Meng Heads To Washington
By Joe Marvilli
|U.S. Rep. Grace Meng addresses supporters after her swearing in ceremony in Washington D.C. last week as her new Chief of Staff Jedd Moskowitz looks on.
Photos by Ira Cohen.
The borough of Queens has now given the House of Representatives its first Asian-American Congresswoman from the East Coast.
U.S. Rep Grace Meng (D-Flushing) was inaugurated along with the rest of the 113th Congress on Jan. 3 to represent the 6th Congressional District, which was remade during the redistricting process.
Two buses full of family, supporters, elected officials, community leaders and media members traveled from Flushing to Washington D.C. in order to view the swearing-in ceremony and attend Meng’s reception afterwards.
Viewing the event from a packed room in the Cannon House Office Building, the group burst into applause around 1 p.m. when the new Congresswoman cast her first vote in the House, putting forward Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi as her pick for the role of House speaker. This pick was met with defeat though, as the 112th Congress’ House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) was re-elected.
“I wish Nancy Pelosi, as the first female speaker, would continue to be our speaker, but I’m hopeful for the future as well,” Meng said on the vote.
Following this vote was the actual swearing-in ceremony. When Meng took the oath for her first time at 2:10 p.m., the room once again exploded into cheers.
Afterwards, the Congresswoman arrived at the reception to thank her supporters and praise the district she now represents.
“I’m very excited to represent this district, which is comprised of many different areas, but it’s such a beautiful district compared to many of the others,” Meng said. “I appreciate your support and I look forward to continue to work with you for your advice.”
The former state assemblywoman replaced retiring U.S. Rep. Gary Ackerman after defeating Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone) in November. She told the large reception crowd that she is ready to get to work and she will take her new position very seriously.
“I do not take lightly that the title and name on my door is Representative,” Meng said. “That’s my most important job, first and foremost.”
|U.S. Rep. Grace Meng stands outside the U.S. Capitol building with supporters after she was sworn in as the representative for New York’s 6th Congressional District.
“A Historic Day”
Many of Meng’s supporters were thrilled to see her join the House as the first Asian-American woman from the East Coast, with quite a few stating that she could be seen as a role model for young minorities.
“This is a truly historic day,” Councilman Peter Koo (D-Flushing) said at her reception. “I hope she will be a trailblazer and she will be a role model for younger-generation Americans. I hope she will attract people to get into politics.”
Koo also believed that Meng’s rise to the House is a step in the right direction for the Asian-American community’s presence and influence on a national level in government.
“It is important that we have fair representation,” he said. “It shows America is a good country. Everybody has a chance. When the opportunity comes, you can do it.”
Jukay Hsu, the founder of the Coalition for Queens who traveled down to D.C. to watch her inauguration as well, had similar views on the importance of Meng’s new position.
“I think her life story as a child of immigrants, going to public schools and giving back to her community makes something for any background to be proud of,” he said. “In many ways, it’s a modern American dream. I can see her as someone from my generation.”
Hsu commended the Congresswoman’s support of the Coalition for Queens and of the Borough’s tech industry in general.
“One way to create economic growth in Queens is to support technology,” he said. “We want to work with her on encouraging the development of these industries and start-up businesses.”
Councilman Mark Weprin (D-Oakland Gardens) said he had high hopes for the new Congresswoman.
“I think Grace Meng is going to be a star in Washington and a great representative for the people in Queens,” he said. “She’s one of the most genuine people I’ve ever met in government and that’s going to be a huge benefit to what she can accomplish.”
Meng herself took some time to discuss the significance of her election and the impact she hopes it will have.
“I’m very proud to be an Asian-American. I’m very proud to be a woman elected to Congress,” the Congresswoman said. “I think that as a daughter of immigrants, my story and my biography reflects that of Americans throughout time. I especially hope to be a role model and encourage younger people to get involved in government and their communities.”
The Congresswoman stated she was ready to get to work immediately, even taking over Ackerman’s office for the time being so she could get started on day one, rather than spending her time setting up a new Queens office. Meng did state though that she wants to set up two offices in the Borough, one in Flushing or Bayside and one in Forest Hills or Kew Gardens.
On the day of her inauguration, she mentioned her frustration with the Republican Majority for choosing to delay a vote on the Superstorm Sandy Aid Bill. She said it was one of her highest priorities, a sentiment that held true when she voted in favor of the bill one day later.
“I am pleased that my first substantive vote in Congress was on this critical aid package, which will greatly assist those hit hard by Hurricane Sandy,” she said in a statement. “Providing relief to Americans in their time of need should not be a partisan issue, and I’m glad that these crucial funds will finally start to flow to the thousands of New Yorkers who desperately need it.”
Moving forward, Meng mentioned her next highest priority will be gun control legislation, an issue which President Barack Obama is trying to move forward in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. On Jan. 4, one day after she was sworn in, the Congresswoman announced that she will introduce legislation to close the “fire sale loophole.” Through this loophole, gun dealers with revoked licenses are able to sell weapons as if they were private collectors. As a result, these guns can be sold without the mandatory check on the purchaser.
“It is imperative that we do all we can to ensure that guns do not get into the hands of those who should not possess them,” said Meng. “My bill as well as other reasonable and common sense gun laws would go a long way towards accomplishing that critical goal.”
Meng also sent letters to Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. Rep. Mike Thompson (D-California), asking them to include her proposal in any gun control package they create.
In addition, Meng said she hopes to continue to encourage small business growth.
“I think there’s a lot of potential for small business owners, especially in Queens. There’s a lot of potential for partnerships with tech companies,” Meng said. “As a daughter of small business owners and as someone who was involved in the small business community back in the Assembly, I’m very excited to get to work.”
Reach Reporter Joe Marvilli at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 125, or at email@example.com.