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Rep. Hakeem Jeffries quietly gets to work

DAVID KENE Special to the AmNews | 1/10/2013, 2:15 p.m.
TWU endorses Adriano Espaillat, Hakeem Jeffries for Congress

After winning a commanding victory to succeed Ed Towns as representative of Brooklyn's 8th Congressional District, Hakeem Jeffries was sworn into office as a member of the 113th Congress last week.

His first official words were of appreciation and promise. "It is an honor and privilege to represent the people of New York's 8th Congressional District in Brooklyn and Queens," said Jeffries. "As a member of Congress, I look forward to working tirelessly to advance an agenda of economic prosperity and social justice on behalf of working families, middle-class residents and seniors in our community."

One week into his job, Jeffries has quietly gotten to work. Newly elected Jeffries has already begun edifying his congressional voting record. With a website barely functional, Jeffries' voting record has been branded online and is partisan, in line with his Democratic colleagues and Brooklyn delegation.

Last Thursday, Jeffries was one of 354 Democrats and Republicans who voted to amend the National Flood Insurance Act of 1968 to increase by $9 billion the total amount of notes and obligations that may be issued with approval from President Barack Obama and William Fugate, head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), for the National Flood Insurance Program.

Before that, his vote regarding a bill to amend rules that govern the 113th Congress was evidently recalcitrant toward the Republican-led measure until after one vote of abstention and two of opposition resulted in his final vote of support.

While Towns' resignation meant a loss of seniority, which would have all but ensured a committee chairpersonship should Democrats gain control of the House, such loss was mitigated by prognostications that Republicans will control the House for some time. So the seniority that the people of Brooklyn lost in Towns' resignation leaves open space for Jeffries to make gains.

Jeffries ran on a record and promise to champion reform of our criminal justice system. His legislation won victories in Albany that called to end the NYPD's stop-and-frisk electronic database.

Constituents concerned about the level of vigor exhibited by Brooklyn's congressional representatives regarding the ballooning run-ins with and militarization of the NYPD over the past decade should look to Jeffries' work in the Budget Committee as well as the Judiciary Committee, a committee coveted by many House Representatives, including colleague Yvette Clarke, who expressed a strong desire to be placed on the committee during her congressional run in 2006.

Speaking about his committee assignments, Jeffries said, "There is extremely important work to be done on both the Judiciary and Budget committees, where I will serve. On Judiciary, I will focus on measures to end gun violence, advance comprehensive immigration reform and actively support the growing technology-based economy. As a member of the Budget Committee, I will fight to protect programs important to working-class constituents and seniors while promoting economic growth."

According to Jeffries, a fight with former Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan is looming.

"The Budget Committee, under Chairman Paul Ryan, will likely continue to be a battleground on issues related to the federal deficit, the debt ceiling and the future of essential programs like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security," said Jeffries in a recent statement.