With Congress on recess, Reps. Carolyn Maloney and Nydia Velazquez held a joint town hall on April 13 to meet with constituents from their adjacent districts at the Anna Silver School on the Lower East Side.
In contrast to the antagonism between constituents and elected officials that has come to characterize some Republican-led town halls in recent months, attracting national coverage, the crowd at last week’s event was largely supportive of the representatives’ central message: staunch opposition to President Donald Trump. “Nydia and I served together on the city council years ago, then we were both elected [to Congress] in ‘92, and we are now part of the resistance,” Maloney said in her opening remarks, to cheers from the audience.
Maloney and Velazquez were joined by a panel of experts from the New York Civil Liberties Union, Fiscal Policy Institute, New York Housing Conference and New York State of Health, who detailed the local impacts of Trump administration policies, and fielded questions on topics including guns, health care, foreign policy and government ethics.
As one of the panelists delivered remarks, an aide to Maloney walked briskly onto the stage to deliver a note to the congresswoman. Maloney was visibly concerned after she read the message, and rose from her seat to share it with Velazquez, who silently shook her head as she reviewed it. A few moments later, Maloney shared the note’s contents with the crowd: several news outlets were reporting that the Trump administration was considering a preemptive strike against North Korea if American officials became convinced that the North Korean regime would conduct further testing of nuclear weapons.
“I’m sure Democrats will be calling to go back into Congress immediately,” Maloney said. “They can’t do such an action without a vote from Congress. But this shows you what we confront every day in Congress.”
Both congresswomen expressed their dissatisfaction with congressional investigations into alleged Russian interference in the presidential election. “It’s not alleged,” Maloney said. “I was tapped. During the campaign I started getting emails from Russians. I even had a Russian handler who was contacting me. Yet the powers that be, our national security people, never talked about that like it was a problem.”
“Here we are, knowing that Russia interfered in our democratic election, and there are some that are not committed to get to the bottom of how did it happen and who was involved and if there was any collusion,” Velazquez said. “The people of this country need to know that our democracy is intact.”
Despite speaking of efforts to launch an independent investigation into Russian interference and force Trump to release his tax returns, Maloney eventually acknowledged Democrats’ uncomfortable reality as the minority party in both houses of Congress. “The main thing is: elections have consequences and when you have the majority, you control the agenda,” she said. “So we can say, ‘We want a hearing, [...] we want a commission.’ We don’t have the votes at this point to pass it unless we convince our Republican colleagues to vote for it.”
“Even though we are in the minority, we can be good at disrupting and shaming them,” Velazquez added.
The House of Representatives is scheduled to reconvene April 25.