FBA Interviews New York Congressman Michael R. McNulty

By Kimberly Feliciano; Interview by Ray Feliciano

In just our first three months of existence, the FBA had sponsored debates between the Republicans and Democrats, interviewed our state Assemblymen and Senators, and published several issues of The Informed Constituent. With our interview of Congressman Michael McNulty (Dem), the FBA officially reached the federal level of our government. McNulty represents the 21st Congressional District, which includes all of Albany, Schenectady, and Montgomery Counties, as well as parts of Rensselaer, Saratoga, and Fulton Counties. On the opening day of the 2004 legislative session, McNulty’s office was very busy, but not too busy to meet with myself and the president of the FBA, Ray Feliciano.

NY Congressman Mike McNulty - 21.36 K

NY Congressman Michael R. McNulty
- 21st District

Q: What’s on the legislative table? What are the hot issues you will be working on?

“In Congress, we are dominated by two major issues—One is Iraq, Afghanistan, Korea and the whole national security issue. War on terrorism, and all that means post Sept 11. The other major issue, domestically, always is the budget and the finances of the country. I’m deeply concerned about the situation that we’re in. Our debt is about $7 trillion now, and I believe that the deficit is growing at an unacceptable rate. We had at the beginning of this current administration three years of budget surpluses. Now we are in a situation where last year we had the largest budget deficit in the history of the country, $400 billion. It is estimated to be $500 billion this year. I think we are doing a tremendous disservice to our children and our grandchildren and future generations. I think one of the main reasons for the situation we are in is the size and magnitude of the tax cuts which the President asked for. A lot of people say we should cut him a little slack because his tax cuts were pre-Sept 11 and a lot of things could have been unforeseen. I’m happy to give him that leeway, but his second round of tax cuts took place after Sept 11 and further exasperated the problem. I believe he ought to be held accountable.”

Q: Recently, in the Democratic debates, they alluded to the fact that Bush’s tax cuts amount to a tax increase because the burden shifts to states and other taxes.

“That’s right.” McNulty said the federal government is cutting back on what it gives to states and localities. “I was a Town Supervisor for eight years and a Mayor for five years. That’s where the buck stops. Because you have to pay your police and fire departments, your public works, all the things that occur on a daily basis, and you don’t have anybody to pass it on to. Property taxes, in my opinion, are already too high. If they get much higher, it’s going to call into question the viability of home ownership for an awful lot of people.”

Q: I would like to know what you think of a proposed legislation that I call the “Truth and Legislation Act” stating that no amendment shall be added to a bill unless it is germane to the original bill.

“Yeah, we basically have that in the House, but they don’t have it in the Senate. The House is pretty strict on having germaneness with regard to legislation and appropriation. The Senate, however, has no such system. What can happen is any individual Senator can bring up an unrelated item and attach it to a bill, and it can pass in the Senate. Then the two conference committees come together, and it may survive in the conference committees. I think that the focus would be on tightening Senate rules. There have been many attempts to tighten Senate rules through the years (laugh) and not too many have been successful so far, but it’s probably worth looking into.”

Q: Back to the national deficit, what can the President do to balance the budget and get our country out of debt?

“That’s a source of debate. People have these theories about what will bring us fiscal stability. My only point—Well, Bush is not going to change. I mean, he’s announcing that he’s not going to change his policy, so I don’t think the change is going to occur with him. He still believes in the old ‘trickle-down’ theory. That is, if you give huge tax cuts to rich people, then they’ll invest and produce more jobs and more people will be paying taxes. It looks great on paper. It just has never worked. Ronald Reagan ran for president in 1980 with the idea of ‘trickle-down theory’. He said he would have huge tax cuts, and he admitted they would benefit wealthy people, but the wealthy would do these things, and other people would get jobs and that would strengthen and enhance tax receipts, and the budget would get balanced. He promised it would be balanced in three years. Of course, you know the rest of the story—It was never balanced during his term in office. The deficits went up at a record rate. All I’m saying is, I go back to the admonition of Gov Al Smith of New York—Let’s look at the record. Bush today is doing precisely what failed for Reagan in 1980. I’m saying don’t repeat the mistakes of the past.”

Q: What is your stance on tax cuts?

“You can have this debate about whether or not there ought to be tax cuts, but my belief is that in the period of time we are in right now, not that we increase taxes, but just hold the line for a while. Is that so unreasonable? You know, until we get through a difficult period. If you are going to have some tax cuts, give them to middle class people, the people who are struggling—not to Donald Trump and Bill Gates. And frankly, to Bill Gates’ credit, he has publicly opposed the President’s tax cuts. His father, Mr. Gates Sr. who runs the foundation and gives out all the money, has come to Congress and testified and said to the Senators, the members of Congress, ‘Stop doing this! This is not the right policy. Don’t be giving us more money.’ ”

Q: What about prescription drugs?

People have to start reading that bill to see what’s in it because I’ve been an advocate for a prescription drug benefit for years and years, a lot of people have, and this doesn’t have a very good one. I don’t think most people realize that of the first $5,000 in drug costs under this plan, the senior has to pay the first $4,000. Now, I don’t know many seniors in my circle of acquaintances who can afford that.”

Q: What about MediGap insurance no longer being allowed with this bill?

“I don’t know how that would be justified. This is a bill that purports to help seniors, which is actually gonna contain a drastic reduction in benefits for a lot of seniors across the country.”

“People need to read the bill and I don’t mean reading the legalese. You need to get more information about what’s in the bill. I think it’s the responsibility of elected officials, like me, to be getting that word out there to people. Like I say, I do it everywhere I go--rotary clubs, chambers of commerce, and everywhere else I speak. Get that information out there so people understand what actually is coming. Ya know, a lot of people just pick up the paper, and the headline is ‘Prescription Drug Program for the Elderly is Coming’, and people say, ‘Gee, finally we got this.’ Well, I want them to understand just what they’ve got, and what they haven’t got.”

Q: The Energy Bill is an example of a complex bill that was expected to be read and voted on within 72 hours.

“A bill like that is complex. I think we ought to do more to ensure that there’s deliberation on the bill before a vote is called. That’s not to say nobody knows anything about what’s in the bill because all these bills go through a subcommittee process, a committee process, and so on before they get to the floor. They’ve been around a long time, so we know various provisions of what’s in the bill, but who the heck knows what they added or deleted from the bill at that 9:00 in the morning meeting? That’s what we wanna know. Not that the whole bill is a surprise.”

Kimberly: Our twenty minutes up, and McNulty’s next appointment waiting in the next room, we leave our Congressman being told that his door and the lines of communication will always be open. As the Fourth Branch of America continues its mission of keeping the public informed regarding what happens inside their government, we look forward to taking him up on that.