The classic Jimmy Stewart movie about an idealistic young man who goes to Washington to make a difference in the Senate seems to mirror the path freshman U.S. Rep. Max Rose has taken during his first 100 days in Congress.
Rose, a Democrat, sailed into office on a blue wave of change with a fervent following of young and passionate volunteers who helped him unseat incumbent GOP U.S. Rep. Dan Donovan.
The 32-year-old veteran, who represents the 11th Congressional District, which includes parts of southern Brooklyn and all of Staten Island, has experienced a great deal in a short time. He served as an active duty officer in Afghanistan from 2012-2013 and earned a Bronze Star, Purple Heart and Combat Infantry Badge.
Rose is Ranger-qualified and continues to serve in the Guard. He currently serves on the House Committees on Veterans Affairs and Homeland Security, and is chairperson of the Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence.
Rose recently took the time to sit down with this paper to answer some questions about his first impressions of serving in the nation’s capital, what he has accomplished and what he hopes to accomplish going forward.
Q: First of all, congratulations on your first 100 days in office. Is it everything you thought it would be?
Rose: That and more. Privilege is an overused term, but this is truly a great privilege. It’s an extraordinary honor and it’s one that you can’t take lightly. It’s a great joy to be able to represent 100,000 people and to be their voice in Congress and to advance the ball forward. I couldn’t ask for anything else.
Q: Tell me about the significance of the first bill you passed allowing construction of the East Shore Seawall on Staten Island? Why did this take precedence?
Rose: Six years after Superstorm Sandy, the seawall wasn’t even started yet. The money was there but it got tied up in bureaucracy and all the while people were literally and figuratively staring out at the seas that decimated their homes, and they hadn’t seen any construction started.
And so we put everything we had, taking the baton from Dan Donovan in terms of getting this last piece of bureaucratic red tape eliminated. I hope, and I know, that when we break ground on this seawall and as we continue to build it, we’re also going to see real estate value increase; we’re going to see flood insurance bills go down. And people are going to know how government can get it right.
The bill was signed by the president. There haven’t been instances of a freshman getting a bill signed by the president. This wasn’t just the House, it was signed by the president.
Q: You are the first member from New York City to chair the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Intelligence and Counterterrorism. Tell me about the initiative to increase Homeland Security funding for counterterrorism programs and your bipartisan effort to build support and educate new members of Congress on the importance of fully and permanently funding the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund?
Rose: Let’s start with the Victim Compensation Fund. This shouldn’t even be a problem. We’re doing everything we can to have Congress resoundingly pass this, and then have the Senate pass it as well, and then have the president sign it.
At one point or another Congress has got to get something done. They can’t get locked up and tied up in questions of cost, bureaucracy and legality. We have to get this done and in the right way.
You know, I’ve had a lot of time to spend with first responders and some of them are really sick and they say, “Knowing what I know now, I would still rush in to danger and do what I did.” It’s unbelievable. They deserve so much better from us.
Q: What is your solution for fixing the MTA, especially in regard to the R train?
Rose: When you look at something like congestion pricing the issue is two-fold: One is that there can be a lot of this additional money into the system and we can still continue to get ripped off and ignored.
In all of these community nightmares is the consequence of human decisions. It’s a consequence of human decisions that Staten Island doesn’t have a subway; it’s a consequence of human decisions that the R train is amongst the longest in the city in terms of being the slowest. It’s a consequence of human decision that we’re going to be one of the last places to get our (train) signals up there.
So what I think we have to do is make sure that we are amongst the loudest in the room at all levels of government, with city and state and federal elected officials pushing and pushing and pushing to say, “Look, you put us at the back of the line for decades, now you reverse it. Now we’re at the front, the first to get our signals up there, the first to get more buses, the first to get another bus depot built.”
People really are in pain. We have an issue where we talked about bifurcating the R train and I’m going to stay on top of them.
Q: So the R train should go to Court Street?
Rose: No, I think it should go to Canal. If you take the R train past Canal you’re probably just going for a joyride. So, let’s just bifurcate it so that when someone throws up in Queens on the R train, it doesn’t slow us down over here.
Q: What has been your biggest pleasant surprise since taking office?
Rose: A pleasant surprise since taking office is our ability to get things done. Nothing’s going to happen quickly but I think we’ve shown a tremendous amount of success in our first 100 days.
We’ve had the opportunity to lead a bipartisan effort to get SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) more federal funding to divert towards the opioid epidemic. We’re working on counterterrorism along with government effectiveness. Government can work and we can affirm our values at the same time. We’ve held committee hearings on the travel ban and the fact that there’s zero validity to it, and on ending the war in Yemen.
The United States of America has a moral obligation to not only cease any involvement in this conflict but to actively pressure all sides to come to the table and negotiate a peaceful end to this crisis. What has occurred in Yemen is unconscionable, and I refuse to sit silently when this Administration – or any administration for that matter – commits our resources to an unjust war.
Q: What has been your biggest disappointment?
Rose: I am extraordinarily disappointed in [Senate Majority Leader] Mitch McConnell and his refusal to put things on the floor of the Senate. It’s cowardly and he is opening showing his allegiance to special interests rather than the American people. We just want to see votes. Your legislators’ actions are reflective of the will of the people, but you have to let it happen.
Q: What are your thoughts about Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis throwing her hat in the ring for Congress in 2020?
Rose: I think that there’s certainly an unfortunate aspect of the never-ending campaign and its effect on the body politic. But I’m not one to look down on ambition.
Nicole has experience running for election and democracy is a beautiful thing and I wish her Godspeed. There will be plenty of time to litigate whether she is the one suited for this race or me.
But what I won’t do is let Nicole’s electoral ambition get in the way of my effort to govern effectively and to consider every person in this district equal whether they support me or not. That’s what’s most important and then we’ll deal with the politics some other day.
Q: And do you think Michael Grimm, who recently stated that he’s 90 percent sure he will run in the next election, will make things easier or more difficult for you if he ultimately decides to run?
Rose: My thoughts about Grimm running are very similar to my thoughts about Nicole running. Godspeed. I’m curious and intrigued by his process of getting from 90 percent to 100 percent. It’s good that I didn’t take that 90 percent line when I proposed to my wife.
Q: When can we expect to see a Max Rose office in Brooklyn? And where will it be located?
Rose: What I’ve heard is within a month. We’re looking to open it up with state Sen. Andrew Gounardes and Councilmember Justin Brannan. It’s just that there have been some construction delays. It’s located at 8203 Third Avenue.
Q: What’s next on your agenda and what issues will you concentrating on in the months ahead?
Rose: Well, certainly more of the same in terms of focusing on serving our veterans, doing something about the opioid epidemic, something about our commuting nightmare, not letting our eye off the ball when it comes to the seawall, not letting our eye off the ball in ending America’s involvement in the war in Yemen and ending the travel ban, not letting our eye off the ball in terms of my role as subcommittee chairman in the war on terrorism.