Crowley Climbs House Leadership Ladder
By MEGAN MONTALVO
U.S. Rep. Joe Crowley
After serving seven terms in Congress, U.S. Rep. Joe Crowley (D-Jackson Heights) has finally joined the ranks of Democratic leadership in the House of Representatives.
On Nov. 29, Crowley was unanimously elected by his colleagues to serve as vice chairman of the House Democratic Caucus for the 113th Congress, the fifth-ranking position in House Democratic leadership.
"It is truly an honor to have received the support of my colleagues, and I look forward to serving them as the vice chair of our caucus," said Crowley, who will be the only New Yorker serving in the Democratic leadership. "A new Congress gives us a fresh chance to present our ideas for the nation, and I am eager to get to work alongside Leader Pelosi, Whip Hoyer, Assistant Leader Clyburn, and Caucus Chairman Becerra as we fight to advance an agenda focused on promoting economic growth, creating jobs, strengthening and expanding America's middle class and building a better, stronger country for all Americans."
One day before declaring victory, leading vice chair contender U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) withdrew her candidacy to back Crowley in what would have been the only contested leadership race.
In the initial challenge, Colorado Rep. Jared Polis had also considered a bid for the seat, but dropped out in early November, encouraging his colleagues to support Crowley.
Lee, who is a former chairwoman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and Congressional Black Caucus, will now serve as the Regional Representative on the Steering and Policy Committee (Region II).
"I am pleased and honored to represent my colleagues as the regional representative on the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee," Lee said in a statement. "In this role I will continue my advocacy for our region and my state. I am excited to work with my colleagues as we move our inclusive agenda forward and reignite the American dream for all."
Joining Crowley in the Democratic leadership is former caucus vice chairman, California Rep. Xavier Becerra, who is replacing the term-limited Connecticut Rep. John B. Larson in the party's chairman seat.
In his new role, Becerra will serve as the sole Latino leader among the party's Congressional leadership.
He is the second Latino to hold the position, adding to the most diverse caucus in history next year. Current U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-New Jersey) held the chairmanship during his time in the House of Representatives.
Given the diversity of the caucus - a majority of its members are either a woman or a minority - Crowley said he looks forward to working with Becerra to establish comprehensive immigration reform.
"Fixing our troubled immigration system is one of the greatest challenges facing us as a nation, and the only way we will achieve real reform is by addressing the issue comprehensively and collaboratively," Crowley said.
Since announcing his win as vice chair, Crowley has voted against H.R. 6429, a partisan GOP bill that would create a new visa program for graduates of U.S. universities with advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering and math at the expense of the Diversity Visa Program - a longstanding initiative focused on ensuring diversity in immigration.
According to Crowley's camp, who announced the vote on Nov. 30, the GOP's STEM visa bill not only eliminates this critical program, but is also devoid of any serious effort to address the real problems plaguing the immigration system.
"Partisan, controversial legislation, such as today's STEM visa bill, is not a means to an end," Crowley said. "What we need is a comprehensive solution, which would give us an opportunity to appropriately address STEM visas, instead of piecemeal efforts to pick winners and losers in the immigration system."
In terms of the impending "Fiscal Cliff," which refers to the effect of a number of laws that could result in tax increases and spending cuts beginning in 2013, the Congressman declined to say whether he thinks a compromise could be reached by the deadline.
"It's something we are definitely pushing for," Crowley said. "We are hoping to avoid the deep budget cuts to Medicare and other healthcare programs such as the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act that so many Americans need."
Reach Reporter Megan Montalvo at (718) 357-7400 Ext. 128 or mmontalvo@ queenstribune.com.