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My short bio:
My name is Steve Israel. I'm a Congressman and I represent New York's third Congressional District, including the communities of Huntington, North Hempstead, Queens, Oyster Bay, and Smithtown. Born and raised in Brooklyn and on Long Island, I've long loved writing and have finally published my debut novel, [THE GLOBAL WAR ON MORRIS] (http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1476772231?). It is loosely based on my time in Congress, it's a political satire, and I've met the characters (Rove, Bush, Kerry, Cheney, Obama), heard the conversations, and seen the plot twists firsthand. Ask me anything!
My Proof: http://i.imgur.com/Iim9Qu0.jpg
EDIT: Hey everyone, really enjoyed the questions. Hope you will grab your copy of the Global War on Morris to see how Washington really works. It will make you laugh...and maybe cry. As Rona Feldstein would say,'it's time for a little nosh.'
In 2008, You voted yes on HR 6028, a bill supporting the War on Drugs when it was clear by that time the War on Drugs was a failure. You also voted in 2011 to extend the Patriot Act's Roving Wiretaps (HR514). Why was this?
Edit: Thank you for your response
While I support the decriminalization of marijuana, I do believe that we have a responsibility to use all the tools in our toolbox to prevent the proliferation of dangerous drugs. The bill you mentioned authorized continued funding in these areas.
do u like VEEP?
Love it, although it reminds me of my day job. Game of Thrones on the other hand, also reminds me of my day job
Good morning, Congressman-
I work in government relations for the cannabis industry on Capitol Hill and would love to schedule a meeting with your office. Would this be something you could see yourself voting for in the future?
By the way, my boyfriend works at the D Trip and I know he would love a signed copy of The Global War on Morris!
Yes, get in touch with my office.
Tell him to bring a book in and I'll sign it happily!
What is your opinion on global warming?
I am one of the strongest and active fighters for a clean tech economy, and alternatives to fossil fuels. I am the founder of the Sustainable Energy and Environment Coalition (SEEC) in the House.
In my own region we have seen stronger and more frequent weather extremes; our military acknowledges that climate change is an ongoing national security threat, and a truly bold conversion to clean technologies can ignite our economy and create sustainable jobs with growing paychecks for the next generation.
It troubles me that many of my colleagues, when faced with such a profound threat to their children and our future say 'let's just roll the dice.'
Have you gotten feedback from any of the real-life characters portrayed in the book? How about from the fake characters immortalized with real last names?
If I'm missing for more than 3 days, please call Vice President Cheney
How do you feel about the Paramount being in Huntington ?
Just saw Frank Caliendo there last Saturday night. Hilarious! Nobody does a better Bill Clinton or John Madden.
What is the biggest issue in your district that you'll be fighting for in 2015?
A middle class that has been squeezed by unfair policies in Washington. I fight every day against policies that reward the well connected and the special interests at the expense of middle class and working families.
People's paychecks are stretched too thin, but subsidies to big oil companies are lavished too widely.
How would you feel about extending the congressional term from 2 to 4 years?
I'm opposed, 2 years keeps us closer to the people we represent. 4 years insulates us, 6 years makes us senators, and who would want to do that?
What inspired you to write your debut novel now?
I sat in meetings with President Bush and VP Cheney and listened to the most absurd dialogue. I believed it would make a great book, though completely implausible. That's why I decided to work it into a parody based on government snooping on innocent Americans. Ironically, when I began writing the book I, like most Americans, was unaware of the NSA surveillance program. In this case, the truth became stranger than fiction.
What made you want to become a congressman? Is it an ambition you've always had or did it come to you later in life?
Since I was a child I've had three dreams. One, serving in the Congress. Two, writing a novel. Three, playing outfield for the Mets. Since I sucked at baseball, I focused on one and two, which converge in my book.
What is your favorite bagel place on Long Island? How do you prefer your bagel?
Like Morris Feldstein, in my book, I prefer an everything bagel with swiss and to really mix it up, an occasional schmear with lox.
I can't be partisan about bagel places, I just make sure I visit them all. I'm bagel bipartisan.
Hey Steve, I'm a high school student who has a profound interest in politics. I'm also from NY, I'm in the Buffalo area though. What advice would you have for someone who wants to become a politician?
Read, read, read, and read. In that order. Everything I need to know about politics I learned from reading books and articles.
What was the most corrupt thing you saw in your days in office?
The Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United was the most corrupting influence in our political system.
What was your biggest takeaway from writing a novel?
Writing is a fantastic release from the absurdity that I witness every day in Washington DC. Rather than agonizing and internalizing, I shared it all in my novel
What are your favorite political works of fiction? Films or books?
Have you seen A Face in the Crowd?
My favorite political works of political fiction: To Kill a Mockingbird. Favorite film: There are so many! Like Morris Feldstein, anything on Turner Classic Movies that's not colorized.
I'm in discussions with Rob Reiner about adapting my book to television, and told him one of my favorite movies is This Is Spinal Tap. Who would have every thought I would be trading dialogue with Rob Reiner.
Also in Hollywood I've been working with Andrew Lenchewski, creator of the wonderful TV series Royal Pains, which is filmed on Long Island.
Hi Congressman Israel. I am one of the many disappointed in the system. Correct me if I'm wrong. Is the GOP always putting profit over the health and well being of the citizens? Its been too long waiting for real change. Thanks for being here.
Let's use the first day of this session as an example. I helped lead House Democrats in offering two bills. One would stop CEOs from deducting million dollar bonuses from taxes unless their employees were paid fairly. The other would penalize companies for shipping jobs overseas, and use those funds to rebuild America's infrastruture. Sorry to say every Republican in the House voted against both bills.
Hell of an opening day on the Hill. Do you, personally, have any policy goals for the 114th Congress? How is this Congress different from all other Congresses (that you've served in)?
Also, apart from your own book, what is your favorite book to read?
Thank you very much!
Policy goals: climate change and clean technologies, middle class paycheck growth, reducing college debt, and rebuilding infrastructure.
I enjoy Carl Hiaasen, Christopher Moore, Christopher Buckley. and my own constituent Nelson DeMille. I am also a veracious reader of nonfiction, particularly history.
That sounds like a good fit, Spinal Tap meets House of Cards.
I'm forwarding your suggestion directly to Rob Reiner.
Are incumbency rates (as high as 98%) an issue in your eyes? Would the system work better if people from various walks of life were able to represent their fellow citizens for a term and get back to their non-political careers?
I've always believed we have term limits: my contract with the people is either terminated or renewed every 2 years. I do believe that campaign finance and redistricting reform are two essential steps in unstacking the deck.
What are some of the best examples of decisions that you have seen made that were unpopular politically, but necessary based on evidence?
The Affordable Care Act.
I had a town meeting in my district that included lots of anger, screaming, and opposition. I believed it was the right thing to do then, and I still believe it was the right thing despite its unpopularity. And it has become far more popular in the intervening years, and over time will be remembered the same way we remember Medicare and Social Security.
One more question, if you don't mind; I believe that the extreme cost of higher education is a direct result of the availability of Federal student loans. It is my observation that colleges and universities base theri tution and fees on the amount of money that students can borrow (on average) instead of the actual cost of providing an education. What is the worst case scenario if all outstanding Federal Student loans where forgiven and no new loans would be made?
Likely, a two tiered system of college students and graduates whose educations became affordable and future college students simply priced out of an education. I believe reducing college costs requires two areas of focus: incentivizing colleges and universities to lower their overhead, and allowing every student with debt the ability to refinance. If Congress could bail out the big banks, why wouldn't we offer debt relief to middle class college students?
By the way, in my book you'll note that Morris's daughter Caryn could only rise to his defense because of her excellent education at NYU.
Can you describe the process of being lobbied? How does a political donation of a few thousand dollars really influence anyone? What are the other ways that lobbyists influence policy makers? There are 6 lobbyists for every congress person, does it feel that way?
I totally agree that Capitol Hill is overpopulated with lobbyists. The first bill I'm introducing in the new Congress would require that Members of Congress who leave and make million dollar salaries as lobbyists forfeit their congressional pensions. I also believe that the Supreme Court made a grievous error in the Citizens United case by allowing secretive SuperPACs to stack the deck against the middle class.
To this day I believe politics is the most effective way to change what you don't like. My best life advice is to pursue what the universe tells you to pursue, so long as it doesn't violate state and federal law.
What is the most absurdly political discussion you have been a witness too?
See pages 1-289 of The Global War on Morris, it's all in there.
Hey Congressman Israel, I live in NY-1 and was very disappointed in the result of the Bishop v. Zeldin race in 2010. In your role as director of the DCCC who is in the wings to run in 2016 in that race? Is it possible to get anyone besides the serial turncoat, Fred Thiele?
There are quite a few people who have already expressed interest in running. Tim Bishop is one of my best friends, and I spoke with him just a few days ago.
Steve, I heard your interview on NPR yesterday, your book sounds fantastic btw.
I live in Nesconset in Suffolk county, and am about to pull the trigger and leave my home state of New York (native to Cooperstown) because the taxes are crushing me....why shouldn't I leave for Denver? What can New York offer me in that I can't achieve in Colorado?
That's exactly why I'm fighting for a tax code that rewards you and not special interests. We're about to vote on a budget here that will give the richest a massive tax cut and shift the burden to people like you. I also believe high cost of living areas like Long Island deserve lower tax rates in our tax code. Finally, I have two words that should dissuade you from moving away: pizza and bagels. Morris would agree.
Good Morning Congressman,
What's it like representing such a wide area across the island? Some of your constituents are residents of NYC, others are living in mansions along the north shore, and the rest in suburbia.
(Resident of Smithtown)
I love it. It's diverse, and always interesting. The district extends from the Whitestone Bridge to the Nissequogue River, and although each community has district local concerns, most of my constituents agree that there is a middle class squeeze that Washington must address.
By the way- I enjoyed writing about Long Island's unique cultural characteristics in the Global War on Morris.
As someone who, among many of my generation, are largely tired of partisan politics. Are there any Congressmen (on both sides), including yourself, that you know are willing to reach across the aisle? If so, on what issues?
I founded the Center Aisle Caucus which brought together 25 Republicans and 25 Democrats on key issues. I work closely with many Republicans including Rep. Tom Cole, Rep. Richard Hanna, and specifically on NY issues with Rep. Peter King, and others.
What is your opinion of activities like looking into steroids in baseball instead of other more substantial and less headline grabbing activities?
I think Members of Congress should pursue any policy that interests them, and makes a difference to their constituents. One issue I've been involved in that doesn't get headlines is moving elections to weekends in order to boost turnout.
Have you ever said "fuggetaboutit" while in a professional setting? Don't all New Yorkers talk this way?
Youuuu tawkin' about me?
Good morning, Congressman! As a European citizen, I've never really understood the bipartisan system of the US. Time after time, I thought that Dems and Cons were becoming more and more polarized and having no compromise is what, I think, made the Congress reach its current situation. My questions are:
-Do you think that the American people will need voices from outside the system in the future to feel represented?
-Are Democrats ready to face the 2016 elections?
-Do you think that DP will be able to reach the middle class again in the next elections?
Sorry for the bad grammar. Hope to read your book soon :)
I think 2016 will be a much more favorable year for Dems than 2014. I believe that compromise and consensus is essential, but sadly the Tea Party movement in 2010 made compromise a bad word. Moderate Republicans who sought common ground lost their seats to far more polarizing figures from the right. We need to learn how to find middle ground where we can.
Can you summarize the influence of Karl Rove? Is it overstated? Was he an innovator, or just a champion at the game that was always that way?
Karl Rove, like him or not, had a profound impact on our political system.
What are the personal traits that will limit a representatives ability to influence decision making in Washington? What are the traits that make a successful politician - I wonder more about in Washington versus the work in their district?
A successful politician does more listening and less talking, and also has an ability to think outside of the box. People are interested in creative solutions, not stale talking points.
Are pork barrel politics frustrating? Would you rather things were more focused and specific to the point at hand?
Yes, although one person's pork is Morris Feldstein's pastrami.