- Member of the U.S. House of Representatives from New York's Eighth District
- Member of the Progressive Caucus
- Helped obtain Bill Clinton's presidential pardons of two incarcerated domestic terrorists in January 2001
- A leading congressional opponent of the Patriot Act
Jerrold Lewis Nadler is a Democratic Member of Congress who represents the Eighth District of New York, which consists of the West Side of Manhattan south of 89th Street, and parts of Brooklyn.
Nadler was born in Brooklyn in June 1947 and moved several times during his childhood. He attended Crown Heights Yeshiva and later Stuyvesant High School, from which he graduated in 1965.
Nadler went on to become a Pulitzer Scholar at Columbia University, where he founded a group of students known as the "West End Kids" (referring to the West Side of Manhattan) which, by his own description, engaged in "community organizing" that "focused on reforming New York City Democratic politics through support of liberal and anti-Vietnam War candidates" such as the 1968 Democratic presidential candidate, Eugene McCarthy.
In 1970 Nadler graduated from Columbia and took a job as a legislative staffer. In 1976 he won election to a seat in the lower house of the New York state legislature, the Assembly, where he served until 1992. While there, he became a favorite of several leftwing groups. The National Organization for Women, for example, honored him as the first male ever to receive its "Assembly Member of the Year" Award. The American Civil Liberties Union named Nadler to its Annual Honor Roll.
In 1978 Nadler earned a Juris Doctorate from Fordham University Law School.
In 1992, longtime Democratic Congressman Ted Weiss died one day before the primary election for New York's newly redrawn Eighth District. Using a weighted voting system, a convention of nearly 1,000 Democratic county committee members selected Nadler to replace Weiss on the November ballot. Nadler won easily and has had no serious challenge in any of his congressional re-election bids since then.
Upon his entry into the House of Representatives, Nadler promptly joined the socialist-oriented Progressive Caucus and became a leader of the Congressional Pro-Choice Caucus. According to the left-leaning Americans for Democratic Action, he votes on the left side of legislation 95 percent of the time. Indicative of his ideology, Nadler in 1997 was a featured participant at the annual Socialist Scholars Conference.
During his legislative career, Nadler has voted:
- against the development of a national missile defense system;
- against the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2001;
- against the post-9/11 anti-terrorism measure known as the Patriot Act (he called Nadler, constitutes "government intrusion" into our lives, and the law's clause enabling the FBI to see a terrorism suspect's library records was "little more than the institution of a police state.");
- against allowing the U.S. government to use electronic surveillance to investigate suspected terrorist operatives;
- against a bill permitting the government to combat potential terrorist threats by monitoring foreign electronic communications which are routed through the United States;
- against an October 2002 joint resolution authorizing U.S. military action in Iraq;
- against the establishment of military commissions to try enemy combatants captured in the war on terror;
- in favor of withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq immediately and by a preordained date;
- in favor of a proposal to expedite the transfer of all prisoners in the Guantanamo Bay detention center;
- against requiring hospitals to report (to the federal government) illegal aliens who receive emergency medical treatment;
- against the Real ID Act, which proposed to set minimal security requirements for state driver licenses and identification cards;
- against separate proposals calling for the construction of some 700 miles of fencing to prevent illegal immigration along America's southern border;
- against a proposal to grant state and local officials the authority to investigate, identify, and arrest illegal immigrants;
- against major tax cut proposals in September 1998, February 2000, March 2000, July 2000, May 2001, May 2003, October 2004, and May 2006;
- against separate welfare reform bills designed to move people off the welfare rolls and into paying jobs;
- in favor of prohibiting oil and gas exploration in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR); and
- against a proposal to fund offshore oil exploration along the Outer Continental Shelf.
- against school vouchers in Washington, DC
Nadler's congressional website boasts that he has received 100 percent ratings from the Children's Defense Fund, the gay-oriented Human Rights Campaign, the League of Conservation Voters, the NAACP, NARAL Pro-Choice America, Peace Action, and Planned Parenthood. Because he routinely votes against measures to restrict illegal immigration, the Federation for American Immigration Reform gives him a Zero rating.
In 1998 and 1999, Nadler used his influence as a Judiciary Committee member to oppose the impeachment proceedings against President Bill Clinton.
An outspoken critic of George W. Bush's strategy and tactics in the War on Terror, Nadler suggested that the 9/11 attacks could be blamed, at least in part, on the Republican President's failure to take adequate steps to forestall them. "If the White House had knowledge that there was a danger or an intent to hijack an American airplane and did not warn the airlines," said Nadler in 2002, "that would be nonfeasance in office of the highest order. That would make the President bear a large amount of responsibility for the tragedy that occurred."
In 2003 Nadler, urged on by the ACLU and People For the American Way, introduced legislation aimed at defeating the Bush administration's Terrorism Information Awareness (TIA) program. The program sought to broaden the investigative tools available to federal investigators, linking together and cross-referencing databases of information about private commercial transactions (such as purchases of airplane tickets), and tracking donations to charities and political causes – precisely what Nadler accused the administration of having failed to do before 9-11. Nadler claimed that the TIA program amounted to a massive "assault on our rights," and that it represented "perhaps the closest realization of an Orwellian 'Big Brother' government to date."
Nadler also denounced the Bush Administration for holding and interrogating terrorist suspects in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
In late 2000 and January 2001, Nadler became personally involved in an effort to gain clemency for the former domestic terrorist Susan Rosenberg, a former member of the Weather Underground who had taken part in a deadly Brinks armored-car robbery in Nyack, New York, where two security guards and two police officers were shot, three of them fatally. Three years later, when Rosenberg and accomplice Linda Evans were finally apprehended, they had 740 pounds of explosives (which they admitted were earmarked for bombings) in their possession. Rosenberg was sentenced to 58 years in prison, Evans to 40 years.
In large part because of Nadler's urging, Bill Clinton decided to pardon Rosenberg in the last weeks of his presidency; he also pardoned Evans.
In January 2013, Nadler applauded his state's recent adoption of the strictest gun-control laws in the nation. "I’m glad New York passed strong legislation," he said. "Would I have preferred stronger?—always—without knowing the details of what they did." Added Nadler:
"Hunters don’t use large ammunition clips, and as far as self defense, I mean who are you defending yourself against? If you’re defending yourself against a robber…if you have a pistol permit or you’re carrying a gun because you work for Wells Fargo and you’re taking money in and out of a bank or something, two or three or four shots should be enough—period."
Nadler also said the same principle applied to mob situations where there is looting and rioting, as when business owners try to defend their stores or other property:
"The same thing is the case.... One or two shots should be enough. You don’t want to start mowing down 30 or 40 people. Hopefully you’re not going to do that. You don’t need to do that. The police shouldn’t do that either. Nobody should be doing that. The only people who should ever be firing large clips of ammunition is the military."