SOMERVILLE, NJ - About 75 guests obliged Rep. Tom Malinowski, D-7th, and showed up at Cheech’s Own for a cup of coffee Saturday night, but the first-term congressman didn’t get to share a fresh brew with them because he was too busy talking and answering questions about the drama, frustrations, idealism, legislative battles and the political realities of Washington, DC.
Six months into the job, he’s settling in, and dealing as best he can with the politics and bureaucracy that comes with being a US Congressman.
“It’s a tough world out there,” Malinowski said. “I forget every week what I was angry about the week before,” he added.
On a lighter note, he also mentioned that he had batted 4-4 in a recent Congressional baseball game
“So there you go,” he said proudly.
Topics ranged from the Gateway Tunnel project and restoration of the State and Local Tax exemption to the Mexican border crisis and health care, global warming and bit coin currency, the stalled Equal Rights Amendment and whether Somerset County is reimbursed for expenses incurred when President Trump visits his golf club in Bedminster.
The county does get some reimbursement for added security provided by local police departments and the Somerset County Sheriff’s Office.
“Some of the burdens are inescapable,” Malinowski said. “You can’t tell a president you can’t leave Washignton DC.”
The partisan crowd, which included Democratic Mayor Dennis Sullivan, Democratic members of the Borough Council and their spouses listened intently as Malinowski responded to their questions, all the while encouraging those in the crowd to maintain their activism and ideals, but to be civil and respectful.
“Let’s not argue and squabble,” Malinowski said..
Malinowski, who had campaigned on restoration of the highly-valued SALT exemptions utilized by millions of homeowners to reduce their tax burdens, has joined with the Democratic majority in Congress to push for corrective action.
"We will pass legislation to return SALT," he said
The congressman admitted, however that the likelihood of passage in the Senate was doubtful, saying it might take "another Congress to get that done," a reference to the upcoming 2020 election which could see Democratic gains in the Senate.
Malinowski several times referred to the Senate as "the Grim Reaper" for its resistance to joining in support of House-approved measures so that their initiatives are dead on arrival.
Another issue close to home which Malinowski has embraced is securing the necessary federal funding for the Gateway Project which will repair damage to the rail tunnel beneath the Hudson River connecting New Jersey and New York and a bridge on the NJ TRANSIT line in Hackensack.
"There is light at the end of the tunnel." Malinowski said.
The House has passed an appropriations bill with the necessary funding, according to Malinowski, adding that "the Grim Reaper" must concur and be signed by President Trump.
Malinowski also saluted his fellow Democrats in the House for passing the $733B defense bill, which includes a 3.1 percent pay raise for US military personnel, the biggest since 2010, according to the congressman. The bill would also curb Trump's ability to declare war against Iran
Malinowski toils in a workplace that is divisive and toxic, and like most Democrats, disagrees with Trump on the issues facing America.
"I am critical of the White House," he said. "I do support an impeachment inquiry," Malinowski added when questioned about the Mueller report, which sought to determine whether there had been any collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia during the 20016 election.
"Our democracy was attacked," Malinowski said. "If we allow it, it will happen again."
He faulted Trump for his continuing support of Saudi Arabia and the sale of military hardware to the Mideast nation following the October, 2018 murder of Washington Post columnist Jamel Khashoggi. A United Nations report released last month immplicrded Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the murder of the journalist.
Malinowski is also critical of Trump backing out of the international Climate Control treaty. The Paris Accord, signed by dozens of nations worldwide in 2016, calls for voluntary measures to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
The departure of the United States has allowed China to improve friendships in the world community, according to Malinowski.
"The United States absence helps China, not because the Communist Party of China loves trees; they want to lead the world," he said.
Malinowski did emphasize that despite their differences, Democrats and Republicans can and do find common ground, and that bi-partisanship can be achieved.
"Every chance I get to reach out to the other side, I grab." Malinowski said. "We have to work on bi-partisanship wherever possible to solve peoples' problems.
"Everything we do around the world is based on what we do at home," the congressman continued. "We have to set a good example."