Representative Nita Lowey

Representing the 17th District of New York

FAQ's From Students

With the rising cost of college, financial aid has become more important than ever before. Access to quality, affordable education has always been one of my top priorities as your Representative. I would like to share some valuable resources that might help during this important time in a young person’s life. If you live in New York’s 17th Congressional District and need assistance with the information provided below, please contact my White Plains office (914-428-1707) or my New City office (845-639-3485), or email yma.oria@mail.house.gov.Students often contact Congresswoman Lowey for research projects, class assignments, or just to learn a little more about her job. Click on the questions below to see the answers to the questions students most frequently ask her.


Why did you run for Congress?

After a career in local activism, grassroots politics, and state and local government, I knew that I could be more effective in achieving priorities important for the people of New York in an elected capacity. As a volunteer for my neighbor who was running for Governor, Mario Cuomo, then as Assistant Secretary of New York State, I came to understand the unique ability elected officials have to influence policy that helps improve others’ everyday lives.

That is why I challenged an entrenched incumbent who I did not believe represented the hardworking men and women of our district. Since 1989, I have been privileged to serve the people of the Lower Hudson Valley.


What are the best and worst parts of your job? 

I have an opportunity every single day to help New Yorkers. Whether it’s working on a case with one of the federal agencies to secure benefits or assistance for a local resident or fighting to help families afford child care, college tuition and health care, my work on these issues helps people in very real ways.

I enjoy working with a broad spectrum of individuals and groups that include many smart, engaged, and thoughtful people. I especially enjoy hearing from constituents about the issues that are affecting their families and our community to help guide my work in Congress.

The time constraints Members of Congress face can be challenging. There are so many issues that require the attention of the federal government – homeland security, clean energy, healthcare, education, and environmental protection to name just a few – and there are frequently too few hours in the day to balance my work with my family life.


What is a typical day like for you?  

When Congress is in session (i.e. on days when there are votes scheduled on bills pending before the House of Representatives), I am in Washington, D.C. I spend much of my time meeting with constituents and groups from New York who have traveled to Washington to meet with me about federal policy issues. I attend hearings in the committee of which I am the top Democrat, the House Appropriations Committee. I also spend a great deal of time learning about policy issues affecting people in New York and our country and building support for proposals I have introduced in Congress.

When Congress is not in session, I am usually in New York. Like in Washington, I meet with many constituents, advocacy organizations, local leaders and elected officials who have concerns about federal policy matters or want to bring issues to my attention. I also help individuals resolve problems that they may face with federal agencies or other entities and frequently visit local businesses, schools, health facilities, and organizations. Attending festivals, parades, town meetings, and advocacy and awareness events also gives me a unique opportunity to see as many people as possible in our community so that I can stay informed about the concerns of local residents and take those concerns back to Washington.

In my personal time, I spend as much time as possible with my family, including my husband, three grown children, and eight grandchildren.


Why is it important for women to be involved in government and in political discourse?   

Women’s experiences as mothers, daughters, wives, primary caretakers, as well as employees, businesswomen, and community leaders, often make us uniquely qualified to address through public service the issues facing our families. We are keenly aware of how issues like health care coverage, education, and retirement security reach beyond individuals to affect families as a whole.

Women’s experiences in their professional and family lives enable us as elected officials to ensure that our policies are molded to truly make a difference in people’s lives. That’s why it’s both important and inevitable that women will continue to climb the ranks not just in Congress, but on every level of government.


What do you recommend young people who are interested in political and government positions do to pursue career opportunities?  

Young people who are interested in politics and government are to be commended for paying attention to policies at the federal, state, and local level that affect the lives of each of us.

It is important for young people to study hard and get the best education so that they actively engage in our economy, our community, and critical discussions on issues of public policy. With so many resources for learning about current events including newspapers, magazines, television, and the internet, young people should be aware of current events in their community, around the country, and around the world. I also recommend that students pay attention to the issues and dynamics in our elections and to the legislative process on all levels of government and discuss these events with your friends and family.

Also, young people interested in the government should take every opportunity to observe different aspects of our political system. Volunteering or interning in the offices of elected officials or for advocacy organizations focused on issues of particular interest is a great way to learn firsthand the political process. Individuals who are not yet old enough to vote can still volunteer in some capacity or accompany voters, including your parents, to polling places on Election Day to see our democracy at work firsthand.


At a time when a large part of the public seems to have a negative opinion about their government, what can elected officials and citizens do to restore faith in government?  

I believe that elected officials should act in a manner consistent with their oath of office and the highest standards of integrity, honesty, and selfless service at all times. That’s why I supported the Honest Leadership, Open Government Act, enacted in September 2007, to establish sweeping ethics reforms to ensure transparency in Congress. 

Engaging more in the political and legislative process is the best way to affect change. We must all use our voices – as voters, concerned residents, and elected officials – to continue fighting for what we believe is best for our community, state, and nation.


How can young people who are too young to vote still influence our government?  

Even if you are not yet old enough to vote, there is still much that you can do to influence our government.  If you have a story to tell about how a particular policy has affected you or your family, you could be in a position to help influence change.  For example, I often visit schools to observe how federal initiatives are impacting our students. I welcome the opportunity to hear from students, parents, and teachers to inform my work on education policy. 

As a local citizen of any age, you can always write your elected representatives to express your opinion. You can also unite your voice with that of other individuals who share your concerns by joining local and national organizations dedicated to raising awareness of issues about which you care deeply. 


What is the most important issue facing the United States today?   

The most important responsibility of the federal government is keeping Americans safe and secure.  We must remain on offense against Al Qaeda.  Congresswoman Lowey supports President Obama's efforts to draw down the number of American troops in Iraq in order to maximize our ability to defeat Al Qaeda and other terrorists around the world.  We also must advance diplomacy and development, two critical components of our national security strategy, and ensure that our methods of collecting and analyzing intelligence are helping us to defeat terrorism. 

In addition to these security needs, we have much work to do domestically to improve the quality of life of Americans. In this time of economic downturn, Congresswoman Lowey is advocating policies that will create jobs and restore the financial security that Americans deserve.  We must ensure that all Americans have access to affordable and high-quality healthcare and an education system that equips students with the skills they need to succeed. Investing in alternative energy research and development is essential for our security and for our economy, and it will help protect our environment for future generations.

We also must implement the policies that will help prevent disasters – both natural and manmade – and develop the capacity to respond effectively should one occur. Giving our first responders the tools they need to protect our communities remains a top priority.


How do you determine initiatives to pursue and how to vote on public policy issues?  

The proposals I bring to Washington are all rooted in local concerns. Whether I’m fighting for federal funding for our communities or to change federal policy related to our schools, health care system or environmental protection, I always look to my constituents for guidance. 

There are also a number of issues for which I have felt strongly all of my adult life including several that are critical to the economic and health security of families, such as ensuring that all people have access to affordable, high-quality healthcare. That is why I have sought to make contributions in this area in Congress, including my support of the creation and expansions of initiatives to provide health care insurance to children and families, increased domestic preparedness for pandemic influenza, studies into the possibility that environmental factors contribute to breast cancer, increased federal cancer research, and adequate consumer information, including measures for sunscreen related to protection against skin cancer. 

Like most families I meet in our district, I value students’ access to affordable higher education. That’s why I have introduced legislation that would allow families to deduct college expenses from their taxes and supported increases in the federal Pell Grant program. 

I also work on issues that are of most significance to the people of New York. In our state, we know the importance of being able to prevent and respond to emergencies such as natural disasters or terrorist incidents. That is why I have worked to implement a no-fly zone around a nuclear facility in Westchester County that could be targeted by terrorists, to give first responders the resources that they need to respond to emergencies, and to implement responsible standards for the screening of airline cargo. 

In addition to making proposals in Congress, I also vote regularly on a wide variety of issues that affect us all. I listen to my constituents, taking into account opinions expressed through conversations with me, emails, letters and phone calls, and I reach out to experts in various fields and officials on all levels of government to better understand how policies will affect our district.


What role should the United States play in alleviating poverty and suffering around the world?  

As the world’s lone superpower, the United States has the ability and the responsibility to intervene when humanitarian emergencies occur, such as in natural disasters, mass refugee situations, or genocide. It is also in our interest as a nation to foster stability by providing security and development assistance. As the Chair of the Appropriations Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations, which has jurisdiction over United States programs and assistance abroad, I have long worked to target American assistance toward international need and effectiveness in advancing our national security interests.


Is it the responsibility of the United States as a democracy and as a superpower to install democratic governments around the world?  

I believe the values of our democratic society speak for themselves and should be an example for other nations to build upon. However, democracy can take many successful shapes and forms. We should lead by example, encouraging other nations to set high standards for human rights, a free press, civil liberties, educational opportunities, and equal rights under the law.


How does science affect public policy, and how should legislators use science in making decisions?  

Scientific evidence and advice is critical for helping lawmakers to make decisions on a wide range of issues, such as medical research and funding, global climate change, alternative energy technologies, intelligence and homeland security systems, military programs, and much more. In fact, science is often the measure for whether our policies have been effective or need to be changed based on outcomes. For example, had the federal government paid greater attention to the advice of scientists and meteorologists, some of the deaths and damage caused by Hurricane Katrina may have been avoided. 

As a member of the Health Appropriations Subcommittee, I regularly hear testimony from medical experts and scientists on the successes, limitations and funding needed to improve the health of Americans. In fact, just a few years ago, I successfully led the fight to double the budget for the National Institutes of Health. 

Since the first occurrences of avian influenza several years ago, I have pushed the Administration to act to prepare for a pandemic. I continue to work with scientists to address many serious gaps in our preparedness plan, such as methods for preventing outbreaks and responding should one occur.