Bipartisanship is a tool in freshman Congressman’s legislative toolbox
Andrew Garbarino called his first few weeks in Washington D.C. as a freshman Congressman representing the Second Congressional District “a baptism by fire.” How else would he describe a three-week span that saw the Electoral Count Act, the final step to confirm President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 presidential election over incumbent President Donald Trump, a protest over the count, the Trump rally, an insurrectionist assault on the Capitol, a presidential inauguration and a House of Representatives impeachment vote?
And while the partisan divide in the nation’s capitol is and has been a chasm seemingly incapable of being bridged, Garbarino is intent in building off the message of unity Biden delivered to the country.
“I went to George W. Bush’s second inauguration when I was in college and it was packed and everyone was excited,” Garbarino recalled. “President Biden’s speech was 10 minutes shorter than it would have been at a normal inauguration because there weren’t pauses for standing ovations and clapping. It was just eerily quiet and wasn’t like what I had experienced years ago. I enjoyed his speech, especially the unification part. Let’s go with a clean slate and all work together for the American people.”
The Sayville native is so firm in wanting to work across the aisle that he signed on to a letter sent to the president early on Inauguration by a group of House GOP freshmen pledging to “rise above the partisan fray to negotiate meaningful change for Americans across the nation.” What started out as a note penned by Beth Van Duyne from Texas to express her freshman class’ desire to start on a fresh note with the administration was enthusiastically embraced by her GOP peers after it was shared on a group text thread.
“What I liked about the letter is you had people who signed it who voted for impeachment, who didn’t vote for impeachment, who voted for certification and who voted for objection,” Garbarino said. “I guarantee you that President Biden and I will not agree on everything—maybe even 80 percent of things. But when we can find that common ground, where we can work together and I can make the lives better not just for all Americans, but specifically New Yorkers and people in the Second Congressional District—I’m going to do that.”
With committee appointments occurring at a pretty rapid clip, Garbarino was tapped to serve on the House Committee on Small Business (“As a third-generation small business owner, it is an honor to be appointed to serve on the House Small Business Committee”) and the House Homeland Security Committee (“One of the promises I made to the people of Long Island when I ran for Congress was to work to keep our communities safe and protect our heroes in law enforcement—this assignment is a direct fulfillment of my promise to secure our country and keep Long Islanders safe.”) It’s an appointment Peter T. King, the former committee chairman and Second Congressional District incumbent Garbarino is succeeding heartily approved of.
“Rep. Garbarino’s appointment to the Homeland Security Committee is a victory for Long Islanders. New York and Long Island remain the number one target for terrorist threats,” King said in a statement. “Andrew’s appointment to the committee will undoubtedly keep our region safer.”
But if there is one committee appointment that allows the former New York State Assemblyman to truly partake in bipartisanship, it’s his inclusion on the Problem Solvers Caucus. The members of this group go into the 117th Congress with a total membership of 56 (up from 50)—28 Democrats and 28 Republicans including 16 new members. On it, Garbarino will be serving alongside fellow Long Island Congressman Tom Suozzi, a Democrat representing the neighboring Third Congressional District.
“The Problem Solvers Caucus provides bipartisan solutions to issues large and small,” Garbarino said. “That’s why my experience in Albany is going to help so much. I was in the extreme minority in Albany and I was still able to work with the other side and produce for my district. You need to find common ground or absolutely nothing will get done. Republicans and Democrats have to work together.”
While Garbarino is optimistic, as a conservative, he hasn’t been too pleased to see the number of executive orders President Biden has been signing. It’s reminiscent of his experiences in the state capital that he felt flew in the face of bipartisanship.
“I’ve experienced executive orders and regulations in Albany and they don’t work,” he said. “It doesn’t work when you circumvent the legislature. There is a lot of stuff that is vetted out, debated and corrected in the legislative process and to skip over it just to go to executive orders is when real issues happen. As a legislator, I’ve never liked when any executive has done it—Republican or Democrat. Laws are not supposed to be done by executive fiat—we have a legislature for a reason. I’m hoping that’s not the way we see things go because if it is in the first 100 days, [otherwise] I feel that’s where we’re going to be for the rest of the next two years.”
Garbarino is already working across the aisle with Democrat Mondaire Jones to introduce the SALT Deductibility Act, bipartisan legislation which restores the full State and Local Tax (SALT) deduction. The proposal would allow taxpayers to fully deduct their state and local taxes on their federal income returns.
“If we increase it [significantly], that’s going to help a lot of people in my district and a lot of people in New York,” Garbarino said. “My job is not to be down here to be a Republican. My job is to be down here and make my constituents’ lives better.” down here and make my constituents’ lives better.”