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Nydia M. Velazquez (D-N.Y.)

U.S. Representative (since January 1993)

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Why She Matters

With one of the most liberal voting records in the House, Velazquez, the former chairwoman of the House Small Business Committee and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus in the 111th Congress, represents a shift in power in the 111th Congress in favor of the Democratic Party's more progressive wing.

The first Puerto Rican woman elected to Congress, Velazquez has long been considered an effective advocate for small business interests and a national leader in the Latino community. She is especially adept at linking the interests of small businesses to those of Hispanics with discussions of minority-owned small businesses and the broader economic benefits of immigration reform.

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Nydia M. Velazquez (D-N.Y.)

U.S. Representative (since January 1993)

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At a Glance

  • Career History: Director of the Department of Puerto Rican Community Affairs in the United States (1986 to 1992); New York City Council member (1984 to 1985); Special Assistant to Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y.) (1983)
  • Birthday: March 28, 1953
  • Hometown: Yacuboa, Puerto Rico
  • Alma Mater: University of Puerto Rico, B.A. 1974; New York University, M.A. 1976
  • Spouse: Paul Bader
  • Religion: Roman Catholic
  • Committees: Ranking member, House Small Business Committee (since January 2011); Financial Services
  • DC Office: 2466 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington DC 20510, 202-225-0327
  • District Offices: Brooklyn, 718-599-3658; Lower East Side, 212-673-3997; Southwest Brooklyn, 718-222-5819
  • Website
  • YouTube
 

Path to Power

Velazquez was born in Yabucoa, a small town in Puerto Rico surrounded by sugar-cane fields. One of a family of nine children, she advanced quickly in school and at the age of 16 enrolled in the University of Puerto Rico. When she graduated in 1974 with a degree in political science, she became the first member of her family to earn a college diploma.

A graduate-school scholarship at New York University brought Velazquez to New York where she earned an M.A. in 1976 and a few years later taught Puerto Rican studies at City University of New York-Hunter. Her political career began in 1983 with a job working for Rep. Edolphus "Ed" Towns (D-N.Y.), then a newly-elected member of the U.S. House. A year later, Velazquez became the first Hispanic woman to serve on the New York City Council through an interim appointment.

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The Issues

According to National Journal's 2008 vote rankings, an annual analysis which classifies members of Congress based on their roll-call votes on economic, social, and foreign affairs issues, Velazquez is one of the 12 most liberal lawmakers in the House.

She has voted 99.3 percent of the time with the Democratic Party so far in the 111th Congress.

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The Network

Over the years, Velazquez has become an important (and sometimes unpopular) figure in New York politics, endorsing and supporting many younger Hispanic politicians. She has also remained a close ally of one-time employer Rep. Ed Towns (D-N.Y.), the former chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. In her early years in the House, Velazquez ran afoul of the local Democratic establishment because of endorsements of unsuccessful or controversial candidates.

Along with the other members of the New York congressional delegation, Velazquez enthusiastically supported Hillary Rodham Clinton in the 2008 Democratic presidential primaries, and even after Obama had cinched the nomination, she suggested that he would have an easier time winning voting blocs like Hispanics if he named Clinton as his running mate.

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