By Rebecca Henely
U.S. Rep. Joe Crowley (D-Jackson Heights) defended his support of the bank bailouts of 2009 and the controversial health care reform bill at the United Community Civic Association meeting last Thursday at Augustana Evangelical Lutheran Church in Astoria.
Crowley used this time to defend some recently passed controversial bills, such as the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 under which the federal government invested $700 billion in U.S. banks to prevent them from failing. He said that despite the criticism of the bill, if the government had not done it the economy had the potential to get much worse.
He also said that without the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, in which $787 billion was invested in tax incentives, unemployment benefits, education, health care and infrastructure, potentially 24,000 additional New York City workers might have been laid off.
“When [the layoffs] didn’t happen, it’s hard to really understand that,” Crowley said.
The congressman said he believed the economy was starting to improve and that a healthy Christmas and Hanukkah shopping season is expected. But he said he did not yet consider the recession over.
“The recession ends when people are economically secure,” Crowley said. “The recession ends when people are getting better.”
On the subject of health-care reform, Crowley said the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act passed earlier this year was “an issue that hasn’t seen the full light of day.” He discussed some of the benefits of the bill, such as the removal of lifetime caps, nixing the practice of barring children based on pre-existing conditions and allowing children up to the age of 26 to be covered under their parents’ plan.
When asked about why the bill was so long, Crowley said the provisions contained much more detail than simpler-to-explain options for health care.
“Yes, I do think it’s over-complicated, and that’s what lent it to being misinterpreted,” Crowley said.
He also said there had not been any changes on reforming immigration in Congress.
“We still know we have a problem,” Crowley said.
He said he believed the United States needs to have meaningful control of its borders, but also must reform its legal immigration system, saying the backlog for those wanting to move into the country stretches back for years.
When asked why illegal immigrants could not just be arrested since they were here illegally, Crowley said he did not believe that could be done without infringing on the constitutional rights of American citizens as well and said a roundup of illegal immigrants could violate the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which guards against arrests without probable cause, and the 14th Amendment, which covers citizenship and due process.
“We can’t just build walls,” Crowley said. “It’s not going to stop them entirely.”
Crowley was one of four elected officials invited to the civic meeting, along with Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Astoria), state Assemblyman Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) and City Councilman Peter Vallone (D-Astoria). Other community members, such as officials from Riker’s Island, spoke as well.
Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4564.