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Nydia Velazquez

Nydia Velázquez
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New York's 7th district
Assumed office
January 3, 2013
Preceded by Joseph Crowley
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New York's 12th district
In office
January 3, 1993 – January 3, 2013
Preceded by Major Owens
Succeeded by Carolyn Maloney
Chairman of the House Small Business Committee
In office
January 4, 2007 – January 3, 2011
Preceded by Don Manzullo
Succeeded by Sam Graves
Member of the
New York City Council
from the 27th district
In office
Personal details
Born Nydia Margarita Velázquez
(1953-03-28) March 28, 1953 (age 61)
Yabucoa, Puerto Rico
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Paul Bader
Residence Brooklyn, New York City
Alma mater New York University (M.A.)
University of Puerto Rico (B.A.)
Occupation college professor
Religion Roman Catholic

Nydia Margarita Velázquez (born March 28, 1953) is the U.S. Representative for New York's 7th congressional district. She is a member of the Democratic Party. She is the first Puerto Rican woman to be elected to Congress, and was the chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus until January 3, 2011.

Early life, education and career

Velázquez, whose father worked the sugar cane fields, was one of nine siblings born in Yabucoa, Puerto Rico. During her upbringing, political dinner conversations were commonplace. Her father was a local political activist and she would accompany him to political rallies, starting at a young age. Her father focused on the rights of sugar cane workers and denounced the abuses of wealthy farmers.[1]

After skipping a grade, she entered high school when she was 13. While a student, she organized a protest to draw attention to the school's dangerous and unsanitary conditions. The protest resulted in the school temporarily closing down so that the necessary renovations could be made.

At age 16, Velázquez enrolled in the University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras. In 1974, she graduated magna cum laude and became the first member of her family to receive a college degree. She then went to New York City to attend New York University, where she received a scholarship to study political science. In 1976, she received her Master's degree.[1]

Velázquez was a professor, first at the University of Puerto Rico at Humacao from 1976 to 1981, and then at New York's Hunter College from 1981 until 1983.[1]

Throughout her career, Velázquez has been an advocate of many Latino rights programs and associations. During her tenure as the Director of the Department of Puerto Rican Community Affairs in the United States, Velázquez initiated one of the most successful Latino empowerment programs in the nation’s history - "Atrévete" (Dare to Go for It!). She taught Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College and became the first Latina woman to serve on the New York City Council.

While at a Congressional Hispanic Caucus event in December 2011, Velázquez admitted to reporter Michelle Fields of the Daily Caller that she did not know what "Operation Fast and Furious" was. Fellow New York Democrat, Rep. José Enrique Serrano, also admitted to The Daily Caller that he was unaware of "Fast and Furious" when approached for questions about the scandal.[2]

New York City Council

In 1983, Velázquez was appointed Special Assistant to Representative Edolphus Towns (D-Brooklyn). In 1984, she became the first Latina appointed to serve as a member of the New York City Council. In 1986, she served as the Director of the Department of Puerto Rican Community Affairs of the U.S. During that time, she initiated a successful Latino empowerment program called "Atrévete"(dare to go for it).[1]

U.S. House of Representatives


Velázquez has represented a progressive shift in the House. Although some thought that she would be facing a political decline due to factors such as "the redrawing of the district's boundaries in 1997 to include fewer Latinos, and the gradual decline of the Puerto Rican population in New York," she has persevered. As reasoning, commentators have suggested "her ability to forge alliances at home and in the House".[3]

Velázquez is an important national leader for Hispanics. In 2003, Hispanic Business Magazine honored her with its first "Woman of the Year" award, citing her support of minority small-business owners.[3] As a Representative, Velázquez has focused on building a legislative agenda that lobbies to increase the opportunities for the nation's 47 million Hispanics, including the over 2.3 million Hispanics currently residing in New York City.[4]

Throughout her career as a New York Representative, Nydia Velázquez has consistently and fully supported pro-choice and family-planning interests groups such as the NARAL Pro-Choice America and the Planned Parenthood. Velázquez has consistently shown support of the National Farmers' Union. She has shown no support of interests groups that are against animal rights and animal rightists.[5]

In 2009, Velázquez voted against the amendment Prohibiting Federally Funded Abortion Services. In the past year, Velázquez has supported the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations, the Unemployment Benefits Association, and the Unemployment Benefits Extension. Velázquez has also consistently voted in favor of bills attempting to strengthen women's rights, such as the Employment Discrimination Law Amendments, Equal Pay Bill and the Inclusion of Consolidated Appropriations.[5]

On September 29, 2008, Congresswoman Velázquez voted in favor of the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008. On November 19, 2008, Congresswoman Velázquez was elected by her peers in the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) to lead the group for the 111th Congress.[1]

Prior to removing her name from consideration, she was considered a possible candidate to be appointed to the United States Senate by Governor David Paterson after New York Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton was nominated to be a member of President Barack Obama's cabinet.[6]

Among her firsts are: the first Hispanic woman to serve on the New York City Council; the first Puerto Rican woman to serve in Congress; the first woman Ranking Democratic Member of the House Small Business Committee. Velázquez became the first woman to chair the United States House Committee on Small Business in January 2007 as well as the first Hispanic woman to chair a House standing committee.[1]

Committee assignments

Caucus memberships

  • Congressional Hispanic Caucus;
  • Congressional Progressive Caucus;
  • Women’s Issues Caucus;
  • Out of Iraq Caucus;
  • Asian Pacific American Caucus;
  • Congressional Caucus on the Census;
  • Congressional Children’s Caucus;
  • Congressional Jobs and Fair Trade Caucus;
  • Empowerment Zone and Enterprise Community (EZ/EC) Caucus;
  • Human Rights Caucus;
  • Older American’s Caucus;
  • Urban Caucus.

Political campaigns

In 1992, Velázquez defeated incumbent congressman Stephen J. Solarz in the primary and was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, representing New York's 12th congressional district, and became the first female Puerto Rican member of Congress. The sprawling 12th district encompasses parts of Brooklyn, Queens and Lower Manhattan. It includes such neighborhoods as Ridgewood, Maspeth, and Woodside in Queens; Bushwick, Williamsburg, Red Hook, and Sunset Park in Brooklyn; and part of Manhattan's Lower East Side. She also became the first Hispanic woman to serve as Ranking Democratic Member of the House Small Business Committee. The committee oversees federal programs and contracts totaling $200 billion annually. She also serves on the House Financial Services Committee.[1]

During her campaign for the House seat, her medical records, including documented clinical depression and an attempted suicide, were leaked to the press. She quickly held a press conference and said that she had been undergoing counseling for years and was emotionally and psychologically healthy.[7]


Velázquez’s 2010 campaign income was $759,359. She came out of this campaign with about $7,736 in debt. Her top contributors include Goldman Sachs, the American Bankers Association, the National Roofing Contractors Association and the National Telephone Cooperative Association.[5]


Velázquez, who was redistricted into the 7th Congressional District, defeated her Democratic contenders to win the Democratic nomination.[8] Her top contributors included Goldman Sachs, the American Bankers Association and the Independent Community Bankers of America.[9]


Velazquez has been criticized by her primary opponents for her close ties to the banking industry and her reluctance to support reform and transparency measures. A majority of her campaign contributions have come from banks, including Goldman Sachs and the American Bankers Association.[9] Opponents have suggested that these contributions influenced her votes in support of the bailouts and her votes against reform and transparency measures.[10] In addition to support for private banks, Ms. Velazquez voted against bi-partisan House efforts to audit the federal reserve, both in 2009 and in 2012.[11]

In 2012, Congresswoman Velazquez was named by the American Small Business League (ASBL) as the most anti-small business member of the U.S. House of Representatives. The ASBL points to the fact that Rep. Velazquez blocked legislation, including H.R. 3184, “The Fairness and Transparency in Contracting Act," that would prevent large corporations from claiming billions of dollars worth of federal contracts reserved for small businesses. ASBL claims that Velazquez also voted to divert billions in federal contract dollars earmarked for small businesses to firms such as Lockheed Martin, Boeing, BlackWater and Italian defense firm Finmeccanica.[12]

See also

Biography portal
Puerto Rico portal


External links

  • Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez official U.S. House site
  • Nydia Velázquez for Congress
  • Biographical Directory of the United States Congress
  • Ballotpedia
  • NNDB
  • Project Vote Smart
  • GovTrack
  • OpenCongress
  • Roll Call
  • Federal Election Commission
  • The Washington Post
  • On the Issues
  • The Library of Congress
  • The Washington Post
  • WorldCat catalog)
  • C-SPAN programs
  • Internet Movie Database
  • The New York Times
  • The Washington Post
  • SourceWatch
Political offices
Preceded by
Luis Olmedo
New York City Council, 27th District
Succeeded by
Victor Robles
Preceded by
Donald A. Manzullo
Chairman of House Small Business Committee
Succeeded by
Sam Graves
Preceded by
Joseph Crowley
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New York's 7th congressional district

Preceded by
Major R. Owens
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New York's 12th congressional district

Succeeded by
Carolyn Maloney
United States order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by
Bobby Scott
United States Representatives by seniority
Succeeded by
Mel Watt
D-North Carolina
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