Donovan displays independent streak in Congress
U.S. Rep. Daniel Donovan has been in Congress for only four months but he has had quite an eventful time as a freshman lawmaker.
He traveled to Israel as part of a congressional delegation to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, introduced legislation to change the way the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) operates, co-sponsored a bill to re-authorize a law that provides federal funding for the health care needs of Sept. 11 first responders and has crisscrossed his bi-borough district countless times to deal with local issues like the city’s construction of a trash plant in Bensonhurst and the fight Dyker Heights residents are waging against illegal home conversions.
Donovan, a Republican, was elected to represent the 11th Congressional District (Southwest Brooklyn-Staten Island) in a special election on May 5 and was sworn into office on May 12.
Unlike most freshman congressmembers, who have time between Election Day in November and taking the oath of office in January, he had no time for orientation and had to hit the ground running. Congressional leaders usually host orientation programs for incoming members.
“I didn’t get to go to Congress school,” Donovan jokingly told the Brooklyn Eagle during a recent interview in his Brooklyn district office on 13th Avenue in Dyker Heights.
Finding his way around Capitol Hill proved to be daunting at first. But he feels he is getting the hang of it.
Donovan has shown a decidedly independent streak in his voting record so far. On three major pieces of legislation, he has bucked the Republican leadership in the House by voting no.
“I represent the people of my district. I don’t represent the leadership,” Donovan said.
Donovan said he voted against the Transportation Housing and Urban Development (THUD) bill because it would have cut funding for Amtrak. His vote against another bill, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) legislation, came out of his belief that it will cost Americans jobs.
He voted against a Republican bill that would cut federal funding to so-called sanctuary cities, municipalities that fail to administer federal laws against undocumented immigrants. It’s not that he agrees with sanctuary cities. He doesn’t. But the bill had too broad a reach and would have cut funding for other important law enforcement programs like domestic violence prevention, said Donovan, the former Staten Island district attorney.
One of the most memorable events in his first few months in office was his trip to Israel.
Donovan was part of a congressional delegation that visited Israel in August. “It was a life-changing experience,” he told the Eagle. “Israel is modern and yet ancient at the same time. It’s the desert and yet there’s agriculture."
Israel is a country approximately the size of New Jersey. And everywhere, there are reminders of just how small a country it is, Donovan said.
At one point, the congressional delegation went to Gaza. “You can see the city where Hamas launches its rockets,” Donovan said.
For Donovan, who is Catholic, a highlight of the trip was a visit to the birthplace of Jesus Christ.
Donovan and his colleagues met with Netanyahu, who explained to them his fierce opposition to the U.S.-Iran nuclear agreement.
“He met with us for two hours. He was very respectful; very grateful for the United States support of Israel,” the congressmember said.
But Netayahu also made it clear to the American delegation that “if Israel has to go it alone, they will do whatever they have to do to protect their country,” Donovan said.
Donovan voted against the agreement, but said his mind was made up even before he traveled to Israel. “I struggled to find anything good in it,” he said.
“We are releasing $50 billion to the greatest supporter of terrorists worldwide,” he said. The $50 billion would come in the form of sanctions relief that Iran would get for signing the deal.
Donovan expressed skepticism that the agreement would prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear arsenal.
Closer to home, Donovan met with Col. Joseph Davidson, the commander of the U.S. Army Garrison at Fort Hamilton. The two men had lunch last week. Donovan took a tour of the army base. He pledged to fight to save the Bay Ridge military base if it winds up on a federal Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC) list at some point in the future.