NEW YORK - Two Congressional heavyweights expressed enthusiastic support for President Joe Biden's reelection during a debate Tuesday night, marking a dramatic departure from their position during a previous match-up.
Manhattan Reps. Jerry Nadler and Carolyn Maloney - Democrats thrust into a primary contest by redistricting, after decades of serving as colleagues - both heaped praise on the prospect of a second Biden term when prompted by moderators.
"I am supporting Joe Biden. He has announced that he is running," Maloney said, invoking legislation either signed by the president or bound for his desk - including a proposal designed to reduce inflation, an infrastructure investment program and a pandemic relief package.
It was unclear what announcement Maloney was referring to, but her kind words stood in stark contrast to last week, when she said she did not believe Biden would seek reelection. She later apologized to the president while simultaneously reiterating her opinion.
Nadler also had encouraging words for Biden Tuesday night after telling moderators last week it was too early to say whether the president should mount a reelection bid.
The two senior Congress members - Nadler is chair of the House Judiciary Committee and Maloney chairs the House Committee on Oversight and Reform - are facing off after a chaotic redistricting process in New York.
A judge tossed out gerrymandered political maps in the spring, and a court-appointed special master grafted the east and west sides of Manhattan together into one seat, putting the House stalwarts on a collision course that will end one or both of their decades-long tenures.
The two colleagues are facing a challenge from Suraj Patel, a 38-year-old attorney who has argued that voters need younger representation.
"After 30 years of time in Washington the two opponents here failed to codify [Roe v. Wade] … We need a new generation of leaders," Patel said. "Generational change, by the way … is nothing to be feared."
The two septuagenarians were elected to the House in 1992 and have risen to prominent perches in the body. Nadler, who appeared more energetic Tuesday night compared to his last performance - emphasized that seniority confers power to pass legislation and bring money to the district.
"Losing one committee chairman would be unfortunate for New York," he said. "Losing two committee chairmen would be catastrophic."
A PIX 11 and Emerson College poll released Friday found Nadler with a 9-point lead over Maloney. Around 40 percent of voters favored the West Side lawmaker, while 31 percent supported Maloney. Patel garnered 11 percent, while roughly 17 percent of voters said they were undecided.
Throughout Tuesday's program, hosted by WPIX, the candidates largely agreed on issues local and federal, such as increasing federal funds to the NYPD and implementing congestion pricing with certain carve-outs for residents. Nalder and Maloney both said Washington should reimburse the city for the cost of housing asylum seekers being bused to New York by Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. Patel said more generally that the federal government should intervene.
All three said the Supreme Court should be expanded to attenuate former president Donald Trump's conservative appointees, but they appeared to differ whether those appointees should be impeached.
Trump's appointees did not appear to perjure themselves during confirmation hearings, Patel said. Nadler, who led Trump's two impeachments as the judiciary committee chair, said there wasn't enough evidence against the justices either.
Maloney, however, said that she'd support it if a new judiciary committee chair initiated the process.