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tv   A Conversation with Freshman Representative Lee Zeldin R-NY  CSPAN  May 31, 2015 10:31am-10:55am EDT

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in, but there has not been a lot of movement from congress on it. host: the administrator talked about certain areas that he is concerned about. some inland, urban areas. are these areas heating the call -- heading the call from fema? are they listening to the concerns that he expressed? reporter: i'm sure that they are, i'm sure they are preparing in the sense that they could prepare. these are very highly populated areas, very well developed. there are only so many places for people to go in a disaster. if something does hit in those areas, we are looking at something like sandy. reporter: this week i was -- the state of maryland had all of their disaster officials in ocean city, and i was there talking to the state administrator. they know what is facing them, and they think they can handle it. part of it is that they have not had a chance -- you don't know until you actually get the major
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hurricane coming up against you. this weekend, we have a story in "associated press" about areas that are decade past when they should have gotten a storm already. these are areas that have the experience issue that the director talked about. reporter: you start to wonder whether or not people are even thinking about these things. if you have not had a hurricane in all this time, do you action have hurricane supplies? what was the last time you checked your batteries? you wonder what the populace is thinking as well as the leadership. reporter: tampa bay -- tampa itself has not had a major hurricane since 1921. almost no one living there now was living there back then when they had their last major hurricane. host: we will have to leave it there this week on "newsmakers." donna leinwand-leger is with "usa today." seth borenstein is with "associated press." thank you for joining us this week.
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>> tonight at midnight, the patriarch expires, including provisions authorizing the nsa phone bold data collection program. the senate is meeting today in a rare sunday session, because an extension of the law failed to get the votes needed before memorial day. majority leader mitch mcconnell said that the senate would return early to deal with the issue. senator mcconnell: we are unable to clear any short-term extension. the current law expires at midnight on sunday. the senate will be back in session sunday afternoon, one week from sunday. thank you, senator schumer.
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[laughter] >> [indiscernible] senator mcconnell: we will be back in on sunday, may 31, for one more opportunity to act responsibly, to not allow this program to expire. this is a high threat time and we know what is going on overseas. we know what has been tried here at home. my colleagues, do we really want this law to expire? we have one week to discuss it and we will have one day to do it. we better be ready next sunday afternoon to prevent the country from being a danger by the total expiration of the program that we are all familiar with. unless there is objection, and i understand there is not an
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objection, we will pass the highway extension on a voice vote tonight, and we will be back in session sunday, in one week. >> will my friend yield for a question? we will be happy to operate the transportation bill invoice, but i do say this. for those of us living in the west, we cannot get back here sunday afternoon. it is very difficult for us to get back here on a weekday before 5:00. i would hope on sunday and that we would not expect the session to be at 5:00 because we cannot be here. i will not agree to anything unless we can come in after 5:00. senator mcconnell: as my friend
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knows, i would be happy to work with him on that, and he also knows that i just tried to get an extension to not put us in this position. we are left with this option only. we will work with the democratic leader about the actual time but the law expires at midnight in on sunday in one week. i doubt there are very many of us who are comfortable with that, maybe a handful. we need to ice responsibly here on behalf of the american people. senator reid: i agree. >> we will have live coverage of the senate costs sunday -- senate's sunday session starting at 4:00. >> next, our profile interview of representative lee
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zeldin. in november, he defeated the incumbent. host: congressman lee zeldin, what got you interested in public office in the first place? rep. lee zeldin: transitioning into the reserves, i wanted to continue to serve. i came back home, moved about half a mile from where i grew up, and i started running for congress. host: where is that? rep. lee zeldin: long island. the first congressional district of new york is eastern long island. a lot of people know the hamptons. this is the district of the hamptons. there are a lot of vineyards agriculture out there, and i live in a small town just west of the hamptons called for caven -- called brookhaven. that is where i live. host: it was you got out of the
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2007 reserves, and you ran for local office? rep. lee zeldin: i ran for congress. i was 27 years old. we got our clock cleaned in that race. i was elected to the state senate, was reelected, elected to congress in 2014. host: what is behind your motivation for running? coming out of the military, why do you want to serve? rep. lee zeldin: we are confronting huge issues. every day when we are down here in washington, the foreign affairs committee, transportation infrastructure committee, veterans affairs. my home county has the second-highest veteran population than any county in america. the foreign affairs issues as far as evoking passion, when you talk about the need to defeat isis, to ensure that we are not entering into a bad deal with iran, protecting our military to make sure we keeping america safe and free, when you deal with some of the issues that we deal with on a daily basis
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again, here at home and abroad it evokes the huge passion, and i am just privileged to be a part of it. host: you said you get elected in 2014 and come to office in 2015. what was that transition like for you? rep. lee zeldin: i came down with about 200 of our supporters at the beginning of january. i served four years in the state senate and got some experience with regards to how hills become -- bills become law, how the process works, how conference works, and how to do constituent services, and how to be a good family man, be a good husband and father. so, coming down here in january, it was not really too new, even though it was a new setting here in congress. we just tried to have the staff fully operational as quickly as possible, and we know each other's strengths and weaknesses, set our priorities
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not just on national issues but also on important, local issues, so we hit the ground running and fortunately, we were able to. host: did you bring some of the staff with you? rep. lee zeldin: i did. my district office is almost entirely the people that were with me in the state senate, and my office down in d.c. is almost entirely brand new staff. each were exciting for different reasons, but good chemistry, and constituent services is a key part of the job, and having a good team here in d.c. to make sure we are doing our due diligence is important, as well. host: what is a typical day like for you in washington, when congress is in session? rep. lee zeldin: very busy. there was one day when i had 31 things on my calendar. you might have a five-minute meeting followed by a 10 minute meeting followed by a 10 minute meeting.
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i serve on three committees, seven subcommittees. i get up early, i try to exercise as close to every morning as i can. the evenings usually an late. i like to -- there are other people out there who have vices. you know, they might go out drinking or whatnot. for me, i like to empty my e-mail box. that is how i get my high. that is my vice. staying on top of stuff. for me, we might be out -- there might be an event going on. local groups from the district here, for good causes, but i like to get back to work, and i usually go to sleep around 12:00 or 1:00 and am back up around 5:00 or 6:00. host: when you are in washington, where do you stay? rep. lee zeldin: i am one of 80 staying in my office, 1517 longworth. it works out well for me. it is a big closet.
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great camaraderie. host: is that because it is expensive to live in washington for a congressman? rep. lee zeldin: when i visited here, chris gibson was one of my commanders. i remember in 2010, i member thinking then, if i was elected as part of that class, there are a lot of different factors to it. it might still just be the army in me, but i have an air mattress put down, and it is all good. host: outside of emptying the e-mail box thing. what are your favorite parts of being a member? rep. lee zeldin: i have honestly enjoyed every minute of every day. while i am here, i don't spend my time wishing i was at home, and when i am home, i do not spend my time trying to wish i was in these the it is a -- spend my time wishing i was
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in d.c.. it is a privilege to serve. a two-year term goes by quickly. i think you should stop being a member when you are stepping on the house floor or walking in the capital where it loses that feeling, and you lose the appreciation for the history of the institution, and for me, i i really do enjoy that part of it, being able to walk into the united states capital. host: you mentioned the agenda on the list. three committee hearings to attend to. does it ever feel like, i cannot devote my all to this issue, this one committee meeting that i wish i could? rep. lee zeldin: there are so many issues, and there will never be enough time in the day to get as neck deep in all of them. i will have a constituent come in with one issue, but until they walk in the office mentioning that idea, i have never even heard of that proposal, and then there is a
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next meeting, somebody pitching a proposal, which is the first time since being in office. you may be here for a few months and a few years, and you are encountering an issue for the first time. you try to prioritize your time as to what is important, delivering for your district and your country, and there is just not enough bandwidth to spend all of the attention on everything. i wish we could. host: who keeps an eye on that schedule? rep. lee zeldin: we have a scheduler. we have one person who handles everything, both in the district and in d.c. she is based here in d.c., and we have a chief of staff, and a deputy chief of staff who also serves as a legislative director. we have a good team. you make adjustments over the course of months and years, and responsibilities.
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people come and go, with life events, and that is the best way to stay organized, is having a good team. host: how do you interact with republican leadership on a daily basis? rep. lee zeldin: i would say i interact with my colleagues most on the floor, when we are there for votes. that is when it happens most often. there may be events in the evening, where you're able to cross paths with a particular member. at times, you might be sitting at a dinner for two hours next to a colleague. it might be the first time you get to have a conversation with them. i would say over the course of a routine, you must frequently interact with the rank and file members when you're on the floor. when you are not on the floor, everyone is busy with meetings. host: is there a best way to communicate with you? on the floor or a quick e-mail
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or a text message where they say, hey, we really want to get your support for this? rep. lee zeldin: the whip team will go around with names on a card. they will go to individual members on a particular bill. there will be a heads-up up given to staff in advance. maybe it is monday, and we are told on thursday, there will be a whip check, and a person will come find you, and sometimes you're able to tell them, yes, absolutely i'm voting for something, or no, i am absolutely not. sometimes you have a really important question, and you need that answered. it mostly happens on the floor. host: so there is not a lot of arm twisting going on on the floor? rep. lee zeldin: there are bills, and i might be opposed to something, that i would vote no for, and maybe they would like me to vote yes, and you have to have a good, honest dialogue.
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they appreciate and honest no a lot better than a dishonest yes, so when they ask me how i would like to vote on a particular bill that i am not with them the best thing for a legislator to do is just tell the whip team, i am not with you. that is just not good for the process to not do that. host: have you seen opportunities for you to be approached by democrats to support their legislation? rep. lee zeldin: sure, that has happened on the floor. i have interacted a bunch with the colleagues on both sides of the aisle. sometimes it might be in the hallway, on the shuttle ride back to new york, and you happen to be with your colleagues from the other side of the aisle, and you start talking about something they are working on, and they might put and ask.
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sometimes you are with him sometimes you are not, but it is , important to find common ground. that is the best way to serve our respective districts. host: as far as your priorities, what are they? rep. lee zeldin: the first congressional district in new york is almost completely surrounded by water. there is only a small 13 mile or so stretch that is connected to land. there is a lot of sandy recovery. aircraft noise is an issue. we have an island, there is a national research facility there. so education is a big issue, with the implementation of federally mandated state-mandated, as well as local school district created testing. so those are some of the very local issues that we are working on, and it gets even more specific when some business contacts you, or some individual contacts you.
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and they have been waiting for a few years for their appeal. that really becomes very high on the priority list as far as that staffer. some of the more national issues that are important to the district, i would say certainly fighting for veterans, trying to create more good-paying, private-sector jobs, making our foreign policy more consistent improving our health care. , we will see how the supreme court and congress reacts with changes as 2015 moves along. those are some of the national issues that are of importance to our district, and there are many others, as well. host: you are a fairly young member of congress. what is the average age for people in the first district? rep. lee zeldin: i am 35 years old. a lot of people don't realize that in congress, there are 31 members under the age of 40.
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there are 20 in the house republican conference. 11 in the democratic house conference. a lot of people talk about term limits and i am in favor of term limits, personally. there has been such a huge changeover. two thirds of the republican conference was not even here five years ago. the average age of the house republican conference is about six years younger than our colleagues on the opposite side of the aisle, and there is just a lot of changeover that has happened over the course of the last few years, all across america. so as far as my district, about a decade older on average, but we have people who are 18 years old, and they want to know how they can afford to go to college, and then you have seniors, trying to figure out how to pay for their prescription drugs or put oil in their tank, so there is certainly quite the range as far as interest around the district.
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host: you are also the only jewish republican member of the house. is that significant, in your opinion, and how? rep. lee zeldin: there are issues that i care very deeply about. you speak up, and you talk about who are america's friends, and who our enemies are, what our foreign policy should be as relates to defeating isis. isis happens to be about 18 miles from the syrian border with israel. how is our approach with syria and iraq and afghanistan, and, of course, the nuclear talks the rising tide of anti-semitism around the world, including right here in the united states, where this bds movement is starting to become more prevalent on college campuses, and around the world where cemeteries, some cemeteries are being converted to all muslim
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cemeteries without even any indication as to what they will do with jewish remains. if being the only jewish republican member in congress gives me a chance to fight what i believe very strongly about, maybe having a person listening that day to help spread the word, i embrace that. host: how did your experience in the military, particularly your experience in iraq, influence, or does it, your views on foreign policy? rep. lee zeldin: i have been able to encounter all sorts of issues affecting active-duty service members, their family, mental health needs, providing occupational and vocational needs, especially when you're coming off of active duty, ensuring you are getting the health care that you need and deserve from the v.a. making sure the military has the resources that they need to win.
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not just with the equipment, but also with the rules. making sure that their hands are untied and the leaders and commanders on the ground are given the flexibility that they need to accomplish their mission . going back to when i was in the rotc studying history, reading philosophy, and how human nature works, and what the best approach is to deal with conflicts, you have to make a assumptions. i would say over the course of my time in the military, there have been a lot of lessons that have helped inform my desire to be part of the decision-making process year. host: in terms of reading if you're not reading briefing books, you say you like to read history. what do you like to read? rep. lee zeldin: anything really
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. i'm fascinated -- i can read aristotle talking about how important it is to know the difference between right and wrong, so that when it is your time to lead, your gut will tell you what is right. that development of leadership. reading about henry the fifth china to give a speech to a force -- trying to give a speech to a force, up against tens of thousands of french, and motivating those men at that moment despite not just being outmanned, but just to inspire and the significant of the -- significance of the relationships, not just militarily, but diplomatically. i don't limit


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