Amatul-Wadud questions political wisdom about seniority

April 19, 2018 | G. Michael Dobbs

SPRINGFIELD – Attorney Tahirah Amatul-Wadud said she has received positive reaction to her questioning one of politics most time-honored concepts: the value of seniority of a member of Congress.

She said her views on keeping Congressman Richard Neal in office based on his seniority in the House has been the issue so far in her campaign that has received the most positive reaction from the public.

Amatul-Wadud is seeking the Democratic nomination for the seat long held by Neal and recently has put forth the idea that despite the fact the House might flip in this election to Democratic control Neal may not receive the chair of the powerful Hose Ways and Means Committee. If he does, Amatul-Wadud questions what kind of policies for which he would advocate considering what she described as his support of special interests.   

In a written statement she said, “In 2015, Mr. Neal pushed a corporate tax loophole with then-Rep. Charles Boustany, a conservative Louisiana Republican called the ‘innovation box’ that would have taxed profits on intellectual property at a lower rate than other profits. Even the right-wing Heritage Foundation called this legislation ‘complex and unsound policy.’ During the long debate in 2015 on renewing Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) otherwise known as Fast Track to give then-President Obama authority to finalize trade deals such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and TTIP, Mr. Neal refused to meet with citizens at his district offices to discuss his position on the legislation. Under tremendous pressure from organized labor and other constituents, Mr. Neal ultimately voted against TPA. However, he benefited from the best of both worlds: he collected $945,680 in campaign contributions from corporations backing TPA and he also collected $21,000 from anti-TPA donors leading up to the June 12, 2015 vote.”

She said that with three months into her campaign one of the biggest questions she has encountered is if the House has a Democrat majority doesn’t the district stand to lose influence if Neal isn’t there?

“So I needed to deal with that head-on. So my response has been generally this: if the congressman is unable to serve, become sick, ill, resign, retires, life goes on. But in this case, once we win, and I fully expect to win, the House turns blue, who is next in succession in that order of the Ways and Means Committee are the likes of John Lewis, civil rights icon and Lloyd Doggett of Texas. Both of those individuals would be great chairs for that committee that would leave the Democratic Party and the nation in really good hands,” she told Reminder Publications.

She described the importance of seniority as a “myth” and questioned what good has been done for the district by Neal’s position as she said the district has a higher unemployment rate and more people without health insurance.

“Of the nine congressional districts in Massachusetts we are dead last in median income,” she added.

Amatul-Wadud asserted that Neal’s voting record shows loyalty to special interest groups that are in conflict with the needs of the district.

She said she has received dozens of emails from people who view her remarks as voter education and has been encouraged to keep spreading that message.

In the wake of the loss of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the questioning within the Democratic Party, she said the greatest strength of her campaign is “centering people.” She rejects the idea of looking at particular parts of her platform as either something that would appeal to Clinton supporters or those who voted for Sen. Bernie Sanders.

She said, according to national polls, people are responding to what are labeled as “progressive” values and issues.   

In her own experience campaigning so far people are supporting for Medicare for all as a way to reform health insurance. Other topics include dealing with addiction and not just for opioids. Infrastructure is another key topic and Amatul-Wadud said in this congressional district part of that infrastructure is the lack of high speed Internet connection for parts of Franklin, Hampshire and Berkshire counties.

“The flip side of that coin of course is the fact that [high speed] Internet is cost prohibitive for many families in urban inner cities,” she added.

She believes these issues go beyond partisan politics.

When asked if she was in Congress right now how she would react to several important moves by the Trump Administration, Amatul-Wadud said she would support the letter written by 88 members of Congress to the president urging him to consult Congress before authorizing a strike on Syria.

“As a congresswoman I would not defer my judgment, my ability to make that judgment call, to this president,” she said.

She is concerned about the plight of innocent civilians in Syria, but she noted, “There is a level of hypocrisy in that we still have a ban, known as the Muslim ban, which keeps those civilians, those children whose pictures we see, from being able to come with their families and seek safe harbor and refuge here in our borders. We have to lift the Muslim ban. We can not have it both ways.”

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