, but New York City (Schumer got his start in politics representing Brooklyn). Schumer, in particular, has been open about his desire to work with Jefferies to utilize their positions and work towards a better New York stating, “I think I’ll have [a] close relationship with Hakeem, and we’ll both want to help New York,” he said. “They are in the minority, so it’s harder, but the minority can still get a lot done.” 

On the student level, this new Congress presents an extraordinary opportunity for students to get involved with an elected official who has remarkable power in the new Congress. According to the website for CUNY’s flagship internship program in politics, the Edward T. Rogowsky Internship Program in Government and Public Affairs, CUNY students have been placed in both Senator Schumer’s and Representative Jeffries’ offices. Students interested in these opportunities with New York’s newly influential congressional leaders should reach out to Professor Keena Lipstiz, the internship coordinator for the Political Science Department for more information on these opportunities.  

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