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Dec 11, 2014 11:43 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Zeldin Recommended For Three Committees, Including Transportation

Dec 16, 2014 3:48 PM

Eastern Long Island’s incoming freshman congressman will fill four prominent roles in the U.S. House of Representatives as soon as he is sworn into office next month.

U.S. Representative-elect Lee Zeldin announced last week that the Republican Steering Committee has recommended that he be appointed to the House’s Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, the Foreign Affairs Committee, and the Veteran Affairs Committee after taking his oath of office on Tuesday, January 6. The Shirley Republican, who will be the only Jewish Republican serving in the House starting in January, also was named co-chair of the House Republican Israel Caucus.

Mr. Zeldin is a U.S. Army veteran and a major in the Army Reserves, two things he said will benefit him in his committee assignments.

“I feel our nation needs to have a stronger, more consistent foreign policy—I spoke often about that belief, and I stand by it,” Mr. Zeldin said on Monday. “There are challenges that will always be presented to the United States because of our relationships to countries from around the world, and we have to be ready to face those challenges, whether it’s Iran’s pursuit of nuclear capabilities, the spread of ISIS, the actions of Russia in Ukraine, or whatever else the future might hold.”

During his two terms in Albany as a state senator, Mr. Zeldin launched the Private 1st Class Joseph Dwyer Program to help returning veterans in New York deal with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and traumatic brain injuries suffered in the line of duty. He said he now hopes to address the backlog of veterans applying for disability benefits through the Veterans Affairs Department, as well as the rampant homelessness among the nation’s veteran population.

Mr. Zeldin will replace outgoing U.S. Representative Tim Bishop, whom he ousted in November’s general election, on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee—perhaps the most influential appointment for either politician. Mr. Bishop, a former provost of Southampton College, also sits on the Education and Workforce Committee.

The Transportation and Infrastructure Committee has jurisdiction over all forms of transportation, including highways, bridges, railroads, aviation and maritime transportation. It also oversees legislation pertaining to clean water, and wastewater and flood damage management, among other duties.

When reached by phone Monday, Mr. Zeldin said he hopes to work with the various agencies under the committee’s purview to make sure projects like beach nourishment in downtown Montauk and the raising of Dune Road in Hampton Bays are executed quickly.

Mr. Zeldin said being a member of the majority party will give him more sway within the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, as will his position as a freshman congressman.

“It helps being in the majority party. I also learned during my first term in Albany that being a freshman member of the majority party has its advantages, too,” he said. “There is an opportunity to leverage being a freshman in the majority to get victories for my constituents because the leadership wants me to put together a strong first term so we can stay here.”

As a member of the House Republican Israel Caucus, Mr. Zeldin will work with policy experts and academics to help strengthen the relationship between the U.S. and Israel. As one of four co-chairs—along with U.S. Representatives Peter Roskam of Illinois, Doug Lamborn of Colorado, and Leonard Lance of New Jersey—Mr. Zeldin will work with more than 100 other congressman on the committee. Members of that group will reach across the aisle and work with the Democratic Israel Working Group, which features U.S. Representative Steve Israel, a Democrat from Huntington.

During an interview last month, Mr. Zeldin said he hopes to build a dialogue with Jewish Democrats to improve U.S.-Israeli relations. He also said he hopes to pick up where former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, previously the only Jewish Republican in office prior to being defeated in a primary earlier this year, left off.

“Just going back to my upbringing, I’ve always valued the importance of a strong U.S.-Israeli relationship on so many levels,” Mr. Zeldin said. “Since childhood, before I had any interest in government or politics, I was learning and developing appreciation of that relationship.”

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