“Jerry Nadler not only represents New York well, but he has represented the United States very well.”
– President Bill Clinton
Congressman Jerrold Nadler represents New York’s Eighth Congressional district. The Eighth, one of the most diverse districts in the nation, includes Manhattan’s West Side below 89th Street, Lower Manhattan, and areas of Brooklyn including Borough Park, Coney Island, Brighton Beach, Sea Gate, Bay Ridge, and Bensonhurst.
Congressman Nadler was first elected to the House of Representatives in 1992 after serving for 16 years in the New York State Assembly. He was re-elected to his seventh full term in 2004 with a resounding 80 percent of the vote. Throughout his career he has championed civil rights, civil liberties, efficient transportation, and a host of progressive issues such as access to health care, support for the arts and protection of the Social Security system. He is considered an unapologetic defender of those who might otherwise be forgotten by American law or the economy, and is respected specifically for his creative and pragmatic legislative approaches.
In his roles as an Assistant Whip and a senior member of both the House Judiciary Committee and the House Transportation Committee, Congressman Nadler has the opportunity on a daily basis to craft and shape the major laws that govern our country. From his leadership in response to the September 11th terrorist attacks on his district, to his insight and policymaking prominence on issues facing Israel and the Middle East, Nadler has constantly sought to be steadfast and responsive in his service to New York and the nation.
Promoting Liberty, Equality, and Progressive Values in America
Congressman Nadler is perhaps best known as a prominent member of the House Judiciary Committee. It was there that, as a third-term representative in 1998, he rose to national prominence as a vigorous defender of the Constitution during the Presidential impeachment hearings. Congressman Nadler’s unwavering demand for bipartisan adherence to the Constitution earned him national praise.
Nadler is currently a senior Democrat on the committee, and he serves as the Chairman of the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties Subcommittee, which considers all proposed constitutional amendments and deals with such issues as expression, religious freedom, privacy, due process, civil rights, abortion, and LGBT rights. As Chair of the panel, the Congressman serves as the first line of defense in many of the most crucial ideological battles that take place in the House.
Congressman Nadler’s work on First Amendment freedoms is widely recognized. He is one of Congress’s most vocal defenders of both the separation of church and state and of Americans’ right to exercise their religion freely. He was one of the lead Democratic sponsors of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the Democratic sponsor of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, which was signed into law by President Clinton in 2000 and was recently upheld by the Supreme Court. Nadler has also been a consistent champion of freedom of expression, fighting against countless efforts to restrict speech and quell dissent. As a leader of the Congressional Arts Caucus, Congressman Nadler was one of the chief defenders against House Republican efforts to destroy the National Endowment for the Arts.
In the face of repeated back-door attempts to outlaw abortion, Congressman Nadler has long led House efforts to protect a woman’s right to choose. Kate Michaelman, the former president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, says “Jerry Nadler is at the forefront of the movement to protect reproductive freedom, fighting every day against anti-choice leaders in Congress and the White House. . .” And as a staunch supporter of equal rights, Nadler has spearheaded the opposition to attempts to write discrimination into the Constitution in the form of the so-called Federal Marriage Amendment. He has also authored landmark bills that would grant equal access to immigration and Social Security benefits to all Americans, regardless of sexual orientation.
There is nothing more fundamental to being an American than the assurance against unwarranted government interference in one’s personal affairs, and the guarantee of due process under the law. Yet some recent actions by Congress and the executive, in the name of enhancing national security, have threatened those basic rights. Congressman Nadler’s legislation to remove the most pernicious elements of the USA PATRIOT Act, and his insistence on constitutional treatment of those suspected of crimes, have won him plaudits across the board.
In addition to his service on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Subcommittee, Congressman Nadler also serves on the Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security Subcommittee. He previously served on the Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law, which has jurisdiction over such key issues as consumer protection, bankruptcy law, and the right to competent legal representation. Formerly ranking Democrat on that subcommittee, Mr. Nadler led House opposition to the Republican-backed Bankruptcy Bill, legislation designed to maximize credit card company at the expense of consumer protections.
These accomplishments, coupled with his expansive portfolio of other progressive achievements—from garnering hundreds of millions of dollars for the Section 8 affordable housing program, to shaping the national debate on Social Security by being the first to challenge the Republicans’ “doom and gloom” solvency forecast, to the passing of his bill to close the digital divide in education—led Vanity Fair, in its “Hall of Fame” tribute to Congressman Nadler, to say that he epitomizes “liberalism the way it ought to be.” And his record has earned him ratings of 100 percent from such groups as the League of Conservation Voters, Planned Parenthood, the NAACP, the Human Rights Campaign, Children’s Defense Fund, and the American Federation of Teachers.
Leading on Transportation Issues
In addition to his involvement in top-tier judicial issues, Congressman Nadler is also a longstanding and nationally recognized expert on transportation. During his 16 years as a New York State Assemblyman, Nadler was able to match his ideas for improving transportation and infrastructure with legislative solutions. In this capacity he founded and chaired the Assembly’s Mass Transit and Rail Freight Subcommittee. Since his election to the U.S. House, he has brought that expertise and enthusiasm to work for New York as a senior member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. He is now the highest-ranking Democrat from the Northeast, and co-chair of the Congressional Transit Caucus, where he’s fought for better subway service and New York’s fair share of mass transit funding.
Congressman Nadler stood virtually alone for many years in decrying the downstate New York region’s isolation from the national rail freight system and its almost total reliance on truck-borne freight. Such dependence has created enormous costs to the area in terms of increased air pollution, asthma, congestion, and the general expense of doing business in the region. More alarming, the region’s over-dependence on the George Washington Bridge for moving freight creates a serious national security vulnerability.
Congressman Nadler proposed to reverse these effects by reconnecting New York to the nation’s rail freight system through the construction of a rail freight tunnel under New York Harbor. The Cross Harbor Tunnel project is steadily gaining momentum. Local, state, and federal leaders agree with Congressman Nadler and a variety of transportation experts that a rail freight tunnel is the best way to ease the truck-traffic burden, and in doing so, reduce air pollution, provide tremendous economic benefits, and bolster security by creating redundancy in the region’s goods-movement system.
Serving a Diverse and Fast-Paced District
Although he is today a legislator with nationwide impact, Congressman Nadler is first and foremost a representative for New Yorkers. As a longtime community activist and a New Yorker to the core, the best interest of Congressman Nadler’s district and City is the touchstone for his everyday service. Even when he is in Washington, New York comes first. From reclaiming Governor’s Island for New York City, to securing crucial federal funding for the High Line park project, to adjusting federal income tax brackets to reflect the higher cost of living in New York, Congressman Nadler is able to use his position in Congress to improve life in the City. The New York Times ranks Nadler “among the city's smartest and hardest-working House members.”
There are two pillars of Congressman Nadler’s strategy for delivering resources for the district: an intimate knowledge of every neighborhood and community feature, and tireless advocacy at all levels of government. Nadler has been able to furnish critical funding for a wide variety of community projects and priorities. In Brooklyn, for example, the Congressman has been instrumental in shore restoration efforts, securing funding for Maimonides Medical Center and Coney Island Hospital, and making neighborhoods more livable—even securing free cellular phones for the Shomrim, Boro Park’s neighborhood anti-crime unit. In Manhattan, he has brought home considerable funding for the foundation and development of Hudson River Park, for programs at major cultural institutions, such as Lincoln Center and the Museum of Natural History, and for New York’s world-renowned institutions of higher learning.
Being an effective voice for the community isn’t, however, just about moving projects forward; programs that would do harm require a strong voice in opposition. When the City wanted to reopen the Southwest Brooklyn Incinerator, the Congressman was a leading voice in preventing an environmental and health crisis in Bensonhurst. And when Donald Trump tried to tear down part of the newly renovated West Side Highway to enhance the views of the Hudson River for a new luxury building project, Nadler organized the effort to stop him. “I don’t believe that New Yorkers work hard and pay taxes so they can line Mr. Trump's pockets,” Nadler said of the move, which would have cost the taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars.
The needs of everyday New Yorkers are paramount in the Congressman’s eyes. When residents of the Haber House apartment complex complained of frequent crime against tenants, Nadler secured money from Congress to install security cameras. When commuters wanted to make foot traffic through Penn Station more efficient, he worked with station authorities to change the direction of key escalators. Throughout the district and the City, Nadler has used his transportation expertise to solve local traffic and transit problems, working to relieve congestion, improve bus and ferry routes, and to modernize access to the subway. Affordable housing, like adequate transportation, is a basic need in any community—and a priority for Nadler. He has fought in Congress and at home to preserve the City’s essential stock of Mitchell-Lama and Section 8 apartments.
Congressman Nadler’s constituent services program allows residents of the Eighth District to seek help from the Congressman’s office in navigating the often-complex world of government services. Every day, Nadler’s constituent services staff help residents meet their basic needs, finding them access to healthcare, and acting as a liaison with government agencies, and in many cases helping with citizenship requests. The district includes one of the nation’s largest communities of new immigrants—especially from the former Soviet Union—and Congressman Nadler and his staff have made it a priority to address their needs.
Congressman Nadler also represents one of the largest and most diverse Jewish communities in any congressional district, nationwide. A former member of the National Governing Council of the American Jewish Congress and currently a member of the New York Board of the Anti-Defamation League, Nadler has worked throughout his career to support American Jewish community concerns and a safe, prosperous, and peaceful Israel. He has consistently stood behind Middle East peace efforts. Nadler is also a former member of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council, has authored a bill granting federal tax exemptions on settlements received by Holocaust survivors, and has been a principal supporter of federal hate crimes legislation.
Congressman Nadler has also worked extensively on Black-Jewish relations, and was a recent recipient of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding’s Racial Harmony Award.
Responding to Challenge
After the devastating terrorist attack on the Congressman’s district on September 11, 2001, Nadler led the fight in Congress and at the White House to secure $20 billion for recovery work—and he has been there to speak up for New York every time the rebuilding effort has a need in Washington. Immediately following the attacks, Congressman Nadler convened the “Ground Zero Elected Officials Task Force” to coordinate the delivery of much-needed aid and supplies to the residents and businesses in lower Manhattan. Nadler’s work to help New Yorkers repair their communities and their lives has earned him widespread praise, including the 2003 Legislator of the Year Award from the International Association of Firefighters.
When the initial shock of the tragedy had subsided, the Congressman worked tirelessly to ensure that victims received the government attention they needed. He introduced legislation to expedite the payment of benefits to the families of public safety officers killed on September 11th, pushed to extend unemployment benefits for those who lost their jobs as a result of the tragedy, and worked closely with constituents and government officials to ensure that aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency was properly delivered to all those needing it. Nadler secured $500 million in Community Development Block Grant funding for residents and small businesses recovering from the effects of the attacks, and he authored the September 11th Aid Preservation Act of 2002 and the September 11th Tax Correction Act to make sure that aid was granted, spent, and taxed appropriately.
Congressman Nadler has also taken the lead in the continuing fight to protect air quality in lower Manhattan. Soon after the attacks, the Environmental Protection Agency carelessly declared it safe for residents to return to their homes and denied its responsibility for conducting air quality tests and cleanup efforts in affected residences. The Congressman immediately called public attention to the EPA’s negligence in these actions, which gravely threatened the health of lower Manhattan residents and professionals, and hosted hearings to investigate this negligence and determine the actual extent of environmental hazards in the area.
As EPA officials continually commit and cover up their mistakes and deny their responsibility, Congressman Nadler continues to fight on behalf of constituents for higher standards and greater range in the cleanup process. Juan Gonzalez of The Daily News wrote that “Of all the politicians in this town, Nadler has fought the hardest to get EPA to assume responsibility for indoor cleanup.”
Congressman Nadler launched his public service career in the late 1960s while a student at Columbia University, where he founded a group of students known as the “West Side Kids.” The Kids focused on reforming New York City Democratic politics through support of liberal and anti-Vietnam War candidates, and developed their political base through community organizing to improve local housing and education conditions.
In 1976, after a stint as a legislative staffer, Mr. Nadler won a seat in the State Assembly, and there first developed his strong record on such issues as civil liberties, environmental protection, and campaign finance reform. He is credited with authoring much of New York State’s body of law on domestic violence and child support enforcement, and was one of the architects of the landmark Child Support Standards Act.
Over the next 16 years, he developed an impressive resume as a legislator, and according to the 1992 New York Red Book, “compil[ed] a record of fiscal foresight and prudence.” Congressman Nadler also earned hundreds of awards from varied organizations for his Assembly work, from being the only male to be honored as Assemblymember of the Year by the National Organization for Women to his inclusion on the American Civil Liberties Union’s Annual Honor Roll. It was also during his Assembly years that Nadler honed his expertise on issues of urban infrastructure. He founded and chaired the Assembly Subcommittee on Mass Transit and Rail Freight.
A well-regarded source of political opinion and policy expertise, Nadler has been a featured guest on nearly every significant public affairs and news program on air, from CNN's Crossfire and Larry King Live to PBS’s NewsHour with Jim Lerher to NBC’s Meet the Press. Nadler is also a reliable commentator for major print news sources in the nation, as well as for a wide variety of international outlets.
Nadler is a graduate of Crown Heights Yeshiva, Stuyvesant High School, Columbia University, and Fordham Law School. He lives on the West Side of Manhattan with his wife, Joyce Miller. They have one son, Michael.